Yankees Pregame Notebook: The Second Half Begins

Phelps makes the start against Reds; Beltran back in the lineup for New York
07/18/2014 5:05 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Carlos Beltran was activated off of the 7-day DL on Friday before the Yankees' game against the Reds.(AP)
The second half of the Major League Baseball season is a sprint to the finish, and the New York Yankees will begin their run when they open their final interleague set, a three-gamer with the Cincinnati Reds, tonight at Yankee Stadium.

David Phelps is on the mound to kick off the second half, a decision that had as much to do with chronology as it did with tenure, first-half success, or anything else. 

"We're just trying to get everyone equal rest because I felt it was important; it was a long stretch, and we were trying to give everyone about seven or eight days off," manager Joe Girardi said of the decision to have Phelps pitch Friday.

With Dellin Betances not appearing in the All-Star Game and only David Huff being used in last Sunday's first-half finale, Girardi said he thinks the bullpen should be physically fresh again - but he still hopes Phelps can begin to set a tone tonight that the team needs over the next 10 weeks: quality starts.

"Sometimes the length we would get from our starters (wasn't optimal), and part of that was they weren't built up," Girardi said. "They weren't necessarily coming off a stretch where they had four or five starts in a row; we had to build them up along the way. But we need some consistent distance in the second half."

Carlos Beltran is back in the lineup behind Phelps, activated off the seven-day disabled list after suffering a concussion during a freak batting practice incident last week. The team is still working on perhaps getting Beltran on a throwing program once again, but for now, he's the DH - and as he was one of many Yankees who struggled offensively in the first half, the skipper hopes Beltran, along with Brian McCann and others, are ready and rejuvenated as the team begins its sprint toward the postseason.

"You have to go through MLB, but (Beltran) passed everything he needed to, and we feel that he's ready," Girardi said. "If we get the lineup hitting the way they're capable of hitting, I think it's possible that we could score a lot of runs in the second half. We saw signs of Carlos swinging the bat well before this latest incident, and McCann has been better, so it makes our lineup deeper and more potent."

One other thing the Yankees hope is better in the second half is their play at home; the team went just 18-23 at home in the first half, and with 40 of their 68 remaining games in the Bronx, the skipper joked that continuing to be under .500 here just isn't an option.

"It's extremely important; we better play better at home, or go undefeated on the road, one or the other," he laughed.

So then, what is the key to the second half?

"Overall you have to play good baseball. You have to pitch and hit well, and play good defense. I think there were inconsistencies in our offense at times in the first half, so that needs to become more consistent, and I think we need the starters to give us some consistent distance."

In other words, good baseball.

Some more notes from a clubhouse full of returnees:

- General manager Brian Cashman said prior to Friday's game that Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia will undergo a procedure to clean out his knee, and will miss the rest of the season.

-Masahiro Tanaka had a platelet-rich plasma injection in his elbow on Monday, and while he still feels some pain, Girardi is hoping the loose timetable the team was given for his resumption of baseball activities holds true: "I think they talked about three weeks of him not throwing; it's only been four days, so we have to give him some time. It's too early to tell when, but our hope is we'll get him back. The timetable they gave, it seems like that's sometime in September, so we'll have to wait and see."

-As far as the healthy starters go, as both Girardi and Brian Cashman intimated earlier this week, Shane Greene will indeed start Monday and Chase Whitley, who has never pitched more than 91 innings in a season but is at 81 between Triple-A and the majors this year, is still on rotation to start Tuesday. Brian Cashman told the media earlier in the week the Yankees are still aggressively seeking starting pitching prior to the trade deadline, and barring an earlier deal, the Yankees will need two starts out of both Greene and Whitley's spots prior to July 31.

-Last word is a Girardi reflection on the All-Star break, specifically in how the festivities surrounding Derek Jeter's final celebration were handled: "I thought it was great, how it was handled and everything involved. It was a very good game, and I thought everything was great."

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