Yankees Pregame Notebook: Welcome Back, Tino
Before all that starts, though, it's Tino Martinez Day in the Bronx, as the Yankees will honor their former first baseman with a plaque in Monument Park. The "Bam-tino" hit .276 with 192 home runs (plus a couple pretty big ones in the postseason) and 739 RBI in seven total seasons in pinstripes, and the Yankees' skipper, who played alongside Tino in New York from 1996-99 and again in St. Louis in 2003, couldn't have been happier for his ex-teammate.
"I think it's wonderful what's happening here today; Tino was a great Yankee, and he was a great teammate," Joe Girardi said. "He was a great first baseman, a middle of the order hitter with power, and everyone loved Tino. I had a chance to be with him in a couple different spots and I enjoy being around him; I would still call him a close friend."
As for today's game, the Yanks are riding a four-game winning streak thanks in large part to strong starting pitching; the rotation has allowed just seven earned runs over 24 innings with three quality starts, and Nuno - who is just 1-3 with a 5.29 ERA in 11 starts and has a 7.26 ERA at home - thinks he knows what he needs to do to be more effective than he has been today.
"I've been leaving balls up in the zone (at home)," Nuno said Wednesday, "and I need to get the cutter back to being effective. But I think I found a grip I like in the bullpen (Wednesday), so I need to carry it over into the game."
There has even been talk about taking Nuno out of the rotation and maybe replacing him with Adam Warren, but the lefty also admitted Wednesday that he knows he can't think about anything but his own performance.
"I'm going to go out there, enjoy it, have fun and I got to make pitches," Nuno said. "That's the bottom line. If I can't do that, I'm just going to keep fighting and see where it takes me. So I don't think anything about possibly losing a spot in the rotation."
Behind Nuno, the Yankees will have a full bullpen, which includes David Huff; last night, Huff took a ball off his ankle while pitching the ninth inning, but is okay and available today.
"We were a little bit concerned but he got here early for treatment; they x-rayed it and they came back negative, so he's okay and he's available to me today," manager Joe Girardi said.
Further on the injury front, while the lineup contains the usual alignments you'd expect from certain situations - Ichiro in right field against a righty, Cervelli catching a day game after a night game - but it also includes Kelly Johnson at third. Johnson left Thursday's game after bruising his hand trying to lay down a bunt, but after a full day off, Girardi said he will hit in the cage to make sure he's okay but is penciled in to start.
As for pitchers, Girardi did not have an update on the precautionary MRI Michael Pineda had this week, but the Yanks got another positive prognosis on CC Sabathia, who threw all of his pitches in a 36-pitch bullpen session and said he felt "great." Sabathia will head to Tampa next week when the Yankees head out of town, and Girardi said his throwing program will continue with live BP and eventually a rehab start during the week.
Put all the positive together and add in the facts that the Yankees are 15-8 in day games this year and 23-9 in games started by rookie pitchers, and the math says they have a pretty good chance - but while numbers never lie, it's only what they do on the diamond will determine if they head into Old-Timers' Day looking to set a new season-high for consecutive wins.