With the Yankees in their penultimate homestand of the season, I figured I'd better get myself out to the ballpark for both. I'm in the press box tonight and was able to talk to a few players in the clubhouse before batting practice. I've essentially already covered Javy Vazquez's return to the rotation in Dustin Moseley's spot, which was made official today, so here are some smaller items from elsewhere on the roster.
I noticed Gardner out on the field with third-base coach Rob Thomson around 3:30 working on bunting up the third base line, so I asked him if he's been doing that a lot this year:
"I was for a while. I'd gotten away from it recently. Just with our schedule and stuff it's hard to do, but it's a lot easier when we're at home, so I try to do it once a homestand."
I also asked him about the condition of his wrist as Gardner was hitting .321/.403/.418 when he was hit in the wrist by a Clayton Kershaw pitch on June 27 and has hit just .233/.369/.325 since:
"It feels good. Occasionally it's a little tight just because the way I got hit was a bad spot, and it was sore for a little while, but it's been good."
Albaladejo was called up today with rosters having expanded after spending essentially all season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. There he posted a 1.42 ERA, struck out 11.7 men per nine innings against just 2.6 walks (4.56 K/BB) and set an International League record with 43 saves. I asked him if it was frustrating to pitch so well at Triple-A and not get the call despite being on the 40-man roster. He said, "maybe at one point," but that after a while he didn't think about it too much and just went about his work of getting hitters out. (Good non-answer, meat.) Asked why he was so much better at that this season, he said he's been using his four-seam fastball more to get ahead of hitters. In the past, he would start hitters off with his sinker.
"My sinker was moving more than I thought it would be, and it was, ball one, the ball two. Then you gotta go right down the middle and there's a base hit . . . stuff like that. Now I get ahead and I have more of an idea of what I want to do."
Albaladejo also said he's had a better curve ball this year and that has become his number-two pitch behind the four-seamer with the sinker, his former number-one, dropped to third. "I use my sinker once in a while, but not as much as I did last year."
I've been saying mean things about Boone Logan's effectiveness ever since the Yankees acquired him in the Javy Vazquez trade, but he's been outstanding since last being recalled from Scranton in mid July ("Oh, gee, thanks for noticing," he said sarcastically with a glance at David Robertson at the next locker). Logan has been charged with just one run in 18 outings since his recall, and in his last 17 outings he has allowed just two of his ten inherited runners to score while none of his own men have come around. His line over those last 17 appearances: 11 1/3 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 11 K, 1 HBP. He's been hit-lucky, but high BABIPs have been a problem for him in the past, so that's an important change of luck, and his work in the strike zone has been excellent especially in comparison to his career 4.1 BB/9 and pedestrian 7.2 K/9.
I interrupted his a capella rendition of Guns N' Roses "I Used To Love Her" to ask him what the difference has been. His answer: confidence and four-seam fastballs:
"Being confident in my pitches and finally realizing I throw quality pitches. Attacking hitters with the best of what I got and with confidence. Confidence has been really, if I could sum it up in one word, just being confident. It's finally clicked this year that it's an important asset to have."
Asked if being sent down repeatedly this season motivated that change in his mental approach, he said, "being sent down is never fun. There's a reason for everything, when you're doing bad, or if it's something that has to be done at the time 'cuz I'm the guy with an option. But now I'm out of options this year."
Asked about a possible change in pitch selection: "I'm using my fastball a lot more, actually a whole lot more compared to throwing nothing but sliders in the past. But that wasn't my call, the White Sox had me doing all that stuff."
By "White Sox" do you mean pitching coach Don Cooper?
So was Dave Eiland the guy who got you throwing more fastballs?
"No, I mean the Braves got me started doing that last year. Like, 'hey, throw your fastball, you throw hard and it moves,' and the same with these guys [the Yankees]. So I got used to throwing strikes with it and getting ahead in the count with it, and it just makes my slider that much more effective."
As expected, Berkman was activated from the disabled list today, but with Marcus Thames red-hot and the Yankees facing lefties today and tomorrow, he's not in the lineup. I asked him about his reaction to going from being the every-day number-three hitter and one of the best hitters in the game to being a role player.
"It's definitely different. I mean it's strange to have to check the lineup every day to see if you're gonna be in there. Going from hitting third and playing every day to basically being a sometimes platoon DH . . . it is, it's tough. It's tougher than I thought it would be, I guess, to kind of get into a rhythm. But, I accepted the trade for an opportunity to come over here and win a championship and I'm getting the opportunity, albeit in more of a limited role. I'm still part of the team, and I'm glad I'm here. I'm not gonna start the next two days, so I'll pinch-hit or whatever."
Asked about coming in cold with just two rehab games under his belt then sitting his first two days back on the active roster, he joked, "it's not like I was lighting it up before. I don't anticipate it being a problem at all. Heck, this time of the year, September, if you can't hit by now, you can't hit. In other words, it's not like a rust situation where you missed spring training or something."
How's the ankle feel?
"Feels good. Solid."
You got those Dobermans after you?
"Not yet. I was looking for them in Trenton, it looked like a place you might run into a couple."