Results tagged ‘ All-Star Game ’

Kuroda making case for All-Star consideration

The All-Star Game will be at Citi Field in a couple of months, and there has been a lot of talk in Flushing about Matt Harvey, the Mets’ impressive rookie, perhaps getting the nod as the starting pitcher for the National League. Not to take any thunder away from Harvey, but it may not be a bad idea if the American League gave serious consideration to the Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda as its starter.

Oh, sure, it’s far too early to get into that discussion. One thing is certain: when that topic does become heated, figure Kuroda to be in the middle of it, right up there with Felix Hernandez, Clay Buchholz, Matt Moore, Yu Darvish, Jon Lester and the other All-Star starter contenders.

Say what you want about the Blue Jays’ 17-25 start, but the Toronto lineup is still formidable. Yet Kuroda mowed through it seemingly without breaking a sweat.

“He had all three of his pitches going – fastball, slider, splitter,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He pretty much gave the bullpen the night off. He has been doing that for us all season.”

The first inning was an indication that it might be a special night for Kuroda. Melky Cabrera led off the game with a double. Kuroda then struck out Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion and got the third out by gloving a searing line drive by J.P. Arencibia.

“I felt good after those first two strikeouts,” Kuroda said.

Asked how he was able to catch Arencibia’s dart, Kuroda said, “I don’t know.”

After Melky’s hit, Kuroda got 19 consecutive outs before yielding a second hit, Encarnacion’s one-out single in the seventh. Kuroda walked Muenori Kawasaki in the third inning but picked him off. The righthander had five strikeouts in his eight innings, and it was hard to believe that 41 of his 109 pitches were called balls.

Kuroda improved his record to 6-2 and lowered his ERA to 1.99, clearly the best of each in the rotation. He has been a one-man gang against Toronto with 12 consecutive scoreless innings against the Jays. Opponents are hitless in their past 25 at-bats with runners in scoring position against Kuroda and 2-for-30 for the season. He has pitched at least seven innings without giving up a run in nine of his 42 starts with the Yankees, which matches Hernandez and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw for the most such starts in the majors over the past two years.

The Yankees tied the score right away by scoring off Mark Buehrle in the first inning. Brett Gardner tripled to left-center and scored on a groundout by Robinson Cano. The first of two sacrifice flies by Jayson Nix gave Kuroda the lead in the fifth, and the bottom of the Yankees’ order constructed the bulk of a three-run rally in the seventh.

How about the 3-4-5-6 hitters combining to go 1-for-16 and still the Yankees winning, 5-0? Nix had a 0-for-0 game with two walks and two sac flies, the first Yankees player to get four plate appearances in a game without an official at-bat since Derek Jeter Sept. 12, 2006 against the Rays. Rookies David Adams and Austin Romine had a double and a single apiece, and rookie pitcher Preston Claiborne tossed another scoreless inning (that’s eight now in six appearances). Gardner also walked and singled in a run. It was all nice to see, but the way Kuroda pitched was unnecessary.

2013 All-Star ballot released

Major League Baseball marked the official start of All-Star balloting today for the 84th All-Star Game that will be held Tuesday, July 16, at Citi Field.

Yankees fans might have to make sure of write-in votes to help some of the players make it onto the team. The ballot does not include catcher Francisco Cervelli or outfielder Vernon Wells, for example. Chris Stewart is listed as the Yankees’ catcher, and the three outfielders on the ballot are Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki. Granderson has yet to play a game. Nor have first baseman Mark Teixeira or shortstop Derek Jeter. All had been expected back in May, which is why they were named to the ballot.

Jeter’s case has changed, obviously, with another break in his surgical left ankle that will keep him out of action until after the All-Star break. Alex Rodriguez, recovering from hip surgery, was never expected to play before the All-Star break, so Kevin Youkilis is listed as the Yankees’ third baseman. Also on the ballot are second baseman Robinson Cano and designated hitter Travis Hafner.

MLB’s All-Star balloting program is the largest of its kind in professional sports. Last year, more than 40.2 million ballots were cast, which was a record. This year, more than 20 million Firestone All-Star ballots will be distributed at the 30 major-league ballparks, each of which will have 25 dates for balloting, and in approximately 100 minor-league parks.

Fans may also cast votes for starters 25 times exclusively at and all 30 club web sites, including – online or via their mobile devices – with the 2013 All-Star Game Ballot Sponsored by

Every major-league club will have begun its in-stadium balloting no later than Tuesday, May 7. When the in-stadium phase of balloting concludes Friday, June 28, fans will have the opportunity to cast their ballots exclusively online at, the 30 club web sites and their mobile devices until 11:59 p.m. Thursday, July 4. Firestone is once again the exclusive sponsor of the 2013 In-Stadium All-Star balloting program. The ballot features an All-Star sweepstakes, in which a winner will be rewarded with a trip for two to MLB All-Star Week, including airfare, hotel accommodations and tickets to the All-Star Game and other MLB All-Star Week events.

“All-Star Balloting is more popular than ever, and we hope for another record-setting year in 2013,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “Major League Baseball is thrilled that fans throughout the world will continue to choose their favorite players for the greatest sporting event of the summer. We look forward to adding a new chapter to the remarkable National League tradition of New York City at Citi Field this summer.”

This will mark the ninth time the All-Star Game has been in New York. The Yankees have been the host team four times in the Bronx – 1939 and the second of two games in 1960 in the original Yankee Stadium and 1977 and 2008 in the renovated Stadium. The game was also in Manhattan twice when the Giants were the host team at the Polo Grounds – 1934 and 1942 – and once each in Brooklyn when the Dodgers were the host team at Ebbets Field in 1949 and in Queens when the Mets were the host team at Shea Stadium in its inaugural season of 1964.

For the fifth consecutive year, this year’s ballot will feature the Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans will get to select three players in each league who they would most like to see participate in the Home Run Derby. The Fan Poll also will be available online at

Cano, the winner of the 2011 event at Chase Field in Phoenix, is one of the 10 American League candidates, along with designated hitter Adam Dunn of the White Sox; first baseman Prince Fielder of the Tigers; third basemen Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, Evan Longoria of the Rays and Adrian Beltre of the Rangers; and outfielders Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, Adam Jones of the Orioles and Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout of the Angels.

The 10 National League candidates are catcher Buster Posey of the Giants; first baseman Joey Votto of the Reds; third baseman David Wright of the Mets; and outfielders Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals, Ryan Braun of the Brewers, Bryce Harper of the Nationals, Jason Heyward of the Braves, Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates and Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins.

The AL and NL All-Star teams will be unveiled Sunday, July 7, on the 2013 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Taco Bell, televised nationally on TBS. The AL All-Star Team will have nine elected starters via the fan balloting program, while the NL All-Star Team will have eight. The pitchers and reserves for both squads – totaling 25 for the N.L. and 24 for the A.L. – will be determined through a combination of “Player Ballot” choices and selections made by the two All-Star managers – the AL’s Jim Leyland of the Tigers and the NL’s Bruce Bochy of the Giants.

Immediately following the announcement of the rosters, fans will begin voting to select the final player for each league’s 34-man roster via the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Fans will cast their votes from a list of five players from each league over a four-day period and the winners will be announced after the voting concludes Thursday, July 11. Now in its 12th season with more than 350 million votes cast, fans again will be able to make their Final Vote selections on, club sites and their mobile phones.

This year’s final phase of All-Star Game voting again will have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the game, fans will vote exclusively online at and the 30 club sites via the 2013 All-Star Game MVP Vote, and their collective voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining this year’s recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.

DJ knocks Say Hey Kid out of hit makers’ top 10

I still cannot get over the idea that Willie Mays is no longer in the top10 of hit makers in major-league history. Derek Jeter nudged the Say Hey Kid out of the group with an infield single in the fifth inning Friday night for career hit No. 3,284. Next on the list in ninth place is Eddie Collins at 3,313. With only 18 games remaining, Jeter may have to wait until next year to catch the Hall of Fame second baseman.

But Mays is certainly a big one. People of my generation tend to think of Mays as the greatest player they have ever seen. That is my opinion. It was also Joe Torre’s. Jeter has something in common with Mays, and that is he plays the game with the same sense of joy that Willie did. They are entirely different types of players in other regards, but in enthusiasm for the game they are equal.

Jeter has met Mays on several occasions, most prominently during the 2007 All-Star Game at San Francisco’s AT&T Park when he and Junior Griffey interviewed the center field legend as part of that week’s festivities. Jeter has been passing Hall of Famers left and right in his march up the hits path, but going past Willie Mays is one he won’t forget.

The Yankee Stadium crowd of 45,200 treated Jeter to a deserved standing ovation.

Ichiro moves to center stage

The scene changed for Ichiro Suzuki Friday night at Yankee Stadium. For the first time he wore a home uniform in his major-league career that did not have ‘Mariners’ across the breast. The pinstripes and inter-locking ‘NY’ of the Yankees seemed to fit him perfectly.

Across the way was the team that is the chief rival of the Yankees managed by the first American to sign Ichiro’s praises. It was during the 2000 World Series that Bobby Valentine, then manager of the Mets, spoke glowingly of Suzuki from the skipper’s time in Japan. Valentine at the time tried to convince the Mets to get in the bidding for Ichiro, but the front office disagreed. Suzuki ended up in Seattle, which turned out to be a very good landing place for him.

Suzuki was embraced by his manager, Lou Piniella, and a city with a sizeable Asian population. Baseball fans throughout North America came to appreciate the fleet-footed outfielder with the penchant for spraying line drives and beating out infield grounders that he totaled more than 200 hits a season for 10 consecutive years.

Valentine recalled before Friday night’s opener of the Yankees-Red Sox series that in his days in the Japanese Pacific League Ichiro’s speed was such that he was a threat to beat out ground balls to the first baseman for hits.

“He was really, really fast,” Valentine said.

That was a long time, however. The Ichiro Suzuki of today is 38 years old. He is still a threat with his speed but not as great as in previous years. It also remains to be seen how he will handle the spotlight on a daily basis. The Mariners team he broke in with, in 2001, won 116 games and was a postseason team that lost to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

The Mariners have not been back to the playoffs since. Except for the All-Star Game at AT&T Park in San Francisco in 2007 when he electrified a national television audience with an inside the park home run and two other hits to earn Most Valuable Player honors, Suzuki has not been on the national stage all that much. You don’t see the Mariners on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball as often as we once did when Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez were still in Seattle.

Ichiro cannot escape the spotlight now. The Yankees are in first place in the AL East and as such a major contender for a possible berth in the World Series. They are hoping Suzuki will be a big part of that quest.

“I’m confident New York is not going to be a big thing for him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “This guy has been there before. He is going to be on nationally televised games a lot.”

It all starts Friday night with the Bleacher Creatures’ roll call, which is something he knows about, even from Seattle. It seems that Yankees fans that came to see them play at Safeco Field did their version of the roll call before those games. Suzuki is bound to appreciate the Stadium version a lot better.

Power hitting, bullpen continue to propel Yanks

Ever since returning from Kansas City where his ears were besieged by boos at the All-Star Game, Robinson Cano has generated the usual sounds of cheering at Yankee Stadium. It was Cano who started the Yankees toward their 29th come-from-behind victory with a two-run home run that erased the 2-0 deficit the Yankees faced at the start of the inning.

They used a familiar formula – power hitting and ensemble relief pitching – to continue their winning ways Saturday in a 5-3 victory over the Angels. Cano and Curtis Granderson supplied the power with two-run homers, and Robinson added a key tack-on run in the sixth with an RBI single.

The Stadium crowd of 47,789 loved it. They have regarded Cano exactly the opposite of how he was treated in KC. Cano stumbled somewhat coming out of the game this season, but ever since he heated up the sizzle hasn’t stopped. Even the one part of his game that continued to be questioned he had answers for Saturday. The second baseman entered the game batting .190 with runners in scoring position and proceeded to go 2-for-3 (.667) in those situations.

“Remember in the first few months people were asking about Robbie,” manager Joe Girardi said, “but he has turned it around.”

Has he ever? During a club-high, 17-game hitting streak, Cano has batted .391 with five doubles, six home runs, 19 RBI, 10 runs and nine multi-hit games in 69 at-bats. He has had the longest hitting streak for a Yankees player in each of the past four seasons (also 17 games in 2011, 17 in 2010 and 18 in 2009). Cano has hit 17 home runs in his past 45 games since May 22 after having hit four homers in his first 42 games. Of his 21 homers, 14 have come at the Stadium, including 10 in his past 17 games in the Bronx since June 6.

The first-inning homer off Angels righthander Jerome Williams was impressive. It was a drive to the opposite field with the ball hitting the top of the fence in left-center and carrying on the fly over the visitors bullpen and into the bleachers.

“That was big to bounce back,” Girardi said. “To answer quickly was very important.”

The blow allowed Freddy Garcia time to settle in, and the veteran righthander came through with a thoroughly acceptable outing from a fifth starter with five functional innings. In the third, Granderson reached the second deck in right for his 24th homer to put the Yanks ahead for good.

Cody Eppley, who has been a real find this season for the Yankees, took over for Garcia in the sixth and allowed one hit. Five of the six outs he recorded were in the infield and four on ground balls.

“He has good movement on his fastball and is good at getting ground balls,” Girardi said.

The manager could then go to his post-Mariano Rivera rotation for the late innings with David Robertson working the eighth and Rafael Soriano the ninth; two more scoreless innings from them and save No. 22 for Soriano in 23 opportunities.

“It’s hard to say where we would be without Soriano,” said Girardi, who also deserves credit for manipulating the relief corps so well. “It is hard if you don’t know what you have. My responsibility is to put them in spots where they can be successful.”

That success has given the Yankees the largest lead of any division winner in the majors and prompted a question to Girardi about where he would rank this team among the four he has managed since 2008.

“Well, we won 103 games in the regular season in 2009 when we won the World Series,” Girardi said, naming the obvious choice. “I have had clubs that hit more, but this team plays together as well as you can. Some individuals’ numbers could be better, but contributions have been coming from everybody”

Derek and the new kids on the block

We tend to think of Derek Jeter as a perennial kid. His enthusiasm for the game is infectious. But there is no changing the clock. The Captain is 38 years old, which is twice the age of one of the two baseball phenoms who have entered the major leagues this year, outfielders Mike Trout of the Angels and Bryce Harper of the Nationals.

Both were on display Tuesday night in Kansas City at the All-Star Game where few teenagers have had the opportunity to compete. Trout was at Yankee Stadium Friday night with the Angels for the start of a three-game, weekend series and invoked Jeter several times in talking about his “homecoming.” The New Jersey native visited the old Yankee Stadium as a youngster, but this marked his first time playing on the Bronx patch.

“I was a shortstop and always batted leadoff,” said Trout, who still bats leadoff but now plays center field. “I patterned myself after Jeter, the way he goes about his business and always hustling. I’m the same way. I think that’s the only way to play the game.”

Jeter has now reached the point where he was the role model for players coming into the game. It started six years ago with the arrival of Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who proudly wears No. 2 in honor of Jeter.

Trout noted that he was befriended by Jeter at the All-Star Game. While taking batting practice, he turned to the side and saw Jeter and White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn looking at him and making a gesture with their hands over their hearts.

“It was their way of wondering if I was nervous,” Trout said. “I was, but they helped calm me down.”

Trout has something else in common with Jeter. He is a winner. The Angels got off to a 6-14 start that cost hitting coach Mickey Hatcher his job. Since Trout was called up from Triple A and installed in the Los Angeles lineup, the Angels have gone 42-24 entering play Friday night.

Commissioner, union boss support Cano

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Commissioner Bud Selig and Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Players Association, were in complete agreement on one issue Tuesday. Both executives felt that fans here overdid it in their persistent booing of Robinson Cano during Monday night’s Home Run Derby at Kauffman Stadium.

Cano was taken to task by local fans for not including Billy Butler, the Royals’ representative on the American League squad, for the AL’s quartet in the Home Run Derby. Cano is captain of the AL team and Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp for the National League. Cano was booed whenever his face appeared on the video board and throughout his at-bat in the first round when he failed to hit a home run.

“I felt badly about Robinson Cano,” Selig said. “He picked the people he thought were deserving and did a good job. I really felt bad for him.”

“I don’t think anyone could quarrel with the players he took,” Weiner said. “They had the three most home runs in the competition.”

Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder won the event. Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista and Angels outfielder Mark Trumbo had the second and third highest totals, respectively. Even with Cano getting shut out, the AL out-homered the NL, 61-21.

Selig and Weiner spoke at the annual All-Star Game meeting of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America at the Kansas City Marriott County Club Plaza Hotel on a variety of topics on which they did not always agree except for the Cano situation.

Cano was not criticized by Butler, who said he did not fault the Yankees second baseman nor did he feel snubbed. KC fans, on the other hand, took it personally. Cano said he understood why the fans were upset and that part of being a Yankee is to get used to being booed on the road.

What fans here did not realize is that Cano had to name the Home Run Derby team before the AL squad was complete. Cano, Fielder and Bautista were voted into the starting lineup in the fans’ ballot, and Cano was told by a league official that Trumbo would be on the team. Butler was not named to the team until several days after Cano had to submit his list. He had inquired about two other stars, Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton and Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, but both declined to participate.

“Fans have the right to express their opinion,” Weiner said, “but it seemed to me that it was more than the traditional booing.”

ESPN, which cablecast the event, did not help matters, either. Cameras were focused on Cano for what seemed an inordinate amount of time, almost as if the network encouraged fans to boo him.

Plenty of All-Stars have artifacts in Hall of Fame

The National Baseball Hall of Fame didn’t exist when the All-Star Game had its beginnings in 1933 at old Comiskey Park in Chicago, but the connection between the Midsummer Classic and the Cooperstown museum that opened in 1939 has become enriched over the years.

More than 45 percent of the 68 All-Stars named to the 2012 American League and National League squads for Tuesday night’s game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., are already represented in Cooperstown by artifacts in the Hall of Fame’s permanent collection.

Of the Yankees who are on this year’s AL All-Star team, second baseman Robinson Cano is represented at the Hall by the bat he used when he became one of three Yankees to hit grand slams in a game Aug. 25, 2011. Center fielder Curtis Granderson has a jersey from the 2007 season and a bat from 2011 in the Hall. Pitcher CC Sabathia donated the spikes he wore April 16, 2009 in his first game at the current Yankee Stadium.

Shortstop Derek Jeter has more than a dozen artifacts in the collection, including his batting helmet and gloves from his 3,000th hit July 9, 2011 against the Rays at the Stadium.

Here are the other 2012 All-Stars and their artifacts at the Hall of Fame:

American League

Adrian Beltre (Rangers) – Bat used to hit grand slam on May 21, 2000; Team Dominican Republic jersey from 2006 World Baseball Classic; jersey from Game 4 of 2011 ALDS.
Billy Butler (Royals) – Cap from Sept, 26, 2009 game when he hit his 50th double of the season.
Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) – Batting helmet from Team Venezuela from the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Yu Darvish (Rangers) – Spikes from 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Prince Fielder (Tigers) – Jersey from 2011 All-Star Game; bat used by Fielder when he became the youngest player to hit 50 home runs in a season in 2007.
Josh Hamilton (Rangers) – Bat used when he hit four home runs in a game May 8, 2012.
Felix Hernandez (Mariners) – Cap from Team Venezuela at 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Ian Kinsler (Rangers) – Bat from his 6-for-6 game April 15, 2009
Joe Mauer (Twins) – Bat and jersey from the 2009 season, when he won his third AL batting title.
David Ortiz (Red Sox) – 2004 Red Sox home World Series jersey; batting helmet used in 2005 when he set the single-season home run record for a designated hitter; and spikes from when he set the all-time home run record for a DH Sept. 15, 2009.
Justin Verlander (Tigers) – Balls from 2007 and 2011 no-hitters and jersey from his 20th victory Aug. 27, 2011.
Jered Weaver (Angels) – Ball from June 20, 2009 when brothers Jered and Jeff Weaver opposed each other on the mound; ball and jersey from May 2, 2012 no-hitter.

National League

Carlos Beltran (Cardinals) – Jersey from 2004 postseason; cap worn while with Team Puerto Rico in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Melky Cabrera (Giants) – Batting helmet from when he hit for the cycle Aug. 2, 2009.
Matt Cain (Giants) – Ball, cap, spikes, first base and dirt from the pitching mound from his June 13, 2012 perfect game.
David Freese (Cardinals) – Game-worn jersey and bat from his Game 6 walk-off home run in the 2011 World Series.
Rafael Furcal (Cardinals) – Cap from his unassisted triple play Aug. 10, 2003.
Cole Hamels (Phillies) – 2008 World Series jersey.
Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) – Jersey from his 2011 Cy Young Award season.
Craig Kimbrel (Braves) – Spikes from his rookie record 41st save in 2011.
Jonathan Papelbon (Phillies) – Glove from the 2007 season.
Buster Posey (Giants) – Catcher’s mask and spikes from the 2010 World Series.
Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins) – Batting helmet from the final “Florida” Marlins game Sept. 28, 2011.
Stephen Strasberg (Nationals) – Cap worn in his major-league debut June 8, 2010.
Dan Uggla (Braves) – Bat from 2008 when he became one of four Marlins with at least 25 home runs.
Joey Votto (Reds) – Bat from his May 13, 2012 walk-off grand slam as part of a three-homer game.
David Wright (Mets) – Bat from Team USA from the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Class of 2012 Hall of Fame members Barry Larkin and Ron Santo left indelible marks in All-Star competition. Larkin was named to 12 All-Star Games (only Jeter, Luis Aparicio, Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith have been selected to more All-Star Games as shortstops). Santo made nine All-Star appearances at third base. They will be enshrined July 22 during Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown.

The connection between the All-Star Game and Cooperstown may best be summed up in the second annual game in 1934 at the Polo Grounds in New York. Counting players, managers and umpires, 31 future Hall of Famers took the field that day – the one game in baseball history that featured the most future Hall of Famers.

Cano obvious choice as AL Player of the Week

It comes as no surprise that Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano was named the American League Player of the Week for his outstanding hitting last week when he batted .414 with two doubles, four home runs and 10 RBI in 29 at-bats over seven games.

Cano’s competition for the award, which he won for the sixth time in his career and the first time since the week of Aug. 22, 2010, were his own teammates, pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and outfielder DeWayne Wise. Kuroda was 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 14 innings and Wise hit .500 with one double, one triple, two home runs and five RBI in 14 at-bats and also pitched two-thirds of an inning and allowed no runs and no hits.

Cano has a busy day Monday. In his role as AL captain of the All-Star Home Run Derby July 9, the night before the All-Star Game at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, Cano named Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder and Angels outfielder Mark Trumbo to the squad along with himself. Cano won the event last year. Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton and Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz had been considered by Cano but both declined to be part of the competition.

Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, the captain of the National League squad, named fellow outfielders Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals, Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies and Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins. Kemp is on the disabled list and will not play in the All-Star Game but will participate in the Home Run Derby.

The Yankees had a new pitcher in the bullpen Monday night at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., for the start of a three-game series against the Rays. Chad Qualls, acquired from the Phillies for cash considerations and a player to be named, was 1-1 with a 4.60 ERA in 35 appearances for Philadelphia. He will replace Cory Wade, who struggled in June and was optioned to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Also back in the dugout was outfielder-designated hitter Raul Ibanez, who stayed in New York as the Yankees traveled to Tampa to have a lacerated lip and cracked tooth repaired. Ibanez was hurt while sitting in the dugout Sunday trying to avoid being by a foul ball by White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

Starters making up for losses of CC and Andy

A sense of panic might have set in with the Yankees this week when CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte ended up on the disabled list on the same day. They represent the heart and soul of the rotation. Yankees manager Joe Girardi was quick to point out that the other three starting pitchers need not believe they have to do more than they are capable of to make up for the loss of the two lefthanders.

The skipper got exactly what he wanted from Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes in the series against the White Sox, which the Yankees split. The trio combined to go 2-0 with a 1.21 ERA in 22 1/3 innings during which they allowed 15 hits and five walks with 24 strikeouts. The bullpen blew Nova’s game Thursday night, and the White Sox hammered the Yanks Friday night only to have Kuroda Saturday and Hughes Sunday limit them to two runs over 15 innings.

Hughes overcame a shaky start when he gave up two first-inning runs to pitch through the eighth on an uncomfortably scorching afternoon. Then again, if a collection of former Yankees could play three innings in the Old Timers’ Game in Sunday’s sauna, then why not a 26-year-old?

“He made some mistakes with location early on,” Girardi said of Hughes. “But the more they go out there the more they make adjustments. That was what Hughes did for us. He has been going it for the past 10 or 12 starts.”

True enough. Hughes (9-6) won for the sixth time in his past eight starts and improved his record against American League Central clubs to 6-0 this season and 17-6 in his career. Over his past 11 starts, Hughes is 8-2 with a 3.34 ERA in 72 2/3 innings to lower his season ERA from 7.48 to 4.29. The Yankees have three pitchers with at least nine victories this year while the rest of the AL has five.

Two-run home runs by Eric Chavez in the second inning and Robinson Cano in the third off Gavin Floyd provided all the support Hughes would need. After a two-out double by Alex Rios in the third inning, Hughes retired 16 of the next 17 batters.

“The big adjustment,” he said, “was that I changed the angle of my breaking ball.”

Cano started July with the same firepower he had throughout June. Small wonder that he made the leap over the Rangers’ Ian Kinsler for the starting berth at second base for the AL in the All-Star Game along with teammates Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Sabathia. CC cannot play in the July 10 game at Kansas City but plans to attend as an observer.

Cano became the first Yankee second baseman to earn three consecutive fan-elected starts. He and Jeter are only the second pair of teammates up the middle to earn fan-elected starts three years in a row, joining the Reds’ Joe Morgan and Dave Concepcion for the National League in 1975, ’76 and ’77.

Cano, who raised his average to a team-leading .310, has homered in nine of his past 14 games. His 17 home runs since May 18 are the most by any player over the stretch. Cano has 10 home runs in his past 18 home games. He has reached the 20-homer plateau for the fourth straight year, joining Hall of Famer Joe Gordon (1938-41) as the only Yankees second basemen to accomplish the feat.

Jeter, who was 1-for-5 Sunday and had his average fall below .300 (.299) for the first time since after the third game of the season April 8, became the third shortstop to be elected to start seven consecutive All-Star Games. The others were Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith (10 straight, 1983-92) and Cal Ripken Jr. (eight straight, 1989-96).

It marked the 13th time in Jeter’s career that the fans elected him to start in the All-Star Game. He is the fifth AL infielder to earn at least seven straight fan-elected start at one position, along with Ripken and three other Hall of Famers, first baseman Rod Carew (nine straight, 1976-84) and third basemen George Brett (11 straight, 1976-86) and Wade Boggs (10 straight, 1987-96).

Granderson will make his third All-Star Game appearance and is the first Yankees outfielder to make two straight fan-elected starts since Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield in 1987-88.


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