Girardi: A-Rod MRI came back ‘clean’

After leaving yesterday’s game with soreness in his lower back and oblique, A-Rod sat out today’s game. He didn’t come up to pinch hit for Eric Chavez against a lefty in the 8th inning, and while the non-move luckily paid off, I was surprised and worried that A-Rod didn’t come up. After the game, Joe Girardi addressed A-Rod’s condition. He said that the team sent their third baseman for an MRI today, and the results came back “clean.”

That’s great news for the slugger, but the Yanks aren’t out of the woods yet. Girardi said the team will play it by ear going forward, and they can enjoy the luxury of an off-day tomorrow. By the time the Yanks take the turf against the Blue Jays on Tuesday, A-Rod will have enjoyed around 75 hours of rest and treatment. Hopefully, that will be long enough. The Yanks, meanwhile, have the bench to cover for a short-term A-Rod absence.

Game 14: CC FTW

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Yankees are looking to win their fourth series in five tries today, and for the second straight weekend they’ll try to do that with CC Sabathia on the mound on Sunday night. But that’s not the interesting part, the opposing starter is. You might remember Alexi Ogando from his relief appearances against the Yankees last year, both in the regular season and in the ALCS. Well he’s a starter now, and so far he’s allowed just four hits and no runs in two starts totaling 13 innings. That’s amazing enough, but listen to his back story.

The Athletics first signed Ogando as a 19-year-old out of the Dominican Republic way back in 2002. He was an outfielder back then, and he actually played pretty well in Rookie and Low-A ball: .297/.357/.482 with 14 homers and nine steals in 431 plate appearances. The Rangers then grabbed him in the Double-A phase of the 2005 Rule 5 Draft and turned him into a pitcher despite the hitting performance. However, Ogando never made it to Spring Training in 2006. He got busted as part of a human trafficking ring in the DR, in which players were marrying women to help get them a visa and into the United States. Ogando admitted his involvement and was denied a visa for the season.

So instead of coming to the States, he pitched in the Dominican Summer League and worked on the conversion to pitching. Although he was originally told that he would be granted a visa after a year, he was banned from coming to the United States for the next four years as well. All he could do was pitch in the DSL and international tournaments during that time, his prime development years. Ogando was finally granted a visa last February, so the Rangers sent him right to Double-A and he ended the season in the big leagues. That’s slightly more interesting than your typical “climbing the ladder” story, no?

Anyway, here’s tonight’s lineup…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Eric Chavez, 3B
Jorge Posada, DH
Russell Martin, C
Brett Gardner, LF – hooray for hitting ninth

CC Sabathia, SP

Alex Rodriguez is out with that stiff back/oblique, and since they have the day off tomorrow, he’ll get two full days of rest. Like I said yesterday, better one game now than a whole bunch later. ESPN has the broadcast; first pitch will come a little after 8pm ET, so enjoy the game.

Rotation Note: Bartolo Colon will start on Wednesday, so he’s essentially replacing Phil Hughes in the rotation and the Yankees are keeping everyone on turn. They could have skipped some people if they wanted thanks to a pair of off-days next week.

Yankees put Hughes on anti-inflammatory medication

Via Brian Heyman, the Yankees have placed Phil Hughes on anti-inflammatory medication even though all parties involve insist the right-hander is healthy. “I think you can look at every pitcher’s arm and probably see some inflammation, ” said Joe Girardi. While that’s certainly true, this is still a little concerning just because the idea of an arm injury is scary. Something clearly isn’t right with Hughes, and I suppose some inflammation is better the alternative, meaning something more serious.

Millwood superficially strong in Double-A start

Kevin Millwood made his first start outside of Extended Spring Training today, firing seven one-hit innings for Double-A Trenton. He lost the no-hitter with two outs in the sixth, throwing 88 pitches (53 strikes, 60.2%). It’s good that he accomplished his goal of stretching his arm out and building strength, but the performance isn’t as exciting as it appears on the surface.

Millwood walked four batters and struck out just three, generating just three (unofficial) swings-and-misses. Ten ground outs to five air outs is nice, but a guy with all that big league time shouldn’t be walking that many guys or missing so few bats in Double-A. There’s no word on his stuff – radar gun readings or what not – but I’m sure recent scouting reports of “terrible” still apply. Millwood said after the game that he isn’t sure what the next step is, but his opt-out date is exactly two weeks away. He’s got two more starts to show that he’s still got something left in the tank, but right now I remain highly skeptical.

Checking in on Mark Melancon

Twelve months ago, righty reliever Mark Melancon was the sixth best prospect in the Yankees’ farm system (in my opinion, anyway). He had always dominated the minors with a low-90’s fastball and a hammer curveball, but struggled in his various stints with the big league team. In 15 career appearances with the Yankees, he allowed 20 hits and uncharacteristically walked ten in 20.1 IP, allowing 13 runs. Team officials were “always perplexed” by Melancon according to Buster Olney, because his strike-throwing ways never carried over into the big leagues.

The Yankees traded Melancon to Houston at the deadline as part of the Lance Berkman swap last summer, after he’d walked 31 in 56.1 IP at Triple-A. His control issues followed him back to Scranton, but Melancon has thrived in his short time with the Astros though, striking out 28 and walking just nine in 25.1 IP. He’s allowed just four hits and a walk in eight scoreless innings this year, striking out nine with a ground ball rate near 70%. For whatever reason, it just didn’t work in New York, but the Yankees didn’t exactly give Melancon the biggest of leashes either. They had some relief depth and used it to fill another hole. It’s the kind of move you expect a contender to make.

Nearly sent down, Hughes’ concerns landed him on DL

When the Yanks placed Phil Hughes on the disabled list on Friday with what the team is terming a “dead arm,” we originally reported the move as a demotion. Initial reports had Hughes heading to AAA to work on his stuff, but those were subsequently deemed false. It seems though that they weren’t too far off the mark: The Yanks were going to send Phil Hughes to the minors before the pitcher intervened.

According to a George A. King III report in The Post today, Hughes’ own reticence kept him in the Bronx but on the shelf. The club was going to send him down, but Hughes didn’t feel more pitching would help his velocity woes. King writes, “Hughes couldn’t exactly say what the problem was, but he didn’t believe continuing to pitch — even in the minors — was the right way to inject life into his dead right arm.” Hughes himself talked in more guarded tones. “After 30 pitches, there was nothing there. I felt like a reliever who had thrown four straight days,” he said.

Clearly, that’s not what you want to hear from your 24-year-old right-hander who was lined up to be the team’s third starter this year. Hughes, who had no tests done before the DL trip, will start a long-toss program soon with an eye toward building up arm strength. It’s worth noting that Phil’s 192 innings last year were a career high by a significant amount. Hopefully, this truly is only a dead arm.