Abbott: Nicknames, nicknames. Now, on the . . . team we have Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third –
Costello: That’s what I want to find out. I want you to tell me the names of the fellows on the . . . team.
Abbott: I’m telling you. Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third –
The classic Lou Costello and Bud Abbott comedy sketch is a perfect metaphor for the 2014 Yankees. Because it is beginning to look like What’s on second and I Don’t Know is on third.
The angry free-agent departure of Robinson Cano and the looming suspension hovering over the head of Alex Rodriguez have those two spots in a bit of limbo now.
The Yankees pretty much were prepared for the suspension of A-Rod but they were not really expecting Cano to get in a tizzy over the contract offered to outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and leave like a spoiled child. But general manager Brian Cashman has had to deal with these situations since he became general manager in 1998.
He does not panic. He moves on.
When second baseman Omar Infante elected to sign with the Kansas City Royals for four years and $30 million on Dec. 17, Cashman turned to two-time All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts to fill the void for the Yankees.
At the moment, news reports indicate, the Yankees are close to signing Roberts, 36, to a one-year deal worth about $2 million plus incentives. If Roberts does indeed sign he likely would become the Yankees’ primary starting second baseman for the 2014 season.
When Cano left for the Seattle Mariners, Cashman said that all players are replaceable. But he added that some were harder to replace than others. Cano certainly falls into that latter category.
It is not easy to replace a player who hit .314 with 27 home runs and 107 RBIs and played Gold Glove-quality defense. Putting it succinctly, how do replace the team’s best second baseman in history? The answer, of course, is that you don’t.
Even if the Yankees had signed Infante, it would not have been the same. Infante, 32, hit .318 with 10 home runs and 51 RBIs for the Detroit Tigers last season but he is not even close to Cano in ability. So with Infante off the board, Roberts becomes the Yankees No. 1 target.
The question with Roberts is at his age does he have anything left? Another question is can he remain healthy?
After the Yankees disastrous 2013 campaign when even Cashman himself broke his leg skydiving at a charity event, making sure their players can answer the bell to start the 2014 season and have confidence they can finish it would have to be a top priority.
Roberts does not instill a lot of that confidence.
From 2007 through 2009, Roberts was among the top second basemen in baseball, averaging .290 with 120 stolen bases and playing in 157 games a season. But much like A-Rod, staying on the field since 2010 has been a challenge for the former Baltimore Orioles star.
He has played in only 192 games since the 2010 season due to a variety of injuries with the most serious being a concussion that shelved him for portions of two seasons.
Roberts played in 77 games for the O’s last season, batting .249 with eight home runs and 39 RBIs.
Because Roberts is a switch-hitter, the Yankees would likely use him as their primary second baseman because free agent infielder Kelly Johnson has the ability to play third base and he could be used there should Rodriguez have to face a suspension covering all of the 2014 season.
Johnson, 31, bats left-handed and he figures in as more as a potential platoon third baseman with the Yankees also looking to possibly re-sign free-agent Mark Reynolds. Johnson also could back up Roberts at second, as could shortstops Brendan Ryan and Eduardo Nunez.
The disarray at second and third is odd for a Yankee team that has boasted an infield of Mark Teixeira at first, Cano at second, Derek Jeter at short and Rodriguez at third since the 2009 season. But injuries and off-field troubles for Rodriguez and the recent departure of Cano have thrown this once powerful part of the team for a loop.
Teixeira and Jeter are both coming off serious injuries and they hope to be ready to play sometime during spring training in order to begin the season. Rodriguez missed all but 44 games last season recovering from hip surgery last January and has played in 138 games or less since the 2007 season.
Adding the injury-prone Roberts does not seem to make much sense. But he might be healthiest among the other three at this point.
In addition to Roberts, the Yankees are also talking with former All-Star infielder Michael Young, 37, who is capable of playing all four infield positions.
Young hit a combined .279 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs for the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He is a right-handed hitter who primarily is considered a third baseman. The Yankees would not sign Reynolds if Young decides to sign.
But the signing of Roberts would not preclude the team from also signing Young, who would platoon with Johnson at third base in the absence of Rodriguez.
So Roberts looks to be more a Plan A signing while Young and Reynolds are more of a Plan B after the Yankees get a ruling from the arbitrator who is deciding Rodriguez’s appeal of his 211-game suspension for his alleged role in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal.
The hearing was concluded in mid-November with the players’ association seeking to overturn or reduce Rodriguez’s suspension handed down by Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig last summer. Rodriguez actually stormed out of the hearing in a huff on Nov. 20 when arbitrator Frederic Horowicz ruled that Selig did not have to testify in front of Rodriguez’s attorneys.
Rodriguez said, at that time, that the issue of his suspension likely would end up in a federal court.
Horowicz is expected to issue his ruling some time in January.
In the meantime, the Yankees have kept a public posture of saying that they expect Rodriguez, 38, to be their starting third baseman on Opening Day. But privately they have to be ready to fill the position should Rodriguez be suspended for the entire 2014 season.
That is why they signed Johnson and why they remain interested in Young and Reynolds.
One thing is certain, however: The Yankees would be better off with Rodriguez’s diminished bat in the lineup than without it.
Rodriguez hit .244 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs in 44 games last season and was hampered the final month of the season with tightness in his left hamstring. But it was a far cry better than the production they got from Jayson Nix, Nunez, Corban Joseph, David Adams, Chris Nelson and Luis Cruz.
Reynolds, 30, did hit .236 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 36 games but he was also needed at first base in a platoon with Lyle Overbay and he is not considered to be as adept fielding at third base as he is at first.
So when the Yankees say “I Don’t Know” is playing third they really mean it.
To be sure, the Yankees have shored up the team’s offense by signing catcher Brian McCann, outfielders Carlos Beltran and Ellsbury and trading last season for outfielder Alfonso Soriano. They also are shoring up the rotation by re-signing Hiroki Kuroda and looking to sign 25-year-old Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka, who has been posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
But around the horn of the infield there are question marks everywhere.
Those question marks all have answers. But none of them appear to be answerable in the short term. What was once a Yankee strength appears to be a possible weakness.
Of course, should Teixeira show up in spring training hitting home runs and Jeter starts running the bases and fielding his position without any pronounced limp, the rest of the infield troubles can be overcome with some hard work.
Roberts could be the answer at second and there are worse things than having a platoon at third until Rodriguez is able to return.
Yankee fans are not accustomed to it. But they might just have to get used to it. Things just look like they will be in a state of flux for a good while.
Sometimes a baseball season can hinge on one flick of the wrist. In Mark Teixeira’s case it was a painful one.
Teixeira’s hallmark had always been his durability. In his first nine seasons he had never played less than 132 games and had averaged 153 games played.
But his 2012 season with the Yankees was cut short with thumb and calf injuries that limited him to a career-low 123 games played. He started spring training determined to rebound with a productive 2014 campaign.
Unfortunately, while preparing for an exhibition game as part of the World Baseball Classic with Team USA in Arizona, Teixeira took a batting practice swing that sent pain reverberating through his right wrist. He immediately knew something was terribly wrong.
Instead of starting the season playing first base with the Yankees, he was fitted for a cast and given a choice in his rehabilitation: He could have surgery to repair a torn sheath in the wrist that would end his season or he could try a period of two months of rest to allow the wrist to heal.
Teixeira, 33, elected the latter, which was the smart move because if his wrist did not heal properly he could always have the surgery later and still be ready for the 2014 season.
As misfortune would have it during the Yankees’ most injury-filled season in franchise history, Teixeira finally had to admit the wrist was not healing.
Losing a productive hitter is one thing thing. But losing a Gold Glove-quality first baseman like Teixeira was devastating.
Teixeira played his first game on May 31 but it became obvious as the weeks wore on that the “pop” in his bat was just not there. The wrist was fine batting left-handed but it ached miserably when he batted right-handed.
Finally, on June 15, Teixeira was removed from the lineup in a game against the Los Angeles Angels and he never returned. Teixeira’s 2014 season ended after 15 games and only 53 at-bats in which he hit an awful .151 with three home runs and 12 RBIs.
His season was not much different from his fellow Yankee brethren as the club limped to the finish line with an 85-77 mark, tied with the Baltimore Orioles for third place in the American League East.
Well, how is Teixeira doing in his rehab after wrist surgery?
The latest word is pretty good. He has been out of his cast for some time and currently is working on exercises to give his wrist normal range of motion and he is taking only slow swings to loosen up the wrist without overtaxing it.
His schedule calls for working on strength and flexibility in December and by January he hopes to be taking full swings and hitting off a tee. In February, barring any setbacks, he hopes to be taking hacks off a pitching machine and by March he hopes to be taking live batting practice.
Teixeira plans to begin playing spring training games by the first week of March.
The veteran also said on the YES Network’s “Hot Stove” program that he will stop using a weighted bat and will cut down on the amount of swings he takes in preparing for games in order to take pressure off the wrist. Teixeira also might require more days off to rest his body and stay sharp for the entire season.
The Yankees signed Teixeira to a eight-year, $180-million free-agent contract in 2009. In his first three healthy seasons with the club, Teixeira has averaged 37 home runs and 114 RBIs. But in that time his batting averages have dipped from .292 in 2009, to .256 in 2010 to .248 in 2011.
While Teixeira briefly toyed with the idea of dropping his pull approach he has simply embraced the fact that he is paid to hit homers and produce runs and he is no longer too concerned about his average anymore.
Also during his first four seasons, Teixeira managed to make two All-Star teams, win a Silver Slugger award in 2009 and selected for three Gold Gloves (2009, 2010 and 2012).
For all the production Teixeira provides as a switch-hitter in the middle of the lineup, it is his defense that draws rave reviews from teammates and fans. The former third baseman simply has dynamic range, exceptional agility and a great pair of hands.
He can take away extra-base hits with ease and scoop throws in the dirt to save his fellow infielders errors. Though many fans believe Don Mattingly was the best fielding first baseman in Yankee history, Tex’s five Gold Gloves at least put him in the argument.
The Yankees missed Teixeira dearly last season.
They were forced to sign 37-year-old journeyman Lyle Overbay to fill in for Teixeira in the final week of spring training. Though Overbay could come close to Teixeira with his glove, he was a definite step down in power and in production.
Overbay hit .240 with just 14 homers and 59 RBIs in 142 games. Though Overbay handled right-handers by posting a .258 mark. He only was able to hit .190 and was woefully overmatched by lefties. Because the Yankees did not have a right-handed hitting option after they lost Kevin Youkilis to a recurrence of a nagging back injury on June 13, the Yankees were forced to use Overbay every day and they paid dearly for it.
The Yankees’ current roster lists veteran outfielder Vernon Wells as the backup at first base. But Wells has made only one start at the position in his career and that was last season with the Yankees.
The Yankees might consider re-signing corner infielder Mark Reynolds, who hit .238 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 36 games after the Yankees signed him as a free agent on July 19.
Reynolds, 30, made 24 starts at first and 14 at third base for the Yankees. He could become the starter at third base should Alex Rodriguez end up being suspended by Major League Baseball as part of the Biogenesis scandal. An arbitrator has heard the case but he is not expected to rule until December.
The Yankees also might have an interest in former Texas Rangers infielder Michael Young.
It does not appear the Yankees have much interest in free agent first basemen Kendrys Morales, Paul Konerko, Justin Morneau or Carlos Pena. They would cost top dollar to sign any of them and they would not play much behind Teixeira in any event.
There is not much help at first base in the minor leagues because the Yankees used journeyman Dan Johnson at first at Triple-A Scranton last season. Johnson did hit .250 with 21 home runs and 71 RBIs in 138 games but he is not much of a prospect at age 34.
Kyle Roller, 25, batted .253 with 17 home runs and 69 RBIs at Double-A Trenton but he is at least two years away from making an impact.
So the Yankees will definitely have look for corner infield support for both Rodriguez and Teixiera this winter.
Tex’s days of playing 158 games appear to be over and the Yankees do need to look at spelling him this season. He is coming off wrist surgery and that is a concern. But the fact Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays was able to come back after similar surgery in 2012 certainly bodes well for Teixiera.
As they say, the trick is all in the wrist and Teixeira plans on showing Yankee fans he is not through playing at a high level. Time is definitely on his side.
YANKEES 3, RANGERS 2
The final score on Wednesday should read Yankees 3, Rangers 0, Josh Hamilton 2.
On a night where a pair of mammoth solo home runs by Hamilton was all Texas could muster for an offense, Freddy Garcia and New York held on to take the first three games of a four-game series between the two top teams in the American League.
The Yankees scored three runs in the third inning off Rangers starter Scott Feldman (6-8) on an RBI double by Nick Swisher, a sacrifice fly off the bat of Curtis Granderson and a big two-out RBI single by the red-hot Eric Chavez.
That was all Garcia eventually would need. But Hamilton made it interesting by launching a 400-foot blast off Garcia into the second deck in right with one out in the fourth inning. It was the first regular-season home run Hamilton has hit in the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009.
The home run also ended a drought of 20 innings in which the Rangers were held scoreless in this series by the Yankees.
The Rangers were able to load the bases on Garcia right after the Hamilton homer. However, Garcia was able to wriggle out of further trouble by inducing Geovany Soto to hit into an inning-ending double play.
But with one out in the sixth, Hamilton was able to connect off Garcia again with a moon shot measured at about 455 feet into second deck in right. It was his major-league leading 34th home run of the season.
But Garcia was able to complete 6 2/3 innings. Other than the two home runs, Garcia shut down the Rangers on just two other hits and a walk and he struck out six to win his third straight start. Garcia now has won five games since he was inserted into the rotation on July 2, which leads the team.
Garcia also is 5-0 with a 1.90 ERA in his last seven starts against the Rangers, dating back to 2004.
Jayson Nix, playing in place of an ailing Robinson Cano, opened the third against Feldman with an infield single, stole second and advanced to third on a lined single by Derek Jeter. Swisher, who was 3-for-8 with two home runs and seven RBIs in the first two games of the series, added to the Rangers’ misery with a bloop opposite-field double that landed just inside the line in left-field to score Nix while Jeter made it to third.
Granderson followed with a high fly to deep center that easily scored Jeter. Then, one out later, Chavez, who entered the day hitting .550 in his last five games, stroked an opposite-field single that scored Swisher.
But after that inning, Feldman got stingy and pitched around a lot of danger to keep the game close.
Feldman left after six innings having given up thee runs on seven hits and four walks and he struck out seven. After going 3-for-3 with runners in scoring position in the third, the Yankees were held to 0-for-8 the rest of the game and they stranded 10 runners.
Boone Logan replaced Garcia with two out and nobody on to retire pinch-hitter Michael Young to end the seventh. David Robertson then pitched a 1-2-3 eight, striking out two batters.
Rafael Soriano came on in the ninth and struck out Hamilton swinging and retired Adrian Beltre on a deep line drive to the warning track in left.
On a play in which Swisher dug out a one-hop throw from Chavez and stayed on the bag on a grounder off the bat of Nelson Cruz, first-base umpire Marty Foster incorrectly ruled that Swisher came off the bag for what was scored an error on Chavez. That added a bit of drama for the crowd of 45,921 who braved an hour and 45 minute rain delay in the Bronx to see this clash of A.L. titans.
But Soriano pitched around the error and retired David Murphy on a ground-ball force out to pick up his 29th save in his 31 opportunities this season.
With the victory, the Yankees have won seven out of their last eight games. They also have a streak of eight straight home victories over the Rangers that dates back to last season.
Their season record is now 70-47, the best record in the American League. The victory also gives the Yankees a six-game edge over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Rangers fell to 67-49.
- What has been the biggest knock on the 2012 Yankees? Their supposedly suspect starting pitching, of course, with CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte on the disabled list. But David Phelps, Hiroki Kuroda and Garcia have combined to give up just four runs on 12 hits and four walks and fanned 13 batters in 18 2/3 innings against a very good hitting Rangers team. That is a starters’ ERA of 1.93 and a WHIP of 0.86. This staff is better than they might seem just looking at their ERAs. In his nine starts since July 2, Garcia has not given up more than three earned runs in eight of them and he has an ERA of 3.69 in those starts.
- Chavez continues to turn back the clock to his 2001 season with Oakland in which he hit .288 with 32 home runs and 114 RBIs. Chavez was 3-for-3 with a walk and an RBI in the game. In his last six starts, Chavez is 14-for-23 (.609) with three home runs and seven RBIs. The 34-year-old veteran is doing more than his share filling in for an injured Alex Rodriguez.
- Swisher is just about as hot as Chavez. In the series he is 4-for-13 (.308) with two home runs and eight RBIs. In his last nine games, he is 13-for-39 (.333) with two home runs and 11 RBIs. His hot streak has raised his season batting average to .263.
- Some poor strategy and some poor execution of a bunt cost the Yankees a few potential chances to tack on to their lead. Ichiro Suzuki led off the sixth with an infield single. Instead of having Suzuki steal or having Nix bunt Suzuki over, manager Joe Girardi had Nix swing away and he hit into a double play. In the eighth, Nix did bunt after another leadoff infield single by Suzuki and Nix reached first because the bunt was so well placed. However, Jeter popped up his bunt attempt and reliever Mike Adams let it drop and turned it into a double play that killed the rally.
- Mark Teixeira had a night to forget. He was 0-for-4, struck out three times and he did not get a ball out of the infield. Teixeira entered the game with an eight-game hitting streak in which he was 11-for-32 (.344) with three homers and five RBIs.
- Russell Martin’s season from hell continues. The Rangers’ pitchers pretty much used the catcher, who entered the game hitting .199, as an escape hatch to big innings. Martin was 0-for-3 with a walk and he stranded seven runners. Martin lined out to right on the first pitch off reliever Alexi Ogando with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.
Cano was held out of Wednesday’s game due to a stiff neck, but Girardi said he did not think it was anything serious. Nix replaced Cano at second base and was 2-for-4 with a stolen base and a run scored. . . . In Rodriguez’s absence, Chavez, Nix and Casey McGehee have gone a combined 26-for-68 (.382) with seven homers, 15 RBIs and 17 runs scored in 19 starts at third base.
The Yankees can take out their brooms and complete a four-game sweep of the mighty Rangers on Thursday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (11-6, 4.70 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Nova gave up two runs on five hits and a walk and struck out 10 in 7 1/3 innings to defeat the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday. He is 2-1 with a 4.67 ERA in his career against the Rangers.
The Rangers will counter with left-hander Derek Holland (7-6, 4.92 ERA). Holland was locked in a pitching duel with Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers on Saturday. Holland struck out nine and retired 22 of the 24 batters he faced, but he settled for a no-decision. He may want to wear a batting helmet on the mound Thursday because he is 0-5 with a 9.26 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, RANGERS 0
In his last three starts, Hiroki Kuroda was 0-1 with two no-decisions despite recording an ERA of 2.61. Even though he was pitching a no-hitter through six innings on Tuesday it appeared that Kuroda was headed to yet another no-decision or a loss because the Yankees also were held scoreless through six innings.
But Nick Swisher came through for the second straight night with a big home run, a two-run shot in the bottom of the seventh, and Mark Teixeira followed him with a solo blast of his own while Kuroda ended up throwing a two-hit, complete-game shutout as New York defeated Texas again in the second game of the clash of the two titans of the American League.
Kuroda (11-8) issued only two walks over the first six innings before Elvis Andrus led off the seventh inning with an infield single to shortstop Jayson Nix. Kuroda was able to get out of the inning, stranding Andrus on third. Michael Young hit a solid single into center to lead off the eighth, but he quickly was erased in a double play off the bat of David Murphy.
Kuroda pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to record his fourth career complete game and his second of the season.
The Yankees had no trouble getting runners on base against Rangers starter Matt Harrison (13-7). The hard part was getting a timely hit to score one of them.
Harrison kept the Yankees from scoring by stranding seven runners over the first four innings, including three in the third inning when Curtis Granderson flew out to center with the bases loaded.
However, the Yankees finally broke through in the seventh inning when Derek Jeter stroked a one-out single into center. Rangers manager Ron Washington then decided to replace Harrison with right-hander Alexi Ogando.
Swisher battled Ogando for seven pitches into a full count before he tomahawked a high fastball into the second deck of the bleachers in right-field as a crowd of 44,533 fans at Yankee Stadium went delirious.
Before those fans got the chance to settle back into their seats Teixeira smacked a 2-1 fastball about 10 rows deep in the right-field bleachers, marking the ninth time this season the Yankees have hit back-to-back home runs.
Kuroda finished the night having thrown first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 29 batters he faced and he threw 74 of his 109 pitches for strikes (68 percent). Andrus was only the Rangers to reach scoring position as the Yankees backed Kuroda up with a pair of double plays.
It was Kuroda’s first victory since July 23 against the Seattle Mariners.
The victory improved the Yankees’ record to 69-47, two games better than the Rangers for the best record in the American League. The Yankees currently lead both the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles by 6 games in the American League East. The Rangers fell to 67-48.
- Swisher’s home run was his 16th of the season and he is now on a nice little hot streak at the plate. In his last eight games, Swisher is 12-for-34 (.353) with two home runs and 10 RBIs. In his two games against the Rangers, Swisher is 3-for-8 (.375) with two home runs and seven RBIs.
- Teixeira’s home run was 23rd of the season and he still leads the team in RBIs with 77. He now has a eight-game hitting streak in which he is 11-for-32 (.344) with three home runs and five RBIs. He was 2-for-4 on the night and it raised his season average to .260.
- Kuroda has never looked better on the mound for the Yankees. He kept a dangerous Rangers’ attack off-balance all night with his his slider and split-finger fastball. In Kuroda’s 14 starts since May 21, he is 10-2 with a 2.90 ERA. In his two losses he gave up only five runs in 13 1/3 innings, which is a 3.38 ERA. His season ERA is now 3.06, which is eighth best in the A.L.
I could mention Granderson’s flyout with the bases loaded and his two strikeouts but that would be nitpicking. Kuroda was sensational and Swisher and Teixeira came through to give him the support he deserved. The Yankees have a shot to win the four-game series on Wednesday. Things are looking up!
X-rays on Alex Rodriguez’s fractured left hand showed positive results and the brace on his hand will be removed. Rodriguez now will be able to do strength exercises and the Yankees are still targeting a return to action for the third baseman some time in September. Rodriguez has been on the disabled list since July 24. . . . Andy Pettitte was given clearance by team’s medical staff to begin long tossing as he continues his recovery from a fractured left ankle. The Yankees have no timeline for Pettitte’s return but they hope he is able to pitch in September in order to be able to be ready for the postseason.
The Yankees hope to clinch the four-game series against the Rangers on Wednesday.
Veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia (6-5, 4.85 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Garcia allowed just two runs in six innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday to win his second consecutive start. Garcia is 8-5 with a 4.10 ERA in his career against Texas.
The Rangers will throw right-hander Scott Feldman (6-7, 4.64 ERA). Feldman gave up four runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings on Friday in a loss against the Detroit Tigers. He is 3-2 with a 4.85 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.
RANGERS 7, YANKEES 3
Adrian Beltre homered and drove in three runs on Wednesday to lead Texas to series victory over New York at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX.
Mike Napoli and Mitch Moreland added solo home runs for the Rangers and Robbie Ross (4-0) threw 2 2/3 innings of perfect relief to get credit for the victory.
For the fourth consecutive start, Phil Hughes (1-3) failed to pitch six innings, giving up four runs on five hits and striking out two in 2 2/3 innings. David Phelps, thought to be in line to get a shot at starting, was not much better, surrendering three runs on five hits and three walks in 2 1/3 innings.
With the loss the Yankees’ season record falls to 10-8. The Rangers are 15-4.
- Raul Ibanez was one of the few bright spots for the Yankees. He was 2-for-4 including a solo home run off Neftali Feliz in the seventh and an RBI double in the fourth to plate the Yankees’ first run. In limited play, Ibanez, 39, is hitting .271 with three home runs and 11 RBIs.
- Derek Jeter is hotter than a July evening in Texas. He was 2-for-4 in the game to raise his season average to an astounding .420, which is third in the major leagues behind the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp and Red Sox DH David Ortiz.
- Other than Phelps, the bullpen did a good job of keeping the Yankees close for most of the game. Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley, Boone Logan and Rafael Soriano kept the Rangers scoreless over the three innings they pitched, giving up only one hit and a walk. Despite some of the starters struggling the bullpen is still holding up well.
- The time has come for the Yankees to place Phil Hughes in the bullpen. Trailing 1-0 with one out in the third inning, Hughes unraveled. Mitch Moreland singled and Ian Kinsler followed with a bloop opposite-field double to right. After an RBI groundout by Elvis Andrus, Hughes hit Josh Hamilton with a pitch. Beltre, who homered off him in his previous at-bat, stroked an RBI single and Michael Young followed with an RBI double. After Hughes brushed Nelson Cruz’s jersey with an inside pitch, Girardi removed him from the game. Hughes is 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA.
- Curtis Granderson looks absolutely clueless at the plate. He was 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts in the game. In the series, Granderson was 1-for-9 with three walks and five strikeouts. None of the swinging strikeouts came on pitches that were in the strike zone.
- After going 5-for-9 with runners in scoring position in their victory over the Rangers on Monday, the Yankees were 2-for-14 over the last two games. Alex Rodriguez was the poster boy for the futility, going 0-for-8 with two strikeouts and he did not get a ball out of the infield.
If losing the game were not enough, the Yankees learned earlier Wednesday that right-hander Michael Pineda has a slight anterior labral tear and he will have to undergo season-ending arthroscopic surgery next Tuesday. Dr. David Altchek, the Mets’ team physician, will perform the surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, assisted by Yankees team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad. Pineda, 23, will miss a minimum of 12 months. Pineda and 19-year-old right-hander Jose Campos were acquired in February in a trade with the Seattle Mariners for 22-year-old slugger Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi. . . . Meanwhile, left-hander Andy Pettitte gave up four runs (three earned) in five innings and took the loss as Double-A Trenton lost to Erie 10-4 on Wednesday. Pettitte struck out three and walked one and threw 59 of his 81 pitches for strikes. Pettitte is scheduled to make two more starts before being placed on the major-league roster.
The Yankees finished the road trip with a 3-2 mark and now they come home to face the Detroit Tigers on Friday.
The good news is their best starting pitcher will open the series. Ivan Nova (3-0, 3.79 ERA) is riding a streak of consecutive victories and he can tie Rogers Clemens’ team record of 16 with a victory. Nova gave up two runs on seven hits and fanned five batters last Friday as the Yankees defeated the Red Sox 6-2 on Fenway Park’s 100th birthday. Nova is 0-0 with a 0,00 ERA against the Tigers but did defeat them in Game 1 of the ALDS last October.
Unfortunately, the Yankees will be facing Justin Verlander (2-1, 1.72 ERA). Verlander blanked the Rangers for six innings while striking out eight in his last start. The reigning American league MVP and Cy Young Award winner is 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, RANGERS 2 (12 Innings)
Brett Gardner was inserted into Thursday’s game as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning because manager Joe Girardi elected not to start him against a left-handed pitcher.
But in the 12th inning, Gardner delivered a one-out single to right to score Curtis Granderson with the winning run off left-handed reliever Michael Kirkman as New York completed a three-game sweep against a Texas team that denied the Yankees a trip to the World Series last season.
The game had remained tied 2-2 since the bottom of the sixth inning when Kirkman (1-1) began his third inning of work by allowing a bloop single near the line in shallow right-field to Granderson. After Mark Teixiera flew out to left, Kirkman hit Robinson Cano on an 0-2 pitch that Rangers manager Ron Washington claimed hit Cano’s bat. However, home-plate umpire Mike Winters awarded Cano first base, moving Granderson to second.
Then Gardner stroked a 1-0 pitch on the ground sharply past second baseman Ian Kinsler into right-field. Granderson rounded third and slid home well ahead of the throw from David Murphy to win the game for the Bombers.
Cory Wade (1-0), part of the Yankees’ new-look bullpen minus Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano, pitched two perfect innings of relief to earn his first victory as a Yankee and his first major-league victory in two years.
But the first part of the day belonged to the new-look starter who had replaced Bartolo Colon in the starting rotation.
Brian Gordon, 32, made his first major-league start against a Rangers team with which he made his only three major-league appearances in 2008. And Gordon did not disappoint. Gordon held the Rangers to two runs on seven hits and three walks and he fanned three batters in 5 1/3 innings of work.
However, Gordon did pay a price for walking Taylor Teagarden to begin the fifth inning when the Rangers catcher later scored on an Ian Kinsler double to tie the game at 1-1.
But with Endy Chavez at third and Kinsler at first, Gordon struck out Elvis Andrus swinging and walked Josh Hamilton intentionally to load the bases. Gordon then induced Michael Young to pop up to Cano for the second out. Gordon then battled Adrian Beltre to an 0-2 count. But Gordon lost control of a curve and hit Beltre with the pitch to force in the lead run.
The Yankees had opened the scoring in the game in the second inning off Rangers starter C.J. Wilson when Russell Martin drove in Cano from third base with a two-out single into center. The Yankees later tied the score in the sixth when Jorge Posada, hitting .088 batting right-handed on the season, stroked a one-out double into the gap in left-center that scored Cano from first.
Wilson gave up two runs on seven hits and three walks and fanned 10 batters in eight innings. But the Yankee bullpen of Hector Noesi, David Roberston, Mariano Rivera and Wade kept the Rangers scoreless over the next seven innings to allow Gardner to notch his first walk-off hit for the Yankees and his first face full of post-game pie from A.J. Burnett.
With the victory the Yankees not only swept the Rangers, but they won the nine-game season series 7-2. They also moved their season mark to 39-28 and they remain 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Rangers leave the Bronx with a 36-34 record.
- Gordon was signed on Thursday and placed on the active roster just before the game after he opted out of his contract a day earlier with the Phillies’ Triple-A Lehigh Valley club, where he was 5-0 with a league-best 1.14 ERA. He spent 15 years in the minors and 10 of those seasons as an outfielder. But after a solid 84-pitch major-league debut, Gordon received a standing ovation from the 47,487 fans on hand. Girardi said Gordon will start again next Tuesday in Cincinnati and he will get a chance to get his first major-league at-bat.
- Gardner was relegated as a defensive replacement in the last two games with the Rangers but he is one of the Yankees’ hottest hitters. On Thursday he was 2-for-2 after entering the game in the ninth inning for Andruw Jones in left-field. Both hits came off the lefty Kirkman. Since June 4, Gardner is 17-for-36 (.472) with five doubles and a triple and four RBIs. Gardner has had seven multiple hits games over that 12-game span.
- Wade’s two innings of perfect relief now give him three perfect innings in his first two appearances as a Yankee. Wade was released by the Rays from their Triple-A Durham club on Monday and he was signed to minor-league contract with the Yankees and activated on Wednesday. Wade, 27, pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008 and 2009 but missed the 2010 season because he had to undergo shoulder surgery.
- Granderson had three of the Yankees’ 11 hits and scored the winning run in the 12th inning. Granderson raised his batting average to .285 after hitting .249 in his last season with Detroit and hitting .247 with the Yankees last season. Granderson best season was in 2007 with the Tigers, where he hit .302.
- Wednesday’s hero Mark Teixeira did not carry his success into Thursday’s game. He was 0-for-6 with four infield groundouts. Teixeira’s average is now .251. He also left eight men on base. His biggest out was when he grounded out to Andrus at short in the ninth inning with two out and the bases loaded.
- Granderson also deserves some criticism for his at-bat against veteran lefty Darren Oliver in the ninth inning. Granderson was at the plate with one out and the bases loaded after Oliver had walked Nick Swisher. Granderson had worked Oliver into a 3-2 count and Oliver threw a breaking pitch that swept well out of the strike zone. But Granderson swung wildly at it and fanned at what would have been ball four and the end of the game.
- The Yankees again displayed some bad base-running in the game early. Swisher led off the game with a single to left. Granderson followed with a single to right and Swisher easily beat Murphy’s throw to Beltre at third base. However, Swisher overslid the bag and Beltre tagged him out. A bit later, Granderson was throw out stealing second by Teagarden. The Yankees also ground into a pair of costly double plays that took Wilson off the hook.
In order to make room on the roster for Gordon, the Yankees optioned Lance Pendleton to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and they released right-handed reliever Amauri Sanit. Pendleton had a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings with the Yankees. Sanit gave up 10 runs in seven innings with the Yankees before landing on the 15-day disabled list with an elbow injury. . . . Martin returned to the starting lineup after missing seven of the last eight games with back stiffness. Martin was 2-for-4 and drove in a run. However, Martin’s biggest contribution was throwing out two runners. He gunned down Andrus stealing in the first inning and Murphy in the sixth. Backup catcher Francisco Cervelli has struggled all season throwing out base-runners and Martin has been missed. . . . The Yankees announced that former managers Joe Torre and Lou Piniella and outfielder Bernie Williams will be among the participants in Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium on June 26. Piniella will be donning a Yankee uniform for the first time since 1988.
The Yankees are now in Chicago and will begin a series of interleague games with a weekend series against the Cubs in Wrigley Field starting on Friday.
Freddy Garcia (5-5, 3.60 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Garcia is coming off a strong 6-2/3 inning performance in a victory over Cleveland on Sunday. He has also had some success against the Cubs. He is 4-0 with a 1.47 ERA against them in his career.
The Cubs will start left-hander Doug Davis (0-5, 5.90 ERA). Davis is coming off a 108-pitch, five inning outing against the Phillies in which he walked five batters. In the last 10 years, Davis is 3-2 with a 6.28 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 12, RANGERS 4
When Mark Teixeira came up to the major leagues with the Rangers, he learned a lot about hitting from his teammates Michael Young and Alex Rodriguez. On Wednesday night, it was obvious that the help they provided paid huge dividends as he got older.
Teixeira blasted a pair of home runs and drove in four runs to lead New York on an air assault on the Texas pitching staff in another laugher at Yankee Stadium.
Teixeira connected on a two-run home run hitting right-handed against left-handed starter and loser Derek Holland in the first inning to give the Yankees an early 2-0 lead. He later connected for another two-run homer in the sixth inning hitting left-handed off right-hander Mark Lowe to extend the Yankees lead to 9-4. It is the 11th time in his career that Teixeira has hit home runs from both sides of the plate in one game, tying him with Eddie Murray and Chili Davis for first on the all-time list.
It also was Teixeira’s 20th and 21st home runs of the season and ties him with teammate Curis Granderson and Toronto’s Jose Bautista for first in the major leagues. His two home runs were part of a five-home run barrage on the Rangers, giving the Yankees a major league-leading 103 home runs on the season.
Eduardo Nunez, who is replacing an injured Derek Jeter at shortstop, hit a solo home run in the fourth and Ramiro Pena, who was called up on Tuesday from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace Jeter on the roster, also homered in the sixth inning. Robinson Cano hit a three-run shot off Rangers closer Neftali Feliz in the eighth inning to close out the onslaught.
Ivan Nova (6-4) was the beneficiary of the run support. Nova gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks and struck out two batters over 5 2/3 innings to earn the victory.
The Yankees, meanwhile, pummeled Holland (5-2) for six runs on seven hits and five walks in only five innings. In the past two days, the Yankees have beaten two Ranger starters who were a combined 12-1 for 12 runs on 13 hits and six walks in 6 2/3 innings.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 38-28 and they are now a season-best 10 games over .500. They remain 1 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Rangers fell to 36-33.
- Teixeira has been on a huge tear since June 5. He is 10-for-32 (.313) during that span with five home runs and 15 RBIs. His four RBIs on Wednesday now give him the team lead in RBIs with 53, one better than Granderson. Teixeira and Granderson are the first Yankee teammates to have 20 or more home runs at this stage of the season since 1961 when Mickey Mantle had 22 and Roger Maris had 27.
- Nunez continues to impress after just two games replacing Jeter. He was 2-for-4 with a homer, a single and two stolen bases. In the last two games, he is 4-for-8 with two runs scored and two RBIs. He has raised his average to .250 from .214. In addition, Nunez turned 24 on Wednesday. Yankee players may start jokingly calling Jeter “Wally Pipp.”
- Cano’s home run was his 14th of the season and he now has 45 RBIs. Though he is far off his .363 batting average he had posted at this time last season, Cano is still producing in the No. 5 spot and no second baseman in the American League is close to his numbers.
- Pena was given a start at third base to allow Rodriguez to DH and he contributed a solo home run in the sixth inning off Rangers reliever Mark Lowe. Pena also added a single in the second inning and he finished 2-for-4 on the day.
- Despite Nunez’s fine day at the plate and on the bases, he also committed his sixth error of the season on a Josh Hamilton grounder to lead off the fifth inning. Nunez chose to play the ball off to the side and the ball bounded over his glove into center-field. It shows that although Nunez is a good hitter with execellent speed, he is still a work in progress in the field.
- Catcher Francisco Cervelli is still having issues with his throwing. In the first inning he was unable to throw out Ian Kinsler attempting to steal on a pitchout. Cervelli’s throw short-hopped past Nunez and rolled into center-field. Teams continue to take advantage of Cervelli’s throwing problems while starting catcher Russell Martin tries to recover from back stiffness.
- Nova was not sharp in his outing but he did seem to be able to limit the damage. In the first six innings, the Rangers left seven runners on base and Nova left with two outs in the sixth clinging to a 6-4 lead.
As expected, manager Joe Girardi announced that 32-year-old minor-league veteran Brian Gordon will start for the Yankees on Thursday. The Yankees signed Gordon as a free agent when he opted out of his contract with the Philadelphia Phillies’ Triple-A Lehigh Valley club. Hector Noesi, who warmed up in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s game but did not pitch, will remain as the long reliever in the bullpen. . . . The Yankees added right-handed reliever Cory Wade to the roster two days after signing him to a minor-league deal. Wade pitched the eighth inning on Wednesday and had a 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout. Wade was 2-1 with a 1.23 ERA for the Rays’ Triple-A Durham club but was released. The Yankees sent down right-hander Kevin Whelan to make room on the roster for Wade. . . . In addition, the Yankees transferred reliever Rafael Soriano to the 60-day disabled list. Soriano threw a bit on Tuesday but the Yankees were not convinced he had progressed enough to continue a throwing program. So Soriano will rest for at least a week before throwing again. Soriano has been sidelined since May 14 with right elbow inflammation. . . . Martin missed another game due to back pain. He has now missed seven of the last eight games. Girardi said although Martin’s back is better, he will start him until Martin can tell him the back pain is gone. . . . Jeter will not travel with the Yankees on their road trip to Chicago and Cincinnati but, instead, he will go to Tampa, FL, to begin a rehab program for his strained right calf. Jeter is eligible to return to the roster on June 29.
The Yankees have already won the season series with the Rangers and they have won the first two games of this three-game set. They will go for the sweep on Thursday.
The Yankees will substitute Gordon for Bartolo Colon, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain. Gordon was 5-0 with an International League-best 1.14 ERA at Lehigh Valley. His only stint in the majors came with the Rangers in 2008. He gave up one run on four hits in four innings.
The Rangers will counter with left-hander C.J. Wilson (7-3, 3.09 ERA). Wilson is 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in his last four starts. Wilson has not faced the Yankees this season. Last season, he was 0-1 with a 5.65 ERA against them.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.