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Should Yankees call up ‘Strikeout Factory’ Jacob Lindgren before Sept. 1? — August 27, 2014

Should Yankees call up ‘Strikeout Factory’ Jacob Lindgren before Sept. 1?

lindgren

Yankees minor-league reliever Jacob Lindgren.

By Brendan Kuty

DETROIT — Clubs have until Sept. 1 to add players to their 25-man roster who would be playoff-eligible.

The Yankees‘ roster looks mostly set at the moment. There aren’t many minor-leaguers they’d consider dropping onto it.

Except maybe for one: Jacob Lindgren, a 2014 second-round pick who’s slaughtered hitters across the four levels of the minors he’s seen since his June 28 debut.

So, should the Yankees bring up Lindgren, whose earned the nickname “The Strikeout Factory?” Let’s discuss …

YES: A look at Lindgren’s numbers should convince you enough.

Entering Tuesday, Lindgren had 44 strikeouts and has just walked nine while posting a 0.79 ERA in 22.1 innings. Yes, 13.1 of those frames came against hitters in the Yankees’ rookie league and at both levels of A ball. But Lindgren’s dominance continued at Double-A, where he had 14 Ks in 9.1 innings.

Lindgren and his wipeout slider would almost definitely be a more formidable southpaw option than Rich Hill or David Huff right now, though Huff’s appeal is in the length he gives the Yankees.

NO: Yes, the Yankees have seen enough of Lindgren’s stuff — live and on tape at Mississippi State — by now to know what he’s got and that it would play in the majors right now.

But a jump almost straight from college to the bigs would be tough for anybody to handle. Maybe it would be better to let him come up in the middle of September and toss a few dominant innings as a taste of the show without the pressure of a possible playoff appearance looming.

What’s more, Lindgren’s innings have piled up. He’s thrown a combined 78 innings between college and the minors in 2014. Lindgren threw just 56 in 2013 and 28.1 in 2012. The Yankees are aware of that, and you can bet they’ll play it safe with their top pick.

MY THOUGHTS: Bring up Lindgren in September and let him pitch in lefty specialist situations. The Yankees aren’t going to give up on their playoff push, but their odds at making the postseason won’t jump exponentially if Lindgren joins the relief corps on Aug. 31 or before.

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Derek Jeter’s N.J. roots made him root against dad —

Derek Jeter’s N.J. roots made him root against dad

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By Brendan Kuty

DETROIT — Sanderson Jeter can thank Jersey for all those years of his son cheering against his favorite teams.

Derek Jeter spoke with the Detroit media for about 15 minutes about his memories of playing here as he prepares to wrap up his career at season’s end. The trip might be especially meaningful for the Yankees captain, who grew up in Kalamazoo, Mich.

But Jeter was born at Chilton Memorial Hospital in Pequannock and lived for a short time in North Arlington.

Those tiny Jersey roots, Jeter said, led to his professional sports allegiances.

“My dad was a big Tiger fan,” Jeter said. “He was a big Lions fan. Because I was born in Jersey, I think I leaned toward the Yankees. But I was always a big University of Michigan fan. I still am today. Just because I was born in Jersey I sort of — and because I had to root against my dad, to give me something to compete against — I sort of leaned toward the New York teams.”

Sorry, pops.

Pineda’s Slider Was Straight Up Disgusting Last Night — August 26, 2014

Pineda’s Slider Was Straight Up Disgusting Last Night

By Brad Vietrogoski

Given the situation and the small sample size from which to choose, it’s fair to say that last night was the best start of Michael Pineda‘s Yankee career.  Facing a hot team with a sneaky dangerous lineup, Pineda looked as good as he did in 2011 in spurts, flashing mid-to-high 90s fastballs with late movement and a hard, biting slider that he threw all over the zone.  KC really only put 2 good swings on him all night: on the Moustakas home run that he left up on a tee in the 3rd and the Perez double in the 7th on his final pitch of the night.

The fastball velocity, both in terms of the number and the sustainability, was really great to see.  The Yankees don’t have anybody in their rotation right now who can throw real smoke (maybe Greene kinda when he’s feeling good), so having Big Mike up there humming 95-97 is a good way to mix things up.  But what really stood out to me last night was how good his slider was.  He had great command of that pitch last night and seeing it work really well for the first time was awesome.

Here’s the breakdown on it, according to Texas Leaguers.  Pineda threw 27 sliders last night.  22 of those 27 were strikes, 18 were swung at, 8 were swung at and missed, and 5 were put in play.  Of the 5 put in play, only 2 went for hits and both of those hits came as groundball singles.  Of Pineda’s 5 strikeouts, 3 came on the slider.

2 things. 1, check out the pitch location plot:

Pineda-Slider-Location-8-25-14

To someone who didn’t watch the game live, that might look like a guy who wasn’t commanding his slider well at all.  It was spread across both sides of the zone and there were a handful that were left up.  As someone who did watch the game, this plot perfectly illustrates how nasty Pineda’s slider was.  It wasn’t that he was missing with the pitch and spreading it all over the place.  He was purposely locating it to both sides of the plate, burying it down and away to righties when he wanted a swing and miss, and putting it in the strike zone to generate weak contact because of all the late movement it had.  Pineda was doing whatever he wanted with the pitch no matter who was at the plate.

Which brings me to thing 2.  His velocity vs. spin angle plot:

Pineda-Velocity-Spin-Angle-8-25-14    22222

Take a gander and you’ll notice that there’s a pretty wide variance in both the velocity and the spin rate of the 27 sliders Pineda threw last night.  This is what made the pitch so effective for him and so difficult for the Royal hitters to time and square up.  He wasn’t just raring back and throwing the same mid-80s slider to different parts of the strike zone.  He was mixing up sliders, throwing a harder one, a softer one, one with more bite, one with less, etc. as he went and as the at-bat situation dictated.  It’s that ability to adjust your big pitch as needed that makes for true command and Pineda had that going for him in a big way last night.

I’m sure I’m not saying anything groundbreaking here.  Any really good pitcher surely has the ability to do this with any of his pitches and any really good pitcher has the ability to work all parts of the strike zone.  I’m also sure there was a game or 2 in the past where Pineda had this same mastery of his slider going.  I just can’t recall ever seeing that from him in the few early April starts I watched and I was really impressed with it watching live last night.  If this is the kind of stuff Pineda still has post-surgery and post-2 years off, he may still become the good #2 starter the Yanks hoped they were getting.

Wins? Losses? Judging Yankees’ big trades —

Wins? Losses? Judging Yankees’ big trades

chase  headley

Yankees third baseman Chase Headley

By Brendan Kuty

We’re almost a month past the July 31 trade deadline. The players the Yankees added have certainly had enough time to either bolster or weaken the Yankees’ playoff chances.

Let’s decide whether the bigger deals were wins or losses, with the understanding that there’s still a month to play and things could still swing in the other direction.

Yankees trade Kelly Johnson to Red Sox for Stephen Drew and cash

Verdict: Loss.

Was tempted to call this a wash for the Yankees, because at least Drew has played solid defense at shortstop for five games, giving Derek Jeter some much needed rest. But Drew has somehow has shockingly hit worse than the .176 average he posted in Boston. Sure, Johnson has only had 25 at-bats with the Red Sox, but you’d think Brian Roberts, whom the Yankees cut because of the deal, would be a better option than Drew right now.

Yankees trade Yangervis Solarte and a minor-leaguer to San Diego for Chase Headley

Verdict: Win.

Two ways to look at this: Headley’s brought consistency to the Yankees’ third-base situation. He’s hit well enough — you like his .347 OBP but not necessarily his .245 batting average, though it’s better than what he posted with the Padres. And when general manager Brian Cashman called Headley an “average” defender, he must have been joking. Headley has been impressive with his glove.

But then consider this: Solarte has a slash line of .270/.349/.378 in San Diego with three homers and 15 RBI. And he’s done it playing five different positions, though most of his work has been at third base. No, Solarte wasn’t going to get that kind of opportunity with the Yankees. But he’s seized his chance with the Padres.

Yankees trade a minor leaguer to the Diamondbacks for Martin Prado

Verdict: Win.

Prado struggled a bit at first since joining the Yankees, but his versatility — he’s played second base, third, right field and left — has let manager Joe Girardi rest some regulars. He’s also got a walk-off hit. We don’t know how good Pete O’Brien, the prospect the Yankees surrendered, will be. But O’Brien will have to find a defensive position before his all-homer, no-average bat reaches the National League level.

Yankees trade Vidal Nuno to Diamondbacks for Brandon McCarthy and cash

Verdict: Win.

And it’s not even close. Nuno was in danger of losing his spot in the rotation. McCarthy has been a second-half Cy Young candidate, posting a 1.9o ERA and going 5-2.

Yankees trade cash to the Rockies for Chris Capuano

Verdict: Win.

Capuano is just 0-2 in six starts, but he’s revived his career, giving the Yankees at least a chance to win in each of his outings. And all it took was a measly few bucks.

Long before Mo’Ne Davis played, Jackie Mitchell struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig —

Long before Mo’Ne Davis played, Jackie Mitchell struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig

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Could Philadelphia’s Mo’ne Davis make it to the Majors someday?

By Charles Curtis

With countless Mo’Ne Davis fans wondering if she can hurl strikes against pros someday, Mic.com’s Bryan Armen Graham looked back at a time when women were banned from Major League Baseball.

It all began in 1931 with Virne Beatrice “Jackie” Mitchell Gilbert, a 16-year-old who learned to pitch from her neighbor, pitcher Dazzy Vance. She was signed by the Chattanooga Lookouts (a Class AA club) in March of 1931 and the timing was deliberate — the Yankees were coming to town.

When Mitchell was called on after the first two hitters to open the exhibition game, she was slated to face a hitter by the name of Babe Ruth. Mitchell struck him out, then did the same with Lou Gehrig, who whiffed on three straight pitches.

MLB’s offices heard about Mitchell’s performance and responded immediately:

“Major League Baseball’s response was swift and comprehensive. Within days, commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis voided Mitchell’s contract with the Lookouts, dismissing it as a farce and stating the game was “too strenuous” for a woman. Female players were formally barred from signing professional contracts on June 21, 1952 — a ban that stood for 40 years. Whether the Yankee sluggers were complicit in a “work” has been subject to speculation for decades, but one look at Ruth’s firing his bat to the dirt in anger suggests any conspiracy theory boils down to male ego-stroking.”

Even if Davis doesn’t pitch in a major league stadium some day, there’s no doubt she’s been an inspiration — she told The Today Show (via For The Win) she thinks more girls will play in the Little League World Series in the future.

Injured-riddled pitching staff is biggest reason Yanks are still alive — August 25, 2014

Injured-riddled pitching staff is biggest reason Yanks are still alive

By  Vin Mercogliano

Michael Pineda

During the current stretch in which the Yankees have won six of their last eight, their pitching staff has not allowed more than four runs in a game. That’s a recipe for success, no doubt.

It’s no secret who the culprit has been in the majority of their losses this season – that is to say, not the pitching staff – but if the starters continue to keep them in games, and the bullpen does what it’s done for the most part all year, then their slim playoff hopes will stay alive just a little bit longer.

Tonight, the Yankees will be a Kansas City for a makeup game from June 9, with Michael Pineda taking the mound for his third start since coming off the disabled list.

He’s been pretty good in his first two starts – he allowed one run over six innings last Thursday before putting the leadoff man on in the seventh, who eventually scored – and with Masahiro Tanaka continuing take positive steps towards a comeback, there may be more help on the horizon.

Joe Girardi used the old “we’ll cross that bridge…” line when asked how they’ll handle the rotation if Tanaka is added, but he didn’t rule out the possibility of a six-man rotation. It would certainly make sense for some guys – it would help Hiroki Kuroda get more rest in between starts, it could offer better protection to a young guy like Shane Greene, and it would be a good way to monitor Tanaka’s workload – but would they really do that in the midst of a playoff race when every game means so much?

Kuroda, Pineda and Brandon McCarthy – who has been brilliant since coming over from Arizona – would be shoe-ins to remain in the starting rotation, so if the Yankees were to cut it down to five with Tanaka, it would probably be Greene or Chris Capuano who would be sent to the bullpen. Greene makes sense because, as an MLB rookie, he’s never pitched this late into the year. It would be a way to ensure that you don’t overextend him. But Greene seems to have more upside than Capuano, and we all know how much Girardi loves his lefty options in the pen. (Plus, I’m sure you’re all tired of sweating every time that Rich Hill comes into the game.)

Of course, injuries could alter these plans, and there’s always the possibility that Tanaka has a setback. A lot can change in the next few weeks – for better or for worse – but the Yankees do have some momentum in their corner at the moment. It’s incredible to think about how good the pitching has been in spite of so many injuries, and if they can keep this up, the Yankees might just have a puncher’s chances.

Brian McCann drilled three-run homer to lift Yankees to a 7-4 win in 10th Inning — August 24, 2014

Brian McCann drilled three-run homer to lift Yankees to a 7-4 win in 10th Inning

cervi

NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 24: Francisco Cervelli #29 of the New York Yankees reacts after scoring the go ahead run in the sixth inning against the Chicago White Sox after a base hit from teammate Ichiro Suzuki at Yankee Stadium on August 24, 2014 in the Bronx borough of New York City.

By Matthew Stanmyre

NEW YORK — The twang of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” blared through the speakers at Yankee Stadium in the ninth inning today as Yankees closer David Robertson trotted out to the mound. It’s usually a good sign for the home team, since Robertson had secured 22 consecutive save opportunities this season, one shy of the longest streak in the Major Leagues.

But today was different. In a single pitch, Robertson’s streak was suddenly halted, leaving a trail of uncertainty. Avisail Garcia hit the first pitch from Robertson — an 81 mph curveball — into the bleachers in right field to tie the game and send it into extra innings.

Undaunted by Robertson’s stumbles, the Yankees rallied in the 10th inning when Brian McCann drilled a three-run homer that lifted the Yankees to a 7-4 victory.

The win allowed the Yankees (67-61) to sweep the three-game series from Chicago and win their fourth in a row overall. The momentum is welcomed as the team enters this week’s crucial road trip at Kansas City, Detroit and Toronto.

Leading up to the sixth inning, White Sox ace Chris Sale, owner of the American League’s second-lowest earned-run average, had cruised through the Yankees lineup, giving up just two hits. But he stumbled hard after a two-base error by White Sox left fielder Dayan Viciedo opened the door for the Yankees, who pounced on Sale and then capped the frame with Suzuki’s big hit, tacking on four runs total.

The White Sox started the game off strong when lead-off hitter Alexei Ramirez snuck the second pitch of the game from Yankees starter Chris Capuano into the first row bleachers in left field. It was Ramirez’s first lead-off homer of his career and his 12th of the season, and it put the White Sox ahead, 1-0.

After four innings of quiet, Chicago added to its lead in the top of the sixth inning as Conor Gillaspie stroked a 2-run homer from Capuano into the right field seats to put the White Sox up, 3-0.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Yankees erupted. After Derek Jeter grounded out, Martin Prado drilled a pitch to deep left field and Viciedo dropped the ball near the warning track, resulting in a two-base error.

The Yankees would take full advantage of the gaff. Mark Teixeira laced a double down the left field line to score Prado, trimming the Yankees deficit to 3-1. After Carlos Beltran worked a walk and Chase Headley struck out, Francisco Cervelli worked another walk and Zelous Wheeler was hit by a pitch to score Teixeira and make it 3-2. Next, Suzuki stepped up and roped a two-out single to right-center field to score Beltran and Cervelli and put the Yankees ahead, 4-3.

The White Sox tied the game in the top of the ninth when Avisail Garcia hit the first pitch from Robertson — an 81 mph curveball — into the bleachers in right field to tie the game.

That player, Cano… —

That player, Cano…

By JohnnyYankee – Yankees42

Robinson Cano introduced to Mariner fans

When Robbie Cano was playing out his 2013 season and was on the
verge of becoming a Free Agent after it ended, I like many, had high
hopes of he re-signing with us. I just could not see him walk away from
it all, the Yankees. How could he? He was the man who would receive
one day the passing of the torch, the baton, from a legend himself, a
once in a lifetime player named Derek jeter.

What we didn’t expect, happened! He left for the Seattle Mariners for more
money than the one offered by the Yankees. More years, too. Whether we
erred or not, whether we could have offered him more so that he would
stay and play for us, is not important today. All I know is that something
happened on the way from NY to Seattle that today he is playing for them
instead of us.

When he left, I lost my favorite player, for despite Jeter’s greatness, it was
Robbie who I turned the Yankee games on to watch. Loved his swing, his
play at second base, his great smile. He looked as if he was enjoying the
game, one which is difficult but that he made easy. I hated as much as anyone
when he didn’t run his butt on grounders, but then again I tried to console
myself thinking that he did not want to injure himself, not a player so
great, not a player as important to our team like himself.

There was a 75% chance that he would stay, because no sane person walks
away from what he had, from what was being offered to him. He was to
become a legend like the great Yankees that have had their number retire,
his number 24 someday being retired and his Plaque among the great ones
over at Monument Park. He would enter the HOF as a great Yankee, not a
great Mariner. With these in mind, I felt like many that he would stay, that
he would finish his beautiful career as a Yankee. Maybe all these thoughts
or reasons for him to stay, was what caused him to leave. Could we have
been overconfident? Did we misjudged him? Maybe money does have more
power than sense, than loyalty, I guess.

Today, Cano is a Mariner. He is fighting it out for the A.L Batting Championship,
and despite me not even wanting to mention his name, much like in the movie
“The Ten Commandments,” when Pharaoh prohibited uttering the word “Moses,”
even if deep down inside he loved him, I can’t help but to root for him to win
his first Batting Title, for he was supposed to win some of those with us, but
never did. I hope he does well, for as I said, I was really angry and hurt when
he left. I could not bear to see him in a Mariner uniform, to see him sporting a
“Big Papi” beard, looking “unYankee.”

I have since cooled off these hard feelings toward Robbie, a player that I could
not stand Pedroia comparisons with, for despite Dustin having his own
greatness, I always felt Cano was head and shoulders above not only him, but
with everyone who played the game, including my own countryman, Robbie
Alomar. I wish him luck and maybe he will realize he made a mistake, or maybe
it will be us who realize it, but destiny had it written that way, “so it is written,
so it shall be done!”
prohibited the name “Moses” being uttered, even i

Serby’s Sunday Q&A with Shane Greene — August 23, 2014

Serby’s Sunday Q&A with Shane Greene

By Steve Serby

White Sox at Yankees

Rookie Yankees pitcher Shane Greene took a swing at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: Describe your mound temperament.
A: I don’t show a whole lot of emotion, for the most part — at least that’s what I’ve been told. When I’m pitching, people say I don’t smile and whatnot, but when people tell me that, I jokingly respond like, “Did Mike Tyson ever smile in the seventh round? Like, no.” When I’m out there, I’m competing, and I’ll smile when the game’s over and if we’re winning at the end of the ninth inning, then I’ll smile. I’m not out there to have fun, I’m out there to compete and win.

Q: Your major league debut was April 24 at Fenway. What was that like?
A: That was crazy. It felt like it was negative-30 degrees outside. I’m from Florida, so I get cold really easily anyway. I don’t remember what the temperature was, but I know I was freezing. I was sitting in the bullpen freezing, there was a heater out there. I’m huddled over the heater trying to stay warm. We’re scoring runs [on the way to a 14-5 win], so I know I’m getting closer to a chance to make my debut, and all the guys are getting excited for me and whatnot. They called down and tell me to start getting loose, I got the next inning [seventh]. Obviously, I was nervous. It was a packed house at Fenway. Then once I got on the field, it was like I couldn’t even feel my body — not only because it was cold, but with nerves and excitement and everything else. I can’t even describe the way I felt out there. To this day, it’s still kind of a blur, that first time. But it was an experience and a feeling that I’m sure I’ll never have again.

Q: You’re with the hated New York Yankees pitching in Fenway.
A: What else do you want, you know? I coulda never pitched in the big leagues again, and to have that experience woulda been … pretty neat.

Q: That relief appearance didn’t go very well — three runs, all unearned, and three walks with one strikeout in one-third of an inning.
A: It didn’t go very well. I kind of erased that one in my mind, but yeah, it definitely didn’t go very well.

Q: You have to have a short-term memory, right?
A: Yeah. Not even start-to-start, but hitter-to-hitter, inning-to-inning … pitch-to-pitch sometimes. If you think you threw a strike and an umpire called a ball, well you can’t dwell on it, you gotta move on to the next pitch. So it may help me, I try to keep it simple out there, but yeah, it could be a little bit of an advantage.

Q: Describe the first time you pitched at Yankee Stadium, a start vs. the Rangers on July 21.
A: My first time dressing in Yankee Stadium was my first callup, and I had six days, I sat in the bullpen. I never got a chance to pitch, but … everybody else sits inside out there, it was my first time here so I sat outside of the bullpen. I had never experienced this kind of atmosphere, so I made sure I sat outside, and I did my best to soak it all in while I could — try to get used to the atmosphere and the noise and all that. That was neat, but then I didn’t pitch here until here until like a month-and-half later, and I had already had two starts, so I got the jitters and nerves out of the way … but putting on the pinstripes is different from just putting on the grays.

Q: It’s different in what way?
A: When you think of New York Yankees, you think about pinstripes. You don’t think about the gray uniform, and you’re in a different stadium and you’re on the road. When you’re at Yankee Stadium wearing the pinstripes, it’s pretty cool.

Q: What did you think of the Bleacher Creatures?
A: It’s cool. I almost wish they would include the pitcher and catcher when they do the Roll Call.

Q: Do you feel like you belong now?
A: Yeah. … It’s a really good feeling. This is something I’ve dreamed about my whole life. I’m still at a baseball field every day, and I’m still in a clubhouse every day like I have been for the last five years. You don’t really think about it and realize it until you take a step back and kinda soak it all in, and I’ve done that more than once, and it’s definitely pretty cool.

Q: What’s it like being a New York Yankee?
A: It’s more than I ever imagined or expected. I get to come here every day, and this place is like a museum, it’s not even a baseball field. All the history that’s been transferred from the old stadium to here, it’s pretty incredible.

Q: Did you ever go to the old Stadium?
A: It was on my bucket list but I never got a chance.

Q: Do you remember the first time you saw this place?
A: Yeah, the first time I saw this place, it was my second year in pro ball, I was playing for the Staten Island Yankees, and we got to come over on one of our off days, and we stood on the field for BP. It was incredible. I didn’t know what to expect, I had seen pictures.

Q: What have you learned about Derek Jeter as a teammate?
A: He’s an unbelievable leader. And it’s not even so much with words, it’s just how he carries himself and goes about his business on a daily basis. He’s the same guy every day, he can go 4-for-4 or 0-for-4. I just kinda sit back — I’m a pretty, quiet, shy guy — and try to soak it all in. A lot of guys in this locker room have been playing this game for a long time, they’re obviously doing something right. I’m just trying to take notes, and learn.

Q: Biggest single reason why you’ve been effective?
A: 1) A lot of these guys have never seen me before. They have a short sample size of the video and scouting reports on me, so I’m sure that’s helping a lot. I’m doing my best to just attack guys and throw strikes. If I’m not giving them a free base and a free baserunner, and they have to earn everything. The game of baseball will tell you that the best guys in the league are gonna fail seven out of 10 times, so the odds are in my favor.

Q: Describe your stuff.
A: The sinker is huge, but my slider as well. If it’s not there, it’s gonna be a rough day. These guys are the best hitters in the world, it doesn’t matter how hard you throw it, if you’re throwing the same pitch every time, they’re gonna time you up and they’re gonna put good wood on it, so I just gotta mix speeds and go from there.

Q: A couple of coaches helped you a lot in the past: Gil Patterson and Greg Pavlick.
A: Two years ago I was really struggling in High-A, and extended spring training they brought me back over to the complex, and I worked with Pav for about a month-and-a-half one-on-one, and worked on a bunch of things, not only mechanical but he helped me a lot mentally as well. Then the next year is when Gil showed up, and he helped me not only mechanical too but also on the mental side. Basically what Gil did is he helped me to be myself and not try to do too much, and pitch to my strengths. At that time, I was throwing a lot of 4-seams still, and I was like, “I feel more comfortable just throwing 2-seams.” And he’s like, “It’s your career basically, do what you think is gonna help you be successful.” And to have someone give you that kinda confidence and basically give you the steering wheel, I think that helped a lot.

Q: What’s it like living in a hotel?
A: It’s different. I mean, I’ve been kinda doing it on the road and whatnot. Even in the minor leagues, you’re in and out of hotels on road trips. More than living in a hotel, this city … I mean, I’m from a pretty small town in Florida. This city is pretty overwhelming. There’s stuff going on all the time, there’s people everywhere. Never really rode a train before until I got here. Getting used to all that, by myself, was a transition, but I figured it out.

Q: How small is Clermont?
A: When I moved there, I was in sixth grade, and there was one grocery store, one high school and one McDonald’s. And now we have three of all those.

Q: Where did you live before that?
A: I was born in Orlando, and I lived in the Winter Garden area until I was in fourth grade and we moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, for my dad’s job.

Q: You must be the talk of Clermont.
A: I don’t know if I’m the talk of Clermont, but… I guess I’m the hometown kid or whatever, you know?

Q: You take the subway to the games?
A: Yeah, to and from every day.

Q: What are your favorite New York City things?
A: Well, I’m a big breakfast guy, so I’ve been searching for the best breakfast spot. I found a decent little spot by the hotel. I go there every day and get an omelet. But other than that, I don’t like do a whole lot because I’m by myself. … I’ve been to dinner a couple of times, I have no problem going out to eat by myself, but I haven’t really been out there and experienced everything that the city has to offer.

Q: As a kid, you had elbow tendonitis?
A: I was in like third or fourth grade, and I had to wear a sling for like four months, They said that the growth plate was pulling away from the bone, or something along those lines. And then, basically every year after that, I would get some kind of tendonitis or what have you every year. I was from Florida, so I played baseball year round, I never stopped. It was the only sport I ever really played growing up, so I never really had a break. And then in high school is when the elbow started getting really bad. I had a hairline fracture at one point or something. Then I had more tendonitis and then I went to college and it was still bad. And then I went to the Andrews Institute, and that’s when they found the bone spur, and they said, “Well we could go in there and get the bone spur out, but then you’re basically hanging on by a thread, so while we’re in there, you might as well go ahead and do the whole Tommy John,” so that’s what they did.

Q: Did you think your career might be over?
A: For sure. I hated school, so I started thinking about what I wanted to do. It was anything from being a firefighter, to going into the military. I was only good with numbers, so something to do with finance or something like that. But then once I learned who James Andrews was, I stopped thinking about that stuff as much, and I continued to do the things I needed to for baseball.

Q: You didn’t pitch for how long?
A: I didn’t face a hitter for probably like 13 months.

Q: What was that moment like?
A: It was crazy, because it was at the Yankees complex against extended spring training people. It was like at this point, I had no idea what was going on. I got invited to come down there and throw, faced three guys, got ’em all out … came off the field with a huge smile on my face, you know? And then they drafted me two weeks later.

Q: Fifteenth round.
A: It was surreal. Everything happened so fast. Three weeks before the draft, I was just trying to maybe get a school to give me some extra money to go there and play baseball there, and now I’m being drafted by the New York Yankees. It didn’t even really hit me until like a week later when I was at the complex every day putting on an “NY” hat.

Q: What role did Jeff Deardorf play?
A: He was a scout with the Yankees, He still is. When he was a player, he was playing in the minor leagues. He’s from the same area as me, and I was really young, like 8,9, 10. I was going to him for hitting lessons. And he became a pretty good family friend of ours, and we stayed in contact. And when I was coming back from Tommy John, I wasn’t on scholarship anymore anywhere, so I was going into that summer trying to get some attention from schools to try to get some sort of baseball scholarship, and my dad was contacting him because he had some connections at some local universities and whatnot to see if maybe he’d watch me throw a bullpen and then talk to some of those coaches so that they would come watch me pitch in the summer league I was in. And when he came to watch that bullpen, that’s when he was like, “Hey, come to Tampa, show these guys what I just saw.”

Q: This was after the University of West Florida took your scholarship away. How upset were you by that?
A: They told me that I could come back and earn it after surgery, so they wanted me to come back on my own for the next season rehabbing, and the next year I could earn my scholarship back. And basically I said, “I’m not gonna do that.” Me and the head coach didn’t really see eye-to-eye in a lot of ways. He told me that they were gonna take my scholarship away like two weeks before the season was over. And then, when the season was over, every player has what’s called an exit interview, one-on-one with the manager of the team, head coach of the team, and during my exit interview, that’s when I told him I wasn’t coming back. And I explained to him why, and the things that I disliked about the program and things like that, and he actually [offered] me a full ride. And I said, “No thanks.” My roommate [Matt Collins] actually had Tommy John surgery as well, and we were good friends since we were like 15 or so. And he’s the one who introduced me to the head coach at Daytona Beach [Junior College].

Q: Worst minor league bus ride?
A: I was in Charleston [S.C.]. We had an off day, but the off day was because we were traveling, it was a 10- or 12-hour trip. We had one bus, but it was a sleeper bus. Everybody’s on it, and we got no air conditioning. Everybody was basically (chuckle) down to their underwear or whatever.

Q: Did you ever consider you might be a career minor leaguer, or just giving up your baseball dream?
A: No. When I signed a professional contract, I told myself I was gonna play baseball for as long as I could. As long as somebody would give me an opportunity, I was gonna try to make the most of it. So I never really thought about that. Sure I struggled, and I was 24 years old repeating at the High-A level, but I worked my butt off in hopes to one day get an opportunity like I’m getting right now.

Q: Boyhood idol?
A: I was a huge Braves fan growing up and I really idolized Chipper Jones. But in an everyday type of thing, I would say both of my parents and one of my uncles [Thomas White].

Q: Do you remember watching the 1996 World Series, when the Yankees beats the Braves?
A: I’m sure I watched it. I have the worst memory of all time.

Q: What do you forget?
A: Everything. I’m terrible with names, faces, and like short-term memory. I’ll have a conversation with somebody or we’ll make plans — I’ll just completely forget that I even said that I was doing that or … it’s terrible.

Q: Superstitions?
A: I used to be really superstitious as far as routine-wise. And I try not to be anymore, because if I forgot to do something, I’d be so stressed out about what I forgot to do. So now, I just try to wing it. I’d say the biggest superstition, is on my start day, I usually go eat breakfast somewhere I’ve never ate breakfast before — unless it’s a spot that I really like in the city that I’ve had already. And that’s basically to get my day started, and then I wing it from there.

Q: Hobbies?
A: In the offseason, I do a lot of hunting and fishing on the weekends when I can. I travel a lot, I guess, in the offseasons.

Q: Three dinner guests?
A: One of my uncles on my mom’s side who died in Vietnam, my dad’s dad, my mother’s mom.

Q: Favorite movies?
A: “Shooter,” “300.”

Q: Favorite actors?
A: Denzel [Washington], Will Smith, Mark Wahlberg.

Q: Favorite entertainer?
A: Drake.

Q: Favorite meal?
A: My mom’s Mexican meat loaf.

Q: Could you elaborate?
A: It’s like a meat loaf with a bunch of peppers and cheese and like salsa and all kinds of stuff baked in it and on top of it.

Q: How do you feel about being part of a playoff race?
A: It’s pretty neat. For me on a personal level, I can only control what I can control, and that’s every fifth day I’m gonna give the team a chance to win when I’m out there on the mound, so if I can give the team the chance to win, then I’m doing my job to help contribute, and that’s all that I can do.

Q: Describe Yankees fans.
A: I’d say for the most part, they’re all diehards. They’re not like bandwagon jumpers. If you’re a Yankee fan, you’ve been a Yankee fan your whole life, and your dad was a Yankee fan, and your grandpa and your uncles and your moms … generation to generation, people are Yankee fans, because they’ve been on the top for so long and the tradition and whatnot. They’re all diehards — they’re just as into every game as we are. They’re not there just for the amusement.

Q: Wouldn’t it be a shame for this team not to make the playoffs with Jeter going out?
A: Yeah. It’s funny you say that ’cause I joke about it all the time. It’s like, it’s already written down somewhere that we’re fighting for a playoff spot and we make it and we fight all the way to the World Series and we win it in my mind. And now we just have to wait, and everybody else just has to wait and watch it happen. In my head, that’s how it’s supposed to happen. It’s Derek Jeter. He’s The Captain. It’s like everybody’s watching a movie unfold, and we just have to produce and make that movie happen.

Iconic speeches fill sports lore —

Iconic speeches fill sports lore

By Mike Vaccaro

White Sox at Yankees

Joe Torre gives a speech after the Yankees retire his number at Monument Park.

The amazing thing, when you think about it, is how often these speeches really do stick with us, how often they really are memorable, and not just as storehouses of nostalgia and wistfulness. Think about the task before them: 50,000 people hanging on every word, listening to every syllable.

These are not often men who work such rooms with their voices. They are not politicians, trained to use their words as their weapons of choice. And in the greater good, no, there is nothing a baseball player or a basketball player can say, or do, that has larger meaning than “Ask not what your country can do,” or “Four score and seven years,” or “Give me liberty or give me death.”

But we do remember the words every bit as much, every bit as long.

Only time will tell if Joe Torre’s words Saturday at Yankee Stadium, when the team retired his No. 6 and unveiled his monument, will belong in that particular pantheon, although the way he closed it was pretty terrific: “It’s a short distance from the old stadium to here and a long way to the Monument Park. I was blessed to make that journey on the shoulders of some very special players.”

Not bad. Not bad at all.

The gold standard for all such speeches, of course, was the Lou Gehrig farewell that was celebrated as it should have been last month, on July 4, the 75th anniversary of his farewell. His was that rare speech that actually contained two unforgettable passages.

At the start, of course, in one of the most famous and elegant phrases in all of American letters: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” And at the end: “I may have been given a bad break. But I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”

Babe Ruth, who made a memorable cameo that afternoon at the Stadium, hugging his old running mate and ending a cold patch between them, wouldn’t have a moment as unforgettable as that, but in an appropriate reflection of his larger-than-life life, he did have two separate iconic farewells. One was a picture, taken weeks before his death in August 1948, the last time he put on a Yankees uniform, the photograph taken from behind, showing his

No. 3, the great man leaning on his bat for balance.

The other, a year earlier, Babe Ruth Day, April 1947, came as he was dressed in street clothes, as he leaned into a microphone, his voice already battered by the throat cancer that would kill him.

“The only real game in the world, I think, is baseball,” Ruth said that day.

These men knew they were dying. So did Jimmy Valvano, many years later, as he stood before a captive crowd and a rapt television audience and uttered the catch phrase that forever will stand guard for those with cancer and a will to beat it: “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

These aren’t always the products of grim diagnoses, but because of the nature of goodbye — to youth, if not to life — there always will be a sadness that tinges the words. So we forever remember Willie Mays, cloaked in a Mets jacket against the autumn chill, bidding farewell to the game and to a generation of American kids who knew they were no longer kids if Willie was retiring:

“I look at these kids over there, the way they are playing, and the way they are fighting for themselves, and it tells me one thing: Willie, say goodbye to America.”

The men do say goodbye. More often than you would think, the words stick around. Sometimes forever.