Position players faced live pitching for the first time today, but these early batting practice sessions are about seeing as much as swinging. Hitters often take every pitch, working on their timing and pitch recognition as much as anything.
The first group to take BP this afternoon consisted of every big league outfielder. Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez and Nick Swisher took their hacks against likely Triple-A starter Adam Warren. Gardner had everyone laughing when he said Warren’s fastball looked like it was in the 80s. In reality, for hitters not used to seeing live pitching, it felt much closer to 100.
“I wasn’t throwing too many inside fastballs,” Warren joked.
Last thing a young pitcher wants to do is fling one off the starting center fielder’s head.
“The first time a hitter gets in there, you want them to just to feel comfortable,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s a different look than what they’ve had the last three or four months playing catch or throwing off a mound. They’re not throwing to hitters, so it’s a different look – then there’s the screen in front of them, which a lot of them don’t like. I don’t make too much of it. My biggest concern is that they’re able to throw strikes and that they don’t hit people.”
• Mariano Rivera threw 22 pitches today. Girardi said he also thought this was earlier than usual for Rivera to be on a mound, but he was told that last spring was more of an exception and this is closer to Rivera’s usual routine. Ultimately, he’s not too concerned about the timing. “I’m pretty sure that he knows what he needs to do,” Girardi said. “And when he says he’s ready to go out there, he’s ready to go. I’m not alarmed.”
• I realize all the best-shape-of-my-life stories get old, and they quite often mean nothing, but the Yankees really do have a lot of guys in noticeably better shape this spring and it’s hard to ignore that. Mark Teixeira, Phil Hughes and Nick Swisher stand out, but Eduardo Nunez is also noticeably stronger. He’s moving closer to Robinson Cano than Ramiro Pena. Nunez said he put on about 14 pounds of muscle without losing any of his speed. He didn’t play winter ball, and just worked out with Cano instead.
• Notice I said closer to Cano, not close to Cano. To be clear, the Yankees second baseman is still quite a bit bigger than the Yankees utility man.
• I spent most of my time on the main field today and didn’t see pitchers fielding practice on the back field. Apparently there were some sloppy moments. “There were a couple throws, making sure guys set their feet,” Girardi said. “…Some guys just don’t throw to the bases as well as they should. That’s why we practice it. It’s a different velocity, a different mindset than they’re used to throwing all the time.”
• Rob Thomson has been taking all of the outfielders through a glove-free drill in the mornings. He tosses the ball to their left or right, and the outfielders have to chase them down and make the catch barehanded. He did that a lot when Justin Maxwell was the only outfielder in camp, and it’s continued now that all of the position players are here.
• David Aardsma is expected to report to camp tomorrow. He should be the final arrival for a full house.
Associated Press photo