Before he left his home in California and flew to Yankees camp in Florida, Brendan Ryan went to one last Los Angeles Clippers game. That’s Ryan’s favorite team, and he wanted to see his team’s best player.
“The other three (games) I went to, Chris Paul was hurt,” Ryan said. “And I wanted to see Chris Paul play one more time in person. It’s still your team, but the heart and soul is not out there (if Paul’s not playing).”
In other words, Ryan gets it.
He understands that this is Derek Jeter’s last season and fans are going fill Yankee Stadium and catch long flights for road games just to see Jeter one last time. And Ryan understands that, when Jeter’s not in the field — basically, any time Ryan’s at shortstop — the Yankees heart and soul won’t be there. Fans aren’t coming to see the backup.
“When I heard the news that this was his last year I was like, oh man, I don’t know if that’s good news or bad news,” Ryan said. “I’m still trying to process that just from a selfish standpoint. … (Friends have) been encouraging, but they’ve also been prepared — reminding me it’s not going to be a standing ovation every time.”
Exactly how often that will happen is still pretty hard to say. Clearly the Yankees are planning to have Jeter at shortstop regularly. They’ve shown no indication that Stephen Drew is anywhere close to the radar, and today Brian Cashman said he’s not really anxious about what Jeter’s able to do in spring training. Basically, the Yankees have made their decision for better and for worse.
“He’s our man, so it kind of removes everything around it,” Cashman said. “Tex is going to be at first, D.J. is going to be at short, and what we’re going to get is what we’re going to get. I’m hopeful. I’m more curious or anxious about the other positions.”
That said, both Cashman and Joe Girardi said the team will be willing to sit Jeter from time to time. The team hasn’t so much as discussed the idea of using Ryan for late-inning defense — at least, that’s what Cashman said — but the team is well aware that Jeter is 39 years old and coming off multiple lower-body injuries.
“I’m going to manage him the same way as I have every other year,” Girardi said. “That’s not going to change. And as I said, my job is to put us in the best situation to win everyday, and that’s what I have to do. And if it means he needs a day off, I can’t worry that people came. I have to do what’s best for this team.”
Which means, no matter what, there are going to be some games when Jeter’s not at shortstop.
“You identify certain guys with certain teams,” Ryan said. “It can be disappointing, but it’s hard to play 162. … I apologize to those fans who come when he’s not playing.”
· Robinson Cano’s new manager had his back today. Lloyd McClendon took exception to Kevin Long’s comments about Cano’s lack of hustle out of the box. “I’m a little surprised that Kevin Long is the spokesman for the New York Yankees,” McClendon said. “I wonder if he had any problems with Robbie when he wrote that book ["Cage Rat"] proclaiming himself as the guru of hitting.” Long reponded to McClendon’s remarks by saying there was “no malicious meaning behind any of it.”
· Cashman on the Long comments: “I know for anybody that has addressed it with me, the answer is the same today as it was then: (Cano’s hustle) is not an issue. I was surprised by what Kevin said. … I would expect Lloyd McClendon to step up for his player. That doesn’t surprise me.”
· What’s that, you want news about players who are still with the Yankees? Well, Jacoby Ellsbury showed up today. It was the first I’d seen him in big league camp. He might have been hiding out at the minor league complex, his locker had been totally empty at Steinbrenner Field. He said his postseason foot injury has completely healed and he’s expecting a full spring training. “It feels good,” Ellsbury said. “I went into the offseason workouts and once I stepped into that weight room it was 100 percent ready to go. Strength and everything is where it needs to be. … I’ll talk to those guys about it, but as far as me being ready to go, I’m ready to go.”
· Not that we were expecting anything else, but Ellsbury said he’s been told to prepare for playing center field and batting leadoff. Didn’t seem much chance of Brett Gardner returning to either of those roles, but Ellsbury said he’s been told it’s basically a done deal.
· Here’s the full comment from Cashman about the idea of pulling Jeter for defense in the late innings: “It has not been discussed. Obviously (Ryan)’s here as the backup. That’s it. He’ll be utilized in any way that our manager feels will help, whether it’s spelling a day or coming off the bench. Whatever is necessary. But it’s not something we’ve discussed in any way.”
· Although Cashman was around the batting cage to watch Ivan Nova and Bruce Billings throw batting practice this morning, Cashman said he wasn’t really trying to evaluate. Same for the late-morning bullpen sessions. “It’s so early,” Cashman said. “As long as everybody is free and easy, there’s really not much to tell from the bullpen sessions or batting practice. … I’ve seen Tanaka throw once. It applies to everybody, to be honest. As long as they’re free and easy, right now that’s all you can hope for.”
· Girardi said he has some early spring pitching assignments in mind, but he’s not ready to announce them. That includes Tanaka’s first spring appearance. “I have an idea,” Girardi said. “I’m not ready to give anything out yet. That’s something we closely watch what they’re doing in their batting practices before we commit to an exact schedule.”
· Speaking of the spring rotation, Girardi said he won’t necessarily force Tanaka to skip A.L. East opponents this spring. That said, I’ll still be surprised if it actually happens. “I think it’s important that he pitches in Major League games, I do,” Girardi said. “You’ll see all of our starters pitch in simulated games because we think it’s an easier way sometimes to build them up. I don’t have a schedule drawn up, but (skipping the A.L. East) is not something we’ve talked about.”
· Tomorrow is Jeter’s first press conference since his retirement announcement. Would the Yankees have done anything different this offseason had they known Jeter was planning to walk away after the season? “No,” Cashman said. “We got the players we wanted.”
· Final word goes to Girardi, talking big picture: “I’m encouraged what I’ve seen in camp so far. It’s a camp that, our staff does a very good job of making sure they see everyone in all the different situations, and that’s why you see BPs spread out throughout the whole day so Larry has a close eye on everyone. But I’m encouraged by what we’ve got so far. Tex hitting the third day in a row, he feels good, and the position players all get here tomorrow, and we’ll get on the field whatever day that is, Thursday.”
Associated Press photos