NEW YORK -- As the Yankees' starters have struggled, manager Joe Girardi has had to consistently dip into his bullpen. And so when left fielder Brett Gardner went on the disabled list on Wednesday night with a right elbow strain, the club opted for more relief help instead of subbing in a position player.The Yankees called up right-handed reliever Cody Eppley from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, giving the club an eight-man bullpen and a 13-man pitching staff. "I was surprised to get the call," said Eppley, who was claimed off waivers by the Yankees on April 5, after the Rangers designated him for assignment. "To get the chance to come up here and get to play with this club this early in the season, I was definitely excited. I'm happy to be here in this clubhouse with all these guys. It's a blessing." Of course, there is a good reason for Eppley's promotion. The Yankees received only three quality starts in their first 11 games. Heading into Thursday, New York starters were 27th out of the 30 Major League teams with a 4-5 record and a 5.97 ERA. Only Colorado, Minnesota and Boston were behind them. Conversely, the Yankees' bullpen had a Major League-best 1.99 ERA but had already thrown 40 2/3 innings. That's one reason the club had split its first 12 games, but it needed to bolster the bullpen. Ivan Nova, CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda had recorded the three quality starts, and Nova had two of the four wins. Even he ran out of gas in his last start, against the Angels on Sunday, when he allowed four runs on eight hits in six innings and was credited with the win. There was a good reason for that, too, Girardi admitted on Thursday. Nova was pitching that night with a touch of the flu that has been making its way around the Yankees' clubhouse. "He's better now," Girardi said about the right-handed Nova, who's slated to start against the Red Sox on Friday in a game celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. "It's been going around the clubhouse. [Mark Teixeira] has had it. We've had a lot of guys with head colds. Some of it's probably allergies as well. There's a lot of stuff going on. It started for Nova in Baltimore, actually. That's when he first got sick."
'Freak injury' has Gardner frustrated
NEW YORK -- When Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner made a diving catch to end the top of the third inning during Tuesday's 8-3 win over the Twins at Yankee Stadium, robbing Josh Willingham of an RBI hit, he didn't know it would land him on the disabled list.But when Gardner couldn't swing the bat before Wednesday's game, a 6-5 loss, reality set in. The outfielder saved CC Sabathia a much bigger inning than the two runs he had already surrendered, but he cost himself at least 15 days. Gardner has a bone bruise in the right elbow and an accompanying muscle strain. "It takes a lot for me to take myself out of a game, but there's no way I could've played [Wednesday] night," Gardner said prior to Thursday's game, the finale of four-game series. "The bottom line is that I have to rest it and it's got to get better. I've got to let it heal, whether it takes five days or two or three weeks -- however long it takes." The shame of it is that Gardner was off to a super-hot start to the season, batting .321. He is arguably the Yankees' best corner outfielder and showed it on that particular play. With a runner on first base and two outs, Willingham's shot sliced away from Gardner, toward the left-field line. When Gardner dove to grab it and hit the ground, he flexed his wrist beneath him, causing the injury. "My elbow didn't hit the ground -- my wrist bent up under me," Gardner said. "As a reaction as my wrist was rolling up under me, I bent my elbow in a weird way kind of quick and just strained it. It was a freak injury. I can't really explain why it happened and how it happened, and why it started hurting when it did." Gardner finished the game and didn't begin feeling pain in his elbow until he took batting practice on Wednesday night. He was penciled into the starting lineup, set to play left field, but he was a late scratch, replaced by Andruw Jones. "I took a pretty good BP, but my elbow was bothering me really bad," Gardner said. "I knew obviously something was wrong, so I talked to the doctor after BP. It felt like there was some inflammation in my elbow from bending it funny making that catch, and I made it worse taking BP. Right before the game, I went down to get loose and I really couldn't swing. Sure enough, the MRI showed the bone bruise and strain in a little muscle. Basically, all I can do for it is rest."
Yanks well represented on AL ballot
NEW YORK -- This year's American League All-Star Star ballot is replete again with Yankees, including all nine players in the club's regular starting lineup. The game is slated for July 10 at Kauffmann Stadium in Kansas City.The online ballot launches on Friday. Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or using a mobile device -- using the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot until Thursday, June 28, at 11:59 p.m. ET. Around the horn, here is the Yankees' contingent: Mark Teixeira at first base, Robinson Cano at second, Derek Jeter at shortstop, Alex Rodriguez at third, Russell Martin behind the plate, Raul Ibanez at designated hitter -- making his Yankees debut on the ballot -- and outfielders Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher. Jeter and Rodriguez are perennial All-Stars, with Jeter having earned a spot on the AL roster 12 times, including each of the last seven. He sat out last year's game at Chase Field in Phoenix in the aftermath of a calf injury. A-Rod is a 14-time All-Star. Cano has been honored three times and Teixeira twice, but only once as a Yankee, in 2009. Ibanez played left field the last three seasons for the Phillies and was an All-Star in 2009 for the only time in his 17-year career.
Ibanez's history in left eases Yanks' worries
NEW YORK -- Because Brett Gardner is on the disabled list for at least 15 days with a strained right elbow, the Yankees intend to go with a platoon in left field consisting of lefty-swinging veteran Raul Ibanez and the right-handed-hitting Andruw Jones for the time being, manager Joe Girardi said on Thursday night.Ibanez will undoubtedly get more playing time because the Major Leagues are dominated by right-handed starting pitchers. That's fine with the Yankees. Ibanez was the regular left fielder for the Phillies the past three seasons, averaging 136 games played per season. Previously, he played left field regularly for the Mariners and Royals. "It's not like it's going to be foreign to him going out there," Girardi said of Ibanez, now in his 17th season. "He's been in the American League enough that he understands how to play [Fenway Park's] Green Monster to a certain extent. He understands how to play left field, and he'll do fine out there." Ibanez was in the lineup on Thursday night against the Twins at Yankee Stadium, playing left and batting seventh in the finale of a four-game series. Girardi also gave Robinson Cano his "night off," starting the slugger as the designated hitter, with Eduardo Nunez at second base. The Yankees signed Ibanez as a free agent on Feb. 12 to a one-year, $1.1 million contract to utilize him at DH and as a bench player. Ibanez entered Thursday batting .258 with two homers and nine RBIs, mostly as a DH. But he's also had some time in right field. With the Phillies last season, Ibanez hit .245 -- 35 points below his career average -- with 20 homers and 84 RBIs. Ibanez said he was told to expect to play more in the outfield over the next few weeks. Otherwise, his role doesn't matter to him. "I'm good with whatever," said Ibanez, who started for the Phillies squad that lost the 2009 World Series to the Yankees in six games. "Whatever the team needs from me to help them win, that's what I'll do." Asked if he had any preference among the outfield positions, Ibanez added: "I played left for many, many years. Obviously, that's something I've done a lot more."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.