|Bullpen coach Mike Harkey's face said it all last May.|
On May 3 of last year Yankees fans saw something that nearly made them all hurl. It was Mariano Rivera writhing around in agony on the warning track in Kansas City's Ewing M. Kauffman Stadium. Baseball's all-time greatest closer was in the midst of his normal pre-game ritual of shagging fly balls during batting practice when he went down in a heap.
Several minutes later Rivera was carted off the field with a torn ACL in his right knee. Just 25 games into the 2012 season, Rivera's season was over after just nine appearances and five saves. One year and one week later, the Yankees and Rivera are back in Kansas City for a three game series with the Royals.
Rivera underwent surgery in July and successfully rehabbed in time for the start of the 2013 season. At the moment he leads the American League with 13 saves in 15 games pitched. He's struck out 12 and walked just two in 14.1 innings, and allowed three earned runs (1.88). In other words he's having a Mariano Rivera-type season in this, his final season.
Rivera has returned to his pre-game ritual this season, but Joe Girardi has noticed that Rivera doesn't go after baseballs as hard as he used to. He half-jokingly added, "I'm not going to challenge him on it."
Rivera wasn't the only one that had issues in Kansas City last season. Robinson Cano was booed mercilessly after he did not select the Royals' Billy Butler to participate in the 2012 All-Star home run derby. To make matters worse, the game was actually in Kansas City. The fans went too far in my opinion and were pretty damn obnoxious, especially since it was an All-Star event and not the regular season.
Whether or not it affected Cano, the defending champion, was unclear, but he made a very early exit from the contest. Cano can get even by continuing the success he has had against KC - an .839 OPS 7 HR 39 RBI in 60 games.
I'll get back to the injuries in a moment, but first and I mean first, let's talk about the AL East standings on this fine Friday. Right there in the paper, on your internet, on your iPhone app, was the New York Yankees sitting atop the American League East division. Technically, it's a three way tie (NY 20-13, Bal, Bos 21-14) between the Yankees, Orioles, and suddenly floundering Red Sox, but the Yankees have a .006 percentage lead. Boo hiss to one of my favorite sites - baseball-reference.com - which put the standings in alphabetical order. That's not the way it works boys.
Okay, back to the walking wounded- Curtis Granderson went 1-3 Thursday night as a member of the Yankees Triple 'A' Scranton RailRiders. (Months later the team name still stinks.) The plan is for Granderson, who played right field last night, to play all three outfield positions while he completes his rehab from the broken forearm he got in the first Spring Training game of the season.
Eduardo Nunez is feeling better, but still cannot swing a bat due to soreness in his rib cage/oblique area. If the Yankees have to DL Nunez it can be back dated to May 6, which would make him eligible for activation on the 20th of May.
As a precaution the Yankees have brought back the attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez. The utility infielder was a member of the Yankees organization for 2007 and part of 2008. He was acquired from Arizona when the Yankees sent Randy Johnson back to the desert in January, 2007, and then was dealt to the Nationals at the 2008 trade deadline for pitcher Jhonny Nunez. (Nunez was part of the package later sent to Chicago for Nick Swisher.) The Yankees will send a player to be named later or cash to the Chicago Cubs for Gonzalez, who will report to Scranton.
Ivan Nova remains on track to start in one of Monday's doubleheader make up games with the Cleveland Indians. The Yankees will then head to the Bronx for a six game homestand with the Mariners and Blue Jays.
Girardi is optimistic that Joba Chamberlain will be able to return on time when he's eligible to be activated this coming Tuesday. He backed away a little bit from the statement by adding that you never know with oblique injuries.