Ichiro Suzuki was in left field for the first time this spring, but he wasn’t caught off guard.
“I talked to him when Curtis went down,” Joe Girardi said. “(I) said, ‘This could change things depending on who makes our club. You might have to play left.'”
So this may be the norm this spring, a rotating outfield alignment that lets the Yankees try different options to figure out who will replace Curtis Granderson — and what that replacement will mean for Ichiro and Brett Gardner.
“Those two guys really have to be able to play two positions for me,” Girardi said.
As it stands, the replacement favorites seem to be Melky Mesa (who’s most comfortable in center field), Zoilo Almonte (who’s spent most of his time in right) and right-handed hitters Matt Diaz, Juan Rivera and Ronnier Mustelier (who have primarily been in left). Gardner and Ichiro will adjust to fit the replacement, which is only significant if it’s one of the young guys, either Mesa or Almonte.
Why is Ichiro allowed to move to left but Granderson isn’t?
Girardi said it has to do with previous experience and other alternatives. When the Yankees traded for Ichiro last season, he’d already spent considerable time in right field and center field. He knew what it was like to play a corner, and he had already proven he could adjust to a different position. Also, the acquisition of Ichiro was about opportunity; the Yankees had a chance to get a good player, so they found a way to make him fit. The Yankees don’t have to force such a change this year.
“He’s played other positions in his career more than Grandy has,” Girardi said. “If I didn’t put him (in left), I was going to have to move Swish. I just thought I would put the faster guy in the bigger part (of the outfield).”
• Apparently Girardi told YES Network that Mariano Rivera will make his spring debut on Saturday. Girardi said pregame that there’s a good chance Rivera will pitch tomorrow. “I’ll talk to him and see what he thinks,” Girardi said. “It’s Mo. His ideas have worked pretty well in camp for him.”
• Here’s a non-injury in Yankees camp! Kevin Youkilis is not hurt. He’s supposed to play tomorrow and Friday. He was basically off today to keep from having to play a day game after a night game.
• It’s not a sure thing — but also not ruled out — that Derek Jeter could play on Sunday. That’s the day Brian Cashman suggested a few weeks ago. “He’s doing well,” Girardi said. “He’s progressing the way we want, so we’ll see where he is this week. Should know in the next few days if that’s a real possibility.”
• Add David Adams to the list of big league cuts. He’s been optioned to Triple-A.
• Speaking to reporters in Arizona, Team USA manager Joe Torre said Mark Teixeira was doing nothing out of the ordinary when his wrist/forearm began to bother him. Here in Tampa, Cashman said Teixeira was simply hitting off a tee when he felt it. “I certainly feel bad for Tex,” Torre told The Associated Press. “But it’s one of those things, it just seems like it’s unavoidable. … It was just a freak thing.”
• Teixeira tweeted a response to the injury: Very disappointed to miss @WBCBaseball. Best of luck to my teammates, go #USA!
• Another pretty good outing for David Phelps who allowed one run on two hits through four innings. He struck out two and walked one. Phelps said he’s been happy with his fastball command, but his curveball isn’t there yet. “It’s got to get better,” Phelps said. “I’m getting ahead of guys, just not able to put them away.” Phelps said the curveball was the last pitch to come around last spring, too.
• Fielding a ball with his bare hand? “Stewie came out and told me I’m an idiot,” Phelps said. He’s fine, by the way.
• Bad day for Mark Montgomery. The highly touted reliever walked two batters, hit a guy, gave up a single and balked in a run. He has a 7.71 ERA this spring. “It’s probably a little bit of (nerves),” Girardi said. “Young and he’s been talked about a lot. I think all kids go through it. I know I talk about him a lot, but we saw it happen to Phelpsy. It’s not unusual.”
• Today’s bullpen standout had to be lefty Francisco Rondon who pitched 1.2 scoreless innings with one hit, one walk and two strikeouts. He’s looked good this spring. Rondon got out of Montgomery’s mess in the seventh and saved Montgomery from having a much worse pitching line.
• Two more hits for Brett Gardner. He’s hitting .579. At this point, he almost has to have two hits or else his average goes down.
• Corban Joseph is still having a tough time with errors at third base. He made two more tonight and has four errors this spring. J.R. Murphy also committed an error tonight.
• Joba Chamberlain pitched a scoreless inning. So did Shawn Kelley, who had a couple of strikeouts. Branden Pinder allowed two hits but no runs in his inning. … Ichiro Suzuki had a double, but that was the Yankees only extra-base hit. … Ronnier Mustelier and Joseph had the Yankees only non-Ichiro, non-Gardner hits. … Jayson Nix drew a walk and stole a base. … Travis Hafner and Eduardo Nunez each walked twice. It’s clearly a bad offensive night when I’m making a note of the guys who walked more than once.
• Cashman said he’ll be on crutches for at least eight weeks after yesterday’s injury. He has a plate and eight screws in his ankle now. “Once my heel hit, and we were moving forward, the rest was what they teach you in grade school – science and physics,” he said. “You know what, I messed up. I broke down in the end on one of my protocols, which is keeping my legs up all the time, higher than land, and I didn’t do that. It was my fault.”
• Girardi always pays close attention to the catchers in camp, and you can bet that’s true of Gary Sanchez, who was just reassigned to minor league camp. “All around (progress),” Girardi said. “Catches the ball better. He’s got an outstanding arm. He blocks the ball better. His swing is more consistent. He’s just a guy you want to go play every day and see where he can get to.”
Associated Press photos