All eyes will be on A.J. Burnett this afternoon at Steinbrenner Field. These might very well be the most scrutinized two innings of spring training.
Burnett will be facing a split-squad of Astros, who also have a home game today. Houston’s lineup will not include either Carlos Lee or Hunter Pence, but the Astros are traveling with big league regulars Michael Bourn, Bill Hall and Brett Wallace.
As you’re well aware, Burnett is coming off the worst year of his career, a debacle of a season that included a 5.26 ERA and winless months of June and August. This winter, Burnett began working early with new pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who assigned Burnett a series of exercises intended to help him repeat his delivery.
Burnett will be the last of the Yankees top three starters to make his spring training debut.
• The Yankees are at home today, which means no travel, which means enough time for a full squad workout before today’s game against the Astros. We’ll see the standard hitting and fielding drills this morning, then the field will be prepared or the actual game.
• Looks like Andrew Brackman is still on schedule for tomorrow’s bullpen. He’s been able to play catch with no recurring groin problems. “I haven’t felt it in a couple of days,” he said.
• Although indications were that Greg Golson would play today, it looks like he’s getting another day off after being beaned in the head. He is, however, on the field for pregame drills. He wouldn’t be out there if the Yankees were worried about him.
• If you follow the minor league system, it’s interesting that left-hander Steve Garrison went two innings yesterday. The Yankees have been slow to stretch their minor leaguers beyond one inning, and they certainly haven’t done that with any minor league relievers. Yesterday seems to indicate the Yankees plan to have Garrison working out of the rotation rather than the bullpen. Garrison said he hasn’t been told one way or the other, but he’s been a starter throughout his career, only pitching in relief when he was coming back from an injury.
• CC Sabathia threw an early bullpen this morning. Mark Prior is also scheduled for an early side session, while Bartolo Colon, Dellin Betances and Pedro Feliciano will throw sides later this morning.
• There are two sim games scheduled for today — basically the same as live BP — with Romulo Sanchez and Warner Madrigal pitching against Austin Krum and Doug Bernier. Jose Gil and Gustavo Molina will handle the catching.
• Former Yankees minor leaguers Lance Pendleton and Jose Valdez are among the Astros who will be in Tampa for today’s game. Pendleton is a Rule 5 pick trying to win a spot in the Astros rotation. Bud Norris is starting for Houston.
• In their next three games the Yankees will face the Rays James Shields, the Red Sox Clay Buchholz and former teammate Chad Gaudin, who’s now with the Nationals.
• Available pitchers: Sergio Mitre, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, David Phelps, Hector Noesi, Luis Ayala, D.J. Mitchell, Robert Fish, Daniel Turpen and Adam Warren.
• Off the bench: C Austin Romine, 1B Bradley Suttle, 2B Kevin Russo, SS Eduardo Nunez, 3B Brandon Laird, LF Daniel Brewer, CF Melky Mesa, RF Jordan Parraz, DH Russell Martin
• On the road for Houston: The Astros are traveling with three of their top five prospects according to Baseball America. The organization’s top prospect, RHP Jordan Lyles, will be here along with shortstops Jonathan Villar (No. 3) and Jio Mier (No. 5).
Michael Bourn CF
Clint Barmes SS
Brian Bogusevic RF
Jason Michaels DH
Bill Hall 2B
Brett Wallace 1B
J.R. Towles C
J.B. Shuck LF
Matt Downs 3B
• Tomorrow’s travelers today: Tomorrow’s road trip is a long one, with the Yankees traveling nearly two hours to Port Charlotte. Not a fun drive. The regular infielders have the game off.
Pitchers who are making the trip: Brian Anderson, Dellin Betances, Ivan Nova, Robert Fish, Freddy Garcia, D.J. Mitchell, Ivan Nova, Ryan Pope, Andy Sisco, Daniel Turpen, Adam Warren and Eric Wordekemper.
Players who are not making the trip: Francisco Cervelli, Jorge Posada, Ronnie Belliard, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Andruw Jones and Justin Maxwell.
Associated Press photos of Burnett throwing a bullpen earlier this spring and a group of Yankees minor leaguers laughing from the bench during yesterday’s game