8/4/2014 11:30 A.M. ET
Pineda inching closer to rejoining rotation
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
BOSTON -- Michael Pineda could be two starts away from rejoining the Yankees' big league rotation.
Pineda worked 3 1/3 scoreless innings in a Minor League rehab start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against Syracuse on Sunday, scattering three hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
"He threw the ball pretty well," manager Joe Girardi said. "We're pleased with the progress that he's making and we'll take another step."
The right-hander, who has not pitched in the big leagues since April 23 because of a strained teres major muscle behind his pitching shoulder, tossed 58 pitches (37 for strikes).
Pineda's next rehab start will come on Friday for a team yet to be determined, and he will throw about 75 pitches. Girardi said that Pineda would likely make one rehab start after that, increasing to 90 pitches, and then would be considered big league ready.
"At that point, you would feel from a pitch count he's ready to join us," Girardi said.
Tanaka could play catch today at Stadium
BOSTON -- There will be a significant checkpoint in Masahiro Tanaka's recovery on Monday, when the right-hander is scheduled to report to Yankee Stadium and could play catch for the first time since his right elbow injury.
Monday marks the three-week point from the date that Tanaka received a platelet-rich plasma injection, which the team hoped would promote healing of his partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.
"We'll see tomorrow what everyone wants to do with him, but as we said, three weeks is the mark," manager Joe Girardi said. "He feels good, so we'll see what we do."
Tanaka saw team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad on Friday in New York and no issues were reported.
The injury interrupted a terrific debut season for Tanaka, who was 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA in his first 18 big league starts and named as an American League All-Star. The 25-year-old was hurt in a July 8 start against the Indians in Cleveland, and he is hoping to avoid season-ending Tommy John surgery.
When the injury was diagnosed last month, general manager Brian Cashman said that the best-case scenario of the prescribed rehab program would get Tanaka back on a Major League mound in six weeks.
It seems more likely, though, that Tanaka would return in September if he does make it back to the Majors in 2014. There is a long road ahead; essentially, what would be a second Spring Training for Tanaka.
"It's not starting all over, because he's been built up [stamina-wise]," Girardi said. "But it'll be probably 60 feet, and then 60 and 90, and 90 and 120, then flat ground and bullpen and probably a rehab game."
Elbow inflammation may cost Phelps a start
BOSTON -- David Phelps was removed from Sunday's start against the Red Sox with right elbow inflammation, and the right-hander is scheduled to be further evaluated this week in New York.
Manager Joe Girardi said that Phelps has been pitching through discomfort near his triceps. Phelps said that it started after a July 18 start against the Reds, when he had an MRI administered by team physician Christopher Ahmad.
"After we got the first MRI, we sat down with [Ahmad] and he said, 'Listen, as long as it's not getting worse, we're good,'" Phelps said after New York's 8-7 victory. "The ligament was clean, everything was good. Today was what really set me off is today was the day it was worse. I had to say something. We'll find out what it is tomorrow and go from there."
Phelps was hit hard by the Red Sox on Sunday, surrendering five runs on six hits in two innings, including a two-run Dustin Pedroia homer. Girardi suggested that Phelps could miss his next turn in the rotation.
"I believe he's going to pitch again [this year]," Girardi said. "I don't know if it'll be his next turn, but I believe he's going to pitch again. He had the MRI before and it came back clean. He might need a little time-out."
Phelps started the year in the bullpen before being moved to the rotation due to injuries; Phelps is 5-5 with a 4.24 ERA in 26 games (17 starts) this season.
If the Yankees need a spot start, they could turn to right-hander Esmil Rogers, who hurled three scoreless innings in his Yankees debut on Sunday and had been starting at Triple-A Buffalo in the Blue Jays' chain, where he was 2-2 with a 3.14 ERA in 12 games (seven starts).
The Yankees could also consider giving a start to left-hander David Huff, right-hander Chase Whitley or Triple-A right-hander Bryan Mitchell.
"It's frustrating. I felt like coming into this start I was throwing the ball the best I had in my career consistently," Phelps said. "Anytime we're talking about a DL stint, it's frustrating. I was really enjoying helping the team win ballgames. It's frustrating. We're playing better baseball and I feel like we're about to go on a run."
Betances making impression in setup role
BOSTON -- One of the best compliments that you could give to David Robertson's season is that Mariano Rivera's name has not come up often, but just as much, the new closer has enjoyed watching Dellin Betances' explosion as a premier setup man.
Even Robertson, having a fine year in his own right, was wowed by Betances' appearance on Saturday at Fenway Park, when the stadium scoreboard clocked two of Betances' eighth-inning fastballs at 101 mph.
"How could you not have fun watching that?" Robertson said. "He threw 101. Wow! I'm lucky if I hit 93 and he's pumping it in at 101."
Betances' 13.22 strikeouts per nine innings in 48 relief appearances (spanning 65 1/3 innings) are the highest mark in the Majors this season, as the right-hander has learned how to harness his two-pitch repertoire into terrific results.
"I definitely think he's exceeded [expectations]," manager Joe Girardi said. "We knew he had great stuff. We knew this would be a year he had never really experienced before, in a sense, if he got on a roll. And that's what he's done."
Robertson said that Betances' electric stuff stands out, but there is still learning on the job. Betances was developed as a starting pitcher before being transitioned to the bullpen in the Minors back in 2012.
"You do have to get used to that workload," Robertson said. "It takes a little bit of time. Obviously you need to figure out your body first; that was my biggest key. When I'm throwing 70 or 65 appearances a year, some of them come on back-to-back-to-back days, you have to be ready to say when we play catch, just play a little bit.
"You just know that your arm feels good and you can go out there and do the job you're supposed to do."
• The Yankees were briefly concerned when Betances slipped on the mound in the eighth inning of Saturday's 6-4 win over the Red Sox. He was fine, but it probably won't be the last time you see the 6-foot-8 hurler overstride; Betances said that it can be difficult for him to keep his mechanics intact, but he's working on it.
"I think I told you guys, it's going to happen more than once and I'm sure it will happen again," Betances said. "I slipped a little bit, and I tried to hold myself with the glove and I wasn't able to do that. I just tried to make it look as good as possible, but it was not good."
• Carlos Beltran entered play on Sunday hitting .375 (21-for-56) with four homers and 12 RBIs in his last 15 games since July 18, a sign that the discomfort in his right elbow has been manageable.
"I think he's just being the player that we thought he would be," Girardi said. "It was just a matter of time, but I'm sure [the elbow] has something to do with that, and maybe getting used to the brace as well."
• On this date in 1959, Yogi Berra connected for his first and only All-Star Game home run. The third-inning blast off the Dodgers' Don Drysdale helped to lead the American League to a 5-3 victory at Los Angeles' Memorial Coliseum. That was the second of two All-Star Games in 1959, the first being a 5-4 NL win on July 7 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.