Will the Rangers choose Messier?

Broken Blueshirts need real leadership, and no one does that better than No. 11

Updated: May 31, 2013, 9:07 PM ET

By Johnette Howard | ESPNNewYork.com

Mark MessierAP Photo/Nathan DenetteMark Messier could handle the bright lights of the big city — guaranteed.

Glen Sather has no way of knowing if Mark Messier, whom he has asked to coach the Rangers before, would be a terrific NHL coach. But the part that is a sure thing is Sather can certainly predict the splash the hiring would make, and the resonance it might have with the Rangers’ returning players who felt worn out — even buggy-whipped at times — by just-fired coach John Tortorella. And that might be reason enough for Sather to bypass the safer coaching candidates who are already interviewing elsewhere.

If Sather believes the Rangers’ greatest problem is their state of mind as a team more than the state of their talent, then Messier should be their man.

(I’d argue the Rangers’ problem this past season was both. They’re kidding themselves if they think their talent is as good as, say, the final four teams now left in the Stanley Cup playoffs.)

[+] EnlargeMark Messier

Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty ImagesMessier will always be a captain at heart.

But it’s also hard to argue Messier is not as “qualified” for the job as Lindy Ruff, who spent 16 seasons coaching Buffalo, or Alain Vigneault, who had so much success in Vancouver. Messier just brings a different kind of experience. He’s arguably the best, most magnetic leader the NHL has ever seen. It’s easy to see Sather chewing on a stogie and dismissively growling that all that other stuff — the X’s and O’s, and drudgeries such as running a training camp — are what crackerjack assistant coaches are for.

But taking the job would be a risk on Messier’s part, too. He can’t know for sure, either, if he would make a terrific head coach or just a mediocre one whose time on the bench would dim his pristine legacy. Being able to influence a game from the bench is harder than when you can take over a game as a player. Just ask Wayne Gretzky, who found that out when he coached the Coyotes before Dave Tippett. Or Isiah Thomas, whose ugly denouement Messier got to watch at the Garden when Thomas coached the Knicks. Many aspects of the job are an unappealing grind.

But Messier certainly has an ego and a sense of drama.

There is the sense that Jeff Gorton has vaulted past him in line to be the Rangers’ next GM though Messier has been Sather’s special assistant since 2009.

And the part of the coaching job description that does fit Messier perfectly is the idea of taking a group of players who are down and telling them, “Follow me, boys.”

That, Messier knows how to do. And that justifiable conceit — combined with the argument (guilt trip?) that Sather could make to him that the franchise desperately needs him, if only to keep a waffling Henrik Lundqvist interested in signing a long-term contract extension — might just be enough to get Messier to abandon the reservations that he had about coaching the first couple of times Sather asked him to consider the idea. Or, more recently, when Edmonton reached out to him about coaching there.

Besides, Sather can also play the loyalty card.

Because it’s impossible to miss what just happened at the Garden.

It was clear from the moment that Tortorella was fired that those must have been some scalding exit interviews the players conducted with Sather between Saturday, when their season ended so disappointingly, and Wednesday, when Tortorella was let go.

Everything you heard before then was Tortorella’s job was safe despite the Rangers’ second-round playoff loss to Boston.


Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesJohn Tortorella’s style ultimately wrecked the Rangers’ confidence.

But that was before breakup day on Monday featured the extraordinary sight of the Rangers’ best player (Lundqvist), one of their highest-paid players (Brad Richards) and their team captain (Ryan Callahan) publicly contradicting their bullying coach’s denials that this season constituted a “step back” or, in Richards’ case, that Tortorella’s benching of him damaged their relationship.

No wonder Sather saw that, called Tortorella in and opened the trap door beneath him, then refused to elaborate why. And how telling was it that Torts was “surprised,” according to Sather? Or that Marian Gaborik — the 40-goal-scorer-turned-scapegoat who the Rangers shipped out to Columbus for more grinders — tweeted of Torts’ firing, “Everything happens for a reason.”

It was as if Tortorella thought he could go on picking fights and humiliating everyone with impunity. And in his defense, you can see why. Sather has drawn a paycheck at the Garden for 13 years despite never having much success until Tortorella walked through the door and took the Rangers to the only Eastern Conference finals trip of Sather’s tenure.

That was just last season.

But even by the end of that 2012 series loss to the New Jersey Devils, the Rangers looked like a desperately worn-down, hollow-eyed team — though they denied it. In hindsight, it feels like some seeds for what happened this year were laid then. And having to go through this past season with more of Tortorella’s hectoring and grenade-tossing and punitive actions after they made mistakes must have felt excruciating at times — especially when results no longer came as they did a season ago.

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That’s precisely the sort of thing that breaks a team’s spirit and — as we saw in the past week — causes some players to finally rebel.

Playing for Tortorella’s 2013 Rangers was not a happy calling.

Messier’s presence on the bench could change the Zeitgeist on a dime. It would pump life into the franchise and the locker room. Beyond that, who knows?

To seriously contend, the Rangers are going to recognize they need to improve their talent both offensively and defensively.

But it’s always hard to know what anyone at the Garden is thinking. It’s even more foolish to think that sound logic will apply to what a James Dolan-owned team decides to do. The return of Mike Keenan rumors are patently absurd. But then, Sather’s choice of former Islanders star Bryan Trottier to coach the Rangers years ago was one of the more tone-deaf moves of his career. (What? Denis Potvin wasn’t available?)

There is also the matter of how much Sather, now 70 and just recently having undergone surgery for prostate cancer, feels that hiring Messier could have the ancillary effect of buying himself a little time, too.

But Sather doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who worries about such things. Or needs to. Dolan has stuck with him beyond reason. So if Sather wants Messier to have the job, and Messier wants the job, Messier can probably have it.

Nostalgia isn’t the reason to hire Messier as much as the galvanizing inspiration he will bring. That we know he can do.



Yanks are lucky Boss didn’t see this

George Steinbrenner wouldn’t have suffered silently after sweep at Mets’ hands

Updated: May 31, 2013, 10:07 AM ET

By Ian O’Connor | ESPNNewYork.com


NEW YORK — Brian Cashman was on his way home from a four-game, two-stadium, one-city sweep suffered at the hands of the New York Mets when he fielded a question that summoned a bad memory from the not-too-distant past.


What would George Steinbrenner have said to you tonight?


Cashman paused over the phone as he measured the chilling thought. An inquiring mind thought the call had dropped before the general manager of the second-best team in New York this week finally broke the silence.


[+] EnlargeVernon Wells

AP Photo/Kathy WillensVernon Wells was one of several Yankees who looked silly against Mets pitching.


“I can’t even imagine,” he said.


Nobody could’ve imagined this on Monday evening, when the Mets looked like a hopeless 90-loss cause and the Yankees looked like a tough, resilient team that would surely overcome a series of devastating injuries to make the playoffs for the 18th time in 19 seasons.


But then Daniel Murphy and David Wright got to the Yankees in Game 1, Murphy and Wright and Lucas Duda (of all people) got to Mariano Rivera (of all people) in Game 2, and the Mets carried that momentum over the bridge and into the Bronx for a pummeling in Game 3 and a knockout punch in Game 4 that left the Yanks wondering how their unwashed neighbors entered this Subway Series with an 18-29 record.


“This is what happens when you’re not playing good baseball,” Cashman said. “I respect what the Mets just did to us. We just lost a four-game series, and you don’t want to lose like that to your crosstown rivals.”


No, this wasn’t exactly the World Series of 2000, when the Yankees were going for a three-peat and a fourth title in five seasons, not to mention a brand-new TV deal. Everything was at stake back then, and Steinbrenner told his GM, “You’d better win, or else.”


Cashman felt a loss to the Mets would’ve all but deleted the three championships in the ’90s. Like Joe Torre and everyone else inside the organization, Cashman was terrified of losing that Series, terrified of the wrath of the one and only.


“The Boss thought spring training games against the Mets were must-wins,” the GM said late Thursday night.


His clubhouse was practically empty after this 3-1 defeat, with only a precious few Yanks around to face the news media. Derek Jeter, resident Met-killer and MVP of that 2000 World Series, had showed up for a second straight night to play catch and watch some losing baseball, but the injured captain wasn’t about to answer for the failures of lesser men.


Standing guard near Jeter’s locker was Rob Cucuzza, longtime equipment guy, who sat next to Steinbrenner in the Yanks’ Shea Stadium clubhouse while the Boss nervously watched his team close out the 2000 Series in Games 4 and 5. Cucuzza remembered seeing more stress and pressure in Steinbrenner’s clenched face than ever before.


So Thursday night the equipment manager was asked the Cashman question: What would George have said tonight?


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“I don’t know,” Cucuzza said, “but it wouldn’t have been good at all. He spent that whole World Series in the clubhouse, and I don’t remember him ever doing that before. He could not take losing to the Mets.”


And losing like this in the regular season? In four consecutive games in which the Yankees’ offense combined for a grand total of seven runs?


Never mind the injuries, and Cashman’s promise over the phone that Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis would be back for the Red Sox series on Friday night, assuming they don’t wake up in sudden pain.


“George hated it when guys were on the DL,” Cucuzza said.


He hated it more when their replacements couldn’t find ways to take three of four, or at least split, against unworthy challengers the likes of the Mets.


“There’s a competitive edge in all those guys in the room,” Joe Girardi said of his team. “And it’s hard when you lose to your crosstown rivals. You don’t want to be part of the team that gets swept by your crosstown rivals. Over time it’s going to happen, but you don’t want to be the team that it happens to.”


No you don’t. You don’t want to be the team that turns a 2-6 pitcher, Dillon Gee, into Greg Maddux, and you don’t want to be the team that lets a manager on shaky footing, Terry Collins, get away with a reckless unforced error.


Collins had warned Gee before the start that his job was in jeopardy. In fact, Collins was running out of slumping Mets to threaten before the Yankees made all of his problems go poof in the night. For now, anyway.


Gee had retired 15 Yanks in a row, and had struck out nine of them, including the last five, when Collins came to get him with one out in the eighth and three lefties — Ichiro Suzuki, Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano — lined up to take their cuts. Gee had thrown a mere 88 pitches and had struck out 12, walked none, and allowed no walks. Only one other pitcher had posted a line like that against the Yankees since 1903, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and his name was Pedro Martinez.


But Collins pulled Gee in favor of Scott Rice, who appears to be to the Mets’ manager what poor Scott Proctor once was to Torre. Had the Yanks roughed up Rice, Collins would’ve been roughed up by the fan base, columnists and talk-show hosts.


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Rice easily dismissed Ichiro and Gardner instead.


One inning later, when Bobby Parnell recorded the final out, a strikeout of Travis Hafner — the 14th strikeout of a Yankees batter — Mets catcher Anthony Recker threw his arms around the closer as the Stadium speakers played a low-volume version of Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”


Girardi had said before the series that he’d prefer an odd number of games played between the Yanks and Mets. “That way there’s a winner,” he said.


Only there was a clear winner in this even-numbered mismatch. Girardi’s team couldn’t hit Matt Harvey, or Harvey’s buddy, Gee. Parnell was a better man than Rivera, greatest of them all, and the Mets left the Bronx as an interesting, watchable team again, more interesting and watchable than even their owner, Jeff Wilpon, suggested they’d be.


Wilpon famously gave up on the idea of a World Series rematch when presenting the retiring Rivera with parting gifts before Game 2. “If that motivated them,” Collins said of his players before Game 4, “we’ll be blasting them again tonight.”


As it turned out, Marlon Byrd‘s two-run homer off Vidal Nuno in the second was the only blast the Mets needed.


“We picked a bad time to go in an offensive funk,” Cashman said as he fled the scene. “I guess I would tell the Boss what I’ve told him before: ‘It’s not like we weren’t trying.'”


George Steinbrenner was always in the business of doing, not trying, especially when it came to the second-class team in town. The Yankees are lucky he wasn’t around this week to make a few threats of his own.



Rapid Reaction: Yankees 4 Red Sox 1

May, 31, 2013

May 31
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com




WHAT IT MEANS: The Yankees’ season-long five-game losing steak is over. They are just a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East as the calendar turns to June.

HEATING UP: After his last time out, CC Sabathia publicly chastised himself for his previous poor start. He said, “I’m hurting the team.” Not anymore.

Sabathia revved it up on Friday night. While he mostly hovered in the low 90s, he even touched 94 with his much-discussed fastball. Sabathia had his strong slider working and he dominated much of the night. In the first two innings, the Red Sox put runners on second, but they got no further. In the fifth, he struck out the side. In the seventh, the Sox finally got him for one run on doubles by Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli.

Overall, though, Sabathia was same as he ever was — an ace. His final line was 7 1/3 innings, one earned run on six hits. He struck out a season-high 10 and walked none. He improved to 5-4 with a 3.71 ERA.

BACK TO NORMAL: After blowing his first save of the year, Mariano Rivera picked up his 19th of the season. It wasn’t easy, though, as Rivera allowed two one-out singles before striking out Napoli and forcing Stephen Drew to ground back to the mound.

JOE THE VOLCANO: In the fifth, Joe Girardi erupted, becoming the first Yankee this season to be ejected from a game. The play in question was a force out at second in which Girardi thought a throw from Jon Lester pulled the shortstop, Drew, off the bag. Second base ump Vic Carapazza ruled him out.

What likely annoyed Girardi the most was that Carapazza did not consult with any of his fellow umpires on the close call. When Girardi returned to his office and watched the replay, he probably will agree that Carapazza got it right.

BALL FOUR: The Yankees hadn’t walked in the previous three games (106 at-bats) against the Mets. That changed quickly as Brett Gardner walked to lead off the game and Mark Teixeira walked in his initial at-bat of the season in the second.

TAKING THE LEAD: After Teixeira’s leadoff walk to begin the second, Vernon Wells nailed a sharp double over Jackie Bradley Jr.’s head in center. For Wells, it was his first extra base hit in his past 32 at-bats. Jayson Nix and Ichiro Suzuki would have RBI singles off Lester and the Yankees were up 2-0.

YOUK RETURNS: In the fifth, Kevin Youkilis, in his first game back, delivered an RBI single. Youkilis had missed a month of action.

INSURANCE: After Sabathia gave up a run in the top of the seventh, Gardner took it right back with an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth.



Matsui To Retire As A Yankee

NEW YORK — Hideki Matsui will sign a one-day minor league contract with the New York Yankees in late July so he can retire with the franchise.

Prior to the July 28 game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium, Matsui will ink the deal and the Yankees will dedicate the day to honoring him. The first 18,000 fans will receive Matsui bobbleheads, which portray him with his 2009 World Series MVP trophy.

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The Yankees picked the late-July date because it was originally the team’s 55th home game of the season. Matsui wore No. 55.

Matsui, 38, played seven seasons with the Yankees, hitting .292 with 140 homers and 597 RBIs. His pinstripe career ended when the Yankees won the 2009 World Series against the Phillies. Matsui hit .615 with three homers and eight RBIs during the Series and was named MVP.

In Game 6, Matsui went 3-for-4 with a home run and six RBIs. He tied Bobby Richardson (1960) and Albert Pujols (2011) for the most World Series RBIs in one game.

“You’ll hear every player to a man say what a great teammate he was,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “And I think everyone will look forward to that day.”

Matsui played 10 years with the Yomiuri Giants before coming to the Yankees. After he left the Yankees, he played one season each with the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland A’s and Rays. He was released by Tampa Bay last August.


Conflicting reports on Tim Tebow’s NFL future

By Brian McIntyre | Shutdown Corner – 2 hours 27 minutes ago

Is Tim Tebow done in the NFL? (USA Today Sports Images)

Tim Tebow was released by the New York Jets more than one month ago and there are conflicting reports regarding the former Heisman Trophy winner’s future in the NFL.

According to ESPN senior writer Dave Fleming, Tebow’s camp believes the 2010 first-round pick out of Florida is done in the NFL. From ESPN the Magazine’s June 10 “Taboo” issue:

“Even now, after Tebow cleared waivers unclaimed and with members of his camp privately admitting that his NFL run is probably over, the football world remains as divided as ever over him.”

It is true that, much to the chagrin of Chuck Norris, Tebow has not generated any interest from the NFL over the last month, but Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network counters that Tebow “is not giving it up“, a reliable report which Mike Garafolo of The USA Today has seconded.


Fleming highlights one reason for why Tebow remains a free agent.

“When the Broncos defense was on the field, offensive coaches would often tell Tebow the first series of plays they wanted to run when the team got the ball back. Tebow would nod, and they’d separate. And then, invariably, a short while later he’d ask for the information again. Sometimes this ritual would repeat right up until Tebow had to duck into the huddle and call the play. As a result, despite starting only 11 games in 2011, Tebow was flagged for delay of game an NFL-high seven times. Worse still was the fact that, according to scouts, Tebow almost never audibled because he struggled to quickly and properly read defenses. And of all the deadly sins Tebow committed against quarterbacking, this was the worst: lacking the self-awareness to recognize and fix these shortcomings. Maybe the most shocking part of Tebowmania isn’t that he has been cast out of the NFL after just three years but that he lasted as long as he did.”

Add in Tebow’s continually poor throwing mechanics, which has resulted in a career completion percentage of 47.9 percent, and it’s clear that his days as a starting quarterback in the NFL are likely over.

While Tebow may not be an NFL-caliber starting quarterback, he’s certainly an NFL-caliber athlete. That’s why is it somewhat of a surprise that Tebow can’t find a spot with one of the 30 other NFL teams in the league who had 2,700 roster spots to fill this offseason. The list of possible teams for Tebow is whittled down by the eight teams who have new head coaches that would prefer to not invite the circus that accompanies Tebow to town while trying to implement their systems. Still, that leaves nearly 2,000 spots for Tebow, who remains unemployed.

It might take an injury during the preseason or training camp, Tebow accepting a move to a new position, or perhaps Tebow heading to the CFL for a year or two, but it’s doubtful we’ve seen the last of Tebow in the NFL. The 25-year-old has too much left in his tank to hang up his cleats.



Gardner 8
Youkilis DH
Cano 4
Tex 3
Wells 7
Nix 6
Adams 5
Ichiro 9
Stewart 2

I’m so excited to see Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis back in the lineup. Hopefully they survive the night.

UPDATE 3:51 P.M.: From Meredith Marakovits of YES: “Vidal Nuno and Ivan Nova optioned to AAA @swbrailriders to make room for Kevin Youkilis and Mark Teixeira who have been


Around the  New York Yankees News – 5/31/13

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Yankees activate Teixeira & Youkilis; send Nuno & Nova to Triple-A


The Yankees have officially activated both Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis off the 60-day and 15-day DL, respectively, the team announced. Vidal Nuno and Ivan Nova were sent to Triple-A to clear 25-man roster spots. The Yankees had two open 40-man roster spots, so they didn’t need to make another move to accommodate Tex.

With Andy Pettitte set to turn on Monday, Nuno was an obvious send down candidate. Nova threw 61 pitches on Wednesday and was going to out of commission for another day or two anyway, so he was the other move. I assume both guys will step into the Triple-A Scranton rotation and start every five days. When Pettitte returns, the Yankees are likely to demote a position player — David Adams seems most likely now that his bat has cooled off — and get back to a normal 13 position players, 12 pitchers roster.


Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury Out With Groin Injury

By – May 31st, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Apparently, stealing five bases in a night is too much for anybody, even Boston Red Sox speedster Jacoby Ellsbury.

After swiping FIVE (yes, FIVE) bases last night, Ellsbury was a late scratch for today’s lineup, seen walking around with *gulp* ice around his “groin area”.

Per Sean McAdam:

Ellsbury was in original lineup, but then scratched. Had groin and calf wrapped in ice last night after game, but unsure what issue is.

Ellsbury, or as some have referred to him “Porcelain”, has a long history battling injuries but hopefully for the Red Sox and Ellsbury, it’s nothing more than a minor tweak.

Update: Brian MacPherson says it’s the suspected groin issue:

Groin tightness for Ellsbury. Felt it on his fifth steal last night. Day to day.

Ellsbury is currently hitting .268 with 20 RBI in 54 games, to go along with an impressive 21 stolen bases.

Jackie Bradley, who was recently called up from AAA Pawtucket, should handle the outfield duties while Jacoby is on the mend.


Five Players Who Need to Step Up for the New York Yankees This Weekend Against the Boston Red Sox

Yahoo! Contributor NetworkBy | Yahoo! Contributor Network – 17 minutes ago

  • The pressure is on Mark Teixeira to produce this weekend against the Red Sox.The pressure is on Mark Teixeira to produce this weekend against the Red Sox.  A question, just how often has Texierra stepped up?  I do not remember too many.

COMMENTARY | Heading into their biggest series of the year thus far, the New York Yankees‘ magical ride of a season has come to a screeching halt.

Yes, the first-place Boston Red Sox are in town as the Yanks attempt to end their season-high five-game losing streak.

And it’s not going to be easy.

The Yankees’ offense has been non-existent lately, managing only seven runs in a four-game sweep at the hands of the lowly Mets. Embarrassing, I know. But, luckily, even with their recent woes, the Yankees still stand within striking distance at 30-23, two games back of the Red Sox.

It seemed only a matter of time before the Yanks’ smoke-and-mirrors show ended, and it appears it finally has.

As many of the players the Yanks picked off the scrap heap begin to regress toward the mean, the Yankees are starting to play like many before the season predicted they would.


The offense is not going to be fixed over night, but the reinforcements are on their way as the Yanks gear up for a big weekend in the Bronx.

In order to end their losing streak and have any chance at winning this series, these five Yankees must step up:

1. Mark Teixeira   (Yes, show us, you can be a leader.  You need to hit a flyball with a man on third and less than two outs.  You also need to stay healthy.)

Fresh off a season-long disabled-list stint, Teixeira couldn’t be returning at a better time.

A notoriously slow starter, Teixeira cannot afford such this season. More than ever, the Yanks need him to produce in the middle of their lineup.

While Lyle Overbay was an admirable fill-in, there is no denying that Tex is the better player. Facing the likes of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, the Yankees need Teixeira to get off to a hot start if they are to have any chance at scoring enough runs to win this series.

2. Kevin Youkilis  (How about staying healthy and doing the lttle things, Youk!)

After more than a month since his last game on April 27, Youkilis returns to the Yankees’ hot corner.

The return of the Youker should be a welcome sight for Yankees fans. Only problem is, before he went on the DL, Youkilis was doing all too much.

Coming into this series, Youkilis has only three hits (all singles) in his last 31 at-bats (.096). Hopefully playing against his former team will put some firepower back into his lumber.

3. Robinson Cano  (Invisible Cano!  You disappear for long periods of time.)

OK, I know. Robinson Cano has been stepping up all season, but he must continue to do so this weekend against the Sox.

Cano appears to be heating up at an optimal time. In his last five games, Cano is batting .381. Let’s hope his most recent laser-beam shot on May 30 is the start of the theory that “home runs come in bunches.”

It will be interesting to see where Joe Girardi chooses to bat Cano now that Teixeira is back.

4. Vernon Wells  (Where have you gone, Vernon Wells?)

It appears that the clock has finally struck midnight for Vernon Wells.

After hitting .300 in an outstanding April, Wells is batting .220 in May and is 3 for his last 30 (.100). He hasn’t hit a home run since May 15, and every day he is starting to look more like the player he was for the Los Angeles Angels the past two seasons.

The Yanks will need more than just two guys (Teixeira and Cano) producing in the middle of their lineup if they are going to improve on an offense that ranks 11th in the American League.

Who knows, maybe Wells is about to break out of his slump in a big way this series against the Red Sox. But I wouldn’t count on it.

5. CC Sabathia  CC, I know you leave it out there!  We need you!

No, the “big guy” hasn’t been too big of late.

Sabathia is 0-2 this month with a 4.85 ERA. And in his latest start against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 26, the guy who is supposed to be the Yankees’ ace took the loss, allowing seven runs, his most all season.


Needless to say, Sabathia has to turn it around. The series opener against Jon Lester would be a good time to start.