The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Archive for February, 2012

Burnett hit by a batted ball in Pirates camp02.29.12

Bad day in Pirates camp for A.J. Burnett, who bunted a ball off his right eye today. It sounds pretty bad. Here’s the AP story about the incident. Also, check out what Burnett gave to former Yankees prospect Dan McCutchen so that he could wear No. 34.

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett was struck in the face by a batted ball on Wednesday, and will fly from the team’s spring training complex to Pittsburgh to have his right eye examined by team doctors.

Burnett was injured as he hit during a bunting drill. After the ball hit the temple near his right eye, a dazed Burnett dropped into a crouch near home plate. Players who had gathered to watch the drill gasped loudly then went quiet as Burnett sagged to his knee. As he was examined by an athletic trainer, Burnett joked, “Where did the bone go?”

Holding a towel against his face, Burnett was helped off the field. He left the complex without speaking to reporters. The Pirates have released no information regarding the exact nature of Burnett’s injury.

The Pirates acquired Burnett, 35, on the eve of spring training in a three-player trade with the New York Yankees. Before the injury, Burnett was expected to be the Pirates’ starter on Opening Day.

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Wednesday notes:02.29.12

What a strange day in Yankees camp. The team was going through it’s final full workout before games start, yet all of the conversation — here, and on radio in New York — centered on something that happened more than 10 years ago.

The bigger news in baseball came from Ken Rosenthal, who reported today that Major League Baseball is on the verge of finalizing a 10-team playoff format for this season. The collective bargaining agreement called for a second wild card by 2013, but Rosenthal says it will happen immediately.

As for the Yankees, they’re still in the phase of “no news is good news,” and there wasn’t much news today.

• Mariano Rivera threw 34 pitches in the bullpen today. “He said he felt great,” Joe Giradi said. Although there’s still no scheduled date for Rivera’s first spring outing, Girardi said he guesses it will happen March 15 or 16.

• Russell Branyan has a sore back. He was a long shot to make the team as a left-handed DH anyway, but now he’ll miss some time. “Don’t know how long it will be,” Girardi said. “I think it was tightening and spasms. We’ll have to wait and see.”

• Speaking of back injuries, Girardi said today that he expects Austin Romine to get into some Grapefruit League games, but he didn’t sound overly optimistic that Romine will play a lot this spring. “He’s been doing rehab work on it, and he’ll continue to do it,” Girardi said. “We’re just making sure that area is very stable. We want that to come back very stable and strong before we put him back. Because he had an episode last year, last August. Once he leaves here I don’t want him to have a setback. I don’t want it to come back and that’s what I told him. So we’re going to hit it really hard over spring training to make sure that we nip this.”

• Girardi confirmed that this is the same sort of situation that kept Romine out of some games late last year.

• Robinson Cano is still scheduled to be back in the clubhouse tomorrow. He’s been away for his grandmother’s funeral.

• Will the regulars play in Thursday’s game against South Florida? “You know, I’ve been going back and forth,” Giradri said. “I think some of them might get one at-bat, some of them might get two at-bats.”

• The Yankees will be off the field at 10:45 a.m. tomorrow, an early finish so that the team can catch an 11:15 bus for their bonding event. Girardi still won’t say what exactly they’re doing tomorrow.

• Asked whether any off-the-radar player has jumped out at him this spring, Girardi first came up with an unexpected name: “Burawa, he threw the ball hard the other day,” Girardi said. “You could just see the hitters (reacting), ‘Ooooh’ the first couple pitches they saw. I thought our BPs yesterday were excellent, I was really impressed and their were some young kids in there. Betances has thrown the ball really well. Warren, Phelps, Stonebrunner threw it well. I’ve been really pleased. Really, really pleased.”

• The Yankees have been given the green light to use a DH for their NL spring road games at the Phillies, Pirates and Nationals on March 5, 6 and 15.

Associated Press photo

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Rodriguez: “I’ve learned to stay in my lane”02.29.12

Alex Rodriguez was just on the Michael Kay show, and he stuck with his new tactic of less is more when it comes to interviews.

“I’ve learned to stay in my lane,” he said.

Rodriguez wouldn’t take the bait about Jason Varitek keeping his mask on during their brawl, wouldn’t comment on the Ryan Braun situation and wouldn’t say much about Bobby Valentine’s comments. He said the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry has nothing to do with random interviews from spring training.

“It’s because they have great players, great managers, great management,” Rodriguez said. “That’s why (the fans) care. It’s not for anything anyone says off the field.”

Rodriguez did comment on a few things. Nothing Earth shattering, but here you go:

On Michael Pineda
“All the potential in the world. When Cashman makes a move like this, and our front office makes a move like this, it makes you feel like a little kid again.”

On Raul Ibanez
“One of the classiest human beings you’ve ever met, right in there in the lineup with Mariano Rivera.”

On A.J. Burnett
“He is a great competitor. He has great stuff. Not only me, but all our teammates, we wish him the best in Pittsburgh.”

On Jorge Posada
“He belongs up there with the Yankee greats, and that’s a tough group to crack.”

On Robinson Cano
“He can get in a groove there where he can do some very, very special things.”
Rodriguez said more than one MVP is “very doable” for Cano.

Associated Press photo

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Chavez: “They do practice it”02.29.12

Eric Chavez was on the other side of the Flip Play.

“I heard (the Yankees) started practicing the year after,” Chavez said this afternoon.

Chavez was kidding, adding his own touch of humor in the wake of Bobby Valentine’s comments yesterday.

“I didn’t know they practiced it here, but obviously they do,” Chavez said. “We did it last year too and I was like, ‘Oh God, they do practice it.’ When I heard it, I was like, there’s no way you practice that. But I guess they do.”

It was coincidence that the Yankees practiced cutoffs and relays this afternoon. It’s the last set of fundamentals they go over in spring training, and apparently it had been on the schedule for weeks. The timing couldn’t have been better.

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Wednesday morning notes: Indifferent02.29.12

If Bobby Valentine was trying to stir the pot last night — talking about whether Derek Jeter practiced the flip play, and how Jason Varitek “beat up” Alex Rodriguez — it certainly worked. Yes, the pot was stirred, but the Yankees didn’t see to care. Both Jeter and Rodriguez laughed about it.  

“I’m indifferent,” Jeter said. “I mean, think about it. We don’t practice it? We do. You guys have seen it, so what else can I say? I was out of position? No, I was where I was supposed to be. Talking about Varitek, point out the good things he’s done. Unbelievable career. I’m happy for him. I enjoyed competing against him all these years. That’s what we should be talking about.”

It’s true, the Yankees absolutely practice the flip play. “I don’t flip it,” Jeter said, but the Yankees practice their positioning for that ball hit into the right-field corner with a runner at first, and Jeter is always drifting to the middle of the first-base line. Valentine said he thought Jeremy Giambi would have been out without Jeter making the flip. I disagree, and so does Jeter.

“No,” Jeter said, “but who cares? They must be bored over there, huh?”

Jeter spoke for about five minutes, mostly laughing and shrugging his shoulders. He defused the situtation as well as humanly possible. Rodriguez seemed most interested in staying as far from the story as possible.

“I’m not going to win many battles when it comes to words, especially against Bobby,” Rodriguez said. “But I will tell you this: I’ve got my new press secretary that should be landing in the next couple of days, Reggie Jackson, so I’ll let him handle that.”

• Mariano Rivera, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are throwing bullpens today. No hitters in the box, just standard sides.

• Of all people, on this of all days, Terry Francona was in the Yankees clubhouse this morning. He’s here with ESPN and said every manager has his own style when it comes to things like this. However, he did praise Jeter for the flip play. “You could practice that play until you’re blue in the fact, and he’s still probably the only guy who makes the play,” Francona said.

• Jeter smiled when he saw Francona standing in the clubhouse this morning. “Every player I’ve ever talked to about him appreciated the way he managed,” Jeter said.

• Today’s participants in bunting drills: Doug Bernier, Chris Dickerson, Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez. Wonder when Mark Teixeira will take his turn…

• Tomorrow is a short day for the Yankees because they have their team-bonding event after the morning workout. They’re reporting to camp an hour earlier than usual, and eight pitchers are throwing early batting practice: Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Boone Logan, Michael Pineda, Clay Rapada, CC Sabathia and Cory Wade.

• Ivan Nova will throw an early side tomorrow, his final tuneup before the Grapefruit League opener. D.J. Mitchell also has a side tomorrow, which suggests he’ll be pitching after Nova on Saturday.

• Kyle Higashioka said his shoulder feels better, and he would probably play if this were the regular season. He doesn’t seem particularly concerned.

• Andy Pettitte is scheduled to throw batting practice again today. Looks like he might be on the main field this time.

• Today’s batting practice pitchers were all schedule for early BP. Adam Miller and Michael O’Conner faced Colin Curtis and Cole Garner. Cesar Cabral, Ryan Pope and Chase Whitley faced Melky Mesa and Corban Joseph.

• Today’s batting practice groups are only slightly different from the past few days. Basically, Doug Bernier switched groups.

Group 1
David Adams, Derek Jeter, Brandon Laird, Eduardo Nunez

Group 2
Eric Chavez, Ramiro Pena, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira

Group 3
Russell Branyan, Bill Hall, Jayson Niz, Jorge Vazquez

Group 4
Francisco Cervelli, Jose Gil, Gary Sanchez

Group 5
Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Nick Swisher

Group 6
Chris Dickerson, Justin Maxwell, Cole Garner, Dewayne Wise

Group 7
Zoilo Almonte, Colin Curtis, Melky Mesa, Corban Joseph

Group 8
Doug Bernier, Russell Martin, J.R. Murphy, Gustavo Molina

• Same fielding groups, with Cano and Romine again still listed:

Group 1
C: Kyle Higashioka, Russell Martin, Gustavo Molina, J.R. Murphy
INF: Russell Branyan, Robinson Cano, Eric Chavez, Bill Hall, Derek Jeter, Brandon Laird, Eduardo Nunez
OF: Zoilo Almonte, Colin Curtis, Curtis Granderson, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Justin Maxwell

Group 2
C: Francisco Cervelli, Jose Gil, Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez
INF: David Adams, Doug Bernier, Corban Joseph, Jayson Nix, Ramiro Pena, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Jorge Vazquez
OF: Chris Dickerson, Brett Gardner, Cole Garner, Melky Mesa, Nick Swisher, Dewayne Wise

Associated Press photo

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One last full day of workouts02.29.12

The Yankees are taking a half day tomorrow. They’ll work out briefly in the morning, then they’ll leave the ballpark for Joe Girardi’s mysterious team outing. On Friday, the team is playing an exhibition game against South Florida.

That leaves today as the final full workout before Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener.

“It’s been four months,” Curtis Granderson said yesterday. “We’ve got to remember it and fine tune it. I get it for a pitch and lose it for a pitch. I get it for a batting practice, and I lose it for a batting practice. The best thing is, it’s February 20 something, and it’s a leap year, so you get one extra day.”

Today is that extra day.

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Valentine mixes it up in the Yankees-Sox rivalry02.28.12

I’ve been saving the quotes out of Boston camp for the end of the day. You might not like Bobby Valentine, but you have to admit, he brings a certain something to this rivalry. Here’s the AP story about his comments today, questioning the Flip Play and poking fun at the A-Rod/Varitek fight.

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Bobby Valentine has only been wearing a Boston Red Sox uniform for about two weeks and he’s already taking a few jabs at the archrival New York Yankees.

Many thought that the outspoken manager’s arrival in Boston could add even more spice to one of the most heated rivalries in professional sports, and it hasn’t taken long for that to hold true.

In one fell swoop on Tuesday, Valentine said Derek Jeter didn’t need to make the flip-to-home relay that stands as one of the most celebrated plays in Yankees lore and fondly recalled when retired Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek “beat up Alex” Rodriguez in 2004.

The Red Sox were working on relay throws at spring training on Tuesday and Valentine was asked about one of the most famous relay plays in all of baseball in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS between the Yankees and Athletics.

Down 2-0 in the series and with a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning, Yankees right fielder Shane Spencer missed the cutoff man on a double by Terrence Long. That’s when Derek Jeter seemingly came out of nowhere to grab the overthrow in foul territory near the first baseline and flipped the ball home to get Jeremy Giambi at the plate.

The Yankees hung on in the game, and rallied to win the series.

“We’ll never practice that,” Valentine said. “And I think (Jeter) was out of position and I think the ball gets (Giambi) out if he doesn’t touch it, personally.”

Most observers credit Jeter’s hustle and instincts with turning around the series in the Yankees’ favor. And several Yankees have said that Jeter would practice that play in spring training, which drew a scoff from Valentine.

“That was amazing that he was there,” Valentine said. “Then it was more amazing to say they practiced it. I don’t believe it.”

But Valentine wasn’t finished there.

Even though he is just starting to put his finger prints on the organization, Valentine was asked to comment on Varitek’s 15 seasons in Boston and what he meant to the organization. Like many others, Valentine used Varitek’s confrontation with Rodriguez in a July 2004 game to sum up his mentality and his demeanor.

Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo drew Rodriguez’s ire when he plunked A-Rod in the game. After Rodriguez started cursing at Arroyo, Varitek came to his pitcher’s defense by shoving his catcher’s mitt into the third baseman’s face, sparking the benches to clear. The Sox came back and won the game 11-10 and went on to win the World Series that season.

Valentine was nowhere near Fenway Park that day, but that didn’t stop him from giving the decision to Varitek.

“He is a man’s man,” Valentine said of Varitek. “He was a big hitter when needed. He was a leader of the pitching staff. He was able to beat up Alex. All that stuff is good stuff. He was exactly what he was supposed to be.”

The rivalry will be renewed when the two teams meet in spring training on March 13. Their first series of the regular season will begin April 20 at Fenway.

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Tuesday notes: Granderson defers to Cano02.28.12

Curtis Granderson was a legitimate MVP candidate last year. He hit 41 homers and led the league in both RBIs and runs, yet he’s far from the biggest name in the Yankees clubhouse. How does it feel to have a year like that, and still be overshadowed?

“The good thing about this team, I don’t think there’s one guy that has to be the guy,” Granderson said. “If there is, if I’m pointing to him, I’m looking at Cano as that guy. It seems like he’s always the guy coming up with the big hit or big play for the last two seasons that I’ve been here.”

Robinson Cano seems all but locked into the No. 3 spot in the order, and despite his power last season, Granderson said he still doesn’t consider himself a true middle-of-the-order hitter.

“I remember being in Little League,” he said. “We had our first game one year, and I remember looking at the lineup. I think I batted first or second. One kid — he was a little bit bigger and just all-around, at the time, better — he batted third. I remember asking someone, how come he’s batting third? Why am I batting first? They said, the best hitter has to bat third. From that day — I was probably 8, 9, 10 years old – I remembered that. It’s not necessarily the guy with the most home runs. It’s your best all-around hitter.”

• Cano’s grandmother’s funeral was today. He’s scheduled to be back with the Yankees, in uniform, on Thursday.

• Speaking of Thursday, the Yankees will have a team outing that afternoon. They’ll have a short workout in the morning, then the team will go to an undisclosed event at an undisclosed location. “We’ve done a real good job of keeping this one hush-hush,” Girardi said.

• Ivan Nova will likely throw one more bullpen before starting Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener. Today he threw batting practice for the second time this spring. “It looks like he has a plan,” Girardi said. “He knows exactly what he wants to do. Sometimes when you’re fighting like he was last year to try to prove himself, that he could pitch at this level — was he going to go with us, was he not going to go with us — I think with the experience that he got last year, I think he understands what it takes. And what he needs to work on. And what his approach is.”

• Joba Chamberlain said he’s scheduled to throw another 15-20 fastballs off a full mound on Friday. He’s not sure when he’ll be throwing breaking balls, but he’s hopeful it’s not too far in the future.

• Chamberlain knows that the Yankees don’t expect him back until June, but he’s still hoping to beat that expectation and get back sooner. He has a best-case scenario in mind. “I’m just going to do a Mo,” he said. “I know the answer, but I’m not going to tell you guys. Yeah, I have it in mind. I know the work that I put in. Like I said, three to four months can be realistic. But also on the other hand, it can be realistic on the front side of things. For all the work that I put in, I know there’s more coming up still.”

• Speaking of Rivera, here’s David Aardsma when asked whether he’s hoping to take Rivera’s job next season: “Nah, I’m focused on being healthy, and that’s all I’m worried about. Whatever those circumstances are, when we get there we get there. He’s the greatest closer of all time, man. He can ride out on whatever horse he wants to whenever he wants to.”

• Girardi was asked about catching prospect Gary Sanchez, the youngest player in camp: “He’s made some minor adjustments (defensively), and I’ve been pleased with his work ethic. He’s got some thunder in his bat, you can see. He swings the bat with authority. He’s got an outstanding arm. For Gary, he needs to play. This kid needs to play a lot of games so he understands the trade back there.”

• Kyle Higashioka hurt his shoulder during a workout today. “He could be out for a few days,” Girardi said.

• Bill Hall got quite a bit of time at shortstop during drills today. Really, it’s hard to imagine the Yankees are too concerned with his ability to play there, but I guess it’s possible it could come into play if Eduardo Nunez is hurt.

• Random observation of the day: When lefty Clay Rapada throws batting practice, the protective L screen is flipped as if a right-hander is throwing. The L screen is made with an opening for a pitcher to throw the ball, but the opening is too high for Rapada’s sidearm delivery. Instead, he just throws around the screen, keeping his left arm straight out to the side.

• As expected, Andy Pettitte did throw batting practice today, but he wasn’t on the main field. Pettitte threw BP in one of the indoor cages. The only hitters I saw him throw to were Jorge Vazquez and Zoilo Almonte.

Associated Press photos

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Girardi: Rotation competition goes beyond Freddy and Phil02.28.12

The Yankees rotation competition has been seen as two guys for one spot, a head-to-head competition between Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes. Joe Girardi said this afternoon that he’s looking at it as four guys for three spots, with only CC Sabathi and Hiroki Kuroda locked into rotation jobs.

“That’s kind of what we’re looking at,” Girardi said. “You sign Kuroda to start. You sign all these guys to start, but Kuroda has a big track history. There’s so much talk about Phil, but this guy was a dominant reliever in 2009 and a very good starter in 2010. Sometimes we focus on 2011 — and I understand why, because it was the most recent — but what if he’s an 18-game winner again? We’ve got a competition here. We have to iron out five spots, and sometimes the five you leave with aren’t the five you end up with. We’ve got time. There’s no rush.”

So, Michael Pineda — the guy who was worth losing Jesus Montero — isn’t locked into a rotation job?

“I mean, he’s got to pitch,” Girardi said. “I can’t tell you. He’s gotta stay healthy. He’s gotta pitch. Nothing’s given to you in life. Nothing. You expect to write a story tomorrow. There’s no guarantee. You still have to do your work and do a quality job. And we’re not just handing things over. They gotta do their work.”

Girardi said it was Don Zimmer who advised him to never guarntee anyone a spot on the roster.

“Because if they go out and they struggle,” Girardi said, “or they perform badly in spring straining and they don’t have anything, or they’re not right where they’re supposed to be and you guaranteed them that spot and we say, ‘You know what, we don’t think you’re ready and we’re going to send you down,’ the guy goes, ‘You guaranteed me a spot and I was working on things.’ You gotta go out and earn it.”

Associated Press photo

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Girardi: Cano bats third, build a lineup from there02.28.12

In the past, Joe Girardi has talked about his lineup as if the team is strong considering Robinson Cano in the No. 3 spot. Today he talked about his lineup as if Cano is locked into the No. 3 spot, and the rest of the lineup will be built from there.

“Is there an immoveable piece?” Girardi said. “I don’t think so. When you think about it, you’d probably like to hit Robbie third. That’s the one guy you’d like to keep.”

Otherwise, Girardi said he doesn’t have to be “married” to one lineup. He said he’s “not necessarily” locked into having Cano hit immediately behind Curtis Granderson, and he said flipping Granderson and Derek Jeter is “a possibility you could talk about.”

“We started talking a little bit the other day, some different things (about the lineup),” Girardi said. “I kind of want to see how guys look as we enter spring training, and we’ll try to iron out a lineup by Opening Day. It may take until then for us to make up our minds.”

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