Yankees Pregame Notebook: Two-game set with Marlins or one giant class reunion?
The Yankees haven't played since defeating the Tigers 8-6 on Friday night, as Saturday's game and the subsequent doubleheader scheduled for Sunday were both rained out. That gave the team a couple days to heal any nagging ailments and rest the bullpen, and it gave tonight's starter, Luis Severino, an extra day to get back on track after a less-than-stellar outing in Boston on Tuesday.
"When we give Luis the ball, we expect good things, so I'm just looking to see how his command is, and hopefully he gives us a chance to get deep in the game," manager Aaron Boone said. "That's our expectation any time we give Sevy the ball, and I thought that in Boston, he didn't have his best stuff, but for struggling early, I thought he rallied a bit and was able to give us five innings when he wasn't at his best. I would expect him to be on top of his game tonight."
The game on the field is what it is, but it seems that all eyes, though, will be on those with Yankees and Marlins connections, starting with one Giancarlo Stanton, who said Sunday that it wouldn't be "weird" to see his former team on the other side.
"This one will be just like every other," Stanton said. "I mean, I follow my friends, check out how they're doing and send notes when they're doing well, and it'll be cool to see my guys, but I think maybe it'll be a little bit different when I go to Miami (in August for the two-game Marlins-Yankees series)."
In that visitors' dugout, Marlins manager Don Mattingly is one of more than a half-dozen with Yankees ties, but the one who seems happiest to be back is second baseman Starlin Castro, who returns for the first time after being part of the deal that brought Stanton to New York.
"It feels good to be back and see everyone, and play in one of my favorite ballparks," Castro said. "The two years I was here were really fun, two of the best years I've had, and I've always loved hitting here, because you see the ball so well at the plate, so it's fun to be back."
One who isn't here, though, is CEO and part-owner Derek Jeter, who announced he wouldn't be coming to Yankee Stadium because it would be an "awkward" situation.
"It's hard for me to put myself in Derek's shoes, but to each their own, and it's his right to be here or not," Boone said. "I played with Derek, I like Derek, and it was nice to catch up with him when I saw him in Spring Training, but I don't read much into it. I know he's Derek Jeter and I know what he's meant to this organization, but the team president doesn't always come on the road, and that's his call."
Added Brett Gardner, the longest-tenured Yankee: "Obviously, it's up to him whether he wants to come to the game or not. He's involved with the Marlins now in a different capacity, but I think he's earned the right to step away and not show up for every function here and there that people maybe expect him to be. So the fact that he's not coming to the games this week in New York, it's not really a story for me."
When it all comes down to it, the only thing that truly matters is what happens on the field, and the with two days off this weekend and one coming on Wednesday, the onus is on Boone to make sure his squad is ready not only today, but for the run of 18 straight games that begins Thursday.
"You long for that routine of the season, so the pitchers especially can get in a good solid rhythm, but it'll happen. Hopefully we start a stretch now of games where we can count on playing every day and get guys into that good groove," the skipper said. "The challenge right now is balancing the rest and the workload. Now that we've missed a couple days in a row, and have that off day coming you, you want to make sure guys are also getting regular work and trying to stay as sharp as you can, so they can get their work in and get in that routine where they're at their best."
A few more notes and quotes from a damp day in the Bronx:
-In one quick non-quote note, the Yankees will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day when they return to Detroit to make up yesterday's game; there will be a ceremony prior to the second game of the doubleheader on June 4, and uniformed personnel will wear No. 42 for that game.
-Stanton was asked about playing for Don Mattingly, and this is what he had to say: "He's been through it, he had a great career. He had success in LA and came over to our situation. He was very level-headed, a student of the game, still understands the game very well. I enjoyed playing under him."
-On the injury front, Greg Bird was out on the field playing catch and taking grounders on his knees, and Boone is "encouraged" by Bird's progress: "He's doing really well, and we're optimistic that it will maybe be on the shorter side of things. He's moving in the right direction and has passed every test so far, and that's a really encouraging sign. I'm excited about his progress and where he is."
-Brandon Drury is still awaiting some of his test results, but a migraine specialist has him on some anti-inflammatory medicine that the team hopes will be part of those answers. Drury took a couple rounds of batting practice today, and he's actually excited to have at least the first piece of his answer puzzle: "I'm actually excited to figure out what's going on, because I want nothing more than to go out there and play baseball with a clear head, and help this team win ballgames. I'm working with the best doctors there are, and we got a lot of tests done, so hopefully we can attack this."
-The only new news on Jacoby Ellsbury, though, is that Boone revealed Ellsbury is now also dealing with some plantar fasciitis: "He's in Tampa going through treatments with the hip - he had a cortisone shot last week - but he's got a little plantar fasciitis that popped up sometime last week. I don't think it's a serious issue, but it is something that popped up along the way, so we're still trying to get him to a point where he can get back to baseball activities. Hopefully he's moving in the right direction."
-Sonny Gray was out throwing a quasi-simulated game this afternoon, and Boone revealed that was something Gray and pitching coach Larry Rothschild wanted to do to test out some changes: "Sonny identified an adjustment he needed to make with his hands during his wind-up, and he and Larry wanted to get out there and work on that against a couple of hitters. We think it might allow him to be a little more athletic - athleticism is one of his strengths - so he incorporated that a little bit today. He felt really good about the results, and hopefully he'll carry that into his next start."
-Last word is this, Boone's answer when asked how he's been able to evaluate the Yankees' sloppiness, for lack of a better word, with some fundamentals of late: "Those little things can sometimes be a separator. It's not always going to be easy, and you're not always going to bludgeon teams, so you have to do the little things on a nightly basis to win ballgames. I feel like we have guys who are capable of doing that, but it is very important, and something we're always addressing and preparing for."