Andrew Brackman is not new to Yankees camp. He’s a familiar face around here, and almost everyone in the big league clubhouse is long past first impressions of the tall right-hander.
But Justin Maxwell is new. He arrived in Tampa having only heard of Brackman, and today Maxwell faced the highly touted prospect for the first time in live batting practice. Maxwell’s first impression?
“Really good command,” he said.
Never would have heard that two years ago. Today, Brackman opened eyes with an impressive batting practice session that included all of his pitches, and most importantly, included a bunch of strikes.
“He’s much further ahead than he was (at this time last year),” Joe Girardi said. “He had a hard time consistently throwing strikes, where now it appears that’s behind him. You look at what he’s done the second half of last year, what he’s done here in spring training, he’s throwing a lot of strikes. That’s a big part of the battle when you’re pitching.”
As Mark Feinsand detailed this weekend, Brackman has been fighting that battle ever since his 2007 Tommy John surgery, and he finally seems to be winning after a breakout 2010 season in Trenton.
“My first two camps, those BPs would have been awful,” Brackman said. “Nowhere near the plate or anything like that. The further away I get from surgery, the more comfortable I get on the mound.”
• Hank Steinbrenner spoke after the Rodriguez press conference this afternoon, including a comment that seemed to be a shot at Derek Jeter. In fact, I have a hard time coming up with another way to take it: “Sometimes I think maybe they celebrated a little too much last year,” Steinbrenner said. “Some of the players are too busy building mansions and doing other things, not concentrating on winning. I have no problem saying that. I think they’ve come into this spring with a new hunger.” There’s always something unexpected that pops up around here.
• Jorge Posada did the catching portion of team fielding drills this morning. It was the first time he’d gone through catching drills. The Yankees still haven’t had him squatting or throwing to second base, but that will happen soon. He’s supposed to catch a bullpen Wednesday or Thursday. “He’s been great talking to the players and being involved, but we haven’t asked him to do much behind the plate,” Girardi said.
• Mariano Rivera will throw his first bullpen this week, probably Wednesday or Thursday. “It won’t be long now,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said no injury concerns have popped up. Gustavo Molina was dealing with a quad issue, but he caught a bullpen today and is feeling fine.
• Just a personal observation: Eric Chavez still looks awfully good at third base. He made some solid plays going to his right during batting practice.
• Speaking of BP defense: Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Eduardo Nunez were taking turns fielding grounders at shortstop — it’s just a ground ball drill, the position on the field doesn’t really matter — and after Jeter charged a ball kind of awkwardly, Nunez started dancing around in shallow left field, mocking the Captain’s approach. Cano and Jeter were cracking up, and Jeter gave Nunez a little shove.
• I mentioned it earlier today, but Ronnie Belliard got some time at first base after working at second yesterday. Kevin Russo worked at second after working in the outfield yesterday.
• Boone Logan signed autographs for a while after the morning long toss session. One of his throws had sailed way over Buddy Carlyle and hit a little girl in the stands, so Logan tried to make up for it. Head’s up people! Even the pros let one slip every now and then.
• Joe Girardi is still trying to figure out, plan and schedule a team outing, but there aren’t many options, and the dates are limited before this weekend’s first game. Friday might be the best bet. “We’re going to try,” Girardi said.
Associated Press photos. That’s Kyle Higashioka at the top.