Yankees Pregame Notebook: No Captain, (hopefully) no cry in series finale with Red SoxNova will make his third start of the season, as New York looks to earn the win Sunday
After winning two of the first three games, the Yankees turn to Ivan Nova tonight, hoping he can at least be more of the Nova that often escaped trouble in his first outing of the season and less the one who was knocked out in the fourth inning of his home debut.
He'll have an interesting infield alignment behind him, though, as Derek Jeter will miss tonight's game with tightness in his right quad and Brian Roberts will sit out as well, giving the infield a starting four of Francisco Cervelli at first base, Yangervis Solarte at second, Dean Anna at shortstop and Kelly Johnson at third base.
Jeter began feeling tightness in his right quad on Friday, and although he played the whole game without trouble, manager Joe Girardi decided during Saturday's scheduled off day to give his Captain an extra breather tonight.
"I started thinking it probably makes sense to give him today, because in a sense it gives him two more days; I could've put him in there and that was originally the plan, but I changed my mind yesterday," Girardi said. "It's a concern of mine when someone tells you something's tight, because there's a chance to something more serious if you don't work that stiffness out. He's not real happy, but I told him missing one game was better than possibly four-to-six weeks if something did happen."
Solarte has not played second base yet this year and Johnson hasn't played third since assuming Mark Teixeira's first base job when Tex went on the DL, but Girardi was comfortable with the alignment, even with using his backup catcher at first in a game where the bench is already short.
All that said, the skipper praised the job Solarte has done over the first two weeks no matter the situation.
"It's probably unfair for me to answer (Solarte's best position) because I haven't seen him pay a lot everywhere, but I think he's done a pretty good job at third base," Girardi said. "Obviously our scouts have seen more, and he's probably played a lot more second and is comfortable there, but he's done a good job for us so far."
It surely doesn't hurt that Solarte is hitting .359 with seven RBI and a league-leading six doubles, and it surely doesn't hurt that three of the guys in the lineup with him, all of whom were offseason acquisitions as well, exploded for four home runs from the left side of the plate in Saturday's win.
That's a trend the skipper hopes is just getting going.
"I think that's a big part of it, the way our field plays. You're going to build your team around your ballpark, and when you look at the hitters we have, the ballpark plays favorable to them," he said. "It worked out well for us yesterday. That's something we address every winter, the type of players we want, and we try to go get them."
The fifth homer was hit by Alfonso Soriano, who is also in the lineup tonight as the DH, and according to Yankees PR has the most home runs (20) and second-most RBI (55, one behind Mark Trumbo) in baseball since the day the Yankees acquired him last July.
Soriano offered a simple explanation: "I'm just trying to be relaxed and swing at strikes."
Time will tell if all that continues tonight, but here are some other notes ahead of this series finale:
-Girardi anticipates having Jeter back in the lineup Tuesday, allowing him to play in a Jackie Robinson Day showdown with the Cubs that he believes will be special to The Captain: "Obviously, Jackie has meant a ton to all of us, and he meant so much to Mo, who wore his number with pride. I'm sure it means a lot to Derek to play on those days."
-Masahiro Tanaka will start that game Tuesday, making his third start, and Girardi hopes Tanaka can continue the progress he has made already this season: "He seems to get in a pretty good rhythm, which is important. As far as learning, he's adjusted really well so far to me, and has handled the situation pretty well. It's pretty much what I expected so far I think."
-Jeter's limited availability gives the Yankees an even shorter bench tonight, but Girardi also said that the team hasn't discussed whether or not they will keep 13 pitchers on the roster until Mark Teixeira returns from the disabled list, but won't hesitate to make a move if they need a healthy player.
-Speaking of Teixeira, the skipper said that he hit on the field today and did some light jogging on Saturday. Teixeira is eligible to return late next week, and while there's no set date for him to do any official rehab, Girardi said, "I don't imagine it will be a whole lot longer as long as he continues to progress running."
-David Robertson, who is on the DL with a groin strain, is also "doing really well," according to Girardi, and was likely to play catch again on Sunday. Robertson is eligible to return a week from Tuesday, and Girardi said "the hope is" that he will be able to do so.
-The final word goes to replay, with Girardi speaking about his confusion with the new instant replay system; MLB admitted that even after a second look, umpires upheld an incorrect safe call on Dean Anna's eighth-inning double Saturday, and the Yankees skipper was perplexed by that: "I'm not so sure how that happened. I guess unless I was over there I wouldn't be sure. But obviously, as a club, you might see some angles and see something that's clear, but if they don't see it, you wonder if the feeds are different, so it's a little confusing."
Ivan Nova RHP
Felix Doubront LHP