Yankees Pregame Notebook: Home Sweet HomeThe Bombers return home in first place as they open three-game set against Angels
The steady Hiroki Kuroda, who is 2-1 with a 4.07 ERA so far this season, will take the mound for the Bombers. The Angels make for one of the better matchups Kuroda has had in his career thus far. He is 3-2 with a 2.16 ERA in six career starts against the Halos, a record that includes one start fans may remember well -- eight scoreless innings in the 2012 home opener that marked Kuroda's first Yankee Stadium start in pinstripes.
The lineup behind Kuroda is, for the most part, what was envisioned as the "everyday" lineup coming out of spring training. Yangervis Solarte will play third base and hit ninth instead of Kelly Johnson, but otherwise, most of the regulars will be taking the field in front the Yankee faithful.
Derek Jeter is in the lineup at shortstop for the fourth straight day and fifth straight game overall, and while he's at shortstop tonight, the Yankees' situation doesn't necessarily mean that Jeter will have a six penciled in next to his name all weekend.
"We're going to go day-by-day right now and see how he's doing," manager Joe Girardi said prior to the game. "I have him in there tonight and we'll see what tomorrow brings."
The Yankees will be playing with a short bench for the second straight game, carrying only 12 position players because of Michael Pineda's suspension as well as uncertainty in the rotation necessitating an expanded bullpen. They're likely to stay with that alignment through the end of Michael Pineda's 10-game suspension, although the skipper noted it's not the shortest bench he's had to deal with, and he'll just have to find a way to utilize his roster as best he can.
"It's a little bit difficult, but I think the off day Monday helps, and I've had situations when I've only had one extra player during the season, so it's not something we're not accustomed to doing," Girardi said. "You have to do it from time to time as a manager and you just find ways to get through it. Sometimes you just say 'this is the way we have to do things today' and you get through it. As long as there aren't surprises during those days and you know what you have, it's usually not too bad. It's when you have guys blow hammies running to first and you have one extra guy that's a problem."
Girardi is also not worried that the team will have any "home hangover" after a road trip that saw them go 4-3, lose one pitcher to season-ending injury, another to a 10-game suspension, and, after finishing up with a laugher in Boston, get home barely 14 hours before Friday's game time.
"I don't think the guys are exhausted necessarily because of what happened on the road trip. This is a group that's probably used to handling stuff pretty well, and there's a lot of veteran players there," Girardi said. "It doesn't help that you get in at three in the morning, but I don't think (the chaos of the road trip) bothered them, and I think that was evident yesterday."
With southpaw C.J. Wilson on the mound for the Angels, the Yankees only have three true lefties in Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Brett Gardner in the lineup, but they may actually be the team's strengths. Ellsbury is 15-for-33 (.455) with seven extra-base hits, five RBI and three stolen bases in 38 plate appearances against southpaws this year, while Gardner is 8-for-28 (.287) off lefties as opposed to just 10-for-46 (.217) against righties.
A few other notes from the Yankees clubhouse prior to Friday's series opener:
-The short bench situation, combined with the score of the game, gave Girardi the opportunity to try Brian McCann at first base in the ninth inning Thursday, and the skipper said it only took a "quick conversation" to convince McCann to become the sixth Yankee to play first base and third to make his first career appearance there this year.
"I asked him if he wanted to catch the last inning, or would he think about going to first base, and he said 'I'd love to go to first base,'" Girardi said. "I figured it was a way to save his legs, but I didn't want to take him out because I didn't have a third catcher, so I asked him if he'd played there and he said yes. Then I asked when and he said it was in high school, but he said he was comfortable going out there. It was a quick conversation and his eyes lit up a little bit, so I sent him out there."
-Girardi on McCann's performance, which included two put-outs: "Well, he catches 150 balls a night, he better be able to make two catches at first base with a bigger glove (laughed). They're supposed to be straight too, you hope there's no curve balls or sliders."
-The bench crunch meant Dean Anna was the one squeezed out and sent down to Triple-A, but the skipper had nothing but praise for the 27-year-old rookie's performance: "I love the job that he did, and we got in a tough situation. It wasn't necessarily something you like having to do, but you have to protect your pitching staff, and that's what we felt we had to do. With Solarte playing so well, and he can play short a day here and there, it came to Dean Anna. Obviously you like to have your normal roster, but right now you can't because of some of the things we're going through, and not knowing exactly how many pitches a couple of your starters are going to give you, you have to have a little extra pitching. But Dino's a good player, and I'm sure we'll see him again."
-Girardi's final word comes on the topic of visiting MLB's new instant replay center, as Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez did when the Braves were in town to play the Mets earlier this season: "I'm sure it's an impressive room, but they're looking at the same replays we are. Their room is a lot bigger than ours, and there's probably a lot more screens, but right now I don't have any interest. I have enough to worry about here. Maybe it's something I'll do during the offseason, though."