Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Joe Girardi’

Work with old coach helped Jeter find swing

August 22, 2011 Comments off

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — At the time, the right calf strain that sent Derek Jeter to the disabled list on June 14 appeared as though it would simply delay his chase for 3,000 hits by three weeks.Two months later, the time off looks like a blessing in disguise.In addition to getting healthy, Jeter used the time off to work on his swing with instructor Gary Denbo at the Yankees’ training complex in Tampa, Fla.

Before going on the disabled list, Jeter was hitting .260, with a .324 on-base percentage and a .324 slugging percentage. He had only 12 extra-base hits and 23 RBIs through 62 games. Denbo and Jeter worked on staying back on the ball as a potential solution to his struggles.

“You do a lot of tee work, break things down. It’s more of a feel thing,” Jeter said. “Most guys struggle, regardless of who it is, because you’re not staying back. It sounds easy: ‘Why don’t you just stay back?’ It’s not that easy. You try, but you don’t.”

As Jeter’s first pro manager back in 1993, Denbo has nearly 20 years of experience working with Jeter, and he knows the 12-time All-Star’s swing as well, if not better, than anyone in the Yankees organization.

While he may have known what the issue was throughout his early-season struggles, Jeter said having three weeks off made it a lot easier to focus on correcting it.

“Sometimes, you get an opportunity to work on things when you’re not playing in a game,” Jeter said. “It’s difficult when you’re trying to make adjustments in the middle of a game.”

Since coming off the disabled list on July 4, Jeter has batted .339, reaching base at a .392 clip and slugging .461. He has collected more extra-base hits (14) and RBIs (25) over 40 games than he had in the previous 62.

After seeing his average drop to .256 following an 0-for-4 performance in his first game back from the disabled list, Jeter has raised it to .290, with a .350 on-base percentage and a .377 slugging percentage. His numbers are still below his career slash line of .313/.383/.449, but Jeter’s current numbers are all better than they were in 2010.

Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long said that Jeter has just been more comfortable at the plate lately than he was early in the season.

“Since he’s been back, he’s been incredibly consistent,” Long said. “He’s staying back better than he was earlier in the season. His strike-zone discipline has been much, much better. He’s just locked in.

“We talked about it, as far as a guy getting locked in, he hasn’t been locked in all year. And he said, ‘If I can come back and just get locked in for a month or two, my numbers are going to look a lot better.’ And they do.”

While the work Jeter put in while in Tampa looks to have helped, his improved performance also coincides with his reaching 3,000 hits on July 9 at Yankee Stadium.

Jeter went 5-for-5 that day, beginning a run of 36 games during which Jeter has batted .354/.407/.469, with two home runs, two triples, seven doubles and 23 RBIs.

But does Jeter think getting his 3,000th hit out of the way has anything to do with his performance?

“Probably, after I was in Tampa and had a chance to work on some things. I’d probably put some stock in that,” Jeter said. “I don’t think there’s much stock in right after that hit.”

While he may downplay the impact of reaching 3,000 hits, Jeter did admit in July that he felt a lot pressure to get to the mark and to do so at home in front of the New York fans. He sat out the All-Star Game in mid-July to recharge his batteries after the chase.

For a guy like Jeter, who has thrived on the pressure of the postseason — hitting at a .309 clip with an .850 OPS, 20 home runs and 57 RBIs in 147 career playoff games — the pressure of an individual milestone was an altogether different challenge.

“He put pressure on himself to get it done, probably as much pressure as I’ve ever seen him feel,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “I mean, this is a guy that’s always been able to relax in the big situations. But usually, those situations are team situations, and this was an individual thing that he had to talk about every day. I think it kind of played on his mind a little.”

Even with the pressure, Jeter maintained his loose laid-back demeanor throughout the chase. Jeter still cracked jokes and kept the clubhouse loose.

But Long agreed with Girardi’s assessment that Jeter has been more relaxed since his milestone hit.

“I would say that helps,” Long said. “It’s water under the bridge now and something that he’s more relieved is over. Knowing Derek — and knowing how much he cares about the New York Yankees and us winning — that being more of a personal achievement, I know he’s glad that’s over, and he doesn’t have to tackle that anymore.”

Whatever the reason, Jeter’s recent success has been important to the Yankees’ success as a whole, especially with Alex Rodriguez missing the first six weeks after the All-Star break after undergoing knee surgery. Over that stretch, Jeter has batted .336, with an .825 OPS, while playing in all but three games, as the Yankees went 23-13 and moved from 1 1/2 games behind the Red Sox to a half-game ahead of Boston.

“It definitely helps, it’s nice to have Derek Jeter swinging the bat the way that he is,” Long said. “It just gives us that much more of an explosive offense. With Alex being out, we scored a lot of runs while he was out, and a big part of that was Jeter stepping up and playing the way he’s capable of playing.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

A-Rod makes return to lineup, third base

August 21, 2011 Comments off

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — He may have gone hitless in five at-bats, but Alex Rodriguez called his return to the lineup Sunday a “big success.”

Rodriguez was activated from the disabled list Sunday morning, and the three-time American League MVP batted cleanup and played third base for the Yankees in Sunday’s series finale against the Twins.

“His timing looked a little off,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “His timing is going to come with playing. He hit a ball on the screws, he just missed a couple balls a little bit, but that’s going to happen, too, whether you have your timing or not.

“But physically, he felt good, so that’s good.”

To make room for Rodriguez on the roster, the Yankees optioned left-hander Aaron Laffey to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Before deciding whether to activate Rodriguez, the Yankees wanted to see how he would respond following Saturday’s workout. Though he had no hits to show for it, Rodriguez swung the bat well.

“I was happy with the way I saw the ball,” Rodriguez said. “I was happy with my balance, and I definitely got a lot of good pitches to hit. I just missed them by a little bit, but I liked the way I felt today.”

Since joining the club in the Twin Cities on Thursday, Rodriguez has said he felt most comfortable swinging a bat, while needing the most work defensively and running the bases.

Rodriguez said over three days of workouts at Target Field that he felt a bit “tentative” out there, but he said he did not feel that way Sunday in his first game action in six weeks.

In the sixth inning, Rodriguez was tested by Twins leadoff hitter Ben Revere, who laid down a bunt toward third. Rodriguez made an impressive barehanded play, and fired the ball to first for the out.

“That was a good test because he runs so well,” Rodriguez said. “That’s a play that I’m going to have to make, so it was good to make it.

“It’s going to happen, it’s not going to stop now. I think for the next two weeks, I’m going to have to make that play over and over again.”

Girardi was very impressed with what he saw from his third baseman on that play.

“That’s a tremendous play,” Girardi said. “I didn’t think he was going to get him. I really didn’t, with Revere’s speed. So, that tells me the knee’s pretty good.”

Whether he will play more at third base or as a designated hitter, for now, will depend on how Rodriguez feels on a daily basis. Girardi said he was curious to talk to Rodriguez on Monday to see how he responds after his first game in six weeks.

With Rodriguez out of the lineup this season, the Yankees went 25-13, but having the slugger batting cleanup makes them that much tougher.

In 80 games before going on the disabled list, Rodriguez batted .295 with an .852 OPS, while hitting 13 home runs and collecting 52 RBIs.

“This is the middle of the order hitter,” Girardi said. “This guy’s been a run producer for years and years and years. Before he hurt his knee, his home runs were good, his RBIs were good. Once he hurt his knee, his power kind of went away a bit, but he’s been productive.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nova stellar as Yanks end trip with win

August 21, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — When right-hander Ivan Nova has his slider working, he can be a dominant pitcher. Nova showed that Sunday in the Yankees’ 3-0 victory over the Twins.

Nova was especially impressive early, holding the Twins without a hit until Joe Mauer’s one-out single in the fourth. Before that single, Nova had a pair of strikeouts and allowed just one baserunner, on a Mark Teixeira fielding error, to lead off the third.

“I feel really confident in my slider,” Nova said. “We worked on it, we got it back, and it’s a pitch that, in situations, I can throw to left-handed hitters and get the out.”

Nova remained in control the rest of his day, but had to get out of jams with runners on in each of the next two innings.

After giving up a leadoff single to Jim Thome in the fifth, Nova allowed what was ruled a double to Danny Valencia, though it should have been caught. Valencia’s fly ball dropped between Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher in right-center field. Two strikeouts and a groundout later, Nova escaped with the shutout intact.

“That game was won for us, to me, in the fifth inning,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “He’s got second and third, nobody out, and he gets out of the inning. That was the ballgame. When you look at that inning, you try to tell yourself, ‘It’s OK to give them one, let’s try not to give them two.’

“He made it even better. He didn’t give them any.”

Nova admitted that in the past, he would ‘Get out of control’ in those types of situations, letting them get away from him.

On Sunday, he stayed focused and went after the Twins’ hitters, while also getting all three outs on sliders.

“If you feel good, and you strike out the first two with it, why not throw it to the next hitter?” Nova said. “You know that he’s going to be swinging.”

In the sixth, Nova got two quick outs before giving up a single to Mauer and walking Jason Kubel, but he followed by striking out Thome to end the inning.

Nova went seven scoreless innings, giving up five hits and one walk with five strikeouts. He picked up his 13th win and his ninth victory in his last 10 starts. He is 9-0 with a 3.48 ERA over that stretch, allowing 25 earned runs in 64 2/3 innings of work.

“[Nova] threw the ball good. He’s got good stuff,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “We like the kid, he faced us in New York. He’s got a good fastball and a slider, good breaking ball. He used them all against us.”

That stretch spans the last five starts before Nova was sent down to Triple-A in early July to make room for Phil Hughes, as well as the five starts since his return on July 30.

Since his return, Nova has gone 5-0 with a 3.55 ERA, allowing 13 earned runs over 26 innings.

“He didn’t let it bother him,” Girardi said. “He went down there and worked at something and got better. We’ve seen a better Ivan Nova.”

The Yankees finally got on the board in the sixth, when Robinson Cano doubled to left, advanced to third on a Swisher flyout to left, and scored on Russell Martin’s sacrifice fly to center.

Granderson added an insurance run in the seventh with his third career inside-the-park home run, off the wall in right field, his 35th homer of the year. Teixeira followed with his 34th home run of the season, marking the fifth time the Yankees have hit back-to-back home runs this season, and the second time in the series.

Granderson’s inside-the-park homer was the first for the Yankees since Derek Jeter hit one on July 22, 2010, against the Royals, and the first for Granderson since Aug. 26, 2007, against the Yankees. It also was the second allowed this year by the Twins.

“The only time I realized it was when the third baseman wasn’t covering third and I was already rounding second base. I saw Rob Thomson beginning the wave and could see our dugout yelling ‘Keep going,'” Granderson said.

“At that point, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it, because I could see the catcher getting himself ready to make a play. Luckily the throw was up the line, and that gave me the back side of the plate to slide in safely.”

Twins starter Nick Blackburn lasted just 1 1/3 innings before leaving with a right lateral forearm strain. Blackburn gave up one hit, but walked four batters, including the last three he faced.

Reliever Anthony Swarzak came on to close out the inning, stranding the bases loaded, and the Minnesota bullpen kept the Yankees’ bats quiet until Cano’s double in the sixth.

David Robertson and Mariano Rivera combined to record the final six outs as Rivera picked up his 33rd save of the season, and the Yankees finished 5-2 on their seven-game road trip through Kansas City and Minnesota.

“It’s a good road trip,” Girardi said. “We won two series. Four-game series can be tough to win, and these guys were swinging the bats pretty good when they left Detroit. … To end it 5-2, that’s a pretty good road trip. It sure is a lot better than 4-3.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Yankees notebook, 8/21

August 21, 2011 Comments off

Girardi reiterates there’s no rift with Burnett 

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — If you ask Yankees manager Joe Girardi and right-hander A.J. Burnett, nothing happened Saturday night, and they have no issue with one another.But that did not stop Burnett’s apparent comments toward Girardi as he walked off the mound after he was removed in the second inning from dominating the manager’s pregame meeting with reporters.

Girardi was asked during the session what he hypothetically would do if a player did have the type of reaction that Burnett appeared to have toward Girardi taking him out of the game.

“If a pitcher says that in reference to you taking him out, yeah, I think that’s out of line,” Girardi said. “But, a) I didn’t hear it, the only reason I heard it was people saw it on the broadcast, and, b) I didn’t think it was directed at me. I mean, I specifically asked out there, ‘Was that a good pitch to Mauer?'”

Adding to the situation was the fact that Burnett went directly into the clubhouse after being taken out of the game, and Girardi went in shortly thereafter. Burnett said he went in just to put his stuff in his locker and came straight back out, while Girardi went in to take another look at Burnett’s pitch to Mauer.

According to Burnett, the two never crossed paths. But they did talk later after Girardi was told what Burnett appeared to have said to him.

“Yeah, because I never heard him say a word when I was on the mound,” Girardi said. “I was told about it because it was aired on the TV a few times, and I asked him, and I wanted to know what was up. He said he was talking about the pitch, he thought he threw strike three to Joe Mauer.”

Girardi said he is still confident in Burnett’s ability on the mound, but he also said that they need Burnett to have a “bounce-back start” on Friday against the Orioles.

As for where Burnett stands among the six starters, Girardi will address that when the time comes for the Yankees to go back to a five-man rotation.

One thing Girardi made clear, though, was that he does not want to talk about this Burnett situation any longer.

“If everyone knew and believed in their heart that he was talking about the pitch, would we be talking about this?” Girardi asked. “So your belief is that he wasn’t talking about it, and that’s why we’re talking about it. So you’re not taking his word, and to me, that’s dangerous.”

Laffey odd man out on A-Rod’s return

MINNEAPOLIS — With the Yankees activating Alex Rodriguez from the disabled list on Sunday, recently acquired lefty Aaron Laffey was the odd man out, as he was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Laffey made his debut for the Yankees on Saturday night, tossing three innings and allowing two runs on five hits.

“He’s a guy that we believe can help us against left-handers as we move forward here,” Girardi said. “He’s not going to be able to throw for a couple days anyway.”

Laffey will likely return to the Yankees when the rosters expand on Sept. 1. Until then, they would like him to work on a few things in Triple-A.

“I think left-handers are important for him to be consistent [against],” Girardi said. “He was consistent in getting left-handers out until the last month or so, or month and a half. So, get back to doing that.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Yanks can’t overcome Burnett’s bad night

August 20, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — As he walked off the mound following another rough outing Saturday, right-hander A.J. Burnett was clearly upset about being taken out. So upset, in fact, that he appeared to have some choice words for Yankees manager Joe Girardi as he walked away.

According to Burnett and Girardi, though, what appeared to happen was not what actually occurred when Girardi removed Burnett after only five outs in the Yankees’ 9-4 loss to the Twins.

Burnett acknowledged that he did say something as he walked away, but it was directed to catcher Russell Martin.

And Girardi said he went into the tunnel after Burnett did in order to take a second look at Burnett’s last pitch to Joe Mauer. Burnett said his remark had to do with that pitch as well.

“Everyone always seems to want to blow up about A.J.,” Girardi said. “Nothing happened between me and A.J. I went and looked at the pitch. And I’m tired of it. I’m tired of people looking for something between me and A.J.”

Said Burnett: “I told [Girardi], ‘Not you.’ Russ came out, he said, ‘That’s a strike.’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s …’ No, I was not talking to Joe, absolutely not. No matter how mad I get, that guy’s taken my back every day I’ve been here.”

The situation between Burnett and Girardi almost overshadowed the fact that Burnett lasted just 1 2/3 innings on the night, giving up seven runs on five hits and three walks with a strikeout.

It was Burnett’s shortest start since he threw just one inning on June 30, 2004, at Atlanta while a member of the Marlins. His 61 pitches thrown also were his fewest since Sept. 27, 2010, at Toronto, when he tossed 48.

Burnett’s outing was the shortest for a Yankees starter since Tim Redding went just one inning on July 15, 2005, at Boston, and the shortest for the Yankees against the Twins since Mike Witt recorded only one out on June 13, 1991.

“Yeah, it’s upsetting, it’s frustrating,” Burnett said. “You want to come out and set the tone as a starter. Obviously, I didn’t do that, but I will be better. I know that.”

It started with Burnett giving up two runs on a pair of doubles in the first inning, and it only got worse from there for the Yankees. Twins third baseman Danny Valencia homered to lead off a five-run second inning that also featured a double, two singles and four walks.

After issuing his third walk of the inning, Burnett was relieved by Luis Ayala. While he had managed a win in his last start, Burnett has given up 61 hits and 38 earned runs in 49 1/3 innings over his last nine starts, for a 1-3 record and 6.93 ERA

“We need this guy to pitch, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “We need him to pitch like he’s capable of pitching. He has struggled, his last few starts he has struggled. We’ve got to get him back on track.”

It was 4-0 when Burnett left the game, but a walk and a single allowed by Ayala resulted in three Twins runs. Ayala also pitched the third inning, finishing with two hits and one walk allowed over 1 1/3 innings pitched.

Eduardo Nunez scored the Yankees’ first run of the game in the third inning, doubling with one out and later coming around to score on a single and a throwing error. Curtis Granderson drove in Brett Gardner for another in the eighth, his 97th RBI of the season, and Francisco Cervelli followed with a single to drive in Jorge Posada.

Andruw Jones hit his ninth homer of the season with one out in the ninth inning to close out the Yankees’ scoring.

Lefty Aaron Laffey made his Yankees debut in the fourth, and he tossed three innings while allowing two runs on five hits and two walks, with two strikeouts.

Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano struggled in the third inning, but was otherwise in control most of the night. He went seven innings, allowing just one unearned run on three hits and three walks. Liriano also struck out six batters.

For Liriano, it was his first career win against the Yankees, as the Twins snapped their three-game losing streak against New York. Their nine runs were the most the Twins have scored against the Yankees since June 5, 2005.

“It’s kind of a long, overdue feeling,” Valencia said of the win. “We’ve played these guys tough, but at the same time we’ve come up empty-handed a bunch. So it’s nice to come out and win, and win kind of big.

“The Yankees score a lot of runs, you have to score a bunch of runs to beat them.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Yankees notebook, 8/20

August 20, 2011 Comments off

Teixeira reflects on reaching milestone RBI

MINNEAPOLIS — After his two-run double in the ninth inning Friday night gave him three RBIs for the game, Mark Teixeira asked if it got him to the 1,000-RBI mark for his career. Teixeira knew he was close, but said he was not sure of the exact number.

The runs scored by Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson were the 999th and 1,000th driven in by Teixeira in his career, making him the 27th active player to reach the mark.

“That’s a nice number,” Teixeira said. “My whole career, I’ve always just thought of myself as someone who drives in runs. That’s probably the stat I’m most proud of more than anything every year, is being able to drive in 100 runs every year.”

Currently in his ninth Major League season, Teixeira has eclipsed the 100-RBI mark seven times, and he sits just six away from doing it again this year.

Teixeira drove in a career-high 144 runs in 2005 while with the Rangers.

Of the 27 active players to collect 1,000 career RBIs, the Yankees have five on their roster with Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Andruw Jones.

“You almost can’t believe it,” Teixeira said of reaching the mark so quickly. “I’ve always been someone that’s just kind of played every game every year. It’s a grind, it’s never easy, but when you reach something like 1,000 RBIs in only nine years, you look at yourself and say, ‘I’m doing all right. Just keep doing what you’re doing.'”

With 1,306 career RBIs to his credit, Albert Pujols is the only other active player under 32 years old with 1,000 RBIs.

Teixeira also is the fifth active switch-hitter to reach the mark, joining Posada, Chipper Jones, Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran.

“Hopefully, there’s a lot more to come,” Teixeira said.

Asked if he still remembered the first RBI of his career, Teixeira said he did, while noting the irony of how he got it.

“It was left-handed, I had just gotten my first hit the at-bat before,” Teixeira said. “I rolled over a ball in the [hole between first and second]. So now [with the shift most teams employ against him], it would be an out. As funny and sad at the same time it is, I would’ve been out and I wouldn’t have gotten that RBI.”

Laffey excited about joining Yankees

MINNEAPOLIS — A day after the Yankees claimed him off waivers from the Mariners, left-hander Aaron Laffey joined the club Saturday afternoon at Target Field.

Laffey said it has been a busy week for him since being designated for assignment on Wednesday by Seattle and claimed just days later by New York.

“‘Crazy’ I think is the best word to describe it,” Laffey said. “Really, since it happened, I haven’t been able to stop and think about anything. I’ve been helping my wife get the house packed and get everything in order for that, so this is the first time — the plane ride — I’ve actually got to sit back and relax. Just excited to have the opportunity to play with a contender for the first time I came up in ’07.”

Laffey broke into the big leagues with the Indians in 2007, spending 1 1/2 seasons as CC Sabathia’s teammate before Sabathia was traded to the Brewers. Sabathia was one of a handful of veteran pitchers that Laffey has credited with helping him develop as a pitcher.

“Sabathia was one of the guys in Cleveland who, when I came up, took me under his wing,” Laffey said. “I was able to play with him and guys like [Carl] Pavano and Cliff Lee that were there, too, over the years that I was. They had a lot of great talent and seasoned veterans in Major League Baseball. So I think that’s really helped me.”

In his first year with Cleveland, Laffey was a part of the Indians club that won the Division Series in four games over the Yankees before losing to the Red Sox in seven games in the American League Championship Series.

Laffey said he was excited to be back in the middle of a playoff race.

He also said his father, Steve, was a “big-time fan” of the Yankees while growing up in Maryland.

“It’s just an honor to be in the same organization,” Laffey said.

“It’s definitely a storied tradition here. They’re in it every year. Every little kid wants to grow up and be a New York Yankee. Being a little kid, I dreamed of growing up and being a New York Yankee.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hughes, Martin power Yanks to victory

August 19, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — If he keeps pitching the way he has lately, Phil Hughes could play a huge role for the Yankees down the stretch. At the very least, he is going to make it difficult for manager Joe Girardi to decide which starter to take out to get back to a five-man rotation.

Hughes dominated the Twins on Friday, backed by a pair of Russell Martin home runs, as the Yankees cruised to an 8-1 victory at Target Field, maintaining their half-game lead over the Red Sox in the American League East.

“I thought he mixed his pitches tremendously,” Girardi said. “He used all his pitches tonight.

“And all his pitches have been consistent, [that] is the biggest difference for me.”

After giving up a solo home run to Trevor Plouffe, the second batter he faced, Hughes did not allow another hit until the eighth inning. Hughes issued a leadoff walk in the second before retiring the next 14 batters in a row.

Overall, Hughes retired 22 of 27 batters faced.

“I just tried to stay aggressive, and it seemed like they were as well,” Hughes said. “It kind of played to my advantage, and I got a lot of quick outs. I made a couple mistakes, but I got away with most of them. The only one that really hurt me was Plouffe in the first inning.”

Plouffe also walked in the seventh inning, and he joined Jason Kubel as the only two Twins hitters to reach base twice in the game.

They were the only Twins to reach base until Twins infielder Luke Hughes singled in the eighth.

“I think he was establishing his fastball early and getting ahead of hitters, and then mixing in his cutter,” Plouffe said. “I think a lot of his pitches come in at the same arm angle, so that’s what makes him tough. He was just getting ahead and throwing strikes tonight.”

As Hughes went 7 2/3 innings with two strikeouts and three walks, it marked the first time this season the right-hander has tossed a pitch in the seventh or eighth innings. Hughes had previously pitched six innings in a start four times, including in his last outing, against the Rays.

After Hughes struggled through his first three starts of the season, he was placed on the disabled list with arm fatigue. Before going on the DL, Hughes was 0-1 with a 13.94 ERA.

Since returning in July, Hughes has been steadily progressing, with his best start of the season coming Friday night against the Twins.

“Sometimes it takes a while to get a feel when you haven’t pitch for a while, to get all your pitches,” Girardi said. “You’re trying to go through rehab starts and you get two innings, and then you get three innings. It’s hard to get a feel for a lot of your pitches when you’re only doing that. But it just seems like he’s got a much better feel.”

Martin connected for his 14th homer of the season in the third, a solo shot off Twins starter Kevin Slowey, and added a two-run blast in the sixth.

With his fourth career multi-homer game — three of which have come with the Yankees — Martin has hit three home runs in the last two games after hitting just two over his previous 34 games.

“I just kind of simplified my approach,” Martin said. “Just kind of going up there and just swinging the bat hard and trying to see the ball. See the ball, hit the ball. That’s really all I’ve been doing.”

The Yankees also scored in the fourth and fifth innings, with second baseman Robinson Cano coming up with the biggest hit of the game aside from Martin’s blasts.

Following a leadoff double by Mark Teixeira in the fourth, Cano crushed a 2-2 curveball to the gap and off the right-field wall. Teixeira scored the go-ahead run on the play, and the Yankees added on a pair of runs in each of the next two innings to give Hughes plenty of support.

In the fifth, Brett Gardner scored on a double down the right-field line by Curtis Granderson, and Derek Jeter added the second run of the inning, courtesy of a sacrifice fly by Teixeira, with Jeter sliding in just ahead of the tag by Joe Mauer at the plate.

Slowey, whose night was ended by Martin’s second home run, allowed six runs on nine hits with four strikeouts and a walk over 5 2/3 innings.

After Gardner was the only member of the Yankees’ starting lineup without a hit Thursday night, Eric Chavez earned that honor Friday.

Teixeira added a two-run double in the ninth to finish with three RBIs, putting him at 1,000 RBIs for his career. He is the 27th active player to reach that mark.

While his batting average is down this year at just .252, Teixeira now has 94 RBIs, two shy of Granderson for the team lead.

“I’d love to have a higher average, no doubt,” Teixeira said. “But at the end of the day, if I can drive in a lot of runs, that’s what’s best for my team in the middle of the order.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.