Yankees Pregame Notebook: Can the Yanks trump four aces?

08/04/2014 6:23 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Brandon McCarthy starts for the Yankees on Monday night in the series opener.(AP)
The Yankees faced two rookies and a struggling former All-Star in their three-game set in Boston over the weekend, and as they return home Monday to begin a four-game set with the Detroit Tigers, they come in looking at four-fifths of what is now arguably the best rotation in baseball.

It will be reigning Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer opposing Brandon McCarthy in Monday's opener, but with last week's acquisition of David Price (who starts Tuesday) from Tampa Bay, the Tigers will be throwing the last three Cy Young winners over the first three games and finish with a 13-5 pitcher who could have been an All-Star in Rick Porcello.

A daunting task on paper, says Yankees manager Joe Girardi, but you never know what will happen, and that's why they play the games.

"I've been involved with teams that have had that kind of rotation, but the thing is, from an opposing team standpoint, you have to remember that pitchers are human, and they still have to make their pitches," Girardi said. "We know they're outstanding, and if you're they're manager you have to feel very good that every day they're going to give you an opportunity to win, but they have their days where they're not quite sharp; you have to take advantage of their mistakes, and you can't give away opportunities."

The three-headed Cy-monster notwithstanding, the Yankees still have to do it on the other side as well, as the Tigers are fifth in baseball in runs scored and trot out a lineup that starts with All-Star Ian Kinsler at the top and features defending Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, fellow All-Star DH Victor Martinez, and emerging slugger J.D. Martinez in the middle.

"They're obviously a good offensive club too; they're a complete team, and we know they're very good," Girardi said. "Obviously they have two guys in the middle of their lineup who are having great seasons - I can't remember a time Miguel Cabrera didn't have a great season - but you have to hold them down."

Girardi thinks his club is up to the challenge.

"This is obviously a very tough series. We're going to see three righties and a lefty, and we know they're very good, but I think we've been swinging the bats better and our lineup may be deeper," he said. "We've been healthy lately so that's a good sign too, and we'll see how we match up."

That will start with leadoff man Brett Gardner, who was named AL Player of the Week Monday after going 11-for-23 (.478) with five homers, seven RBI, and eight total extra-base hits on the Yankees' six-game road trip.

Gardner is 0-for-14 lifetime against Scherzer, but Girardi wouldn't be averse to a continuance of the hot streak his leadoff man is on.

"If he wants to do it again this week, that would be great too," the skipper laughed. "We've seen a lot of good things from him over the years, and obviously we've talked about how important he is to our lineup, but it's probably the best all-around week I've ever seen him have. It's been fun to watch."

And then, come Tuesday, when the Yankees face Price in his Detroit debut, the skipper will have another potential chance to see history. Derek Jeter enters the series four hits shy of tying Honus Wagner for sixth all-time, and given The Captain's history against Price - which includes going 5-for-5 on the July 2011 day where he homered for his 3,000th career hit - the electricity will be there no matter how close Jeter does or doesn't get to 3,420 hits tonight.

It should be either way, though says Girardi, because Price is a special pitcher, period.

"He has really good stuff, he commands the strike zone and doesn't walk people. He uses his off-speed well, and he doesn't beat himself," Girardi said of the 2012 Cy Young winner.

The Tigers may have four aces, but with their objective being at least a wild card, the Yankees hope they can go all-in this week and win a few hands.

A few other notes from the Yankees' clubhouse on Monday:

-The Yankees placed David Phelps on the disabled list Monday after an MRI revealed continued inflammation in his right elbow, and the righty will not throw for two weeks. He expects to be able to make a return soon after he resumes throwing, but the diagnosis was still "devastating" to him: "It's frustrating, but it's part of baseball. I said last night I felt like this is one of the best stretches I've had in my career, but we'll rest and let it calm down, and hopefully I can come back strong and help this team reach the playoffs."

-Masahiro Tanaka made 25 throws from 60 feet on flat ground Monday, his first activity since a platelet-rich plasma injection in his injured right elbow three weeks ago. Tanaka was "relieved" that all went well, and the skipper hoped this was step one in a process to getting back his workhorse righty sometime this season: "Obviously it's positive that he didn't feel anything today; you look at as a start really, and if there was discomfort that would be discouraging, but it's a positive day."

-Michael Pineda was in the clubhouse one day after making his first rehab start for Triple-A Scranton, and said that everything felt good. Despite Pineda being on schedule to throw 75 pitches in a second rehab outing Friday, Girardi said he is unlikely to be a candidate to start in Phelps' place - although the big right-hander beamed when asked about the possibility, saying only "I'd be happy!"

-On the Tigers' side, Joba Chamberlain is making his first trip back to New York since leaving the Yankees last winter. He's unsure if he'll get a good reaction like many ex-Yankees have in their return, but if not, it's not for a lack of trying: "The fans were always great to me, and I always appreciated them and tried to sign autographs and do things I know are important to them. … I don't know (what reaction will be), but I hope they know I gave them everything I had every time I went out there."

-Last word goes to Girardi, who had this quip when asked about David Price being out of the AL East: "If he was still in Tampa we could have to see him three more times this season, so we'll take one or two."

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