DETROIT -- What the Yankees envisioned for the back end of their bullpen at the beginning of the season is far from how it looks now. But, all things considered, manager Joe Girardi can't complain.
Girardi admitted on Saturday that he's had the opportunity to see some relievers like David Phelps, Boone Logan, Cory Wade and Clay Rapada do things they never would have had the chance to do while helping keep New York in the mix in the American League East. At the same time, New York's unexpected injuries have given those relievers -- filling in for Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera -- plenty of confidence moving forward, however the bullpen shakes out over the rest of the season.
"It's just something we have to do right now," Girardi said. "We have to be a little more creative than we were before. You know that going in. It's not a surprise, what we're going to do. We're going to try to mix and match our lefties, I'm going to let Boone face some righties. That's what we're going to do."
Unlike in years past, when the bullpen for the last third of a game was was basically set in stone, Girardi has been forced into more of a chess match lately. His relievers have fared well -- Logan entered Saturday's game having made a team-high 26 appearances, while Rapada and Wade had each made 22.
Those three relievers have inherited 49 combined baserunners and allowed just seven to score.
"I think they've done a really good job," Girardi said. "We've asked them to step up not a little bit -- we've asked them to step up a lot. You lose your eighth-inning guy, you lose your ninth-inning guy and now you ask guys to give you outs later in the game. They've done a great job."
Prowess vs. lefties Grandy's new trademark
DETROIT -- Yankees ace CC Sabathia has a unique perspective when it comes to the progress Curtis Granderson has made hitting against left-handed pitchers.
For six seasons -- five while Sabathia was with the Indians and one while with the Yankees -- the left-hander faced off against Granderson when the center fielder was with the Tigers. Now, Sabathia gets to sit in the Yankees' dugout and watch as Granderson has boosted his game against the same lefties that once plagued him.
"As far as hitting lefties, he stays on the ball, he covers everything pretty much in the strike zone," Sabathia said, "and I think that's the biggest adjustment he's made -- being able to cover pitches away, hit them to left field and left-center and begin able to turn on pitches in."
Granderson's splits against lefties used to be fodder for his loudest critics. In 2009, his last season with Detroit, Granderson hit .275/.358/.539 with 28 homers and 62 RBIs against right-handers and .183/.245/.239 with two homers and nine RBIs against lefties.
The next year, there was still a huge discrepancy in Granderson's homer numbers (20 against righties and four against lefties), but only a 19-point difference in his batting average. Last year, Granderson's batting average against lefties was higher than against righties (.272 and .258) and his homer numbers (16 against lefties, 25 against righties) followed. That trend has continued this year, as he has hit .286/.375/.587 against southpaws.
"Long, long ways," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Granderson's progress. "He's a guy that you don't move against left-handers. You leave him where he's at. You know you're going to get production, and he's going to hit the ball hard and give you great at-bats. He's come a long ways."
Granderson said part of the key is that Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, who throws lefty, tosses the slugger batting practice no matter which pitcher he'll face in a game. That way, he gets consistent work against a left-hander thrower.
"It was never about, 'Hey, we've got to increase the power numbers' or anything," Granderson said. "When we made the change, it was just to get consistent against them like we do against righties. And if the power comes, great. But that's definitely not the mindset."
Joba's progress impresses Girardi
DETROIT -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi said reliever Joba Chamberlain threw from a half-mound on Saturday as he rehabilitates his injured right ankle.
The Yankees' skipper said that Chamberlain, who was injured in late March while jumping on a trampoline with his son, is wearing a small brace on the ankle. Girardi said the injury may have slowed other pitchers down longer, but he wasn't surprised to hear Chamberlain is back on course.
"When it comes to a pain threshold, and a lot of things that I've seen this kid get through, there's not many people that have done it," Girardi said. "I look at what he went through with the Tommy John [surgery], and I have to question when he actually [injured himself]. He probably pitched a game or two with it, he played long toss with it. He just has that weird sense that he can do a lot of things that it takes people a little longer to do."
Girardi remained adamant that the Yankees could see the right-hander again this season. Chamberlain was 2-0 with a 2.83 ERA in 27 appearances out of the bullpen last season and is 20-13 with a 3.70 ERA in five seasons with New York.
"I've always said I believe that he'll be back," Girardi said. "I'm no doctor, no rehab therapist, but just knowing Joba, I believe he's going to be back for us this year."
Girardi also said that injured right-handed reliever David Robertson threw a bullpen session and injured outfielder Brett Gardner hit in the cage, as expected.