TORONTO -- It's Ivan Nova vs. Brandon Morrow tonight in Rogers Centre as the Yankees open a four-game series against the Blue Jays. The Yanks have a 1 1/2-game lead over idle Baltimore with seven games left (the Orioles have six).
It's been a busy pregame session as I've been checking in with both sides. Here's what's filled my notebook:
---Alex Rodriguez fouled a pitch off his toe Tuesday in Minnesota and will be serving as DH tonight. A-Rod has 1,949 career RBIs, one shy of tying Stan Musial for fifth on the all-time list.
---Joe Girardi said Derek Jeter will serve as the DH at some point in this series. Meanwhile, injured Mark Teixeira (calf) had seven at-bats and played one inning of defense in a simulated game today in Tampa at the Yankees' complex. Brett Gardner took live batting practice for the first time since injuring his elbow in April; Gardner is active but currently limited to pinch-running and defense.
---Most of the talk on the Toronto side is about shortstop Yunel Escobar, who is making his first home start since the embarrassing incident where he put a homophobic saying in Spanish on his eye black. He sat out three games in a club-imposed suspension. Lots of folks wondering what the reaction will be (Escobar is batting cleanup tonight).
"There was never an intent to offend. That's not to say ignorance is acceptable but there was never an intent on his part to offend anyone," said manager John Farrell. "We'll see how things unfold. In the conversations when he came back from the three-game suspension, he's remorseful. He knows the mistake he made, that it was an error in judgement."
Escobar met before the game for 45 minutes with openly gay Boston College track athlete Jose Estevez and Patrick Burke (son of Leafs GM Brian Burke) of You Can Play to discuss the slur.
Update: A few scattered boos when Escobar's name was announced in the starting lineup. More polite applause when he was announced to come up to bat. A few boos, a few catcalls. Nothing overwhelming.
---If you're coming this weekend, the pitching matchups are Hiroki Kuroda vs. Chad Jenkins (Friday night), Andy Pettitte vs. Ricky Romero (Saturday afternoon) and Phil Hughes vs. Henderson Alvarez (Sunday afternoon). All games will be televised on YES.
As part of Farrell's pregame chit-chat with reporters in his office, Farrell turned to me and asked, "How are things in Buffalo?" We both had a good laugh because a couple of weeks ago when I was here, Buffalo was a taboo topic. Not now. Farrell, the former Bisons pitcher and Cleveland farm director, loves the move of the Jays' Triple-A team from Las Vegas.
Reminded by a Toronto columnist that Vegas has better nightlife for players and coaches, Farrell cracked, "That's why we came to Buffalo."