Archive for February 22nd, 2012
The one spot that’s left • 02.22.12
A healthy Yankees pitching staff should have Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning, Rafael Soriano and Dave Robertson handling the seventh and eighth, Boone Logan pitching from the left side, Cory Wade navigating some of the middle innings and the loser of the fifth-starter competition available for long relief.
Thats’s six spots in what is assumed to be a seven-man bullpen. As for the last spot? Well, the Yankees always seem to come into spring training considering a second lefty.
“I think you could use it,” Joe Girardi said this afternoon. “(But) you look at our guys in the late innings, you’re probably going to go to them, and you’re not going to worry about the second left-hander, so I don’t think it’s a necessity. But if you get a left-hander that can maybe give you a little distance or that you’re not afraid to use against right-handers, I think it could be valuable.”
Not exactly putting a premium on the lefty specialist, is he?
Rule 5 pick Cesar Cabral is in camp and has a live arm from the left side. Clay Rapada is here on a minor league deal and has held big league lefties to a .153 batting average in his career. Mike O’Connor was a starter as recently as 2009 and has averaged more than an inning per outing his past two years in Triple-A. Juan Cedeno is kind of a great unknown with most of his recent experience coming outside of the United States.
If not a lefty, maybe another multi-inning guy — George Kontos, D.J. Mitchell, Brad Meyers — or someone who becomes this year’s Luis Ayala with a surprising spring training and an out-of-nowhere spot on the Opening Day roster.
As long as everyone stays healthy, this last job in the bullpen would seem to be the only roster spot up for grabs. Ultimately, the Yankees might just choose the guy who’s pitching the best and put him on the roster, whatever the role.
Assocaited Press photo of Cabral
Hughes looking better so far • 02.22.12
Hard to compare today’s Phil Hughes to the one we saw a year ago. He’s in noticeably better shape, but how much of a difference does that make? How much of last year’s struggles were strictly because of that shoulder injury that went undiagnosed for so long? How much can you learn from some early bullpen sessions with not hitters in the box?
“I think his curveball has been a little bit more crisp,” Joe Girardi said today. “I think there’s more arm speed there. I think the ball’s coming out better. We’re gonna truly find out when the games start, but it just looks like he’s throwing the ball better this spring than last year at this time… He was hurt last year and that didn’t help. I can’t tell you what I attribute it to, but we know that (better condition) can’t hurt.”
With no bench spots available, the lineup pretty much decided and only one job up for grabs in the bullpen, the fifth starter competition is easily the most compelling decision of the spring. There will be plenty of curiosity about Michael Pineda, and it will be interesting to see Dave Robertson and Rafael Soriano make their cases for the eighth inning, and Raul Ibanez is a new face for everyone to meet. But this year’s ongoing storyline will be at the back of the rotation.
I’ve written before that, in the big picture, the Yankees best-case scenario is to have Hughes grab that spot and never let go. He’s still pretty young with considerable talent, and the Yankees would be better off having him win a rotation spot for the next decade rather than have Freddy Garcia return for another one-year cameo.
But Hughes has to earn it. In some ways, Garcia is the safer pick. He’s a veteran coming off a strong season, and he’s proven that he knows how to get outs with his less-than-overpowering stuff. It’s up to Hughes to prove that he can do it better, for this year and next.
Associated Press photo
Wednesday notes: Mo on the road? • 02.22.12
Every spring training, Mariano Rivera gets to his locker and finds a pair of gray pants hanging on the rod. They’ve always been a joke… until now.
Rivera is actually planning to go on the road this spring. From March 31 through April 3, the Yankees play four consecutive road games, including two exhibitions at the new Marlins stadium in Miami. Rivera said today that he’s actually planning to make that trip. At that point, he’ll need to pitch, and apparently he’s going to do it on the road against big leaguers rather than in Tampa at the minor league complex.
At least, that’s what he says now. Let’s see what he’s saying on March 30.
Speaking of things Rivera is saying: The Yankees closer acknowledged today that Derek Jeter is one of the few non-family members who know his plans for next season. Speaking to reporters at the minor league complex this morning, Jeter refused to spill the beans.
“You appreciate him while he’s here,” Jeter said after a morning workout. “I think everyone should just focus on that as opposed to if and when he’s going to retire.”
• Except for Rivera, all of the obvious big league pitchers threw bullpens today. Rivera said he’s thinking Sunday might be the day of his first bullpen. That seems a little earlier than usual, and Rivera said that’s because it’s a little warmer than usual. “I know that when it’s time, he’ll be ready,” Girardi said.
• Joe Girardi on the David Aardsma signing: “Power arm. Closer. We’re looking at him down the road, maybe being ready in August, possibly. It’s another option you have for your bullpen. You look at our bullpen, last year we went through a lot of arms. We had some injuries to Soriano, Joba, Feliciano, so we kept changing people out. I think the more you have, the more options it gives us, and that’s a good thing.”
• A few young starters threw live batting practice today, and Girardi said it was in anticpation of early spring training games. “We want to make sure everyone’s ready to go,” Girardi said. Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and D.J. Mitchell threw live BP, and Girardi’s wording suggested at least one of them could get an early start this spring. Lefty Rule 5 pick Cesar Cabral also threw batting practice.
• Over at the minor league complex, Brandon Laird, Jayson Nix, Doug Bernier, Ramiro Pena, Bill Hall, Corban Joseph and Jorge Vazquez went through infield drills together. Hall was at second base, Vazquez was at first, Nix was at second and third, Laird was at third and first, and both Bernier and Pena got their reps at shortstop.
• Girardi said, as far as he knows, everyone came through today with no physical problems. No one to add to the injury list today.
• It was reported earlier this winter, but the YES Network announced today that Lou Piniella has joined the network as a special contributor who will provide game and studio analysis.
• Girardi’s fairly generic comment on today’s workout: “I thought it went great. I thought the guys threw well. You see them throwing more breaking balls, and they increased the amount that they threw. You’re always curious to see how they bounce back, but they seemed to bounce back pretty well.”
Associated Press photos
“He looked great,” Girardi said. “He looked really good to me. I thought the ball came out well. I thought mechanically he was very sound. He didn’t look tentative at all. I thought he looked very good.”
Based on several previous conversations with guys who’ve had Tommy John, it’s easy to be tentative during the rehab process, but I’m not sure “tentative” is Joba’s style. He’s obviously still making good progress, despite the Yankees commitment to remaining patient.
Although newly acquired David Aardsma should be roughly a month behind Chamberlain, Brian Cashman said he’s going to wait until the Yankees have worked with Aardsma for a while before determining just how close he is to helping out at the big league level.
“Once we get him in here, get to know him, start handling the process, we’ll have a better feel over time,” Cashman said. “(Maybe) he’s ahead of schedule. He might be behind schedule. This is more of a long-term effort on our part rather than something that I expect will help us in 2012. Joba I know is going to help us in 2012. (Aardsma) might help us in 2012, but we expect him to help us in 2013 if we want because we control the contract status on him.”
Yankees sign David Aardsma • 02.22.12
The Yankees have signed reliever David Aardsma to a Major League deal worth $500,000 plus incentives. There is an option for 2013.
Aardsma had Tommy John surgery in July, and Brian Cashman said he’s looking at this primarily as a move for next season. There’s a good chance, though, that Aardsma could pitch in this year’s second half. He’s about a month behind Joba Chamberlain, but the Yankees don’t have a great feel
for how far he’s come in his rehab. The value of next year’s contract depends on this year’s production.
Aardsma will be added to the 40-man roster with Pedro Feliciano going to the 60-day. It’s all but certain that Aardsma will shift to the 60-day when the Eric Chavez deal is official.
Cashman was careful to point out that he’s been talking to Aardsma all winter and said this move is in no way connected Mariano Rivera hinting at retirement.
Didn’t expect to see this on the morning schedule: Live batting practice.
Four different pitchers — Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, D.J. Mitchell and Cesar Cabral — actually faced hitters today. That’s much earlier than usual, but a lot of these guys have been throwing for quite a while, so they’re ahead of the typical spring schedule.
Otherwise, today is more or less what you’d expect from the third workout: Another series of bullpens and the same group of hitters taking batting practice. There are a few clouds in the sky, but otherwise, it’s another nice day for (practice) baseball.
• We heard yesterday that Joba Chamberlain is scheduled to throw off a mound today, but his name is listed only in a group labeled “conditioning.” He’s there with Rivera, Pedro Feliciano, Brad Meyers and Matt Daley. Feliciano is obvoiusly coming back from surgery, Meyers hurt his shoulder lifting weights, and Rivera is Rivera. But I’m not sure what’s going on with Daley. He’s hasn’t thrown a bullpen yet.
• George Kontos said his oblique wasn’t too sore this morning. He’s still hoping this is just a minor setback. He wouldn’t have thrown a bullpen today with or without the injury.
• Ray Kruml, Ronnier Mustelier, Shane Brown and Kyle Roller came over from the minor league complex to face pitchers during this morning’s live batting practice.
• Still no locker assigned to Raul Ibanez or Eric Chavez. The locker Chavez used last season is still open, as is a locker right next to Derek Jeter.
• Today’s bullpen groups:
Phil Hughes (to Gustavo Molina)
Ivan Nova (to Jose Gil)
Michael Pineda (to Francisco Cervelli)
CC Sabathia (to Russell Martin)
Rafael Soriano (to Austin Romine)
Freddy Garcia (to Gary Sanchez)
Hiroki Kuroda (to Russell Martin)
Boone Logan (to Austin Romine)
Dave Robertson (to J.R. Murphy)
Cory Wade (to Kyle Higashioka)
• Batting practice groups:
Group 1: David Adams, Justin Maxwell, Andruw Jones
Group 2: Francisco Cervelli, Russell Martin, Austin Romine, Gustavo Molina
Group 3: Jose Gil, Gary Sanchez, Kyle Higashioka, J.R. Murphy
Not much room for surprises • 02.22.12
Still a few days before position players report to camp, but at this point, there’s not much intrigue about their arrival. After signing Eric Chavez last night, the Yankees seem to have their position players set for this season. At least, they seem to have their ideal position players in place.
Raul Ibanez has moved into the regular DH spot (against right-handers), and Chavez is joining a bench of Andruw Jones, Eduardo Nunez and Francisco Cervelli. Assuming everyone stays healthy, it could be tough for anyone else to crack this roster. Guess we’ll have to see whether Russell Branyan, Bill Hall or Chris Dickerson can make those choices a little more difficult. Same for Jorge Vazquez, Ramiro Pena and Justin Maxwell.
As pitchers and catchers get ready for their third workout, the only wide-open spot seems to be the last spot in the bullpen.
Associated Press photo