Archive for February, 2010
Five questions with David Winfree • 02.25.10
I’d like to make this a daily thing — or at least an almost daily thing — using a quick question and answer session to get to know some of the new guys in camp. We’ll start with David Winfree.
Winfree signed as a minor league free agent and is likely to open the season in Shelley Duncan’s role as a corner outfielder and middle-of-the-order run producer for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He is 24 years old and hit 14 home runs last year in his first Triple-A season. He also hit 31 doubles, seventh most in the International League.
Could you tell me a little bit about your background?
Winfree: I’m from Virginia Beach, Virgina. I was drafted in 2003 by the Minnesota Twins and was with them for six years. Good years. Then was a free agent this year and decided to come here.
You’re pretty young for a guy who has already reached free agency. How was the free agent experience?
Winfree: It was a nice place to be. I signed when I was 17, and most guys that are free agents are older guys, so it was definitely a good position to be in. If you had good year and you were a young guy, there were some opportunities out there and this is the one that I felt was the best. And obviously, it’s an honor and a privilege to play for the Yankees, the best organization that there is in baseball.
Did you see some outfield opportunities with the Yankees?
Winfree: Yeah. I had played against the Yankees moving up and I knew Colin (Curtis) was basically the only (outfielder) they had that I knew was in Scranton. I don’t think they have a lot of right-handed power guys, and that’s what they told me, and it was just an opportunity that I felt was a good situation for me. I’m just looking for somewhere to get to the next level.
It looks like power is your game. Is that a fair assessment?
Winfree: Yeah. Last year I had a decent year, but I would say I need to work on some things. I need to walk more, and the year before last I walked a good amount. Last year, I was just a little over aggressive in the first couple of months. But power is my game, and that’s something I need to learn, and that’s what I’m going to bring to the table and will get me to where I need to be. I’m looking forward to this year, and just putting together a year when I know I have a lot to improve on. Last year, I know personally I had a good year, but I’m just scratching the surface of what I could have had last year, and I’m just trying to improve every day.
What sort of things are you working on right now?
Winfree: Just consistency. I think, at this point, if you’re at the level that we’re at, you have the physical talent. It’s just now: consistency, the mental side, approach. I was actually out there working with Butch Wynegar, just talking to him about some things. These guys here, every day, no matter how the day ends up, they never waiver. They know what they need to do to get prepared and how their approach works and that’s why they’re here. They’re the best in the game.
Notes from Thursday • 02.25.10
Joe Girardi more or less gave Alex Rodriguez one day off — or at least a DH day — every week last season. The days off were scheduled ahead of time, and Girardi said he doesn’t remember Rodriguez ever asking to rest.
“If we feel he needs a day once a week (this year), we’ll give him a day,” Girardi said. “If we think he can go more, we’ll go more.”
The one thing that might go overlooked about Rodriguez’s press conference this afternoon is the fact he said he’s healthy. He’s bounced back from his hip injury even better than his doctors expected, and come opening day, that might be the biggest difference between this year’s Yankees and last year’s Yankees.
Here’s the Girardi audio from today.
• The Yankees will continue to have live batting practice the next three days. Almost every pitcher in camp will throw BP twice. CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Javier Vazquez and Andy Pettitte will throw BP once. It’s still unclear whether Mariano Rivera or Damaso Marte will throw BP, but it seems unlikely.
• Andy Pettitte and Chris Garcia threw bullpen sessions this morning. Garcia skipped his previous bullpen because of a tight elbow but said he felt “really good” after today’s.
• Reggie Jackson was here today.
• I know I can’t complain to anyone up in the city, but it was unseasonably chilly in Tampa today. Temperatures were in the 40s. “It’s really not all bad to have days like this, because obviously we’re going to have them in April and May,” Girardi said. “You’ve got to get used to the colder weather, but we got everything in. There were no problems.”
• The list posted in the clubhouse said Brandon Laird would take ground balls at second base during batting practice. Instead, he took them at first. Makes much more sense.
• Kei Igawa said he has not been told that he’ll be working as a reliever when the season starts. He expects to work as a reliever in spring training, but still expects to start when if he opens the season in Scranton.
You might not recognize him with the hair, but that’s Brett Gardner signing autographs in the smaller picture. The picture at the top is of the outfielders going through fielding drills. The wind was a beast, blowing the ball all over the place.
No Joba or Phil in spring opener • 02.25.10
Some fairly minor news about the upcoming rotation.
Joe Girardi previously indicated that CC Sabathia will start the second game of spring training, not the opener. One of the fifth starter candidates will start that first spring training game on Wednesday.
Today, Girardi said he does not expect Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain to start that opener.
“I don’t think it will be Joba or Phil,” he said.
Girardi said the Yankees have mapped out the early spring rotation, but because the players haven’t been told, he’s not ready to announce it. Sounds like either Chad Gaudin, Alfredo Aceves or Sergio Mitre will get that first start.
Alex Rodriguez press conference • 02.25.10
Alex Rodriguez has started his press conference by answering a question about the past year, going from the steroid press conference to this one.
“I’ve done a lot of growing up and realized a lot of things,” he said.
UPDATE, 2:15 p.m.: “I kind of divorced myself from the idea of numbers.”
UPDATE, 2:18 p.m.: On Johnny Damon: “I was just crossing my fingers, hoping he would come back.”
UPDATE, 2:22 p.m.: All things considered, Rodriguez said he would have been content with 14 homers and 65 RBI last season.
UPDATE, 2:25 p.m.: “Derek Jeter was born to be a Yankee.”
UPDATE, 2:55 p.m.: Here’s the full audio of the Rodriguez press conference.
For whatever it’s worth, I noticed in the comments a question about why the Yankees seem to be having so many press conferences. The short answer is: Because they are the Yankees.
There were probably two dozen reporters in the room for the Rodriguez presser, plus about a dozen photographers and a half dozen cameramen. Same for Derek Jeter’s press conference yesterday, and for Joe Girardi’s press conference when camp opened. All of us needed to write a Jeter story and a Rodriguez story early in spring training, so the Yankees made it easy for everyone involved. That many people crowded around a locker would have been a mess, a bad situation for the players and the media.
They know what’s coming • 02.25.10
The spring’s first live batting practice sessions are over. Pitchers basically threw five pitches to each hitter, then moved to the next guy.
“If they hit it, they hit it,” Dave Robertson said. “They know what’s coming.”
Curtis Granderson saw a total of 10 pitches from Alfredo Aceves and didn’t swing at a single one. The hardest hit ball I saw was by P.J. Pilittere, up the middle off Robertson.
Pitchers mixed fastballs and breaking balls, but generally announced the pitch and the location before throwing.
Live batting practice starting at noon • 02.25.10
Just like yesterday, there will be some fielding drills and bullpen sessions at the Yankees spring training complex this morning, but the real action starts at noon when the first set of pitchers throw live batting practice.
At this point, BP seems to be more for the pitchers than the hitters. David Winfree joked that he’s hoping to foul one off and maybe square up a ground ball. Most hitters are still getting used to seeing pitches, so they aren’t ready to drive anything other than a soft fastball down the middle, but it beats watching another bullpen session. The hitting groups are the same as yesterday, except some of the catchers have been reassigned, probably shuffled to fit their schedules behind the plate.
Pitchers throwing batting practice:
Field 1: Gaudin, Mitre, Albaladejo, Ring, Duff, Arias
Field 2: Aceves, Robertson, Hirsh, Segovia, Sanchez, Sanit
It’s also worth noting that the versatile position players have been told which positions to play when they’re fielding during batting practice. Only a handful of guys will be in the field at any given time, and for the most part they’ll be playing a secondary position. Both Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner will be in left field, and Gardner said “it definitely helps” to track balls this way.
Outfield assignments: Jamie Hoffmann CF, David Winfree LF, Marcus Thames RF, Randy Winn LF, Greg Golson LF, Reid Gorecki CF, Colin Curtis LF, Jon Weber RF
Infield assignments: Brandon Laird 2B, Eduardo Nunez 2B, Reegie Corona SS, Ramiro Pena 2B, Kevin Russo 2B
I’ll have to ask someone to be sure, but my guess is that Laird is assigned to second only because he’ll get more ground balls at that spot. I don’t believe he’s ever played there, and the Yankees have a lot of second basemen in the system so I can’t imagine they want to see Laird learn the position.
Ready for their close-up • 02.25.10
It’s picture day here at George M. Steinbrenner Field. I count seven photo stations wrapped around the infield, with players taking turns with promotional pictures.
The one shot that stood out: Joe Girardi facing away from the camera, pointing with his thumb to the number on his back.
Today in The Journal News • 02.25.10
The questions were going to come whether he wanted to hear them or not, so Derek Jeter addressed his contract situation yesterday during a predictably calm press conference. Long story short: Jeter wants to remain with the Yankees, he’s not sure how long he’ll play and he doesn’t mind waiting until the offseason to negotiate a new deal.
From a Yankees icon to a new guy in the clubhouse, Curtis Granderson has never played outside of Detroit, but he’s well aware of what it means to be with the Yankees. “The bull’s-eye is always on the Yankees back,” he said. The notebook also has items on Alex Rodriguez, the competition for the outfield, the plan for the Yankees pitchers and another big home run from Jesus Montero.
Keep an eye on Sanit • 02.24.10
Pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras seems thrilled by what he’s seen from some of the young pitchers in camp. He said Andrew Brackman’s command has drastically improved since last season, Chris Garcia “can be (ready) quick if he’s healthy” and Romulo Sanchez has looked sharp in his bullpens.
“He’s like a little project of mine right now,” Contreras said.
I expected Contreras to be excited about his guys, but I will admit that I was a little surprised by his enthusiasm for Amaury Sanit, a 30-year-old Cuban right-hander who pitched only his first full season of pro ball last year.
“He’s altogether different,” Contreras said. “His first year, he didn’t know what to expect in the United States. He thought he could just do some things like he did in Cuba… He’s working hard to clean up his delivery and he’s learning how to command his fastball, because that’s what you need to do. Before he just thought he could spin it and changeup and split and drop down, but baby, that No. 1 is what counts.”
Sanit pitched for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the second half of last year, but he was kind of buried in that bullpen. Contreras said there’s no doubt he’ll return to Triple-A this season.
“He’s got pitches to pitch in the big leagues,” Contreras said. “It’s just command of the fastball. He’s come in shape and he’s working hard. He’s learning baseball here.”
A few minor league injury updates:
• Alan Horne, coming back from a variety of arm issues the past two years, is ready to pitch right now, but the Yankees haven’t decided where he’ll open the season.
• Jairo Heredia, coming back from shoulder problems, is also ready to pitch and was in Tampa before going home to the Dominican Republic because his mother is sick. Contreras expects him to be ready to open the season.
• Dellin Betances, coming back from elbow surgery, will begin throwing off a half mound either this week or next week.
• George Kontos, coming back from Tommy John, will be ready to throw off a half mound in March when minor league camp opens.
The picture is of three pitchers likely to open in Triple-A: Ivan Nova, Kevin Whelan and Zach McAllister.
Notes from Wednesday • 02.24.10
When pitchers and catchers arrived in Tampa last week, Joe Girardi said the competition for the back of the rotation would not begin right away. The same is true of the competition for the Yankees outfield.
“You watch their swings and during BP taking routes after baseballs,” Girardi said. “But the true test really comes when we start playing games. They’re just getting their work in, and they’re getting their feet under them and their legs strong and their hands strong for hitting, and they’re trying to strengthen their arms. Now we want to make sure their healthy and ready to go. That’s what this week is for.”
While Brett Gardner seems to be the favorite, Girardi said this is a competition. He’s mentioned several times that Randy Winn — that’s him in the picture — will compete for an everyday role.
“Gardy still has to go out and win the job and play at a high level because we feel like we have depth and guys that want to play everyday as well,” Girardi said.
Here’s the Girardi audio.
• The Group 1 pitchers will throw live batting practice tomorrow — that group includes Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre and Alfredo Aceves — but Girardi said it’s still too early to start making judgments about the rotation. “It’s their first time seeing hitters, and hitters aren’t ready to go… A lot of guys will go up there and just see pitches and not take a lot of swings.”
• The Jesus Montero show continues. Today he hit one over the batter’s eye in center field. Based on where the balls landed, I don’t think he made an out during his first eight swings in the cage: Double to the right-center gap, single up the middle, double to the left-field corner, double down the left-field line, single to left-center, double off the wall in left-center, single to right, foul line drive to left.
• I also saw Marcus Thames hit today. He crushed the ball a few times.
• This morning I mentioned which groups of infielders were working together during fielding drills, but I didn’t mention the outfielders:
Group 1: Gardner, Granderson, Hoffmann, Swisher, Winfree
Group 2: Curtis, Golson, Gorecki, Thames, Weber, Winn
• Double-A manager Tony Franklin showed up today. He walked into the clubhouse and gave first baseman Jorge Vazquez a big hug, then did the same with left-handed reliever Wilkins Arias.
• Pitchers who threw today: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Javier Vazquez, Wilkin De La Rosa and Andrew Brackman. To be honest, I only watched for about two minutes. I paid more attention to the position players. Most pitchers are at the point in the schedule that they have a second day off before throwing live BP, that’s why only five pitchers were on the mound today.
That’s CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett in the picture above. They’re walking into the stadium after their bullpen. Below is Colin Curtis and Kevin Russo warming up before tracking fly balls during batting practice.