New York Yankees starter Andy Pettitte‘s return to the mound was delayed yesterday due to poor weather in the Bronx, pushing his start to this afternoon at 1:05 PM. David Phelps will start the nightcap of the day-night double-header. Each of the remaining Yankees rotation members will get an extra days rest which certainly doesn’t hurt at this point in the season. While Pettitte’s return marks an important piece of the Yankees roster returning to full, there are a couple other players on the mend who hope to be able to have an impact on the Yankees playoff aspirations.
Brett Gardner has been rumored to be ready to be activated for pinch-running and fielding duties as early as today according to MLB.com reporter Bryan Hoch. Gardner has been with the team working out and taking fly balls. Gardner says he has his legs and they feel good, but right now he is only allowed to take light swings with no contact. He doesn’t expect to be able to take batting practice for the next couple weeks. But, Gardner feels he has a chance to be a contributor and is happy that the Yankees may give him the opportunity.
“I know what my role is. I’m obviously excited to do that. I realize with that sort of thing, I might not play for a week. It just depends on how the games go and what kind of situations pop up, but I’m ready if they need me.”
The Yankees have tried to utilize small ball tactics recently when it was appropriate in their minds. They already have Eduardo Nunez filling a similar role, once Derek Jeter (more on the captain below) is able to get back to playing shortstop, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi probably expects to be in some nail biters along the rest of the way and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have Gardner available to pinch-run and play some defense until his spot in the order came back around. With a 40-man roster, it won’t be hard for Girardi to find a batter to takes swings for Gardner’s spot.
Teixeira not likely to return until late September
Mark Teixeira will be a bystander for a good majority of the rest of the regular season according to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman while being interviewed on MLB Network Radio yesterday. Cashman said that the Yankees hope he can return by the series in Toronto which begins on September 27.
Teixeira is still sore after irritating his left calf in the September 8 game which featured Teixeira getting incorrectly called out on a play at first base against the Baltimore Orioles which ended the game. Having Teixeira in the lineup is important for obvious reasons and the Yankees must be kicking themselves for bringing him back too soon the first time around.
Being in a race for the division crown will force teams to make moves they may not otherwise and at the time, getting Teixeira back in the lineup was seen as a necessity to compensate for a sluggish Yankees offense.
Jeter’s return to shortstop uncertain
Hobbled Yankees captain Derek Jeter’s availability to play shortstop is still up in the air. Girardi stated he would take a “wait and see” approach where it concerns getting Jeter back at short. With Nunez playing decently in the field and providing a different dimension at the plate and on the bases it allows the Yankees to be extremely cautious with Jeter.
Jeter, of course, wants to be on the field but the Yankees are taking the right approach with 38-year-old icon. Losing him for an extended period would be a big blow to the Yankees’ chances of winning the AL East.
Once the playoffs begin, should the Yankees be a part of them, they would like to have all three of these players as close to 100% as possible as each of them at their healthiest provides the Yankees with the best opportunity to win ball games. If any of them or all three are not at full capacitity it could contribute to a quick exit from the postseason.
For now, the rest of the group is going to have to grind it out over the next 16 games. The pursuit continues today with Pettitte’s return and the young rookie Phelps on the hill for the twin-bill at Yankee Stadium. The Bombers (83-63) are still in a dog fight with the Orioles for the AL East crown as the two teams enter play today in a tie for the lead once again as the Orioles (84-64) won an 18-inning marathon against the Seattle Mariners last night.