The New York Yankees hope to get ace lefty CC Sabathia back in the rotation this weekend and Andy Pettitte the following week as they struggle to maintain top spot in the American League East.
The Yankees have seen their first place lead slide to just three games ahead of the surging second-place Tampa Bay Rays. The boys from Gotham need these two pitchers in the worst way as they announced Thursday the usually reliable Ivan Nova (11-7) has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with an inflamed rotator cuff injury.
The Tampa Bay club has two of the best pitchers in the game right now in David Price (16-4) and James Shields (4-0, 2.12 ERA in his last five starts) and their best hitter Evan Longoria is back after two months on the shelf.
It looks like the pennant race could go down to the wire as both the Yankees and Tampa Bay have opened up daylight on Baltimore, Boston and Toronto heading into the final month of the season.
The Blue Jays will get Jose Bautista back this weekend, but it really doesn’t matter as they are just playing out the string. Even if Bautista and Brett Lawrie were back in the lineup, and if the pitching stayed healthy, I’m doubtful if the Jays could win with manager John Farrell. The base running has been just awful and the kids coming up from the minors are making the same blunders as the guys already on the big club.
Farrell’s overall handling of the club suggests the former Red Sox pitching coach is way over his head as manager of a contending major league club.
The Jays’ television and print analysts insist it’s aggressive play, but I guess Gregg Zaun and the others have to say that since they work for the club.
Aggressive play is one thing, stupidity is quite another matter. Did you notice 43-year-old Omar Vizquel getting the straight steal sign Wednesday night against Detroit with a right-handed hitter at the plate? Of course, he was thrown out.
Newly acquired J.A. Happ had to go to Farrell’s office and beg for a start after sitting around doing nothing for two weeks. Now, Happ looks like the best pitcher in the Jays rotation. And how about Farrell’s great move the other night with Ricky Romero on the mound. There’s two on and nobody out in a 4-1 game with the Jays ahead and Romero has at the plate Adam Dunn, a big left-handed hitter who has trouble with southpaws. It’s only the sixth inning, but Farrell replaces Romero with a hard-throwing, right-handed pitcher, just the type Dunn loves to see.
Dunn blasts a three-run homer out of sight, and it’s game over again for the Jays. These are not isolated decisions, they happen over and over again with Farrell.
The Jays can take some consolation in the fact their once powerful rivals, the Red Sox, are going through a similar circus with another much-maligned manager in Bobby Valentine. The key players on the team want him removed, but he’ll likely stay until the end of the season.
The latest uproar in Boston happened on the road the other night in Cleveland where injured Red Sox starter John Lackey was seen drinking beer in the visiting clubhouse. It’s a no-no at Fenway Park after last year’s infamous chicken and beer uproar. Boston fans are livid that Lackey, enjoying the benefits of a $5-million contract, was drinking a brand other than Boston’s famous Sam Adams. At that kind of money, one would think he would at least be loyal.
Congratulations to Don McDougall on his upcoming induction into the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame. Don is the man responsible for taking Major League Baseball and the Blue Jays to Toronto.
In other local baseball news, the Kings County League playoffs start Sunday on numerous fronts and big things are expected of the Stratford team.
In the recently completed national oldtimers tournament on P.E.I., Louie Murphy pitched for the Kings County team at age 70, but he wasn’t the oldest in the tournament. Eddy Smith, 71, not only played but he stole a base, which is quite a feat. Eddy is the son of the late, great George Smith, one of the best catchers ever to play on P.E.I.
Around the rinks
On the hockey front, the P.E.I. Rocket is looking for a new name and seeking your advice.
How about the Charlottetown Islanders, the name carried by the Big Four pro team based out of Charlottetown in the early 1950s, the Junior Islanders of the late 1960s and the Hardy Cup teams of the 1980s, as well as the 1991 Allan Cup championship team?
The Summerside Storm is P.E.I.’s pro basketball team and Monday there’s the draft from Toronto, which will be simulcasted to Credit Union Place beginning at 7:15 p.m.
Around the tracks
Live harness racing continues tonight at Red Shores Charlottetown with an exciting 12-dash card starting at 7 p.m.
The $2,200 feature goes in Race 11 and it has attracted horses like Gold Cup and Saucer trial starters Panmunjom, Eagle Luck, Aled Hanover, as well as War Cry Ranger, Lisfinny, IDK and Oakrock Almighty. There’s also the $1,800 open trot which includes, from the rail out, Dunmore Alpha, Scarlet Patti, Diamond Mine, Caliban Hanover, B J Eldorado, Saulsbrook Balance and Hall Trot.
The Metro eliminations headline the simulcast card from Mohawk tonight and many of the best two-year-olds in North America are in action, including the sensational Somebeachsomewhere colt Captaintreacherous.
The card also includes the She’s a Great Lady stake for two-year-old fillies and the Canadian Pacing Derby, which includes Betterthancheddar. In my view, Captaintreacherous is a notch above the brest.
The Cane Pace elimination goes Sunday at Tioga Downs in New York and P.E.I.-owned State Treasurer has been supplemented for $35,000 into the race along with Pet Rock. Pet Rock and A Rocknroll Dance have a bye into next Sunday’s final, but Pet Rock opted to race in the elimination for $107,000. Mark MacDonald gets the drive on State Treasurer, who leaves from Post 6 in the nine-horse field for trainer Dr. Ian Moore.
Old Home Week is just 51 weeks away, and here’s a tip for next time around. Two of the men responsible for the Gold Cup and Saucer, Doug Hill and Mel Jenkins, are still active and it would be neat to acknowledge their efforts. Doug, Mel, Bill Hancock, Duck Acorn and Pius Callaghan put the big show together.
Fred MacDonald can be reached