MLB Insider: Band of expendables helping keep Yankees afloat

Posted Saturday, Jun. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Top five Pirates: Set up for either best season since 1992 or another collapse. Cardinals: Played like an elite team even when getting swept. Rangers: About to clear June gauntlet still holding AL West lead. A’s: That collapse everyone has been awaiting isn’t going to happen. Red Sox: Best record in American League, but wary of closer situation. Bottom five Marlins: Jose Reyes not buying that they won’t trade Giancarlo Stanton. Mets: Who, besides David Wright, is their best hitter? Marlon Byrd, of course. Astros: Quality pitching the past month dashing hopes for No. 1 pick. Brewubs: Milwaukee, Chicago to only get worse after trading best players. White Sox: Dreadful season, but at least they still have Hawk Harrelson.

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The only time Mark Teixeira was seen last week at Yankee Stadium was when he was sharing the news that he would miss the rest of the season with a wrist injury.

Alex Rodriguez wasn’t seen, but he was read on Twitter and told to shut the front door by his general manager for tweeting that he was cleared for action.

Also not in sight were Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson, making four key contributors who were missing from a team that still boasts the best regular-season record in baseball since 2010.

In their place were veterans Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells; journeymen Jayson Nix, Chris Stewart and Alberto Gonzalez; and unknown rookies Zoilo Almonte and David Adams.

These aren’t the 1927 Yankees, the 1998 Yankees or even the 2012 Yankees. This version is a plucky bunch, playing to prove people wrong, and if they were anyone other than the Yankees, they’d be the slam-dunk feel-good story of the first half.

Despite the injuries, the Yankees are sitting with a record better than .500 in a balanced American League East, and they boast a pitching staff that some contending teams would gladly take.

The task for Wells and the cast of fill-ins is to keep the Yankees afloat until the missing pieces are able to contribute.

“That’s been our plan since Day 1, continue to give ourselves a chance,” Wells said. “It’s given guys an opportunity that guys normally wouldn’t get, and for the most part we’ve been able to take advantage of it.

“The cool thing is it’s been different guys on different days, and you have to have that when you have so many guys missing from the lineup.”

Wells, the Arlington Bowie product and a Tarrant County resident, is in a better place than where he was during spring training, as the fifth outfielder in Anaheim. He didn’t say a bad word about his time with the Angels — showing remarkable restraint — and he happily and quickly waived the no-trade clause in his hefty contract for the chance to play for an organization he has always admired.

He’s one of the 41 players the Yankees have used this season, only four short of the 2012 total, and one of 18 players who are first-time Yankees.

He started quickly for the Yankees, hitting .300 in April, but is in the midst of an 11-for-97 skid that for the time being has pushed him behind the young Almonte in left field and into a platoon role against left-handers.

“He’s been ready to play every day,” manager Joe Girardi said of Wells, who was batting .224 but with 10 homers and 31 RBIs. “He’s worked very hard. I think he’s dealt with it very professionally.”

Girardi’s mixing and matching, especially if the Yankees remain in the playoff hunt, is worthy of consideration for Manager of the Year. Wells said that Girardi keeps things lose in the clubhouse, or at least as loose as things can be in New York.

But the players, many no longer wanted, were chosen wisely. Hafner and Overbay, left-handed hitters with pop, entered Friday with a combined 21 homers and 12 at Yankee Stadium, home of the most hitter-friendly right field in the game.

But the pitching staff — not exactly loaded with household names, either — is the group keeping the Yankees afloat. Led by Hiroki Kuroda, the pitchers boasted the fourth-best ERA in the league entering their weekend series at Baltimore, and the pitchers know what to do with a lead.

Their 8-5 loss Wednesday to the Rangers was their first in 25 games this season when scoring at least five runs. The Yankees were 30-6 when they score first and 36-1 when leading after eight innings.

The final two marks are a credit to the ageless Mariano Rivera, who, at 43 and in his final season after a torn ACL in 2012, was 26 for 27 in save chances.

“It all starts with our rotation and our bullpen. Every day they’ve given us a chance to win. We’ve played well defensively behind them. We just have to score enough runs to support them. If there have been any issues, it’s been getting them enough runs.”

A team that since the dawn of time has pounded opponents into submission, the Yankees’ .238 batting average was better only than Seattle (.236), and only three teams had scored fewer than their 302 runs.

Teixeira isn’t coming back. It doesn’t seem like the Yankees want A-Rod back, and his ties to the Biogenesis PED den could make sure of that.

Jeter and Granderson should return at some point after the All-Star break, and they are clear upgrades at shortstop and center field. Until then, the Yankees will have to survive with their pitching and a plucky lineup of aging veterans, borderline big-leaguers and rookies.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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Wednesday, April 16Full Scoreboard
Tampa Bay0Final | Box
Baltimore «3
Pittsburgh0Final | Box
Cincinnati «4
Chicago Cubs0Final | Box
NY Yankees «3
St. Louis1Final | Box
Milwaukee «5
NY Mets «5Final | Box
Chicago Cubs0Final | Box
NY Yankees «2
Atlanta «1Final | Box
Cleveland3Bottom 9th | Box
Detroit2@theBallpark | TV: MLB N, STO, FSN-DET+
Washington «6Final | Box
Seattle2Bottom 8th | Box
Texas0@theBallpark | TV: ROOT-NW, FSN-SW
Boston1Bottom 6th | Box
Chicago WSox1@theBallpark | TV: NESN, WCIU
Kansas City2Top 7th | Box
Houston4@theBallpark | TV: FSN-KC, CSN-HOU
Toronto0Postponed | Box
Oakland0Bottom 1st | Box
LA Angels0@theBallpark | TV: CSN-CA, FSN-W
Colorado0Bottom 1st | Box
San Diego0@theBallpark | TV: ROOT-RM, FSN-SD
Los Angeles0Top 1st | Box
San Francisco0@theBallpark | TV: SNLA, NBC Bay Area
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Wednesday, April 16Full Scoreboard
Chicago86Final(OT) | Box
Charlotte «91
Indiana «101Final | Box
Washington «118Final | Box
Brooklyn85Final | Box
Cleveland «114
Dallas864th Qtr 5:52 | Box
Memphis84TV: FSN-SW, SportSouth, ESPN
Philadelphia934th Qtr 5:20 | Box
Miami82TV: CSN-PHI, SunSports
Atlanta «111Final | Box
Utah1074th Qtr 0:11 | Box
Minnesota107TV: ROOT-RM, FSN-N
Houston100Final | Box
New Orleans «105
Toronto904th Qtr 2:21 | Box
New York88TV: Sportsnet 360, MSG
Detroit1094th Qtr 3:20 | Box
Oklahoma City102TV: FSN-DET, FSN-OK
LA Lakers «113Final | Box
San Antonio100
Golden State 4/16 10:30 PM ET
Denver TV: ESPN, CSN-BA+, Altitude
LA Clippers 4/16 10:30 PM ET
Portland TV: FSN-PT, KGW
Phoenix 4/16 10:30 PM ET
Sacramento TV: FSN-AZ, CSN-CA
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Wednesday, April 16Full Scoreboard
Montreal4OT 9:00 | Box
Tampa Bay4TV: CNBC, CBC, RDS, SunSports
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game One.
Columbus3Final | Box
Pittsburgh «4
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game One. Pittsburgh leads series, 1-0.
Dallas01st Prd 18:18 | Box
Anaheim0TV: NBCSN, TSN
Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game One.
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