The Yankees face a bit of a test this afternoon when they send rookie Chase Whitley to the mound against Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija and try to stave off a mini-two-game sweep at Wrigley Field. Since the Cubs are not a good baseball team, it would be delightful to avoid those shenanigans, but with the unfavorable pitching matchup, we can only cross our fingers. Here's who the Yankees will be putting in their starting lineup against Samardzija this afternoon:
#Yankees lineup: Gardner 7, Jeter 6, Ellsbury 8, Teixeira 3, McCann 2, Solarte 5, Suzuki 9, Roberts 4, Whitley 1.— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) May 21, 2014
The biggest change is Ichiro Suzuki to the starting lineup in place of Alfonso Soriano. The hard-hitting righty was off to a fine start in his first 21 games at .280/.326/.500 with four homers in 89 plate appearances, but since then in his most recent 21 games, he's slumped to a dismal .200/.205/.333 triple slash in 78 plate appearances. His .200/.232/.343 struggles against righties in 112 plate appearances and Samardzija's presence on the mound this afternoon likely made Joe Girardi's decision to give Ichiro a shot easier. It will only be Ichiro's second start since missing a few days due to his back injury, but given Soriano's slump and Ichiro's decent numbers on the season, it's hard to quibble with this move.
The rest of the lineup is pretty much the same as it was last night, though Yangervis Solarte moves up a slot over Ichiro, rather than hitting behind him as he did with Soriano last night. It's a little weird to see Brian McCann starting a day game after a night game instead of having John Ryan Murphy handling the duties, but whatever. Due to National League rules, we will also see if Whitley can defend his 1.000 batting average. So huzzah?
On the injury front, Meredith Marakovits provided a small update on Michael Pineda's progress in his return from a shoulder muscle strain:
Pineda threw a 30 pitch bullpen earlier today. No issues. Will determine wether he throws another pen or face hitters tomorrow #yankees— Meredith Marakovits (@M_Marakovits) May 21, 2014
Not much news, but positive news anyway. We're still unlikely to see Pineda until the beginning of June at the earliest, given the reports from a couple weeks ago about his injury keeping him out longer than the original 3-4 week timetable set following his last game on April 23. No offense to David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, or Whitley, but I would much prefer to see Pineda out there over all of those guys, so I anxiously await his return and hope that he can just approach what he was doing in April before the pine tar shenanigans and the injury.
Tanya mentioned earlier in her Baby Bomber Recap that third base prospect Eric Jagielo left yesterday's game in High-A Tampa after hitting his 10th homer of the season. Here's what happened, per MiLB.com:
Jagielo stepped to the plate in the third inning with two outs and runners at first and second. He swung and missed at a fastball to fall behind, 0-2, and felt some tightness in his right side. After consulting with Yankees trainer Michael Becker, Jagielo stepped back in.
On the next pitch, he clubbed a fastball over the right-field fence for a three-run homer.
If Jagielo just suffered some tightness in his right side, it's probably not much of a big deal. He was removed from the game for precautionary reasons and was held out of the lineup today, but it's likely best to not be too concerned. Probably best to bubble wrap him though, just to be safe.
Setback for Shawn Kelley. Felt tightness in back day after playing catch. Rehab on hold for now #Yankees— Meredith Marakovits (@M_Marakovits) May 21, 2014
Sigh. The Yankees' bullpen could really use an infusion of Shawn Kelley strikeouts right now given how bad Preston Claiborne, Matt Daley, and Alfredo Aceves have looked. Guess we're just going to have to deal with it for a little while longer.
The forecast is optimal, so we shouldn't get any annoying rain today like last night. First pitch for the game this afternoon is at 2:20pm, and you can catch it on YES.