It’s impossible to ignore Jorge Vazquez this spring. The guy made a career out of smashing baseballs in Mexico, he’s hit through his first two seasons in the minor leagues, and this spring he’s leading the team in RBI, tied for the team lead in home runs and batting .480.
“He’s played really well for us in spring training. He continues to swing the bat and continues to do what he needs to do,” Joe Girardi said. “This kid has shown that he can hit, and he’s hit at every level that he’s been at.”
Girardi has more than once called Vazquez “more of a first baseman,” but he can play third. If Eric Chavez weren’t also hitting this spring, Vazquez might be playing his way into a strong chance of landing a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Instead, he’s making an impression. The Yankees seem to be heading toward carrying Chavez on the bench, but it’s hard to ignore what Vazquez is doing right now, and it will be hard to forget if/when the Yankees need an extra bat in the middle of the summer.
“We know what he can do, and he’s shown us what he can do,” Girardi said.
• Burnett was most encouraged by his curveball today, but he continued his spring training tradition by working in a few changeups that he said were pretty effective. He threw one to right-handed hitter Ryan Zimmerman, who lined out on the pitch.
• Speaking of the changeup, here’s Burnett talking about pitching to Russell Martin: “He has an idea what I want to do. I faced him a couple of times a long time ago. He’s got an idea what my strengths are, but he wants me to use my changeup. He’s a big believer in that. It’s all confidence with him.”
• One more Burnett note: He has yet to walk anyone, and he seemed realize talking about it probably jinxed it this afternoon. “I haven’t walked anybody yet, have I?” Burnett said. “Well, there goes that.”
• In his first action in center field, Brett Gardner played there through the seventh inning. Eduardo Nunez stayed at shortstop throughout.
• Rule 5 pick Daniel Turpen gave up a walk-off single in the ninth inning, sending the Nationals to a 6-5 win. Not sure how much longer the Yankees will look at Turpen and Robert Fish, but it’s a crowded bullpen as it is, and neither Rule 5 pick has strong numbers this spring.
• Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano are both scheduled to pitch tomorrow.
• The Yankees remain excited about what they’ve seen from Chavez, but they decided to play it safe when it came to today’s road trip. “Extremely encouraged,” Girardi said. “I just thought it was silly to put him on a bus for two hours after he played yesterday.”
• When Ramiro Pena popped out in the eighth, he turned and flung his bat back toward the Yankees dugout, a rare show of emotion for the Yankees utility man. Hard not to notice that he’s hitting .154 this spring while Eduardo Nunez has thrived. I still think there’s a chance Pena will be the pick — the utility job is going to be an incredibly minor role, and the Yankees love Pena’s glove at short — but Nunez is clearly outplaying him this spring.
• Speaking of former Yankees: Talked to Chien-Ming Wang a little bit before today’s game. He said he’s thrown a sim game this spring and he’s hoping to be game ready early this season. His fastball has been 86-87 mph, and he thinks that will go up as he gains arm strength. “It’s been a long time, but I’ve been patient,” he said.
• I couldn’t see it from the press box, but Gardner said a stealth bomber flew by in the middle of the game. It happened before the bottom of an inning, while he was warming up with Melky Mesa. Gardner told Mesa to turn around and look at it, and Gardner said Mesa’s reaction was priceless. Gardner told him it was a UFO. Mesa’s reaction? “Maybe.”
Associated Press photos of Vazquez with Montero; Burnett’s arm; and Cano laughing after a called strikeout