Yankees Postgame Notebook: Finding the good in the bad (and vice versa)
Kuroda would be the first to tell you what went wrong, and if he wasn't, it was because you talked to either Francisco Cervelli or Joe Girardi first - but all three of them said the same thing: he couldn't catch a "break."
"All of my pitches weren't sharp, my breaking balls especially," Kuroda said through his interpreter after the outing. "Mechanically I was inconsistent and I was rushing a little bit, and the hitters took advantage of me. When the stuff is good, I get a lot of ground balls off of that. But today, the precise location wasn't there, so that led to the bad results.
"He was off with his off-speed stuff, which is not really that unusual this time of year that's what they're trying to find the feel of," Girardi added. "It just wasn't sharp today."
Cervelli said he noticed Kuroda was uncomfortable even in their pre-game bullpen session, with the slider being the biggest bug-a-boo.
"I saw him a little uncomfortable, trying to get the feeling, especially on the slider," Cervelli said. "But today was the kind of day where whatever he threw, they hit."
It mattered not in the box score, at least, as thanks in part to what Cervelli did offensively, the Yankees didn't lose (or win, to be fair). And, come three weeks from now, no one will remember (or care) what today's line said - but it was still a big step forward for Kuroda, who knows that March's results matter much less than what you learn from them.
"To prepare for my next outing, I know I need to make adjustments, especially on my slider, which is not particularly sharp right now," he said. "At this phase of spring training, it's not easy to be 100 percent every time, but when the season comes there will be days like this, so I have to make sure I'm on top of things."
And even though Kuroda's coming off a season where he struggled significantly down the stretch, his skipper isn't worried about what happened on one Wednesday before April Fool's Day.
"He's a guy that went through a tremendous four months (in 2013) and then had a couple tougher months. If you have two tough months in May and July, people probably don't say much, but, because of the way he finished, people will question it," Girardi said. "Maybe he ran out of gas; I can't tell you that for sure, but I have a good feeling about him, and I think he's going to have a good year for us. The arm speed and everything is there. He's a guy who's been around a long time, and I don't make too much of spring training games."
Other news and notes from baseball's equivalent of a spring stalemate:
-Cervelli hit two solo home runs today, which, as far he said he can remember, was the first time he's gone deep twice in one game. He's hitting .500 this spring and now leads the team with three homers, and as rumors swirl that he's a valuable trade chip, Cervelli himself has mixed feelings about the whole situation: "I've been here forever, and I feel like this is my house today. I can't control what happens tomorrow, but if (another team) wants me to go over there, I've got to make the adjustment. I told you guys many times that my dream is to be a starting catcher. Right now, my role is a backup. That's what I'm playing for. But I'm never going to stop because an opportunity is going to come again."
-Cervelli on what caused the offensive outburst: "You tell me what happened! I think I'm going to sleep well tonight. I just saw two good pitches and swung the bat."
-Yangervis Solarte had another hit to raise his spring average to .632, and Girardi specifically praised him in talking about how well all of the Yankees' potential "utility men" have played: "The dust hasn't settled…I'd say the storm is getting dustier. Our utility guys have all played tremendously well. Solarte gives you a lot of options because he's a switch hitter, he can play anywhere in the infield and left field too. Second and third are probably stronger positions for him than short."
-The Yankees got their first taste of a replay stoppage today when Joe Girardi challenged a safe/out call on Brian Roberts' seventh-inning grounder. Both skipper and player had fun with it, too; Girardi said he didn't want to wait for a second opinion so he just went for it, while Roberts joked that "he didn't need to do that…I would've told him I was out."
-On the injury front, Girardi said that Dean Anna's neck was stiff - "a result of that tackle where he led with his head," the skipper said regarding Tuesday's collision with Brian McCann - and that Brendan Ryan (back) is progressing, with the team "hoping that next week, we'll have a player."
-Who's the boss? It depends on when you ask this weekend; Girardi will manage the Tampa half of Thursday's split squad and then head to Panama, but Tony Pena will manage other half of the split squad in Clearwater, and third base coach Rob Thomson will run the stateside team while Girardi and Pena are in Panama.
-Fun with Panama: that group will leave Tampa at 6 p.m. Thursday and is headed for three straight days with high temperatures close to 100 degrees. Girardi, who said he hates packing, said he got one piece of jocular advice from traveling secretary Ben Tuliebitz: "Benny said bring a jacket. What the heck am I gonna need that for?"
-Sticking with the fun theme, last word goes to Cervelli; he was asked about all of his highs and lows and how he thinks that will affect his 2014 status, and his answer drew laughs but also revealed the down side of the dichotomy that is spring competition: "Don't tell me they're going to cut me today! I'm going to hide today. I'm going to go home right now, because if they call me in the office, that's scary."