Golson, Pena hurt in SWB win

Mike Ashmore has an update on reliever Grant Duff, who has a screw in his elbow and is coming back from a stress fracture that caused him to the miss the second half of last year. He’s pitching in Extended Spring Training now and could be back with an affiliate as soon as next week. Noaya Okamoto is the on the phantom disabled list, allowing Wilkins Arias to be activated.

Triple-A Scranton (3-1 win over Gwinnett)
Greg Golson, CF: 2 for 5, 2 RBI, 1 K - left the game after reaching on an error in the 7th, so presumably it was an injury
P.J. Pilittere, PR-1B: 0 for 0 – came in for Golson
Kevin Russo, 2B: 1 for 5, 2 K
Jesus Montero, C: 3 for 5 – yawn
Jorge Vazquez, 1B-3B: 1 for 5, 1 K
Justin Maxwell, LF-CF: 0 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K – those are strikes 38 and 39 … Austin Jackson-esque
Brandon Laird, 3B-LR: 1 for 3, 2 BB – had four walks all year coming into the game
Jordan Parraz, RF: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K - threw a runner out at the plate
Ramiro Pena, SS: 0 for 2, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K – left the game after fouling a pitch off his instep in the fifth, which has the potential to be very bad
Doug Bernier, SS: 0 for 2, 2 K
Gus Molina, DH: 0 for 4, 1 BB, 2 K
Hector Noesi, RHP: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 Balk, 1 HB, 2-5 GB/FB – 57 of 85 pitches were strikes (67.1%) … that’s better than last time out, when he walked everyone
Eric Wordekemper, RHP: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 1 K – threw just three pitches … that’s just his fifth strikeout of the year (in 12 IP)
Luis Ayala, RHP: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB – ten of 16 pitches were strikes (62.5%) … and the rehab stint is officially underway
Ryan Pope, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB – seven of nine pitches were strikes … he’s off the disabled list now
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 11 of 15 pitches were strikes (73.3%) … dude’s been a beast this year

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All tests come back negative for Hughes

Via Marc Carig, all circulatory and vascular tests performed on Phil Hughes have come back negative, so he doesn’t have Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. A specialist looked at the young righty in St. Louis today following last week’s battery of tests. Obviously this is good news, but if it’s not TOS, then what the hell is it?

Game 26: No Robbie

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Robinson Cano said after yesterday’s game that he expected to play in tonight’s game despite a bruised left hand, but that won’t be the case. The second baseman is not in the lineup for tonight’s series opener against the Tigers, but hopefully it’s just one of those “give him the extra day just to make sure he’s healthy since it’s only early-May” type deals. The good news is that precautionary x-rays turned up negative, so there’s no (obvious) break. Here’s the starting nine…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, DH
Russell Martin, C
Brett Gardner, LF
Eduardo Nunez, 2B

Bartolo Colon, SP

First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET, and the game can be seen on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Phil Hughes Update: Hughes had tests performed by the specialist in St. Louis today, but there’s no word on the results just yet. Hopefully after the game or tomorrow.

Talking Baseball with Jonah Keri (and RAB)

Come join Jonah Keri, author of The Extra Two Percent, plus Ben and I for an informal discussion on American League East baseball this Wednesday at Foley’s at 5:30pm. Unfortunately, we have to limit that part of the evening to 30 attendees so only ticket-holders will be able to get in. After the talk, we’ll stick around to watch the Yankees take on the Tigers. Everyone is welcome to join us at Foley’s for that part of the evening. Click here to sign up for the discussion (it’s free!), though there are only a few tickets left.

Unfortunately, Jonah won’t have books on hand to sell, but those of you who have already purchased The Extra Two Percent can bring a copy in for him to sign. Jonah will be happy to sell IOUs for signed copies that he will mail to you within the next week. Even if you can’t make it to the discussion, come hang out and watch the game afterwards. We’ll have a blast.

Words With Friends Teammates: Garcia & Nova

Take it away, Joel Sherman

When I was at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, a member of the team told me something I found interesting: After Ivan Nova’s poor relief appearance on April 19 in Toronto, Freddy Garcia pulled the young righty aside. Usually pitchers pair up with the same partner every day to play catch and Garcia and Nova are partners. Garcia asked Nova what pitch he thought was most important to his repertoire. Nova replied his curveball. So Garcia told Nova that the youngster was not working on the pitch enough. So Garcia said this is what would be done moving forward: While the two played catch, Nova would flip 40-plus curveballs. Garcia’s point was that catch is not just about loosening an arm or keeping it fit. The idea is never to do anything without meaning. Garcia wanted Nova to get such a good feel for the curve that he could throw it in any count comfortably.

(snip)

On Sunday against the Blue Jays – the team that crushed him in relief a few weeks earlier – Nova struck out five: The finishing pitches on each were curves and three of those were called third strikes. With runners on in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth, Nova recorded the final out of the inning with his curve.

Both the increased usage and effectiveness of Nova’s curveball was obvious in his last two starts. PitchFX says he threw just 37 curves (14.5% of his total pitches) in his first three starts (not counting that relief appearance), 21 for strikes (56.8%) and just one for a swing-and-miss (2.7%). His last two starts have featured 58 curveballs (30.5%), 36 for strikes (62.1) and five for swings-and-misses (8.6%). In terms of effectiveness, the pitch went from almost exactly average in the first three starts to more than two runs above average in the last two starts. It’s a big difference.

All the extra curveballs have come at the expense of the changeup, which he’s thrown just twice in his last two starts (one in each) compared to 43 (!!!) in his first three starts. Nova’s never missed bats with his fastball despite solid (but not great) velocity and probably won’t ever miss bats with it because he has almost no deception in his delivery, so it’s going to be tough for him to succeed long-term as a guy that throws 98% fastballs and curves. Phil Hughes had success with that approach in 2010 because he could actually reach back and throw a fastball by hitters (9.2% whiff rate on the fastball, 11.5% on the cutter last year). Nova has gotten a swing-and-miss on 3.8% of his fastballs this year and just 1.8% last September. They’re completely different animals.

That doesn’t mean anything for right now though. The curveball heavy approach is clearly working and there’s no reason for Nova to change it, but there’s a pretty good chance that the league will adjust at some point. It’ll then be up to Ivan to adjust back if he wants to remain a successful starter. It’s the baseball circle of life.