On Tuesday, in my preview of the Yankees three-game set against the Orioles, I wrote that “the Yankees should be embarrassed by anything less than a sweep this week.” So far, so good. The Yankees won the first two games being sharp pitching by Javier Vazquez and Phil Hughes and huge offensive outburst in the latter game. This afternoon, they hand the ball to CC Sabathia, looking for that sweep.
Normally that would be a slam dunk, but Sabathia has struggled in three of his last four outings, including his last against the punchless Indians (the team that made 28 straight outs against Armando Galarraga last night). Still, CC has already beaten Baltimore twice this season (allowing just four runs in 15 2/3 innings) and facing the O’s just might be what he needs to get back on track (though I said that about the Indians as well).
Kevin Millwood throws for the O’s. He faced the Yankees back on April 27 and held them to two runs but was inefficient and was pulled after throwing 112 pitches in just 5 1/3 innings. The O’s actually won that game after Millwood came out, one of four times that has happened this year, while Millwood’s record remains stuck at 0-5 due to an average of just 2.75 runs of support. Millwood’s 3.89 ERA and better than 6 2/3 innings pitched per start attest to his value, but while he’s never been awful (never allowing more runs than innings pitched in his 11 starts this season), he’s also never been dominant, allowing three or more runs in eight of his 11 starts and two runs in each of the other three. Using the standard of three runs allowed (rather than three unearned runs allowed), Millwood has turned in just three quality starts this season.
The Yankees run out their new standard lineup this afternoon. For those who missed it last night, it looks like this:
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
S – Nick Swisher (RF)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
S – Jorge Posada (DH)
L – Curtis Granderson (CF)
R – Francisco Cervelli (C)
L – Brett Gardner (LF)
Posada is not yet cleared to catch, which is just fine by me. I’d rather have Posada’s bat at the low-impact position of DH and Cervelli’s strong defense and solid singles-hitting bat behind the plate than risk another Posada injury by having him catch in order to allow Joe Girardi to rotate Ramiro Peña around the infield or Kevin Russo and Marcus Thames around the outfield. I’m hoping that, once Posada is cleared to catch, Girardi will stick with this alignment and use Jorge only as Cervelli’s backup behind the dish, perhaps having him catch against lefty starters so that Thames can DH in those games. I’m not expecting that, but I’m hoping for it, and I was encouraged by Posada’s comments as reported by Chad Jennings yesterday:
Jorge Posada has been cleared to play, but he has not been cleared to catch during drills, much less in a game. For now he’s limited to designated hitter, and this afternoon Posada acknowledged that his career might start trending that direction. He plans to catch again, but he expects to start seeing more and more time at DH, less and less time behind the plate.
“I know that I can catch and I know that I can be out there,” he said. “But a lot of circumstances have come. I’m going to have to be smart about it. If I’m in the lineup, I’m happy. I would like to catch here and there sometimes, but I understand what the future holds.”
Posada said he knew when he signed his most recent contract that he might see more time at DH by the end of it. He still considers himself a catcher — “I’m not a DH yet,” he said — but after a remarkably healthy first 13 years in the big leagues, he’s now gone on the DL four times since 2008.
“Knowing that the American League has a DH, yeah, it was on my mind,” Posada said. “When you’re talking about guys that catch every day, you don’t see too many 38-year-olds catching every day. I understand what’s going on.”