The Yankees lost a bit of rotation depth today, but they might have more depth on the way.
Chien-Ming Wang opted out of his minor league contract and will reportedly sign a major league deal to join the Blue Jays rotation. The Yankees gave Wang a contract in spring training, and he pitched well in Triple-A, but the Yankees were clearly never sold on him as a reliable big league option. The emergence of David Phelps in the rotation, Adam Warren in the bullpen and Vidal Nuno as a spot starter clearly didn’t help Wang’s situation.
“His numbers were good,” Joe Girardi said. “His velocity was down a little bit. We had a lot of 87s and 88s, I think, and at this time we just didn’t really have space for him. I think he had an option in his contract, and there must be an opportunity out there.”
The Yankees could have another rotation option soon.
Michael Pineda will begin a rehab assignment with High-A Tampa tomorrow. The Yankees have been encouraged by the arm strength he’s shown in extended spring training, and the beginning of a rehab assignment starts the 30-day clock before the Yankees have to decide whether to option Pineda to the minors or activate him on the big league roster.
“I pay attention to every one of his starts, and they’ve really been pretty consistent what he’s done,” Girardi said. “You just want him to continue on that path, as well as continuing to build up his pitch count.”
How quickly could Pineda be a legitimate big league option?
“I think you’re going to want to see him throw 90 to 100 pitches more than once, maybe even more than twice just because you’re going to want to see how he bounces back because it’s been a long time since he pitched,” Girardi said. “How long his rehab process will go, sometimes it’s based on need, but we’ll let the people down below watch him and see where he’s at.”
• Here’s something you might not expect to hear from a Yankees first-round pick, especially one who plays a position where the Yankees have someone under contract for another four years. “I definitely see an opportunity,” Notre Dame third baseman Eric Jagielo said in a conference call. “That was the biggest thing, hoping I would be drafted by some team that I can see myself in the future at the big-league level at third base. With everything I’ve read, there’s not much (standing in the way). I’m not going to really take that for anything, but just kind of go out there and earn the respect and the right that everybody in the organization wants to play at the big-league level. Go about my business the right way and just compete every day to win that spot.”
• Speaking of today’s conference call with the Yankees three first-round picks, the only high school pick of those three made it clear that he’s looking for a significant signing bonus before he turns down his scholarship to the University of San Diego. “It would just have to come down to life-changing money,” Ian Clarkin said. “We’re going to talk it over as a family, see what works best for me and what works best for the family. Hopefully get a scholarship in the contract, also. But it’s going to come down to how the money changes our family’s life.”
• The other first-round pick, outfielder Aaron Judge, said he’s fully expecting to move from center field to an outfield corner. “Just kind of being a little too big out there,” Judge said. “The speed factor, maybe. I’ll probably move over to a corner position once I move my way to the minors because of the speed issue. It’s probably just covering ground out there that’s the hardest thing.”
• Girardi said he’s already spoken on the phone to all three first-round picks. David Phelps has also reached out to all three, beginning with his fellow Notre Dame guy Jagielo. Phelps said it meant a lot to him, when he was drafted, to have guys from the organization reach out to him, so he’s trying to do the same thing. Rookie taking on a leadership responsibility. Kind of impressive.
• Mariano Rivera met with fans here in Seattle this afternoon. He sat in a circle and answered questions about his life and career. Another pretty cool moment. “Mo is as humble a guy as you’re ever going to be around,” Girardi said. “And I think he’s very thankful for his time around the big leagues and what the fans have meant to the game. He’s appreciative and he just wants to give back.”
• Tonight is another start for Hiroki Kuroda, who continues to defy those expectations that he might struggle in moving from the NL East to the AL West. “I didn’t really have those doubts because I saw him pitch, and I saw him pitch against us,” Girardi said. “I saw how he located and he had three pitches that he could locate at any time, so I didn’t really think that he was going to struggle as much as people maybe anticipated just because, from the times that we faced him and from watching video, he was consistent.”
• In case you’re curious, Brian Cashman has more or less shot down the idea of putting Pineda in the bullpen this year, but Girardi left that door slightly open. “A lot of times things are based on need as you get near the end, so we’ll see,” Girardi said. “We consider him a starter though.”
Associated Press photos