An abundance of bullpen options for Girardi

Among the added benefits of having Aroldis Chapman as the closer out of the bullpen is that it allows Yankees manager Joe Girardi to use Dellin Betances or Andrew Miller earlier in the game when the situation calls for a key pitching change.

Take Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the White Sox, for example, the first game in which all three power relievers appeared in the same game. Girardi had Betances warming up in the bullpen in the sixth inning in case starter Ivan Nova ran into trouble.

Nova, who made his second start since joining the rotation following CC Sabathia’s assignment to the 15-day disabled list, was not in any real trouble most of his outing. His sinker produced 13 ground ball outs, including the first two outs of the sixth. But when he walked Todd Frazier, out of the dugout came Girardi, who signaled for Betances.

Frazier had accounted for Chicago’s run in the fourth inning with his 12th home run, so Nova needed to be careful. Betances finished the inning with a strikeout of Melky Cabrera and struck out the side in the seventh as well.

That set up the Yankees’ new bullpen formula, which went into effect for the first time. Miller pitched the eighth and allowed one hit with two strikeouts. Chapman brought his trademark heat in the ninth with two more strikeouts for his second save. This was right out of the blueprint.

The 10-out performance by this powerful trio extended the bullpen’s scoreless streak to 15 2/3 innings. In 12 games since May 3, Yankees relievers have combined for a 1.54 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 35 innings.

Nova is 2-0 with a 1.02 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings in five games (two starts) at the Stadium this season. He has allowed one run in each of his past two starts (1.74 ERA) covering 10 1/3 innings. The quality start from Nova was very welcomed coming on the heels of a rocky start Friday night by Luis Severino, who was placed on the DL due to a strained right triceps.

The Yankees made several other moves Saturday. They signed righthanders Chad Green and Conor Mullee to major league contracts and called them up from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre, optioned catcher Gary Sanchez to SWB and transferred pitcher Bryan Mitchell, first baseman Greg Bird and outfielder Mason Williams to the 60-day DL. Those moves created space on the 40-man roster for Green, Mullee and J.R. Graham, a right-handed pitcher obtained from the Twins for a player to be named and cash considerations. Graham was optioned to Double A Trenton.

The Yankees guaranteed a winning homestand with Saturday’s victory that made them 6-3 with one game remaining. They are 13-2 against the White Sox at the Stadium dating to June 30, 2012. It was the Yankees’ first victory when scoring two or fewer runs since Sept. 26 last year, also by 2-1 and also against the White Sox. The Yanks had lost 18 consecutive games when scored two or fewer runs.

Both Yankees runs came in the second inning after two were out off Jose Quintana, the lefthander who originally signed with the Yankees and went to the White Sox as a six-year, minor-league free agent. Chase Headley walked and scored on a double to center by Aaron Hicks. A single to right by Didi Gregorius scored Hicks. Austin Romine followed with a double, but the automatic kind that bounced over the fence in right-center, which hurt the Yanks because Gregorius had to go back to third base. Brett Gardner grounded out to end the added threat.

Another positive sign was center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury on the field for the first time in eight games since injuring his right hip as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning. At two hours, 24 minutes, the game was the shortest nine-inning game at the Stadium since a 2:20 game June 6 last year against the Angels

Yanks celebrating ‘PLAY BALL WEEKEND’

The Yankees are celebrating the inaugural ‘PLAY BALL WEEKEND,’ a league-wide effort by Major League Baseball and all 30 clubs to engage young baseball fans and honor the continued support of youth participation in baseball and softball. The initiative officially this weekend in ballparks around the majors.

Sunday, the Yankees will welcome a group of approximately 1,000 participants from local youth baseball and softball teams (ages 6-14) for a special opportunity to walk in a parade around the warning track prior to the 1:05 p.m. game against the White Sox.

As the Yankees take the field before the first pitch, they will be joined by members of the girls softball team from MS 22, a middle school in the Bronx just blocks away from Yankee Stadium. The girls will participate in a “Field of Dreams” and stand with the Yankees during the national anthem before engaging in an on-field cap exchange. The MS 22 girls softball team is coached by Christopher Astacio, the school’s physical education teacher. Following the national anthem, two children from the Bronx-based Little League Raiders Baseball will throw out ceremonial first pitches.

PLAY BALL WEEKEND is an extension of the PLAY BALL initiative (PlayBall.org), which was launched in 2015 as the sport’s largest effort to encourage widespread participation in both formal and casual baseball and softball activities. Additionally, clubs will collectively distribute more than 320,000 plastic bat & ball sets throughout the United States and Canada, both in ballparks and at community events.

Additionally, major league players, coaches and managers all will wear specially made PLAY BALL t-shirts during batting practice and PLAY BALL patches on their uniforms during the weekend’s games. PLAY BALL is a joint initiative between MLB and USA Baseball. In addition to encouraging
participation in both formal and casual baseball activities, PLAY BALL aims to give kids the opportunity to enjoy the game in a fun environment by highlighting the many ways baseball can be played and providing memorable experiences; introduce young people to the sport who otherwise may not have the chance to experience it; and offer a healthy and active lifestyle options where many of those opportunities are being offered less frequently.

PlayBall.org is the PLAY BALL initiative’s online home and is accessible via MLB.com, USABaseball.com and other partner websites. PlayBall.org features youth-oriented content, including baseball trivia and quizzes, and video highlights from MLB games, social media content, photos and a “Play Ball Near You” interactive map that locates local community leagues.

The site also features access to video podcasts and highlights from MLB Network’s new youth-focused show “Play Ball,” which airs at 10 a.m. Saturday and features interviews and on-field demonstrations with top players throughout the majors.

Severino hurts elbow in another rough outing

Too bad it stopped raining. It was hard for Yankees fans not to feel that way Friday night. A rainout might have been more acceptable than a 7-1 loss to the White Sox and undefeated Chris Sale, who raised his record to 8-0.

The 0 that really bothers the Yankees is the one in Luis Severino’s 0-6 record. It was another rough outing for the second-year righthander who displayed so much promise as a rookie last season but is staring at a very unsightly 7.46 ERA this year.

Going against a pitcher of Sale’s quality compels an opposing starter to be at his best and keep runs to a minimum. Severino did not do that. He failed to pitch beyond the third inning and was in trouble in each one. There may be more trouble for Severino, who left the game reporting soreness in the back of his right elbow and was to undergo an MRI exam later in the night.

A splendid play at shortstop by Ronald Torreyes to end the first inning saved Severino from giving up a run, but the White Sox struck quickly in the second inning on doubles by Brett Lawrie and Alex Avila book ending a groundout. A walk to 9-hole hitter Austin Jackson and an infield single by Adam Eaton loaded the bases. Severino struck out Jimmy Rollins for the second out, but Jose Abreu lined a single to center to drive in two runs.

Severino got two quick outs at the start of the third and never got another one. Avila singled to left, Jackson walked again, and Eaton doubled over Aaron Hicks in center field for two runs. Rollins followed with a two-run homer, and the rout was on.

Manager Joe Girardi has been supportive of Severino all year but had a severe critique after the game, saying “He had no command. His ball was up. He was missing his spots. He was not putting the ball where he wanted it.”

The lone blemish in Sale’s second complete game of the season was a home run by Chase Headley leading off the second inning. Headley did not have an extra-base hit in the first 32 games this season and has homered in each of the past two games.

Sale set down 15 batters in a row before Starlin Castro led off the ninth with a single. Mark Teixeira doubled with one out, but Sale retired Headley on a liner to center field and Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre callup Gary Sanchez, who was 0-for-4 as the designated hitter, on a grounder to short.

On the plus side for the Yankees were the 6 1/3 scoreless innings combined by relievers Nick Goody, Chasen Shreve and Kirby Yates. Goody worked 3 1/3 of those innings and allowed one hit and no walks with three strikeouts.

Sanchez called up from Triple A

The Yankees could use all the right-handed help they can find against White Sox lefthander Chris Sale (7-0, 1.79 ERA), who was paired against Yankees righthander Luis Severino (0-5, 6.12 ERA) in Friday night’s opener of a three-game series. The Yankees hoped that the weather forecast was accurate that the rain that struck the area late in the afternoon would stop by the scheduled game time of 7:05 p.m.

Toward that end, the Yankees recalled catcher Gary Sanchez from Triple A Scranton-Wilkes Barre and planned to start him as the designated hitter in a different looking lineup put together by manager Joe Girardi.

Brett Gardner, who has been batting leadoff while Jacoby Ellsbury has been out with a hip ailment, was the only left-handed hitter in the batting order and was dropped to seventh. At the top of the order was Aaron Hicks, followed by Starlin Castro and three switch hitters batting righty — Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira and Chase Headley. Sanchez was in the 6-hole in front of Gardner with Austin Romine behind the plate batting eighth and Ronald Torreyes at shortstop in the 9-hole.

Sanchez got off to a rough start at SWB but has heated up recently and had a slash line of .288/.336/.541 with 13 runs, 11 doubles, one triple, five home runs and 21 RBI in 27 games and 111 at-bats. Sanchez was in line to be the backup to regular Yankees catcher Brian McCann but was beaten out for the job in spring training by Romine.

Sale entered the game working on an eight-game winning streak (in eight consecutive starts) dating back to Oct. 2 last year. The Yankees were the last team to beat Sale with a 3-2 victory last Sept. 24 at Yankee Stadium on the strength of a three-run home run by Beltran in the third inning.

The Yankees are the only team this season to end a pitcher’s winning streak of at least eight games. They handed Red Sox lefthander David Price a loss May 7 at the Stadium that stopped his nine-game winning streak (over 11 starts from Sept. 5 last year to May 1 this year). Sale will be the seventh pitcher in the majors this season to take the mound with a winning streak of eight games or longer (of the first six, only Price has had his streak ended).

This marks the only Friday the 13th game on the Yankees’ 2016 schedule, their first Friday the 13th game since a 7-0 victory June 13, 2014 at Oakland. Since 2012, the Yankees are 3-1 on Friday the 13th, with two of their three victories shutouts. The other was a 5-0 victory April 13, 2012 over the Angels at Yankee Stadium.

Tack-on runs keep Chapman in bullpen

Yankees fans nearly got their first look at the new bullpen formula Thursday night, the one envisioned by general manager Brian Cashman when he traded for Aroldis Chapman from the Reds in the offseason. Chapman’s 30-day suspension for violation of Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy postponed his joining the Yankees until this week but already he has picked up one save.

It appeared that Thursday night would be the first time manager Joe Girardi would use all three power relievers in the same game, and it was against a Royals team that had a similar bullpen setup in reaching two World Series with Joakim Soria, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis.

Dellin Betances worked a perfect seventh inning before Girardi called on Andrew Miller to pitch the eighth, which he did with the same result as Betances. But when the Yankees scored twice in the bottom of the eighth to boost their lead to 7-3, the save opportunity for Chapman was lost if he started the inning. Girardi brought Chasen Shreve to open the ninth but also had Chapman up in case the Royals rallied to create a save situation. That never occurred as the Yanks’ lead held up.

I actually heard some boos when Shreve’s name was announced as he trotted to the mound. This poses an interesting dilemma for Girardi. The buzz Chapman’s 100-mph heat has brought to Yankee Stadium means that more fans stick around at the end of the game the way they did for Mariano Rivera. They could see Chapman warming up in the bullpen and had their appetites whetted only to be disappointed that he did not enter the game.

Girardi made the right call. Why waste Chapman with a four-run lead when he may be needed Friday night against a White Sox team that has the best record in the American League? Taking three of four games from the reigning World Series champions puts the Yankees in a good frame of mind going into the weekend series against the White Sox.

Watching Starlin Castro take batting practice before the game I noticed that he concentrated on hitting the ball to the opposite field, not a bad approach for a right-handed batter at Yankee Stadium. Several of Castro’s BP swings resulted in his driving the ball over the comfy right field porch.

It does not always happen that a player will carry his pregame success into the game, but it did this time for Castro as he drove a a 1-1 pitch from the Royals’ Ian Kennedy to right-center for his fourth home run that put the Yankees on the board in the bottom of the first inning. Castro also went the other way against another former Yankees pitcher, Chien-Ming Wang, for an RBI single in the two-run seventh.

More than a month into the 2016 season, Castro has adapted well to the Stadium. He is batting .333 with six runs, two doubles, one home run and two RBI in 21 at-bats on the homestand. Overall at the Stadium, Castro is hitting .348 with eight runs, six doubles, three home runs and 11 RBI in 69 at-bats.

Castro’s shot was just the beginning of a long-ball procession for the Yanks against Kennedy, the former Yankees prospect who entered the game with a 2.13 ERA but had it swell to 3.25.

Chase Headley finally got an extra base hit. It came in the Yankees’ 33rd game and his 103rd plate appearance. Batting left-handed against the right-handed Kennedy, Headley also went to the opposite field and hit a two-run home run down the left field line in the second inning.

Headley has also showed signs on the homestand of being on the verge of breaking out of his season-long slump. He walked in the seventh and added a single in the eighth and is hitting .389 with seven runs and four RBI in 18 at-bats on the homestand.

After the Royals closed to 3-2 in the fourth against Nathan Eovaldi on a solo home run by Alex Gordon and a two-out, RBI single by Christian Colon, Didi Gregorius got into the act with a two-run homer to right in the bottom of the inning.

Eovaldi, who pitched eight innings in his previous start, against the Red Sox, barely got through five this time as his pitch count soared to 98. KC cut the Yankees’ lead to 5-3 in the fifth and threatened to go ahead, but Carlos Beltan made a leaping catch at the top of the wall in right field to take down Salvador Perez’s bid for a three-run homer

Pineda still cannot get untracked

The Yankees have had a recent history of success against reigning American League pennant winners, including the previous two nights with victories over the Royals. But Kansas City resembled more the team that beat the Mets in last year’s World Series Wednesday night than in the first two games of the series and coasted to a 7-3 victory.

Even with the loss, the Yankees have a .640 winning percentage since 2011 against the prior season’s AL champions based on a 32-18 record. The Yankees were 7-2 against the Rangers in 2011 and 4-3 against them in 2012, 3-3 against the Tigers in 2013, 12-7 against the Red Sox in 2014 and 4-2 against the Royals last year. This season, the Yankees are 2-1 against KC.

Another uneven start from Michael Pineda put the Yankees in a 4-0 hole in the first inning. The righthander followed that with four scoreless innings while his teammates closed to 4-3 entering the sixth. But Pineda put two runners on after two were out that inning, and both scored when reliever Nick Goody hit Alcives Escobar with a pitch to load the bases and gave up a two-run single to Lorenzo Cain, who homered three times Tuesday night.

The Royals used the long ball again Wednesday night, only this time toward a winning cause. A three-run shot by Salvador Perez was the crushing blow in the first inning off Pineda, whose record fell to 1-4 with a 6.28 ERA. Kendrys Morales homered off Phil Coke leading off the seventh inning. The Royals have gone deep eight times in the series.

Most disturbing of all about Pineda’s outing was his lack of command. He was once the epitome of the control pitcher that forced hitters to earn their way on base. Four walks and two hit batters was decidedly out of character for the righthander yet in keeping with a negative trend this year. Pineda has walked 13 batters in 38 2/3 innings, a rate of slightly more than three walks per nine innings. His career mark is 1.9. Pineda has also hit three batters this year, which is as many as he did all of last season in 160 2/3 innings.

The Yankees tried to get him off the hook. Carlos Betran led off the second inning against Yordano Ventura with his seventh home run of the season and career No. 399, which tied Al Kaline and Andres Galarraga for 54th place on the all-time list. A two-out, RBI single by Chase Headley cut the Royals’ lead in half.

It became a one-run game when the Yankees added a run in the fifth on a walk to Brett Gardner, a double by Starlin Castro and a grounder to the right side by Brian McCann. They got only two hits after that and were 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position for the game.

Mark Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury were still out of the lineup, but Aaron Hicks has started to heat up and lifted his batting average above .200 at .216 with three hits.

Duke grid coach, Garth Brooks coming to Stadium

Duke University head football coach David Cutcliffe, whose Blue Devils beat Indiana, 44-41, to win the 2015 New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, will return to the Bronx Friday night to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Yankees’ 7:05 p.m. game against the White Sox.

In his eighth season as Duke’s head football coach of the Blue Devils in 2015, Cutcliffe led the school to its 12th career bowl appearance and fourth in a row. The Pinstripe Era Bowl victory was Duke’s first bowl victory since 1961.

“We could not be more appreciative of the Yankees organization and the representatives of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl for inviting us back for this occasion,” Cutliffe said. “Our bowl experience back in December was absolutely incredible. “As a lifelong Yankees fan, the opportunity to take the mound in one of the truly great venues in all of sports will be a tremendous honor. My childhood was filled with dreams of pitching for the Yankees, and I couldn’t be more excited to represent Duke University on May 13.”

As part of the celebration, a special ticket offer with savings on select seats for Friday’s game is available for all Duke alumni, fans and supporters. For complete details on the offer, fans should visit http://www.yankees.com/duke. Please note that all ticket specials are subject to availability.

In addition, Cutcliffe will be presented with an autographed base signed by members of the current Yankees roster in a pregame ceremony. Making the presentation to Cutcliffe will be New Era Pinstripe Bowl executive director Mark Holtzman and director Emily Hamel.

Established in 2010, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl has featured some of the most memorable moments in recent college football history. The 2016 New Era Pinstripe Bowl will take place at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 28, on ESPN and will feature participants from the Big Ten and ACC Conferences.

Tickets for the 2016 New Era Pinstripe Bowl will be made available in the near future. For up-to-the-moment information regarding the game, fans are encouraged to visit http://www.pinstripebowl.com, the official website of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, and follow the Bowl game’s official Twitter and Instagram accounts – @PinstripeBowl.

Yankee Stadium will also be the site of Garth Brooks concert at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 9, the first country music event at the current Stadium. For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Garth Brooks World Tour with Trisha Yearwood will return to New York City. Brooks’ current album, Man Against Machine, his first studio release in 13 years, has been certified platinum. He is the number one selling solo artist in U.S. history with 136 million records sold.

Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, May 20. There will be an eight-ticket limit per purchase. Tickets may only be purchased at ticketmaster.com or ticketmaster.com/garthbrooks or either Ticketmaster Express 1-866-448-7849 or 1-800-745-3000. Please note there will be no ticket sales at the venue box office or Ticketmaster outlets May 20. Tickets will cost $69.23 plus a $4.50 facility fee and a $6.25 service charge for a total of $79.98.

Contributions from everyone lifts Yanks over KC

Tuesday night’s 10-7 victory over the Royals was a most satisfying victory for the Yankees considering that everyone in the game contributed, which is a rarity. From top to bottom of the batting order the Yanks gave Kansas City pitchers fits, including its vaunted bullpen.

On the pitching side, Masahiro Tanaka was stuck with another no-decision, although in this case it was a positive for him because the Yankees were trailing when he left the game after seven innings. Andrew Miller gave up a run for the first time this season in his new role as the setup man out of the pen, but he ended up with the winning decision when his teammates rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning against another previously unscored-upon relief pitcher, Kelvin Herrera. Aroldis Chapman picked up his first save as a Yankee with a shutout ninth amplified by several more fastballs exceeding 100 miles per hour.

The Royals are finding New York much more inhospitable in the Bronx this week than it was for them last October in Queens when they finished off the Mets to win the World Series in five games.

Lorenzo Cain, one of those Series heroes, had a big night for KC with three home runs, the last of which ended Miller’s scoreless streak and tied the score. Miller ended up striking out the side and then watched the offense get him off the hook.

Rookie Ben Gamel in his first major-league start was the only Yankees player without a hit, but he reached base on an error by shortstop Alcides Escobar that got things started with one out in the eighth. Gamel raced home with the go-ahead run on a double to left-center by Brett Gardner. After Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch, Brian McCann boomed a double off the wall in right-center for a two-Rubin double, his third hit of the game.

A costly balk by Royals reliever Joakim Soria had helped the Yankees come to Tanaka’s aid with two runs in the seventh. The RBI hits came from Dustin Ackley (single) and Adam Hicks (double), who are both batting below .200 but combined for three hits, three runs, two walks and three RBI in this game.

One night after clubbing five home runs, the Yankees were homerless but found production in their 13 hits. Didi Gregorius had two doubles and three RBI. Carlos Beltran singled and doubled and scored a run. Chase Headley also singled home a run.

Such an offensive assault was vital because Tanaka was batted about in yielding three home runs. Cain hit two of his homees off Tanaka, the second a three-run jolt in the fifth that turned a 5-2 KC deficit into a 6-5 lead. Tanaka has only one decision, a victory, in seven starts this season.

Another satisfactory aspect of the Yankees’ 4-1 homestand is that they are putting together winning efforts despite a spate of injuries. Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia are on the disabled list. Jacoby Ellsbury is still not ready to play because of a tight right hip, and Mark Teixeira will likely be out for the remainder of this series due to neck spasms.

Players need to rally around one another when confronted with such circumstances, and the Yankees are doing precisely that.

Yanks homers give Chapman a chance to close

Yankees fans got their first look at Aroldis Chapman in pinstripes Monday night. The lefthander was everything as advertised with gun readings in triple figures, but there was some rust as well befitting a pitcher who sat out a 30-day suspension at the start of the season for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

Of the 17 pitches Chapman threw in the ninth inning, six were 100 miles per hour or faster — four topped out at 101 and the other two were at 100. After quick strikeouts of the first two batters of the inning, pinch hitter Paulo Orlando ripped a double to center field on what at 90 mph was probably a changeup.

That was impressive for Orlando, who was on the bench all night and then was told to go up and try to hit a guy throwing 100 mph regularly. Alcides Escobar followed with a sharply-struck single past Didi Gregorius at shortstop to drive in Orlando before Lorenzo Cain was out on a pepper shot to Chapman.

In the 6-3 victory, the Yankees figured out a way to solve their dilemma of hitting with runners in scoring position — just come up with no one on base let alone in scoring position and hit the ball over the fence.

That approach worked very well against Royals righthander Chris Young, not the former Yankees outfielder but the journeyman pitcher who was one of Kansas City’s World Series heroes last year. The Yanks bashed five solo home runs off Young in 2 2/3 innings.

Brian McCann began the assault with two out in the first inning. After the Royals tied the score in the second on a homer by Alex Gordon, Carlos Beltran led off the bottom of the inning by taking Young deep. Beltran was just getting started it seemed.

Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks started things off in the third with bombs to right field. Two outs later, Beltran connected again for his 38th multi-homer game (all but one are two-homer games). That marked the first three-homer inning for the Yankees since May 25 last year, also against KC and Jeremy Guthrie, by Gardner, McCann and Chase Headley.

That was it for Young, who tied a dubious franchise record for home runs allowed in a single appearance and departed the game with a swollen 6.68 ERA. Such an outing did not bode well for the defending World Series champs because they have had just as hard time as the Yankees scoring runs this year. KC entered play with only one more run scored than the Bombers.

The Royals might have been better off starting Dillon Gee, who gave up only one run on a sacrifice fly by Hicks in 5 1/3 innings.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was hoping Ivan Nova, starting in place of disabled pitcher CC Sabathia, could give the Yankees at least 75 pitches. Nova did even better than that (81 pitches), but his own error probably cost him a shot at a winning decision.

Nova missed the bag taking a throw from Mark Teixeira while covering first base on a grounder by Escobar and lost a precious out. When left-handed Eric Hosmer came to the plate with two down in the fifth, Girardi brought in lefthander Phil Coke to face the Royals first baseman who flied out to the left field warning track. Failing to pitch a full five innings to qualify for a victory, Nova was hung with a no-decision despite a first-rate effort.

The victory went to Kirby Yates (2-0), who pitched scoreless, one-hit ball for 1 2/3 innings. It was also a big night for rookie Ben Gamel, who singled in his first major-league plate appearance in the eighth.

The Yankees finished the game 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position, but they enjoyed their new formula for scoring.

Yankees dealing with non-DL injuries

Starlin Castro was not in the starting lineup for the Yankees Monday night as they opened a four-game series at Yankee Stadium against the reigning World Series champion Royals, but that was more due to manager Joe Girardi’s characteristic cautionary approach to injuries that anything too serious.

Castro told reporters that his left ribcage was still sore but that he could have played. Girardi did not disagree but felt comfortable giving the second baseman who leads the club in hits (32) another day to get healthy. Castro has has some adventures on the bases. He was caught off third base in Sunday night’s 5-1 loss to the Red Sox and was picked off second base last week at Baltimore.

The Yankees also continue to be without center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who has not played since the first inning Friday night because of a tight right hip. Although not on the 15-day disabled list with Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia, Ellsbury has yet to do any baseball-related activity. Aaron Hicks was in center field and Ronald Torreyes at second base Monday night.

The Yankees also activated relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman. To make room for the lefthander on the roster, there Yankees optioned Johnny Barbato to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Barbato, a righthander who won the James P. Dawson Award as the outstanding rookie in the Yankees’ spring training camp, was 1-2 with a 5.54 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 12 games covering 13 innings.

Ivan Nova was to make his first start of the season in place of Sabathia, who has a strained left groin. Girardi was hopeful that Nova, who is 1-1 with a 5.14 ERA in six relief appearances totaling 14 innings, could give him at least 75 pitches. Nova’s longest outing in relief was four innings, which he did twice, April 6 against the Astros at the Stadium and April 26 against the Rangers at Arlington, Texas.

Last year, the Yankees had the best record of an American League club against AL Central competition of 21-12 (.625). Only the National League’s Pirates did better against AL Central competition in 13 fewer games at 13-7 (.650). The Yankees entered play Monday night with a 1-1 record against the AL Central (both games against the Tigers).

The Yanks also found out they will have an additional workload coming up. Their rainout April 10 at Detroit’s Comerica Park will be made up there at 7:40 p.m. June 2, which had been an open date for both clubs. With this date set, the Yankees will play on 40 of 41 days from May 3 through June 6. Their only off day during that stretch will be May 23 upon returning from a trip to Phoenix and Oakland

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