ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Carlos Beltran last played the outfield May 11, coming into a game against the Milwaukee Brewers as a pinch hitter for Kelly Johnson -- remember him? -- and then playing the final three innings in right field.
Since then, Beltran has either been on the DL, or the DH due to a painful bone spur in his right elbow that made throwing nearly impossible. But today, after months of soft-tossing and only recently, some real practice throws in the outfield before games, Joe Girardi decided the time was right to return Beltran to the outfield, starting him in right against Rays left-hander Drew Smyly.
New York Yankees
"We're trying to get as many right-handed hitters in there against Smyly as possible," Girardi said. "He’s been very tough against left-handers this year -- and the last couple of years -- and it’s one way of doing it.”
It also allows Girardi to rotate the DH spot among some of his aging players, a process he began today by giving Derek Jeter a DH day.
Beltran said he was happy to be playing the field again after struggling to adjust to being a DH.
"I like to be in the game, man," he said. "I've always been an outfielder. I've never been a DH. That's where I belong, the outfield."
The probability, of course, is that the Rays, who are aggressive on the basepaths to begin with, will test Beltran's arm every chance they get.
Asked if he expected the Rays to run on him, Beltran said, "Maybe. Who knows. Probably. I've been out for a long time. Everybody knows that I have an elbow issue, but at the end of the day, I've just got to do what I've got to do."
McCann needs another day: Girardi decided not to activate Brian McCann, who was eligible to come off the seven-day concussion DL for today's game, after watching him go through pregame drills Friday.
“I just felt that he was kind of lethargic," Girardi said. "Watching him yesterday, it was the first time that he really had done a bunch of work. We want him to go through some more workouts. So tomorrow’s a possibility."
Girardi's decision was made easier by the fact that Francisco Cervelli is not only hitting well -- his .295 batting average leads all Yankees regulars -- but also that he has caught today's starter, Shane Greene, in all six of his previous big-league starts.
“That didn’t have that much to do with it," Girardi said. "It was more our feeling that [McCann] wasn’t quite ready to go."
A matter of 'terminology': The manager did not exactly disagree with his hitting coach, Kevin Long -- who after Friday's 5-0 loss said, “The morale is down a little bit” and "Guys are starting to press a little bit, getting down a little bit" -- but said he would not have used those words to describe the current mood of his team.
“You’re always going to look down when you don’t score runs," Girardi said. "That’s the nature of the game. Guys are frustrated. I’ve said that guys are frustrated because they know that they’re capable of doing more. We want to play in October, and when you lose, you should be frustrated. You shouldn’t just blow it off. Every day is a new day, and things can change very quickly in a clubhouse. You can get on a roll, and that’s what we need to do.”
So, then, morale is low?
“No," he said. "I sense that there’s frustration, though. It’s terminology. Some people might choose to say it one way or the other. I said that guys are frustrated with what’s going on.”
Nothing to smyle about: Smyly, acquired as part of the three-team David Price trade, has started just one game against the Yankees in his career -- he has also made four relief appearances -- but that one start, on April 28, 2012, at Yankee Stadium, resulted in Smyly's first career victory when he was with the Detroit Tigers. He held the Yankees to just two hits and one earned run -- a first-inning home run by Nick Swisher -- in six innings, striking out seven. Few of the current Yankees have faced Smyly, and the one with the largest sample size, Ichiro Suzuki is not in the lineup despite having three hits in seven career at-bats against him. That is because left-handed hitters are batting just .178 against Smyly this year. Greene has never faced the Rays.