Commentary

Girardi's quick hook shook Vazquez

Javy showed, voiced disappointment after being pulled in fifth with the lead

Updated: September 5, 2010, 11:55 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Well, Javy go again.

Joe Girardi no longer trusts Javier Vazquez to get even one more out in the fifth inning of a game the New York Yankees are winning by two runs.

And Vazquez no longer respects the manager enough to hide his displeasure until he reaches the sanctuary of the clubhouse.

All this was on display in full of 47,478 spectators at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Even after the Yankees had gone on to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 7-5, and having had nearly two hours to cool off, Vazquez was still steaming.

"I was disappointed, really disappointed," an uncharacteristically tight-lipped Vazquez said in an otherwise upbeat clubhouse. "It could have been a better outing, but the fact that I got taken out early, that wasn't good."

When Girardi came out to get Vazquez, with runners on first and second, two out and the Yankees holding a 5-3 lead in the fifth, the veteran right-hander threw both his hands skyward in a gesture of agitated disbelief. It was clear he was muttering something as Girardi came to take the ball -- although afterward he said he couldn't remember saying anything -- and he didn't walk off the field so much as stalk off it.

[+] EnlargeJavier Vazquez
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesJavy Vazquez trudges off the mound in the fifth.

"I really don't want to get into it because I know I have nothing to win in this thing," Vazquez said. "Sometimes as a player you don't agree with your manager's decision, but he's still the boss."

Vazquez's face had the empty look of a man who has suddenly come to realize that his days with the company are numbered, that his boss no longer has faith in his ability to do his job and whatever future he may have hoped to have there is now in ruins.

If you are wondering which pitchers will be in the Yankees' rotation for the postseason, you now have a pretty good idea of which one definitely will not. And even though Girardi said Vazquez will remain in the rotation, there's a better-than-good chance that will change, too, between now and his next scheduled start Friday in Texas.

Girardi, for his part, offered only the most lukewarm sort of encouragement.

"He did OK," Girardi said of Vazquez's 4 2/3-inning stint, in which he was charged with five runs, the final two of which scored when Dustin Moseley surrendered a double to Lyle Overbay, the hitter Girardi didn't trust Vazquez to retire.

"It was a kind of a tough day to pitch with the way the wind was," Girardi said. "But I thought he did OK."

First of all, the wind was really no factor, since Marcus Thames, no one's idea of Willie Mays in the outfield, was able to handle four chances flawlessly in his first outfield start in weeks.

And second of all, the real concern with Vazquez is not so much the numbers he put up as the one number he did not -- 90, as in the speed of his fastball. Once again, try as he might, Vazquez cannot seem to nudge the radar gun past 88 mph; most of the time he toils in the 85-87 mph range, virtual batting practice speed.

"You know what? If that's what it is, then that's what it is, and he's gonna have to find a way to get people out," Girardi said.

The question is, will Girardi allow him even to try?

Over the past two weeks, Vazquez pitched poorly here against Seattle, lost his spot in the rotation to Ivan Nova, pitched well in two long-relief appearances, and regained his spot when Moseley faltered.

Now, his spot in the rotation is in question again.

"My plan is for him to stay in the rotation," said Girardi, who quickly added, "I can't tell you exactly what is going to happen. There are no guarantees in this game. When you start making guarantees as a manager, that's when you get in trouble. My plan is for him to pitch for us."

Truthfully, Vazquez did not pitch brilliantly. He allowed three runs on homers by Overbay and John McDonald in the second inning. But he came back to pitch a good fourth inning and clearly thought he had enough left to get one more out and at least have the chance to qualify for his 11th win of the season.

And his argument only got stronger when Moseley gave up the hit that tied the game on the second pitch he threw. Why Girardi didn't go to Boone Logan, the only lefty in his bullpen, to pitch to the left handed-hitting Overbay was never satisfactorily explained. "I was going to a fresh arm," Girardi said.

It was the second straight day that Girardi yanked his starter one out shy of the minimum needed to qualify for a win. But doing it to a rookie like Nova, as he did Friday night, is one thing. Doing it to a veteran like Vazquez is something much more serious.

For a manager who prides himself on his ability to relate to players and who generally does such a good job of supporting guys who are struggling, it was a shockingly public display of distrust that can only work to alienate the pitcher.

It goes without saying that Girardi would not have pulled CC Sabathia or Andy Pettitte or Phil Hughes in a similar situation, and it is doubtful he would have done it even with A.J. Burnett.

But he showed Vazquez he has the same amount of confidence in him as he does in a kid with 18 major league innings under his belt. If that doesn't give Javier Vazquez a bleak glimpse into what his final month as a Yankee will be like, nothing will.

Asked if he felt Girardi showed a lack of cconfidence in him, Vazquez bit off his answer like a man chewing through a work boot. "That's a question you'll have to ask him," he said.

And when asked if he felt he was auditioning for his job every time he went out there, Vazquez just shrugged.

"Hey, whatever they want to do, they do," he said. "That's just the way I take it. If I go to the 'pen, it's not what I want, but I'll go there and do my job to help the team. That's me. I'll do what I have to do to help the team."

Judging by what happened Saturday, Girardi's answer will be a simple one: Thanks, Javy. But no thanks.

GAME NOTES: Once again, the back end of the Yankees' bullpen was flawless, with Logan, Joba Chamberlain, Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera combining for four innings of two-hit ball. ... Chamberlain got the win after tossing a perfect seventh. ... The win gave the Yankees an eight-game winning streak, their longest of the season and longest dating to July 24, 2009. Their 86-50 record is the highwater mark of their season. ... Robinson Cano's single in the third raised his average with the bases loaded this season to .600 (9-for-15). The Yankees are 20-4 in games in which Cano has hit cleanup. ... Sunday's pitching matchup: Phil Hughes (16-6, 4.10) vs. LHP Brett Cecil (11-7, 3.74). First pitch, 1:05 p.m.

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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