Commentary

Time for Bombers to push back ... now

After beanings and Bartolo's injury, it's time to see how much fight Yanks really have

Updated: June 12, 2011, 8:27 AM ET
By Johnette Howard | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK-- Former Yankees pitcher-turned-TV analyst David Wells wasn't looking to volunteer an opinion as he was making the rounds in the clubhouse Saturday morning, less than 12 hours after Joe Girardi had gone nose-to-nose with Cleveland manager Manny Acta after Mark Teixeira was drilled by a pitch Friday night, and less than 48 hours after the Yankees had finished suffering their second three-game sweep by the Red Sox at the Stadium this season.

In that series, five Yankees hitters (including Teixeira again) got plunked.

But Wells didn't mind speaking his mind when asked what it says about this Yankees team when its manager comes out of this week looking like the most hard-edged guy in the clubhouse?

David Wells
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesDavid Wells isn't happy with what he's seen from the Yankees this week.

"Grow some," Wells said.

Wells was speaking a couple hours before Saturday's 4-0 Yankees' win -- which is to say, before the Yankees had two nightmare scenarios flash before their eyes: Starting pitcher Bartolo Colon, who was pitching yet another gem, pulled up with a strained left hamstring while covering first base in the seventh, just one inning after Alex Rodriguez -- who had already hit his second home run in two nights -- got drilled in the left thigh by Cleveland starter Mitch Talbot and then lay near home plate, writhing in the dirt in pain.

A-Rod was able to continue. But missing Colon for any length of time could be devastating for the Yankees, who are already playing without starting catcher Russell Martin (bad back) and have four other top pitchers (Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Pedro Feliciano and Rafael Soriano) all on the disabled list.

Colon has been a godsend, but his weight struggles and lack of conditioning had raised season-long questions about how long he'd be able to physically keep it up. He had a two-hit shutout going Saturday and had thrown only 83 pitches when he limped off, slowly passing one grim-faced teammate after another without looking up. He left the stadium to get an MRI without speaking to reporters.

Now we'll see how much fight the Yankees really have in them.

Colon could very well miss extended time. And if the Yanks are going to survive this stretch, they're going to have to show more push back up and down the lineup -- not just from Girardi, who repeated Saturday that he was sick of seeing his players getting hit and then vowed, "We'll protect our own."

Any time now would be a good time to start.

A-Rod was hit Saturday after the three Yankees hitting before him in the sixth had sent three balls flying through the steady drizzle and off toward the right field wall. Only one of those long shots -- Curtis Granderson's third home run in three days -- actually made the seats but A-Rod had hit a homer earlier in the game. Talbot was tossed immediately by home plate umpire Dan Iassogna.

Heading into Saturday's games, only the Chicago White Sox had more players hit by a pitch this season than the Yankees, who have had eight hit batsmen now in the last five games.

When you look at the tape of Girardi and the Indians' Acta going nose to nose Friday night, it's hard to miss the looks of amazement, then creeping admiration, on the faces of some of the other Yankees as Girardi yelled and fussed and raged on.

It would just bode better for the Yanks if Girardi didn't often seem so alone this week.

Alex Rodriguez
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesAlex Rodriguez was beaned in the sixth by Indians starter Mitch Talbot, who was promptly ejected by plate umpire Dan Iassogna.

Wells saw it too, and wonders when the other Yankees will overtly say "Enough is enough" more forcefully than they have. And not just by winning two straight against Cleveland, which is fading fast after a white-hot start, but by standing up to a bully like the archrival Boston Red Sox.

"Boston punched us in the mouth," A-Rod admitted Saturday.

"Right now," Wells said, "Boston is in the Yankees' heads."

"CC Sabathia stepped up and did what he had to do," Wells added, referring to how Sabathia hit Yankees-killer David Ortiz in the leg in Game 3 of the Red Sox series Thursday night, but even then only after Derek Jeter and A-Rod had been plunked by Josh Beckett in the first three innings of that game. "But when you have a team in your head like Boston is in the Yankees' heads, that's not good. And you can't let just let them stay there. If the Yankees do that, they're dead -- well, not dead, because they can always come back, I guess. But you have to do something about it."

Wells wasn't slipping into his Boomer persona and popping off here. He emphasized he's not advocating some beanball war.

"Nobody wants to hurt anybody," Wells said. "I'm just talking about pitching inside, not letting a team get comfortable against you. The Red Sox are too comfortable here. David Ortiz was getting too comfortable. That's not what you want."

Wells said he honestly didn't think Ortiz's bat flip after hitting a home run in game one of the series was "that bad." But it almost doesn't matter.

"When things are going that bad like they were going for the Yankees in that Boston series, sometimes you almost have to invent a reason to do something about it, you know?" Wells said. "If I'm on the mound there, you better believe I'd do something. When a game or a series is going that bad, you don't just go 2-0 on a guy and lay another pitch in there.

"You have to let them know, 'Hey? Guess what, man? I'm out here too.'"

If Colon is going to miss any significant time, the already shorthanded Yankees are going to have to show more fight and togetherness than they already have.

"We'll protect our own," Girardi said Saturday.

Any time now would be a good time to start.

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