Although they won’t official report until later in the week, a few position players typically trickle into big league camp early. They set up their lockers, meet some new teammates, and don’t stick around for long. Today it was new second baseman Brian Roberts who stepped into the clubhouse and went searching for his locker. He found it next to Derek Jeter’s.
“He’s meant a ton to me even though I only played about five games with him in the WBC as teammates,” Roberts said. “He’s just always been that guy that encouraged me from the other side. I played against him obviously a ton. One of those guys that early in my career really actually helped me believe that I could play here at this level and play well.”
In fact, Roberts remembers exactly the moment that Jeter spurred him to expect big things at this level.
“I think it was maybe 2004,” Roberts said. “I was on second or something and he just said, ‘You can hit .300 in this league.’ That was kind of, to hear it from someone like that, it just kind of opens your eyes. I don’t think it’s just me, I think he does it to everybody, but for some reason when he tells it to you, you think you’re the most important person in the world. He’s just kind of got that personality, and he’s so good with people.”
Roberts talked a lot about staying healthy (no lingering issues, he said) and about leaving Baltimore (expected to play his whole career there) and about signing with the Yankees (the two sides began talking even before Robinson Cano left for Seattle), but the part that sticks out is just how much it seems that Jeter has legitimately meant to Roberts’ career. They’ve been in this division for a long time, and don’t forget, Roberts has been an awfully good player himself. They’re first-time teammates, but there’s no introduction necessary.
“I had the opportunity to play with Cal (Ripken Jr.) his last year,” Roberts said. “So I’ve seen kind of that whole thing play out before, and that was an amazing experience to walk those last few months with Cal. I remember him hitting a home run in the eighth or something in Atlanta, and he got a curtain call. When does that ever happen, and I could see the same thing here happening. There’s such a select few guys that have meant what they’ve meant to the game, and it’s going to be an incredible experience to play with (Jeter) this year.”
· Most of the action at Steinbrenner Field happened early this morning, and the schedule actually looks pretty light the rest of the day. There will still be some workouts, but there are no more bullpens or batting practice sessions scheduled for the big league complex. Several vans are taking groups of pitchers over to the minor league complex to throw batting practice over there. The Yankees needed the extra catchers and extra hitters, and rather than bring minor leaguers over here for the day, they’re just sending a 10 pitchers across the street.
· Yoshinori Tateyama has arrived. He had some visa issues coming over from Japan, but he got in today and seems to be ready for workouts. He was in full Yankees gear in the clubhouse. Seemed to be planning to go through the normal routine today.
· Michael Pineda and Jose Campos threw bullpens earlier this morning. Those two didn’t face hitters. Based on the posted schedule, it looks like those are the only two throwing true sides today. Everyone else seems to be facing hitters.
· Speaking of facing hitters, the guys who were throwing batting practice here at Steinbrenner Field were doing so while the clubhouse was open to media, so it was hard to see all of it. I went out for a little bit of David Phelps’ BP session, and it was predictably quiet. This early in spring training, most hitters aren’t swinging much during batting practice. Out of maybe a dozen pitches, I think I saw three swings. Hitters are mostly just tracking, and pitchers are just trying to throw strikes.
· For those batting practice sessions, Francisco Arcia, Peter O’Brien and Jose Gil were scheduled to hit against everyone. The other catchers hit against one pitcher apiece.
· Live batting practice
David Phelps (Brian McCann catching; Sanchez hitting)
Adam Warren (Francisco Cervelli catching; McCann hitting)
Jim Miller (Austin Romine catching; Cervelli hitting)
Vidal Nuno (John Ryan Murphy catching; Romine hitting)
Preston Claiborne (Gary Sanchez catching; Murphy hitting)
· Going to the minor league complex to throw BP around 11 a.m.
· Big day for the pitchers and catchers: Today’s their day for media training!
Associated Press photos