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Yankees notebook, 8/19

August 19, 2011 Comments off

A-Rod more likely to return Sunday

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — Alex Rodriguez still hopes to be back in the Yankees’ lineup this weekend, but it is now likely that he will wait until Sunday, rather than returning Saturday.”I would probably lean against doing it [Saturday] because he’s going to have that workout,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “[It could be] Sunday or Tuesday, or whenever he’s ready.”

Rodriguez worked out again Friday at Target Field, fielding grounders, running first to third, and going through a number of other drills.

With the workout being more intense than the one he went through Thursday, Rodriguez made significant progress toward a return.

“We’re definitely getting close. Today was very encouraging,” Rodriguez said. “I think everything was better. … The biggest thing today was going first to third. I thought I did much better today than yesterday, and just recovery, overall.”

While he understands the need to do what is best for his health and what is best for the team, Rodriguez admits that he is anxious to get back on the field again soon.

“I’m hungry, I want to get back out there,” Rodriguez said. “These guys, the way they’re playing, it’s inspiring. For me, the idea is to make sure that I’m ready to go, hit the ground running, and never look back and just have a great next two months.”

Yanks add Laffey, place Garcia on DL

MINNEAPOLIS — The Yankees claimed left-handed reliever Aaron Laffey off waivers from the Mariners on Friday, after Laffey had been designated for assignment earlier in the week.

Laffey will join the club Saturday, and will take the roster spot of Yankees starter Freddy Garcia, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list — retroactive to Aug. 8 — with a cut on the index finger of his right hand.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Laffey, the Yankees also designated catcher Gustavo Molina for assignment. Garcia, who threw well in a bullpen session before Friday’s game against the Twins, did not seem happy about the move when talking to reporters after the move was announced.

“Whatever’s better for the team and for me,” Garcia said. “That’s the choice they make, and that’s the way it is, man.”

Rather than pitch this weekend for the Yankees, Garcia will make a rehab start Monday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and is expected to start one of the games of next Saturday’s doubleheader at Baltimore.

As for Laffey, he will fill a bullpen role for the Yankees. Laffey made 36 relief appearances this season for the Mariners, posting a 1-1 record with a 4.01 ERA. Laffey has made 49 starts in 115 career games with the Indians and Mariners, and could be a spot-starter candidate for the Yankees as well if needed.

“He’s a guy that can give you some multiple innings,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “But he’s another left-hander for us, and that’s why we went and got him.”

CC focused on arm angle in latest win

MINNEAPOLIS — As he went through the Twins’ lineup the first time Thursday night, CC Sabathia struggled, getting hit hard and even giving up a long home run that was later ruled a foul ball.

His second time through the lineup, though, Sabathia was dominant. What was the difference between the first two innings and the next three for the Yankees’ ace?

“Just trying to make sure my arm angle was good,” Sabathia said. “I felt like I was kind of slinging the ball early, and a little bit late.”

In addition to his focusing on his arm angle, a key pitch helped Sabathia as he took control of the game in the middle innings.

“I thought his slider was a little bit better,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “I thought that helped him a lot. He threw some down and in to righties, and away from lefties. But he started commanding his fastball a little better, too.”

Jones attributes turnaround to mom’s advice

MINNEAPOLIS — Since the All-Star break, Andruw Jones has looked nothing like the hitter that batted just .195 through the first half of the season.

Jones has hit .349 over 19 games (12 starts), collecting 15 hits in 43 at-bats while also walking nine times. Four of those hits have been home runs for Jones, who also has a pair of doubles and 13 RBIs over that stretch.

The change, Jones said, is the result of advice given to him by his mother.

“Right after the All-Star break, I went home and looked at some old tape,” Jones said. “My mom called me and said ‘Look at your old tapes. I’m not liking the way your legs hit.’ So I kind of opened up a little bit and made an adjustment trying to be more quiet and more on time. Everything’s working good since the All-Star break.”

One of Jones’ four home runs came Thursday night, a towering shot into the third deck in left field that impressed teammates, coaches, fans and media members alike.

Said manager Joe Girardi of Jones’ homer: “He’s got unbelievable power.”

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

Homers help CC snatch up win No. 17

August 18, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — CC Sabathia had no idea if it was fair or foul. Joe Girardi thought it looked foul from his vantage point. But Mark Teixeira was not surprised it was initially called fair.

For the second straight night, the Yankees had an opponent’s home run reviewed, and this time, the call went in their favor as it was ruled to be just a long foul ball for Justin Morneau. Taking two runs off the board in the first inning, it was a big call that helped the Yankees on their way to an 8-4 victory Thursday night at Target Field.

“Oh, a huge break,” Teixeira said of the call. “Two runs in the first inning against a good pitcher, that could’ve given them some momentum. And I’m always a big believer that if you give CC a lead, he’s going to hold it. Because of that, we were able to get him a lead in the next couple innings, and he held it.”

As he picked up his 17th victory of the season, Sabathia helped the Yankees maintain their half-game lead over the Red Sox in the American League East.

Teixeira did note, though, that when a ball is hit as high as Morneau’s was, it really is difficult to tell whether it is a home run. He said that he hits a few like that every year that go over the foul pole, and always land foul.

“The more you look at it, the more you think it’s foul, but it could’ve easily been fair,” Teixeira said. “Who knows, but unless they have some sort of special replay where you can extend the foul pool, it’s really just a guess. I wasn’t surprised that they called it fair, because it’s really just a guess.”

Morneau also thought it went over the foul pole. But not only did he not get a two-run home run on the play, Sabathia came back to strike him out to end the inning.

After falling behind in the count 1-0, the overturned home run made it 1-1, and Sabathia got Morneau to swing and miss three pitches later for the strikeout.

“I thought he threw him some really good sliders there,” Girardi said. “As a hitter, it’s frustrating because you think you got a home run and then the next thing you know, you’re sitting down.”

The Yankees took their first lead of the game in the next inning. And though they gave it back in the bottom half, Teixeira put the Yankees on top for good in the third.

After center fielder Curtis Granderson led off with a triple, Texeira followed by driving a 2-0 changeup from Brian Duensing into the second deck in left field, his 33rd home run of the season.

Teixeira then led off the fifth with a double, setting up the Yankees’ fourth set of back-to-back home runs on the season, and the first since Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada did it on June 26 against the Rockies.

Swisher hit the first one, a two-run shot that just cleared the fence in left field for his 15th of the year. Andruw Jones followed with his eighth of the season, a no-doubter into the third deck at Target Field.

“Dude, I can’t even hit a 3-wood like that,” Swisher said of Jones’ towering home run, which was estimated at 434 feet.

“I really didn’t see where it landed,” Jones said. “When I hit it, I knew I hit a homer, so I dropped my head down and just kept running the bases.”

Duensing lasted just five innings, giving up six runs on 10 hits with a walk and a strikeout.

“They have very good pitch selection. They’re very aware of the zone,” Duensing said. “Tonight, I was behind in the count a lot, and up in the zone a lot. When you’re behind and up at the same time, it takes away the advantage from the pitcher and gives them the advantage.”

Three long balls from the middle of the Yankees’ order gave Sabathia plenty of support, and though he struggled a bit, the left-hander pitched well enough to win.

Sabathia was hit hard in his first time through the lineup, but settled in and retired the next nine in a row and 13 of 16. The Yankees’ ace went seven innings against the Twins, allowing four runs — three earned — on 10 hits with nine strikeouts and one walk.

The Twins made things interesting with a pair of runs in the seventh, but Sabathia retired Joe Mauer, Morneau and Jim Thome in order to get out of the jam, stranding a pair of runners.

“I thought in the middle of the game I felt good,” Sabathia said. “I was making pitches, I was [throwing] downhill. It just kind of got away from me there in the last inning.”

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 back with team, but not yet ready

August 18, 2011 Comments off

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — Alex Rodriguez was back with the Yankees on Thursday in Minnesota, but it will likely be until at least Saturday before he’s back in the lineup.

Rodriguez, who had surgery on July 11 to repair torn meniscus in his right knee, worked out Thursday afternoon at Target Field, and said he was happy just to be back with his teammates. He said he’s comfortable right now swinging the bat, and that his fielding and conditioning need the most work.

“If I felt like hitting was the one thing that was most behind, it would probably be productive to be down in either Tampa or Scranton and get in a bunch of at-bats,” Rodriguez said. “This situation’s a little bit rare, where conditioning’s the most important thing and fielding’s the most important thing, and those are things that I can do here with our staff.”

When he does return, Rodriguez likely will see time as the Yankees’ designated hitter along with playing third base.

Communication between the three-time American League MVP and Yankees manager Joe Girardi will be important in putting him in the right position each day to help him get back to normal.

“We could DH him a day, play him in the field, DH him a day. Just constant communication,” Girardi said. “If he needs a day off, I’ll give him a day off. But he’s been out for six weeks. You’re not working out that whole six weeks. He had to rest for some of that.”

Rodriguez worked extensively on fielding Thursday, while also doing some running work in the outfield with strength and conditioning coach Dana Cavalea. Also on the schedule for Rodriguez was some work before Thursday’s game in the weight room, and another on-field session Friday afternoon.

“What we did today is probably the most productive day that I’ve had in about a week,” Rodriguez said. “We’re on a big league field with a big league staff, and I was able to actually go out and run as close to 100 percent as I’ve had since post-surgery.”

Before the surgery, Rodriguez was hitting .295 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs. He also had 67 walks and 32 strikeouts.

While he was hitting for a high average, Rodriguez saw his power numbers decline, in part due to the pain in his knee, which forced him to use his hands more, rather than staying back on the ball.

When he returns, Rodriguez hopes to once again be the big bat in the middle of the Yankees’ lineup.

“To be the productive hitter that I’ve always been, being in the middle of the lineup and really give us a shot in the arm driving in big runs and hitting home runs,” Rodriguez said of his expectations. “I think that’s the reason we chose to have the operation. I was swinging the bat well and producing and getting hits, but my value is to do a lot more than just get base hits.”

While injuries have forced him to miss a number of games in the past few years, Rodriguez still sees himself as an everyday third baseman, and one that can hit 30 home runs and collect 100 RBIs.

“Cal Ripken was always my role model, and he played until what, 40, 41?” said Rodriguez, who turned 36 while he was on the DL. “You can always find a guy that has a little bit more range at third. But if you can be a guy who can produce 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs and make 10 or 12 errors, I think anybody will sign up for 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.

Yankees notebook, 8/18

August 18, 2011 Comments off

Garcia has bullpen session moved back

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — Right-hander Freddy Garcia, who was supposed to throw a bullpen session Thursday to work on his split- fastball, had that session bumped back to Friday afternoon at Target Field.Garcia was scratched from his scheduled start last Sunday due to a cut on his right finger that he suffered in a kitchen accident. A.J. Burnett started in Garcia’s place.

With Garcia pushed back a day, it remains unclear if he will be able to pitch in the four-game series against the Twins, but it looks less likely than if he had thrown Thursday in the bullpen.

Girardi did not rule out Garcia pitching this weekend.

“I’m not sure when he’s going to pitch again,” Girardi said. “We just have to monitor his bullpen sessions. The big thing is we get him healthy and we get that finger ready. But it’s a lot closer than it was.”

Burnett will start again in Garcia’s place Saturday, putting Ivan Nova would be in line to start Sunday’s series finale.

A day later, Girardi still miffed on HR call

MINNEAPOLIS — When manager Joe Girardi met with the media Thursday before the Yankees took on the Twins, the main topic was the controversial call made Wednesday night by crew chief Dana DeMuth, which credited Kansas City’s Billy Butler with a home run.

After reviewing the play in which the ball struck the left-field wall and bounced back into play, DeMuth determined it to be a home run for Butler. Joe Torre, Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of baseball operations, said Thursday in Cooperstown, N.Y., that DeMuth had misunderstood the ground rules at Kauffman Stadium.

“It’s unfortunate. You know, I can’t tell you if he gets the call right that the game’s not going to change or what’s going to happen during the rest of the game,” Girardi said. “You don’t know. You don’t know if Billy Butler ends up scoring. It’s a totally different game, in a sense.

“But it’s unfortunate that it’s the second time it’s happened. It happened with the Angels, and you would’ve thought that it would’ve been cleaned up. You know, it’s a tough fence, but there are other tough fences. We got the call wrong, and we’ve got to move on.”

As Girardi alluded to, Wednesday night was not the first time such a call had gone the Royals’ way this season at Kauffman Stadium.

Butler initially was credited with a double June 1 on a similar hit, but a review then ruled that it should be a home run. That call gave Butler a two-run walk-off homer as the Royals won, 2-0, over the Angels.

What makes such a call upsetting for Girardi is that rather than simply getting a judgment call wrong, DeMuth made the incorrect call because of a misinterpretation of the ground rules.

“Well, I think everyone in life, not just baseball, needs to be accountable for their own actions. That’s the bottom line,” Girardi said.

“There’s a lot at stake every day. You’re fighting for games. You’re fighting for your division. You’re fighting for playoff spots. Some people are fighting for jobs. There’s a lot at stake.”

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