May 2009

Gardner-Bruney battle continues

Gardner is in trouble. With Bruney.

The two are obsessed with the Tiger Woods videogame. They play against each other all time. To the winner goes custody of a Tiger figurine.

When Bruney triumphs, he paints Tiger’s cap, shirt and shoes red. When Gardner prevails, he paints the cap, shirt and shoes green.

Yesterday, Gardner jumped the shark. He painted the entire figurine green. And he put thought into it — he asked a clubbie in Texas to purchase bright green paint and a small paintbrush. Then, he temporarily hid the mini-Tiger from Bruney.

By this morning, Bruney had seen it.

“He painted it like a two year old,” Bruney seethed. “Why did he have to paint the whole thing green? I’m done.”

With the videogame?

“No, with Gardner and the figurine,” Bruney said. “Ask him why he did it.”

Gardner was busy with the Big Buck Hunter Pro arcade game — our apologies for getting the name of the game wrong yesterday — when we were in the clubhouse, so Gardner’s comment on this controversy will have to come postgame or tomorrow.

By the way, sources indicate that Farnsworth owns a Big Buck Hunter Pro and keeps it at his home in Georgia. That’s perfect.

jeter300_053109.jpgDouble time for Jeter: 14-game hitting streak for the Captain and he didn’t waste any time. Jinx this!

Menu musings: Kay just asked the runner to go the concession stand for a slice of pizza. He talked Flaherty into ordering one, too. (Yesterday Kay went with his other staple, chicken fingers and fries.) Kay bought. The slices are huge! Kay usually will eat only the cheese. Today, he’s eating the entire slice. “I feel like treating myself,” he explained.

We ate room-service oatmeal at the hotel for breakfast, so we declined the pizza offer and also will skip The Hal Lebovitz Press Dining Room today.

Yes, to answer your questions, we pay for meals at every ballpark. Tampa is $6. Yankee Stadium and Toronto are $11. Texas and Cleveland are $10. All receipts wind up on expense reports.

In the NFL, teams don’t charge the media for food on gamedays. At least we don’t think any of them do. In fact, some — the Steelers, for sure — allow reporters to eat in the cafeteria during the week, alongside Dan Rooney.

A.J. the tutor: A.J. takes great interest in his teammates and how they’re doing, especially the pitchers. He has developed a particular fondness for Wang, and the two were in the outfield just before noon, getting some throwing in on flat ground.

A.J. finished first and stayed to watch Wang throw. Then, he stepped behind Wang and offered what appeared to be mechanical suggestions. He and Wang were discussing Wang’s grip on the sinker.

We’ll ask A.J. for more details, probably tomorrow.

Melky to return: Girardi expects Melky to be in the lineup tomorrow, after missing four games with the bruised shoulder. It might be Damon who gets a day off; he’s been sore since colliding with the wall/fence in Texas.

Posada and Teixeira now BFF

The visiting clubhouse in Cleveland is kind of like a mini arcade. There’s the Big Game Hunter Pro, aka the Kyle Farnsworth Game. Farnsworth never looked more comfortable than when he was playing that game. And rather scary with the play rifle in his hand. Ramiro Pena appears to have developed quite a fondness for the Farnsworth game. “I love it,” he said, while shooting.

mark_blog_053009.jpgThere’s a Nintendo game — an original — and a Cornhole bean bag game, which A.J. and Tomko played in the tunnel leading to the dugout. About an hour in, both were sweating.

Gardner and Bruney regularly do battle on a Tiger Woods video game. The winner gets custody of a Tiger figurine. Today, while sitting at his locker, Gardner painted the figurine green, then hid it from Bruney and swore a couple of us to secrecy. (The green paint on his fingertips might have been a giveaway.) After that, Gardner borrowed Joba’s laser and pointed the little red light at unsuspecting teammates.

Meanwhile, Bruney and CC — tonight’s starter — were playing a Nintendo baseball game on the big screen. (CC might have had more trouble with that game than he is with the Indians.)

And in Posada’s locker sat a framed back page of Newsday from May 17, 2006, when Teixeira — then a Ranger — barreled over Posada at home plate. Teixeira signed the paper, “To Jorge: Thanks for your forgiveness. Now we are best friends! Mark Teixeira”

The first-place Yankees are a fun bunch.

Another save by Mo: Last night, we walked with Mariano from the clubhouse to the team bus. We had to go through the Indians family room and up a flight of stairs. At the base of the steps, a young Cleveland player and his wife were struggling with their baby’s stroller. The player was holding their sleepy daughter and the wife couldn’t manage to lift the stroller on the steps. So Mariano did what a lot of people wouldn’t have — he carried the stroller up the stairs. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the Indians player and his wife. They were completely in awe. Mariano and the couple exchanged some words in Spanish and then he got on the bus.
 
Aces wild: Had a nice pregame chat with Aceves, who likes to show off a nasty cut on the base of the big toe on the bottom of his right foot. It’s gross. He says it’s not the slightest bit painful. Anyway, he loves his role, even thought it is not defined in any way. He says he wants to pitch every day, doesn’t care if he pitches three innings (as he did last night) or the eighth inning (Girardi likes Aceves’ versatility too much to limit him to one inning on a regular basis) or comes in as a long man (as he did when Joba was hit and left in the first inning against the O’s) or as a starter. He just wants to pitch and he doesn’t complain. He also says his shoulder feels better than ever and is amazed that he has no soreness whatsoever. Then he showed us the toe, so the conversation ended.

Swish-talk: Swisher reports that his dad, who is here, likes his Swish-hawk haircut and his stepmother absolutely loves it. “It’s so easy,” he said. “Just run some water through it, a little gel and it’s done.” He was also delighted when we passed along the message from Polly Tompkins. Delighted!

The Joba debate

One of the most common questions people ask is, What is your favorite road city?
After yesterday, an off day spent in captivity, we can safely say this in response: It’s not Cleveland.

kim_blog052909.jpgAs you would suspect, the players and coaches had a blast at the Magic-Cavs game. Team bonding is big, CC says, and he did his part, purchasing two suites for the night and handing out tickets to all of his buddies. Apparently, Ben Roethlisberger was the only celeb to receive more boos than Alex on the Jumbotron. (Or whatever they call those gigantic arena screens these days.) CC got a mixed response. (“I knew I’d hear some boos,” he said.) Brady Quinn was cheered, as was Jhonny Peralta. Eric Mangini couldn’t be captured by cameras; he was at the concession stand.

And Carl Pavano got a big ovation! Cleveland loves Carl!
 
More Joba: There is plenty of room for healthy debate when it comes to Joba’s best role on this team. Because this is a win-now group, because Joba has been electric as a reliever and because the Yankees need late-inning help, we believe he should be the bullpen. But there is a viable argument that it is better for Joba’s development — and for the Yankees — for him to remain in the rotation.

What we cannot stand is this: The idea that one side of the argument is wholly without merit. (And, therefore, dumb, stupid or idiotic.) That’s just not true. Men who know a heck of a lot more about baseball than we do — and some who reside in the Yankees clubhouse — fall on opposite sides of that discussion. And we don’t consider any of those guys “dumb,” “stupid” or “idiotic” — especially when it comes to baseball.

It’s actually a fun debate, one with clear sides, which we should have some day with, say, Peter Abraham, who is a staunch Joba-as-starter guy. In the meantime, we continue to remember Ozzie Guillen, who tends to call it like he sees it, saying last summer he’d much rather see Joba once every five days than every day of a series.
 
Dining room dish: The highlight of the $10-per press dining room in Cleveland is the ice cream, specifically the Moose Tracks variety. Flaherty had some, as did we. Kay had two burgers: “The worst burgers I’ve ever had,” he says. “No bun.”
“Joe Girardi Show” producer Jared Boshnack, who is here on assignment, orchestrated a trip to the main concourse, where we purchased a chicken sandwich and he opted for bratwurst. ($14 and that included an order of fries.) We both had lemonade. It almost seemed like summer. This was during the rain delay.
 
Jorge’s back: Posada returned and Cash was optioned. Many media reports indicated that Cash was out of options and would have to be designated for assignment. Girardi and Cashman — who would know — said that is untrue, so Cash was, indeed, sent down to Triple-A. Cervelli remains. That’s not a surprise, given the way Cervelli has impressed the pitchers and coaches as a quick study and great communicator — and very capable backstop — behind the plate.
 
Three more nights in Cleveland. We always judge road trips by the number of nights. Three more is a lot. We’ll probably pack tomorrow night, just for mental-health purposes. Let’s catch up again soon.

Hello from Arlington!

Flaherty’s first words to us today were these: “You have to update the blog.”
The man knows whereof he speaks.

Hello from Arlington, where little, tiny, light brown bugs are taking over the universe! But it’s not raining and there is no threat of rain, so no one’s complaining.
 
nick_052709.jpgSpeaking of not complaining: Guess who checked in via email? Polly! Wearing her perfectly pink do-rag, she visited us at Yankee Stadium last Wednesday and captivated the clubhouse. (Polly wrote that she was “VERY nervous.” We don’t believe her. LOL) She also wrote, “Words can’t even begin to express what the day meant to me. It was one surprise after another! … It was all just incredible! I don’t think I have ever smiled that much. I think Nick Swisher had a lot to do with that! His attitude and love for life is contagious!” Polly rocks! One reason we got along so well was because we both love exclamation points! Stay in touch, Polly. And keep fighting.
 
The return of Posada, (temporary) departure of Melky: Melky is day-to-day with a bruised right shoulder and is headed back to New York to see team doctor Chris Ahmad. If Ahmad believes Melky can be back within a week, Girardi says the Yankees can live with that. If not, Melky might be DL-bound and the Yanks would need to call up an outfielder. (And they might have to do something with Berroa one of these days.) Meanwhile, Posada will rejoin the team Friday, after catching five innings in Tampa today. But don’t expect Cervelli to go anywhere. At least not yet. The pitchers love him, which could create some interesting dynamics. Stay tuned.
 
Joba, Joba, Joba: Joba is a big kid who was fooling around in the clubhouse with a little laser that A.J. bought him at a gas station here. Seriously, a gas station. He got a kick — a big kick — out of pointing a red dot at unsuspecting teammates. Joba’s big personality extends to the mound, as we all know, but he just seems more natural in the 8th-inning than in the starting rotation. At least that’s our view. It would seem an athlete who can dominate at a position helps a team more than an athlete whose results are, so far, a mixed bag in another role. Obviously there are two sides to this, and both can make relevant points. But there are plenty of voices in the clubhouse who agree with us, but it’s a silent chorus. At the moment. (If Bruney’s flexor mass strain in his elbow leads to a long — or painful — absence, you might start to hear the chatter.)
 
Food fight: The press dining at Rangers Ballpark features chicken and pork tonight, along with a salad bar and (very) soft-serve ice cream. The zucchini was tasty. M&Ms made the ice cream better. And something tells us there will be a lot of food consumed on the team charter bound for Cleveland later tonight. On days like these, the will power wanes when the Twix bars are getting passed around. Sigh.
 
Coke and a slider? Coke was still disgusted with himself today for throwing a slider to Chris Davis last night. The ball wound up in the seats. “I threw a slider to a guy with slider bat speed,” were Coke’s words. “Right in his barrel.” We asked Coke if it reminded him of the slider Morneau deposited among Yankee Stadium fans. “No, that was a hanging slider,” Coke said. “I thanked Morneau for hitting that pitch – because that’s what it deserved.”
What?!?

“Yeah, I said thanks during BP the next day,” Coke said. “He just smiled and pointed at me.”

In his next outing Coke got Morneau to strike out on a series of fastballs away.”Tino Martinez told me to do that,” Coke said. “We were talking during BP and he said lefties at Yankee Stadium hate fastballs down and away because there’s nothing they can do with them.”

That Tino is full of advice.

“I like talking to him,” Coke said. “He knows the game, and he knows how the stadium plays.”
 
Since he mentioned Tino
: We’re still accepting a FEW more questions for the Tino Q&A. He’ll answer him during the Tampa series of the next homestand and we’ll post them. Like we did with O’Neill.

Memorial Day musings

Bruney-5-25-250.jpgIt’s been a while, huh? How are you on this Memorial Day?

Last homestand was a eventful one, wasn’t it? Four walk-offs, five pies in faces, two My9 games, a FOX telecast, a broken-bat home run and eight wins in 10 games.

Crazy.

Now we’re on the road and a day game is kinda nice today. A barbecue would be nicer, but we’re not complaining.

Bad news – actually, continuing bad news – for Bruney, who is back on the DL because his elbow just won’t cooperate. The MRIs have come back clean; Bruney suspects they’re missing something. He also says he’s disappointed and frustrated and has to figure out what’s going on. He said Sunday “it just felt wrong” while he was playing catch. That’s not good. And this is a guy who wants to pitch. So the bullpen will have to continue to weather the storm without its supposed 8th-inning guys, Bruney and Marte.

Alex is 2-for-2 and it looks like he’s getting into the swing of it, literally. They’ve always booed him here in Texas. The admission that he took performance-enhancing drugs while a Ranger doesn’t seem to be resonating with this crowd. They booed him more heartily in previous stops here. Plus, there are a lot of Yankees fans in the stands today.

Hughes did a great job getting out of the second. A grittier Hughes is a good sign.

Nady is scheduled to play in a simulated game of some sort in Tampa tomorrow. He’ll hit only. Posada, Molina and Ransom are also in Tampa; they’re not ready for any game action yet.

It’s hot here in Texas. They tell us we’ve arrived just in time for the muggy weather. And there are plenty of little bugs around. Terrific!

We’re digging the red hats for a one-day holiday thing. Hope you’re having yourselves a nice day.

Chat with Kimberly

What does Kimberly think of Peter Gammons’ recent comments about Yankee Stadium? Is she rooting for the Cavs or Magic? What’s the mood in the Yankees clubhouse? For answers to this and more, read the below chat transcript.

<a href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&task=viewaltcast&altcast_code=08a2815daa&#8221; >Kimberly Jones Chat, 5/22</a>

A brave young woman meets her heroes

Jeter-5-20-250.jpgA terrific pregame story today involved Yankees “honorary bat girl” Polly Tompkins. She is here as part of the MLB/Susan G. Komen for Cure effort to recognize baseball fans who are battling cancer.

Polly was very popular before the game. She’s a lifelong Yankees fan and met many players, including her crush, Jeter, after he took BP.

She leaned in toward the end of their chat and asked him for his phone number. (Love the spunk!) Jeter was smiling ear-to-ear and said, “I’ll get in trouble here. Maybe later.” (That means no, but he was very nice.)

During BP, Alex and Swisher went with Polly into the stands to greet the 100 or so friends and family members who made a four-hour bus trip from Candor, N.Y. That was absolutely incredible. We’ve never seen anything like it, two stars walking through the stands with the pink do-ragged Polly, going to greet her cheering contingent, most of whom were wearing pink T-shirts.

Reggie talked to Polly for a while, as did Damon and Mariano. (When Mariano walked toward her, Polly’s eyes got wide as baseballs. So cute.)

And just before the game, Polly was in the dugout, hanging with A.J. and Swisher. Which meant she was having a blast. She said she couldn’t believe “that I’m sitting here watching Nick Swisher stretch before a game!” Said A.J.: “All you need now is a pie in the face.”

Polly laughed, heartily. Then she threw out the ceremonial first pitch, caught by Swisher. Swisher’s grandmother died of brain cancer a few years ago. He’s always great in these spots. And Jason Zillo and Jason Latimer of the Yankees media relations department did a terrific job in making Polly’s day so special.

Polly Tompkins is a 38-year-old first-grade teacher who was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. She thought she beat it. The cancer came back last month, and she learned it had advanced to Stage 4. She usually spends Wednesdays receiving chemotherapy. This was a much better Wednesday.

We wish Polly the absolute best and hope today strengthened her spirit. She promised to update us regularly on her condition. She may call anytime. And we’ll pass on any message to Jeter.

Oops! Didn’t mean to forget Joba! Turns out he also went into the stands to meet Polly’s people. He hugged her mom. He told me after the game it was an awesome experience, something he believes players SHOULD do. And he does plan to stay in touch with Polly. Nice work, Joba.

And very cool of Swisher to give Polly the lineup card after the game. She was so psyched on the field. Just a terrific, terrific night.

In response to a couple of comments, I’ve not been fined by the Kangaroo Court. I think I’m out of that jurisdiction.

Saw Posada in the dugout, but not to talk to. His take on Cervelli would be interesting. There’s something about that kid.

What else did you ask me? I can’t remember. Short game tonight! Woo-hoo!

It’s My9 again tomorrow, strangely, but we’ll try to check in.

Decision on Wang could come Thursday

Wang-5-20-250.jpgHughes just had a great first inning, which he needed. A decision could be coming tomorrow on Wang; perhaps the Yankees didn’t want to make an announcement prior to Hughes’ start. Girardi says they see Hughes as a starter, which would seem to suggest he’ll go back to AAA, not to the bullpen, when Wang is activated. (Cone mentioned on the broadcast Monday that he could see Hughes as a reliever.)

Girardi says they’ll slot Wang in as soon as he’s ready. The question is, is he ready? The velocity and sinker aren’t where they need to be, apparently because of lingering issues from the lisfranc injury last June.

Lisfrancs are tricky injuries. Bruney, like Wang, declined to have surgery and is fine. Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck both lost part of the 2006 Giants football season to lisfranc sprains; Tuck had surgery, Strahan did not. (Strahan said if he had required surgery, he would have retired. He’s awfully glad he didn’t.) Tuck wound up limping through the end of last season with bone spurs in his foot, which he said were a result of the lisfranc two years earlier.

Anyway, Wang’s leg strength was a problem while he was giving up a million runs a start. But part of this just has to be the mental hurdle of getting over such an injury, trusting your right (push-off) foot and relearning to pitch without favoring the formerly injured part of your body. The way the Yankees are playing these days, you would think time is one their side when it comes to making sure Wang is right before bringing him back.

Nady took limited BP today and could go on a rehab assignment when the Yankees leave town Sunday. Nady had other duties as well, serving as stenographer for the Kangaroo Court, which convened at 3:15 p.m., lasted an hour and included everyone from players and coaches to trainers and pr folks.

Mariano was the judge; the jury was comprised of Jeter, Damon and A.J. Rob Thomson was fined for pushing Swisher back to third base to avoid a pickoff in Baltimore. (Turns out, that’s not legal in MLB or in Kangaroo Court.) Alex was fined for missing the start of the season; so were the others who didn’t begin the year with the big club.

Players who’ve been around long enough to know said it was the first Kangaroo Court since 1995. Fun times, especially when you’ve won seven in a row.

Melvin Mora was raving about Cervelli, his fellow Venezuelan, today. He said he kept waiting for CC to shake off Cervelli last night, “and he NEVER did!” Mora said. “The kid is good.” Cervelli says he was 5 when he first watched Mora play in Venezuela – that’s nice – and that Mora was his “idol.”

Speaking of (American) Idol, how much do Brian Roberts and Kris Allen look alike? Jeter’s been wearing Roberts out over their likeness since the WBC.

Musings from north of the border

In response to one of your comments, we talked to Aceves and Girardi about the reliever’s role. Girardi says, yes, he would be interested in using Aceves — and Coke when he’s healthy again — for two-inning appearances. If those two continue to pitch well, it would be an obvious help in building the bridge to Mariano.

Aceves, however, told us he couldn’t do that every time out. Two consecutive games of two innings of work would likely be his limit. Then, he said, he’d need at least a day off. Even today, Aceves said, his shoulder is a bit sore – just normal soreness – after pitching two scoreless innings last night.

So it’s something that’s possible at times, just not every time. Good question.

It’s getaway day, which means everyone is hoping beyond hope for a quick game. It’s also “Ladies Night Out” here at Rogers Centre. Yee-hah!

As we write this, Leiter is rolling his chair over his jacket. Repeatedly. Now he realizes it and is staring down at the blue jacket, which is rather dusty. Especially one of the sleeves. The inning just ended, and Leiter is worrying about having to wear the jacket on postgame and looking dirty. This is the stuff from the booth you don’t see.

Last night’s game went three hours, nine minutes. None of the Blue Jays previous five games lasted longer than 2:34. For whatever that’s worth.

Leiter just asked if we’re writing about him. Yes. We’re also wondering what happened to the Mike and Ike’s.

Swisher’s haircut is creating waves in the clubhouse. It looks a bit like someone took lawnmower blades to his head. Actually, he went to A.J.’s stylist in Toronto – which is another story unto itself. Anyway, in the near future, we will have a Swisher InnerView on “Batting Practice Today presented by Audi” and you’ll get an up-close-and-personal look at his hair. We’ll try to give you a heads up. That should be entertaining.

So Jeter’s back, as is Matsui. Bruney should return within a week. Coke could be available tomorrow. Nady plans to swing a bat in the cage tomorrow. Girardi says it’s too early to forecast a return date for either Posada or Molina; Posada is in Tampa, but not yet playing games, and Molina remains in New York.

That’s today’s injury update, brought to you by Benadryl. Or whatever allergy medication we’re taking today.

 Leiter just said he didn’t buy more Mike and Ike’s. He also said he read the blog – really, he read it! – and was amused that Mike and Ike’s are so popular. Keep reading, Al. And bring those Mike and Ike’s next time. :)

Tomorrow will be Alex’s first game at Yankee Stadium. Something tells us he’ll be very happy to see the home fans after some of the treatment he’s received here and in Baltimore. Sources say the Toronto fans – particularly on Tuesday — have been as unruly as any the Yankees have seen in a while. They were throwing coins into the Yankees bullpen and yelling all kinds of vulgarities. And we thought Canadians were a gentle sort.

Young guns are coming up big

Pena-5-13-250.jpgWe had no idea Mike and Ikes were so popular! Can’t wait to tell Leiter.

So Rogers Communications is the parent company of the Blue Jays. Hence, Rogers Centre. And Rogers Communications specializes in wireless services. So, isn’t it ironic that Rogers Centre is the one ballpark where the wireless internet isn’t reliable?

Talked to Bruney before the game. Saw him after it. In between, he shaved his head. Completely. He’s got a very white dome.

It’s a great night for the Yankees when Gardner, Pena and Cervelli are coming up with big hits and RBIs. Cervelli has adjusted pretty quickly and surpassed even his own expectations so far. He could be a very nice story.

During postgame, I called Kenny “Michael” and Girardi seemed to refer to Halladay as “A.J. Burnett.” We’re a wacky group. And it’s only May 13.

Coke said after the game that his back was starting to feel better. He said he went into a crouch just before stretch on Tuesday and felt his back lock up. (What is it with stretch? Posada said he initially felt his hamstring pull during stretch on that Sunday night in Boston.) Coke has been getting treatment and isn’t sure if he’ll be available tomorrow. In fact, he sounded like he doubted he would be. But he said it shouldn’t be too much longer. At least he hopes not.

Girardi says a 4-2 road trip would be an accomplishment, given the injury situation. The Yankees have that chance tomorrow with CC on the mound.

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