Yankees Pregame Notes: Four games in 48 hours equals lineup creativity
After yesterday's day-night doubleheader, Girardi's lineup looks a little different than one has come to expect; Brett Gardner will be the DH after playing both games in center field, and Alex Rodriguez, who played all 18 innings at third base, has the day off ahead of some unknown lineup combination for Thursday that Girardi alluded to in his pregame media briefing.
"It all goes into planning ahead and what we're going to do tomorrow. I felt like I couldn't play him both tonight and tomorrow, that's probably too much, so I chose to give him tonight," Girardi said. "It's a precautionary measure. We're in a stretch with nine days in a row, and with the two he played yesterday, I knew I was going to give him a day off, so I chose today."
Girardi said that while A-Rod is a player who he checks in on a lot of late, yesterday's five strikeouts "didn't really (play into the day off decision) at all," and he also admitted he let Alex know earlier in the day he wouldn't be in the lineup - something he does with every "regular" if he knows they're getting a day off.
"I haven't had to (check a player's status) too much because some of the older guys haven't been there, but sometimes I'll wait to put the lineup up, too," Girardi said. "If I know I'm not going to play a guy, though, I probably will give him a heads up. I didn't check in with Alex today, I just told him we were going to give him a day because of what we're doing tomorrow."
A-Rod's day off means Eduardo Nunez is in the lineup, and Girardi said he appears to be getting over the tight hamstring that forced him out of Sunday's game and kept him on the bench in Game 1 yesterday.
"He said he feels better today than he did yesterday, so that's a good sign, but we'll be watching him," the skipper said.
Ichiro is in too, and with just one hit to go before he reaches 4,000 for his career between Japan and MLB, Girardi doesn't think the ageless one will be pressing too hard and credited his offensive repertoire for helping him avoid that pressure.
"I haven't seen anything from him that makes me believe he will, but I'm sure it's on his mind," Girardi said. "It's just an unbelievable milestone, but the great thing about Ichiro is that he finds so many ways to get hits, you'd think his creativity might help him in this situation."
And as for Mariano Rivera?
"I don't know, I'll let him play catch and see," Girardi said regarding the availability of the only reliever to pitch both day and night yesterday for the Yankees.
All of those questions stem from somewhat of a baseball rarity, that being the fact that tomorrow's day game means the Yankees and Blue Jays play four games in the span of about 52 hours. That can be a grind any time, Girardi said, but it's more worrisome when those games are in late-August.
"I just think you worry about the guys, and how fresh they are going to be and how their bodies respond, especially this time of year," Girardi said. "You want to make sure they don't get hurt, so those are the base concerns, and the other thing is that you worry about the depth of your pitching."
In that last vein, Adam Warren will make his first start of the year tonight, a spot start that will allow both of yesterday's hurlers, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes, to be available on full rest this weekend. Warren has a 3.57 ERA in 23 relief appearances and has six outings of more than three innings and four with 60 or more pitches thrown, but Girardi wasn't sure just how long the righty would go before likely being relieved by David Huff.
"I expect three, four innings, maybe, we'll see," Girardi said. "We'll see how he's throwing the baseball and go from there. I don't think he can go over 75 pitches, though; I'm not sure he'll get there either, though."
That combo could mean the Yankees may be down early - either via score or by available reliever - but the team's recent surge of comeback wins (including two Tuesday) has Girardi believing that his newly lengthened lineup means the team truly is never out of it.
"There's more ways that we score runs now, so maybe that helps take a little off everyone from trying to do too much from time to time. We wear out pitchers and see some longer at-bats, so it helps everybody out," he said. "And, we have more firepower now. We've seen some homers, seen days where we get 11 or 12 hits, and it changes things. Our lineup is deeper, and when we get behind, it's not as difficult to jump back into games."
Tampa Bay and Boston are in a virtual tie for both the AL East and Wild Card leads, but a loss tonight by either of them pulls the Yankees within four games of a playoff spot and both losing can cut their division deficit to 5 1/2 games.
Counting tonight, the Yankees play AL East foes in 28 of their final 37 games, and in closing his pregame media conference, Girardi said that's exactly how it should be.
"It's obviously beneficial for us, especially with the Wild Card, because if we want to help our own cause, we can do it ourselves and not have to rely on someone else," Girardi said, "and I think that's good; that's how baseball should be, because when the races are tight, you should be playing in your division."
And as far as his team doing some scoreboard watching goes, the skipper said it's only natural.
"I think it's impossible not to watch the standings; if you're a baseball fan, you watch them, right?," he asked. "I don't necessarily study them every day, but I look at all six divisions and where teams are and the races in both leagues. I don't tell our guys to do one thing or another, but they're probably aware. Everyone knows what the goal is here, and we're chasing people."