TORONTO -- The Yankees thought the worst part of the quick turnaround between Thursday's game in Houston and Friday's in Toronto was going to be the short night's sleep.
But that wasn't the worst of it at all. In fact, it turned out to be a sleepless night for everyone on the team charter when the plane ran into severe turbulence and was rocked by thunderstorms and lightning flashes.
"The first half an hour was OK, and then the next 45 minutes was knuckleball express," Joe Girardi said. "It was about as good as I’ve seen, or as bad as I’ve seen it. Got quite a light show, and it wasn’t below it. The light seemed like it was inside the airplane, the lightning. Needless to say, no one really slept after that."
According to Brett Gardner, the flight attendants told him it was the worst turbulence they had ever experienced. By the time the flight landed, the team cleared Canadian customs and arrived at its hotel, it was 6 a.m.
"It’s not optimal, but it’s part of the schedule and you’ve got to deal with it,” Girardi said.
Comeback kid: Saturday's game marks the return of Michael Pineda to a big-league game for the first time in nearly 31 months; his last start came on Sept. 21, 2011, pitching for the Seattle Mariners against the Minnesota Twins. In his first spring training as a Yankee, Pineda blew out his shoulder and needed major surgery. But he had an excellent spring -- 2-1, 1.20 ERA, 16 Ks and just one walk in 15 innings -- and won the No. 5 starter's job rather handily.
“I had questions," Girardi admitted when asked if he ever doubted whether Pineda would make it back. "When we watched what he went through, there were questions for me when we would get him back and would we get the Michael that we had seen before in Seattle with the good slider, the velocity, and his changeup has obviously improved since then. There were questions in my mind because the surgery that he had was not as easy and there’s not as much success coming back as Tommy John.”
Pineda, however, maintains he always believed he would return to the form he showed as a rookie.
"I know it's two years, but the time has gone quick," Pineda said, snapping his fingers. "I remember my last game [for Seattle] like it was yesterday. That's how I'm feeling now, but now I've learned a little more, pitching in the game, you know? Now I have better pitches. My slider was always good, but now it's better. My changeup is good right now. It's better than before."
Old guys need rest: Girardi had planned to give Derek Jeter this first game off, but after the rocky flight and the late/early arrival, the manager also decided to give 38-year-old Alfonso Soriano the night off, as well as 36-year-old Brian Roberts.
"I had a lineup kind of made up in my mind today, but then I changed it just because of what we went through and what time we got in this morning," Girardi said. "All of these guys will be back in there tomorrow."
Ichiro Suzuki, on the other hand, evidently does not need as much rest; the 40-year-old is back in there tonight after having two hits, including a double, and scoring two runs in Thursdsay's 4-2 win over the Astros.