June 2009

In-game musings

Johan-6-14-(2)-250.jpgIt’s a good thing Bruney returns Tuesday from the DL. He’s been so bored, he decided to pick on Francisco Rodriguez.

And it’s a good thing the Yankees have a day off tomorrow. When these days off at home roll around, you always get the feeling that every single player and coach is in need of a little break.

Not to mention the rest of us.

 

Johan Santana: Who wants to bet the Yankees will have more success against him today than they did against Nieve yesterday? (Full disclosure: Cano is currently on third with one out in the second inning.)

 

Mariano Rivera: A reader, or two, has asked about Mariano in non-save situations. When we asked him for Friday’s postgame about the difference in those spots, he said he honestly doesn’t know but wishes he did. And he kind of smiled and shook his head as he said it. Like he’s as befuddled as anyone about the disparity in his results. Mariano has coverted 13 consecutive regular-season save opportunities against the Mets.

 

Al Leiter: Doesn’t bring Mike & Ikes to the booth anymore. Which is sad.

 

Chien Ming-Wang: Pete Abraham, who is an expert on Wang, says the birth of a child is said to bring good luck in Chinese culture. No doubt, Wang needs good luck — and a good outing Wednesday. Cashman said today that Wang has to attack hitters, trust his stuff and get back to pitching to contact, which means trusting his defense too. And if he doesn’t have success against the Nationals? Cashman said he, Eiland and Girardi will have another meeting. And this time, they probably won’t decide to give him another start — not with the way Hughes has been pitching.

 

Francisco Cervelli: A bloop single gets the Yankees on the board against Santana. It’s no surprise Cervelli is catching A.J., who just doesn’t pitch well with Posada behind the plate. (7.48 ERA in four starts with Posada. 3.81 in eight starts with Molina or Cash.)

 

Derek Jeter: An RBI single by the Captain, 2-0 Yankees. Funny how Nieve looked like a Cy Young Award winner yesterday and Santana is having to battle today. Damon with a two-run single, 4-0 Yankees. Santana doesn’t look like Santana, does he?

 

Michael Kay: He tries to fool all of us with a plate of watermelon in front of him. “Oh, you’re eating healthy?” Cone asked. “Now I am,” Kay replied. “I had pancakes and bacon earlier.” And he just reached into his bag for an Atkins bar.

Audrey the Stage Manager reports that she had ice cream for breakfast. Yes, we are all obsessed with food.

Kay just complained that the blog is an “invasion of my privacy.” He’s lying. He loves the attention. And he’s drinking Diet Pepsi for the first time in a month and he’s all fired up. (“Blog that!” he says. We will!) Maybe he’s trying to compete with Leiter and his Red Bull.

By the way, Kay had the pancakes dry, no syrup. “Never syrup!” he yelled during a commercial break. “That would bastardize the pancakes.” Really, he’s an interesting guy, isn’t he?

One last shot for Wang

wang_250.jpgJust after our pregame pop, AJ and Wang walked into the dugout together. Wang was smiling and carrying a large cup of peanuts. He knows Wednesday is his last chance to show he should stay in the rotation; before Girardi told the media that, he told it to Wang.

So begins a life-altering six-day stretch for Wang, whose wife will have labor induced Tuesday, if necessary. They are expecting their first child, a son.

And then Wang will start the following night against the Nationals, a team that struggles mightily but can put runs on the board, to prove he still has it.

Given that some Yankees coaches and players are convinced Wang’s troubles stem from waning — or completely shot — confidence, it sets up this dynamic: He will take the mound knowing he has to perform but not necessarily believing he can perform.

As for what’s next if Wang doesn’t perform, it’s probably back to the bullpen, given he has no options left. Unless he winds up on the DL again.

“One of the nicest guys”:
For what it’s worth, and that might be a lot, Wang has plenty of support among his teammates. Cano tells us that Wang is “a great guy, one of the nicest guys in this room,” meaning the visiting mini-clubhouse at Fenway. “I always tell him to keep his head up, but that’s hard to do when you’re not the player you expect yourself to be.”

Over the next few days, Mariano will seek out Wang for a heart-to-heart. It might not be a long conversation, but Mariano is putting thought into what he will say. Mariano will express to Wang, as he did to us, that “I expect him to turn it around, and that I want the best for him.”

His teammates can impart wisdom and faith, but it will ultimately be up to Wang to take the mound with the confidence of years past. At this point, he has no choice.

Tiger tale: Bruney, who will make a rehab appearance Saturday and could return Tuesday, currently has custody of the Tiger Woods figurine, having defeated Gardner in their regular Tiger Woods video game battles. “Now she’s going to blog that,” Gardner told Bruney and other teammates. Thanks for reading, Brett!

Good stuff:
CC will visit with 8th-graders tomorrow at Elizabeth Barrett Browning Middle School in the Bronx. The school made dramatic improvement in NY state exams, and this is a reward. CC will take questions from the 170 students. No doubt he’s hoping one of them is, “How did you beat the Red Sox last night?”

And Gardner will return to NY-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital to reunite with 18-year-old heart transplant recipient Alyssa. When the two met May 15 at a hospital event, Alyssa gave Gardner a bracelet and told him he would hit a home run as long as he kept it. Hours later, he hit an inside-the-park home run. And Alyssa, who had been waiting 107 days for her transplant, received a lifesaving heart transplant the next day.

Is it June 11?
Really? It’s cold again here in Boston. Kay just asked Anita the Stage Manager for a hot tea with two Sweet ‘N Lows. “I don’t make talent mix their own drinks,” Anita said, explaining why Kay receives the tea already sweetened.

Kay will order another tea or two before the game ends. He had pizza before the game; two full slices, not just the cheese.

We also had pizza, some salad, diet coke.

Flaherty is drinking coffee “with a little bit of milk,” Anita reports. “And Kenny has hot tea.” No Sweet ‘N Low? “Nothing,” Anita shrugs. “Straight up.”

Kenny just ordered tea with Sweet ‘N Low. Maybe Kay is rubbing off on him. Anita is appropriately shocked.

“This is the first time in three days,” she says.

Coming up:
There’s been scarcely any Subway Series talk in the visiting clubhouse, given that most of the attention has been on the Red Sox series. But tomorrow should be fun. If it’s 80 degrees, it’ll be even more fun. Maybe Tino will be in town!

Birthday wishes and Boston fans

Who’s the AccuWeather guy on our pregame? Haven’t seen him. Maybe we should ask him why they always get forecasts wrong. Or why it feels like March in October.

Or maybe we should just leave the poor guy alone and worry about blogging.

(By the way, this is last night’s post being posted this morning. Not sure what happened with the exchange last night. Catch you later today.)
 
No Beantown blues: One of you asked how the media is treated in Boston. Like dogs! Just kidding. The reporters mostly get along. (Some of the NY writers don’t exactly love each other, but that has nothing to do with Boston.) The players seem to get along. (Everyone in baseball talks to Big Papi during batting practice and the Yankees players are no exception.) The fans sometimes yell vile/nasty things, but that’s life. Boston is no different than any other place. Generally speaking, fans — and especially some callers to sports talk radio — have more venom than players or members of the media do.
 
On the menu: So everyone wishes Kenny a very Happy Birthday! Kenny had a nice lunch with his wife, whose blog “Mrs. Singy: Married to Baseball” is also available for your perusal on this site.

Besides Kenny’s chocolate cake, which is being cut as we write, dinner in the press dining room dinner included grilled chicken, peas and mac and cheese. Pretty healthy, particularly the chicken. So Kay went with ice cream for dinner. Flaherty had chicken and pizza; we had chicken, peas and mac and cheese. (We ate separately; no one likes to wait until after my pregame pop to eat with me. Well, actually, O’Neill does sometimes.) The Boston press dining is making a comeback this series. Much better than when we were here in April, when it was uncharacteristically slumping.
 
Speaking of slumps: The Boston fans are giving a clinic in how to treat a struggling superstar. They cheered Ortiz for flying out to deep center. The ball went to the deepest part of the park, but Ortiz walked off the field with his head hung.

And with the fans — some of whom were standing — cheering him.
 
Can Wang get right? The Red Sox scouting report on Wang indicated that he isn’t the old Wang, neither in command nor in velocity. Turns out, it was right as, for the second night in a row, the Yankees starter went two and 2/3. Not exactly what Girardi was hoping for.

Weather, Yanks foggy at Fenway

There is nothing like a 53-degree, misty, foggy evening on June 9 in Boston, is there? Really, it’s a shock that they’re even playing this game, given the weather forecast.

Imagine that, the weather folks were wrong. At least about the intensity of the rain.

Tomko, who is from San Diego, sat in the dugout for a while during the pre-game rain and said he loves days like this. Go figure.

hughes250_060909.jpgExtra heat: Hughes’ velocity reached 95 last night in a perfectly executed inning of relief. The adrenaline is different coming in as a reliever — Mariano and Coke agreed on that point — and it helped that Hughes was working on seven days rest.

Pettitte said Hughes’ fastball had movement similar to Mariano’s. Hughes smiled when told that and said, “It’s good to have anything compared to him.”

Hughes’ attitude and approach have been tremendous since he was removed from the rotation and his veteran teammates have noticed.

The Yankees will have a decision to make soon on Hughes. He is their sixth starter, and they have no one in Triple A they would want to make a start should they need a spot starter, or a starter for any duration.

Therefore, they need Hughes to be available in a pinch as a starter. If he continues to impress out of the pen, that becomes a tougher decision. Obviously.

What about Wang? And that makes Wang’s start tomorrow night very important and pretty darn intriguing, given the competition. Wang told us before the game he believes he is ready for the Red Sox and that his last outing was a confidence-builder; he was in fine form through 50 or so pitches.

Wang and his wife are expected their first child any day. He said he’s excited but also nervous. You get the feeling Wang has had a lot on his mind in recent weeks.

New York vs. Boston: The Yankees have surpassed the Red Sox in one ultra-important area this season — the quality of press dining. The Yankees really stepped it up in the new stadium, adding a bunch of culinary options on a nightly basis, unbelievable desserts (which, thankfully, do not tempt us) and now the soft-serve ice cream (which does).

Boston always offers pizza and soup, so it continues to trump the Yankees in those areas. And has Red Sox logos on its dinner plates and napkins. The Yankees go with plastic plates and plain brown napkins.

Anyway, in a strange coincidence, the Boston press dining room featured roast beef, mashed potatoes and broccoli tonight, just as the Yankees press dining room did last night. Maybe the Red Sox are now scouting opposing dining rooms.

So, the guys ate dinner in the dining room while we were fulfilling post-game responsibilities from the dugout.

Or at least two of them did.

“Popcorn and coffee,” Flaherty said, when asked his dinner selections. “I didn’t get invited to dinner.”

“I had prime rib and broccoli,” Kay said. “And a slice of pizza. And I ate the crust! And two cups of hot tea.”

(He loves when we write about him.)

“Prime rib and broccoli,” Kenny reported. “But, I added mashed potatoes.”

By the way, Kenny is the one who usually is in the gym by 7 a.m. He can eat what he wants.

Kay kash: Speaking of the gym, we saw Kay there around 11:30 this morning. (The gym, which is adjacent to the hotel, costs $15 per day. It’s unclear whether that is a reimbursable expense at the YES Network.) He was finishing up on the stationary bike. After his workout and presumably a shower, Kay got his hair cut in the salon next to the gym: $50 cut, $20 tip. He must’ve really, uh, liked his hairdresser.
 

From Rays of light to Boston bound

hughes_250.jpgLooking for Tino is like trying to find Waldo. We’ve given up. For now.

Hughes responds:
Because you wanted an update, we asked Hughes about his blog. His sheepish response: “It’s on standby.” Tomko, who overheard our conversation, offered this to his teammate: “You’ve got to start Twittin’ or something!” Hughes laughed.

What about the pits?
At one point late in the Sunday game, after we’d blogged, Kay was eating a bowl full of cherries, which he said were provided by Mia from the suites. Kay with a bowl full of cherries was amusing.

Bronx Bombers Sundae: Kay and (to a lesser extent) Cone are digging into pints of Turkey Hill ice cream as we write this. When Cone’s talking, Kay’s eating by the spoonful. For dinner, Kay and some others in our crew ordered out from Yolanda’s; he had chicken parmesan. Cone’s dinner: four cups of coffee (so far) and a piece of chocolate.

The press dining room featured awesome roast beef and mashed potatoes. Sadly, we pigged out. Audrey the Stage Manager is disappointed. “There weren’t mashed potatoes when I was in there,” she said. Sometimes, all we talk about it food.

Swish and chips:
The Swisher “Innerview” has been added to the blog. That’s a good job by internet guru Kevin Sullivan, who will be delighted that Kay and Cone just discussed this blog on the broadcast. Sullivan loves when that happens. So, thanks guys!

Ray of light:
The Rays don’t exactly have a long and storied history, but it’s worth noting that Longoria is trying to become the first Ray to be selected by fans to the All-Star Game and to start in the game. (Jose Canseco was voted in by fans in 1999 as DH but didn’t play in the game because of back surgery.) By last week’s count, Longoria was third in the overall voting, behind Pujols and Utley and just ahead of Jeter. New vote totals should be announced tomorrow.

We’re going to catch up with Longoria during the next Yankees-Rays series (in seven weeks) for an “Innerview.” Upton pinch hit today because Longoria was having pregame treatment on his hamstring. And Upton showed up 10 minutes early for the spot. That’s a great job by him.

Boston bound:
A quick road trip awaits. Should be a fascinating three games in Boston, beginning with Burnett-Beckett. Let’s hope the forecasted rain doesn’t screw it up. The Yankees are looking for their first win against the Sox this season, but this is a different Yankees team than the one Boston last saw. A reminder, Jeter is joining us tomorrow on “Batting Practice Today presented by Audi.”
 

Bruney back soon?


Bruney-6-7-250.jpg
Hey there! Still looking for Tino but as one of you mentioned in the comments, maybe it’s even better to catch up with him after the draft and get his thoughts on the players the Yankees select.

Phil blogged down: In March, when we originally told Hughes that we were joining him in the blogosphere, he responded: “You can have my blog.” So, yes, he knows he’s neglecting it. We’ll check with him again.


Mo tied up: In answer to a couple of you — yes, the numbers indicate that Mariano isn’t the same in tie games, but he’s always said his approach is no different than save situations and that he feels no different in tie games. We’ll check in with him again on that, maybe tomorrow, but we’re guessing he’ll stick with those responses.

Bruney back soon? Bruney threw his bullpen today – 15 fastballs, sat for four minutes, 15 more fastballs – and said he felt great, as good as ever. Girardi wanted to see him throw changeups; Bruney said next time. He’s probably no more than 10 days away if everything goes well.

Omelet Sunday: They serve made-to-order omelets in the press dining room on days like this. And they even have egg whites. Awesome! Kay had bacon and fruit, probably a burger, and definitely ice cream. A swirl, no toppings. The ice cream is going to be very difficult to resist all season, which is going to be a problem. For us for sure, maybe for Kay.

Swish-a-licious: Glad some of you enjoyed the Swisher interview. He’s a hoot. We did the interview – or “Innerview” – while Girardi was meeting the media at the other end of the dugout. When we finished the interview, we looked over and Girardi and the reporters were staring at us, laughing. Guess we were a bit loud. Or, more accurately, Swisher was a bit loud. His energy is contagious!

Just to let you know: We are planning to interview Longoria tomorrow for “Batting Practice Today presented by Audi.” If he’s still out of the lineup, we might have to go to Plan B. And Jeter has committed to doing Tuesday’s Interview from Boston. That night, we have the BP show, pregame and postgame on YES, with the game on My9.

Catching up in Yankeeland


Hughes-6-6-250.jpgHas anyone in the history of blogging been more neglectful? We have to fix that!

Since we last worked a full day at the stadium – May 24 – a lot has changed. Well, one thing has changed, but it’s big. They added a soft-serve ice cream machine to the press dining room. Sources say O’Neill really enjoyed it; he went with the chocolate-vanilla swirl, no toppings. Every day.

 

Paging Tino Martinez: Okay, so this is the series where we plan to ask Tino your questions. Your questions are great. But we can’t find Tino! He’s expected here Tuesday for the draft; hopefully he’ll come in a day or two early. If not, we’ll get your answers the next time we see him.

 

Hughes in the pen: Hughes says he’s ready to do whatever the Yankees ask, and he’s available out of the pen from now until the foreseeable future. If Wang is right for a couple of starts, Hughes could return to AAA as a starter, to keep his arm strength so he’s ready should the Yankees need a starter at some point.

 

Courage for Life: You might remember an Innerview we did late last June with John Challis, an 18-year-old from the Pittsburgh area who died of cancer Aug. 19. He remains an inspiration through the foundation he started not long before he died. Courage for Life Foundation grants wishes of high school athletes who have life-threatening illnesses; for more info check the Web site.

John’s parents and sister, Lexie, were here today. Girardi greeted them, as did Alex; Mr. Challis still marvels at the flower arrangement Alex sent to the funeral home. And Joe Maddon has a T-shirt that bears one of his slogans, the proceeds from which go to John’s foundation.

A short story: Alex called John a couple of weeks before his death and they chatted for a bit. Then John said, “Well, I have to go. One of my friends just got here.” Mr. Challis laughed in relaying those words. (How many teenagers cut short a call from Alex Rodriguez?) “That was John,” he said. “He treated everybody the same.”

 

Hitting the Mark: Girardi, on Teixeira, who had an awful April and a marvelous May, which is continuing into June: “His demeanor’s been the same the whole way throughout. That’s one of the things that’s impressed me.”

 

Bruney ball: Bruney will throw another bullpen tomorrow, one that will simulate a two-inning stint. He will throw 15 pitches, sit down and throw 15 more. After Bruney and the Yankees gauge how he feels Monday, they will know his next step. For now, both parties are taking a cautious approach. Bruney, on the DL for the second time with a strained flexor mass in his right elbow, won’t commit to a timeframe for his return. “I tried that the last time and probably rushed myself,” he says. “I’m just going to go whenever (I’m ready).”

 

Price is right: Rays teammate James Shields says of David Price, “He definitely has ‘it.’ He has that good arrogance that I think all baseball players have to have to succeed.” Price’s pregame demeanor on the day he pitches is somewhat like CC’s. Both lefties will say hello to reporters, chat with teammates and generally appear to remain pretty relaxed.

 

REX! Jets coach Rex Ryan is here today. We called him “intimidating” on the pregame. He’s actually very friendly and easy to talk to. We probably should have described him as “not easily intimidated.” Whatever. The important thing is, Rex has committed to appearing on “This Week in Football” this fall on YES. Which puts him ahead of the Mangini pace already.

 

Pass the popcorn: We were lucky enough to be invited by the Giants to their practice facility Thursday for a screening of “The Taking of Pelham 123,” due in theaters June 12. (Giants co-owner Steve Tisch is producer.) It rocks! Denzel and Travolta are terrific. So is the new facility. The Giants did a really nice job with it; it’s bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside. And it definitely trumps that practice bubble they’ve been using for years. (John Mara appreciated that assessment when we shared it with him.)

The theater where the movie was shown will be used for film study. There are no cup holders attached to the seats. And the movie started five minutes early. No kidding.

The weight room is as enormous as you would expect. Rumor has it, coach Tom Coughlin is doing personal two-a-days. His first workout ends by 6 a.m. and he goes back for another in the afternoon.

Good news for Giants fans: Brandon Jacobs was the first player we saw and he appears leaner than ever. He says he’s lost eight pounds. He looks like he could play a game today. And run over a bunch of people. The Giants are delighted with him.

 

Speaking of food…: Following Kay’s lead, we ate a burger today but, unlike him, we added a bun and tomato. Kay also had bacon, grapes and watermelon. Something tells me soft-serve ice cream is in the near future.

 

Still paging Tino Martinez. Please pick up the white courtesy phone.

See ya, Cleveland!

gardner_250.jpgIn a few short hours, there will be universal happiness on the Yankees charter flight when we take off, leaving behind our five days in Cleveland.

Bruney takes Tiger:
Brian Bruney and Brett Gardner resumed their Tiger Woods video game battles last year, with Bruney winning. So Bruney has custody of the Tiger figurine until the next road trip; they play only on the road. Bruney already repainted Tiger, with a red shirt, cap and shoes and silver pants. Gardner had angered Bruney on Sunday morning by painting Tiger in head-to-toe green.

“Yeah, he was upset,” an unrepentant Gardner said. “I knew he would be. That’s why I did it.”

In Cornhole bean-bag game news, Brett Tomko went undefeated in five sweat-producing games against A.J. over the past two days. But today, Tomko split two games with Phil Coke, who said he had “no idea what I’m doing” before throwing his first bean bag.

Dining news: The Hal Lebovitz Press Dining Room stepped up today, easily the best meal of the series: grilled chicken, rice, veggies, chicken noodle soup. Worth the $10.

As a follow-up to those of you who looked too deeply for a salacious meaning in our report yesterday that “we ate room-service oatmeal at the hotel for breakfast…” — we can assure you, “we” is “I.” We just prefer the royal “we.” We really loathe the overuse of “I,” especially in print. It’s just tedious.

By the way, Flaherty treated tonight, buying Kay some chicken fingers and fries and himself a burger and fries. The cost: $19.50 for everything. Not bad.

Suffering a setback:
With the news that Jose Molina “felt something” in his strained quad while running to first base in Tampa, the Yankees will “back off and be smart” with Molina, according to Brian Cashman. Cashman doesn’t believe Molina re-tore anything, but he probably will have another MRI to make sure. Cashman agrees that the Yankees are very lucky Francisco Cervelli has been beyond capable as replacement. Instead of possibly seeing Molina this week, it’ll be awhile.

Meanwhile, Xavier Nady plans to throw tomorrow after feeling some soreness in his elbow while throwing for the first time today. While Joe Girardi termed this a setback, Cashman was more optimistic, saying they expected Nady to “feel something,” just as he did when he first swung a bat. Cashman suggested this was normal and that Nady will proceed as expected. Obviously, they’ll know more tomorrow.

Bye-bye Big Buck: The Yankees will miss at least one thing from Cleveland – the Big Buck Hunter Pro game that many of them played over the past four days. They’ll probably get over it.

Funny guy, that Pavano: Bruney, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter were among the former teammates who greeted Carl Pavano as he left the Indians clubhouse yesterday, congratulating him on a fine outing. Said a smiling Pavano today: “I’m a 90-pitch pitcher now.” He should not have come out of that game.

See ya Friday: We are taking our first series off over the next three days and have lots to do. (The bosses insist we take time off. We’re slightly paranoid about their insistence, but we mostly take it in stride.) We’ll try to check in a few times between now and the start of the Rays’ series Friday. On Friday, we’ll track down Tino Martinez and ask him your questions. In the meantime, Gordon Damer (the Fantasy Gamer) will fill in Cervelli-style — more than capably! Have a great week!