Game 72: The Return of Ivan Nova

(Maddie Meyer/Getty)
(Maddie Meyer/Getty)

For the first time since April 19th of last season, Ivan Nova will be on the mound for the Yankees this afternoon. The real Yankees too. Not the Tampa Yankees or another minor league affiliate. His rehab from Tommy John surgery is complete and today he returns to the rotation. What to expect? Who knows. Nova was unpredictable even before having his elbow rebuilt.

The Yankees are getting Nova back today but, more importantly, they have to avoid being swept by the Phillies. The Phillies! The worst team in baseball. The worst offense in baseball has scored eleven runs in each of the first two games of the series — the Phillies went from averaging 3.10 runs per game to 3.32 runs per game thanks to the Yankees — and today they’re sending ace Cole Hamels to the mound. Good grief. Here is the Phils’ lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. LF Chris Young
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Jose Pirela
    RHP Ivan Nova

It’s a gorgeous day in New York. Nice and sunny with temperatures comfortably in the upper-70s/low-80s. Just a perfect afternoon for a ballgame. Today’s series finale will begin 1:05pm ET and you can watch live on YES locally and, depending on where you live, MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Teixeira (neck) took batting practice and felt good, so he’s back in the lineup … Andrew Miller (forearm) played catch today for the first time since being shut down. He made 25 throws and everything went well … Brendan Ryan was placed on the 15-day DL with an upper-back strain. One thing after another with that guy.

Roster Move: Jose DePaula was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for Nova, the Yankees announced … Ryan to the DL cleared the 25-man roster spot.

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Yankees facing tough but welcome roster decisions this month

(Scranton Times Tribune)
(Scranton Times Tribune)

At some point very soon — likely next week — the Yankees will welcome Ivan Nova back to the rotation. He allowed one run in six innings in his second Triple-A rehab start over the weekend, but apparently he had issues with his command and wasn’t as sharp as he had been in previous rehab starts. Joe Girardi confirmed yesterday Nova will make one more minor league rehab start later this week.

“We just feel we want to make sure that he’s finished off,” said the skipper to Chad Jennings. “It’s not something that’s easy to make an adjustment if you say, we wish we would have had one more start, so we talked about it for a couple days and we just think it’s better that we know that he’s ready to go and ready to handle the rigors of throwing every fifth day and all that … We waited a long time and to give him one more start and to make sure that he’s ready is probably the best thing to do.”

Once Nova is deemed ready to rejoin the Yankees, the team will have to figure out a way to squeeze him back into the rotation, unless of course they decide to use a six-man rotation. Sunday’s subpar start by Adam Warren seems like the excuse the Yankees have been waiting for to plug him back into the bullpen after his recent run of strong starts. Girardi’s somewhat quick hook was telling.

Soon after Nova returns, Jacoby Ellsbury is expected back from his knee problem. Cashman told Erik Boland the team expects Ellsbury back before the All-Star break (which is less than a month away now) and that he could return later this month. Once he does return Ellsbury will slide right back into his usual center field/leadoff hitter slot and the rookie outfielder du jour (Mason Williams, currently) will be send down.

Last week the Yankees had to send Jose Pirela to Triple-A to make room for Brendan Ryan even though Pirela has gone 14-for-27 (.519) against lefties in his very brief MLB career. Jacob Lindgren was dropped in favor of Sergio Santos partly because the Yankees wanted another righty reliever and partly because Lindgren gave up three dingers in his seven innings. Ramon Flores was swapped out for Williams despite his solid showing.

Pirela. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Pirela. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

In this recent stretch of games the Yankees have had to make some tough roster decisions and they have some more tough decisions on the way. Keeping Pirela, Flores, and Lindgren around would have easily been justifiable. Warren may move to the bullpen but chances are the Yankees wish they could keep him in the rotation to see what happens. His last six starts as a whole has been very impressive, even including Sunday.

The Yankees suddenly have depth and extra players who belong on the roster. Too many times in the last two seasons the club was left scrambling for players, whether it was shortstops like Luis Cruz and Reid Brignac in 2013 or pitchers like Alfredo Aceves and Matt Daley in 2014, there was always someone on the roster that needed to be replaced. Obviously injuries played a part in that, but the Yankees have had injuries this year too. This season’s crop of replacements has been much more productive.

Right now, Santos is probably the only guy on the roster the Yankees would drop in a heartbeat if a better option presents itself. If Ryan or another outfielder gets hurt, Pirela and Flores are capable replacements. Those internal replacements rarely existed from 2013-14 and Hal Steinbrenner made it clear he viewed that as a problem in the last two offseasons. I know we’re all looking for stars from the farm system, but getting capable fill-ins like Pirela and Flores is very important too. It prevents the Brignacs and Daleys from even being needed.

When the time comes to activate Nova and Ellsbury, the Yankees will have tough decisions to make and that’s a good thing. Having more quality players than roster spots is a plus. The lack of depth and general lack of production from the farm system helped sink the Yankees the last two seasons. Now they have multiple young outfielders and a young infielder waiting in Triple-A, and will probably move a capable starter in Warren to the bullpen to make room for Nova. Figuring out who has to go isn’t so easy anymore. That’s a good thing.

Game 59: Take Two

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and Nationals are going to play their two game-series in the span of 24 hours or so. The Yankees won the opener last night and will try to get a little revenge for getting swept in that two-game series in Washington a few weeks ago. Sweeping a two-game series is always cool.

More importantly, the Yankees have won seven straight games — and 11 of their last 14! — for the first time since September 2012. The last time they won eight straight was June 2012, when they won ten straight. The Yankees are close to firing on all cylinders now that the bottom of the lineup has been something better than awful. Keep it going this afternoon. Here is Washington’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. LF Chris Young
  8. 2B Jose Pirela
  9. SS Brendan Ryan
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

It’s a very nice afternoon for baseball here in New York. Sunny, blue skies, and not unbearably humid. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Roster Move: As you can tell by the lineup, Ryan (hamstring, calf) was activated off the 60-day DL today. Ramon Flores was optioned to Triple-A. The Yankees had an open 40-man spot, so no other move was needed to accommodate Ryan.

Injury Updates: Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) ran the bases today and has been hitting off a tee. Running the bases is a pretty significant rehab milestone for a speed guy with a knee injury … Ivan Nova (elbow) threw a bullpen session at Yankee Stadium today and will make another rehab start with Triple-A Scranton on Friday. Sounds like he could be activated after that.

Game 50: Late Night on the West Coast

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The only thing that sucks worse than a Yankees loss is waiting until late at night for a Yankees loss on the West Coast. The Yankees have dropped the first two games of this four-game series to the Athletics — which team is in first place and which one has the worst record in the league again? — and we’ve had to wait until the wee hours of the morning for both games to go final. Blah.

Anyway, the Yankees have lost two straight and 12 of their last 16 games, yet they somehow aren’t buried in the AL East. Quite the opposite in fact. The division is just that bad. Still, the Yankees can’t keep losing at this pace. The offense, the defense, and the pitching has let them down in not so equal parts. Start righting the ship with a win tonight, mmmkay? Here is the A’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. LF Ramon Flores
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Jose Pirela
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

It’s cool and foggy in Oakland tonight, though there is no rain in the forecast. First pitch is scheduled for 10:05pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy the game.

Roster Move: As expected, Slade Heathcott (quad) was placed on the 15-day DL and Flores was called up from Triple-A Scranton.

Injury Updates: Jacob Ellsbury (knee) is working out in a pool and getting treatment. That’s about it … Garrett Jones is dealing with plantar fasciitis but it’s manageable … Gregorio Petit (hand) has started taking batting practice … Brendan Ryan (calf, hamstring) has started playing in Extended Spring Training games.

Game 44: Bernie Williams Day

(AP Photo/Doug Mills)
(AP Photo/Doug Mills)

Prior to tonight’s series finale with the Rangers, the Yankees will honor and retire No. 51 for Bernie Williams with an on-field ceremony. I guess that makes it Bernie Williams night, not day. Whatever. Either way, this is a long time coming. Williams hasn’t played since 2006, but it wasn’t until last month that he officially signed his retirement papers.

Bernie was an integral part of the team’s most recent dynasty, though he often doesn’t get enough respect simply because Core Five doesn’t sound as cool as Core Four. He was as much a part of those late-1990s teams as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, David Cone … anyone. In fact, Bernie was a Yankee long before all those guys, having been called up in 1991.

According to the Yankees, Jeter, Posada, O’Neill, Rivera, Tino, Cone, Willie Randolph, and Joe Torre will be among those in attendance for tonight’s ceremony, which is scheduled to start right around 7pm ET. You’ll be able to watch the entire thing on YES. I’m not sure if it’ll be broadcast online anywhere though.

Following the ceremony, the Yankees will wrap up their ugly series with Texas and try to avoid getting swept for the second straight series. If you’re looking for some good news, I can offer this: the Yankees are 3-0 and have outscored their opponents 28-13 in Sunday night games this year. Here is the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Garrett Jones
  7. CF Chris Young
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Jose Pirela
    LHP Chris Capuano

It’s a nice day in New York, a little cloudy but warm. Weather will be fine tonight. Tonight’s game will begin at 8pm ET and you catch watch on ESPN. Enjoy the Bernie ceremony and the game.

Roster Move: As expected, the Yankees have called up Jacob Lindgren from Triple-A. Branden Pinder was send down to clear a 25-man roster spot and Brendan Ryan (calf, hamstring) was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot. Ryan’s already been on the DL for 50 days and isn’t close to returning, so the move to the 60-day doesn’t really change anything.

Injury Update: Masahiro Tanaka (wrist, forearm) threw a 31-pitch bullpen session this afternoon and felt great. He’s scheduled to make his second Triple-A rehab start on Wednesday … Carlos Beltran is out of the lineup with flu-like symptoms and could miss more than just today.

Game 41: Slade’s Debut

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

This day has been a long-time coming. The Yankees selected Slade Heathcott out of a Texas high school with the 29th pick in the 2009 draft — the compensation pick they received for failing to sign Gerrit Cole in 2008 — and tonight he can finally say he’s a big leaguer. To say the road from Texarkana to the Bronx was rocky would be a massive understatement.

Heathcott, now 24, had a turbulent upbringing and hit rock bottom soon after being drafted, when he battled alcoholism and even missed a flight to Instructional League because he’d been out drinking. The Yankees sent Heathcott to Alcoholics Anonymous in April 2010, and while that helped him deal with his substance abuse issues, Slade’s body started to betray him. Multiple knee and shoulder surgeries limited Heathcott to 306 minor league games from 2010-14. He played nine last year due to knee problems.

Now, after being non-tendered in the offseason and returning to the organization on a minor league contract, Heathcott is with the Yankees, having impressed in Spring Training and again during his stint with Triple-A Scranton. It has been almost six years since the Yankees drafted Heathcott, and during those six years he went from multimillionaire first round pick to an underdog. Tonight, all the hard work finally pays off. He’s in the show. Give ’em hell, Slade.

Here is the Nationals lineup — Jordan Zimmermann is starting for Washington, not A.J. Cole, so boo to that — and here is the Yankees lineup. Heathcott is on the bench for his first game:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Carlos Beltran
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. 2B Stephen Drew
  7. CF Chris Young
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. RHP Adam Warren

It’s cloudy and cool in Washington, so not perfect weather, but there won’t be any rain. That’s coming tomorrow. The Yankees are getting out of town just in time. Tonight’s game will start a bit after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Roster Moves: As expected, Chase Whitley (elbow) was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Heathcott, the Yankees announced. The team still has another 60-day DL candidate in Brendan Ryan (calf, hamstring) should they need another 40-man spot.

Injury Updates: Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) said the injury is to the outside of his knee and he is wearing a brace. He’ll see the team doctor on Friday and they won’t know his timetable until then. For what it’s worth, Joe Girardi said the injury is “not something that requires surgery” … Ivan Nova (elbow) threw four innings and 42 pitches in an Extended Spring Training game on Monday. He’ll make another ExST start on Saturday and could begin an official 30-day minor league rehab stint after that … Ryan has resumed baseball activities in Tampa.

Injury Updates: Tanaka, Nova, Capuano, Ryan, Lail

Same. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Same. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees and Rays continue their four-game series with the second game at Tropicana Field later tonight. Until then, here are some updates on injured Yankees, courtesy of Chad Jennings, George King, and Bryan Hoch.

  • Masahiro Tanaka (wrist, forearm) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session as scheduled this afternoon. It was his first time throwing off a mound since landing on the DL two weeks ago. Tanaka threw all of his pitches and everything went well. The Yankees are going to see how he feels tomorrow before determining the next step.
  • Ivan Nova (elbow) threw 33 pitches in an Extended Spring Training game earlier today. Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild were among those in attendance at the team’s complex in Tampa. “I was a little bit excited. It felt like I was doing too much. I guess I was trying to impress the manager and the pitching coach. I don’t know why,” said Nova, who will pitch in another ExST game on Monday.
  • Chris Capuano (quad) is scheduled to throw six innings and 90 pitches for Triple-A Scranton tonight. It’ll be his third and maybe last minor league rehab game. “We shouldn’t really need to see much more than that,” said Girardi. “We’ll make that determination on how he feels, but it’s possible (he could be activated for his next start), yeah.”
  • Brendan Ryan (calf, hamstring) was able to take batting practice yesterday. There’s still no firm timetable for a rehab assignment, let alone a return from the DL. Ryan started the season on the DL with a calf injury before pulling his hamstring a few days ago.
  • Brady Lail, who was hit in the head by a line drive in last night’s Double-A Trenton game, said he is fine on Twitter. Seems like he escaped with no major injuries, which is a minor miracle. Great news. That was scary.