July 2009

An end to the first half, looking forward to the second

In three hours, the Yankees will disperse in many directions, with most coaches and players going to their offseason homes and three Yankees heading to St. Louis. There are a bunch of people hoping to not do a whole lot over the next four days. A four-day All-Star break is big. We’ll be on WFAN from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. this week with Adam the Bull. Yes, we’ll try to blog a bit during the week. And, no, Twitter won’t be happening anytime soon.

Phil Hughes: We can’t help you with posting the Innerview. Really, we just don’t know how. But, Internet Guru Kevin Sullivan reads this blog. Hopefully, we’ll get back to posting those Innerviews here for those of you who, for some reason, miss our “Batting Practice Today presented by Audi.”

abreu250_071209.jpgBobby Abreu: He seems to enjoy playing against the Yankees, huh? But not as much as Howie Kendrick, who mystified the Angels with his awful start to the season but has hit the Yankees. Of course.

Chone Figgins: He’ll be a free agent after the season. It would be interesting to see how the free market assesses his value. He’s just perfect for the Angels.

Joba Chamberlain:
Had a nice pre-game chat at his locker. His frame of mind is good. He truly believes he’ll have a strong second half. (Then again, what’s he going to say?) He figures a few quiet days at home in Nebraska will do him good.

Eric Hinske:
He’s fitting in quite nicely. After he was acquired in a trade, a bunch of Yankees, perhaps chiefly Damon, were absolutely certain he’d make a strong contribution. Two starts — and three home runs — in, they seem to be correct. It’ll be interesting if Girardi can keep all of his outfielders happy — Hinske makes five for three spots — if all of them continue to play well.

Sergio Mitre:
His eight scoreless innings for AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre have to make him the odds-on favorite to start against the Orioles a week from Tuesday. He struck out five and walked none and, unlike Aceves, starting Mitre won’t tax the bullpen for days. Or shouldn’t.

Mark Teixeira: Overheard at his locker today, a reporter asking Teixeira, “When did you know you could bring the thunder?” Teixeira’s response: “What does that mean?” The reporter, who isn’t a regular on the Yankees beat: “Swing the bat.” Teixeira then answered.

The All-Star break is coming at a good time. We’ll look forward to mixing in some Q&As with players and coaches in the second half. This initial run with the blog has been fun, if a bit of a work in progress. As always, thanks for reading.

Observations from Minnesota

The Yankees really do bring out the worst in the Twins, don’t they? A few quick notes as the Yankees conclude their time at the Metrodome and near the All-Star break:

Alfredo Aceves: How do you quantify how valuable he has become? Truly a jack of all trades, which is a supreme compliment for a pitcher. A great read about him by Tyler Kepner in today’s New York Times. Interesting that his preparation sets him apart.

A.J. Burnett: His All-Star break kind of started after last night’s start, but he was at the dome at 7:30 this morning and running steps soon after. And after his start last night, A.J. made a point of seeking out Francisco Cervelli before he left. What did A.J. say? He offered encouraging words and thanked the young catcher.

Bob Lorenz: To answer Lorenz’s question, today is a strange food day. Because it still seems pretty darn early. Kenny reports he had oatmeal at the hotel. Coincidentally, so did we, via room service. The writers are raving about the carved turkey sandwich, sold at a concession stand just steps from the press box. We’re afraid turkey would put us to sleep.

Metrodome: Joe Nathan says the Twins will miss the climate control of the dome and “knowing how much you’ll sweat.” He toured Target Field, the Twins new park, which will open next season, and was very impressed. The Yankees outfielders won’t miss the roof of the dome, which turns some fly balls into an interesting proposition. Johnny Damon wasn’t exactly broken up about having today off. 

Saying goodbye is the hardest part …

Cervelli-7-9-250.jpgWhen Ramiro Pena was sent down to AAA, he was smiling and happy, a young guy who knew he needed to play every day, believed he had played well and hopes he’ll return to the majors Sept. 1.

Today, it was slightly different with Francisco Cervelli. Yes, he knows he performed better than anyone anticipated with Posada and then Molina going on the DL at the beginning of May. Yes, he is happy with the way he played and contributed and caught veteran pitchers who rave about him. And yes, he knows how great a defensive catcher Molina is and he respects that.

Yet there was sadness with Cervelli, who said he didn’t think we could possibly understand how much the past two months have meant to him. “The most important time in my life,” he said. “You don’t know how much I enjoyed every day here.”

Over the past two months, his parents visited New York for the first time and loved it. They were in town during the Subway Series at Citifield. Cervelli introduced them to everyone he could on the team bus.

He marveled at catching Mariano. “You could catch him in your sleep,” he said, closing his eyes and shaking his head. “The best.”

And he appreciated so much the relationship he developed with CC and A.J. “CC was always great,” Cervelli said. “I love that guy. It gave me confidence to know the confidence he had in me.”

Said CC, “He did an unbelievable job. I hate to see him go.”

Added Cervelli: “A.J. was great, too. When I watched A.J. (before being called up), I would say, ‘Let me catch him.’ He has such nasty stuff. He makes hitters look so bad.”

Cervelli will take a flight back East tomorrow morning. He knew the time was coming when he would be sent down, as soon as Molina was ready. “I might cry a little in my hotel room, and I don’t cry often,” he said, sitting in front of his locker during a long pregame chat. “But my mom always told me to have fun in whatever I do. So I’ll go to AAA and have fun. I’ll be back. I know I’ll be back. And I’ll bring Pena with me.”

Laura Posada: Jorge’s wife is featured in a TV show that debuts tonight – “True Hollywood Story: Baseball Wives” at 10 p.m. on E!. She is thrilled. “They followed me for a week!” she told us. We asked Jorge if he was excited. “Uh, yeah,” he said with a smile. “But not as excited as she is.” Set your DVRs.

Jose Molina: It seems like an awfully long time since he went on the DL May 8. Particularly for Molina. “It’s awesome to put on the uniform and be back on the field again,” he said. “It took a lot of hard work, but it’s great to be back.” He’ll catch one of the games this weekend, against the Angels, his former team.

Joe Nathan: The Twins closer is an All-Star again and looks forward to picking Mariano’s brain at the midsummer classic. They have mutual respect. As many pitchers do, Nathan will ask about the cutter. “I hear it’s hard to teach,” Nathan said. “The repetition probably just comes so naturally for him.” But Nathan will ask. “At the same time, I don’t want to have so many pitches that it messes me up,” Nathan said with a laugh. “I have four or five as it is, which is enough.”

Nathan is one of the closers in the game respected by Mariano. He likes the way Nathan goes about doing his job, with superior results and without showmanship.

Alfredo Aceves: He’s tomorrow starter and he’s excited about it. “How many pitches did I throw Sunday?” he asked. Forty-three. “How many did Joe say I could throw tomorrow?” Sixty to 65. “I should be able to throw more than that,” he said. Really, it’s no wonder Girardi loves the guy.

Mealtime at the Metrodome: Following Cone’s lead, we had Maui Wowis for dinner. Think smoothie, with a little umbrella. Cone went with raspberry, Kenny strawberry and we had mango. What a diverse group! We’re all eating popcorn; they have movie theater-caliber popcorn here. Sadly.

Then there’s Stage Manager Teresa, who is peddling a bag of carrots. No takers, besides herself, so far. Watching Cone decline her offer of a carrot was amusing for some reason. Then again, Cone is often amusing, even when he doesn’t say a word.

Chat live today

Join Kimberly Jones today at approximately 12:45, as she fields your questions in another one of her popular live chats:

Kim Jones live chat

Enjoy the fireworks!

You guys are funny. We had a camera malfunction yesterday and couldn’t do a postgame interview on the field because of it. I was explaining that to Zillo. That’s it. Hopefully, the camera works today.

Enjoy the fireworks!

Reminder: Chat on Monday at 12:45 p.m.

Just a quick reminder: We’re chatting at 12:45 p.m. Monday. Hope you’re there. Enjoy the holiday.

We brave the rain with Jack Nicholson

John Sterling just walked into the YES booth, looked at the gray skies and said, “It rains every day here.”

Then he left. Really, there wasn’t much more to say.

Reminder: Our last chat before the All-Star break is 12:45 p.m. Monday, the last day of a four-game series with the Blue Jays. We’ll answer questions as long as they’re not overly repetitive.

The Weather Girls: “It’s Raining Men” is playing over the P.A. It’s also on our iPod. Gametime is now 7:40.

Polly Tompkins: Remember her? She was the Yankees’ Honorary Bat Girl on May 20, in a partnership with Susan G. Komen for Cure that recognized baseball fans battling cancer. She’s here again today, got big hugs from Alex and Swisher and sat down for an interview with us. The feature will be a good one and will air sometime after the All-Star break. We’ll let you know.

Jorge Posada: He took a foul tip off his left thumb last night and it’s sore, so Cervelli is catching CC. Girardi hopes Posada is ok to catch Burnett in tomorrow’s day game.

jack_250.jpgJack Nicholson: After our pregame spot, we walked back through the tunnel on our way to the press box. And there’s Jack Nicholson, just hanging out, talking to one of the suite chefs. Now he’s in a slightly more prominent spot – a seat behind home plate. And he’s playing to the scoreboard camera.

Michael Kay: He’s not happy with some of your comments about him. (He’s a very dedicated reader of this blog.) Can’t we all get along and be nice and be the one blog in the world where people aren’t unnecessarily nasty to each other? Please?

Ken Griffey Jr.: It’s hard not to root for him, isn’t it? And, by the way, he always seems to be smiling.

Hinske in the house

What a beautiful night! Clear skies (so far) and an on-time start. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Our last chat prior to the All-Star break will be 12:45 p.m. Monday, just before the Yankees conclude their four-game set with the Blue Jays. All day games. Hope you can make it.
As far as the last chat goes — we got a lot of repetitive questions. So we answered them. In the future, if we don’t have enough of a variety of queries, we’ll end the chat so as not to offend with repetition. And we enjoy answering some lighter questions. Apologies to those of you bothered by them.

Hughes was the guest for our Innerview for “Batting Practice Today presented by Audi” and was asked your questions. He seemed to have fun with it. Thanks for the questions you submitted. As far as Tino goes, we haven’t seen him. We’ll keep your questions until we do.

Paul O’Neill: He had quite a meeting in the visiting clubhouse manager’s office yesterday. He was talking with Yogi when Ichiro walked in. Then Griffey Jr. joined the conversation. What a quartet. What did they talk about? “Ichiro wanted an autograph from Yogi, which was cool because he appreciates the history of the game,” Paul said. “Then Ichiro and I talked for about five minutes.” They discussed the game and their mutually preferred sneakers, Asics. As for Griffey, he just wanted to say hello. “A really nice guy,” O’Neill said.

eric_blog_070109.jpgEric Hinske: He’s here, wearing No. 14 and says he’s “excited and honored” to be a Yankee. He said he talked to the Yankees during the offseason about signing but thought he would have a better chance to play in Pittsburgh. When he wasn’t getting at-bats with the Pirates, Hinske credited GM Neal Huntington for trading him. Hinske considers himself an “AL East journeyman,” having played for the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Rays. He says he’s ready for whatever role the Yankees ask of him — outfield, infield, third base, first base, whatever.

Ramiro Pena: He handled being optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as well as a youngster can. He smiled, said he was happy and knows he needs to play every day. The Yankees want him to play some outfield, and he’ll start in center then move to the corners. He envisions playing two days a week in the outfield and the others at second base and shortstop. He’s never played outfield before, having only shagged some balls in recent BP in case the Yankees needed him in a pinch. Pena is popular with veterans; they’ll see him again in September, if not before.

Michael Kay: So, on his radio show today, Kay felt the need to announce (truthfully) that we — the two of us — are not dating and never have dated. Uh, thanks, Michael. But what in the world prompted this? Seems his radio show receives text questions from listeners and four of them – four! – asked about some rumor that we were a couple. So Michael cleared it up for all to hear. And now he’s very, very proud of himself.

Woody Freiman: The YES exec (VP, Production and Programming) bought dinner tonight — Lobel’s steak sandwiches. They were very popular among the announcers. Thank you, Woody! Full disclosure: There are still two pizzas in the booth and assorted pasta dishes that have gone unclaimed.