Going to be a kind of weird day for Brian Roberts. The Orioles drafted him back in 1999, and today he’ll play against that organization for the first time in his life. Not that other players haven’t gone through something similar, but you have to imagine it’s a bit strange for a guy who once thought he might play his entire career with one organization.
“I literally just had this conversation with my wife last night,” Roberts said. “She was coming into the stadium from the stands and one of the security guys looked at her and said, ‘Diana, right?’ She said yes. He said, ‘But I don’t know your last name.’ She said, ‘That was so odd for me.’ Usually (with the Orioles), they’re like, ‘You’re Brian’s wife.’
Roberts’ time in Baltimore ended with four injury-shortened seasons, and the Yankees signed him as a kind of reclamation project. He was healthy through the second half of last season, and the Yankees are going to try to play him regularly at second base. Joe Girardi said he’s not necessarily expecting 150 games from Roberts, but he’s not picturing him as a part of a platoon or mix-and-match situation either. He is the Yankees’ second baseman who will get some time off in an attempt to keep him healthy.
“I still think there’s a lot of good baseball in him, and he’ll play at a high level for us,” Girardi said. “It’s just communication more than anything. There’s some things you want to think you can control but you can’t. I think of Curtis (Granderson) last year. It’s not an injury that you can control. We’ll just try to be smart, communicate with (Roberts) and get him out there as much as we can.”
For now, Roberts is simply getting at-bats — seems safe to say he won’t be the Yankees cleanup hitter much longer — and getting ready for the season. He said he feels healthy, and he’s felt good in these early games.
Today’s game, he said, will be “a little different for sure,” but at no point has Roberts seemed out of place in the Yankees clubhouse. He’s another veteran in a clubhouse full of them. He’s been an All-Star. He has a locker next to Derek Jeter, who he’s known for years. He’s seen the Yankees up close and personal for more than decade in the American League East. Roberts has been able to slide into the mix quietly, without a ton of expectations or attention. He was a huge name in Baltimore. With the Yankees, he’s just another guy.
“When you play here, even though you’re taking over for Robbie (Cano), I still don’t think anyone is expecting or thinks that I have to go out and do a ton,” Roberts said. “… My expectation is hopefully to play as much as they want me to play. As I said early in camp, I take it one day at a time. I’ve been through enough to not go out there and try to make predictions, give people expectations. My job is to prepare every day and hopefully be ready to play.”
· Seems like every day there’s some young pitcher throwing live batting practice around here. Today? Not so much. The Yankees planned to have Mark Teixeira face live pitching today, but they literally don’t have anyone scheduled to face hitters. So, Teixeira will skip the live pitching for today and pick it up against tomorrow. He’s still on track to play in Thursday’s game.
· Alfonso Soriano is also on track to play on Thursday. Girardi did not say where he expects Soriano to play in the field, but he did clarify that he expects Soriano to play both left and right field this season. “Sometimes it’s going to depend on who we’re facing how we’re going to do it,” Girardi said. “I want him in the mix because I know he likes going in the outfield. I think it’s important that we get him in the mix and you’re not running Carlos out there every day, maybe you’re not running Jacoby out there every day. With Gardy (being flexible), he allows you to do a lot of different things.”
· What’s Ichiro’s role in all of this? “He’s going to compete for playing time, just a lot of the other guys that are competing right now,” Girardi said.
· Today Matt Thornton will become the last of the Yankees veteran relievers to appear in a game. Girardi said he expects to use Thornton primarily against lefties, and he could occasionally slide into an eighth-inning job if a team has two or three lefties scheduled to hit that inning. There might not be an always-pitch-the-eighth-no-matter-what guy like Dave Robertson used to be.
· Also making his spring debut today is infielder Scott Sizemore, who will come off the bench to finish the game at second base. He’s essentially competing with Eduardo Nunez (and maybe Yangervis Solarte and Russ Canzler) to be a right-handed platoon player at third base, while also backing up at second. He’s hit lefties in his career.
· Rare spring moment when a big league regular is playing off the bench. Brian McCann will get some late-inning at-bats as the DH after Jeter is finished.
· Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte is up from minor league camp for the day. Doesn’t look like he’ll get in the game, but he’s listed as one of the emergency guys available if necessary. Same for Jeremy Bleich and Graham Stoneburner (who still has one of the best names in the organization).
· Today’s second string: C Gary Sanchez, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Scott Sizemore, SS Dean Anna, 3B Zelous Wheeler, LF Ramon Flores, CF Mason Williams, RF Antoan Richardson, DH Brian McCann
· Today’s scheduled relievers: Matt Thornton, Brian Gordon, Cesar Cabral, Chris Leroux, Chase Whitley and Preston Claiborne (Bruce Billings, Graham Stoneburner, Jeremy Bleich and Pat Venditte listed as available if necessary).
· Tomorrow’s travel squad to Port Charlotte:
Pitchers: Dellin Betances, Dan Burawa, Robert Coello, Matt Daley, Jim Miller, Mark Montgomery, Yoshinori Tateyama
Catchers: Francisco Arcia, Jose Gil, John Ryan Murphy, Pete O’Brien, Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez
Infielders: Dean Anna, Russ Canzler, Kelly Johnson, Corban Joseph, Addison Maruszak, Eduardo Nunez, Jose Pirela, Yangervis Solarte, Zelous Wheeler
Outfielers: Zoilo Almonte, Ramon Flores, Adonis Garcia, Brett Gardner, Antoan Richardson, Ichiro Suzuki, Mason Williams
· Finally, before today’s game, the Yankees will ask for a moment of silence in memory of former Orioles public relations director Monica Barlow, who died at 36 years old last week after battling lung cancer. She was a non-smoker, but was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in September 2009 while training for a marathon. I only knew Monica in passing — a smile and a wave when I’d see her in Baltimore or at Yankee Stadium — but you didn’t have to look very hard last week to find touching tributes from those who knew her well.
Associated Press photos