OAKLAND -- Three Yankees fans have been announced as part of a "Tribute for Heroes" campaign organized by Major League Baseball and People Magazine, honoring the nation's veterans and military service members.
The candidates selected to represent the Yankees are:
Kalynn Casey of Phelan, Calif., a member of the 82nd Airborne Division and now an Airborne Army medic who has served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and was among some of the first-ever female cultural support team members for special forces. While in Afghanistan, Kalynn ran a local medical facility for women and children. She is also an athlete and has been a member of the Army 10-miler team, winning the Army 10-mile race with the Fort Bragg team in Washington, D.C.
JW Cortes of Jersey City, N.J., who has had a 10-year career in the New York City MTA Police Department after serving in the Marine Corps from 1994 to 2007. He was twice awarded the Navy Marine Corps Achievement medal and has been named Marine of the Year. His 4-year-old son was diagnosed with autism and Cortes is a self-proclaimed warrior for Autism Speaks, as well as the Wounded Warrior Project.
Jonathan Popovich of Pompton Lakes, N.J., who served with the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq in 2003 as part of the initial invasion force. He has received many military honors including a Combat Action Badge, the Bronze Star Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation and the Ranger Tab. He is now a readjustment counselor at a local Vet Center and has organized dozens of programs and outreach events while providing counseling to returning veterans and their families.
Voting will be conducted at TributeForHeroes.com through June 30, with 30 winners to be recognized before the All-Star Game on July 16 at Citi Field.
Gardner earns AL Player of the Week honors
OAKLAND -- When shortstop Derek Jeter went down due to injury this spring, manager Joe Girardi decided to slot outfielder Brett Gardner in as the Yankees' everyday leadoff hitter. Gardner has made it an easy call to keep writing his name atop the lineup, day after day.
Gardner has played in all of the Yankees' 64 games this season and is swinging a red-hot bat, earning American League Player of the Week honors last week after batting .520 (13-for-25) with a .556 on-base percentage, five doubles, one home run, six RBIs and five runs scored.
"He's really swinging the bat," Girardi said. "He's been a force at the top of our order, he's playing very good defense and running the bases. He's been locked in."
Gardner missed nearly all of last season with a right elbow injury suffered in April, but playing every day -- and batting leadoff -- has agreed with the speedster. He has hit in 15 of his last 17 games and entered play Tuesday batting .284 with six homers and 27 RBIs.
"It's just been good to be healthy and be out there," Gardner said. "I haven't really thought about it like that, but it's been good to be able to come to the filed knowing you're going to be leading off and playing center field. I guess it makes things a little easier, maybe."
Gardner said that he has tried to be more aggressive early in the count at the plate, and though he has stolen 10 bases in 15 tries, Gardner said that having Robinson Cano batting second has made him think twice about running on the basepaths.
"I know that's a big part of my game and I know I want to get into scoring position for Robbie, but early in the season I got thrown out with Robbie Cano at the plate and that's not something that I want to do," Gardner said.
Gardner has also done a nice job of barreling up the pitches he has seen, which accounts in part for his relative power surge -- his six homers are one shy of a career high, set in 2011, but he doesn't expect to be grouped with the Yanks' power hitters.
"I don't really worry about that. I might end up with six or seven home runs," Gardner said. "I might end up with 15 or something. My job is to get on base. If I turn on one and hit it good, then great, but I'm happier hitting line drives up the middle."
First-rounder Judge takes BP with Yanks in Oakland
OAKLAND -- The Yankees got an up-close look at outfielder Aaron Judge, one of their first-round selections in the First-Year Player Draft, as the slugger taken 32nd overall took batting practice on Tuesday at O.co Coliseum.
"He can hit some homers," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "The ball really jumps off his bat. Strong kid. He can hit line drives out of the ballpark. You think that they're good line drives in the gap, and they just keep going. He was pretty impressive today."
Judge, who stands a towering 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds, spent time in the clubhouse with the Yankees before Tuesday's series opener against the A's and said he is feeling "real confident" about signing with New York.
He also said that hitting on a big league diamond with the rest of the Yankees was a bit nerve-racking, and he hopes to be able to repeat the experience at Yankee Stadium.
"The first few rounds are kind of tough. Everybody's watching you, but after you take a few rounds and get loose and relax, it's pretty fun," Judge said.
Judge hails from nearby Linden, Calif., and attended Fresno State. He said the player he was most looking forward to meeting was Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano.
"I've always loved watching him play. He's a great guy," Judge said. "I always wanted to meet him. I talked to him on the phone a couple of days ago; he called me. I was shocked. At first, I was sitting there and looked at my dad, 'This guy says he's Robinson Cano. I don't believe him.' It was unreal."
Pineda working toward big league return
OAKLAND -- The Yankees received another good report on right-hander Michael Pineda, who is progressing in his return from labrum surgery and could make his first big league start for the club this summer.
Pineda allowed an unearned run over 4 2/3 innings on Sunday for Class A Tampa at Lakeland. He is scheduled to make his next Minor League outing on Friday, either for Class A Charleston or Double-A Trenton.
"He was pretty good [Sunday]; threw some good changeups and was pretty good," manager Joe Girardi said. "You want to build from his last start, continue to build this kid up.
"I'm very happy with his progress so far and the way he's went about it. It's been a long time since he's pitched in the big leagues but he's went at it the right way."
Pineda, 24, was 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA in 28 starts for the Mariners in 2011. He missed all of last season due to the labrum injury, which he suffered in Spring Training with the Yankees.
• Jeter is continuing to hit off a tee at the club's complex in Tampa, Fla., as well as fielding ground balls on the grass. He is scheduled to be seen on Thursday by Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C., and could be cleared for full baseball activities after that visit.
• Kevin Youkilis returned to the Yankees' lineup on Tuesday after lower back tightness kept him out of Sunday's series finale against the Mariners in Seattle. Youkilis said his back felt a little stiff after sliding into first base on a defensive play, and Girardi said having two full days off probably helped.
• On this date in 2003, six Astros pitchers combined to no-hit the Yankees, 8-0, at the original Yankee Stadium. The feat set a record for most pitchers to combine in a no-hitter and marked the first time the Yankees had been no-hit at home since 1952.