By Sweeny Murti
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As the Yankees fell victim to one injury after another earlier this year, fans were screaming “Mayday, mayday!”
Well now it’s May Day — May 1, that is — and the Yankees have survived pretty well to this point, 16-10 in April. Maintaining it without immediate reinforcements could be tricky. Some thoughts on the Yankees’ first month of 2013:
— While we all feared the Blue Jays, their dismal first month is a big part of the Yankees’ success in April. Perhaps New York caught them at the right time; the Yanks went 6-1 vs. Toronto, 10-9 vs. everyone else. The May schedule features tough opponents in Oakland, Colorado, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay.
The Yankees visit Baltimore May 20, just under three weeks away. Joe Girardi believes both Curtis Granderson and Kevin Youkilis can return by then, which would be a nice boost. Mark Teixeira, however, does not appear to be progressing quickly enough, and it seems likely the Yankees won’t see him until June. Brian Cashman said in March “wrists are tricky” and it certainly seems to be the case, a little cold water thrown on Teixeira’s early optimism that he would return by this first week in May.
— Despite a couple of clunkers, it was a very good month for the Yanks’ top three starters. CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda were a combined 11-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 16 starts.
The back end of the rotation? Not so good. Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova have combined for just one win in nine starts, though Hughes has pitched well in each of his last three starts.
— Like the great Bob Uecker said in “Major League,” “Hey, in case you haven’t noticed … and judging by the attendance, you haven’t…” Eduardo Nunez has played some very good shortstop this season. It is a dramatic turnaround from the daily misadventures we got used to seeing the last two years. A spring training adjustment to his throwing motion has made a world of difference. Nunez is showing great range and is showing off that strong arm with accurate throws instead of ones that sail eight rows into the stands. Nunez will still make errors — every big league shortstop does — but he has shown that with consistent playing time and a little confidence he is very capable of playing the position.
— Seriously, about the attendance. I know ticket prices are high sometimes, and it isn’t easy for everyone to get to the ballpark. But I also feel there’s a large set of fans that goes to maybe a handful of games all year, and they probably aren’t going to waste those when A) it’s cold, B) it’s a school night, and C) Derek Jeter isn’t playing.
Dwindling attendance can certainly be seen as an issue at the new Yankee Stadium, and cost to the average fan is a factor. But if you are a casual fan who is going to scrape together the money to take in a game, I don’t think you are going to choose a 52-degree night when Brennan Boesch and Jayson Nix are in the starting lineup. Let’s see what it looks like when summer arrives.
— This weekend will mark the one-year anniversary of Mariano Rivera’s knee injury in Kansas City. You wouldn’t know it by watching him pitch this past month, would you? Just two runs allowed in 10.1 innings, 10-for-10 in save chances.
— I had a chance to see a very neat thing Tuesday with Mariano, as he greeted a group of about 20 longtime Yankees season ticket holders. This wasn’t just a quick 2-minute meet and greet. Mariano sat in the press conference room taking questions (mostly compliments, but some questions) about his life and career for nearly 30 minutes, and then posed for pictures.
It’s all part of the farewell tour he has conducted in each city so far this season. Mariano is making it clear he is truly appreciative of the regular folks who make what he does for a living possible. And it’s remarkable to hear his honesty and emotion in answering all the questions.
If you haven’t thought of this before, think of it now — take a real good look at Mariano this year. You won’t see another like him again.
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