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Masahiro Tanaka calls start to season 'so-so' despite being 3-0

He’s struck out 46 over that span, the third-highest total for any pitcher in his first five career starts since 1900. Considering the state of the wounded and/or ineffective Yankee rotation, where would the club be without Tanaka’s contributions?

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Masahiro Tanaka is 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA but is not satisfied with his start to the season.

The Yankees’ ace — whether he accepts that title or not — pitches Saturday afternoon against the Rays and no doubt Masahiro Tanaka is hoping he throws better than he did in his most recent outing.

In fact, Tanaka wants to improve his overall performance, giving himself a harsh self-assessment on his season so far:

“So-so,” Tanaka said, waving his hand and answering in English for emphasis.

That’s a pretty tough review for a guy who is 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in five starts. He’s struck out 46 over that span, the third-highest total for any pitcher in his first five career starts since 1900. Considering the state of the wounded and/or ineffective Yankee rotation, where would the club be without Tanaka’s contributions?

But Tanaka is having none of it.

“I’m not satisfied with how I’ve pitched,” he said though an interpreter. “I’ve given up runs, particularly early in the game. That part kind of bothers me. There are other parts as well. But that’s one thing that has bothered me.”

Joe Girardi likes what he’s seen, obviously: “I think he’s done pretty good. I think he’s adjusted well and I think he’s pitched very good games for us.

“I think he expects an awful lot from himself,” the manager added, trying to explain why Tanaka is so tough on himself. “I think he set a high standard for himself last year (when Tanaka was 24-0 in Japan) and I don’t know if he’s comparing it to that. He expects a lot from himself and I think it’s what really pushes him to be great.”

Tanaka won’t even consider the idea that he might be the Yankees’ ace right now, even though he’s clearly passed CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda as a more effective pitcher, at least so far. He even shook his head firmly when asked for his reaction to that idea.

“No,” he said. “It’s not something that people around are saying, and I don’t look at it that way at all. All I’m doing is trying to get out there game by game and beat the opponent and bring a victory to the team.”

Tanaka received a no-decision against the Angels on Sunday, allowing two runs in 6.1 innings. But he walked four, or twice as many as his total for the entire season entering that start.

You can bet Tanaka wasn’t happy and he says he’s already made a few adjustments.

“I did actually work on some stuff,” he added. “Just going to go out there and try not to walk guys like I did the last time.”

Tanaka, who will face righty Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 6.85 ERA), is facing Tampa for the first time. Some have opined Tanaka will encounter more trouble with teams once they have seen him more than once. Not surprisingly, that does not make Tanaka fret.

“That’s something that I don’t worry about at all,” he said. “Back in Japan there’s only five teams that I faced. So basically you’re facing the same guys over and over again.

“So you adjust according to how they adjust. Basically right now my head is not there. I’m not worried about that.”

Besides, as Girardi says, Tanaka has shown the ability to thrive with in-game adjustments. It’s how he’s stuck around in starts where he’s given up early runs.

“I think it just comes with experience,” Tanaka said. “Since becoming a pro, I’ve pitched in over 1,000 innings and obviously day one up to now, I feel that I’m able to adjust myself way better in the games compared to the times when, say my first year and second year.”

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The Yankees bullpen prospect who’s dominating at Trenton

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Yankees prospect Branden Pinder pitches against Erie SeaWolves in May 2013.

A prospect may be working his way onto the Yankees’ major league radar — and he is just 70 miles southwest of New York City.

Branden Pinder, a 25-year-old right-handed reliever drafted in the 16th round of the 2011 draft, is off to a flying start for the Double-A Trenton Thunder.

Through 10 games, Pinder has thrown 13 shutout innings, allowing just six hits and one walk. He has struck out 12.

“He has the mindset of a reliever, [he’s] really aggressive mentally,” Trenton pitching coach Tommy Phelps said. “He has a mid-90s fastball — it has good life and comes from a good angle. He’s mostly fastball/slider, and he’s trying to develop a changeup.”

The 6-foot-3 Pinder, drafted out of Long Beach State, began his collegiate career at Santa Ana College before transferring to play his junior and senior seasons for the 49ers.

After being drafted in 2011, Pinder started his Yankees career at short-season Class A Staten Island and dominated. He posted a 1.16 ERA in 31 innings, striking out 38 while allowing just 16 hits and five walks.

After spending most of 2012 and part of 2013 at High-A Tampa, Pinder was promoted to Trenton, where he appeared to hit a speed bump. In 19 games, he posted a 6.29 ERA and walked 16 batters in just 24¹/₃ innings.

But this season has been a different story.

“He’s been pitching down in the zone really well with his fastball,” Phelps said, when asked why Pinder’s performance has improved. “He would get in trouble last year — too many balls slightly elevated, too many good pitches to hit. [This year] he’s down in the zone, expanding [the strike zone] with his breaking ball better. He’s aggressive, getting ahead in counts.”

Though Pinder is making good progress, Phelps said his slider still needs work.

“He’s thrown some really good ones — he just needs to get consistent, pitch to both sides of the plate, expand [the strike zone],” Phelps said. “That’s the big thing he’s focusing on.”

Phelps said he could see Pinder, armed with a plus-fastball and a developing arsenal of off-speed pitches, as a setup man in the major leagues.

“Hopefully, he’s a seventh, eighth-inning guy in the future,” he said. “Every level gives these guys a challenge, and makes them better. [At upper levels], they’re not swinging and missing. They raise their awareness to make better pitches.

“It’s always tough to say [where he could fit], but he has success when he’s ahead in the count and he’s aggressive. If his slider keeps progressing, he’ll have an out pitch. They can trust him late in the game.”

Pinder’s rise has been rapid, and it’s only natural to dream about what could come if he sustains his performance.

Nevertheless, Phelps said Pinder is maintaining a level head.

“He’s not one of those guys that’s worried about what’s going on somewhere else,” he said. “That’s not him at all. ‘Give me the ball, and I’m ready to go.’ He keeps it simple.”

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In Yankees bullpen, Dellin Betances finally getting whiff of success

Betances now has 28 strikeouts in 15.2 innings, to go with a 1.72 ERA. That computes to 16.09 strikeouts per nine innings, the highest rate of any pitcher in the big leagues who has thrown at least 15 innings.

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Dellin Betance's emergence is one more reason the Yankee bullpen could be a savior for this team.

By the eighth inning, Masahiro Tanaka had further stamped himself as the perhaps the best $175 million the Yankees have ever spent, willing his way through seven innings on a day when his splitter had no bite.

But the 9-3 victory over the Rays on Saturday wasn’t a blowout yet, 6-3 Yankees at the time, and the bullpen was depleted in part because of Friday’s 14-inning loss.

Enter Dellin Betances, a washout as a minor-league starter only a couple of years ago, but suddenly an eye-popping strikeout machine as a big-league reliever whose emergence is one more reason the bullpen could be a savior for this team.

In working a scoreless inning, the 6-8 righthander chalked up two more strikeouts, one of them especially impressive as he made Evan Longoria look bad chasing a slider.

As a result, Betances now has 28 strikeouts in 15.2 innings, to go with a 1.72 ERA. That computes to 16.09 strikeouts per nine innings, the highest rate of any pitcher in the big leagues who has thrown at least 15 innings.

When he was asked if he were aware of the numbers, Betances smiled rather sheepishly and said:

“I don’t really think about strikeouts … but the guys tell me about them.”

This is the kind of dominance the Yankees once projected for a kid from Brooklyn they drafted eight years ago, especially as he developed a hard-breaking slider to go with a 97 mph fastball.

But the closer Betances got to the big leagues, the more issues he had with control, never mind command. At Triple-A in 2012 he issued 69 walks in 74 innings, or two fewer walks than he had strikeouts, so the Yankees demoted him to Double-A, and when that didn’t help, decided to try him as a reliever.

Two years later his walk rate is way down as his confidence continues to rise.

“I believe in myself, I think that’s the biggest thing,” the 26-year-old said Saturday. “My confidence is where it needs to be. Mechanically I’ve gotten better at staying back, letting my arm catch up with my delivery, but it’s just a different mentality.

“As a reliever I go out there trying to be aggressive. As a starter I kind of worked my way into it. You’ve gotta go out there and give it your all right away. When I was starting, I didn’t have that approach.”

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In working a scoreless inning, Dellin Betances chalks up two more strikeouts.

As he gets results, Betances is gradually gaining Joe Girardi's trust. Earlier in the season the manager used him mostly in low-leverage situations, but lately he is becoming a bigger part of the late-inning mix in close games.

“He’s earned that,” Girardi said. “He was outstanding again today.”

As such the Yankees have more quality depth in their pen than anyone might have imagined when the season began. Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and now Betances, as well as closer David Robertson, are consistently delivering lockdown innings late in games, making good on the Yankees’ gamble not to sign a big-name reliever in the offseason.

With injuries to the starting rotation, and indications that CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda won’t be able to go as far into games as in the past, a deep bullpen could well be crucial to the Yankees’ hopes of playing into October.

Obviously the Yankees need to hit as well, and Mark Teixeira's power surge of late is an important sign. With his two-run home run on Saturday, he has now hit four home runs in his last five games, and now he is saying his wrist feels much better than it did at the beginning of the season.

So after three straight losses this was an important and feel-good win for the Yankees in many ways. Tanaka is practically a given at this point, tough and talented enough to make adjustments and finish strong even on a day when he admitted he had little command of his pitches.

Getting through seven innings was vital with the bullpen already overworked, and then Betances provided a bridge to Robertson, except the closer wasn’t needed when the Yankees added three runs in the bottom of the eighth.

A f terward Betances sounded like, down deep, he’s still a starting pitcher at heart, perhaps hoping for another opportunity somewhere in the future. But for now he’s thrilled to be enjoying success in the big leagues.

“I don't know what’s going to happen,” he said. “At first it was disappointing when I was put in the bullpen but I figured whatever could get me to the big leagues was good. I feel like the more time on the mound I get, the more comfortable I feel.

“Instead of being just a thrower, I’ve got a game plan when I go out there. I think that’s a big difference now too.”

No doubt part of him wonders if his success would translate to starting, if he were given the opportunity again. But for now he’s becoming too valuable piling up the strikeouts, one relief appearance at a time.

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Yankees running out of excuses for supposed ace Sabathia

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CC Sabathia towels off after an abbreviated start in another Yankee Stadium loss to the Rays.

When it comes to CC Sabathia, the Yankees are running out of answers. Out of theories. Out of positive spin.

Worst of all, however, may be the one element of which they are not even remotely running out: Time.

The big lefty registered arguably his worst start as a Yankee on Sunday, getting clobbered and booed in a 5-1 loss to the Rays at Yankee Stadium. Sabathia lasted just 3 ²/₃ innings, allowing five runs and 10 hits, and afterward, Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild revealed he knew something was amiss when Sabathia threw poorly in his pregame warmup.

These 2014 Yankees, their current perch atop the American League East notwithstanding, look imperiled as long as their highly paid veterans Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda pitch as poorly as they have recently. Yet the Sabathia dilemma stretches well beyond 2014. It goes back to last year and stretches at least through 2016, if not 2017.

“Going through this adversity has been the toughest part of my baseball career by far,” the always accountable Sabathia said. “But I know I’ll come out of this a better pitcher for it.”

“This adversity” has lasted longer than many celebrity marriages. Since the start of the 2013 season, Sabathia holds a 4.94 ERA in 251 ²/₃ innings pitched. Of all major-league pitchers who have thrown 200-plus innings in the past season-plus, only two pitchers — Edinson Volquez (5.43) and Edwin Jackson (5.02) have tallied worse ERAs than the Yankees’ titular ace.

We’ve heard just about everything in this time span: Sabathia, whose velocity dropped precipitously, was recovering from his October 2012 surgery to remove a small bone spur from his left elbow. He was trying to pitch with his new weight loss. Sabathia himself admitted at the end of last season that, since he couldn’t overpower hitters like he once could, he needed to prepare more.

On Sunday, manager Joe Girardi said: “I still think he’s evolving into a different type of pitcher.”

Alas, evolution isn’t part of the Yankees’ business model, especially for a guy whom they’re paying $23 million this year and next year, followed by $25 million in 2016 and an easily attainable $25 million vesting option — essentially, he just has to stay healthy, and both he and the Yankees insist health is not an issue now — for 2017.

If this is really it for the 39-year-old Kuroda, then the Yankees can just kick him curbside this fall. If Sabathia, turning 34 in July, can’t find his desired consistency, though? It’s going to be a long, ugly path.

Sunday went down as especially ugly, with neither Sabathia’s sinker nor his changeup behaving themselves. As Sabathia noted, this one would be easier to write off if so many other starts hadn’t been subpar. And a high percentage of those starts fell into the “one bad inning” category, when Sabathia missed plenty of bats but couldn’t minimize damage when things went awry.

Shoot, Sabathia has 44 strikeouts against nine walks in 40 ²/₃ innings this season, so stat-geek common sense tells you he should level out eventually. Common sense plus knowledge of the man himself.

“It can turn at any time,” Rothschild said, even as he acknowledged Sabathia’s consistency has been absent for more than a year. “We’re all thinking that it will. I think he feels that it will. When you have someone as competitive as he is, there’s a good chance that we’ll get this straightened out.”

Nevertheless, the results and the overall numbers speak for themselves. Even going by the low standard of a quality start — at least six innings pitched and no more than three runs allowed — Sabathia hasn’t put together three consecutive such performances since last April, a span of 35 starts without a basic level of consistency.

You don’t bet heavily against Sabathia, and you appreciate him saying, of the booing that accompanied his fourth-inning departure, “I would’ve booed myself today, too.

“I know that what I’m doing is working,” he added. “I just need to get a little better at it.”

More than “a little” better, actually. Unless you think the Yankees have only “a little” riding on Sabathia rediscovering his old self — or even something just closer to that — sooner than later.

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Yankees’ Brian Roberts hits clutch homer in 9th, Hiroki Kuroda stellar in no decision

In the absence of Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda, the Yankees have been waiting for somebody other than Masahiro Tanaka to step up in the starting rotation. Tuesday Kuroda was the guy

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Brian Roberts gets two hits in the game, but the big one is a solo home run in the top of the 9th to deliver the Yankees a 4-3 win Tuesday.

ANAHEIM – For nearly eight innings, Hiroki Kuroda looked like he would be the hero Tuesday night for the Yankees. By the ninth, Brian Roberts had stolen that title away.

Roberts hit a two-out solo home run in the ninth off Ernesto Frieri to snap a tie score, lifting the Yankees to a much-needed 4-3 win that helped them remain above .500.

“We’ve had some opportunities to win some games and we’ve been struggling a little bit offensively,” Joe Girardi said. “You know that you’re going to go through it in the course of the season, but it was nice to get some big hits tonight.”

Kuroda had been brilliant all night before giving up a two-out triple to Mike Trout in the eighth, setting up Albert Pujols’ game-tying single off Shawn Kelley.

But Roberts’ first home run as a Yankee came at the perfect time, allowing David Robertson to pick up his fifth save while making a winner of Kelley (1-2).

“Me and (Derek Jeter) were joking during BP today, who was going to be the last one to hit a homer,” Roberts said. “I’m glad to put the pressure on him now.”

In the absence of Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda, the Yankees have been waiting for somebody other than Masahiro Tanaka to step up in the starting rotation.

Kuroda finally did so, turning in his best performance of the season as he held the Angels to three runs – only one of which was earned – on five hits over 7.2 innings, striking out eight without issuing a walk.

“Not that we were desperate for a win, but it was something that we needed, probably,” Roberts said. “When Kuroda pitched the way that he did, you need to win those games when a guy goes 7-2/3 on the road against a really, really good team. It was just nice to get a good win for us.”

After opening the season 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA in his first three starts, Kuroda had struggled in his past three, taking two losses while posting a 6.61 ERA.

One of those losses came April 25 against these very same Angels, who whacked the righthander around for eight runs (six earned) on 10 hits over 4.2 innings. Kuroda was slightly better last week in a loss to the Mariners, allowing four runs (three earned) over six innings.

Kuroda looked solid early, retiring six of the first seven Angels he faced. He fanned Howie Kendrick on a slider to end the first, then did the same to rookie C.J. Cron to close the second.

“It’s really encouraging,” Girardi said. “His slider was really good again. I thought his sinker was excellent again tonight. I’ve been saying that once he gets his slider going, we’ll see the Kuroda that we’re used to seeing, and he had it tonight.”

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Hiroki Kuroda regains his form on Tuesday, pitching into the eighth inning with eight strikeouts and no walks while giving up five hits and just one earned run.

C.J. Wilson also sat down six of the first seven he faced as the game remained scoreless into the third inning. The Yankees mounted a two-out rally in the third after Wilson walked Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeter singled, but Carlos Beltran grounded out to end the threat.

The Angels broke through in the bottom of the inning, getting an assist from Yangervis Solarte, whose throwing error on Collin Cowgill’s sacrifice bunt gave Los Angeles runners at second and third with nobody out.

Erick Aybar and Trout each followed with sac flies, putting a pair of unearned runs on the board for the home team.

The Yankees evened it up in the fifth on Roberts’ RBI single and a run-scoring double play by Ellsbury that brought Brett Gardner home from third base.

Kuroda retired the Angels in order in the fourth before working his way out of a jam in the fifth, striking out Trout with runners at the corners to end the inning.

“I think that was the biggest key moment of the game for me,” Kuroda said through a translator.

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Yangervis Solarte goes 2 for 4 with a run scored.

Kuroda fanned the final batter in every inning between the fourth and seventh, three of them with the splitter after struggling with the pitch all season.

The Yankees broke the tie in the eighth as Jeter was hit by a pitch and Beltran pushed a seeing-eye single up the middle to put runners in the corners. Mark Teixeira hit a sharp grounder to third, where Jeter got caught in a rundown for the first out. But Soriano came through with the big hit, a single to left field that scored Beltran from second base to give the Yankees their first lead of the night.

With Kelley and Robertson getting loose in the bullpen, Girardi sent Kuroda back to the mound for the eighth as he neared the 100-pitch mark. He retired the first two batters on only three pitches, but Trout battled him in a nine-pitch at-bat before tripling off the right field wall, putting the tying run 90 feet from home.

Despite throwing 34 pitches and walking four batters Monday, Kelley came in to face Pujols as Girardi was holding Robertson for Kendrick. Kelley fell behind 3-0 before working the count full, but Pujols drilled a 3-2 slider into left field, scoring Trout to tie the game.

“When that happens, you want to try to pick guys up, that’s why you have 25 guys,” said Roberts, who did exactly that with his ninth-inning blast. “So for us to do that tonight... hopefully we can parlay this into something a little bit bigger.”

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Jeter’s solo shot the highlight of Yankees’ easy win over Angels

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Derek Jeter rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run in the second inning of the Yankees' 9-2 blowout win over the Angels Wednesday night in Anaheim.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — There is a little bit of bark left in Derek Jeter.

On the night Jeter was honored by the Angels for a Hall of Fame career in the final lap, the Yankees’ captain coaxed a home run out of his bones.

Combined with the Angels’ treating the baseball like it was a live grenade, Jeter’s first homer of the season led the Yankees to a 9-2 victory that was witnessed by an Angel Stadium crowd of 44,083 that turned the spring evening into JeterFest filled with standing ovations and chants of “Derek Jeter, Derek Jeter.’’

The victory gave the Yankees two of three against the Angels, who committed two errors. The most costly miscue was made by right fielder Collin Cowgill who ran into Mike Trout while the center fielder was about to catch Jeter’s routine fly in the first inning. That opened the door for five Yankees runs, four of which were unearned against New Jersey product Hector Santiago.

Jeter, whose solo shot gave the Yankees a 6-0 lead, was presented with a pinstriped stand-up paddle board with the No. 2 on it before the game by the Angels. He also scored the 1,883rd career run with the homer, moving into 11th place on the all-time list.

Because 22 of Jeter’s 26 hits coming into the game were singles the home run was a bit of a surprise. The other four hits for the 39-year-old shortstop were doubles.

“It was good to get the first one,” said Jeter who went 2-for-5 and scored twice. “I am not catching Babe Ruth, but it was good to get one after Brian [Roberts] got one [Tuesday].’’

In a strange coincidence, Roberts was using the dugout bathroom when Jeter homered one night after Jeter did the same while Roberts slugged his first homer as a Yankee.

“I came up the stairs and he was looking for me and I said ‘I was in the bathroom,’ ’’ said Roberts, who went 1-for-3 with an RBI.

Vidal Nuno, who couldn’t go further than five innings in any of his three starts, was the beneficiary of the Angels’ generosity and Jeter’s muscle. In 6¹/₃ innings the left-hander, allowed a run and four hits. That should be good enough for Nuno to stay in the rotation.

“It was the first time my family came to see me pitch live baseball,’’ said Nuno, a native Californian, who had 50 family and friends on hand.

Once again, the Bombers were glad to see the left-hander Santiago, raised in Newarkand educated in Bloomfield.

On April 26 in The Bronx, Santiago allowed four runs and six hits in 4¹/₃ innings. In five career games against the Yankees, Santiago is 1-2 with a 7.72 ERA. Wednesday night, he gave up five runs (two earned), five hits, three walks and committed a throwing error.

Santiago seemed so glad to exit the game that he was off the mound before Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia got to the hill to remove Santiago, who is 0-6.

After giving up a run in the second, Nuno (1-0) retired 13 straight hitters. It was Nuno’s second big league win and helped the Yankees reset an over-worked bullpen that will have Thursday to rest because it’s an off day before the Yankees open a three-game series against the Brewers in Milwaukee Friday night.

As for Orange County baseball fans showering Jeter with love in what was likely his last game in Southern California, he was impressed.

“The fans have been awesome,” Jeter said. “All three games are something I will remember and appreciate.I have fond memories of playing in Anaheim.’’

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Vidal Nuno #57 of the New York Yankees pitches to the Los Angeles Angels during the third inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 7, 2014 in Anaheim, California.

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Derek Jeter #2 and Jacoby Ellsbury #22 of the New York Yankees react to their runs off of a Mark Teixeira #25 double for a 2-0 lead over the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 7, 2014 in Anaheim, California.

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Yankees will retire Joe Torre’s No. 6 on Aug. 23 against White Sox during Stadium ceremony

The incoming Hall of Famer, who won four World Series over a five-year period with the Bombers, will also have a plaque in Yankee Stadium's famed Monument Park. Goose Gossage, Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez will also be honored this summer.

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With the retiring of Joe Torre’s No. 6, only one single digit remains — Derek Jeter’s No. 2 — with the Yankees.

After leading the Yankees to six World Series appearances and winning four titles as manager -- a tenure in pinstripes that included a remarkable 12 straight playoff appearances (1996-2007) -- incoming Hall of Fame inductee Joe Torre will have his No. 6 retired by the Bombers and will be honored with a plaque in Yankee Stadium’s famed Monument Park, the team announced Thursday.

Hall of Fame reliever Rich (Goose) Gossage, and two key players on Torre’s four championship teams -- outfielder Paul O’Neill and first baseman Tino Martinez -- will also receive plaques in Monument Park this summer.

“Totally awesome,” said Gossage, borrowing Jeff Spicoli’s famous line. “Oh my God, I can’t even relate. Just the company that you keep out there and how many great players played with the Yankees, and just to be a part of the Yankee organization, for those six years (1978-‘83 and part of ‘89), was unbelievable.”

Torre will be the last of the four to be honored, with a ceremony scheduled for Aug. 23, when the Yankees host the White Sox. Gossage and Martinez will be honored during the Old-Timers’ weekend (June 21-22), while O’Neill will be celebrated Aug. 9.

Gossage said the plaque honor is “right up there” with his induction into Cooperstown, and was wistful when asked what the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would have thought. “I wish so much he was around,” said Gossage.

The 62-year-old Gossage said he was told about the honor “a week ago,” when Yankee senior VP of marketing, Debbie Tymon, gave him a call.

“I said, ‘I’m glad I’m sitting down.’ To go into that elite Hall of Fame, it’s the Yankee Hall of Fame, is very, very special,” said Gossage. “My Mom and Dad, my whole family, were huge Yankee fans growing up out here in Colorado. This is just icing on the cake with a cherry on top.”

Gossage said one of his few regrets that he has is that his parents weren’t alive to see him enter the Hall of Fame and receive this honor from the Yankees.

“The only urgency I had about getting into the Hall of Fame was, my Mom said toward the end of her life, 'Gosh, if you were to go into the Hall of Fame, I hope I'm around.' I hoped I would go in while she was still around,” said Gossage. “But she missed it by a couple of years. I always felt she was up there, and my Dad didn't see me get to play professional baseball. He always told me that I would.

“But, those are the only two things that didn't work out in my career. Even the home runs I gave up were great and I had my share of those.”

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Former Yankee pitcher Goose Gossage calls his Monument Park plaque 'icing on the cake.'

The righthander said his wife, Corna, would join him for the ceremony at Yankee Stadium next month, and that possibly two of his three sons would make the trip to the Bronx. Gossage said he was also thrilled that he will be able to see some old teammates and rivals that weekend.

“It's nice that it's Old-Timers' Day, that I get to share it with so many great players that I played with and so many other guys that I admired playing against,” said Gossage. “We may not have been teammates, but I enjoyed their careers, too. To do that that weekend is a very special time. Very cool.”

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Joe Torre wins four World Series over a five-year period with the Yankees, the last coming over the Mets in 2000’s Subway Series.

The Yankees said in the press release that former center fielder Bernie Williams is part of this recognition series, and he will be honored in 2015, although the team did not announce in what capacity.

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Gardner: ‘I’m striking out too much’

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Brett Gardner heads back to the dugout after striking out to end the game against the Red Sox on April 11.

MILWAUKEE — When the Yankees open a three-game series against the Brewers Friday night at Miller Park, Brett Gardner will be hitting 14 points higher than his career average of .268.

His on-base percentage is a respectable .347; five points lower than Gardner’s career mark of .352.

Yet, the feisty left fielder knows he needs to improve when it comes to striking out.

At the start of the season, Gardner had 517 major league hits compared to 293 strikeouts. Only in 2008, Gardner’s first season in the big leagues, did he have more strikeouts (30) than hits (29).

However, Gardner has 31 hits and 31 strikeouts this season and that doesn’t sit well with him.

“I have been striking out too much,’’ said Gardner, who didn’t whiff Wednesday night against the Angels in Anaheim after fanning seven times in the previous four games. “My mechanics have been a little off, rushing the swing and swinging with my head moving. I have been swinging and missing more than I would like.’’

Of Gardner’s 31 Ks, 10 were looking. And while that sounds like a big problem, hitting coach Kevin Long doesn’t see it that way.

“If it was 10 strikeouts and they were all looking that would be a problem but the bigger part is the swings and misses,’’ Long explained. “It could be swinging at a couple of balls off the plate or not reacting to the breaking ball. The number will go down, right now it’s extremely high. He isn’t happy. If he gets back to putting the ball in play, he will get hits.’’

Gardner isn’t planning on a major overhaul at the plate.

“I have to do a better job, but I don’t want to change my game. I have to be aggressive so when I get a pitch to hit, I put the ball in play and use my speed,’’ said Gardner, whose 31 Ks were tied for 22nd among AL hitters Thursday. “I felt better [Wednesday].’’

When Masahiro Tanaka is on the mound there isn’t a trace of fear oozing from him. When he steps into the batter’s box Friday night against Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo that won’t be the case.

Asked if was excited to hit, Tanaka said, “No. I will be a little bit scared.’’

And outside of squaring to bunt, don’t expect much bat movement.

“I want to get that right,’’ Tanaka said of bunting. “I am not anticipating swinging for now.’’

Watching AL pitchers bat in interleague games is often hard on the eyes. Even CC Sabathia, the Yankees’ best-hitting starter, often looks overmatched.

Tanaka estimated he batted 10 times in Japan and realizes he is getting paid to throw the ball, not hit it although he said he homered in high school.

“My main job is to throw,’’ Tanaka said. “I will focus on that.’’

Joe Girardi has several concerns about his starters and long relievers doing something that isn’t regular in game situations.

“They haven’t been swinging for a whole year and they are being asked to bunt,’’ Girardi said. “I saw Javier Vazquez breaking his finger [bunting] and this was a guy who was a good bunter.’’

Going into Thursday’s games the Brewers’ 22-13 record was tops in the NL and the staff ERA of 3.11 was fifth in the majors.

“They are playing extremely well and pitching extremely well, not giving up a lot of runs,’’ Girardi said of the NL Central leaders who the Yankees haven’t played at Miller Park since 2005 when the Brewers won two of three.

“Playing NL teams is different, especially when you go to their ballpark and pitchers are expected to hit. A couple of our guys are excited about that. I am not sure I am excited about it.’’

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Yankees’ Carlos Beltran has bone spur on right elbow, could need surgery if cortisone shot doesn’t work

He was taking swings in the batting cage during Monday night’s loss to the Mets when he felt pain and informed Joe Girardi he would have to be removed from the game. Beltran said he’s never had an issue with his elbow before.

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Carlos Beltran is hoping a cortisone injection Monday night provides relief from elbow woes.

Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran has a bone spur in his right elbow that is causing him a “sharp pain” he said when he swings a bat. He received a cortisone injection on Monday night. If that does not provide relief within a few days, he could need surgery to have it shaved down.

“You have to give the cortisone shot a chance to work. It’s an old bone spur but it’s aggravating his elbow now,” manager Joe Girardi said at his pre-game news conference before the Yankees faced the Mets at the Stadium. “If in a couple days he doesn’t feel better, my level of concern will be pretty high.”

Beltran said he has inquired about whether a second cortisone injection would be an option in the event it continues to bother him after the next few days, but hasn’t received an answer yet.

He was taking swings in the batting cage during Monday night’s loss to the Mets when he felt pain and informed Joe Girardi he would have to be removed from the game. Beltran said he’s never had an issue with his elbow before.

“Right now we’re hoping the cortisone shot will take the pain away and I can continue to go on and continue to play,” Beltran said. “If it doesn’t get better then they might need to take it out.”

Beltran was diagnosed after having an MRI during the game and received the shot afterward. The bone spur will need to be surgically removed at some point, but the hope for the Yankees is that it won’t be necessary until after the season.

“They said that if the cortisone does the job and I feel no pain, it’s no concern at all, Beltran said. “You just hope it goes away. Maybe having the surgery, I will be disappointed if I have to have the surgery to take it out and miss time.”

Ichiro Suzuki said he would not be able to play on Tuesday because his back still is bothering him, but the Yankees will at least temporarily have a reinforcement.

Reliever Shawn Kelley was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a sore back and outfielder Zoilo Almonte was called up.

“It’s not getting to where it needs to get,” Girardi said of Kelley’s condition. “Now we’re looking at a seventh day, eighth day and with the health of our outfielders where they are, it was probably a good idea to call up Zoilo.”

Mark Teixeira, who is dealing with soreness in his groin, is in the lineup for Tuesday’s game as the DH.

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The thing that bothers me the most about this article is that it's true.

Yankees’ advanced roster age rearing its head

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C.C. Sabathia

It’s an age-old problem for the Yankees, one that drew an especially bright spotlight in Monday night’s 2014 Subway Series opener at Yankee Stadium.

It is, to be more precise, an old-age problem.

Even a $500 million offseason infusion couldn’t protect the Yankees against their greatest weakness, again: Their seniority still lurks around every game. By the time the Yankees’ exciting, 9-7 loss became official, and their record dropped to a modest 19-18, three of their elders surfaced with new problems.

“That’s what happens to guys who are older,” Mark Teixeira said. “You get bumps and bruises. That’s the unfortunate part about getting old.”

The 34-year-old Teixeira, the Yankees’ hottest hitter, didn’t start due to a tight left groin. He pinch hit in the ninth inning and delivered a single against Mets closer Kyle Farnsworth, jogging to first base and being replaced immediately by pinch-runner Brendan Ryan. Joe Girardi thought a healthier Teixeira could have made it to second on his line drive into the right-field corner, and therefore would have avoided being forced out on Brian McCann’s subsequent game-ending double play. Teixeira didn’t express as much confidence in that theory, though.

During the game, Carlos Beltran, 37, left with what Girardi called a hyperextended right elbow, an injury the designated hitter suffered while swinging in the cage between at-bats. He underwent an MRI late Mondaynight.

“I’m concerned because it was enough to take him out of the game,” Girardi said.

And when Girardi was asked why Ichiro Suzuki didn’t pinch run for Teixeira, the Yankees’ manager divulged the normally ultra-durable Ichiro, 40, was unavailable after injuring a knee and his back attempting an acrobatic catch Sunday in Milwaukee.

“Tonight I just couldn’t go,” Ichiro said through his interpreter. “I was trying to get warmed up inside, but I was a no-go.”

Moreover, CC Sabathia, who turns 34 in July, will visit noted orthopedist James Andrews for a second opinion on his right knee. Sabathia already is on the disabled list. We’ll see if his stay goes longer than 15 days.

Perhaps to even out the actuarial tables, reliever Shawn Kelley, 29, also was unavailable Monday due to a bad back, and his absence contributed to the Yankees’ bullpen meltdown that allowed the Mets to post a comeback victory. The losing pitcher? 37-year-old lefty specialist Matt Thornton, naturally.

The Yankees’ 39-year-olds proved relatively immune from the surrounding chaos, although neither quite discovered the Fountain of Youth, either. Captain Derek Jeter knocked three soft singles and drew a walk, and starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda at least kept the Yankees in the game with six innings of four-run ball.

In the wake of last year’s disastrous results, the Yankees worked diligently and spent generously over the winter to add some fresh blood. Their most expensive addition, pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, has exceeded their wildest dreams, putting up a 2.57 ERA and recording zero losses in his seven starts.

Wednesday’s Subway Series pitting Tanaka against the Mets’ debuting Rafael Montero will give this interleague, intra-city matchup the most juice we’ve experienced in quite a few years.

It’s fitting, if not fully causative, Tanaka, 25, arrived as the youngest of the Yankees’ four newcomers, well behind Beltran and 30-year-olds Jacoby Ellsbury and McCann. Of that position-playing trio, only Ellsbury has performed at an acceptable level to date, presenting the Yankees with an unpalatable scenario to envision: At least Sabathia and Teixeira reaped dividends in the early years of their megadeals, and even A.J. Burnett contributed some. What if this latest big buy doesn’t pay off immediately and then bites the Yankees late as has been the case with their previous investments?

If the Yankees are to climb out of their current morass this season, they’ll have to lean most heavily on the guys still in their primes. On Ellsbury and McCann, and on the currently injured Michael Pineda, who provided so much hope with his early starts before revealing himself to be both remarkably stupid and unsurprisingly fragile within about a week’s time.

It’s not reasonable or realistic to expect Jeter to approach the heights of even recent years, not after his traumatic left ankle injury of 2012. Same goes for Teixeira, who likely can’t sustain his hot streak, and Sabathia. Maybe Beltran will fall in this group, too.

You can’t outrun old age. You can only hope to minimize its importance. And the Yankees haven’t accomplished that mission yet.

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Yankees’ Chase Whitley finds ‘relief’ after solid MLB debut

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Though he did not pick up the win, starter Chase Whitley did not allow a run in his major league debut in the Yankees' 1-0 win over the Mets Thursday night at Citi Field.

Chase Whitley sat in the dugout after the fifth inning Thursday night, having not surrendered a run, before Dellin Betances got the final out. Finally, Whitley started to relax.

When asked what he felt, the right-hander said: “Relief.”

No doubt Joe Girardi felt the same thing after the Yankees 1-0 win over the Mets at Citi Field to get a split of the Subway Series.

“His performance was spectacular,” the manager said of Whitley’s 4 ²/₃ scoreless innings in his major-league debut.

The converted reliever was summoned from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to take the spot of CC Sabathia, who joined the growing list of starters on the disabled list.

Girardi said Whitley would remain among the starters, at least for now.

“We haven’t made a change in our rotation,” Girardi said. “He didn’t do anything not to start.”

Whitley said he was just pleased to get it over with.

“To put that one away and look forward to the next one — whenever that might be — it was a good day,” Whitley said.

He began to run out of steam in the fifth, as he issued his first two walks with one out in the inning to Ruben Tejada and Juan Centeno. After Mets starter Jacob deGrom bunted them over, Girardi decided to remove Whitley before facing the lineup a third time.

“We felt he tired,” Girardi said.

Whitley, who threw 74 pitches, agreed.

“The adrenaline wore off a little bit,” said Whitley, who also singled in his first at-bat. “It’s something I’ve got to build on for next time.”

Still, for a team that has seen its starting rotation go from deep to paper-thin in a matter of weeks, Whitley provided as much as they could have asked for.

With the way Sabathia struggled even before going to the disabled list with a bad right knee, the Yankees may have even signed up for Whitley’s outing even if the big lefty were on the mound.

So while Whitley — like David Phelps and Vidal Nuno — can’t replicate the performances expected from the injured Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda, the Yankees may be able to survive for a while if they get more innings like they did Thursday from Whitley.

And as his former SWB teammates said before he was called up, Whitley wasn’t overwhelmed by the scene.

“He didn’t show any nerves at all,” Brian McCann said. “He executed all his pitches.”

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A failed starter, Dellin Betances a beast in bullpen

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Dellin Betances has six straight strikeouts in the sixth and seventh innings of the Yankees' 1-0 win over the Mets Thursday night at Citi Field.

The Yankees have found a weapon. And Big Dellin Betances has found a home in the bullpen.

Switching Betances from starter to bullpen has turned out to be a brilliant move by the Yankees.

As a starter, Betances had a problem a lot of young pitchers have — he was thinking too much. Way too much.

“He was overanxious, it almost became an anxiety thing for him as a starter,’’ one Yankees official said of Betances’ struggles.

“I was putting too much pressure on myself,’’ said Betances, who is not struggling anymore.

The local kid who starred at Brooklyn’s Grand Street Campus is not anxious anymore.

The Yankees’ thrilling 1-0 win over the Mets on Thursday night at Citi Field was proof of that as Betances (2-0) got the win.

Now opposing hitters are anxious having to face the big man, and Thursday night Betances, 26, destroyed the Mets on a night the Yankees were desperate for pitching help. He retired all seven batters he faced, striking out the last six, a career high.

“At first I was bummed,’’ Betances said of move to the bullpen last season at Triple-A. “The bullpen feels good now, all I want to do is wear the pinstripes and the grays on the road. I’m cool with that. I love being here in New York. This is my hometown.”

And his home is in the bullpen, where his comfort level is obvious.

“This game is more mental than physical,’’ Betances added. “If you can put them both together you can do some good things. I always try to inspire myself, look at inspirational quotes and keep the faith. Out of the bullpen, I can be aggressive and just follow the catcher’s game.’’

Manager Joe Girardi has growing faith in Betances and called on him with two on and two outs in the fifth inning of a 0-0 game.

“He’s continued to grow in front of us, and today, he did it without throwing a lot of pitches,’’ Girardi said. “Just a ton of strikes. I think his confidence is just going higher and higher every time he takes the mound.’’

The Mets put runners on second and third following two walks — you were expecting hits? — by emergency starter Chase Whitley and a sacrifice bunt by Mets’ starter Jacob deGrom.

Betances got Eric Young Jr. to ground to third base to end the threat.

Betances really went to work in the sixth and seventh innings with six straight strikeouts. That is two more strikeouts than he has ever had in a major league game.

Betances cut like a knife through the Subway Series cake the Mets presented Derek Jeter before the game. He struck out Daniel Murphy swinging, David Wright looking and then caught Curtis Granderson looking to end the sixth.

In the seventh, Chris Young went down swinging, Lucas Duda looking and then Betances dropped a perfect curve to freeze Ruben Tejada.

The Mets offense had nowhere to go against the 6-foot-8, 260-pound Betances.

After scoring 21 runs the first two games of the Subway Series at Yankee Stadium, the Mets were shut out in back-to-back games at Citi Field. In the two games, they produced seven hits and struck out 22 times, 14 times Thursday night.

He owns 39 strikeouts over 22¹/₃ innings. Only starters Masahiro Tanaka (66) and CC Sabathia (48) have more strikeouts on the staff. Betances’ ERA is 1.61.

This Killer B is finally killing it.

The 2006 eighth-round draft pick could close one day. But one thing is certain: This is just the start for Betances.

“You can always get better,’’ said Betances, who grew up a fan of the Subway Series. “To me it’s all about confidence.’’

“He’s got a gift,’’ Girardi said. “He’s got a very good fastball and a very good curveball. He’s not a comfortable at-bat. Where it ends up, none of us know, but he’s got good stuff.’’

Dellin Betances has become one bullpen beast.

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