04/20/2013 1:21 PM ET
Girardi pleasantly surprised by Yanks' early power
By Chris Toman / Special to MLB.com
TORONTO -- One area the Yankees were supposed to have trouble in this year was the power department.
New York started the season off with key offensive pieces Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter on the disabled list. The club also lost outfielder Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Raul Ibanez to free agency, and it was forced to sign a number of players to short-term deals to fill out its roster.
That missing group of seven accounted for 164 of New York's Major League-leading 245 homers last season, but, so far, the club hasn't shown any lack of power.
New York entered play Saturday with 25 home runs, tops in the American League.
Manager Joe Girardi admitted he didn't necessarily expect his team to be hitting the long ball at the pace it has to start the year.
"A little bit," Girardi said when asked if we surprised with the club's power. "We have guys that have hit a lot of home runs in the past ... but I can't tell you that I thought they would put up the home run numbers that they are doing right now.
"It's a long year, I understand that, but they are hitting them and we're not having to do as much. As long as it continues, we can do what we're doing."
Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis and Lyle Overbay are among the veterans the Yankees brought in this offseason, and they have combined to hit 13 of the club's 25 homers.
Pettitte feels good day after making return
TORONTO -- The Yankees and starter Andy Pettitte were hopeful that the left-hander's back issues were behind him after he twirled 7 1/3 innings of three-run ball against the Blue Jays in Friday's series-opening 9-4 win.
But there was always a little concern about how the 40-year-old would feel the following day after the adrenaline he took to the mound with him was out of his system.
The good news is that Pettitte felt good Saturday and the back spasms that forced him to miss a start appear to be a thing of the past.
"He feels great today. Normal soreness, so everything is OK," manager Joe Girardi said. "You want to see how the back responds after the workload, and it came out OK, so I'm pleased."
Pettitte won his third consecutive contest in Friday's victory and sports a nifty 2.01 ERA after three starts. It's the third season that Pettitte has started off with a 3-0 record, and he has gone at least seven innings in each contest this year.
Friday marked the 420th career game the 18-year veteran has played in pinstripes, which tied him with Sparky Lyle for sixth place on the all-time franchise list among pitchers.
Wells looking like old self with Yankees
TORONTO -- There was no room for outfielder Vernon Wells in Los Angeles, but he has made sure there is plenty for him in New York.
Wells, coming off an injury-plagued year with the Angels that saw him play in just 79 games and post a .230 batting average and sub-.300 on-base percentage, got off to a hot start with the Yankees, batting.283 with four homers and a .962 OPS over his first 14 games.
"Obviously it didn't go the way I had planned or the Angels had planned," Wells said about his time with Los Angeles. "I would have loved to have played better there, but it didn't happen. You learn from the mistakes that were made and the time that you spent in that clubhouse and on that field, and you get better from there."
Wells has done just that, prompting manager Joe Girardi to say he thinks Wells is swinging the bat the way he was in his prime.
"I'm seeing a lot of the same guy," Girardi said when comparing Wells now to when he was an All-Star in Toronto. "He has swung the bat very well, I don't think he has chased a lot of bad pitches. I think he has played a very good left field for us.
"I think he is really close to the same guy that we have seen."
The Yankees saw a lot of Wells over the years, as the 34-year-old spent the first 12 years of his career with the Blue Jays as a center fielder. After two seasons with the Angels, Wells has found new life in New York -- a team he was happy to join.
Wells became an extra outfielder in Los Angeles, but after the Yankees suffered some key injuries, including a fractured forearm to Curtis Granderson, New York had a need for another corner bat. The Texas native has filled that role admirably and hasn't looked back.
"It was an opportunity to play," Wells said about coming to New York. "I'm not young anymore, but I still feel that I can go out and play on an everyday basis. This was the opportunity I was going to have to do that.
"Couple that with putting on a Yankees uniform, yeah, it was a pretty easy decision."
Wells' strong start has helped him find a temporary home in the No. 5 spot against lefties, Girardi said. The skipper wants to keep Wells in one spot, and right now, that's the middle of the order. It's a place Wells should feel comfortable in, as he spent much of his time with the Blue Jays in the three-hole.
Yanks express sympathy regarding Neuharth's death
TORONTO -- The Yankees expressed their condolences on Saturday upon hearing of the passing of Al Neuharth, the founder of USA Today.
Neuharth died at the age of 89 at his home in Cocoa Beach, Fla., on Friday and is viewed as an extremely influential figure in print media.
"The passing of Al Neuharth is an enormous loss to the world of journalism and to those who were fortunate to know him personally," the Yankees and the Steinbrenner family said through a statement. "Over the years, he was a great friend to George M. Steinbrenner and the entire Yankees organization. As the founder of USA Today, he was a visionary in his industry, transforming how millions of Americans read their news every day.
"More importantly, he was a champion of equality and diversity in the workplace and leaves behind his other great legacy, the Freedom Forum, which continues to advocate for free speech and democracy. The Yankees family sends its deepest condolences to his wife, Rachel, and the entire Neuharth family."
Neuharth, who launched USA Today in 1982, married three times and is survived by his wife Rachel, with whom he adopted six children.
Chris Toman is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.