Yankees Clubhouse Notebook: 'We do the best we can with what we have'The Yankees beat Boston on Sunday despite playing with an injury-depleted lineup
Those are the unfortunately prescient words of right fielder-turned-first baseman Carlos Beltran, who saved the Yankees a logistical nightmare both offensively and defensively in a 3-2 win over the Red Sox Sunday night.
On a night where pitching was good - Ivan Nova was mostly great over 7 1/3 innings and David Phelps got perhaps the biggest strikeout of his career - and defense was better (see Ichiro's amazing catch on David Ortiz in the eighth), it wasn't any of that or Beltran's tying of Joe DiMaggio on the all-time home run list making news.
Instead, the talk of the town was the injury bug, and how with Derek Jeter sitting out, Brian Roberts battling a balky back and Francisco Cervelli leaving the game with a hamstring injury in the fourth, Beltran had to play first base for the first time in his career.
Cervelli was injured trying to beat out a double play ball, grabbing his right hamstring and collapsing to the ground after he was called out. The play was reviewed and reversed - with Cervelli being ruled safe - but he was unable to continue, with manager Joe Girardi saying after the game that it didn't look good.
"He's in an MRI tube right now," the skipper said, "and I don't anticipate it being day-to-day (so) we'll likely have to make a couple moves."
With Brian Roberts out because of back spasms and Derek Jeter sitting out because of quad tightness - and Girardi saying that he was really trying to avoid using the Captain and that the "emergency situation" he referred to regarding Jeter's availability being "no one else left" - the skipper had only Ichiro and Beltran to choose from.
"When Joe (Girardi) told me I was going to first, a lot of things went through my mind. I was hoping they didn't hit the baseball to me, but I got the job done and we got a win," Beltran said somewhat jocularly. "Joe asked both me and Ichiro if we had ever played first, and we both said no. He had to make a choice and I'm the bigger target, so he said go and I said okay. I just tried to do the best I could."
And using Cervelli's mitt, he did just that, looking fairly comfortable at a position he has never played before at any level - and one he jokingly hoped he would "never have to see again."
But he would, if Joe Girardi needed him to.
"It tells you the type of player he is. I asked him if he'd ever played first and he said no but I'll do whatever you need, so I told him to get a mitt and go," Girardi said. "The man is willing to do anything you ask him to do, whether it's put him someplace he's never been, move him around in the order - the man just wants to play and he wants to contribute. It's very, very unselfish."
"He's a veteran guy," added Nova. "It wasn't what you expect, but he's gamer. He wants to be out there helping the team.
All that said, though, the skipper did have some praise for his starter, who was bailed out of his only jam in the second inning thanks to a great throw by Brett Gardner and ended up with a quality start.
"I thought he had better command of his curveball tonight, which was a huge difference, and he didn't walk anyone," Girardi said, with Nova concurring: "I worked a little bit down in the zone a little more, and I threw more breaking balls down in the zone…I was much more comfortable tonight and I felt really good."
Nova even got to come out for one last batter in the eighth inning, and after he got Xander Bogaerts to fly out, the righty walked off the mound with his head held high.
"It gave me confidence; I was done after the seventh and Joe told me he wanted me to get one more out," Nova said. "After my last start, which wasn't that good, tonight gave me confidence."
Add in Ichiro's catch, Phelps' strikeout, and a 1-2-3 ninth for Shawn Kelley, and it somehow all adds up to three out of four wins against the Sox, the last one a nail biter the skipper called "fortunate."
"Obviously there were some great defensive plays; I thought we swung the bats better than the three runs we had," he said. "But we got outstanding pitching and some big outs when we needed them, so I thought it was a really good game. We were very fortunate."
Some other news and notes from the Yankees clubhouse:
-The Yankees avoided injury scares twice more after Cervelli was hurt; Yangervis Solarte was, as Joe Girardi said, "hit in a place you don't want to be hit" with a swipe tag in the sixth inning, and Brian McCann took a ball off his right index finger in the eighth. Both stayed in though, and McCann knew the situation well enough to know he wasn't going anywhere: "It went numb, but in a spot like that, I needed to get the feeling back before we played again just in case there was a play I needed to make."
-McCann said he would have an x-ray before he left but his hand was "fine." Roberts, meanwhile, is day-to-day after an MRI came back negative on his lower back, and Girardi didn't have any official word on the extent of Cervelli's injury. Oh, and as for who the emergency catcher would be? "I've said it a few times, it's Dean Anna…he doesn't know it yet, but that's who it would be," the skipper said.
-If there was any positive out of the play where Cervelli went down, it's that the replay system worked in the Yankees' favor and actually gave them the winning run: "It's a good job by (video coordinator) Brett Weber and Tony (Pena) relaying it to me. Good hustle by Cervy too, but unfortunately it looks like we've lost him for a little bit. As you know, though, sometimes these divisions and wild cards come down to one game, and it was an important run."
-Ichiro's catch on Ortiz in the eighth likely saved the Yankees from possible extra innings or a loss; David Phelps loaded the bases with two outs before escaping the jam, and as Girardi said, "You never know what's going to happen after that, but it worked out well that he was there."
-Reactions to the catch ranged from great (Beltran) to amazing (Girardi) to unbelievable (Nova), but Ichiro had some fun with it: "In that situation, obviously you're trying to avoid a ball going off the wall and becoming a triple. In this ballpark I knew that wasn't an option so I just went after it. And it was David Ortiz too, so that helped (laughs)."
-As for playing first base, Ichiro joked about that too: "If Joe would have said go to first, I might have said my leg hurts (laughs). But no, if you look at us both, you see (Beltran) might be a better target."
-Beltran laughed at that statement, and laughed that he didn't know if he could've made the catch because he "wasn't out there," but he did heap praise on Ichiro: "It's a great play. He's a great outfielder, but here with so many outfielders on the team he doesn't get to play as much. He's still playing the same way he always has, I was happy for him that he was able to save a run there.
-We'll give the last word to Girardi, who had this to say when asked if he could remember a game where he had to scramble so much to juggle the lineup: "This was pretty regular last year. I got a lot of good practice sometimes trying to find 10 healthy bodies to play."