For a while there, Phil Hughes’ aching back was one of the biggest stories in Yankees camp. And you’d think, after three weeks of not throwing off a mound, his return to the bullpen would have been a pretty big deal.
But not on this day. On this day, even Derek Jeter was second fiddle.
Nothing was going to bump Mariano Rivera out of the spotlight today, and certainly not a 23-year-old who’s still probably a year away from the big leagues. But Jose Ramirez sure did look good today. The game was a 2-1 loss to the Braves, but Ramirez did his part with four scoreless innings. He walked none, allowed one single and struck out four.
“He’s been great,” Joe Girardi said. “The kid has thrown the ball really well. He’s throwing strikes. He’s got an outstanding changeup. His slider is a work in progress. He spots his fastball with velocity. He’s had an outstanding spring.”
Of all the young arms in camp, it’s Ramirez who’s made the most noise. He’s gotten two starts and has pitched a total of nine innings allowing four hits with one walk and five strikeouts. He can run his fastball velocity into the mid-90s and he can locate his changeup, two things that don’t often go hand-in-hand with a young pitcher. Ramirez is coming off a terrific second half in High-A, and he’s probably heading for Double-A to start the season, but he’s doing an awfully good job of making sure he’s on the radar.
• Jeter will sit out tomorrow and could DH again on Monday. After that, all Jeter has to do is give the green light and he’ll get his first start at shortstop. “If that’s what he feels he’s ready to do, then we’ll do it,” Girardi said. “He had 100 percent clearance from the doctor. Let’s get through Monday and see how he feels. If he decides he’s ready to go on the field, I’ll put him on the field.”
• A popup and two strikeouts for Rivera. As Sweeny Murti noted while we were interviewing him postgame, Rivera was smiling a lot for a spring training game. “I won’t take it for granted,” he explained. “Almost a whole year without being on the mound, you know? Now I have the chance to be on the mound. I have to enjoy. … It feels good. The knee feels good. I wanted to cover first base, or some action, but it didn’t happen. Next time it will happen.”
• Speaking of which, next time is probably going to be Wednesday. The writers kept pushing Rivera to make his next outing on Tuesday on the road against the Rays. “What? Port Charlotte?” Rivera said. “Come on guys. Come on!”
• Mentioned it pregame, and Girardi talked about it a little bit postgame: Phil Hughes, David Aardsma and Dave Robertson all threw off a mound today and reported no problems. “All good news,” Girardi said. “Maybe the worm has turned.”
• Two more cuts from big league camp: Right-handed relievers Kelvin Perez and Tom Kahnle were reassigned to the minor league complex.
• I didn’t see it, but John Harper reported that, before today’s game, Girardi himself was going through third-base drills with Ronnier Mustelier. That’s interesting because Mustelier seemed to be in camp strictly as an outfielder before the Mark Teixeira injury, now he’s getting a look at third. I’ve been told that Mustelier has developed into a better defensive outfielder than infielder, but he’s actually looked pretty good at third the times I’ve seen him this spring. And his triple today was the Yankees only extra-base hit. Could be an interesting option if the Yankees think he can do the job defensively. They certainly like the bat.
• As expected, Slade Heathcott returned from his minor thumb injury to play center field. He went 1-for-2
• Ichiro Suzuki had the Yankees only two-hit game. He also stole a base. … Chris Stewart threw out the only runner who tried to steal against him. … A scoreless, walkless, hitless inning for Joba Chamberlain. I was in the clubhouse when he was on the mound, so I didn’t even know he’d pitched until I saw the box score. I’d totally forgotten he was supposed to get in today’s game. Guess it went alright. … Big-armed lefty Francisco Rondon took the loss today after allowing his first run of the spring.
Associated Press photos