Items of Interest - Blue Jays-Yankees

    Sunday, September 5, 2010, 12:42 PM [General]

    The Yankees waited until about 90 minutes before first pitch before posting their lineup and for the first time since August 20, the cleanup spot was occupied by Alex Rodriguez.

    Rodriguez went through his work by hitting in the cage, fielding grounders.  The green light to activate Rodriguez came after he went through yesterday’s simulated game and felt no pain in his injured calf.

    As for Andy Pettitte, the news also is good.  Pettitte said that he will throw another bullpen session before Monday’s game with Baltimore.

    He was still waiting to see what the next step is because of the minor league playoff schedules not being set.

    Perhaps the most important thing from Pettitte is that though there is normal soreness after each step, yesterday’s simulated game was the most intense he felt without pain and that during the last inning there was no pain.

    While Rodriguez was absent, Robinson Cano successfully manned cleanup but even he needed a day off. 

    Combined with his 3-for-20 slump and his numbers off Brett Cecil (1-for-10 with four strikeouts this year), it seemed appropriate Cano would get the day.  It should be worth noting that Cano was 4-for-5 off Cecil before this year.

    With Nick Swisher’s knee a short-term concern and Austin Kearns’ thumb still bruised, it seemed logical that Marcus Thames would be in right.  Thames, though, is the DH and Greg Golson makes his second start of the season.

    Considering that Hughes has a 47 percent flyball percentage - second to Javier Vazquez among Yankee starting pitchers - starting a better defensive outfielder might make some sense.

    Speaking of Cecil, a year ago on Sept. 5, the Yankees beat him 6-4 in Toronto. Half of their 14 hits off Cecil occurred in 4 1/3 innings but this year has been completely different.

    Besides being responsible for producing the most swings and misses from the Yankees on June 4, Cecil is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in three starts against the Bombers.  He has allowed 16 hits in 22 innings and struck out 15.

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    Unofficial study finds great relief pitching but not overuse

    Saturday, September 4, 2010, 9:10 PM [General]

    A week ago, the Yankees began an eight-game winning streak with a homerun filled victory in Chicago.

    That night the starting pitching produced the following: seven innings, nine hits and five runs.  The relievers produced two innings and four runs on seven hits.

    Other than that night for the most part during the longest winning streak of the year, the numbers have somewhat been reversed.

    During this winning streak, the starting pitchers have pitched 45 innings for an ERA of 5.20. On three occasions a starting pitcher has not lasted long enough to qualify for the win and this is a stretch that includes a dominating performance by CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett’s best start in at least a month.

    That brings us to the bullpen, which since July 26 has pitched 115 innings and allowed 20 earned runs.

    During the last week, that group has pitched 26 2/3 innings. In that span, they have allowed just seven runs and that gives them a 2.36 ERA. Subtract last Saturday and you have a collective group of arms that has combined to allow three runs in 24 2/3 innings for an ERA of 1.09.

    The last time the Yankees won this many games in a row was right after the All-Star break in 2009 from July 17-24. So naturally, I was curious to see the breakdown between starters and relievers.

    In the same winning streak 13 months ago, every starting pitcher made it into the sixth and the rotation of Sabathia, Burnett, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain and Sergio Mitre combined for an ERA of 2.34 (14 ER/53 2/3 IP). The bullpen produced one victory and six saves, while pitching to an ERA of 2.50 (5 ER/18 IP).

    So what is there to make of these numbers? Are the relievers being overused because of Ivan Nova going 4 2/3 Friday, Javier Vazquez doing the same in today’s 7-5 win and Dustin Moseley going 4 1/3 Monday?

    To examine that, look at the appearances of the relievers in the last eight days:

    Mariano Rivera – five appearances, five innings three hits, 66 pitches and ERA has decreased from 1.18 to 1.07.

    Kerry Wood – four appearances, 4 1/3 innings, one hit, zero earned runs, 47 pitches and overall ERA has dropped from 4.26 to 3.75.

    Joba Chamberlain – four appearances, 3 2/3 innings, five hits, two earned runs, 51 pitches and ERA has increased from 4.72 to 4.73 (because of allowing two runs in 1/3 IP last weekend but his second half ERA is 2.90, down from 5.70.

    David Robertson – three appearances, two innings, two runs, 28 pitches, ERA has risen from 3.74 to 3.97 (because of allowing two runs last Saturday), but second half ERA is 1.50 in 18 innings.  Last year it was 3.00 in 21 innings.

    Boone Logan – five appearances, 2 2/3 innings, zero runs, 25 pitches, ERA has dropped from 2.59 to 2.43.

    Those are some very good numbers from the top five relievers, especially in a week like this.

    So while the rest of the world focuses on things like Vazquez being disappointed with Girardi’s quick hook with two outs in the fifth, we’ll discuss the pen.  But if you want to do want to know why Vazquez was not as good as the two relief appearances, I have my theories.

    One is pop.  As Jerome Preisler wrote last Monday, you could hear the pop from the fastball in Jorge Posada’s glove.  This time, I don’t recall hearing any of those pitches making that sound in Francisco Cervelli’s glove.

    So that naturally brings the whole can Vazquez win with slightly diminished velocity question?  Personally I have no idea, that’s why I’m not a pitching coach or a pitcher unless you count that one time in Little League 21 years where I hit three batters consecutively (one might have been intentional).

    So I went to Cervelli and asked.  He told me the speed was not there and that they tried to mix it up.

    The numbers seem to indicate that fact. 

    According to pitch f/x, Vazquez threw 29 four-seam fastballs, 14 were for strikes and the average speed was 87.76.  He also threw five of 12 two-seam fastballs for strikes for an average speed of 87.70.  The average speed of the 24 changeups (13 strikes) averaged 79.75, the 15 curveballs (12 strikes) averaged 72.95 and the eight sliders (six strikes) averaged 82.88.

    Three weeks ago, Vazquez started against the Seattle Mariners and lasted three innings.  The numbers that day were similar – eight of 16 four-seamers for strikes and an average speed of 87.68, 17 of 26 changeups for strikes, averaging 79.92, three of seven sliders for strikes, averaging 83.86, 10 of 13 curveballs for strikes, averaging  73.88.

    Cervelli also noted that Vazquez’s arm angle was a little low and that might have had impacted the lack of late life on the fastball that was created with the mechanical adjustment that was discussed Monday and made Vazquez’s fastball pop in Posada’s glove.








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    Items of Interest - Blue Jays-Yankees

    Saturday, September 4, 2010, 12:33 PM [General]

    The only things missing were a crowd, fielders and commercial breaks.

    About three hours before first pitch, Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte faced off in a simulated game.

    The game was three "innings" as Rodriguez continued his rehab from a left calf injury and Pettitte continued his from the groin injury.

    Both players reported no problems but will wait and see what the next step is.

    “It was a good workout,” Rodriguez said. “It felt good.  I did a lot out there today.

    Rodriguez faced Pettitte five times. He faced him in the final two “innings” and lined a single up the middle.   

    Besides enjoying the quiet atmosphere and Reggie Jackson’s strike zone, Rodriguez also fielded numerous ground balls at various depths at third base and then took some bunts.

    "It was a fun day," Rodriguez said. "We got a chance to do everything when nobody was around.  I had an absolute blast."

    Rodriguez could be activated tomorrow and though that appears a good possibility, he will wait to see how he feels in the morning.

    As for Pettitte, he threw 50 pitches to Rodriguez, Greg Golson and Ramiro Pena. He described the first two "innings" as being a little tentative but definitely was encouraged.

    "The first couple of innings, I felt like I was struggling with my mechanics a little bit," Pettitte said. "My curveballs were just kind of hanging. I wasn’t exactly going full speed so my timing was off a little bit.  I just started playing with my timing a little bit in the first couple of innings and then I told Dave (pitching coach Dave Eiland), let’s just forget about that and just throw the ball."

    Besides throwing, Pettitte also took some pitcher’s fielding practice and anticipates throwing a bullpen session Monday.

    After that the next step could be a simulated game or a minor league rehab start. The Yankees were looking at minor league schedules and possibly targeting Wednesday.

    For Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre Wednesday would be the opener of the International League playoffs.  For Double-A Trenton Wednesday could also be the opener of the Eastern League playoffs. For Single-A Tampa Wednesday would be Game Two of the Florida State League playoffs against Dunedin.

    One thing that is certain is the next time will be increased to 65 pitches.  

    Nick Swisher was originally in the lineup but his left knee bothered him and he was replaced by Marcus Thames.

    When he discussed it, he sounded as frustrated as some of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1923 or Cleveland Indians in 1993.

    On those days, Yankee pitchers Sam Jones and Jim Abbott fired no-hitters.

    In Jones’ no-hitter at Shibe Park, he walked one and struck out one while facing two above the minimum.  He faced a lineup that featured Jimmy Dykes, Joe Hauser and Bing Miller.

    Abbott’s no-hitter was the biggest highlight of his two years in the Bronx.  That day, he struck out three and walked five Indians, a team that boasted a lineup of a young Manny Ramirez at designated hitter and Jim Thome at third base.

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    Logan slides into bullpen prominence

    Friday, September 3, 2010, 9:02 PM [General]

    Earlier this year, Boone Logan appeared destined for semi-regular trips between Scranton and the Bronx. 

    He was recalled 12 days into the season, lasted until about Memorial Day and then returned in the middle of June for a two-week stint. Two weeks later immediately after the All-Star break, Logan returned and this time it is for good.

    From April 16-May 26, Logan made 13 appearances, spanning 10 2/3 innings. He had an ERA slightly over five in that span and a reason might have been that his fastball was getting too much use and the slider was not employed enough.

    During his first stint, Logan threw 190 pitches and only 24 were sliders. 

    Stint number two was from June 15-July 2 and Logan had a 2.35 ERA in four appearances that spanned 7 2/3 innings. Then, he threw 112 pitches but this time, 31 were sliders.

    Since stint number three began July 17, Logan has thrown 216 pitches and the use of the slider has increased slightly. He threw five against the Blue Jays when he replaced Ivan Nova in the fifth and has thrown that pitch 64 times, which is 29.6 percent.

    In his current stint, Logan has made 20 appearances and allowed one run in 14 innings for a 0.64 ERA. In the first two stints, Logan struck out 13 and walked 12 but since returning he has struck out 15 and walked three.

    "His slider has improved a lot from the beginning of the year and it makes a big difference,” manager Joe Girardi said.

    Today, Girardi brought him in with two outs in the fifth.  The Yankees were leading 5-3 and there were two on for Lyle Overbay.

    The last time Overbay faced Logan was in the sixth on August 4.  That day Logan retired him on a groundout to second on a sequence of two sliders and one fastball.

    This time, the sequence was different. Overbay fouled of a first-pitch fastball then saw three straight sliders that evened the count at 2-2.  The at-bat ended with another slider and Overbay swung over it and the crisis was averted.

    While virtually everyone waited for Kerry Wood, who was awarded the win by the official scorer, I briefly chatted with Logan about the slider.  The text below is what he told me.

    "I’ve been getting a lot of hitters out with my fastball and I’ve started noticed lately they’ve been calling more sliders.  I’ve noticed that with my slider, it’s more consistent and I throw it better when I throw it more.  I don’t want to keep throwing sliders all the time but it seems the more I throw it the better it is - the more command I have of it.

    “It’s the same slider I’ve always had.  I went through that stretch where I was throwing a lot of fastballs. My velocity was up and I was getting guys out with just the fastball.  I’ve always had a slider and it’s inconsistent if I don’t throw it as much as I have been.

    "You’re facing these guys a lot and going through guys two or three times a year and facing them more, I can tell they’re looking for fastballs off me. They’re getting a big dose of sliders and one of the things I take out of them is I’m throwing them all the in the dirt and they’re swinging over them so that’s probably why (I'm throwing it more)."

    Logan was part of a bullpen effort that combined for 4 1/3 scoreless but gritty innings.  They were gritty because the Blue Jays had two on in the fifth, sixth and seventh.

    The bullpen was rested because A.J. Burnett gave the Yankees six innings Wednesday and CC Sabathia turned in eight Thursday. They were needed because Ivan Nova allowed three runs and six hits in 4 1/3 innings.

    It was not like Nova was awful in his first career start at Yankee Stadium. It just was the curveball that wowed Ozzie Guillen Sunday in Chicago was not as sharp. It was thrown for strikes eight times out of 22 and the average time to the plate was 0.481.

    When I asked Nova for his assessment of the pitch, he said: "Half and half, not too good, not too bad.  At the beginning I was too slow.  I try to bring my arm a little faster and when I do that, the curveballs are going to be better."

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    Items of Interest - Blue Jays-Yankees

    Friday, September 3, 2010, 12:59 PM [General]

    Today is September 3 and a year ago, Ivan Nova was in Buffalo with his teammates on Scranton-Wilkes Barre. Four days earlier, Nova dropped to 1-4 in his first stint in Triple-A.

    Against Pawtucket, Nova allowed five runs and eight hits in four innings of a 5-3 loss in the second game of a doubleheader. He was preparing for a start in Rochester on Sept 4 and that day, he pitched decently, allowing three runs and eight hits in six innings in a no-decision.

    One of the things that has impressed the Yankees in Nova’s first two Major League starts has been poise and his ability to think that he is not pitching in big games and just go out and throw like he has always done.

    About a month ago, I spoke to Lance Berkman about the adjustments to New York and some of the technical sides of hitting. For a few minutes, I caught up with him since he’s making his first start since returning from the DL Wednesday.

    Berkman has had three at-bats so far and two hits and today made his first start since Aug. 15 in Kansas City. The night we spoke initially, he had three hits but in the games following Aug 8, Berkman was 2-for-13 and in a brief chat, “The Big Puma” updated us on things.

    Q: How is your swing since the last time we chatted?

    A: "It’s all right. I still don’t like where it is necessarily but whenever you get a couple of hits, it’s better than not getting a hit."

    Q: It seems like your swing is more in a straight line than it had been earlier when the mechanics were out of whack before?

    A: "My swing is usually pretty level. I think that I’m capable of making a good swing at any time.  It’s just a matter of doing it consistently. I think that’s the biggest (thing).  It’s a work in progress."

    Q: Is it frustrating when your momentum is interrupted by going on the disabled list?

    A: "That’s a frustrating situation from a momentum standpoint and baseball is a game of rhythm and timing. If you look at a real small sample, you either look really good or really terrible and that may not be indicative of your ability level.  It’s just a small sample so you got to be in there.  You got to have a bunch of at-bats and to get into a rhythm and to be able to produce like you’re capable of doing.  It’s hard to do it in one or two at-bats but whenever you get hurt, you obviously want to do it and you can’t do it."

    Q: Is it difficult playing part-time and maybe not against left-handed pitching?

    A:"This is tough gig for me because I’m used to playing everyday regardless of who the pitcher is.  I’m used to playing the field and DHing is like four pinch hits and it’s tough to find that rhythm and maintain it and that’s my job and I’m going to do as good as I can and try to prepare myself as well I can to do it successfully."

    Q: How many at-bats would you say constitutes a bunch?

    A:"I don’t know if you can put a number on it but you play everyday and you get a hundred at-bats in a month but even (with) that guys have bad months all the time.  So I’m talking about it in terms of am I doing this well or not, I think 400 or 500 at-bats.  You’ve got to be in there, you’ve got to be in there and if you get hot, you can look like the greatest hitter in the world for 100 at-bats but it’s the consistently of doing it over the course of a full season.

    With Nick Swisher out of the lineup (left knee), Curtis Granderson bats second today.  

    Granderson homered twice yesterday after entering for Swisher. According to an item headlined “The Grand Plan” in the Yankee notes and information from the Elias Sports Bureau, Granderson is the third Yankee to have a multi-home run game after not starting.

    On May 23, 1990 Steve Balboni batted for Mel Hall in the fifth inning of a 12-0 win at the Metrodome. In his first at-bat, Balboni connected off John Candelaria and two innings later, he hit a two-run home run off “The Candy Man”.

    On September 26, 2008, Cody Ransom did it in a 19-8 win at Fenway Park. He led off the fourth by connecting off current Mariners’ closer David Aardsma and then led off the fifth with a home run off Mike Timlin.  

    As documented yesterday, Granderson is hitting much better off lefties and though he could receive a day off sometime,  manager Joe Girardi is not as hesistant to use Granderson off southpaws as a month ago.

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    A-Rod steps in

    Friday, September 3, 2010, 11:32 AM [General]

    Jon Lane has the lineups but what you might also want to know is how Alex Rodriguez felt in his latest step towards returning from a left calf injury.

    At around 10:30 this morning, Alex Rodriguez stepped in the batting cage on the field at Yankee Stadium for another round of batting practice.

    He took some swings, took a brief break and then continued the process a few more times. During the sessions, Rodriguez was hitting the ball to all fields and though he was not necessarily pushing at full intensity, his left calf seemed well.

    "Today was a good day," Rodriguez said. "We hit a little bit off the tee (and did some) soft toss. I took 37 ground balls; some double plays and then I took some good swings and ran the bases a little bit."

    The biggest test will be Saturday morning when Rodriguez steps in against Andy Pettitte, who is scheduled for a simulated game. Besides facing Pettitte, Rodriguez will further by running from first to third and attempting to score from second base.

    In terms of what percentage he is at in the recovery, Rodriguez said he will have a better gauge Saturday.

    Rodriguez was in a light mood during portions of the session and even mimicked Nick Swisher’s point towards the sky upon reaching first. That drew a collective laugh from some of his teammates who had begun stretching.

    Shortly before Rodriguez took batting practice, manager Joe Girardi was optimistic that the third baseman would return Sunday when he is eligible to be activated.

    "He hasn’t really had any setbacks, so we felt that the 15 days would probably be sufficient for him to come back," Girardi said. "You can’t always predict what’s going to happen.  He’s out there today and he’s probably going to increase the intensity in everything that he does but the rehab has gone the way we wanted it to and that’s why we’re feeling good."

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    Granderson plus new technique equals production

    Thursday, September 2, 2010, 5:43 PM [General]

    A few weeks after the Yankees won their 27th championship, Curtis Granderson arrived from Detroit and projections were for him to be a center fielder with 30 home runs.

    There was no reason to not expect it.

    He hit that many playing half of his games in a pitcher-friendly park in Detroit and combined with a lefty-friendly right field porch at Yankee Stadium, there seemed little doubt Granderson would hit more than 10 home runs here.

    Numbers often do not tell the whole story and the most home runs by Granderson at any professional level were achieved with a flawed swing.

    The combination of struggling to get timing back from a DL stint and the poor mechanics, Granderson was hitting .245 a month ago, a figure that dropped to .240 through August 9. That was when Granderson went 0-for-4, a game noted for a key strikeout against Red Sox lefty Jon Lester.

    Two days later in Texas, Granderson had a significant meeting with hitting coach Kevin Long for a tutorial on generating better swings. Before Long mentioned the flaw, Granderson never gave it much thought.

    "I didn’t realize that was the case because I never thought about it," Granderson said.  "As we started to do it more and practice the drill with two hands and started to feel more and more uncomfortable it made me realize how out of whack I was with taking one hand off the bat prior to."

    Yesterday after entering for Nick Swisher (stiff left knee) in the first inning, Granderson used the new technique to hit an inside fastball from Jerry Blevins down the right field line in the sixth. With two outs in the seventh, Granderson sent an inside changeup from Michael Wuertz over the right field wall.

    "The good thing is it helps me realize when I made bad swings," Granderson said. "What I mean by bad swings is when I’m out in front of the ball.  One of the things was taking my top hand off the bat was everything was out front.  I can get away with it as long as everything is lined up right." 

    "The good thing about keeping both hands on the bat is it lets the ball travel a bit more and more consistent on all pitches in the zone. 

    The results of that meeting have seen significant improvement against lefties and overall.  Granderson is now batting .417 (10-for-24) off lefties since unveiling the new technique and equally important is that what he has done overall.

    On the first night of the new swing, Granderson went 2-for-3 that night in Kansas City and has batted .287 (21-for-73) with seven home runs and 12 RBI. That has increased his home run and RBI projections from 14 and 47 to 21 and 54.

    "There seems to be less movement before his swings," manager Joe Girardi said. "He has quieted down his swing.  He has his hands in the launch position right from the beginning and he’s spread out a little bit. He has hit lefties and righties – it doesn’t really matter.

    "We don’t see him swinging and missing as much.  I just think he’s in a better position to hit."

    Now he has helped the Yankees get in better position to win and just like A.J. Burnett repeating his mechanics, it is all about repetition.

    "I can’t say more or less comfortable with what we’ve been working on and being able to translate it from hitting in the cage on to the field," Granderson said. "It comes down to still just drilling and drilling."

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    Items of Interest - Athletics-Yankees

    Thursday, September 2, 2010, 12:13 PM [General]

    Today is Sept 2 and a year ago on this date, CC Sabathia was on the mound in Baltimore and picked up his 16th victory.  That night he turned in a truly ace-like performance by allowing one run and seven hits while striking out nine in seven innings.

    As Jon Lane details, what makes Sabathia even more impressive is his personality, which results in a guy who enjoys himself on the mound and surrounded by his teammates in the clubhouse.

    Being an ace is the best way to describe Sabathia’s performance, especially at Yankee Stadium where he has some staggering numbers.

    Sabathia has not lost a home game in 14 months. Starting with a victory over the Detroit Tigers on July 18, 2009, Sabathia is 15-0 with a 2.17 ERA in his last 20 regular-season starts.

    The numbers in that run also are staggering as Sabathia has allowed 35 earned runs in 123 1/3 innings and held opponents to a .204 batting average.

    Overall, Sabathia’s performance has been remarkable. Since June 3, Sabathia is 14-2 with a 2.55 ERA in 17 starts.

    There usually is not else going on during day games after night games and the Yankees are playing the first of five straight.  They have not done that since April 8-14, 2004.

    Even more interesting is the fact that the Yankees have a chance at their first four-game sweep of Oakland since Sept 5-8, 1985. The Yankees were four games into an 11-game winning streak and entered that series just 2 ½ games behind the Blue Jays.  

    They completed the sweep with various contributions such as a four-hit game by Willie Randolph in the opener, four RBI from Don Mattingly in Game Two, including a three-run home run in a seven-run fifth, eight gutsy innings from Ron Guidry in Game Three, and holding on for an 9-6 victory in the final game that featured 23 hits and seven errors.

    That series also featured Jose Canseco getting his first career hit and driving in his first career run and the Yankee starting pitchers were Ed Whitson, Joe Cowley, Guidry and Phil Niekro.

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    Burnett hooks out a win

    Thursday, September 2, 2010, 1:43 AM [General]

    The personality of inconsistencies in pitching sometimes go to extreme polar opposites of the spectrum. In A.J. Burnett's case that would be a sensible way to describe his second season in pinstripes.

    To get back to the high end where stuff translates to results, sometimes a pitcher needs to find a middle ground and in Burnett's case, three runs and six hits to go along with eight strikeouts in six innings is a perfect jumping off point.

    The three runs allowed were his fewest since August 15 at Kansas City and it marked the 14th time in 27 starts Burnett gave up three or less.  The eight strikeouts were his most striking out seven July 28 at Cleveland and equaled his season high.

    The obvious key to Burnett's first win since that night in Cleveland was derived from the curve, which was thrown for  strike 24 out of 36 times.  It was Burnett's biggest use of the curve since throwing 37 in his last victory.

    "I believe so," Burnett said when asked if establishing it early helps.  "There's been games in the past where I go 11 or 12 pitches in where you see the first one and that was  normally out of the stretch with a runner on.  So getting it going early does help a lot."

    On Friday, Burnett threw 22 curveballs and the first did not appear until the ninth pitch of the game with a runner on.  Last night the curve made its first appearance on the second and third pitches to Coco Crisp in the top of the first.  That pitch set up two fastballs and resulted in the at-bat being a called strike three.

    It next appeared on the first pitch to Kurt Suzuki, which was ball one in an at-bat that turned out to be a base hit. Two more curves were thrown to Jack Cust, who struck out on the fastball.

    In the second, Burnett went through the A's in four minutes.  He threw two curves to Mark Ellis and two more to Jeff Larish that broke inside and resulted in a swinging strike three.

    The third took just two minutes and one curve was thrown this time to Daric Barton, who took ball one before being retired.

    The fourth was where things became a little dicey as a 4-0 lead turned to 4-2 when Kevin Kouzmanoff crushed a 2-0 fastball to right field.  Before allowing his first two runs, he put on an impressive display against Cust by throwing three consecutive curves before using the sinker as a strikeout pitch.  Burnett threw three more curves to Ellis, who singled but Burnett stayed with the pitch and retired Larish on a double play.

    The fifth was also a little shaky but Burnett used the curve for a swinging strikeout of Cliff Pennington and threw four to Crisp, whose at-bat ended with a run-scoring groundout.  The longest at-bat belonged to Barton, who saw two curves, including one which was ball four and was immediately preceded by a long foul ball that deflected off the foul pole in left.  With the tying run on, Burnett then threw two curves to Suzuki before showing his fourth changeup that resulted in a fly ball to left field.

    Burnett's final inning saw him throw it three straight times to Kouzmanoff, who swung at two before looking at an inside strike three.  Ellis saw three curves and singled but Burnett made his final two pitches curveballs and Larish swung at both, striking out an outside pitch that dropped below the knees. 

    "I'm always going to throw it," Burnett said.  "It's a swing and miss pitch but the more I throw it for a strike it can only help out."

    "I know from facing him -- when he's throwing his breaking ball for strikes, he's pretty tough," Derek Jeter said. "This was a step in the right direction for him."

    Now it comes down to repetition.  Practice in side sessions is all about repetition and so is what a pitcher does in a game setting.  That is why you always hear things like repeat the arm angle or repeat the delivery.

    "I saw him repeat his delivery, his balance was very good, his timing was tremendous," pitching coach Dave Eiland said.

    Now all the Yankees need Burnett to do is repeat it five days from now. 

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    Items of Interest - Athletics-Yankees

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010, 6:18 PM [General]

    Jon Lane has the lineups and here are the items of interest on another 90-degree day at Yankee Stadium.

    With 30 games remaining the Yankees enter September just one game up after snapping their eight-day standoff with Tampa Bay for the AL East.

    Despite a number of issues such as spotty starting pitching and injuries, the Yankees won 16 of 29 games and clinched their 16th consecutive winning season in a non-strike year (1994, 1995 excluded).

    • A.J. Burnett also pitched on Sept 1 last year in Baltimore and did not pitch well, allowing six runs and 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings.  Just like this year, Burnett did not a win game in August as he was 0-4 with a 6.03 ERA.  He finished up 3-1 and whether he does that this time remains to be seen.

    • Naturally it was one of several topics addressed by manager Joe Girardi, who said that he does not necessarily panic when Burnett gets off to a slow start. That being said, Burnett has an ERA of 6.07 in the first three innings, which is similar to the 6.02 he had in the first three innings last year.

    • "Let's not forget that AJ has won some big ballgames for us and we need AJ to pitch well for us and we're going to do everything we can to get him on track and on a roll," Girardi said

    • Girardi's thoughts on Burnett are important but the most important thing related to pitching occurred in the Yankee bullpen when Andy Pettitte threw his bullpen as he tries to return from the groin injury that has sidelined him since July 18. 

    • Pettitte reported that he felt good, but towards the end of his media session he added that "every conversation ends with let's see how you feel tomorrow" but there was no doubt Pettitte was feeling more upbeat about things.

    • "I feel good.  I had a good day. I threw 30 pitches like in my warmup and then sat down for five or six minutes and then threw like a good hard simulated inning.   I felt good and I had no discomfort at all.

    • "You try to focus on your release point instead of focusing on your leg.  I'm a long way from getting to where I need (to be) but it's a good start."

    • The next step will likely be facing some live hitters followed by a rehab appearance in the minor leagues. Then there is a possiblity Pettite could get a start where he is limited to approximately 65 pitches.


    • The questions about Burnett and details on Pettitte were not the only news.  Before anyone could turn on their tape recorder or put a pen to their notepad, Girardi announced that Javier Vazquez will start Saturday against Toronto. 

    • Citing what he saw in terms of late life on the fastball that created a feeling that the ball was exploding as it approached the plate, Girardi felt now was a good time to see if those two bullpen appearances will appear in starting assignments.

    • "We liked the way Javy’s been throwing the baseball and we made some minor adjustments to him and it seemed to really help him," Girardi said.

    • Two years ago on Sept 1, the Yankees won a Labor Day contest in Detroit with a wild 13-9 decision.  That marked the major league debut of Phil Coke, who was a September callup.  So far this year's callups are right-hander Jonathan Albaladejo, catcher Chad Moeller and outfielder Greg Golson.

    • Of that trio, Albaladejo has had the most noteworthy season in the minors.  This year was initial foray into full-time closing and he did quite well.  Before this year, Albaladejo saved 11 games last year and seven over his first seven professional seasons.  He is back after a 43-save season that included the following numbers: 1.42 ERA, 63 1/3 IP, 38 H, 10 ER, 3 HR, 82Ks, 18 BB.

    • Albaladejo was here briefly in late July and when he returned to Scranton, he began throwing his curve a little more.

    • "For some reason, I've got a feel for it," he said.  "I would start feeling a bit better with it and I would start working off of it more than I was before.  I feel good and it makes my fastball a little harder.

    • Basically the difference in speeds makes the fastball appear to have more life on it.

    • As for the rest of the injuries, Alex Rodriguez took some swings during batting practice and said the following: "It feels pretty good. I had a good session. I've had no setbacks."

    • Brett Gardner had the day off but at around 3:30, he was working on his bunting with third base coach Rob Thomson.   Gardner has six bunt hits for his career and Cliff Corcoran of the Pinstriped Bible has some reaction about the topic.


    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    First Place with little fastball command

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010, 2:06 AM [General]

    At the surface, a pitching line of two earned runs and four hits in five innings does not seem terrible.

    Look beyond the surface and see how a pitcher arrived there and you see five walks and 98 pitches to 23 hitters.

    That would explain why Phil Hughes felt embarrassed and eager to show his appreciation to an offense that has provided with the most run support per nine innings in the majors.

    "I couldn't get my mechanics down," Hughes said. “I was all over the place. We'll take the win and try to fix whatever is going on."

    What’s going on or actually what was not going on was fastball command and that explains the five walks and the 10 in his last 8 2/3 innings.  Before last week in Toronto, Hughes had walked six batters in 29 1/3 innings against teams such as Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Boston.

    Last night, 32 of Hughes’ 68 four-seam fastballs – the ones that are gripped with the index finger and middle fingers – were in the strike zone.  Three of the walks were on that pitch while the other two were on the cutter and curve.

    That being said, Hughes displayed a good sign in limiting the damage by getting his fastball to work when necessary.  That resulted in nine of the 15 outs on that pitch, including some of the bigger ones when the outcome was almost in doubt.

    Exhibit A was in the top of the third in a 3-1 game and one out.  After allowing a single to Cliff Pennington on the curve, Coco Crisp and Daric Barton stayed away from the pitch and drew five-pitch walks.  Hughes stuck with the fastball and avoided a bases-clearing hit by retiring Kurt Suzuki on a sacrifice fly and Jack Cust on a groundout.

    Almost on cue, the offense took over.  They scored two in the third and four more in the fourth, so even if the Yankees were not publicly saying so, they were pleased to have a big lead and a night of limiting Hughes’ innings.

    Hughes is now at 149 1/3 innings and the Yankees have scored 135 times in his 25 starts.  They have won 62 of 70 games when scoring at least five runs and not surprisingly Hughes is 15-0 in those starts, which have been a mixed bag of solid and gritty pitching.

    Last night it was the latter and that is what teams like the Yankees do – win games without a pitcher having his best fastball.

    “Hughes knows he didn't have his 'A' stuff today, but the one thing about it that makes all of us extremely happy is that he grinded it out," Nick Swisher said “He grinded (through) every pitch (and) every batter. That's what you want. You want heart from your pitchers, and we have that here."

    And they also have first place after an eight-day standoff with Tampa Bay.

    In case you were wondering here is how the Yankees entered September in every season they made the postseason with the exception of the 1981 season that was divided into two halves due to the strike:

    Season          Record             Standings

    2009             83-48               led Boston by 6 ½ games

    2007             75-60               trailed Boston by five games, led wild card by one game

    2006             79-53               led Boston by 8 games

    2005             75-57               trailed Boston by 2 ½ games, led wild card by one game

    2004             81-50               led Boston by 3 ½ games

    2003             83-52               led Boston by 5 ½ games

    2002             84-50               led Boston by 8 ½ games

    2001             79-56               led Boston by 7 games

    2000             74-56               led Boston by 5 games

    1999             81-50               led Boston by 7 ½ games

    1998             98-37               led Boston by 18 games

    1997             79-55               trailed Baltimore by 6 ½ games

    1996             76-59               led Baltimore by four games

    1995             57-59               trailed Boston by 14 games

    1980             78-51               led Baltimore by 1 ½ games

    1978             77-54               trailed Boston by 6 ½ games

    1977             80-52               led Baltimore by four games

    1976             79-49               led Baltimore by 11 ½ games

    1964             75-54               trailed Baltimore by three games

    1963             88-47               led Chicago by 12 games

    1962             79-57               led Minnesota by 3 games

    1961             87-45               led Detroit by 1 ½ games

    1960             75-50               led Baltimore by one game

    1958             80-50               led Chicago by 10 ½ games

    1957             82-47               led Chicago by 5 ½ games

    1956             83-46               led Cleveland by 8 ½ games

    1955             79-52               trailed Chicago by one-half game

    1953             86-43               led Chicago by 8 ½ games

    1952             76-54               led Cleveland by two games

    1951             80-47               led Cleveland by one game

    1950             80-46               led Detroit by two games

    1949             77-47               led Boston by two games

    1947             83-45               led Boston by 12 ½ games

    1943             77-46               led Washington by 10 games

    1942             86-44               led Boston by eight games

    1941             88-44               led Boston by 19 ½ games

    1939             87-36               led Boston by 12 ½ games

    1938             85-38               led Boston by 14 games

    1937             80-37               led Detroit by 11 games

    1936             86-42               led Cleveland by 16 ½ games

    1932             91-38               led Philadelphia by 12 games

    1928            84-42                led Philadelphia by two games

    1927            89-37                led Philadelphia by 17 games

    1926            79-49                led Cleveland by 5 ½ games

    1923            78-42                led Cleveland by 12 ½ games

    1922            77-50                led St. Louis by 2 ½ games

    1921            75-46                trailed Cleveland by one-half game

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Items of Interest - Athletics-Yankees

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010, 5:24 PM [General]

    While Jon Lane has provided you with the lineups. Here are some items of interest:

    • A day after his fastball had much more life thanks to the mechanical adjustment in his leg, Vazquez was seen doing some running that took place on the concourse of the second deck.  Manager Joe Girardi was asked about that again and re-iterated that the Yankees currently are on rotation and have not currently discussed any possible changes.  Girardi, however, found it hard to dismiss the fact that Vazquez is throwing the ball well the last two times.
    •  As for tonight's starting pitcher Phil Hughes, who threw 102 pitches to 22 hitters in 3 2/3 innings last Wednesday in Toronto, Girardi would like to see Hughes avoid things like getting into long counts and having the hitters foul off a lot of pitches.  Last week, the Blue Jays fouled off 26 pitches and reached ball three to six hitters.
    •  For what it's worth, Hughes has thrown 144 1/3 innings and the best 7 1/3 might have occurred in Oakland on April 21.  If you remember, he took a no-hitter into the eighth before Eric Chavez hit a little comebacker.  That night he walked two and struck out 10.  His pitch breakdown that night was the following: 40 of 53 four-seam fastballs for strikes, eight of 14 curveballs for strikes, 22 of 32 cutters for strikes and a pair of two-seam fastballs that were not strikes.
    • On the injury front, Alex Rodriguez participated in some throwing and did some tee and toss work in the batting cage. 
    • As for other injury news, Lance Berkman is the 30th player to rehab with the Trenton Thunder and is batting third in their lineup tonight against the Akron Aeros.  Last night, Berkman was 2-for-5 and is expected to be activated tommorow.
    • Tommorow's starter is A.J. Burnett, whose struggles have been well-documented but the sense of panic if things go wrong will not exist simply because they are confident in his abilities.  In their game notes, the Yankees have a box that seems appropriate for Burnett, calling it a "A Tale of Two Seasons".  It breaks down his numbers through June 3 and the numbers since June 4.  The second part is rather ugly as it shows a 3-10 record in 15 starts and 97 hits in 80 innings with just 60 strikeouts.
    •  A few minutes before 6:00, Andy Pettitte addressed the next step in his recovery from a groin.  There is a possiblity his bullpen session tomorrow will consist of sitting down at some point, meaning that he will throw a set number of pitches, take a break and then resume throwing.  That has been discussed with him, pitching coach Dave Eiland and the training staff.  Pettitte said doing it that way is better because it gives him an opportunity to progress and a chance a to sit down. If that goes well, the next step would be throwing some batting practice.
    0 (0 Ratings)

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