When the Yankees came into spring training with a thin and inexperienced bunch of relievers, Preston Claiborne was given a locker along the main wall where the team’s top pitchers are always assigned. He was positioned between Dave Robertson and Matt Thornton. He might not have been a lock for a bullpen job, but he certain had a good chance to win one.
That’s before he allowed 14 hits and nine runs through 5.2 innings.
“With what he did last year, we thought that he would have a really good chance of being in our bullpen,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He just really never got on a roll in spring training. As we told him, we know he’s capable of pitching much better than he did. It’s his job just to go get ready.”
Claiborne has been optioned to Triple-A as part of a sweeping series of cuts that brings the final roster candidates down to a fairly manageable number. The final cuts will come tomorrow.
“I don’t think anyone ever takes the news well,” Girardi said. “I think (Claiborne) understood, and he understood that he was not throwing the ball the way that he was capable of. But he was very determined to go fix that.”
With Robertson, Thornton, Shawn Kelley, David Phelps and Adam Warren basically locked into bullpen spots, the remaining candidates for two openings are Dellin Beteances, Cesar Cabral, Matt Daley, Shane Greene and Vidal Nuno. All but Daley are on the 40-man roster.
· Seven pitchers have been sent to minor league camp. Claiborne was optioned to Triple-A. Chris Leroux, David Herndon, Jim Miller, Yoshinori Tateyama, Danny Burawa and Fred Lewis were each reassigned. Everyone in that group pitched well this spring. Most cuts were made last night, but Leroux and Lewis were sent down early this morning. “Both opened up some eyes here,” Girardi said. “Both had a pretty good camp. Competition has been pretty fierce here.”
· Three position players have been sent to minor league camp. Outfielder Zoilo Almonte was optioned to Triple-A. Infielders Scott Sizemore and Russ Canzler were reassigned. Cutting Almonte seems to remove any doubt about Ichiro Suzuki breaking camp as the fifth outfielder. Sizemore dealt with a couple of injuries and only got 19 at-bats, which probably didn’t help him chase a utility job. It’s basically down to Eduardo Nunez, Yangervis Solarte, Dean Anna and Zelous Wheeler for two bench spots. Nunez and Anna are on the 40-man.
· Jacoby Ellsbury will have a workout today but won’t play in a game. He will play Friday and Saturday, and it sounds like those will be minor league games. “We haven’t played anyone five days in row in spring training,” Girardi said.
· CC Sabathia is scheduled for 45-50 pitches today in Bradenton. David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno are all making the trip to get another turn out of the bullpen.
· Although they’ve been cut, Almonte and Lewis are still scheduled to make today’s trip. Corban Joseph, Carmen Angelini and Ben Gamel are up from minor league camp and scheduled to get in the game. A few other minor leaguers including Addison Maruszak, Mason Williams, Graham Stoneburner and Pat Venditte are also on the list of guys supposed to make the trip from the minor league complex.
· Batting practice groups in Tampa:
Group 1: Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Derek Jeter, Alfonso Soriano
Group 2: Francisco Cervelli, Brett Gardner, Kelly Johnson
· Today’s second string: C Jose Gil, 1B Corban Joseph, SS Carmen Angelini, LF Ben Gamel, CF Antoan Richardson (other positions have no backup listed)
· Today’s scheduled relievers: Cesar Cabral, Fred Lewis, David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren, Dellin Betances
Associated Press photos