9/4/2013 1:38 A.M. ET
Kuroda, CC vital to Yankees' late-season success
By Josh Vitale / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- For Joe Girardi, it's pretty hard not to scoreboard watch.
His Yankees crept to within 2 1/2 games of the Rays for the final American League Wild Card entering play Tuesday night, so he can't help but notice what other teams are doing on the field.
"[The scoreboard is] right in front of you, and it's flashing at every ballpark," Girardi said. "Does it take your attention away from the game? No. But it's pretty hard not to look."
But if the Yankees are going to make up those games over the season's final month, they might need Hiroki Kuroda and CC Sabathia to get back on track. Though they're supposed to be the team's aces atop the rotation, the pair of starters compiled August ERAs of 5.12 and 5.94, respectively.
Sabathia's struggles have gone on all season -- his 4.91 ERA would be a single-season career high if it holds the rest of the year -- but Kuroda's struggles are more surprising. The right-hander had given up 19 runs over his last three starts, seeing his ERA rise from 2.33 on Aug. 12 to 2.89, entering Tuesday night's start against the White Sox.
The Yankees gave Kuroda an extra day of rest after his last start, and he skipped his normal bullpen session this week.
"You're going to have times when you're going to struggle. It's never predictable when it's going to be, but when you've been as good as you have for so long, it seems odd when you do struggle," Girardi said. "Right now, we'd really like him to get back to where he was."
With only 25 games remaining in the season, the two pitchers' success in September could be key for a Yankees team that still has work to do to get into the postseason.
"It makes it easier if you have five starters on a roll, obviously," Girardi said. "We could go out and bang 10 runs a game, and pitching becomes less of a factor. Obviously, we'd like to see them get on a roll in September, and if it does, it's really going to help us."
Huff to start Saturday vs. Boston in place of Hughes
NEW YORK -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi made a change in his starting rotation Tuesday night, announcing that Phil Hughes would be moved to the bullpen and David Huff will start in Hughes' place on Saturday against the Red Sox.
Hughes has struggled throughout the season, posting a 4-13 record and 4.86 ERA over 26 starts. He's lost 11 of his past 13 decisions, and he has a 6.12 ERA since the start of August.
Huff, meanwhile, has been stellar since being called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Aug. 15, giving up just one run on six hits over 15 innings.
"It's been an up-and-down year for Phil," Girardi said. "Huff's been throwing the ball well and we're just going to make the change."
Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild told Huff about the move prior to Tuesday's game against the White Sox.
Huff has started 52 games in his career -- all of them with the Indians from 2009-12 -- going 17-26 with a 5.41 ERA.
Before rejoining the Yankees bullpen , Huff worked as a starter with the RailRiders, going 3-7 with a 3.90 ERA and being stretched out to 110 pitches.
"I'm happy about it. I'm just trying to go out there and help out the team as much as possible," Huff said. "I'm just here to help, basically. Whether it's an inning out of the bullpen or it's a start."
Girardi will make sure Mo is clear about retirement
NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera decided during Spring Training that his 19th season in the Major Leagues would be his last, but that doesn't mean Yankees manager Joe Girardi wants the legendary closer to retire.
Responding to a story first reported by ESPN New York, Girardi addressed Rivera's impending retirement after Tuesday's 6-4 win over the White Sox, saying he plans to talk to Rivera after the season and make sure his decision is final.
"I think it's important that you let a player get away for a while and see what that feeling is when you're away from the game for a month, two months and see if that feeling changes," Girardi said. "Because it's hard to come back once you leave when you're an older player.
"I would just say to Mo, 'Think about it, and make sure. Just make sure that's exactly what you want to do. And if that's what you want to do, I respect it. As good as you've been, I still think you can probably do it.'"
Asked about Girardi's comments after the game, Rivera said, "I don't know why we're talking about this again."
The 43-year-old has been on something of a farewell tour this season, meeting employees and fans of other teams at road ballparks and receiving gifts from opposing teams.
"I don't tell anyone what to think or don't think. I respect that," Rivera said. "But again, I made my decision."
Girardi said he wants to talk to Rivera about it because, when he was a player, he never wanted to think, "Could I have played more?"
Girardi wasn't able to stay healthy over the final years of his career, but Rivera has shown very little wear and tear this season despite tearing his ACL last year.
The Yankees closer is 4-2 with a 2.12 ERA this year, and he recorded his 40th save of the season on Tuesday, marking the ninth time the all-time saves leader has reached the 40-save plateau.
For his career, Rivera has converted 648 saves in 726 chances and compiled a 2.21 ERA.
Girardi said he still believes Rivera will retire at the end of the season, but he wants to talk to him during the offseason just to make sure.
"It's a man who retired talking to another man who's thinking about retiring and just telling him my feelings on it," Girardi said. "It's not me lobbying for him to come back, because as I've said all along, I would never want a player to come back if he didn't want to come back.
"I think he can still do the job."
Jeter getting comfortable, passes Collins
NEW YORK -- Hits have been hard to come by for Derek Jeter since he came off the disabled list for the third time on Aug. 26. The Yankees shortstop began Tuesday with just four hits in 27 at-bats over his last seven games, and he entered Monday's game mired in an 0-for-14 slump.
Jeter broke out of that slump in a 9-1 win over the White Sox, though, finishing 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.
"The more you play, the more comfortable you get," Jeter said after the game. "Today, the results were there. You get better in time."
The Yankees captain also showed no limitations from the fractured left ankle and right leg injuries that caused him to miss 125 games this season, sprinting to second after White Sox left fielder Alejandro De Aza misplayed his single to left and advancing to third base on Robinson Cano's flyout to center.
Seeing that aggressiveness made manager Joe Girardi feel "pretty good," and prompted him to say that Jeter has shown no physical ailments since returning from the disabled list last week.
Jeter, who was the designated hitter Tuesday night against the White Sox, said he's not focusing at all on his past injuries and the time he's missed during his "unique season."
"I don't really have a choice," Jeter said. "We only have 25 games left, so our job is to go out here and win as many games as possible. It's kind of hard to play games when you're thinking about not getting hurt."
After getting hit by a pitch in the first inning, Jeter beat out an infield single in the third and then lined a single to center in the eighth for his 3,314th and 3,315th career hits to pass Eddie Collins for ninth place on the all-time list.
Due to discrepancies in historical record-keeping, accounts of Collins' career hits total differ. The Elias Sports Bureau is the official statistician of Major League Baseball and recognizes Collins as having 3,313 hits, while other sources -- including MLB.com -- credit him with 3,314 hits.
• Asked if he still thinks about what could have been if the Yankees hadn't given up a three-run lead and allowed the Orioles to score seven runs in the seventh inning of Sunday's loss, Girardi said he's not dwelling on it.
"It usually all evens out," Girardi said. "Every team that ends up close to making the playoffs can probably look back at a few games and say, 'What if?' But there's probably a handful of games that you won that you're shocked that you won."
• The Yankees teamed up with Ed Randall's Fans for the Cure, an organization dedicated to spreading prostate cancer awareness, for the third straight year. On Tuesday night, doctors volunteered to administer PSA blood tests to men over 40 to check for prostate cancer before and during the game.
Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.