By Jon Lane
A picturesque day here at Yankee Stadium for the first of two workouts as the Yankees prepare for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series Friday night against the Angels. Of course, as timing has it, rain is in the forecast for Friday and Saturday night, the scheduled dates for Games 1 and 2, which means the best-laid plans of Joe Girardi and his crew will be altered if there’s a rainout.
Judging from yesterday’s comments, Girardi is seriously considering going with a three-man rotation in the LCS, which lines up CC Sabathia to start Games 1 and 4 and if needed Game 7. But if there’s a rainout the teams lose an off day, and Girardi will have to decide on starting Chad Gaudin in Game 4 in Southern California or pulling Joba Chamberlain out of the bullpen.
Chamberlain and Gaudin provided their takes on the potential situation, and how each are staying prepared. Chamberlain said “As of 12:42 on Wednesday, that’s where I’m at. We’ll just approach it from there.”
Gaudin added, “The only thing I know right now is be ready Friday. That’s what I’m going to do. I’ll get ready to pitch on Friday. When they tell me otherwise, I’ll be ready to go. I can’t control it, can’t change it. I have to keep it simple as I can.
“I don’t in go pitching as a starter or reliever, I go in pitching trying to get outs each time. If it happens to be seven innings, it’s seven innings. If it’s two innings, it’s two innings.”
Jose Molina and Mark Teixeira shared their experiences from playing with an Angels team that’s been an annual contender since Molina was there in 2002 and become a World Champion. I’ll have more on this in my ALCS preview to run on Thursday.
Johnny Damon also reported on day after taking optional batting practice. Damon went 1-for-12 in the Division Series, including no hits in his last 10 at-bats with four strikeouts in Sunday’s clincher. Girardi said yesterday that Damon remains his everyday left-fielder and Damon knows it’ll be time to turn it around.
“I just wanted to get some work in,” Damon said. “There are so many days off during this time of year it’s better me coming in instead of sitting around the house.”
“It’s very easy to put it behind you when you win three games to nothing. The fact that we won the series and a few of us really didn’t contribute too much. For us to continue to be successful, we need to continue to pitch like we did, but also we need to get my bat going as well as a couple of other guys.”
Damon is well aware that one or two good swings can get him back on the beam. His postseason average bottomed out at .056 in 2004 before he went 5-for-11 with three runs scored, six RBIs and two home runs (the last a grand slam off Javier Vazquez) in Games 6 & 7 as the Red Sox completed a comeback from down 0-3. In the World Series Damon went 6-for-21 (.286) to help Boston to its first World Championship in 86 years.
“That’s why I’m not going to beat myself up over what happened in Game 3,” Damon said. “I felt like I had a chance every time I stepped up to the plate. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way, but my teammates picked me up and they helped us get a big win and helped us get to this part.”
Back with much more later.
3:33 p.m. As expected, no decisions regarding the ALCS roster or even a Game 1 lineup. Girardi and his staff met this morning to discuss various scenarios, including matchups and the bad weather in the forecast beginning Thursday afternoon. For that reason, the Yankees moved up their workout to Thursday morning.
“We still have a couple of days,” Girardi said. “We still have some things we want to look at. We still have a good 48 hours before it’s game time.”
The Angels worked out today in Anaheim, are flying to New York tonight and will also work out tomorrow at Yankee Stadium. John Lackey is expected to oppose CC Sabathia in Game 1.
Girardi isn’t concerned about the slumping Damon, among the hitters who showed up at the Stadium on Tuesday for extra batting practice.
“He had great at-bats yesterday,” Girardi said. “I know it’s not a real-game situation, but it’s as close as you’re can get without playing games. All hitters have gone through times they haven’t gotten hits. There was a thing about was Derek Jeter pressing when he was around Lou Gehrig’s record. I feel really good about Johnny this time of year because Johnny has played this time of year and has played at a very high level.”
“It might be just what they needed,” Girardi added on the extra days of rest earned by the Yankees’ sweep of the Twins. “The four days off might help them, and then if they don’t swing the bat well then someone says the rest didn’t. You really don’t know until you get into it.”
Like Damon, Nick Swisher had trouble against Twins pitching, batting 1-for-12 with four strikeouts in the Division Series.
“I thought for me two days off was too much,” Swisher said. “Right now the body doesn’t really need to rest that much because every time you take the field in front of this crowd in the postseason, it takes everything away.”
That’s it for blogging today. Tonight I’ll have a feature on how the Yankees’ homegrown youngsters and a veteran like Jerry Hairston Jr. have adopted to the organization’s philosophy of winning, and how it’s taken their games to new levels.
By Jon Lane
Joe Girardi gave indications during a conference call with beat writers that the Yankees may go with a three-man rotation during the ALCS. That would mean CC Sabathia would start Game 4 on three days’ rest. Not only did Girardi point out a lighter Sabathia workload compared to last season with the Brewers, and the eight days he has between Friday and Game 1 of the ALDS, off days will have Sabathia available on regular rest if the series extends to a seventh game.
“Not getting him to 250 innings during the regular season allows us to consider that,” Girardi said. “We’ve told him, though, to concentrate on Game 1. That’s the most important game, and we’ll go from there.”
Furthermore, Joba Chamberlain and Chad Gaudin would remain in the bullpen. We’ll know more over the next day or two – the Yankees will work out at Yankee Stadium tomorrow and Thursday – but it sounded like Girardi wants to again carry three catchers, which means the lone roster change could be Brian Bruney or Freddy Guzman for Damaso Marte.
By Jon Lane
Nothing like an inning of work to change perceptions yet again. Joba Chamberlain threw a scoreless inning – of relief – on Sunday, needing only seven pitches (five strikes) to retire the side in order while hitting 95 on Tropicana Field’s gun. Of course, that has the Loyal Order of Joba to the Bullpen firing the cannons.
I’m not complaining. A good debate, even one with the legs of a marathon runner, keeps the comments and message boards thread lit up, which is good for us! My take though is forget about Chamberlain’s future for this week and the rest of this month. The Yankees’ solitary goal is first winning the American League Division Series. If right now he’s most comfortable and productive throwing out of the bullpen, put him there and worry about this starter-reliever stuff all winter and into next spring.
The Yankees’ will announce their ALDS roster no later than tomorrow. Every indication has Francisco Cervelli making it as the third catcher, insurance in the event Freddy Guzman runs for Jorge Posada and subsequently Jose Molina suffers an injury. That means the Yankees will carry 10 pitchers. If Chamberlain makes the cut, Chad Gaudin and Brian Bruney are out.
Here’s how the roster will stack up with 10 pitchers and 15 position players:
Jerry Hairston Jr.
There are those who favor Ramiro Pena over Guzman. Understandable, but Hairston fills the utility role and brings more experience. Plus, Guzman will be deployed solely as a pinch runner. That extra element of speed is extremely important. The Yankees have a weapon in Brett Gardner, but bottom of the eighth or ninth and Jorge Posada in scoring position, you’re taking him out for Guzman, the only player who’d keep up with Gardner stride for stride.
By Jon Lane
Learning. Maturing. Those were the operative words that came out of Joba Chamberlain’s start Friday night. In holding the Red Sox to three runs on five hits in six innings he earned his first win since August 6 against Boston, snapped an eight-start winless stretch and trimmed the Yankees’ magic number to three.
Best of all, he looked at himself in the mirror and accepted responsibility. In no uncertain terms, Joe Girardi and his coaches told Chamberlain, time to grow up. And when Chamberlain’s night was over, pitching coach Dave Eiland told him in the dugout, good job, great attack and remember what this feels like. For good measure, Chamberlain was awarded the WWE Championship belt as Yankees Player of the Game as decided on by his teammates.
“There comes a point in your career where you look at yourself in the mirror,” Chamberlain said. “I needed to do that.
“As a man you take a challenge and you do two things with it. You either step up or you run away from it. I’ve
never ran away from anything in my life and I’m not going to start now.
It’s going to take a lot more than a couple of bad starts to get me out
of my rhythm. When you have a coach like that who tells you like it is,
not only as a coach but as a person, it’s really gratifying.”
Another encouraging sign: Chamberlain’s rapport with Jorge Posada. The two were in sync to where Chamberlain believed it was the best connection had all season.
“It’s pretty easy when Georgie is on the same page with me,” Chamberlain said. “That’s probably the best we’ve been, on the same page, in a few starts. When you’re on the mound and you what he’s going to call, and he knows what you want, it’s pretty easy to stay in that rhythm. You keep your teammates in the game.”
Girardi wouldn’t formally commit to a playoff spot, or anything beyond Wednesday when Chamberlain makes his final start of the regular season. Perceptions change in this city faster than blinks of an eye, but bet on Chamberlain playing a big role in the playoffs, bigger that than of Chad Gaudin. Gaudin may be a reliable arm, but Chamberlain is a future franchise pitcher. It’s time for him to earn his stars and stripes.
“It’s an important time of year and we told him we needed him to step up,” Girardi said. “He did tonight. We told him we know he’s capable of pitching better and we need him do it.”
When he gets that chance, the handcuffs are off. There won’t be any finite number to fret about.
“That’s all over with,” Chamberlain said.
A few quick notes before wrapping up.
? Jon Lester, day-to-day with a right quad bruise, wants to make his next start. Terry Francona tends to agree, but is still proceeding with caution.
“When it first happened, it sounded and looked terrible,” Francona said. “He got X-rays done and they came back clean. He actually might be right on turn for his next start, but we’ll see how he feels and figure out the right thing to do.”
My two cents: Rest that knee and fine-tune him for Game 1 of the ALDS in Anaheim.
? The Yankees’ seven stolen bases was their most since swiping eight on June 2, 1996.
? The Red Sox must hate playing at Yankee Stadium. They’ve been outscored 34-13 their last five games here.
By Jon Lane
A bit of a late start for yours truly but ready to go minutes before first pitch. On the surface, the Yankees and Red Sox have little to play for. Between the lines, there’s still plenty at stake, writes Steven Goldman. And try telling Joba Chamberlain tonight’s game doesn’t mean anything. We’ll get a good idea what he’s made of, and if takes out any anger and embarrassment by punishing the Red Sox. A message will be delivered, both to opponent and employers.
Back with much more as the night progresses.
7:15 p.m. Side retired on 13 pitches – two ground-ball outs and a flyout to center. No fuss, no wasted effort. It’s early but a very good sign.
7:22 p.m. Joe Girardi was animated and passionate in his defense of Joba’s innings limitations and why it was in the Yankees’ best interest. Without naming names, Fausto Carmona is one example of when some young arms – not all – are pushed too far too quickly.
“Everyone seems to have an idea of what’s best for Joba,” Girardi said. “Let’s not forget that he’s 23-24 years old and that this is first full season as a starter. This is a growing process. We knew that going into this year. I wouldn’t say his season has been horrible. You guys make it sound like, and I’m not accusing anybody, he’s 1-19 with a seven or eight ERA.”
Here’s the full interview.
7:28 p.m. A-Rod’s RBI single made it 1-0, Yankees. That was his 90th RBI in this, his 118th game of the season. Overall he’s .285-27-90. Considering the emotional trauma with his PED admission and overcoming hip surgery, that’s darn good. But certain questions will not go away until he delivers beginning in a little more than two weeks.
7:40 p.m. Good morning. Good afternoon. Good night, Jason Bay, who goes down swinging at an 88 MPH breaking ball. Joba’s got that look in his eye like he’s mad as hell and won’t take it anymore.
7:57 p.m. Joba after three: Nine up, nine down. Three strikeouts. 36 pitches/24 strikes.
8:03 p.m. Make it .287-28-92 for A-Rod as he hit one to the George Washington Bridge. Lester is getting pounded. This is what you don’t want out of your No. 1 starter in the ALDS.
8:12 p.m. Robinson Cano is 2-for-2 and two hits shy of 200 on the season. He and Derek Jeter will soon be the fifth pair of Yankees to each collect 200 in a single season (Lou Gehrig-Earle Combs; Gehrig-Joe DiMaggio; Bernie Williams-Jeter; Williams-Alfonso Soriano).
8:16 p.m. Lester took a Melky Cabrera line drive off his right kneecap. He’s laying prone on the field being attended by the Red Sox medical staff. He left the field limping to a nice ovation. The game will be delayed for a bit because new Boston pitcher Hunter Jones will get all the time he needs to warm up.
The hit plated a run to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead.
8:34 p.m. Victor Martinez ends Chamberlain’s brief flirtation with perfection. His two-out solo shot in the fourth puts Boston on the board.
8:37 p.m. Calm, cool and collected Chamberlain shakes off a two-out single by getting David Ortiz to tap his first pitch back to him. Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for a report on Lester’s condition. Lester, by the way, allowed five earned runs in 2 1/3 IP, the most he’s given up since May 26.
8:50 p.m. X-Rays given to Lester were negative. He’s day-to-day with a contusion of right quad. This will be monitored, but it could have been a lot worse.
9:14 p.m. Breaking down Chamberlain’s fifth inning: Jason Bay single (7 pitches). J.D. Drew double (3). Jason Varitek pop up to third (1). Alex Gonzalez strike out (4). Jacoby Ellsbury ground out to first (2). Instead of imploding, Chamberlain quickly retired the No. 8 and 9 hitters and induced a .303 leadoff hitter to ground out. That’s answering your manager’s challenge.
9:32 p.m. David Ortiz goes yard and plates two with two out in what’s probably Chamberlain’s last inning. Nitpick about three runs allowed in six innings if that’s your thing, but Chamberlain needed to show some life and that’s what he did. He’s secured a Game 4 start in the ALCS (if the Yankees get there) from where I sit. He’ll work out of the bullpen during the DS when the Yankees take the extra off day and go with three starters. That’s when these Joba Rules you all love so much will be tossed into the Harlem River.
9:39 p.m. Great shot by YES’ cameras (the game’s on My9) of Dave Eiland talking to Chamberlain, Chamberlain listening and nodding intently, and Eiland ending the conversation with hands on both his shoulders and two slaps on his left one. If Andy Pettitte’s shoulder holds up, and Chamberlain and A.J. Burnett finish strong, the Yankees are fully loaded for October.
9:42 p.m. The Yankees’ six stolen bases tonight are a season high. They took a lot from that Angels series, didn’t they?
9:47 p.m. A-Rod has four RBIs and 93 on the season. Again, this is Game No. 118.
9:51 p.m. Mark Sanchez and Kerry Rhodes in the house. The 2-0 Jets host the Titans on Sunday. Even though Gang Green’s defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown yet, I’m taking Kimberly Jones’ advice and keeping Chris Johnson in my fantasy lineup.
10:16 p.m. That stolen base count is now seven, two from Jeter. Talk about unveiling a new weapon.
10:37 p.m. It’s safe to say that Jonathan Albaladejo will not make the postseason roster.
10:46 p.m. Phil Hughes blows away Bay. It’s safe to say that Hughes will make the postseason roster.
By Jon Lane
Admittedly, I borrowed the headline from Peter Abraham, author of the LoHud Yankees blog. Pete, incidentally, begins his new job as Red Sox beat writer for The Boston Globe next week. We at YESNetwork.com wish him the best. He did great things for The Journal News and he’ll reach new heights in Beantown.
Based on the amount of Joba Chamberlain content on YESNetwork.com and various columns in today’s papers, it is Jobamania in the Bronx, though by no means is it running wild. Jobamania hasn’t been Hulkamania in nearly two months. Instead he’s been the jobber – in layman’s terms enhancement talent – old-school wrestling promoters feed to their established stars for a pounding.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. If you’re already calling Chamberlain “Joba the Bust,” get real, but the right-hander is 0-4 with an 8.42 ERA in his last eight outings. His start Sunday in Seattle was a complete embarrassment (seven runs, three innings), which left Joe Girardi to say – if you read between the lines – “Step it up, or else.” Pulling no punches, Bob Klapish writes that “the clock is running out on
this immature underachiever who threatens to take down the Bombers’
Simply put, there is no more polarizing figure in New York at the moment, perhaps in all of sports. Jim Kaat questions whether “The Joba Rules” are helping or hurting the right-hander. In today’s New York Daily News, Anthony McCarron gathered viewpoints from a few baseball experts. Former Mets and A’s pitching coach Rick Peterson believes the Yankees accomplished their team goals, but sports psychology consultant Dr. Jack Llewellyn told McCarron that any limits “might cause him to try to pitch better instead of just letting himself
pitch. It sounds like just words, but there is a big difference, and
the toll it takes is mentally. It just saps your energy when you’re trying to make yourself do things.”
To sum up, Chamberlain must pitch well tonight, at the very least keep the Yankees in the game. Another implosion and, unbelievably, Chad Gaudin may be your Game 4 ALCS starter.
Hidden within Jobamaina, here’s what you need to know for tonight and this weekend:
? The Yankees’ magic number is five. The only way they win the AL East is by sweeping the Red Sox. Otherwise the party will be on hold until next week against the Royals.
? Considering Chamberlain’s opponent, it’s even more urgent he pitch well. Jon Lester (14-7, 3.33 ERA) is 11-2 with a 2.13 ERA in 20 starts since May 31 – the third-best ERA in the Majors over that span – and 3-0, 1.90 in six career starts against the Yankees. In that same stretch. Alex Rodriguez is 2-for-13 (.154) and Robinson Cano 2-for-18 (.111) facing the left-hander.
? This season, Mark Teixeira is 3-for-9 (.333) with a homer against Lester. In their careers, Derek Jeter is 8-for-23 (.348), Melky Cabrera 6-for-16 (.375) and Jose Molina 5-for-11 (.455).
? CC Sabathia starts Saturday against Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Yankees’ ace was moved up a day to provide him with extra rest before the playoffs. Andy Pettitte – his shoulder his fine, folks – opposes Paul Byrd Sunday afternoon.
By Jon Lane
Mariano Rivera sealed the Yankees series-clinching win over the Angels, one that put a bug in the Halos’ heads – finally, not the other way around – if the teams are to meet again next month. Victory was attained when Ian Kennedy gutted out the eighth inning, his first Major League inning since last August when he was tattooed on the same field. Yes, he walked two batters and hit another, and his first out was a line drive right to Ramiro Pena at third base, but Joe Girardi looked him in the eye and told him it’s your day, your time, now get the job done. And he did.
Alfredo Aceves, Phil Hughes, Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin and Brian Bruney were unavailable – would you trust Bruney in that spot anyway? – so Girardi summoned Kennedy based on some strong Minor League rehab appearances and Dave Eiland’s vote of confidence. You can feel the consternation – John Sterling endlessly second-guessed the move while calling the game on the Yankees’ radio network – and negativity wondering if Girardi had gone mad at the most inopportune time. He had decided to rest a handful of starters, the AL East and home field advantage not yet secured, against their annual tormentors since 2002. Then he put the game in the right hand of one who underwent May surgery for an aneurysm and a year earlier was 0-4 with an 8.17 ERA in 10 games (nine starts).
It’s easy to complain, even when a team is 40 games (now 41) games over .500 and older players are banged up with a cross-country flight awaiting them. When Erick Aybar flied out to left to end the eighth with the bases loaded, you exhaled with satisfaction. Rivera would close and the Yankees would have one of their best wins in a season filled with many.
With guts comes glory, and win or lose, respect. Kennedy is back from a serious health issue a lot sooner than anyone expected. Whether he sneaks onto the postseason roster or not (probably not), he’ll pitch in the Arizona Fall League and receive a golden opportunity to start for the Yankees in 2010.
“Just to be pitching is an accomplishment,” Kennedy said. “And then to be pitching here, and in a big situation, there are no words to describe it. It got a little crazy, but I was glad it worked out barely. These are big, important wins for us.”
The magic number is five. The Red Sox are in town this weekend. The indeterminable Joba Chamberlain starts against Jon Lester tomorrow night. You want to see the Yankees enter the postseason healthy and winning, so the games remain important. For one day, Kennedy played his part while emerging victorious from not only a game, but the biggest battle of his young life.
Two things to keep an eye on today: David Robertson will throw a bullpen session and Jerry Hairston Jr. will undergo a second MRI on his left wrist. The Yankees need Robertson to be their seventh/late-inning fireballer and Hairston to fill multiple roles off the bench. If he’s forced to miss at least the ALDS, Pena can fill the void to a point. He’s yet to play in the outfield, which would make Eric Hinske’s presence more important.
By Jon Lane
“Breathe in, breathe out – and no scare fish.”
– Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid
Okay, some 1980s cheese to begin today’s blogging, but the point is you can take a deep breath, exhale and chill out. The Yankees are officially, securely, in the postseason after a one-year hiatus. Now there’s the matter of clinching both the AL East and home field advantage. Something catastrophic would have to happen to deny them both luxuries.
Thanks to everyone for providing feedback to my ALDS roster projections. Chad Gaudin did nothing to hurt his chances of making the cut, but didn’t provide reassurances that he’d be a viable alternative for Joba Chamberlain in Game 4 of the ALCS if the Yankees get that far. The Yankees are 5-0 in games he’s started, but that means nothing in the playoffs, where you can no longer rely on an offense to bail out a mediocre pitcher.
It would make a world of difference if Chamberlain shows life and passion Friday night while turning out Boston’s lights.
Every Tuesday, YES Blog takes the pulse of New York on the hottest
topics being talked about right now in the world of sports. What’s your
take on the below issues?
By Jon Lane
Derek Jeter is and will continue to be the big story until his inevitable passing of Lou Gehrig on the Yankees’ all-time hits list. Not only can you watch him take his first crack Friday night on YES at 7 p.m., there are other storylines to follow while the team continues this mythical surge towards the postseason. The Yankees are an astounding 40-13 since the All-Star break. By way of comparison, the 1998 team was, on this date, 42-22 in the second half and 103-41 overall.
At 91-50, Version 2009 owns a nine-game lead over the Red Sox with a magic number to clinch the AL East down to 14 following a four-game sweep of the Rays. There was Jeter, of course. There was Jorge Posada’s pinch-hit, three-run home run that gave the Yankees their 45th come-from-behind victory. And, including Joba Chamberlain after a rough first inning, Yankees pitchers held the Rays hitless for 8 2/3 innings.
The biggest difference in Chamberlain from the second inning on during another abbreviated outing (55 pitches in three innings) was his pace. After Jeter told Chamberlain something pretty animated during that first inning, instead of shaking off his catcher and thinking to the point of burning wood, Chamberlain worked with vigor. He needed only 14 pitches to retired the Rays in the second and nine in the third, and was throwing 95 by the end of his night. You can debate until the cows, horses and chickens over the Yankees’ handling meticulous of Chamberlain, but it’s up to Chamberlain to work with rhythm and urgency. Once he takes the mound to start a playoff game, all rules are null and void. Chamberlain can rear back, not think and just throw. By then we’ll have a great idea of how good he is and how good he can be.
Did you notice that Alfredo Aceves threw three of those hitless innings? There were concerns over Aceves during his second-half slump following issues with his shoulder and back. It looks like Ace is back on track to being Ramiro Mendoza Version ’09.
How fitting was it to see Posada get the biggest hit on the night Jeter tied Gehrig and is it for Andy Pettitte to be the starting pitcher on the night Jeter may pass The Iron Horse? Pettitte and Jeter won four World Series together and have been teammates for all of Jeter’s 15 seasons except those three the left-hander spent in Houston. Also keep in mind that the last time Pettitte saw the Orioles he took a perfect game into the seventh inning. Might Pettitte dare flirt with history again while Jeter makes some of his own? Tomorrow at the Stadium will be compelling, for more reasons than one.