At one point this winter, I asked assistant GM Billy Eppler whether the power Corban Joseph showed last season would be sustainable. Eppler’s response: Shake Joseph’s hand, then decide for yourself.
So I did that this morning.
I’d met Joseph before, and he comes across as a soft-spoken guy from Tennessee. He’s not particularly big, and he’s a second baseman — where you don’t think of power — but he’s a strong guy. Last season he slugged .465 with 15 homers and 29 doubles between Triple-A and Double-A.
“I think (the power) is in there,” Joseph said. “I spent a lot of this offseason really working hard and dedicating Monday through Friday to intense workouts and just trying to get as strong as I possibly could to come down here and be ready to go.”
Here’s what I really took away from this morning’s conversation though: It’s not the home runs that Joseph’s proud of. After 104 strikeouts and 59 walks in 2011, Joseph struck out just 70 times last year. He walked 68 times; very nearly a 1-for-1 ratio. It’s amazing the things that happen when you swing at good pitches.
“In high school I hit a few home runs,” Joseph said. “But I really didn’t think about it. Just trying to do what’s best for the team ever since I got here. I really challenged myself last year on being more selective, and getting that promotion to Triple-A, I really focused a lot because I was with a lot of veterans and guys who have been there (to the big leagues) and trying to get back there. For the team, I really had to challenge myself and focus more on sitting on the pitch. I had to learn a few things when I got there on sitting on certain pitches.”
• Hiroki Kuroda is throwing live batting practice today. It’s a little hard to match up these things, but it looks like he’ll probably be facing the hitting group of big league outfielders (Granderson, Gardner, Ichiro and Rivera).
• Another day at third base for Dan Johnson. Joseph is also getting some time there during infield drills. If the Yankees are going to carry a left-handed bat, those two seem to be the most obvious options.
• Outfielders are all lumped together again today. They’re working on deep routes and throwing to bases. There’s no definition of individual outfield positions for these drills, so we won’t be able to speculate about what it means about the Yankees plans for center field.
• The starters who are farthest ahead are each throwing sides today. That means David Phelps, Adam Warren, Brett Marshall and Nik Turley. We already know Phelps and Warren are starting the first two games of the spring. I tend to think Marshall and Turley will also be featured in those games.
• Simulated games (facing Ramon Flores, Melky Mesa and Jose Pirela):
Vidal Nuno (throwing to J.R. Murphy)
Cody Eppley (Chris Stewart)
Chase Whitley (Francisco Cervelli)
Preston Claiborne (Francisco Arcia)
• Batting practice (facing individual hitting groups)
Hiroki Kuroda (Bobby Wilson)
Jim Miller (Austin Romine)
Zach Nuding (Gary Sanchez)
Ryan Pope (Kyle Higashioka)
• Infield drills:
Greg Bird (1B), Robinson Cano (2B), Walter Ibarra (2B), Dan Johnson (3B), Luke Murton (1B), Jayson Nix (2B/3B), Eduardo Nunez (SS), Rob Segedin (3B)
Cito Culver (SS), Corban Joseph (2B/3B), Addison Maruszak (3B, 2B), Jose Pirela (2B), Kyle Roller (1B), Mark Teixeira (1B), Gil Velazquez (SS), Kevin Youkilis (3B)
• Batting practice groups (same as usual):
Robinson Cano, Travis Hafner, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez
Dan Johnson, Jayson Nix, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis
Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Juan Rivera, Ichiro Suzuki
Matt Diaz, Melky Mesa, Ronnier Mustelier, Thomas Neal
Corban Joseph, Addison Maruszak, Luke Murton, Gil Velazquez
Zoilo Almonte, Slade Heathcott, Kyle Roller, Rob Segedin
Greg Bird, Cito Culver, Walter Ibarra, Jose Pirela
Tyler Austin, Ramon Flores, Adonis Garcia
Associated Press photo