Still no clarity on the Masahiro Tanaka decision. The Rakuten team president says he hasn’t decided whether to post Tanaka this winter, which means the wait continues. The wait will be even longer to determine whether the Yankees have their own in-house, high-end starter in Michael Pineda. The hard-throwing right-hander has yet to throw a big league in his two years with the Yankees, but the Yankees say he’ll have every chance to win a rotation spot this spring.
“He’s healthy,” Brian Cashman said. “But he’s still a question because of what he’s coming from. So I can’t represent that you’re going to see X, Y, Z. I can’t say that. I hope that we’re going to see everything we want to see. But in fairness to him — and in fairness to throwing B.S. — I can’t say that.”
Manager Joe Girardi said he’s still hopeful Pineda can be a “force” like he was in Seattle. Scouting reports have been fine, but at some point the Yankees have to truly find out what they have to show for their Jesus Montero trade.
“I think (pitching coordinator) Gil Patterson saw him a month ago, and he looked still in great shape down in the Dominican where our instructional league was going on down there,” Cashman said. “All good. But those are just words. All good (in a meaningful way) means pitching seven innings and knocking the bats out of guys’ hands at the big league level. That’s all good. The rest of it is just filling your articles with lines that are meaningless.”
Fair enough. Girardi didn’t rule out the idea of putting Pineda in the bullpen if the Yankees decide he’s not ready for the rotation out of camp.
“We’d love for him to compete in our starting rotation,” Girardi said. “That’s why we traded for him. Unfortunately he had the injuries that really slowed him down. … I can’t really tell you (how he’ll be used). There’s a lot of times that guys get brought back slowly or brought up slowly through the bullpen, too. I think you have to see what we have and how it fits.”
Although the offseason isn’t exactly Girardi’s time of the year — he said he has input on every move, but ultimately his job is to deal with whoever’s on the roster — here are few notes from the Yankees manager.
• Girardi said he’d like another starter, but specifically mentioned Pineda, David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno as guys he’s expecting to compete for a rotation job in spring training. “Those are the guys that come to mind,” Girardi said.
• As for the bullpen, obviously Dave Robertson will be there in some capacity, but Girardi said he considers other pitchers to be close to bullpen locks as well. “I think (Shawn) Kelley’s going to be in the bullpen,” Girardi said. “I think, obviously, (Preston) Claiborne’s going to be in our bullpen. Then you have a mixture of Phelps or Warren, depending on if they’re in the rotation, those type of guys. So, some of the guys that possibly are competing for rotation spots, the one’s that don’t make it are probably going to slide to the bullpen.”
• On the expected role of Kelly Johnson: “It’s a young man that hits the ball in the ballpark, changes the game fairly quickly,” Girardi said. “He’s productive in the amount of at bats he gets. Has versatility (playing) second, third, plays the outfield. He’s not going to clog up the bases. There are things he can do, and he provides a lot of punch at our ballpark.”
• Hard to believe the Yankees won’t play Jacoby Ellsbury in center field next year, but Girardi said he wouldn’t discuss outfield alignment plans until he’s had a chance to actually talk to his outfielders. “I’ll sit down and talk to Jacoby (on Friday),” Girardi said. “Talk to him, sit down and talk to Gardy, and decide what we’re going to do.”
• Girardi did his best to answer a question about Ichiro Suzuki’s playing time without blatantly saying that the Yankees really have nothing for Ichiro to do. “We’ll see how the offseason ends up before we decide exactly how the pieces are all going to fit,” Girardi said. “I always think that is the fair thing to do before you make an assumption that this guy’s going to play there or this guy. You have to wait until it’s all said and done.”
• A lot of talk lately about eliminating collisions at the plate, but Girardi actually seemed to lean against it. “I could go either way,” he said. “But I still believe it’s part of the game.”
Associated Press photos