The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Archive for February, 2012

Swisher: “I’ve got a great job”02.26.12

Nick Swisher has never even been eligible for arbitration. He’d played just two full seasons when the Athletics signed him to a five-year deal with an option for a sixth season. The Yankees just picked up that sixth year option this offseason, meaning Swisher is heading for free agency for the first time.

“I’m sure as the season starts up, I’m sure the talk will get a little more and a little more, but I think I’m ready for that,” Swisher said this morning. “I’m not thinking about that. I don’t care. I’ve got a great job. I make good money. My wife makes good money. Money’s not a big thing for us. I do what I love, and that’s coming here to the ballpark and playing ball every day. Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen. I wish I could write in a book and script it out. I’d be here for the rest of my career.”

Swisher said he has no intention of asking the Yankees for an extension. He knows the team wouldn’t go for that anyway, so he’s heading into this season fully expecting to hit he market in the fall. He’d like to come back to New York — few players seem to love playing in New York more than Swisher — but that’s a problem for another day. For now, he has a contract and he has a team.

“I’ll cross that bridge when the time is coming,” Swisher said. “The Yankees aren’t traditionally an organization that does do multi-years in the middle of a contract. They are a team that, you’re going to have to test the free agent market. You’re going to have to because that’s how the Yankees work. We’re just going to cross that bridge when we come to it. I love this place. Everybody knows that. This is the place I want to be. At the end of the season, after we’re standing out there November 1 after winning the World Series, we’ll all party, and then we’ll all get down to brass tacks.”

The more important question: Has Swisher considered the possibility of replacing A.J. Burnett’s pie delivery role? Joe Girardi has already mentioned Swisher as a leading candidate for the job.

“I heard about that!” Swisher said. “You know, A.J. was a good buddy of mine and he was a good buddy of all the guys in here. Sad to see him go, wish him the best of luck. But hey man , we’re going to have to keep something going, because people in New York want pie!”

One problem. What if Swisher gets the walkoff hit?

“Can you pie yourself?” Swisher asked.

Associated Press photo

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Sunday notes: Not exactly protecting the plate02.26.12

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.”

• Girardi said he’s planning to announce the early spring rotation tomorrow.

• 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

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Dickerson outrighted to Triple-A02.26.12

Here’s a somewhat surprising note from the Yankees:

Please note OF Chris Dickerson cleared waivers and was outrighted off the 40-man roster to the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster today. He will remain in Major League spring training camp.

Based strictly on his splits and his ability to play all three outfield positions, I would have thought some team would have jumped on Dickerson as fourth outfielder. If he’s cleared waivers, that’s a nice bit of additional outfield depth that can be assigned to the minors. That should also open a 40-man spot for Eric Chavez.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 210 Comments →

MRI shows inflammation for Romine02.26.12

Austin Romine is going to miss a few more days after an MRI revealed inflammation in his back.

“When it first happened, he told me that it wasn’t too bad,” Joe Girardi said. “I think it hurt a little bit more than he let on.”

Girardi said there are no long-term concerns with Romine, but because it’s spring training, the Yankees will take their time with the injury. Francisco Cervelli was a heavy favorite to make the roster anyway, but Romine was hoping to make a run at the big league backup job.

“He’ll be down a little bit, but he’ll get back,” Girardi said. “We’re going to make sure it’s knocked out before we send him back out there. The one thing we don’t want to do is give him some time out, then you send him back out and he’s not completely healthy. That doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 74 Comments →

Sunday morning notes: Rivera gets on the mound02.26.12

Spring training gets monotonous quickly, but there are little steps along the way that mark the progress. Today, the Yankees took one of those steps.

Mariano Rivera threw his first bullpen this morning. Standard stuff, roughly 25 pitches, with no hitter in the box.

“He’s a machine,” said catcher Gustavo Molina, who caught the session.

As usual, Rivera was the last healthy pitcher to get on a mound this spring. This actually seems a little early for his first bullpen, but Rivera said a few days ago that the warm weather down here has him feeling a little ahead of schedule and ready to throw. So, how does the game’s greatest closer, at 42 years old, look when he gets on a mound for the first time in months?

“Everything was down in the zone, in and out,” Molina said.

He really is a machine.

Nick Swisher is one of a handful of Yankees who’s in noticeably better shape this spring. Swisher worked out with several football players this winter, and he managed to cut down on his midsection while adding muscle up top. “This is the strongest I’ve ever been,” he said. “… I haven’t lost any weight. Just a completely different body.”

Swisher said he’s faster and his throwing has improved since last season. It’s a contract year for him, and he said he has no intention of asking the Yankees for a mid-season extension. He knows that’s not how the organization works, so he’ll plan to hit free agency with hopes of ultimately signing back with the Yankees.

Rivera wasn’t the only one getting on a mound early this morning. Manny Delcarmen, Adam Miller and Clay Rapada also had early bullpens today.

Tomorrow’s batting practice assignments should be interesting. Both CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda are scheduled to throw BP tomorrow.

Other than this morning’s four side sessions, there were no standard bullpens listed for today. Instead, eight pitchers were listed as throwing batting practice.

Field 1
Adam Warren (to Russell Martin)
Mike O’Connor (to Jose Gil)
Brett Marshall (to Jose Gil)
Chase Whitley (to Gary Sanchez)

Field 2
Ryan Pope (to Gustavo Molina)
Juan Cedeno (to J.R. Murphy)
Graham Stoneburner (to J.R. Murphy)
Dan Burawa (to Kyle Higashioka)

Slight change to the hitting groups. The catchers are now lumped together and the last group of infielders has now been broken up and spread out. Here are today’s batting practice groups:

Group 1
Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Brandon Laird, Eduardo Nunez

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

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

Group 4
Francisco Cervelli, Jose Gil, Austin Romine, 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
Kyle Higashioka, Russell Martin, J.R. Murphy, Gustavo Molina

The fielding groups remain the same:

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

• Tomorrow is photo day. It starts at 7:30 a.m., and players were instructed to wear their home whites, long sleeves and game hats. The sign with instructions also includes this line: “Please be Clean Shaven.”

Associated Press photo of Rivera from a few days ago

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Settling in for the familiar routine02.26.12

The novelty has worn off. There are no more physicals to take. No more press conferences to attend. No more “how was your winter?” handshakes to deliver. All of the players have arrived and the first full-squad workout has gone off without a hitch.

The Yankees are in it now.

Spring training is a familiar routine of bullpens and batting practice. Through the end of the month, we’re going to see pitchers gradually increase workload and — if things work as they’re supposed to — improve velocity, command and effectiveness. We’re going to see position players take more groundballs and flyballs than they can count, then they’re going to get a steady dose of swings meant to get their timing and mechanics in shape.

Settle in folks. The second full squad workout happens this morning, and the spring training routine is in full swing.

Associated Press photo

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Rodriguez on his health, his position and his spot in the order02.25.12

During this afternoon’s press conference, Alex Rodriguez mentioned three different NBA players by name. He also brought up his high school football career, said he worked out at a German soccer field, and compared his thumb injury to one suffered by a skier.

At some point, he also talked about baseball.

On staying in the cleanup spot in the lineup
“It’s very important for me to be very productive in the middle of the order, but let’s make one thing clear: Winning trumps everything. Whatever the manager wants to do is exactly what I’ll do. With that said, I take enormous pride in hitting fourth. I think the combination of hitting lefty-righty-lefty always works in the middle. It brings huge dilemmas for the opposition. With my track record, I haven’t been very good at hitting eighth, so I’ll try to stay away from that. I’m going to make it as difficult as possible for Joe to take me out of that position.”

On the need to DH more days this season
“First of all, let me just say this. I don’t train and prepare to be a DH. I’m definitely not a DH. I think one of the things that I actually did that was above average last year was play very good defense. It’s also very important for the dynamic of our team to have a guy that plays not only solid defense but hits in the middle of the order. Is that going to say that you’re going to play 145 games down at third base? I’ll obviously defer to Joe, and I’ll do exactly what he wants me to do, but it’s definitely important for me to throw a very big number out there of playing third base. I came up watching, loving and admiring Cal Ripkin, and I saw him play third base well into when he was 40, 41. I don’t see any slowing down defensively. I think it’s important for our team to collect more wins and be more productive and have a longer lineup by me playing third base.”

On the importance of staying healthy
“I’m at a point in my career where I know exactly what I need to do. I’m at a point in my career where less is more. Range of motion, flexibility, stability is most important. I feel similar to last year, but I think in those variables I feel a lot better… I’d like to go out and play north of 145, 150 games and let the chips fall where they may, but at this point in my career, it’s go out and avoid the injury bug, stay focused, and stay healthy. The most important stat to me is the win column. The stats that don’t go on the back of your baseball card. But to answer your question, anything’s possible. You can throw up big numbers year-in and year-out with the games played. To me, wins and games played are the most important statistics.”

On accepting a less-is-more philosophy
“I’ve always felt that more is better. It’s just the way I’ve always done it. It’s the way I saw my Mom work when I grew up. I just felt that I needed to get up early and do the work, and stay up late and do the work. It’s been a hard lesson to learn, but over the past two or three years I understand that doing my corrective exercises, focusing a lot more on recovery (is best). When you’re in your 20s, you think about training and (then) you think about recovery, and at this point in your career it’s actually the exact opposite. To your point, yeah, I think I learned that lesson… The one thing Philippon told me many years ago when he did (the hip surgery) is that less is more, but I didn’t listen to him then. I went back to see him this winter and he’s very happy with the range of motion and how it looks. He reiterated the importance of less is more. I’m on board now.”

On the importance of corrective exercises to improve stability, flexibility, range of motion…
“I keep going back to corrective exercise, because I think that’s going to make a big difference in my career. One guy that you guys should probably talk to is Grant Hill. Grant Hill adopted the corrective exercises about four years ago. He had a lot of injuries – a big ankle problem – and I think he’s missed one game in four years. He gives 100 percent of that credit to corrective exercises, so we’ll see what happens and give it a shot.”

On whether he’s thought about retirement
“I came up loving guys like Hank Aaron and Cal Ripken; guys that played into their 40s. I feel really good right now, so I think avoiding the injury bug, I can play at a really high level for a long time. I’ve never felt, while I’ve been on the field, overwhelmed by anything or my performance declining in any way, as long as I stay healthy.”

On the Pineda trade
“I was very excited. I texted or called about half our roster. That’s the one great thing about playing for the New York Yankees: Every year you have an opportunity to not only make great moves, but an opportunity to win a championship. For us, going to the World Series is not enough – it’s obviously winning it. Pineda is very exciting. We faced him once or twice in the summer and he had unbelievable stuff. We’re definitely looking forward to having him on our pitching staff.”

On the Ryan Braun decision
“I don’t know any of the details or the facts so I’d rather not comment on that. I learned several years ago to stay in my very small circle of competence, which is very small. I’ll let the experts like you guys weigh in on that.”

On Jeremy Lin
“Linsanity, wow, what a run. You look at the Giants, you look at Linsanity, there’s been so many great things happening in New York, we kind of feel like we want to jump in the party. The great thing about Linsanity is it kind of reminds you how fun the game should be. For some of us that have been playing for a long time, if just for one second you’ve taken the game for granted, it makes you realize how much fun the game is. If he’s still looking for a place to crash, maybe he can crash at my apartment. Imagine the tabloids then.”

Associated Press photos

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Saturday notes: “Why we’re here”02.25.12

Joe Girardi addressed the team this morning. His message included a Yankees video full of highlights, including footage of the 2009 World Series championship.

“I talked to them about why we’re here, our goals and the importance of keeping your goals in mind when you’re going through your work,” Girardi said. “Spring training, as we know, can get long at times. We ask you to do things, make adjustments sometimes that you’ve never been asked to do. We talk about the importance of communicating between us, what you’re feeling, what you need, maybe something you don’t like. The importance of that.

“The real message is keeping in mind what we’re setting out to do and don’t lose sight of that when you’re doing your work every day. That’s why we do the work.”

Asked whether “what we’re setting out to do” meant playing well or winning a championship, Girardi didn’t hesitate.

“Championship,” he said.

• Six pitchers faced hitters this morning, but Ivan Nova was the only projected big leaguer among them. “We just felt he was ready for it,” Giradri said. “Larry (Rothschild) is trying to give them individual attention.” Basically, the Yankees aren’t forcing every pitcher to stay on the same schedule. Some guys are throwing 25 pitches in their bullpens, some are up to 40.

• Girardi said he still doesn’t have a rotation for the first few exhibition games, but it’s no coincidence that guys like David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos faced hitters today. “At some point I think you’ll see those guys in games earlier than maybe our projected starters,” Girardi said “You’re not going to see CC on the 3rd. I’m not sure what CC’s first day is. You’ll see some of those young kids.”

• Mark Teixiera has lost a little bit of weight, but he still looks as powerful as ever. “He’s strong as can be again,” Girardi said. “Tex has always been that, and he’s extremely well conditioned. He watches his diet. He’s a very health-conscious guy and I think it’s just what he thought would be best for him.”

• Raul Ibanez is the only new position player expected to make the big league roster. “Looks good,” Girardi said. “I didn’t see him a whole lot today. I was over with the pitchers today, but he looks healthy, he looks strong, he looks like he’s moving fine.”

• Although his name was listed for batting practice, Austin Romine did not participate. And it might be a few more days before he finally does. “Backs are tricky so I can’t tell you how long Romine is going to be out,” Girardi said. “You won’t see him out there tomorrow, I can tell you that. He could be a little while.”

• George Kontos also sat out today’s workout because of that oblique issue. Although Kontos has said he’s feeling much better, Girardi said it’s still going to be “a little while” before Kontos is back.

• Random observation: While Mariano Rivera was playing catch this afternoon, his throwing partner was David Wells.

• I’m sure a lot of these guys will move around quite a bit this spring, but if you’re curious: Brandon Laird, Russell Branyan, Jorge Vazquez and Mark Teixeira took their ground balls at first base today; Bill Hall, Eric Chavez, Jayson Nix and Alex Rodriguez were at third; Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena, Doug Bernier and Derk Jeter were at short; and David Adams, Corban Joseph and Robinson Cano took their reps at second.

• Phil Hughes is still throwing more bullpen pitches than most guys, but his total has remained at 40. That’s pretty much the maximum that Larry Rothschild wants his pitchers to throw in the bullpen. With only a day between, Rothschild doesn’t want much more. Hughes said he occasionally will go up to 45 pitches in a bullpen session during the season, but it’s usually cutoff around 40.

• With the new bullpen built on the back field, it’s a little harder to see everything this year. I picked my battles and watched Jeter and Rodriguez’s groups take batting practice, but I only saw a little bit of the rotation guys throwing bullpens. “We’re a little more spread out because we moved the mounds,” Girardi said. “But I like the way it works. The pitchers can do all their work on one field now, instead of having to go back and forth. I actually really like it. We never hit over there anyway so it wasn’t like you needed those fields to hit on.”

Associated Press photos

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Alex: “If I can play as well as Kobe, we’re in business”02.25.12

This afternoon, Alex Rodriguez addressed and partially explained his medical procedures that took place in Germany this offseason. Basically, a doctor injected Rodriugez’s own blood into his sore right knee. Rodriguez got one injection a day for five days. How it all works is scientific stuff that I can’t pretend to understand, but Rodriguez heard about it from a source he trusted, and he said he’s happy with the results. He had the same proceedure in his left shoulder, which he said was “an issue” at the end of last season.

“Just a simple dinner with Kobe – Kobe Bryant, from the Lakers,” Rodriguez said, explaining how the idea came up. “He was really adamant about how great the procedure was for him. I know that he was hurting before, almost even thinking about retirement, that’s how much pain he was under. And then he said after he went to Germany and saw Dr. Peters, he felt like a 27-year-old again. He was able to go out there and do his 4-40’s, squat north of 350, and doing all type of things.

“I was still a little apprehensive about it and he kept staying on me about it. I had several other people tell me that they went to Germany and really had great results. That point, I reached out to the heads of the Yankees front office, ran the idea by them. They did their due diligence for several weeks. They gave me the thumbs up, and I was on a plane to Germany. I feel pretty good. If I can play as well as Kobe, we’re in business.”

The results were almost instant, Rodriguez said.

“After the third day it felt pretty darn good,” he said. “Kobe said that after the third or fourth day you’re going to start feeling a lot better. He was exactly right. After the third day, I remember going to the soccer facility over there and having a great workout. And he said, take your trainer, because after the injections you’re going to have a window where you feel good and you’ll be able to train well. So I did, and it worked out well.”

Associated Press photo

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First full workout wraps up02.25.12

The Yankees first full workout is over. So far, so good.

Of the guys I saw, Eric Chavez was the star of the show in batting practice. He went deep on his first swing and kept hitting line drives and homers. Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano drove the ball pretty well, and Derek Jeter was lining the ball to all fields. Too early to mean anything?

“It’s way too early,” Joe Girardi said.

Of course it is. Can’t really take anything from a first day of batting practice, but it did feel like real spring training again. And Girardi said no one got hurt today, so that’s a positive.

Alex Rodriguez is about to address the media. That’s how we’ll wrap up this Saturday.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 48 Comments →

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