The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Archive for February, 2011

Another young guy steals the show in Yankees camp02.28.11

Before the spring schedule started, it was Andrew Brackman who seemed to grab the attention in Yankees camp with his improved command and impressive bullpens. When the spring schedule started, it was Dellin Betances who stole the show with a three-strikeout inning in the second game. Today it was Manny Banuelos who generated some high praise from his teammates and manager, rolling through three big league hitters in a 1-2-3 inning.

“That’s what they want and I did it,” Banuelos said.

The curveball was a dominant pitch this afternoon — “That was breaking really, really good,” Banuelos said — and he used it for two strikeouts, but Banuelos also generated a ground out with his changeup, and his fastball was sitting at 93 mph.

It’s easy to see why the Yankees are excited about their Killer Bs, and it’s easy to understand why some on the outside the organization want to push those three to New York, but the Yankees aren’t going to rush. Just enjoy this for what it is: A small window into the future, and an early indication that the new Big Three just might live up to the hype.

“If they want to send me to Trenton, it’s OK, I just want to try to move up quickly,” Banuelos said. “… I just want to show all the things I can do. I want to show them I can do the work. I can do my job.”

Here’s Banuelos speaking after today’s game.

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And here are a few late-night links:

• Brian Cashman told Wally Matthews that the Yankees aren’t engaged in any trade talks. They specifically are not in talks for Francisco Liriano.

• Matt Eddy says the Yankees released Andy Sisco and then re-signed him, which sort of explains the conflicting reports about the big lefty. Sisco is certainly still in camp, and I guess that’s all that matters.

• Apparently Javier Vazquez’s fastball is at 88 mph for the Marlins. As the Yankees know, that’s actually not the worst-case scenario with him (hat tip to MLBTradeRumors).

• Speaking of former Yankees pitchers: Rule 5 pick Lance Pendleton threw a scoreless inning in an otherwise horribly pitched game for the Astros. It was Houston’s spring opener. George Kontos has not pitched in a game for the Padres, but he apparently made a solid impression in the early days of camp.

• If you want to delve into the mind of Phil Coke, here ya go. Fair warning, the mind of Phil Coke is a very random place to be.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 160 Comments →

So far, so good for Prior02.28.11

Mark Prior woke up nervous this morning.

“Normal nerves I used to get when I was pitching,” he said.

The nerves subsided during batting practice, and when he came in to pitch the fifth inning — the inning he knew would be his — he went through a 1-2-3 inning with two routine pop ups and a strikeout. The strikeout came on the split finger he’s been working on this spring.

“Breaking ball was terrible, but I guess it’s understandable,” he said. “I haven’t thrown them a lot, I’ve been mostly trying to get comfortable with the split finger. The one that I struck out the second guy with, I thought was pretty good. I had a good feel for that. Breaking ball is something that, for me, always took time and it took me facing hitters to kind of get that release point, before it kind of gets locked in.”

More important right now, Prior said, was his fastball command. He doesn’t know how hard he was throwing — “Either they weren’t seeing it well out of my hands, or it was getting on them,” he said — but he was happy with the way he located.

Kind of like Derek Jeter’s altered mechanics, Prior’s return to pitching is going to take more than one or two innings. It’s a process that will probably include a stop in the minor leagues before he’s ready to return to the Majors for the first time since 2006.

“I understand what I signed up for,” Prior said. “I understand the situation here, my situation. I know I haven’t pitched, I mean, I haven’t really pitched since 2005. Even though I pitched in 2006, it wasn’t really pitching, it was surviving. Or trying to. I understand that just because you go out and throw one inning, that’s not going to make or break what they see and what I feel. I understand that I need to get famliar with the process.

“I think the learning curve, or the re-whatever curve, could be fast. But it’s just a matter of going out there and getting some innings under my belt.”

Here’s Prior after today’s scoreless inning.

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Associated Press photo of Prior throwing live batting practice last week

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 411 Comments →

Monday notes: Timing and patience for Jeter02.28.11

For any player, one hit on February 28 means almost nothing. When that hit comes from guy who has nearly 3,000 in his career, it means even less, so we’ll have to excuse Derek Jeter for not getting worked up about a leadoff single in the top of the fifth.

“It’ll take a while to get comfortable,” Jeter said. “When was the first game? Two days ago? That was the first time I’ve seen pitching with (the new mechanics). It’s going to take a while to get comfortable. You have more time because there’s no stride. Now you’ve just got to figure out when to swing.”

Figuring out when to swing seems like a pretty basic piece of hitting, but Jeter in eliminating his stride, Jeter has changed his timing at the plate. It’s taking a while to get used to the changes, and Jeter said he still goes to the plate actively thinking about his mechanics, which is a bad thing. But it’s also an unavoidable thing at this point.

Tomorrow, hitting coach Kevin Long will stay behind in Tampa — he won’t make the team’s trip to Bradenton — so he can work one-on-one with Jeter.

“His timing is just a little bit off on the outside pitch,” Long said. “He’s got to wait a little bit longer on those pitches, and the ones in, he’s been a little bit late on. We’ll gain on it and go day by day with it. I’m certainly not, at this point, ready to cash it in and start from scratch with it. It’s going to take a little time.”

When Jeter tried to make this change in September, he still had a little bit of a stride. Now he’s trying to get rid of the stride completely, and that’s left him with more time to wait for pitches. If it’s going to work, it’s going to take repetition and patience. Joe Girardi said this morning that he won’t start truly evaluating Jeter’s swing until “three weeks or so” into spring training.

“You hope that it becomes second nature so you don’t have to think about it,” Jeter said. “The good thing is, my foot hasn’t been moving. That’s a step in the right direction, I guess.”

Here’s Jeter.

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• Russell Martin did more blocking drills this morning and said his knee feels better each day. He’s expected to get one more DH start and catch a game either Thursday or Friday. “A little stiffness when I’m running full out, 100 percent, but nothing else really,” Martin said. “It’s getting better still, even throughout the game today.”

• After taking an A.J. Burnett pitch to the head on Sunday, Greg Golson is expected to workout tomorrow, and he’ll probably get in a game Wednesday.

• Two more hits, including a double for Jorge Vazquez. He’s easily the Grapefruit League MVP through three games. He’s still a long-shot to break camp with the Yankees, but he could certainly make a big impression that keeps him on the radar.

• Mark Prior had a 1-2-3 inning in his first spring appearance, including a strikeout on the splitfinger he’s been working on. “It felt great,” Prior said. “I didn’t really know what to expect, but I felt good. Got some things I need to work on, but I think all and all, I think it went well.”

• Speaking of 1-2-3 innings, add Manny Banuelos to the list of young Yankees starters who have been outstanding in their spring debuts. “He looked really good,” Girardi said. “Three pitches he threw for strikes. Couple of strikeouts on a couple of curveballs. Ability to get back in the count with his changeup. Throwing hard. I mean, he looked really good.”

• Speaking of young starters who looked good, I talked to Nardi Contreras a little bit about Dellin Betances making such a strong first impression yesterday. To my mild surprise, Contreras seemed even more impressed with Ivan Nova’s outing.

• Rule 5 picks Daniel Turpen and Robert Fish each gave up two runs this afternoon. Contreras said Fish was throwing strikes, it was a matter of location in the zone. He had control, but not command. Turpen was given a blown save, and Fish was given the loss.

• Two-hit day with an RBI for Mark Teixeira. Francisco Cervelli also had two hits. Andruw Jones had the other Yankees RBI.

Associated Press photos of Jeter and Alex Rodriguez

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 247 Comments →

Business as usual for Sabathia’s spring debut02.28.11

The Yankees weren’t looking for CC Sabathia to break any new ground this afternoon. They just wanted the same old Sabathia on the mound, healthy and effective through his first two spring training innings.

“Really good,” Joe Girardi said. “Strikes down. Changeup. (We were) pleased. He went out and just did his business, kind of what we expect from CC and get used to.”

Sabathia said it was business as usual with his surgically repaired right knee. He pitched two scoreless innings, then ran afterward, and never had a problem.

“Coming out of the bullpen and being fresh for the first inning, and handling the amount of work and things in between has gotten a lot easier,” he said.

As for his actual work on the mound, Sabathia said he was especially pleased with his fastball command.

“Usually it takes me a while to get it,” he said. “I’m cutting balls and (leaving pitches) up and away, but to have it pretty good this early, I can start working on my other pitches. And I still need to get opposite arm side in to righties, but that will just take a little while.”

Being able to worry about those sort of specifics at this point seems to be a good sign for Sabathia and the Yankees.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 154 Comments →

Spring Training Game 3: Yankees at Tigers02.28.11

Derek Jeter SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Andruw Jones RF
Russell Martin DH
Francisco Cervelli C
Justin Maxwell LF
Melky Mesa CF

LHP CC Sabathia (21-7, 3.18 in 2010)
Sabathia vs. Tigers

Austin Jackson CF
Ryan Raburn LF
Magglio Ordonez RF
Miguel Cabrera DH
Victor Martinez 1B
Jhonny Peralta SS
Brandon Inge 3B
Scott Sizemore 2B
Alex Avila C

RHP Justin Verlander (18-9, 3.37)
Verlander vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., not televised as far as I know

WEATHER: A few clouds in the sky, but very nice out. Wind blowing pretty hard to center field.

UMPIRES: HP Greg Gibson, 1B Jerry Layne, 2B Mark Wegner, 3B Ed Hickox

ON THE LINE: Not much on the line for CC Sabathia, but Russell Martin will finally test his knee a little bit at game speed, and Mark Prior will make his first appearance as a complete wild card in Yankees camp.

OLD FRIENDS: A steady line of Yankees said hello to Phil Coke just outside the Tigers clubhouse during batting practice. Austin Jackson is also here, though I haven’t seen him. Despite the fact he was a huge prospect, Jackson was still one of the most popular and likable players in the Scranton clubhouse during my last year covering Triple-A.

ALSO PITCHING TODAY: Prior, Pedro Feliciano and Manny Banuelos are the biggest names available in the bullpen. Rule 5 picks Daniel Turpen and Robert Fish also made the trip.

ALSO PITCHING FOR DETROIT: Rick Porcello, Ryan Perry, Daniel Schlereth and Charlie Furbush. Schlereth was part of the Yankees trade for Curtis Granderson, going from Arizona to Detroit in the deal.

TOMORROW’S TRAVELERS TODAY: The Yankees are playing in Bradenton tomorrow. They’re bringing the regular outfielders, while the regular infielders will stay home. Players who will be making the trip: Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada, Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena, Doug Bernier, Eric Chavez, Brandon Laird, Kevin Russo, Brad Suttle, Jorge Vazquez, Dan Brewer, Greg Golson, Austin Krum, Justin Maxwell, Melky Mesa, Jordan Parraz, Jose Gil, Kyle Higashioka, Gustavo Molina, Jesus Montero, and Austin Romine.

Pitchers scheduled to make tomorrow’s trip: Brian Anderson, Buddy Carlyle, Steve Garrison, Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, Hector Noesi, David Phelps, Ryan Pope, Dave Robertson, Andy Sisco and Eric Wordekemper. Hughes has the start.

UPDATE, 1:15 p.m.: Scoreless top of the first for the Yankees. Cano drew a walk and Teixeira slapped a clean single to right, but Cano was picked off at second base and Rodriguez flied to center. Here’s Sabathia for his debut.

UPDATE, 1:23 p.m.: Solid first inning for Sabathia. He struck out Jackson looking and got Raburn to pop up along the first-base line. Ordonez singled up the middle before Cabrera grounded to third, where Rodriguez made a little backhanded stop before the throw to first. The stadium radar gun isn’t one — it’s not being displayed anyway — so I’m not sure how hard Sabathia was throwing. I doubt it really matters much at this point.

UPDATE, 1:29 p.m.: Martin’s first plate appearance in a Yankees uniform is a one-out walk in the second inning.

UPDATE, 1:38 p.m.: Martin’s walk and a Cervelli single put two on with one out, but Maxwell went down looking at a nasty breaking ball before Mesa flied to right to end the inning. Still scoreless heading into the bottom of the second.

UPDATE, 1:45 p.m.: That should be it for Sabathia. He allowed a hard-hit, one-out double by Jhonny Peralta before getting a ground out and strikeout to end the inning and strand the runner.

UPDATE, 1:46 p.m.: Here’s Rick Porcello for the Tigers. He’s entering a scoreless game in the top of the third.

UPDATE, 1:55 p.m.: Pedro Feliciano is in for Sabathia. He’ll open against the lefty Alex Avila, then face two right-handers.

UPDATE, 2:05 p.m.: Scoreless inning for Feliciano. He got his one lefty to ground out, and after back-to-back singles, he got Ordonez and Cabrera to end the inning. Still scoreless after three.

UPDATE, 2:09 p.m.: Rodriguez doubles to left-center. He’s trying to fight off Jorge Vazquez for that starting third base job.

UPDATE, 2:20 p.m.: Bases loaded with one out, Maxwell went down looking at a fastball on the outer half, then Mesa flied to left to end it. Still scoreless after three and a half. Here’s Manny Banuelos coming in for the Yankees. Starters are still in the field.

UPDATE, 2:28 p.m.: Good inning for Banuelos, who faced nothing but big leaguers in a 1-2-3 fourth. Looked like a changeup that Victor Martinez rolled to short, Jhonny Peralta swung through a fastball and Brandon Inge looked at a big curveball. Impressive. *By the way, based on Twitter, most seem to think the Peralta strikeout pitch was offspeed. I was typing, looked up at the end of the pitch, thought fastball and was told fastball. I was probably wrong, though. If you’re scoring at home, call it an offspeed pitch.

UPDATE, 2:36 p.m.: Jeter grounded a single through the left side. After a deep fly out by Cano, Teixeira’s doubled to score Jeter and give the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth.

UPDATE, 2:39 p.m.: Sharp single up the middle by Andruw Jones has given the Yankees a 2-0 lead. Teixeira scored just ahead of a close play at the plate.

UPDATE, 2:44 p.m.: Prior is in the game, and the clubhouse is opening now. Be back with some notes later.

UPDATE, 2:52 p.m.: Sabathia said the knee felt great today. He was never worried. “After the first bullpen I knew it would be fine,” he said.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Gameday Threadwith 636 Comments →

Martin, Sabathia and Prior ready for spring debuts02.28.11

Off to a roaring start on my first day back on the job. Couldn’t log into the blog this morning in Tampa, then had to drive to the Tigers’ facility in Lakeland. Things are finally working again, so we’re back online and ready to go with CC Sabathia’s first spring start.

“I don’t necessarily have a lot of concern about him except health,” Joe Girardi said.

As long as Sabathia gets through this outing without any physical problems, the Yankees will be happy. He could give up 20 runs this afternoon and still be the Opening Day starter in a month.

Today will also be the Yankees spring training debut for Mark Prior (who’s scheduled to pitch in relief) and Russell Martin (who’s getting the start at DH).

• Girardi said he expects Martin to get one more start at DH before finally catching in a spring game. He’ll probably catch Thursday or Friday. “We’ll see how he moves (today),” Girardi said.

• Greg Golson said he feels fine after being hit in the head by A.J. Burnett yesterday. It was during live batting practice, and it was the first pitch Golson saw. He said he was shaken up initially, but he feels fine and was laughing about it this morning. He’ll go for precautionary tests, but Golson said he’s not worried about it.

• Andrew Brackman threw off flat ground today and yesterday. He’ll probably throw off a mound Tuesday or Wednesday. “Knock the rust off, then get in a game,” he said.

• Girardi said he’s excited to see Prior, but he’s also excited to see Manny Banuelos get into today’s game. Girardi said the Yankees are trying to pull back on the young guys and not let them go all out just yet. They don’t want them to overdo it. Dellin Betances, for example, could have pitched more than an inning yesterday but the Yankees didn’t want him going too crazy trying to make a big impression.

Pitchers available this afternoon: CC Sabathia, Pedro Feliciano, Manny Banuelos, Mark Prior, Daniel Turpen, Robert Fish, D.J. Mitchell, Luis Ayala, Steve Garrison, Eric Wordekemper and Ryan Pope. That’s the group that made the trip. It’s not likely all of them will get in the game.

Scheduled to play off the bench: C Austin Romine, 1B Jose Gil, 2B Ramiro Pena, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Jorge Vazquez, LF Jordan Parraz, CF Austin Krum, RF Daniel Brewer, DH Colin Curtis

Derek Jeter SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Andruw Jones RF
Russell Martin DH
Francisco Cervelli C
Justin Maxwell LF
Melky Mesa CF

LHP CC Sabathia

Austin Jackson CF
Ryan Raburn LF
Magglio Ordonez RF
Miguel Cabrera DH
Victor Martinez 1B
Jhonny Peralta SS
Brandon Inge 3B
Scott Sizemore 2B
Alex Avila C

RHP Justin Verlander

Associated Press photo of Martin catching in the bullpen

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 498 Comments →

The kids are (better than) all right02.27.11

Most fans (and writers) do a lot of abstract talking about the younger players in an organization. Someone “has good stuff” or “has a nice look” or “can swing the bat.” Since most fans focus most of their attention on the big-league games, it’s not surprising that actual sightings of the players on the rise are rare.

That’s why spring training is great. Earlier today there was a stretch for the Yankees where one of the “Killer B’s,” Dellin Betances came on for the bottom of the fifth inning and struck out the side, blowing away Dominic Brown, Ben Francisco and Wilson Valdez (sandwiched around a walk to Carlos Ruiz).

“For the first time being out there?” Joe Girardi said afterward. “Pretty good. I’m sure there is some emotions and butterflies.”

Working with a familiar catcher in Jesus Montero helped with that, and asked about his outing afterward, Betances credited Montero for getting him through.

Montero, of course, may yet break camp with the Yankees and he came up in the top of the sixth and picked up his first RBI of the spring with a single to left. All in all, not a bad 10 minutes or so for a couple of the kids you always hear about but don’t always see.

* That’s an AP picture of Betances (on the right) … um, stretching?

Posted by: Sam Borden - Posted in Miscwith 338 Comments →

Nova impresses (and other postgame notes)02.27.11

This early in spring everybody is working on something different, so it’s often best to ask wide-open questions about a pitcher’s performance and see what they were trying to accomplish. To that end, one of the first questions to Ivan Nova this afternoon was what pleased him most about his performance and Nova smiled.

“Right now,” he said, “I’m happy with everything.”

Fair enough. Nova looked excellent in his first start of the spring, retiring all six hitters he faced on four groundballs and two strikeouts. Joe Girardi was particularly pleased with how Nova kept the Phillies hitters on the ground. “That’s what we want from him,” he said. “He’s young and he’s growing into a major-league pitcher.”

My feeling is that the best-case scenario for the Yankees is to see Freddy Garcia and Nova win the two starter spots, but it’s also clear that no one is going to be handed anything. The Yankees have been down that road before and Nova knows he’ll have to earn his place. This was, obviously, a strong beginning.

“I’m just paying attention to what I’m doing,” Nova said. “I don’t worry about (the other pitchers). I worry about myself.”

• Update on Andrew Brackman: He played catch today, reported no issues. Will play catch again tomorrow then take a day off. Earliest he’ll be back on a mound, then, is Wednesday. Ronnie Belliard will be out a week or so with his calf injury, according to Bryan Hoch. That certainly won’t help his chances at winning a spot.

• Sergio Mitre did well after Nova (he actually got the win in the 7-3 victory) and he’ll probably pitch once more in relief (likely Wednesday) before getting a start to call his own. Of course, Mitre said he doesn’t care when he pitches as long as he pitches well and is happy to be competing for a job for a second straight year. “Its pretty much the same amount of guys that were competing for one spot last year,” he said, “so just lick your chops, hopefully get the job and make the decision a little more difficult for them.”

• I’ll have more on Dellin Betances and Jesus Montero later but – no surprise – Girardi was pleased with Betances’ three-strikeout inning. He also said Montero looks significantly more comfortable behind the plate than he did a year ago.

• Um … Jorge Vazquez? Two games, two home runs for the non-roster infielder. “If he hits a home run every day, I’m sure he’ll get the Grapefruit (League) MVP,” Girardi said. Beyond that, no guarantees though. I still bet Eric Chavez breaks camp with the Yankees as a bench infielder.

• Nice day for Brett Gardner, who had a double, two walks and scored twice. Curtis Granderson hit his first home run of the spring and Jorge Posada had a RBI double. Not as nice day for Adam Warren, who gave up a hit, a run and two walks in 1 1/3 innings of relief.

* That’s an AP shot of Granderson and Posada from today.

Posted by: Sam Borden - Posted in Miscwith 254 Comments →

Spring Training Game 2: Yankees at Phillies02.27.11

Gardner LF
Swisher RF
Granderson CF
Posada DH
Chavez 1B
Montero C
Nunez 2B
Laird 3B
Pena SS

RHP Ivan Nova (1-2, 4.50 in 2010)

Rollins SS
Victorino CF
Ivanez LF
Howard 1B
Polanco 3B
Brown RF
Francisco DH
Ruiz C
Valdez 2B

RHP Joe Blanton (9-6, 4.82 in 2010)

TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., YES Network

WEATHER: Lovely yet again. Temps up around 80 and clear skies.

UMPIRES: HP David Rackley, 1B Phil Cuzzi, 2B Mark Carlson, 3B Vic Carapazza

ON THE LINE: Today is Ivan Nova’s first shot at making an impact on The Rotation Derby and Sergio Mitre will get his chance as well, pitching after Nova.

ALSO PITCHING TODAY: Sergio Mitre, Boone Logan, Dellin Betances and Adam Warren, among others.

LINEUP CHANGE: Savvy folks may have noticed that Brandon Laird has replaced Ronnie Belliard in the lineup. That’s because Belliard has a calf injury.

TOMORROW’S TRAVELERS TODAY: Anyone planning to go to Lakeland tomorrow can expect to see Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Russell Martin (as the DH), Jesus Montero, Austin Romine and Andruw Jones. CC Sabathia will start with Mark Prior and Manny Banuelos among those pitching after him.

MITRE’S PITCH: Joe Girardi said he has seen development in Sergio Mitre’s secondary pitches recently, which makes the manager think Mitre is “more suited now” to be a starter than he was in the past.

UPDATE, 1:10 p.m.: And we’re underway here in Clearwater, where Brett Gardner has walked and Nick Swisher just hit into a 1-6-3 double play. This is a terrific park – great sightlines, good food. If you’re in the area, I definitely suggest checking it out.

UPDATE, 1:18 p.m.: Three easy grounders induced by Nova who breezes through the first. Forget fifth starter – he’s a Cy Young candidate! (ah, spring)

UPDATE, 1:25 p.m.: Three up, three down again for the Yankees though Montero hit a rocket to third that Polanco caught as a manner of self-preservation.

UPDATE, 1:36 p.m.: Nova is done for the day afte two impressive innings. Four grounders and two strikeouts including catching Howard. Say what you want, but the kid has talent. Mitre on now.

UPDATE, 1:50 p.m.: Well, that was something sort of Grandish. First pitch swinging for Granderson, who goes over the left-field wall to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

UPDATE, 1:57 p.m.: Mitre was expected to pitch two innings but it seems likely that Girardi wanted to get Logan in to face the tough lefties. If he’d waited till the next time through the Phillies lineup, Ibanez and Howard probably wouldn’t be in the game.

UPDATE, 2:13 p.m.: Killer B alert! Dellin Betances on to pitch the fifth now. Not that this is breaking news or anything but: He’s a big dude.

UPDATE, 3:15 p.m.: Back with much more later but just wanted to put a note up for those who hadn’t seen it elsewhere: Hall of Famer Duke Snider has passed away at age 84.

Posted by: Sam Borden - Posted in Miscwith 775 Comments →

What to look for from Nova and other pregame notes02.27.11

Greetings from Clearwater, where the sun is shining and there’s a light breeze as we get ready for a second day of Yankees-Phillies.

Not much going on in the clubhouse in Tampa this morning, though there was some chatter about tonight’s Academy Awards. Who do you like? I’m sticking with “The Social Network” to win big, though I know some people think it may have peaked a little too soon.

Joe Girardi talked a bit about Ivan Nova during his session with reporters, specifically the issues Nova seemed to have getting out of trouble. While acknowledging that did seem to be a problem for Nova, Girardi also pointed out that it was a pretty small sample size – Nova pitched just 42 innings – so “maybe it’s not an issue and we’re making an issue out of it.”

“Let’s not forget the guy’s ERA was (4.50),” Girardi said. “For a rookie in a pennant race? There are a lot of guys who can’t put up a 4.50 in our division.”

Nova will be backed up by Sergio Mitre today, who is also competing for a starter’s spot. Boone Logan, Dellin Betances and Adam Warren are among the others scheduled to pitch.

• I know there was some discussion about Jesus Montero and the jump from Triple-A to the majors (if, in fact, he makes that jump this year). Girardi reiterated, unequivocally, that Russell Martin is the starter but that Montero is in the mix for the backup job. What’s the biggest difference for a catcher going from the minors to the majors? “Earning the trust of your staff,” Girardi said. If that’s true, then being a big league backup and getting to know the pitchers could only help.

• Interesting to see Eric Chavez at first base today. Girardi said Chavez will play third and first this spring, as will non-roster invite Jorge Vazquez, who impressed with his moonshot over the batter’s eye yesterday. Could Vazquez challenge for a bench spot? “It’s possible,” Girardi said. “We’ve always said he could swing the bat.”

* That’s an AP shot of Nova from last season.

Posted by: Sam Borden - Posted in Miscwith 80 Comments →

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