BALTIMORE -- When the Yankees sent out their pitching probables for this coming weekend's series in St. Petersburg against the Rays, one name was conspicuously absent: Hiroki Kuroda.
According to the rotation, the 39-year-old right-hander was supposed to make his next start on Sunday, but he was being replaced by Chris Capuano -- fueling speculation that Kuroda was either injured, or being skipped because of signs he was wearing down, much as he did at this point last year.
New York Yankees
But overnight, Joe Girardi and the Yankees braintrust -- that "they" Girardi always seems to credit, but never actually identifies -- had a change of heart. Because now Kuroda will start on Sunday, albeit on two extra days of rest. And because the Yankees are off on Monday, Kuroda will have an extra day of rest before the following start, too.
"We're trying to stay proactive so he doesn't fatigue down the stretch here," Girardi said.
Kuroda has lost his previous two decisions, and his record this season is a pedestrian 7-8 with a 4.03 ERA. But Girardi said he sees few parallels between this and last season, when Kuroda went 1-7 with a 5.40 ERA in August and September.
"I think it's really based on what happened last year," Girardi said, of his decision to give Kuroda more rest. "I know his last start wasn't great (a loss to the Indians in which he lasted just 4 2/3 innings), but the starts before that have been really good."
Kuroda said he has curtailed his between-starts bullpen sessions by about 10 pitches to conserve his strength, and seemed in favor of getting an extra day of rest here and there for the rest of the season.
"It’s really hard to rest during the course of the season," he said. "I'm glad that the team or the manager was considerate about giving me a rest.”
McCann ready to return: Girardi said he expects Brian McCann, on the seven-day concussion DL since taking a foul tip off his mask on Friday, to return this weekend against the Rays.
"He hit yesterday, he hit today and he feels good," said Girardi, adding that McCann had taken and passed a post-concussion impact test this week.
Pineda on pitch count: Girardi said he expected Michael Pineda, starting Wednesday for the first time since April 23, to be able to give him about 85 pitches. "Our hope is you get five or six innings out of him and you have a full bullpen in a sense because the bullpen wasn't used yesterday (due to the rainout)," he said.
Girardi added that his one worry with Pineda is that he will be too excited after missing 97 games between a 10-day suspension for using pine tar and a back injury that cost him three months on the DL.
"I'm sure he's going to be pretty pumped up today," Girardi said. "It'd be hard not to. It's been a long road for him to get back. It's almost like it's Opening Day for him again. You worry a little about that early on."
Buck: Go ahead, tar up: Orioles manager Buck Showalter was asked if he would be looking extra closely at Pineda, after Pineda was caught using pine tar in that April 23 game at Fenway Park that got him suspended. Pineda was also suspected of using it at least one other time, at Yankee Stadium in a game against the Red Sox on April 10.
"No, because our guy's going to have it loaded down, too," Showalter said, to loads of media laughter. "You've got to be careful what you wish for."
In fact, Showalter said he hoped Pineda has added a measure of finesse to his game since the night he got nailed at Fenway.
"I'm hoping he’s got a little bit (of pine tar) in the right place," Showalter said. "These baseballs, when it's cool and windy, you try to grip them. Especially early in the year, in the first month, in February, when it's cool and wet. I think it's something we've got to look into."