Yankees

Yankees’ Greg Bird ready for rehab games, still on target for May return

Yankees first baseman is recovering from March right ankle surgery. NEW YORK — Yankees first baseman Greg Bird’s slow and steady recovery from March ankle surgery is churning toward the finish line. If things continue to go well, the lefty-swinging slugger likely will fulfill his goal of making his season debut before June 1. Pedro Martinez convinced Luis Severino could become best in game                      Bird played in an extended spring training game for the third day in a row Wednesday in Tampa and was feeling so good afterward that he’s been cleared to begin a minor-league rehab assignment. His first game will be Thursday for the high A Tampa Tarpons. Bird homered in a rehab game on Tuesday. “He felt it’s the best he’s felt,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said before Wednesday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox. Bird likely will play a few Florida State League games for Tampa, then be assigned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to finish out his rehab assignment. The Yankees are optimistic that Bird will be ready to come off the disabled list later this month. “Once he starts the rehab process I would think (it’ll last) 10-to-20 days kind of depending on how it goes,” Boone said. “I think one of the good things for Greg is that he basically had a full spring training, so that being said we’ve obviously got to build him up to where he’s playing nine innings to where he’s playing nine innings back-to-back and bouncing back.” Bird spent half of the last season on the DL due to a late spring right ankle injury that led to July surgery. He returned for the final six weeks of the regular season and the playoffs, but he experienced more soreness during 2018 spring training and it led to another surgery on March 27 to remove a broken bone spur. At the time of his surgery, Bird was expected to be sidelined 6-to-8 weeks and he’s still on timeframe. “We’re very optimistic as far as where he is in his return and feel like we’re starting to see the light at the end there,” Boone said. Randy Miller may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RandyJMiller. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

Yankees

Joe Girardi still wishes he was managing the Yankees

Former Yankees manager Joe Girardi spoke to reporters about his old team’s success and his own future on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 (5/8/18), the same day New York opened a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium and MLB announced the Red Sox and Yankees will play a pair of games in London in 2019. NEW YORK — At least Joe Girardi is honest. Girardi said he’d love to still be coaching the Yankees and that he’s pulling for them to keep winning, which they did, 3-2, over the Red Sox on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have won 16 of 17 games and they tied the Red Sox atop the American League East. Earlier in the day, Girardi, the 53-year-old who managed the Yankees 10 seasons, attended BTIG Charity Day in Manhattan. Takeaways from Yankees’ win over Sox Here’s what he said, via NJ Advance Media’s Darryl Slater (questions have been abbreviated for clarity): What’s it like watching baseball now?  I really don’t get a chance to watch a lot, because my life is busy. When you’ve been gone a lot, 10 out of the last 11 years, I’m very involved with my wife and the kids. I really don’t get a chance to sit down and watch a lot of games. Kids have a way of taking you away from the TV. Weird to be away from managing? Obviously, it’s different, when you’ve done something 11 out of the last 12 years. Your schedule is much different, but that’s all part of life. And I’m making the most out of this time at home. Did you get interest in managerial openings? By the time I was let go, most of the positions were filled. We’ll wait to see what happens. As I’ve said, I would like to do it [manage] again, but we’ll see what happens. On the Yankees’ current success … They’ve been hot. Obviously, when you win that many games, most things are going right. The lineup is as deep of a lineup as the Yankees have had in a long time, with so much power. So they’re going to score runs. Wouldn’t you love to manage this group?  I said it last year, at the beginning: Who wouldn’t want to manage this team? It’s a really good team and it’s young, and it’s very enjoyable to be around. But that’s not the reality of what’s going on [since Girardi was let go], and I’m OK with that. Are you pulling for the Yankees now? You develop relationships, so yeah, you pull for people. I want to see the guys do well. When you’re not part of a team and you’re not there on an everyday basis, your rooting interest is different. But yeah, I pull for them. These guys were a big part of my life the last 10 years. Do you wish you had done anything differently with Yankees? No. I did what I thought was best at the time and gave them everything I had. And they went in a different direction. Brendan Kuty may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrendanKutyNJ. Find NJ.com Yankees on Facebook.

Yankees

If Giancarlo Stanton gets hot for the Yankees, the Red Sox are toast in the AL East | Politi

Giancarlo Stanton had his third multi-homer game of the season in a 3-2 Yankees win over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 (5/8/18) at Yankee Stadium. Imagine this lineup if he goes on a tear. NEW YORK — Giancarlo Stanton sent a high fastball screeching toward the left-field wall on a 17-degree angle. It traveled at 111.5 mph and landed in the seats in just 3.8 seconds, an exit so speedy that could force Yankees radio voice John Sterling to alter his home run call to something more efficient.  “It is high? It is far? Is it … gone?”  Yeah. That’s not going to work.  How about this: “Highfargone!” As that ball rocketed into the Yankee Stadium seats, all the crowd could do was gasp, and then roar, and then remember that this team has gone on this epic spring tear without truly seeing the best from its new marquee star.  “Superhero swing” is what manager Aaron Boone called it. Teammates Aaron Judge and CC Sabathia had a hoot mimicking it on the dugout steps. Stanton hit another bomb, a more traditional parabola to right field, in a 3-2 victory for the Yankees over the hated Red Sox.  It was his third multi-homer game of the season, which naturally led to a familiar question: Is this the night that jumpstarts that week-long or even month-long tear the Yankees are waiting to see from him? Boone sounded almost omniscient when asked about his cleanup hitter a few hours before his Yankees climbed back into first place, calling a hot streak imminent. “He will have that breakout week,” Boone promised, although this is isn’t exactly climbing out on a limb.  Stanton was the National League MVP last season. But, this being the Bronx, fans expected him to hit most 59 of those home runs during the team’s first home stand. The sluggish start, both for the team and player, led to far more handwringing than was warranted.  No one is booing Stanton any more — winning at a tidy .941 clip tends to calm even the harshest bleacher critic — but the expectations haven’t changed. Stanton hasn’t quite approached them. Yet.  But his numbers, a .237 batting average with nine home runs and 21 RBI, aren’t all that far off from where they were a year ago at this point in the season. He also is saving his best at-bats for the biggest games, a fact that shouldn’t be lost in the top-heavy American League.    Stanton is batting .600 with two home runs, five RBI and a .647 OPS in four games against the Red Sox this season. He also carried the team against the other likely AL postseason foe, the Astros, with a two-homer, four-RBI game against long-time nemesis Dallas Keuchel. The 50 best baseball players from N.J.  For much of his early career in New York, the last reigning MVP to defect here — Alex Rodriguez — was criticized for hitting too many home runs in the ninth innings of a blowout. Stanton is doing the opposite. “For as much as I feel like we’ve talked about (his struggles), he’s still been fairly productive,” Boone said. “Obviously we know there’s going to be a point where he gets it rolling. But we’re built that way. It’s going to be different guys.”  The way the Red Sox steamrolled to a 7 1/2 game lead in the AL East, the Yankees had to figure it would take several months to track them down. Instead, incredibly, it took just three weeks.  That’s what a 16-1 stretch will do, and yes, it is pretty darn historic. The last time this team has gone on a roll like this, Mickey Mantle was still batting cleanup. It was 1953, when the dynasty Yankees won 21 out of 22 during a remarkable late-spring run.  “We’re right there where we need to be,” Stanton said. “There’s still one tomorrow. There’s still plenty more to go. We’ve just got to keep fighting.” A three-game series before the flowers bloom in Central Park won’t prove anything — this two-team AL East race should take us into the fall. The angry reaction to Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly, who started a brawl in April when he beaned Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin, is proof that this rivalry is alive and well again. It’s going to be a hoot.  Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the Yankees won’t be the team clawing its way out of the do-or-die AL Wild Card this October. This won’t be a popular opinion in Beantown, but here goes: The Red Sox might have the better starting rotation (when David Price is healthy), but the Yankees have a better bullpen and, from top to bottom, a far better lineup. They have put together this remarkable run without seeing the best from their cleanup hitter, but with the way he was putting those “superhero swings” on display Tuesday night, that hot streak might be coming. If it does? Look out.  Steve Politi may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @StevePoliti. Find NJ.com on Facebook.    

Yankees

What Yankees’ Aaron Judge was thinking before issuing payback to Red Sox’s Joe Kelly

Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge was hitless for his career against Boston Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly before coming up big Tuesday, May 8, 2018 (5/8/18) against the reliever that the Yankees fought in April. Judge helped the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 3-2, in the first game of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium. NEW YORK — There was another loud roar from the packed house at Yankee Stadium, 45,773 strong on Tuesday night, when Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner worked a seventh-inning walk to load the bases with one out in a tie game. Aaron Judge walked toward the plate, then was forced to wait as the Red Sox made a pitching change. It was obvious who was coming in to replace righty Heath Hembree when the Red Sox bullpen door opened and the ballpark buzz instantly transformed to deafening boos. Coming in to face Judge was Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly, the new Bronx villain who ignited a bench-clearing brawl on April 11 at Fenway Park by drilling Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin with a pitch that was retaliation for a hard slide into second base. Never one to lose focus, Judge concentrated on this moment instead of last month’s, and once again big No. 99 delivered. Takeaways from Yankees win over Red Sox that forces tie atop AL East Judge lined a tie-breaking single to left, Aaron Hicks scored from third base and the Yankees had a 3-2 lead that became a 3-2 win. “You don’t forget (what happened in Boston), but you’ve got to move on,” Judge said. “You can’t live in the past. There’s nothing you can do about it. It happened. It got resolved. It’s time to play baseball.” Judge’s mind during his at-bat was on nothing but finally winning a confrontation with Kelly. They’d faced each other six previous times and Judge was hitless with three strikeouts. During their one previous encounter this season, Judge hit into a 6-4-3 double play. “He’s got a really good fastball that he likes to kind of live up in the zone,” Judge said of Kelly. “It’s got good carry on it, so it’s kind of tough to get on top of it when it’s up in the zone. That plays well with his big curveball and he’s got a sharp little slider. “In the past, he’s always tried to show fastball up, then go back to the slider. I was just trying to get something out over the plate that I could drive. “In (Tuesday night’s) situation, bases loaded, one out, I’m in the driver’s seat. He’s got to throw something over the plate. He doesn’t walk to walk me. I was looking for something out over the plate to drive.” Judge got what he was looking for, a 1-1 slider that caught too much of the plate, he creamed it between third and short for a single that was hit so hard that fairly speedy rookie Gleyber Torres was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second. “It was a slider down, one that should have been a little more off (the plate),” Kelly said. (Judge) was able to get a bat on it, and obviously the base-hit scored the run.” That one run put the Yankees ahead, and they held on to make it seven wins in a row and an incredible 16 in their last 17 games, this one pulling them into a tie for first atop the AL East standings with the Red Sox. Once again, the Yankees relied on Judge, who issued a payback to Kelly while not thinking at all about what happened last month. “We can’t get out of hand with stuff that happened in the past,” Judge said. “We’ve got to focus on what’s happening right now in that situation. We’ve got a pitcher on the mound with a good fastball and good off-speed pitches. It’s time to go out there and do our job.” Randy Miller may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RandyJMiller. Find NJ.com on Facebook.  

Yankees

Another Gary Sanchez goof almost ruins it for Yankees

Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez should have stopped a ball that eventually led to a run in a tight 3-2 win over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 (5/8/18) at Yankee Stadium. With the win, the Yankees moved into a tie for first place in the AL East. NEW YORK — The Yankees escaped thanks to the muscles of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge and because Luis Severino could work around not having his best stuff. Gary Sanchez‘s weakness — still as glaring as ever — didn’t help at all. Sanchez had yet another ball-blocking lapse in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium — a problem that the 25-year-old worked to fix all offseason yet clearly remains. This time, it led to a run scoring and Severino working harder than he was supposed to. Takeaways from Yankees’ win over Red Sox With the count full against ex-Yankee Eduardo Nunez to start the fifth, Severino got Nunez to swing over a slider in the dirt. The ball fell just short of its mark and bounced under Sanchez’s glove and to the backstop.  That allowed Nunez to reach despite the strikeout. He eventually scored on a two-out single by Andrew Benintendi. That cut the Yankees’ lead to 2-1. Boston tied things at 2-all when Mookie Betts tripled home Nunez in the seventh. Aaron Judge put them ahead for good in the bottom half of the frame with a hard single to left field, scoring Neil Walker. Sanchez’ miss was called a wild pitch but Sanchez should have been able to stop it. Sanchez said as much after the game. “Yeah, definitely had a chance,”  I just couldn’t block it (or) stop it right there. That contributed for Sevy to have to throw more pitches in that inning. I wanted to stop it and keep it there but unfortunately I couldn’t do it. Sanchez entered the game with six passed balls — tied for the most in the league with Omar Navarez of the White Sox. Nobody else has four. Sanchez tied for the league lead in passed balls last season and spent all offseason in the Dominican Republic losing weight and working on his flexibility, trying to get better at blocking balls — an issue that caused then-manager Joe Girardi to bench Sanchez two games last summer. Brendan Kuty may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrendanKutyNJ. Find NJ.com Yankees on Facebook.  

Yankees

Pedro Martinez convinced Yankees’ Luis Severino could become best in game

Former Boston Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez has taken Yankees right-hander Luis Severino under his wing. Severino struck out 11 in six innings on Tueday, May 8, 2018 (5/8/18) as the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 3-2. NEW YORK — Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez could have revised his most famous quote Tuesday night before his bedtime tweet about his protege. He could have tipped his cap to Yankees ace Luis Severino and said he’s the Red Sox’s daddy. Come to think of it, that wouldn’t quite work because Severino’s latest gem just was very good by his growing standards in a 3-2 Yankees victory that tied them for first in the AL East with the Sox. Instead, Martinez went with something almost as interesting considering the source: Severino is maturing in front of our eyes. He has all the tools to become the best pitcher in the Big Leagues — Pedro Martinez (@45PedroMartinez) May 9, 2018 That’s quite a compliment suggesting Severino has what it takes to be the best No. 1 starter in baseball … better than Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer, better than Justin Verlander and Madison Bumgarner, better than everyone. Martinez must have been impressed watching Tuesday night when the Yankees and Red Sox, baseball’s two teams so far, began a three-game series at Yankee Stadium. Yankees manager Aaron Boone characterized this effort “not as dominate Sevy,” but two runs over six-plus innings with 11 strikeouts and no walks in a no-decision is pretty darned good. Severino topped that last week in Houston when he faced the best-hitting team in baseball and threw a five-hit, complete-game shutout. Martinez, maybe the best Dominican pitcher ever, is a big fan of Severino, the best in today’s game. Martinez deserves at least a little of the credit for Severino’s development from struggling starter in 2016 to All-Star and Cy Young finalist in 2017. “(Pedro) told me that if I change my mechanics a little bit, I’ll be more consistent in my strike zone,” Severino said last October. “That’s what I did.” And look at him now. Eight starts into his 2018 season, Severino is 5-1 with a 2.21 ERA. He’s tied for the league lead in wins, third in innings (53), tied for fifth in strikeouts (63) and seventh in ERA. Takeaways from Yankees’ win over Red Sox that forces tie atop AL East And all of his starts except one have been good, the exception his five-run, five-inning loss in Boston last month … a clunker of a start that was avenged on Tuesday night. In his latest outing, Severino admitted having to “battle,” but this was still another fine day’s work. “Maybe not at his best, but still a pretty dominating performance,” Boone said. Martinez was impressed … enough so that Severino was anointed a strong candidate to elevate his game to the point where no starting pitcher in baseball is on his level. Randy Miller may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RandyJMiller. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

Yankees

What differences did Red Sox see in Yankees’ Luis Severino?

On Tuesday, May 8, 2018 (5/8/18) at Yankee Stadium, the Boston Red Sox saw the version of Yankees pitcher Luis Severino who has been tearing through opposing lineups this season. Severino struck out 11 Red Sox batters in six innings of work. Watch video NEW YORK — The Boston Red Sox were the one team that got to Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino this season. But on Tuesday, Severino made Boston look like every other opponent. Despite taking a no decision in the Yankees’ 3-2 win at Yankee Stadium, Severino struck out 11 Red Sox and walked none while allowing two earned runs on six hits over six-plus innings. Severino entered Tuesday at 5-1 with a 2.11 ERA. The Red Sox were responsible for his one loss when they pinned five earned runs on Severino over five innings in a 14-1 shellacking on April 10 at Fenway Park in Boston. In the second meeting, the Red Sox ran into the pitcher who allowed six total earned runs across his other six previous starts.  “Better breaking ball,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “We put good at-bats. But he got creative throughout the game. All of a sudden, he lost his slider, he lost his fastball command. He throws a 3-0 changeup to Hanley (Ramirez), a 3-1 changeup to Hanley, then a fastball and he hits it back to the middle.” On top of his April 10 outing, Severino entered Tuesday with a poor career track record against the Red Sox. In eight starts and nine total appearances against Boston prior to Tuesday, Severino was 2-5 with a 4.92 ERA. Who has better future: Yanks or Sox? Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts nearly took Severino deep in the first at bat of the game, flying out to the warning track in front of the Yankees bullpen in right-center field. After that, not many bats made clean contact. “He did a good job mixing up his pitches, keeping them out of the middle of the zone,” Betts said. “Obviously he has 100 (mph) in his back pocket, too. So he’s uses it all to his advantage. “Not a whole lot you can do when he’s on his game.” Chris Ryan may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRyan_NJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.