Yankees Notebook: Lineup change, Posada returns
The projected lineup had Alex Rodriguez hitting fourth and Robinson Cano hitting third, but that will change against right-handed pitching. The idea behind the switch is to make it more difficult for opposing managers to use their left-handed relievers.
“We just feel that some of these clubs who have two-lefthanders and even the one left-hander, it makes it a little more difficult to navigate through,” manager Joe Girardi said. “So we’re going to go with this and just try to make it more difficult on clubs when to bring the left-hander in.”
Though that did not apply in Baltimore, it happened twice in last Friday’s season opener in Tampa Bay. In the sixth inning, J.P. Howell faced Curtis Granderson and Cano and retired both on pop-ups. Two innings later, Jake McGee faced them and got a swinging strikeout and a flyout.
While that might be the publicly stated reason, the real reasoning could be number based.
The Yankees are hitting .222 with runners in scoring position and Cano, Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are a combined 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position and 16-for-66 overall with just one RBI.
Rodriguez batted third for the 728th time in his career. If this alignment sticks, this would be the second time as a Yankee he saw significant time batting third. He also hit there 72 times during 2004 when he hit .295 with 20 home runs and 48 RBI.
“If you think that’s the story, wait until I take over Jeter’s spot in the leadoff spot; that will be the real story,” Rodriguez joked.
Rodriguez has hit 223 home runs from that spot in the lineup and the move was hardly a big deal to the third baseman.
“No matter where you hit, you got to just produce. I know it does one thing; it kind of presents a situation or decision for the opposing manager each and every day. At some point, someone should get a pretty favorable matchup.”
Cano has hit cleanup in 69 games with a more than respectable .318 batting average and the move barely created a ripple for the second baseman.
“I just came here to play,” he said. “Whatever the manager decides, I’m good with that.
Third? Fourth? It makes no difference. I’m just happy to be in the lineup. It doesn’t matter; you still got to face a lefty.”
That might not come into play this weekend since left-handed reliever Scott Downs is unavailable due to an ankle injury. The only southpaw in the Angels’ bullpen is ex-Met Hisanori Takahashi.
Pujols in the city
Albert Pujols will be making at least one trip a year to Yankee Stadium over the course of his 10-year contract, but playing in the home opener here was hardly a big deal. He addressed the topic during an 11-minute press conference roughly four hours before the first pitch.
To tell you the truth, no disrespecting the history of this organization, the Yankees, I take it like every other park,” Pujols said. “Getting here early, watching my video, getting prepared in the cage; at the end it’s just a game.
“Nothing changes. Maybe the fans are louder, but everything else is the same. The game doesn’t change because you play in Yankee Stadium. The rules are the same, you just need to get yourself out there and prepare yourself for the game.”
Pujols’ comments were almost identical to what he said to Angels reporters Thursday in Minnesota.
Pujols averaged a home run once every 14.2 at-bats and his six games without one is the longest since going the first eight games of 2008 without a home run.
Despite the slow start, there’s little doubt Pujols will get going.
“Our pitching staff is doing backflips in the clubhouse, real excited about him coming over,” Derek Jeter joked.
Posada throws from the mound
Jorge Posada was at Yankee Stadium for the first time since his emotional retirement press conference on Jan. 24. Like Andy Pettitte did for Game 2 of the ALDS, he threw out the first pitch.
“I think it’s a moment that he’s looking forward to,” Jeter said. “It’s one he’s going to remember just coming off a retirement a few months ago. I’m sure it probably feels a little odd to him coming from playing and then a couple of months later throwing out the first pitch.”
Posada was the 11th ex-Yankee to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and threw to his father Jorge Sr.
Posada’s father had to tell him not to throw too hard before taking the field to a thunderous standing ovation.
Posada took the mound as the entire Yankee starting lineup stood behind him. After throwing, he embraced each of his former teammates as the scoreboard read “Thank You Jorge.”
“It was like old times, playing catch with him,” Posada said. “They told me they wanted Mariano [Rivera] to catch it. I was excited to have Mo catch it, but I think to have my dad there was more important.”
Unlike Pettitte, who came back after being retired for a year, Posada seemed to be comfortable with his decision. After losing his catching job last year, part of his days are helping his son play baseball and though he seemed to indicate that he wanted to be a part of the game, he does not always want to be traveling.
“During the season I knew it was it,” he said. “My contract was up. Things weren’t going the way I wanted them to. At the end it was like should I keep doing this, should I try to hang on and not play the position I wanted to play. That made the decision easy.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.