Tagged: Brendan Ryan

The lineup for the second game of the series against the Minnesota Twins

Greg Bird.

Greg Bird.

The Yankees will look to win their second consecutive game in the series against the Minnesota Twins. CC Sabathia, who was originally scheduled to start on Monday, will get the start tonight because it was decided that everyone in the rotation would get an extra day of rest.

The Yankees won Monday’s game 8-7 in 10 innings as Chase Headley’s ground out to the shortstop scored Brendan Ryan for the game-winning run. Carlos Beltran’s homer to left that scored Greg Bird in the sixth inning tied the game at seven. That was Beltran’s third homer in his last four games and Bird’s pinch-hit double was his first hit at Yankee Stadium.

Bryan Mitchell was unfortunately hit in the face by a line drive by Eduardo Nunez in the second inning, which forced the bullpen to pitch the final 8.1 innings. Mitchell walked off the field with the assistance of athletic trainer Steve Donahue, and Mitchell ended up coming away with a nasal fracture, which is better than it could have been given the circumstance. The bullpen will be shorthanded tonight since Chasen Shreve, Justin WIlson, Adam Warren, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller all pitched during Monday’s game.

The Yankees, who are now a game ahead of the Blue Jays since Toronto didn’t play last night, will send out a different lineup than normal tonight. Chase Headley will get the night off and Ryan will play third base.

“I just felt Head could use a day,” Girardi said. “I gave him that day (in Cleveland) to try to give him two days because his legs were beat up, and I think he played eight innings that day. I just feel that he can use a day.” In 119 plate appearances with runners in scoring position this season, Headley has a line of .324/.370/.543 with 43 RBIs.

Mark Teixeira, who fouled a ball off his right leg just below his knee during last night’s game, had X-rays last night that were negative. However, his further tests did reveal that he had a deep bone bruise. It could take a few days until he is back in the lineup.

Bird, who has a .200 average in 10 at-bats, has been impressive at the plate so far even though he only has two hits. He has found the holes recently since both of his hits have come in his previous two at-bats. He will get the start tonight for Teixeira and is ready to play the next few games in case Teixeira is not able to.

“At least he’s gotten his feet wet, which is helpful,” Girardi said. “It’s not like we had him called up today and said you’re in the lineup. He’s done a good job over there. He may be called into duty for a few days.”

Here is the lineup for tonight’s game against the Twins:

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Brian McCann C
Carlos Beltran RF
Greg Bird 1B
Didi Gregorius SS
Stephen Drew 2B
Brendan Ryan 3B

Pitching matchups for the series between the Yankees and Indians in Cleveland

Luis Severino

Luis Severino

After being swept in the three game series by the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend, the Yankees will play a three-game series starting tonight in Cleveland against the Indians. The eight consecutive wins by the Blue Jays has reduced the Yankees lead in the American League East to only 1.5 games.

The Yankees offense will need to bounce back as they only scored one run in the three losses to the Blue Jays and in their last five games combined they have only scored a total of four runs. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, who are the table setters at the top of the lineup, are only hitting .182 and .129, respectively, in eight August games. That is part of the reason that the team has gone 3-5 in August after going 10-4 between July 17 and July 31.

The pitching was somewhat surprisingly not the issue against Toronto’s high powered offense as the starters only allowed a combined seven runs in the three games. Nathan Evoaldi allowed one run on Friday, Ivan Nova allowed four runs on Saturday and Masahiro Tanaka allowed two solo homers on Sunday. The Yankees need Luis Severino, who will be making his second start tonight, to have the same kind of success that he had in his first start because winning the series in Cleveland is important.

Severino could be even more effective than when he allowed one earned run (two overall) in five innings pitched against the Red Sox last week because he will not be making his MLB debut and he will be facing an office with less firepower. This could lead to him having fewer three ball counts than he did against Boston, which lead to him throwing 94 pitches by the end of the fifth inning.

However, you can’t ask for much better than one earned run, two hits allowed and zero walks in five innings pitched in a major league debut. His fastball was electric (usually about 96mph), his changeup was effective and he used his slider as a strikeout pitch.

“I’m trying to work on certain pitches and trying to not make any mistakes,” Severino said through a translator. “I feel comfortable. I’m trying to keep my change-up low.”

Joe Girardi said that he is hoping for six innings out of Severino tonight. “He’s got a pretty good slider — he’s got a couple different ones — and he’s got a changeup,” Girardi said. What stood out to me was, he was able to make pitches in three-ball counts.

It is important that the Yankees win at least two out of three games in this series because the Blue Jays will be playing the Oakland Athletics, who are in last place just like the Indians. Chase Headley will get the night off after playing in the team’s previous 24 games and Brendan Ryan will get the start at third. Here are the pitching matchups against the Indians, who are 51-59 and in last place in the AL Central.

Tonight
RHP Luis Severino (0-1, 1.80)
vs.
RHP Carlos Carrasco (11-8, 3.76)
7:10 p.m., YES Network

Wednesday
LHP CC Sabathia (4-8, 5.34)
vs.
RHP Danny Salazar (9-6, 3.38)
7:10 p.m., YES Network

Thursday
RHP Nathan Eovaldi (11-2, 4.15)
vs.
TBA
7:10 p.m., WPIX and MLB Network

Nathan Eovaldi and the bullpen led the Yankees to a 3-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles

Brendan Ryan

Brendan Ryan

Brendan Ryan hit an RBI double in the sixth inning that ended up giving the Yankees a 3-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles in the series opener. That was Ryan’s fifth hit of the season (5-17) and it was a clutch hit after standing four in his first two at-bats. Ryan hit a double to right down the third base line to drive in Didi Gregorius.

“I just tried to get my foot down and get my barrel to the ball,” Ryan said. “I had a few opportunities today and couldn’t come through, but I was glad I was able to come through to put us up by one.”

The Toronto Blue Jays won last night, so the Yankees now have a 4.5 game lead over Toronto for first place and the Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays are five games back. Nathan Eovaldi got the start for the Yankees and he allowed two runs on four hits and three walks in 5.2 innings pitched. He had four strikeouts and has now allowed two earned runs or less in five of his last six starts.

“The split was good early on in the game,” Eovaldi said. “Even as the season has progressed it (the split) has been really good for me. I switched my grip on the split a little earlier on the season so it was like a true split. I want to go deep into ballgames, but our bullpen has been great the whole year. The split has been my pitch, I have been able to throw it in any count.”

A key out for Eovaldi came in the fifth inning when he got Chris Parmelee to ground out to second with runners on first and third with two outs. After not allowing any hits in the first three innings, Eovaldi wasn’t as effective in the fifth and sixth. In the sixth inning, Matt Weiters singled to right off of Eovaldi to score Jimmy Paredes and advance Adam Jones to second. Justin Wilson would then allow an RBI single to JJ Hardy that scored Jones, which was Eovaldi second earned run.

However, Eovaldi did mix his pitches well in addition to throwing 100mph fastballs. Eovaldi helped his own cause in the first inning by picking off Manny Machado at first with an outstanding throw. He has really improved his secondary pitches since allowing eight earned runs to the Marlins on June 16.

The Yankees scored their first run of the game on a sacrifice fly by Alex Rodriguez to left that sent Brett Gardner home. That was A-Rod’s 53rd RBI of the season, and he is on target to have his highest RBI total since the 2010 season. In the second inning, Chase Headley hit a double to the wall in left off of Wei-Yin Chen to score Brian McCann to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

Mark Teixeira, Chris Young and Headley all had two hits for the Yankees. Young had two hits off of the lefty starter, and now has a .371 average in 89 at-bats with six homers against southpaws. Headley is now on a six-game hitting streak with three doubles and three RBIs in that span. Teixeira now has three consecutive multi-hit games, which has improved his average from .239 to .252.

The Yankees were only 1-10 with runners in scoring position but they got timely hits and excellent pitching from the bullpen once again.

The Yankees are so much better with a healthy Teixeira this year. “You really appreciate it because you see it on a daily basis,” Joe Girardi said. “It was tough missing him last year but it is great having him back.”

Mark Teixeira made a great scoop on an in between hop on a throw by Gregorius to get the second out of the ninth inning. Jonathan Schoop then struck out swinging on an 84mph slider from Andrew Miller to end the game. Miller now has 21 saves in 21 save opportunities in his first season as a closer.

Including Tuesday’s 3.1 scoreless innings, the bullpen has now not allowed a run in their last 11.1 innings. Dellin Betances recorded the last out of the seventh and pitched the eighth and was able to record two strikeouts. He now has 81 strikeouts in 50.1 innings pitched, which proves how his pitches have been nearly un-hittable.

“He is able to give you multiple outs and he is very durable,” Girardi said. “He just means a ton to our team. I think he understands that when we get to the seventh that we might use him for multiple outs.

The Yankees have won 19 of their last 26 home games.

After their win on Tuesday, Ivan Nova will get the start for the Yankees in Game 2 of the series on Wednesday. He allowed four runs in 6.2 innings in his previous start.

Lineup for the Yankees for today’s matinee game against the Phillies

Ivan Nova

Ivan Nova

The Yankees play the Philadelphia Phillies at 1:05 p.m. in the final game of their three game series at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have allowed an alarmingly high 22 runs in the first two games. Their starters, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia, have combined to allow 14 runs in the previous two games, which is not a recipe for success.

Ivan Nova will make his first start of the season after missing the first two months of this campaign and the last five months of last season due to Tommy John surgery. He had a 4.02 ERA in three minor-league rehab starts but is feeling healthy and ready to rejoin the rotation. In 2013, Nova pitched much better than he did during his four starts in April of last season as he pitched in 23 games, including 20 starts, and had 3.10 ERA with 116 strikeouts and 44 walks in 139.1 innings.

Nova has been really looking forward to his return to the big league rotation. “This is like another dream,” the 28-year-old Nova said, comparing Wednesday’s start to his major league debut in 2010. “I can’t describe what is going through my mind.” His curveball (80mph) is has one of the best in the American League and his 93mph sinker is also effective.

Mark Teixeira, who missed the previous two games due to a sore neck, is back in the lineup today batting cleanup. He adds another power hitter that the Yankees missed the previous two games. Teixeira’s 18 homers are tied for fourth in the American League and his 49 RBIs are also fourth in the AL.

Jose Pirela is playing second base once again because Stephen Drew is on the paternity list. Brendan Ryan, who had only played in six games this season, was put on the 15-day DL with a right thoracic strain to make room on the roster for Nova.

The Yankees need to win this game to avoid being swept by the Phillies, who have the worst record in all of baseball. Nova and the relief pitchers will have to contain Maikel Franco because he has driven in 10 runs in the last two games and has a .519 average in the last seven days. This is the lineup for today’s game:

Brett Gardner CF
Chase Headley 3B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Mark Teixeira 1B
Carlos Beltran RF
Chris Young LF
John Ryan Murphy C
Didi Gregorius SS
Jose Pirela 2B

Masahiro Tanaka dominated for his second consecutive start since coming off of the DL

New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka reacts after second baseman Brian Roberts made a play to get out Baltimore Orioles' Ryan Flaherty to end the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 9, 2014, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Tanaka reacts after Brian Roberts made a play on April 9, 2014, at Yankee Stadium. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

On Tuesday night, the Yankees (33-25) beat the Washington Nationals, 6-1, at Yankee Stadium in the first game of the series. The Yankees have won seven games in a row (and eight of their last nine) and their starting pitchers have impressively allowed two runs or less in all seven of those games. That is a recipe for success.

Masahiro Tanaka had his first start at Yankee Stadium since coming off of the disabled list and was able to outpitch Nationals ace Max Scherzer. Tanaka threw seven innings and allowed five hits, one earned run and zero walks. He had six strikeouts and retired the side in order in the first, second and third innings. Scherzer, who had a 1.85 ERA coming into the game, allowed four earned runs and eight hits in 6.2 innings pitched.

The only run that the Nationals scored off of Tanaka was a Bryce Harper homer in the fourth inning. Tanaka has had excellent command since coming off of the DL since he has 15 strikeouts and no walks in his two starts, and he has allowed one run in both of his starts lowering his ERA from 3.22 to 2.48.

Since coming off of the DL, he has pitched like he did during his first 16 starts last season when he had a Cy Young caliber first three months with a 2.10 ERA (11-3). He would later go on the disabled list for 2.5 months due to a partially torn UCL after two ineffective starts. Tanaka and Michael Pineda (3.33 ERA) combine to form a reliable, dominant and elite top of the rotation that could give the team an edge in a playoff series.

Tanaka incredibly threw 63 of his 87 pitches for strikes and proved to not let pitching at Yankee Stadium get to him.

I think he enjoys the stage,” Joe Girardi said. “I do. I think that is one of the reasons he came to New York. I think he likes the competition and the excitement of pitching here. I think he likes it.”

The Yankees scored two of their six runs on home runs. Stephen Drew hit a homer in the third to give the team a 1-0 lead and then hit another solo blast in the eighth to make the score 6-1. This was the second time in his last four games that he has hit two homers in a game and he hit a solid .292 in June to improve his average from .143 to .175. Drew’s average is still very low for an everyday player, but his nine homers are the second most among second basemen in the American League.

Brian McCann hit a single to right in the seventh to score Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez and later in the inning Carlos Beltran singled to left to send Mark Teixeira home to make the score 5-1.

Ramon Flores, who scored a run in the seventh on a fielder’s choice by Rodriguez, went 3-4 to raise his average to .269. Flores was sent back down to Triple-A Scranton before Wednesday’s game to make room for infielder Brendan Ryan. Flores, who has a strong arm in left field as he has thrown out two runners trying to score at home in his seven games, is arguably more valuable to the Yankee than Ryan while Jacoby Ellsbury in on the DL, but Ryan is back on the roster because he is healthy and they feel they have to use him since they are paying him a lot more.

Ryan is starting Wednesday’s 1:05 p.m. game at shortstop giving Didi Gregorius a day off. Nathan Eovaldi will try to get his sixth win of the season and give the Yankees their eighth win in a row.

Gregorio Petit well replace Brendan Ryan as the back-up middle infielder

Gregorio Petit

Gregorio Petit

The Yankees acquired infielder Gregorio Petit from the Houston Astros on Wednesday for cash considerations. Brian Cashman was forced to do this because Brendan Ryan, who was supposed to be the back-up middle infielder going into the regular season, strained his right calf during Wednesday’s spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays. This injury will lead to the light hitting infielder beginning the season on the disabled list.

Rob Refsnyder, who had six errors during spring training, proved that he is not ready yet to play second base at the major-league level. He is definitely a prospect who could help the Yankees at some point this season or in 2016 based on his .357 average and six RBIs in 42 at-bats during spring training, in addition to the .318 average, 14 homers, 63 RBIs and nine steals he had in 60 games at Double-A Trenton and 77 games at Triple-A Scranton last season. However, he has only played second base for the last two seasons, so it makes sense that he needs more improvement defensively.

Petit, who batted .278 with two homers and nine RBIs in 37 games with the Astros last season, is known as a plus defender and can play shortstop, second and third. He hit .297 with 10 homers and 43 RBIs in 85 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City before being called up to the Astros. He played on the Oakland Athletics in 2008 (14 games) and 2009 (11 games) and is a career .278 hitter.

Petit proved that he has some power by hitting 10 homers in at Triple-A, and is an upgrade over Ryan offensively and an upgrade over Refsnyder defensively. His addition makes sense because he can reliably fill-in at multiple positions and will hit for a solid average. He is a solid stop gap until Ryan is healthy and gives the team options.

Petit, who has played in 16 games at second base in his career, could also be a double play combo with Didi Gregorius, which means that there could be a Gregorius to Gregorio start of a double play.

Derek Jeter helped the Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays by ending his long hitless streak

Brandon McCarthy pitching for the Yankees.

Brandon McCarthy pitching for the Yankees.

The Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Wednesday night during the last game of their three-game series at Tropicana Field. The Yankees got back in the win column after losing their last three games and five of their previous six. The three runs that the Yankees scored were as many as they had scored in their previous three games combined.

Derek Jeter was 0-28 coming into the game but his hit in the sixth inning snapped his second longest hitless streak of his career. He scored what ended up being the game-winning run on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly to right.

The Yankees scored their first two runs off of Rays starter Alex Cobb in the fifth inning. After being hit during Tuesday’s game, Chase Headley hit a double to deep center that scored Chris Young. Then, Brendan Ryan who usually doesn’t hit for much power, hit a ground rule double that landed near the foul pole in right to score Headley.

Brandon McCarthy had yet another dominating start for the Yankees. He pitched seven impressive innings, only allowed two runs and picked up four strikeouts. Evan Longoria was the only Ray that did damage off of McCarthy. He hit a solo homer in the first and had a RBI ground out in the sixth.

In the seventh inning, McCarthy wrapped up his start with an “immaculate inning” that included recording three strikeouts on only nine pitches. This feat is very rarely seen in baseball and was a great way to conclude his dominating performance. He has proven that the Yankees should make every effort to bring him back next season. Joe Girardi has been impressed with how McCarthy has been pitching.

I think his sinker has been really good and I think his curve ball has been really effective,” Girardi said. “I think that he gets some strikes with it, he puts some guys away with it and it has been really effective. But I think the command of his sinker has been the most important thing.”

McCarthy, who had struggled before being traded to the Yankees but had excelled in 2011 and 2012, has now allowed two runs or less in seven of his last nine starts. He needed only 91 pitches to get through seven innings and had 12 ground ball outs and eight fly ball outs.

The other pitching highlight from this game was that Dellin Betances, the flame throwing set-up man who was born in Washington Heights, recorded his 131st strikeout of his season. In his first full major league season, he set the record for most strikeouts in a season by a Yankee reliever. Future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera previously set the record with his 130 strikeouts in 1996. His knee buckling slurve and 99 MPH fastball has led him to a dominating 1.33 ERA.

I got a bunch of text messages (about the record),” Betances said. “I am happy we came out on the winning side. It is pretty incredible to think about the whole year and how everything has gone. I definitely feel honored, especially to be a part of this group and part of this organization. Just to be mentioned around his name (Mariano Rivera), you are talking about the best closer & reliever in the game, just to be around the same breath as him, I take thrill in that.”

“You think about the people that he (Betances) has passed in the last few weeks, Goose Gossage and Mariano Rivera, one Hall of Famer and one who has just got to wait his turn basically, it is pretty impressive what he has done,” Girardi said. “What he went through, some of the struggles that he went through, those struggles help you. When you struggle and are able to get back up and fight through it, it helps you down the road because it is not always going to be easy in this game.”

The Yankees won Derek Jeter’s final game at Tropicana Field after David Robertson got Nick Franklin to strike out swinging to end the game. Robertson picked up his 37th save of the season, which is the third best save total in the American League.

Young, who scored the Yankees first run, should be brought back as a fourth outfielder if he is willing to take a discount. His average on the season is .219, but since his first game with the Yankees on September 2, he has hit .324 in 34 at-bats with three homers and eight RBIs.

The Yankees and Blue Jays will begin a four-game series at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night at 7:05 p.m. Rookie Shane Greene (5-3, 3.56 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees and the veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will get the start for Toronto.

After a win to start the series at Target Field, the Yankees will look to have another memorable July 4th

Zealous Wheeler

Zelous Wheeler

The Yankees, who won the first game of the series against the Minnesota Twins 7-4 on July 3 at Target Field after losing eight of their previous 10 games, will try for to push their winning streak to two on July 4th. This will be their second consecutive year playing the Twins at Target Field on the 4th of July.

Today is the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s legendary “Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech. According to Jeff Quagliata, other notable Yankees moments from July 4th in Yankees history include Mickey Mantle hitting his 300th homer on this day in 1960, Dave Righetti throwing a no-hitter on this day in 1983 and knuckleballer Phil Niekro recording his 3,000th strikeout on this day in 1984. Jorge Posada and Marcus Thames slugged extra-inning walk-off hits on July 4th in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

To help the Yankees win Thursday’s game, Carlos Beltran hit a three-run homer in the fifth to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. Zelous Wheeler, who was called up to the Yankees before the game, hit a solo homer later in the fifth in his first career MLB game. He is the first Yankee to homer in his first major-league game since Andy Phillips in 2004.

The Yankees scored three more runs in the seventh inning and their fifth run was scored by Ichiro Suzuki after a double by Brendan Ryan. Those were all the runs that the Yankees would need as Trevor Plouffe scored the Minnesota’s fourth and final run in the bottom of the seventh. Masahiro Tanaka’s four runs allowed in this start were more than in any of his other starts, but he was able to American League leading 12th win as a result of the seven runs that the Yankees scored.

Phil Hughes, who pitched for the Yankees from 2007 until 2013, allowed seven runs in his 6.1 innings pitched. Hughes was the right pitcher for the Yankees to break out of their slump with runners in scoring position. The Yankees were 3-4 with RISP, which included Beltran’s homer.

Mark Teixeira was impressed by Wheeler’s homer that he hit against the Twins. He tweeted that: “We figured out the secret to scoring more runs… just put Zealous in the lineup. What a debut!

Chase Whitley will look to bounce back from his previous start where he allowed five runs in his second worst start of his brief career. During his last two starts Whitley’s ERA has risen from 2.56 to 4.70. It will be key for him to control the ball and not allow walks like he did in four consecutive starts.

Kyle Gibson, a 6-6 righty from Indiana, will get the start for the Twins. In his last two starts Gibson allowed two and seven runs, respectively, which proves he has been hit or miss. The Yankees will look to have another memorable Independence Day game.

Ineffective starting pitching led to the second consecutive loss for the Yankees

Nuno during his start against the Angels

Nuno during his start against the Angels

After winning four consecutive games, and having a chance to win the series against the Oakland Athletics, the Yankees lost on Saturday and Sunday to drop their record to 35-33. Hiroki Kuroda allowed four earned runs in 4.2 innings on Saturday, and the Athletics scored eight runs in three innings against Vidal Nuno in Sunday’s 10-5 loss to the Athletics.

According to Katie Sharp of ESPN, Nuno is the first Yankee lefty to allow 8+ earned runs in 3 innings pitched or fewer since Andy Pettitte on Sept. 5, 2003 against the Red Sox. Nuno, who only allowed one run in his last start, allowed three-run homers to Derek Norris and Coco Crisp among his eight hits during his regrettable start. His 5.90 ERA could get him sent back to the minors in the next few weeks.

The best starter that the Yankees have at Triple-A Scranton is Joel De La Cruz who has a 4.06 ERA in in 44.1 innings, which means that they should look outside of the organization to improve the rotation. Manny Banuelos, a former top prospect, is currently pitching in Double-A, but he likely wouldn’t be ready until August or September as a result of slow recovery from missing the 2013 season due to Tommy John surgery. They should look to acquire Jason Hammel or Jeff Samardzija via trade from the Chicago Cubs.

Nuno blamed his ineffectiveness on not being able to properly correct his mistakes against the Athletics offense. “It was pretty much just not making adjustments,” Nuno said. “They got some little hits here and there and then it was just one pitch – bang. Those two innings it was frustrating just getting not ahead in the count. They took advantage of it.”

Nuno only threw a first-pitch strike to 10 out of the 18 hitters that he faced, so his assessment that not getting ahead in the count hurt him is correct. Nuno allowed two more runs besides the six runs that scored off of homers in the first two innings, and then Jose Ramirez was charged with Oakland’s ninth and 10th runs in the 4th inning.

The Yankees rallied late in the game, but it is hard to have a chance to win a game when the starting pitcher is charged with eight runs in three innings. Mark Teixeira’s RBI double in the fifth, Carlos Beltran’s solo homer and Ichiro Suzuki’s sac fly in the seventh and Brett Gardner‘s homer to right that scored Yangervis Solarte gave the Yankees five runs to make the score somewhat respectable.

After the game was already decided, Brendan Ryan uncharacteristically made an error in the eighth to allow Craig Gentry to reach first. Ryan is known for being an excellent defensive shortstop, but that was already his third error of this season after only playing in 18 games.

The Yankees didn’t end the road trip through Seattle and Oakland the way they would have wanted to, but 4-2 is a successful six-game west coast road trip. The Yankees’ 6-4 record over their last 10 games is the best in the American League East, which has helped them improve in to a tie with the Baltimore Orioles for second place.

After an off day on Monday, as the Yankees will be flying back to New York City from Oakland, the Yankees will start a series against the first-place Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday. Masahiro Tanaka, who will start Tuesday’s series opener, has been by far the team’s best starter and will give them their best chance of getting back in the win column against their division rival.

Brendan Ryan is not expected to be ready for Opening Day

The only spots that are not locked up to come north to the Bronx right now are the bullpen behind David Robertson and Shawn Kelley, the fifth starter position (it appears to be Michael Pineda) and the back-up infielders. Brendan Ryan, who came into spring training as the slick-fielding back-up shortstop, is not expected to be ready for Opening Day.

Ryan, signed a two-year, $5 million contract over the winter after coming to the team in September, has not played in game action since March 4. It was initially called an oblique injury, but after further evaluation it turned into a lower back ailment. Even worse, he still has the pinch in his upper back that he sustained after throwing a baseball a half hour before Thursday’s game.

He will not play this upcoming week and when asked if there was a chance that he would Ryan said, “I don’t even think they’ll let me if I wanted to.” Since it seems like the might have to start the season on the disabled list as a result of his back injury, their options as backup infielders include Dean Anna, Eduardo Nunez and Yangervis Solarte.

The decision should be between Solarte and Nunez. Anna should be sent to AAA based on his subpar .265 average in spring training. The 27-year-old career minor leaguer did hit .331 last season in AAA in the Pacific Coast League, but offensive numbers are usually higher in that league than in the rest of AAA. Even though he has versatility, he should start at Scranton and be called up eventually if he plays well.

Yangervis Solarte, who was a non-roster invitee before spring training, has come out of nowhere to hit .471 in 34 at-bats so far. He has two homers, nine runs scored and eight runs batted in. The 26-year old can play every second base, third base, shortstop and left field.  Solarte played on the Triple-A team of the Rangers last season, and has been in the minors since 2006. It is unknown what he can do on the major league level, but his numbers in so far in Florida are promising.

Nunez definitely has the most impressive career out of the three so far. The major question mark with him is his defense, which has often been suspect while with the Yankees. However, he has shown the ability to make the routine and remarkable play, and he has the ability to hit for contact and for some power as well as steal bases. In 2012, in 38 games played, he had a .292 average, 11 RBI and 11 steals. Last season, his average dipped to .260, but he hit .295 with two homers and eight RBI in 78 at-bats during September.

Something Solarte has against him is that he is not currently on the 40-man roster, but his versatility and offensive skills could be hard to ignore. They could remove Nik Turley or Bryan Mitchell, who are currently on the 40-man and replace one of them with Solarte. It would make sense to have Solarte and Nunez come north, and then send Solarte down to Triple-A once Ryan is healthy.

********************************************************************************************

It is important for the backup infielders to play well, to go along with Mark Teixiera, Brian Roberts, Derek Jeter and Kelly Johnson in the infield, but it is just as important that the starting pitching performs well and stays healthy. If the starters can do this, and the offense stays healthy, they will have a chance of winning the division.

You have the defending champs (Boston Red Sox), but if we pitch well, I think we have the guys to over take them,” CC Sabathia said on Pride Power and Pinstripes.