8/16/2014 12:14 A.M. ET
ALS awareness personal for dedicated Kelley
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- The frigid water splashed over Shawn Kelley's head and ran down his T-shirt, with teammate Brett Gardner providing a generous, slow pour from a dugout cooler. It wasn't the world's most pleasant sensation, but if it helps ALS research, the Yankees reliever doesn't mind braving a little ice.
Kelley joined the ongoing social media craze by participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge this week, and raising awareness for ALS has a personal connection for the hurler. His grandfather, Gene Werner, passed away from complications of ALS in 1996 at age 63, when Kelley was 12.
"I remember the conversations when they first knew something was wrong," Kelley said. "He started to have trouble using his hands; he was big into collecting old automobiles and working on them. He was an extremely active person that never sat still, and that's how he started noticing his motor skills weren't as sharp as they were."
Kelley said that his grandfather deteriorated quickly after the ALS diagnosis; after just eight months, the family had to make the difficult decision to end life support.
"My dad sat me down and explained to me that he was sick and that everything was moving along at a fast pace, and that our days might be numbered with him," Kelley said. "We'd go to the hospital as often as we could and visit with him, and he could still move around and communicate a little bit. Then it kind of got to where he had to point to letters, and then it got to where he could barely blink his eyes. It was a tough time."
Kelley said that he was inspired to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge when a friend passed along a YouTube video from a female fan who challenged the entire Yankees organization to take part.
A video was taken in the visiting dugout at Camden Yards, and as part of it, Kelley has now passed along the challenge to CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
"Any chance that I get -- if it gets one tweet or a million tweets, or raises one dollar, I'll stop what I'm doing and do it," Kelley said. "Hey, if it raises awareness, I'll do it. I'm not [Derek] Jeter or Tanaka, but I'm part of the Yankees, so it might raise something."
Tanaka ready to fire fastballs from mound
ST. PETERSBURG -- Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to throw 25 pitches off of a bullpen mound on Saturday at Tropicana Field, which will mark the right-hander's first time throwing from the rubber since a July 8 start against the Indians.
Tanaka is continuing to rehab a partial tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament, and the Yankees are hopeful that he will be able to make it back for two or three starts at the big league level in September. Saturday's session will consist of 25 fastballs.
"I still think it's early to tell, but we're getting through each step," manager Joe Girardi said. "Hopefully tomorrow goes well and we can move to the next step."
Tanaka threw long toss and performed fielding practice from the mound on Friday afternoon, and he said that actually throwing off the mound will be a crucial step in his recovery.
"I think so," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "If I can't throw the way I want to throw on a mound or in a bullpen, then there's no way I'll be able to throw that in a game. So, definitely the bullpen will be important."
Three doctors recommended that Tanaka attempt to rehab the ligament tear instead of rushing to have Tommy John surgery. Girardi said that he hopes the process will pay dividends.
"That's why we're going through it," Girardi said. "Obviously you've got to find out if it's the proper thing to do and if his arm is going to hold up. You'd hate to shut him down the whole year and then go through it next year. Everything has been positive so far. He said he feels good, but you really don't ever know."
Back with Yanks, McCann nearing activation
ST. PETERSBURG -- Brian McCann has rejoined the Yankees in Florida after spending the Orioles series in New York, recovering from a mild concussion.
McCann participated in on-field activities on Friday, performing catching drills and taking batting practice. After the club's 5-0 loss to the Rays, McCann said that the Yankees are "shooting for Sunday" to activate him from the seven-day concussion disabled list.
"I'm really happy with the way today went as a whole," McCann said earlier on Friday. "Now it's a matter of seeing how I feel in an hour, seeing how I feel in two hours. I'll know more tonight."
McCann said that he started to feel better after three days of rest. He was hit by a foul tip in an Aug. 8 game against the Indians at Yankee Stadium.
"I never thought that I would ever come out of a game from a foul tip," McCann said. "The way it hit me, it's definitely the hardest I've ever been hit."
Yanks trail in standings, but can control fate
ST. PETERSBURG -- The math of standing eight games out of the division lead with 43 games to play suggests, as Shawn Kelley stated late on Wednesday in Baltimore, that the Wild Card could be a more attainable goal than chasing down the division title.
But Kelley was quick to state that no one in the Yankees' clubhouse would consider catching the Orioles to be out of reach, and captain Derek Jeter has repeatedly pointed out that the Yankees can still take hold of their own destiny in the race.
"We still play everybody," Jeter said. "You know me; I'll tell you, if you win your games, you don't have to worry about anything. You worry about things when you don't play the guys in front of you. We play [the Orioles] eight times. We play the people that are in front of us."
Baseball Prospectus, which calculates playoff odds on a daily basis, pegged the Yankees as having only a 2.8 percent chance to win the division as of Friday morning. BP also didn't love the Yanks' chances of simply making it to the postseason, offering a 4.8 percent chance of winning a Wild Card.
"Obviously you're closer in the Wild Card than you are in the division, but we still have plenty of games left with Baltimore," manager Joe Girardi said. "Our goal will be to win the division, and we'll continue to fight for that, but at the very least, you want to make the playoffs."
Girardi said that there is no reason to speak to his team about keeping the right mindset; he said that his players understand what is at stake. They can take their cues from Jeter, who certainly does not want his final postseason memory to be his shattered ankle in the 2012 American League Championship Series.
"You worry about things you don't have control over," Jeter said. "We have control over what happens. We're not making it easy on ourselves, but we still control it."
• Chase Headley played 62 straight errorless games at third base, marking the second-longest active streak in the Majors, before breaking the streak with a miscue in the seventh inning against the Rays on Friday. The Giants' Pablo Sandoval has the lead, at 67.
• On this date in 1955, Mickey Mantle homered from both sides of the plate for the second time in his career in a 12-6 Yankees victory at Baltimore.