Results tagged ‘ Dave Eiland ’

Girardi regime continues

I will be flying to Dallas Friday at the time the Yankees will make an announcement at Yankee Stadium in which they are expected to say they have signed Joe Girardi to a new contract as manager, reportedly for three years. I am going to Arlington for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s annual meeting and will return Sunday night and resume blogging the Series Monday night, if they are still playing.

So I’ll toss out some comments before boarding.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made it clear that the club’s first priority was to get the manager’s signature on a new contract. There was some drama thrown into Girardi’s re-upping when the Cubs job became available following the mid-season retirement of Lou Piniella. Girardi’s Illinois roots and background with the Cubs as a player made for interesting speculation, but the Yankees were always the better option for Joe even if Chicago tugged at his sleeve.

The Cubs’ removal of the interim tag on Mike Quade made Girardi’s decision easier. The Yankees are pleased with his work that has resulted in two post-season appearances and a World Series title. Now that the managerial situation is settled, the Yankees can get down to the business of straightening out the coaching staff and getting into contract negotiations with Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte and working on a strategy for the free-agent market after the World Series ends.

This is the time of year that you will hear a lot of rumors. One already making the rounds is that Brewers pitching coach Rick Peterson may replace the departed Dave Eiland. Peterson, the son of former Yankees general manager Pete Peterson, may not be available, however. There has been talk that with Ken Macha gone as Brewers manager, Peterson will have to look elsewhere.

My information is that it was not only his relationship in Oakland with Macha that led to Peterson getting hired in Milwaukee but also that he was coveted by general manager Doug Melvin, who reportedly is telling managerial candidates being interviewed that Peterson will remain as pitching coach.

Not so quiet at Stadium

It was not as quiet at Yankee Stadium Monday as you might think. Sure, the stands were empty, which is something the Yankees do not like at this time of year. Noise could be heard from several machines on the field as sod was being replaced and the infield configuration changed to accommodate off-season events such as concerts and a pair of college football games.

There were also the sounds emanating from the interview room where general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi began to address the challenges facing the Yankees in the off-season. The first order of business is that of Girardi himself. Cashman said he would meet with Girardi’s agent Tuesday to begin negotiations toward a new contract.

In discussing the team, Girardi said, “I don’t want to get into specifics when I don’t have a contract. Halloween is when my contract is up, so we’ll see if I’m a pumpkin.”

That was a joke. Rest assured that Girardi will be back. He wants to stay, and Cashman said the Yankees want him to stay, too.

That was the not the case with pitching coach Dave Eiland, who became the first off-season casualty. Cashman opened his session by announcing his decision not to retain Eiland.

“It has nothing to do with how we pitched in the playoffs,” Cashman said. “He is not being blamed. He is a good pitching coach who should have no problem getting another job.”

Cashman added that the reason was “private” and did not elaborate. The GM declined to say whether Eiland’s leave of absence in June for personal reasons was a factor.

The other piece of news to come out of the day was that Andy Pettitte had groin and back tightness in his American League Division Series start in Game 2 against the Twins. That was the main reason Girardi decided not to start him in Game 2 of the AL Championship Series in Texas and went with Phil Hughes instead. Girardi said that Pettitte’s condition was such that he wasn’t sure the lefthander could have been in position to start Game 5 of the ALDS had that series been pushed to the limit.

That decision proved fatal for the Yankees because it set up Hughes for Games 2 and 6 in the ALCS at Rangers Ballpark In Arlington, both of which he lost. I supported Girardi’s decision at the time because of the reasoning that he had put forth of having Pettitte go up against the Rangers’ Cliff Lee in Game 3 and, if necessary, Game 7, but in hindsight it hurt the Yankees.

That alone did not seal the Yankees’ faith. As poorly as they pitched (6.58 ERA), they hit even worse (.201) and were victimized by a hot team on the come, a franchise in a rejuvenation mood under the watchful eye of Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, the team president.

“They dominated us at every level of the game,” Cashman said. “We led the league in scoring and run differential, but you’d never know that if you watched us in that series. Texas was a locomotive that we couldn’t withstand. Our starting pitching that had been a strength became a weakness. We didn’t see the real Yankees, but the Rangers had a lot to do with that.”

So now the Yankees have to re-fuel. Beyond Girardi, contract negotiations will center on three quarters of the “Core Four” – Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. For the second straight year, Pettitte is contemplating retirement. Rivera is 40 and showed some cracks during the season but remains head and shoulders over closers in the game. As for Jeter, there is the specter of a .270 regular season and .231 post-season that may be indications of advancing age.

Jeter will turn 37 during the 2011 season, and the question was raised about how long he will remain a shortstop.

“It is not something to get into now,” Girardi said. “I’m not assuming he is going to change positions. I still think he can play at a very high level.”

Girardi acknowledged, however, that Jeter as well as his long-time teammate Jorge Posada will have to be spelled on occasion more often.

“We played Derek more than we wanted,” Girardi said. “He has always played a lot of games, but we had stretches this year where he played 17, 18 days in a row and in one period 27 out of 28 days. We needed to play him every day when Alex [Rodriguez] was out. We found out with Jorgie that three games in a row [as a catcher] might be his limit. It will be important for Jeet and A-Rod to have DH days.”

“You look old when you don’t play well,” Cashman said. “We didn’t look old against Minnesota the week before. Texas made us look old.”

Both men pointed out that the Yankees have strived to get younger over the past year and are not old in the outfield with Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner or on the right side of the infield with first baseman Mark Teixeira and second baseman Robinson Cano. Cashman said that catching prospect Jesus Montero will get a shot at making the club in spring training. Eduardo Nunez will also likely blend himself into the infield picture.

Cashman tried to trade for Lee in July and almost had a deal. The lefthander can be a free agent at the end of the World Series. The Yankees are hoping his friendship with CC Sabathia will be an asset in their pursuit. Until then, Lee has unfinished business beginning with his start Wednesday night in Game 1 of the World Series. How Texas fares in the franchise’s first trip to the big dance in its 50th season may have a lot to with which way Lee leans in an off-season that has yet to begin for him but already has for the Yankees.

Hughes to be skipped again

The first change of pitching plans as the Yankees begin to focus on the post-season came Friday night. Manager Joe Girardi said that he will not start Phil Hughes until Wednesday night at Toronto. That will be Hughes’ last regular-season start.

Hughes had been scheduled to start Sunday’s home season finale against the Red Sox and Daisuke Matsuzaka, an assignment that will go instead to Dustin Moseley. The Yankees have kept close watch on Hughes’ workload this year so as not to tax his arm. Although they never revealed an innings limit on Hughes, it was believed between 170 and 180. Hughes is at 169 1/3.

This marks the third time this season that Hughes will be skipped in the rotation. The righthander had handled the protective measures professionally.

“The toughest part is dealing with the situation mentally,” Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland said. “Pitchers are creatures of habit, and you’re breaking up the routine and have to deal with change. He has figured out a way to handle it.”

As the Yankees get closer to clinching a post-season berth, further changes will be forthcoming. Girardi wants to get first baseman Mark Teixeira some rest. Tex has been playing regularly despite a bone bruise in his right thumb and a fractured small toe on his right foot.

King Felix lords it over Yankees

Put Felix Hernandez on a contending team and there would not be a Cy Young Award race in the American League, especially if he pitched against the Yankees all the time. Watching Hernandez Friday night at Yankee Stadium made one wonder how it is this guy ever loses.

The answer, naturally, is that he pitches for Seattle, which has the worst offense in the league. The Mariners are batting .237 as a team and have scored 403 runs, an average of 3.3 per game, which is putrid. It is also why Felix Hernandez is only 9-10 after another gem of a start against the Yankees. In his 10 losses, the Mariners have scored a total of 10 runs, only seven while he has been on the mount.

The M’s scored three times in the first inning, all the runs coming on first of two home runs by Russell Branyan, and that is about all Hernandez ever needs. He just seldom gets that many. Seattle’s run total Friday night was one more than the Mariners had scored in his eight previous starts combined.

Hernandez entered the game with a 2.62 ERA, which he lowered to 2.51 in what should have been his fourth straight complete-game victory against the Yankees dating to last season. But no! Mariners interim manager Daren Brown had Garrett Olson pitch the ninth.

Don’t give me this nonsense about pitch counts. Hernandez had thrown 117 pitches. Who cares? Removing him from this game was the equivalent of taking the brush out of Picasso’s hand before he is finished with the canvas. Well, not really, but you get the idea. It is a total lack of appreciation for artistic effort.

Had Hernandez been allowed to finish what he started, it would have been the first time a pitcher had thrown four consecutive complete games against the Yankees since the 1983 and ’84 seasons by Dave Stieb of the Blue Jays. Not all of those were victories, however. Ed Price of AOL Fan House told me that the last time a pitcher threw four straight complete-game victories against the Yankees was during the 1974 and ’75 seasons by Mike Cuellar of the Orioles.

So the pitch count got Hernandez, which is more than the Yankees did. In three starts against them this year, the righthander is 3-0 with a 0.35 ERA. He has allowed one run and 16 hits with five walks and 31 strikeouts in 26 innings.

The Stadium crowd of 46,493 got to watch one pitcher do his job anyway because A.J. Burnett didn’t have it – again. He was roughed up for six runs, 12 hits and three walks in seven innings and was booed early and often in falling to 9-11 with a 4.86 ERA, which is a pretty askew record for a pitcher in the rotation of a club playing .615 baseball.

When Burnett was awful in June (0-5, 11.35 ERA), it was blamed in part to pitching coach Dave Eiland away from the team on a personal leave. Eiland has been around the entire month of August, during which Burnett is 0-3 with a 6.08 ERA in four starts, so what gives? Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who coaxed his pitcher through seven, says it is a lack of command.

It is hard to believe this is the same pitcher that began the season 4-0. It could be worse for Burnett. He could be pitching for the Mariners.

Burnett improving

Heading into July, the most pressing issue for the Yankees was to get A.J. Burnett straightened out. The return of pitching coach Dave Eiland from a sabbatical for personal reasons has coincided with Burnett’s re-emergence as an effective starter.

While Eiland was on leave, Burnett went 0-5 with an 11.35 ERA in five June starts. Since Eiland’s return, Burnett is 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA in two July starts. Just a coincidence?

Perhaps, but whatever the reason Burnett is on his way back. In Wednesday night’s 6-2 victory that completed a sweep of the Athletics and extended the Yankees’ winning streak to five games, Burnett pitched through the seventh inning for the first time in 12 starts since May 4.

A two-out walk and a stolen base, which has tormented Burnett all season (24 steals against him in 17 starts) cost him a run in the third, and the only other batter he walked scored in the sixth, but Burnett was in control most of the game. He gave up five hits, all singles, and struck out three.

The Yankees provided Burnett a wide margin for error by putting up a five spot in the fourth against A’s starter Gio Gonzalez. The rally began after a double play. Gonzalez let the next five batters reach base. The crushing blow was a three-run home run to center by Mark Teixeira.

All-Star campaigning Nick Swisher homered two innings later as part of a three-hit, one-walk night that pushed his season average to .298. Ramiro Pena, subbing at second base for a resting Robinson Cano, had two hits and an RBI. Derek Jeter chipped in two hits, including a single with a runner in scoring position, his first in his past 18 at-bats in those situations.

Jeter was back in the leadoff spot as the Brett Gardner experiment ended after his going 1-for-8 the previous two games. Batting eighth Wednesday night, Gardner had a hit, a walk, a stolen base and a run scored, in other words, back in step, just like Burnett.

 

A.J. A-OK

Who knows whether it was the return of pitching coach Dave Eiland or a struggling Toronto lineup and who cares? A.J. Burnett had a good start for a change, definitely something to build on.

Unfortunately, Burnett had nothing to show for it on his record. He departed in the seventh with a 1-0 lead, but the Blue Jays tied the score the next inning off Joba Chamberlain, which hung a no-decision on A.J. Hey, it’s better than a loss, which was the case in all five of his starts last month.

Burnett had a couple of dicey innings but pitched out of trouble and held the Jays hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position. He had his spurts of wildness (three walks, a hit batter, two wild pitches), but all in all this was a plus of an outing.

The Yankee Stadium crowd of 45,792 was clearly behind him and sent A.J. to the clubhouse with a standing ovation as he walked off the mound in the seventh. After a passed ball by Francisco Cervelli put a runner on second base with two out, Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to let Burnett come out of the game in a positive frame of mind.

Eiland back on the job soon

A.J. Burnett has been a standup guy in not blaming his recent mound woes on anyone but himself, but the expected return of pitching coach Dave Eiland Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium couldn’t come too soon for the troubled righthander.

Perhaps as Burnett says that is just a coincidence, but his ragged stretch of five starts began June 4, precisely the day Eiland went on a leave of absence for a personal matter. While Eiland has been away, Burnett has gone 0-5 with an 11.35 ERA that has dropped his season record to 6-7 with a 5.25 ERA. Burnett has allowed 35 hits and 17 walks in 23 innings over this dismal period.

Eiland has been the Yankees’ pitching coach since 2008 and is adroit at detecting mechanical flaws in a pitcher’s delivery. Nothing against bullpen coach Mike Harkey, who is serving as interim pitching coach in Eiland’s absence, but a strong relationship usually develops between a pitching coach and his staff that is difficult to replace.

That said, it should be pointed out that the other starters have done well and as a team the Yankees were 12-8 and have picked up four games in the American League East standings, going from two games behind the Rays to two games ahead entering play Sunday night while Harkey was subbing for Eiland.

All the same, it is good news for the Yankees that Eiland will soon be back on the job.

 

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