Monday, April 30, 2012

Yankees weekend notes

Joe Girardi didn't see anything good out of Freddy Garcia on Saturday but he didn't want to make any rash decisions.  He went home and had a good nights sleep.  He decided on Sunday that Garcia would be moved to the bullpen and that David Phelps would be moved to the rotation.  I don't think this was too hard of a decision and one the Yankees had to make.  D.J. Mitchell was also called up from AAA on Sunday and will be in the bullpen as the long man.  Garcia will see mop up duty I would say and that is about it.  I would guess that when Petitte comes back he could be released but we will see.  Here are some other notes from the weekend.  A lot of these are courtesy of the Lohud Yankees blog by Chad Jennings.  I also have my own insights as always. 

Although Garca said he physically feels fine, Girardi said it’s entirely possible that the Yankees will send him for medical tests. Garcia’s fastball velocity has dipped, and his split — an effective put-away pitch last season — has been cutting. It was an 0-2 split that Andy Dirks hit for a three-run home run in the first inning.

“I don’t see the crispness in his pitches,” Girardi said. “If we didn’t see it in spring training I’d say, well, maybe it’s not going to be there. But it was there. He threw great in spring training. He threw harder than he did last year. For whatever reason it’s not there right now.”

Garcia seemed baffled, frustrated and uncertain following the loss. He said he’d like to make his next start, but acknowledged that he’s not sure the Yankees will send him back out there.

“I’m just struggling, man,” he said. “For me, it’s really hard. I like to compete and I’m not competing right now. It’s frustrating. … My velocity is down. We work hard last week on a couple of things and things are not going in the right way right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

For the first time, Girardi called David Phelps a candidate to move into the rotation. “Any time you have a long man, he’s a candidate to be a starter,” Girardi said. “Your long man is someone who is a sixth starter all the time in the bullpen.”

After three hitless innings today, Phelps ERA is down to 3.57. After two rocky outings, today looked much more like what the Yankees saw out of Phelps in the first two weeks of the season. “My last two outings I was just trying to do a little bit too much instead of staying within myself,” he said. “I kind of got back to that today.”

The bullpen allowed one run through 7.1 innings. Cody Eppley gave up a solo homer to Miguel Cabrera, but that was the extent of the damage. Despite Garcia’s awful start, the Yankees had a chance because of the pen. “It just speaks volumes to the quality of arms we have in our bullpen, the job that we’ve done all year,” Phelps said. “You saw tonight, we were 10 or 15 feet away from having a tie ballgame. It’s what we’re supposed to do, go in and give our team a chance to win. We’ve been doing a great job of it so far.”

Those 10 or 15 feet came on Eric Chavez’s fly ball to end the game. A three-run ninth got Chavez to the plate as the tying run with two outs in the ninth. He gave the ball quite a ride, but it was caught short of the wall.

Nick Swisher homered from both sides of the plate for the 11th time in his career, tying Eddie Murray and Chili Davis for the second-most such games all time behind Mark Teixeira. This was the first time Swisher had homered at home this season. He has six home runs.

Curtis Granderson hit his seventh homer of the season. It was his first home run off a left-hander this season.

Garcia has allowed nine first-inning runs this season.

This is the first time in Garcia’s career that he’s gone back-to-back starts without pitching out of the second inning. Last time it happened to a Yankees starter was Chien-Ming Wang in 2009. That’s not exactly the comparision he wants right now.

 It’s worth noting that D.J. Mitchell last started on Tuesday, making Sunday his regular day to pitch.  He was called up on Sunday but he will be in the bullpen along with Freddy Garcia for now.  I couldn't imagine a situation other then a blow out where Garcia would pitch. 

Speaking of minor league starters: The Yankees confirmed that Andy Pettitte’s next start will be with High-A Tampa, not Double-A Trenton. They don’t want him pitching in the cold.

It’s easy to look at CC Sabathia’s past three starts and believe that he’s been the exception to the rule. The rest of the rotation might have struggled, but surely not the Yankees ace. Not the guy who just beat the Rangers and Tigers in back-to-back starts and has pitched into the eighth inning three times in a row.

But slow starts are nothing new to Sabathia, and his first few outings this year weren’t particularly ace-like. What makes Sabathia an exception to the rule is that there’s never any doubt he’ll get it turned around and get on this kind of roll.

“I think we’ve seen him do it time and time again,” manager Joe Girardi said. “When we signed him, in spring training, we talked about that this is a guy who has notoriously got off to slow starts, let’s not evaluate him the first month of the season. And if I remember, that start was a little bit slow. You talk about a guy that you signed for a long time and expect good things, but that’s kind of his history. So that gives me confidence that he does get off to a slow start that things are going to turn around, because I’ve seen it time and time again.”

Sabathia’s ERA has dropped with each start. He was better than the numbers showed in Texas, but today was a legitimately dominant performance. Prince Fielder took him deep, and Miguel Cabrera hit an RBI double, but Sabahtia allowed only two other hits and struck out eight.

“You always feel confident that you can go out and hold a team down,” Sabathia said. “I felt pretty good today. Moved the ball around and made some pitches. … (Fastball command) has been getting better in the bullpens and in the games. I’ve been able to command it. I think that really makes my offspeed stuff that much better. When I can do that, I feel pretty good.”

On a day the Yankees took a proactive step to try to improve the back of their rotation, the best thing they could do to sort out the top of the rotation was to leave Sabathia exactly where he is.

“He’s a guy that we’ve come to rely on, going out there and battling and keeping us in games,” Derek Jeter said. “He’s a guy that doesn’t want to come out, and especially when we’ve been using out bullpen a lot lately, he was exactly what we needed.”

Girardi confirmed after today’s game that David Phelps will take Garcia’s spot in the rotation on Thursday in Kansas City. That’s about four hours from Phelps’ family home in St. Louis. “They were coming out regardless,” Phelps said. “But they were going to come Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Now I’m sure they’ll come on Thursday. It’s nice for the family too, to know exactly which day I’m going to pitch.”

Although Girardi says it’s not a personal catcher situation, Chris Stewart has caught Sabathia’s past three starts, and Sabathia said he hasn’t shook once in the past two starts. “It feels good,” Sabathia said. “To believe in what he’s calling, he’s been calling great games, catching great games. I’m just excited about being able to work with him for however long it works out.”

Stewart has at least one hit in each of those past three starts, and today’s single led to a run on a close play at the plate in the seventh inning. “We talk about it with all our catchers, your first job is defense,” Girardi said. “You talk about saving runs. I know that doesn’t go on the back of a bubblegum card, but it’s really really important, and he does a tremendous job doing it. I tell our catchers, offense is second. Save runs for me. And they understand that.”

 Dave Robertson picked up right where Sabathia left off today, striking out two in a dominant ninth inning. Through 10 innings this season, Robertson has allowed seven hits and struck out 15. He’s the last Yankees pitcher — except D.J. Mitchell, I guess — who has yet to be charged with a run.

Alex Rodriguez drove in two runs today and moved ahead of Willie Mays for sole possession of eighth place on baseball’s all-time RBIs list. He has 1,904.  I don't think a lot of people realize where he is numbers wise.  It isn't just homeruns, he is up there in hits as well.  When his career is all said and done he will be in the top five most likely in hits and RBI and he will probably have over 3000 hits. 

Just a little bit behind Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson picked up his 500th career RBI today.

Granderson said he had to watch a replay to realize how close Austin Jackson came to catching Granderson’s fourth-inning home run to center field. “I didn’t see what happened right away,” Granderson said. “When I heard the crowd make the noise that they did, I knew something good happened, I just didn’t know on which side. Then the umpire told me it went over the fence.”

Jeter snapped an 0-for-9 with a 2-for-3. He now has 36 hits, his most ever for the season’s first month. He leads the team with 12 multi-hit games this season.

Andruw Jones was hitless in his past 19 at-bats but went 2-for-2 with a home run after replacing Nick Swisher, who left with a hamstring injury.

The Yankees drew a season-high nine walks and scored their first run on a bases-loaded walk. Tigers starter Max Scherzer had seven of those walks. “We’re not supposed to do that,” Jim Leyland said. “Major League pitchers are not supposed to do that, walk that many.”

The Triple-A rotation has lost D.J. Mitchell, but it’s getting Manny Banuelos back from the disabled list on Wednesday.

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