Michael Pineda on his injury and return

Yesterday, for the first time in 2012, and the first time as a member of the New York Yankees, Michael Pineda entered Yankee Stadium. His father also visited the Stadium for the first time, and under different circumstances he’d have been excited to see his son don the pinstripes. But we all know that won’t happen for another 11 months at the earliest. Pineda recently underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum, and he has a long road to recovery.

WFAN’s Sweeny Murti took the opportunity to ask Pineda a few questions about his injury and future. The whole thing is worth a quick read, but here are a select few quotes to get you going.

On when he started feeling pain in his shoulder: “I think the first time (I felt something was) my last start in spring training. I tried to throw hard and I felt pain in my shoulder.” He could play catch fine, but said it started to hurt more when he started throwing hard again.

On his reduced velocity this spring: “I didn’t focus on my velocity. I focused a little more on my changeup. I was so excited because I had a great changeup and great slider and my fastball was 90-94…I can throw my 97 in the middle of the season.”

There are other tidbits, such as how he felt after his 2011 season, his outlook for 2012, and his feelings on his former team coming to town this weekend. Again, the whole thing is worth a quick read. Here’s to wishing him a strong rehab and speedy recovery.

The New Bullpen Era

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

For the first time in 15 years, the Yankees have someone other than Mariano Rivera closing the door in the ninth inning. The Sandman tore his right ACL shagging fly balls before last Thursday’s game, thrusting David Robertson into the closer’s role on a full-time basis. As we saw last night, things are going to be very different at the end of the game going forward.

As he usually does, Robertson created a bit of a mess against the Rays on Tuesday before striking his way out of the jam to secure the win. It’s what he does, make jams so he can pitch his way out of them. Unfortunately, that act is far less enjoyable in the ninth inning than at any other point of the game. If Robertson can’t wiggle his way out of trouble and a run(s) scores, the Yankees now have three outs to respond. That’s it. If he does the same in the eighth, they’ll have six outs to recover. Not much, but better than three. The margin for error is tiny.

This probably sounds stupid given how things turned out, but I thought last night’s game was a perfect example of why I believe that at the very least, Joe Girardi needs to be a little more flexible in the late innings. The Yankees were up two runs going into the eighth, but the top of the order was due up. That’s a pretty good spot to use Robertson given the degree of difficulty, allowing Soriano to finish the game against inferior hitters in the ninth. If the bottom of the order was due up in the eighth, then by all means go to Soriano. In a perfect world, you’d have Robertson pitch to the toughest batters.

Obviously pulling that off is much easier said than done. Pitchers do like knowing their specific role/inning and bouncing them around could have some negative impact. Might be a lot, might be negligible. Who knows. Girardi can play coy all he wants, but we know that Robertson will be his man in the ninth inning going forward. He’s certainly earned it and I’m not going to ding the manager for marrying relievers to specific innings when literally every other manager in baseball does it. This isn’t just a Girardi thing, but it will be more noticeable with Rivera on the shelf.

“What I think is Mo probably would have thrown 12 pitches, broke a bat and we would have been gone 20 minutes ago,” joked Robertson following last night’s game, though there is some truth there. We’ve been spoiled by Mariano’s stress (and walk) free ninth innings for a baseball lifetime, and we’re going to be in for a serious culture shock over these next six months or so. I have full confidence in Robertson doing the job, but he is going to test our patience and raise our blood pressure along the way. This is a new era of Yankees baseball, and to be quite honest, it makes me nervous.

Nova, Robertson, and Ibanez power Yankees to win over Rays

It wasn’t pretty and it definitely wasn’t easy, but the Yankees picked up their first 2012 win against the Rays on Tuesday night. David Robertson cut his teeth in the ninth inning with his first save of the post-Mariano Rivera era in the 5-3 victory.

No sweat. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Enter Strand-man (h/t Peter Botte)

Let’s start this one in the ninth inning. The Yankees gave Robertson everything he could have possibly asked for in his first save chance following Rivera’s injury, including a multiple run lead with the bottom of the order due up. Rafael Soriano had taken care of business against the heart of the order in the eighth and Mark Teixeira‘s run-scoring double down the line gave the team some late breathing room. Piece of cake, right? Wrong.

Things are very rarely easy with Robertson, who has definitely earned his Houdini nickname through the years. The first out of the inning was a simple ground ball to second from Jeff Keppinger, but Will Rhymes worked a walk as the next batter. Sean Rodriguez, the next hitter, nudged a ground ball single through the 5.5 hole to put the tying run on base. Robertson recovered to strike out pinch-hitter Brandon Allen for the second out, but leadoff man Ben Zobrist walked to load the bases and put the typing run in scoring position.

Bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and the absolute last guy the Yankees wanted to see at the plate was the guy due up: Carlos Pena. Pena’s both willing to take a walk and capable of hitting a grand slam, but he’s also prone to the strikeout. Robertson started him off with a breaking ball away for a called strike and followed up with a fastball away for a quick 0-2 count, and that’s when the chess match began. A curveball down was taken for ball one, a fastball up for ball two. Neither was particularly close to being in the zone, so they were easy for a patient hitter like Pena to lay off. With a 2-2 count, the Yankees had one pitch to play with but did not screw around. Robertson painted the black with another fastball, getting a called strike three to end the game.

I plan on writing … something about this whole bullpen situation tomorrow, but I’m not exactly sure what. Robertson did what he always does in this game, but the feeling is quite a bit different when it happens in the ninth inning rather than the eighth. He’s still gotta get three outs, but the fact that there’s less margin for error makes it a little more nauseating. Let’s hope David settles in and has some clean innings going forward now that he’s gotten his feet wet.

Ivan Keeps It Together

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

On Monday afternoon I wrote about Ivan Nova‘s need to keep his fastball down and more importantly, the team’s need for him to get in a groove and become a reliable workhorse starter. He showed signs of doing exactly that against the Rays, retiring 13 of the 14 batters he faced before dancing around danger in the fifth and seventh innings. Overall, Nova struck out eight and walked two, surrendering two runs — solo homers to Matt Joyce Luke Scott and Jose Molina — in seven innings.

By far, the biggest outs of Ivan’s night were the last two. The Rays put men on second and third with one out in that seventh inning, though Keppinger was held up at third base thanks in part to Nick Swisher‘s quick recovery of Rhymes’ double. As expected, Nova went offspeed heavy to Sean Rodriguez and Molina, getting the former to fly out to medium right — Keppinger did not score thanks again to Swisher, who made a strong throw home — and the latter to strike out on three pitches. By WPA, those two outs were the second and third biggest outs of the game behind Robertson’s strikeout of Pena. The score remained 3-2 and Nova left the game knowing he’d just thrown his best start of the season.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

I-bomb-nez

Not many Yankees came into the game with respectable numbers against Jamie Shields, and Raul Ibanez wasn’t one of them. He had just one hit in 15 plate appearances against the changeup specialist, but that one was the three-run homer he hit on Opening Day. Raul repeated that effort twice over on Tuesday night, hitting a two-run homer to open the scoring in the third before tacking on another run with a solo shot (off Burke Badenhop and the right field foul pole) in the seventh. Ibanez now has five homers this year, which is about four more than expected following his showing in camp.

One thing I think we can all agree on: when Raul gets a hold of one, he really gets a hold of it. According to Hit Tracker, his five homers a) have averaged 412 feet, b) were all considered “No Doubt” homers, and c) would have been out in all 30 ballparks. That’s pretty awesome.

Leftovers

There was a little offensive funny business in this game worth mentioning. First of all, how come Curtis Granderson Alex Rodriguez didn’t take third base in the top of the first? The third baseman was a mile away from the bag because of the shift. Nitpicking, I know. Secondly, Robinson Cano running home on contact on Swisher’s ground ball in the fourth was terrible. The infield was in and the ball was hit directly to second, so Robbie was out by a mile. Gotta be a little smarter than that.

On the bright side, Granderson capped off a ten-pitch at-bat with a solo homer off Shields and Teixeira beat the shift for that insurance run in the ninth. Not only did they have the shift on, but Joe Maddon brought in the right-hander to flip Tex around to his weaker side. That was satisfying. Everyone in the lineup had a hit except for Swisher and Russell Martin, and the best at-bats of the night award goes to Alex Rodriguez. He walked in the first and laced a line drive single to center in the ninth, seeing a total of 30 (!) pitches in four plate appearances. That’s part of the reason why Shields needed 100 pitches to record the first 15 outs.

Soriano’s eighth inning was incredibly shaky, though I give him credit for limiting the damage. Zobrist led off with a triple, but Soriano rebounded to whiff Pena and B.J. Upton. He would have escaped the inning unscathed if not for the wild pitch that allowed Zobrist to score. Following a walk to Joyce, Soriano fell behind in the count 3-0 to Luke Scott before rebounding to strike him out. That was a little hairy. The new eighth inning guy has yet to have a 1-2-3 inning this season, which is nothing new, unfortunately.

The win was Joe Girardi‘s 400th as Yankees manager, so congrats to him. He’s the seventh winning-est manager in franchise history and has a real chance to climb into the top five during his current contract. The top four — Joe McCarthy (1.460), Joe Torre (1.173), Casey Stengel (1,149), and Miller Huggins (1,067) — are pretty much out of reach though.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some more stats, and ESPN the updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

Game two of this three-game set will be played Wednesday night, when David Phelps makes his second career start. Right-hander Jeff Niemann will give it a go for the Rays. RAB Tickets can help get you in the door if you want to head to the Bronx.

Banuelos strong, Gardner rehabs in loss

Catcher Craig Tatum was placed on the DL, and in a series of corresponding moves, Gus Molina was promoted to Triple-A and OF/1B Shane Brown was bumped up to Double-A Trenton.

Triple-A Empire State Game One (1-0 loss to Columbus in seven innings) makeup of yesterday’s rain out
LF Brett Gardner: 2-3 — both hits were singles off lefty/sometimes big leaguer David Huff … based on the play-by-play, he had to make three plays in the field
2B Kevin Russo: 1-3
SS Yadil Mujica: 1-2, 1 2B
Everyone Else: combined 0-17, 1 BB, 5 K — Jack Cust drew the walk, unsurprisingly
LHP Manny Banuelos: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2/4 GB/FB — 49 of 75 pitches were strikes (65.3%), and he should get up to 90 or so next time out … eight strikeouts and zero walks in 8.2 IP since coming off the DL, so hooray for healthy backs!
RHP Chase Whitley: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 16 of 23 pitches were strikes (69.6%)

[Read more…]

Game 29: No Fun

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

I really dislike the new playoff system. It’s early-May and tonight’s series opener against the Rays feels like a big game because winning the division is actually important now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good for baseball that these games are more important and all that, but I’m just not used to it and I’m not sure I like it. I’ve always felt that as a fan, the best part of the 162-game schedule was not stressing out over games early in the season. I just want to relax and watch some baseball on May 8th, not worry about the game’s impact on the standings at the end of season. Sigh. Anyway, here’s the lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
DH Raul Ibanez
Russell Martin
LF Eduardo Nunez

RHP Ivan Nova

Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET, but the weather in New York is not great. It’s been overcast all day and the forecast says there’s a chance of showers basically all night and into tomorrow morning. The game will air on YES locally and MLB Network nationally if the weather cooperates. Enjoy.

Joba Update: No more boot, workouts continue in Tampa

Less than seven weeks after suffering an open dislocation of his right ankle, Joba Chamberlain is walking without a boot and continuing his rehab both from the ankle injury and Tommy John surgery in Tampa. He says he’s currently using a basketball ankle brace (one of these?) and apparently nothing more.

Brian Cashman recently said it’s “definitely possible” we’ll see Joba back on a mound this year, though I still think that’s pretty optimistic. These are two pretty serious injuries suffered at basically the exact same time. Rehabbing from one is hard enough, but both simultaneously? Getting back to the team this year would really be miraculous. Joba has been playing catch since the injury though, so who knows. I’m hoping for the best and expecting the worst.

Pettitte will start for Yankees on Sunday

Via Marc Carig, left-hander Andy Pettitte will officially return to the Yankees this weekend and start against the Mariners on Sunday. Brian Cashman made the announcement this afternoon.

Pettitte, 40 next month, had mixed results in his various minor league tune-up starts, including five runs in five Triple-A innings this past weekend. For what it’s worth, Ken Rosenthal spoke to a scout who said Andy’s stuff “lacked crispness” in his latest minor league outing. Pettitte got his pitch count up to 95 in his last two starts, so stamina isn’t a huge concern. Obviously there will be quite a bit of rust to shake off after a year away from the game.

Ivan Nova is currently lined up to start Sunday, but that doesn’t really mean anything. Phil Hughes is scheduled to start Saturday and David Phelps on Monday, and I would count on one of them moving to the bullpen to accommodate Pettitte. The smart money’s on Phelps.