The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


Thursday notes: “Not a bad person… but Alex has made bad decisions”

Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez

Predictably, unavoidably, today’s first full-squad workout in Yankees camp was dominated by Alex Rodriguez. He was the center of attention, the one player who drew the most cameras and eyes from the media, and the one who drew the most reaction from the crowd. That reaction, by the way, was all positive as far as I could tell. A lot of cheering when he had a good round of batting practice. I honestly didn’t hear a single boo.

The topic of Rodriguez will fade a little bit over time, but he’s a fascinating figure in this camp, and one of the teammates who knows him best is Mark Teixeira. After today’s workout, I actually thought Teixeira did a great job talking about the A-Rod situation. He talked about some tough issues, and managed to walk the line between supporting his teammate and condemning steroid use. He also provided some insight into Rodriguez’s challenges going forward.

TeixeiraRodriguezAsked whether Rodriguez has changed, Teixeira offered a reminder that we’ve been here before
“That is a tough question to answer. I don’t know. He’s the same guy that I’ve known a long time. We came here in ’09 under very similar circumstances, if you guys remember, and we had a great year. He did a great job of putting it behind him and playing baseball. The entire team did a great job of putting it behind us, so that’s what I’m expecting this year.”

Missing a lot of time and trying to be a great hitter again; Teixeira went through it last year
“I think the difference is he’s well past his surgery, so I think that’s great for Alex that he’s well past his surgery. He’s not in a rehab mode that I know of. I think he feels pretty good, and that’s the difference probably.”

What’s the last thing to come as a power hitter?
“The carry is the last thing that comes back; the ball carrying. There’s a lot of cage work in the offseason. You want to hit line drives and you want to hear the ball off the bat, but you really don’t know how it’s carrying. At least for me, I’m working on my hands more in the offseason, and then slowly in spring training – I won’t hit many home runs early in spring training in batting practice –as we get closer to the season, I want to see that ball backspinning, carrying out of the ballpark because that’s what I need to do at the plate.”

What’s the state of the game with performance enhancing drugs?
“I think it’s better than it’s ever been. I came up in ’03 when we had some weird testing where there was testing but you could still do it and there were no penalties or whatever. And there were still a lot of guys doing it. There were. I think the middle 2000s, late 2000s, baseball did a great job of putting things in place. You’re always going to have cheaters. You’re always going to have guys who are trying to beat the system no matter what it is – taxes, breaking the speed limit, whatever. So for us to think no one is going to try to bend the rules is a little naïve, but I give the commissioner’s office a lot of credit (and) I give the players association a lot of credit for working together to try the best we can.”

How does Teixeira view PED users?
“I’ve been outspoken. I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all, but if you’re willing to take that chance, then that’s something you have to look in the mirror. I’m not going to stay anything that’s going to change anyone’s mind. It’s one of those situaitons. It is what it is. We all had kids in school who cheated on their tests, and we all worked hard and maybe got a B and they got an A. That’s life.”

So how does he reconcile that opinion with his friendship with A-Rod?
“There’s a lot of people that make bad decisions. Alex is not a bad person. I’ll be the first one to tell you that. I’ve known Alex for a long time, but Alex has made bad decisions, and he’s owned up to them. Hopefully now we can kind of get past it. That’s something that, if he was still denying it and still coming in here and put on a different face (it might be a different story). He told everyone he was sorry for what he did.”

Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi• It was quickly overshadowed by A-Rod, but today really started with Larry Rothschild once again bringing up the idea of a sixth starter. How realistic is that? “We’ll see,” Brian Cashman said. “In a perfect world, it’s something that’s a great concept. I think more realistic, what we’ll see, is someone taking a sixth spot and pushing guys back (for one start) or skipping a starter a turn in the rotation. I think that’s probably more realistic than finding six quality arms to run through out there every six days on a consistent basis. But you hear many a times, the interest level in having a six-man rotation, and there’s a lot of positives from that. But it’s hard to pull off.”

• Cashman made it clear that the Yankees have to find five starters before they start to figure out a sixth starter. “If we’re ever in a position to be fortunate enough to have six quality arms that can compete for a win on a daily basis in the rotation, then I think we’ll be in a position to implement that,” Cashman said. “But first things first.”

• Speaking of which, here’s Joe Girardi on Tanaka’s morning bullpen: “Very good. Forty pitches, threw all his pitches, arm strength looked really good. We’ll continue to move him along, we’ll get him ready for a game, I don’t know when we’ll get him in a game, but that was good.”

• As the Yankees started taking ground balls, the first thing I noticed was Girardi standing directly behind Rob Refsnyder at second base. Girardi, though, said not to read into his positioning. “I was next to the first baseman, then I was next to the second baseman, then I stood next to the shortstop, and then I proceeded to third base,” Girardi said. “So I stood next to everybody today. … For me, it’s conversation; talking to some of the players I didn’t know. I have not had a chance to be around Galvez, Noonan, Refsnyder. I thought it was important. Cole Figueroa. I thought it was important I talk with everyone today.”

• Jacoby Ellsbury said he’s willing to hit anywhere in the order — he had to hit third last year — but Girardi wouldn’t give us any real indication about his plans for the lineup. “I think you have to see the makeup of our lineup, and who we decide is going to be in the lineup on a fairly regular, everyday basis,” Girardi said. “We’ve thrown around some ideas, but I think it’s too early to put an order together. The good thing is I’ve got 39 more days or something like that.”

Alex Rodriguez• The Yankees had a lengthy team meeting before today’s workout. Teixeira said Rodriguez did not speak during the meeting. As far as I could tell, all interaction with Rodriguez was positive today. He stretched with Carlos Beltran, and took batting practice with Teixeira, Greg Bird and Jose Pirela. “Obviously, if he does well, it only helps the team,” Jacoby Ellsbury said. “From that standpoint, I think we all hope he has a good season.”

• Rodriguez got his first-baseman’s glove today, but he hasn’t started breaking it in. He did all of today’s defensive drills on the left side of the infield. “We’ll have him do early work (at first base),” Girardi said. “When we do some of the team defenses, (he will be) running through it in both places so you have some idea. As far as (having him play first in) a game, I don’t know yet, but you do want to get him comfortable before you send him out there.”

• First full-squad workout, and no Derek Jeter. First time that’s happened in two decades. “It was a little strange not seeing Derek out there today,” Girardi said. “We were doing the mass infield (drills), and he wasn’t there. It was kind of strange to me.”

• Or maybe, it wasn’t strange at all. “He retired,” Cashman said. “It never crossed my mind.”

• Final word goes to Girardi: “When I look at things today, I think the pitchers are a lot further along. I was very pleased with what I saw from Tanaka. I’ve been very pleased as far as what I’ve seen from our pitchers as a whole. One thing that sometimes stands out but you don’t always realize is how big these guys are. I know I’m shrinking at a slow rate, but God, they seem to be getting bigger.”

Associated Press photos

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, February 26th, 2015 at 7:35 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Video: Alex Rodriguez goes through first Yankees workout

Taboola Home/Section Front Player


Fairly uneventful return to Yankees camp for Alex Rodriguez this afternoon.

Participating in his first official spring workout since 2012 — coming back from surgery in 2013; suspended in 2014 — Rodriguez went through a typical first day of drills. He took warmed up in the outfield, took ground balls at third base, hit in the cage, and lifted inside. The reaction from fans was overwhelmingly positive (whenever there was any reaction at all).

So how’d he look? In a word: Fine. He moved around alright, but it’s not like he was sprinting around the bases. He fielded grounders cleanly, but he wasn’t ranging more than a half step in any direction. He hit some home runs during batting practice — I thought his last two rounds of BP were especially sharp — but these were batting practice fastballs.

Alex Rodriguez“We can all look pretty tough and pretty good with BP,” Rodriguez said. “It doesn’t mean anything. Let’s see what happens when somebody is throwing 95.”

There was really nothing to learn today. If anything stood out, it was the fact that a relatively small crowd in attendance was clearly focused on Rodriguez, but had little reaction to him. What reaction did come was overwhelmingly positive, including a pretty big cheer after his final round of batting practice.

“I saw his batting practice today,” Mark Teixeira said. “Not many guys are hitting the ball like he is right now. First day is always kind of a breaking in time for most guys. He looked great out there today, and hopefully that continues.”

Essentially, that’s what today was about. Rodriguez looked perfectly fine in his first workout with the team. He hit some balls pretty hard, and did all that was asked of him in the field — but no one was asking for much.

“I’ve said all along I don’t think it’s fair to judge him early, I really don’t,” Joe Girardi said. “When you’ve played as few games as he has the last two years, the speed of the game is what you have to get used to. I don’t think it’s fair to judge. I don’t judge a lot of our players the first two weeks of games. You just don’t, because they’ve been off of playing five or six months, and it’s just something different. A lot of the time you’ll find that the people who played winter ball are much further ahead that the people who weren’t playing winter ball. So you have to give them time.”

When will we start to have any idea what he’s really capable of doing?

“Probably the last two weeks of spring training,” Brian Cashman said. “In fairness, let him knock the rust off and let him get his feet back on the ground. In terms of trying to make judgments of what potentially he will be, in fairness to him, it won’t take place until the last two weeks of camp, despite him going through everything all these guys are going to be going through.

“He’s on the team, and so it’s more like: let’s get him prepared for the season and have a better view of what he can provide toward the end of camp, not anywhere close to the beginning.”

Associated Press photo

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, February 26th, 2015 at 4:16 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Thursday morning notes: Yankees six-man rotation likely in spring training

Masahiro Tanaka

Another bullpen in the books for Masahiro Tanaka, and still the Yankees are speaking with confidence about his elbow and his health. Tanaka threw 40 pitches today, which is a pretty substantial side session.

“He threw great,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “Everything is progressing the way we like, so we’ll just keep going. … No (restrictions). We’re just bringing him along at a pace that he’s more accustomed to. A little different schedule as far as not trying to put a lot of pitches on him in a three- or four-day period, but still get him built up and get the stamina built up. That’s pretty much what we’re doing.”

Tanaka said he felt more arm strength than in previous bullpens, and he felt that he was throwing the ball harder. That’s not because he’s trusting the elbow any more, he said he’s simply building natural strength.

Masahiro Tanaka“I think I was throwing with more force than the last bullpen,” Tanaka said. “As far as hitting the spots, the location goes, I think it was better than the last bullpen as well. … I feel that I’m on the right track. Going through the workouts and going through the bullpen today also, it does give me confidence that I’m moving in the right direction.”

Don’t dismiss Rothschild’s previous comment about keeping Tanaka on a lighter schedule so far this spring. It’s something that’s likely to continue, and it’s an idea that extends beyond Tanaka. Rothschild indicated that the Yankees might stick with basically a six-man rotation during spring training just to see how guys react to having an extra day off between appearances. They’re clearly hoping to make this sixth spot-starter idea work.

“They’re all going to need it,” Rothschild said. “We’ve looked at schedules and scenarios, and we’ll continue to look at it as we go through spring, see how guys react. They’ll probably pitch on the fifth and sixth day in spring, see how they react to that and give them the extra time. We’ll see toward the end how we exactly want to do it. We do have the opportunity that if we need a sixth starter at times, we’ll probably run him out there. We’re looking at 30 games in 31 days at the end of April through May, so we’ll probably look at a lot of different scenarios. If they can handle it, and we’re comfortable with it, we may go with it. Otherwise, we’ll try to figure out how to get them through the first two months. It’s not just Masahiro; there are three or four guys in that group.”

Alex Rodriguez• Alex Rodriguez was in and out of the Yankees clubhouse just like everyone else this morning. He didn’t talk to media, and it really didn’t seem to be a big deal. Not the overwhelming distraction that you might expect. The fact he talked the past three days probably helped make that possible. “I’m looking forward to playing with him,” Jacoby Ellsbury said. “Obviously, if he does well, it only helps the team. From that standpoint, I think we all hope he has a good season.”

• Hideki Matsui is in Yankees camp today. He stopped by Tanaka’s locker this morning, and Tanaka sprang to his feet for a handshake and a brief conversation. “Not all the Yankee players, former Yankee players, come here and get to be in that position (as a spring instructor),” Tanaka said. “It says about how he was as a player, here as a Yankee. I have very much a lot of respect toward Hideki.”

• Speaking of guest instructors, Mariano Rivera said this morning that he hasn’t been throwing at all lately. Doesn’t even really play catch with his son, who’s been pitching really well at Iona. Asked, though, how many warmup pitches he would need before throwing a cutter that could get a hitter out, Rivera just laughed. “Every pitch,” he said. I honestly believe him.

• Little surprise that Rodriguez has been assigned both a hitting group and an infield group with Mark Teixeira. Those two seem to always work together in spring training. In the past, the Yankees have specifically listed positions for individual players during infield drills, but there were no positions listed today. Based on Rodriguez’s group — with Teixeira and Kyle Roller — I’m guessing most or all of Rodriguez’s reps this morning will come at third base. Probably not going to have three guys at first base (the Yankee usually only have two guys at each position during infield drills).

• Did not see anyone in the Yankees clubhouse who seemed to show up in bad shape. Mason Williams seems to be in great shape. Aaron Judge looks like a monster. Jonathan Galvez looks like a strong dude. But the guy who stands out is Kyle Roller. Good grief. That guy’s arms are massive. Just looks like a guy who should be able to mash a baseball (and based on last year’s Triple-A numbers, that’s exactly what he can do).

BaileySabathia• A group of pitchers are scheduled for early work tomorrow, as are a group of hitters. I’m guessing that means early morning live batting practice before the full workout begins. These are the guys scheduled for early work tomorrow (I can’t imagine all of these guys will face hitters tomorrow, but some might):

Pitchers: Andrew Bailey, Esmil Rogers, CC Sabathia, Chris Capuano, Scott Baker, David Carpenter, Dellin Betances, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino, Jacob Lindgren, Branden Pinder
Hitters: Greg Bird, Cito Culver, Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder, Jake Cave, Kyle Roller, Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge

• Heading to the minor league complex for live batting practice: Adam Warren, Nick Goody, Diego Moreno, James Pazos, Nick Rumbelow, Jose Ramirez, Andrew Miller, Danny Burawa and catcher Austin Romine.

• Early morning bullpens (these already happened):

Masahiro Tanaka (with Gary Sanchez catching)
Bryan Mitchell (with Francisco Arcia)
Chase Whitley (with Kyle Higashioka)
Jared Burton (with Juan Graterol)
Domingo German (with Trent Garrison)
Tyler Webb (with Eddy Rodriguez)

• Infield drills (specific positions not listed this morning):

Field 1
Cito Culver, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, Alex Rodriguez, Kyle Roller, Mark Teixeira

Field 3
Greg Bird, Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Garrett Jones, Jose Pirela, Brendan Ryan

GregoriusDrew• Batting practice groups:

Group 1
Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, Brian McCann, Eddy Rodriguez
Group 2
Jose Pirela, Alex Rodriguez, Brendan Ryan, Mark Teixeira
Group 3
Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Garrett Jones
Group 4
Greg Bird, Cito Culver, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Kyle Roller
Group 5
Tyler Austin, Carlos Beltran, Jake Cave, Chris Young
Group 6
Ramon Flores, Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Jacoby Ellsbury
Group 7
Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, John Ryan Murphy, Austin Romine
Group 8
Francisco Arcia, Trent Garrison, Kyle Higashioka, Gary Sanchez

Associated Press photos

 
 

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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, February 26th, 2015 at 11:04 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

A few thoughts heading into the Yankees’ first full-squad workout

Andrew Miller, Nathan Eovaldi

Some random thoughts as the Yankees prepare for their first full-squad workout of the spring.

• I understand why there’s a lot of attention on Alex Rodriguez possibly playing first base — it’s a new position for him, and basically an acknowledgement that he’s kind of a utility guy at this point — but I honestly don’t know that it’s going to matter very much whether he learns it or not. The Yankees have Garrett Jones as an experienced backup at first base, and surely he’ll be the No. 2 option at the position. Mark Teixeira’s been a better right-handed hitter than left-handed hitter, so if he takes days off, it will probably be against righties, a perfect situation for left-handed hitter Jones to step in. Short of an injury, I’m just not sure what situation is going to call for Rodriguez to spend any meaningful time at first base. Getting him used to the position might be more about injury insurance, not about actually planning to use him there with any regularity.

• Carlos Beltran’s been going through a lot of drills for a few days now, and Joe Girardi has said he expects Beltran to be ready to play when the spring schedule starts next week. I know he’s coming off a brutal season and offseason surgery, but at this point Beltran certainly seems to be a healthy player. If he’s healthy, then this spring is all about finding out whether he can still hit. It’s pretty clear the Yankees are banking on the idea that he can.

Masahiro Tanaka• Impossible to say whether Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow will hold up — that uncertainty is going to linger for a while, even if he gets through spring training with no problem — but it really seems that Tanaka is treating his elbow as if it’s perfectly fine. He said an October MRI was encouraging, and he’s been going through pretty normal bullpen progressions. “I haven’t seen him hold back,” Girardi said. “I did not see him hold back in his bullpen the other day. I think he feels pretty good about it.”

• At some point, I became fairly convinced the Yankees would go all out for Yoan Moncada, so I was surprised when the Red Sox swooped in and got him. A mistake by the Yankees? Certainly it could be a regret, but a mistake to not pay more than $60 million for a 19-year-old? I guess that depends on whether it’s your money. “For Moncada, that was just how far I was going to go for a player who is 19 years old and at least two years away from the majors with all the uncertainties that can happen with a prospect even that good,” Hal Steinbrenner told Joel Sherman. “It was a hell of an offer. It might have ended up at $35 million if I continued to be in it. You can’t gauge how much someone else wants him. I can only make a sound judgment as how far I should go for a 19-year-old that is two years away, maybe three years away from contributing to the major league club. Right or wrong, everyone has their opinions.”

• Please stop emailing me about the Steinbrenner’s selling the Yankees. More from Sherman’s interview with Hal: “The family is not selling the team. We have no intentions of selling the team. You can quote me on that. I am not sure why everyone continues to ask that. The Steinbrenner family is not selling a majority stake in the New York Yankees. We are not going anywhere.”

Alex Rodriguez, Didi Gregorius• The Yankees’ Opening Day starter at almost every position on the diamond seems to depend entirely on health. As long as the obvious guys are healthy, they’ll be in there. The only positions that might be exceptions are in the middle of the infield, so in terms of spring performance, shortstop and second base might be the most interesting spots to watch this spring. Right field, first base and catcher might be more critical to the team’s success or failure, but it will be interesting to see how the Yankees decide to use Didi Gregorius, Stephen Drew, Brendan Ryan, Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder. Surely some combination of those five will be in the lineup on Opening Day — with Gregorius the heavy favorite of the bunch — but I could imagine scenarios in which different combinations fit best. Drew really could be a wild card this season. That’s either a smart buy-low opportunity, or a fool-me-twice mistake.

• There were times this winter when I completely forgot Andrew Bailey was coming to big league camp. Now I really wonder if he might make the team as that seventh reliever. It might come down to timing. He won’t be ready to pitch in games when the exhibition schedule starts, which means the slightest setback might not give him enough time to really prove himself. Truth is, there are so many good young alternatives — Shreve, Martin, Ramirez, Whitley, Lindgren, etc. — that Bailey might have to be a standout to prove he deserves the spot. He has a track record, but there are a lot of good arms in this camp.

John Ryan Murphy• So far, the Yankees clubhouse has felt young. This really is a pretty young pitching staff, with guys like CC Sabathia and Chris Capuano being the exception, not the rule. I wonder if that young feeling will change when all of the position players are in the room. The Yankees’ lineup is still headlined by veterans, and those guys carry more weight than the young guys who will also be scattered here and there. So far, the feeling in the room really is quite a bit different than in previous seasons.

• Two lockers side-by-side in the very back of the clubhouse belong to John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine. Those two talk to one another constantly and seem to have a real friendship. They workout with Brian McCann all the time. Has to be a strange dynamic. Murphy and Romine must know there’s room on the roster for only one of them, they’re clearly in competition, yet they’re with one another all day while maintaining what seems to be a really good relationship.

• I felt to Tampa one week ago today. So far, my prediction for the Opening Day roster hasn’t changed. In fact, something about the way Girardi talked about Ryan yesterday left me feeling even more convinced that he’s going to make the team and neither Pirela nor Refsnyder will. I also still think Chase Whitley is a solid bet to win that last spot in the bullpen. I don’t think anyone has emerged as a clear favorite for that role, but Whitley could be a nice fit as a long man who could take some of those spot starts the Yankees are talking about. My projected Opening Day roster will surely change at some point, but it hasn’t yet.

Associated Press photos

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, February 26th, 2015 at 8:25 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Hank Steinbrenner: “(A-Rod)’s a natural; hopefully he can still do it”

Mark Didtler of The Associated Press caught up with Hank Steinbrenner to talk about Alex Rodriguez today. Here’s the story:

Alex RodriguezTAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Hank Steinbrenner is looking ahead and not back when it comes to Alex Rodriguez.

Suspended last season for violations of baseball’s drug agreement and labor contract, Rodriguez reported to the Yankees’ spring training camp Wednesday at George Steinbrenner Field. A-Rod is trying to return as his 40th birthday approaches in July.

“Hopefully this spring he can contribute, that’s the bottom line,” Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ co-chairman, said Wednesday. “He can hit. He’s a natural. Hopefully he can still do it. We’re just going take it as it goes. As far as whether he can contribute or not, we’ll have to see. Hopefully he will. Hopefully he’ll help the lineup.”

Steinbrenner was heavily involved in the team’s decision to sign Rodriguez to a record $275 million, 10-year contract in December 2007 after the three-time MVP terminated his $252 million, 10-year deal with three seasons remaining.

Rodriguez has not played a full season since then because of injuries, which led to operations on both hips, and the suspension. Rodriguez has apologized to the Yankees and to fans, but didn’t go into specifics on his actions that led to the ban. Six years ago, he admitted using performance-enhancing drugs while with Texas.

Rodriguez completed his physical Wednesday, which he said he passed, and met with manager Joe Girardi before making the mile trip for his third early workout at the Yankees’ minor league complex. He hit five homers in 102 batting practice swings.

General manager Brian Cashman said he was surprised when Rodriguez arrived Monday.

Rodriguez declined to say whether he apologized to Girardi, saying “I’m going to keep our conversions private.”

“It was a good meeting, positive,” Rodriguez said. “I think Joe’s position has always been one to back me up. I’d go through a wall for Joe.”

Girardi also wouldn’t say whether an apology was made.

Alex Rodriguez“We had a good conversation, and he’s ready to go to work,” Girardi said. “We talked a little bit about what our goals are in spring training. I told him I’d get him as many at-bats as I could that he could physically handle. He said I’m here to try to help this team win. I want to play, I want to help this team win.”

Girardi and Cashman say Chase Headley will be their starting third baseman and Rodriguez will compete for at-bats at designated hitter. Rodriguez could see some time at first base.

“I told him whatever he needs, I’m all in,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said the biggest thing for him in Thursday’s first full-squad workout is “just being back in pinstripes.”

“It’s been a long time,” he said.

The Yankees are hoping for a turnaround season after missing the playoffs the past two years.

“We could have a really good team and do well this year,” Steinbrenner said. “It’s going to be the same as the last two years, hopefully we won’t have the injuries we had. We just have to hope for the best this year.”

Healthy seasons for Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda will be key.

Tanaka made two late September starts after missing 2 1/2 months last season with a partially torn elbow ligament. Pineda went 5-5 with an 1.89 ERA in 13 starts after returning from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for two years.

“If Tanaka and Pineda can stay healthy, we’re going to be very tough in that area with the other guys as well,” Steinbrenner said. “We’ve got two legitimate top-notch starting pitchers. Nobody would deny that. If they can stay healthy, we can be very tough this year.”

Associated Press photos

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 at 9:56 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Brendan Ryan hoping to earn at-bats with the Yankees

Yankees Cardinals BaseballAt the top of Brendan Ryan’s locker, there’s a small rubber duck with some sort of baseball design on the front. Ryan’s not sure where he got or why he has it, but he thinks it might be funny to put it in the players’ whirlpool at some point this spring. It’s not a high-end toy, not an expensive toy, and it’s ability to float is perhaps it’s greatest attribute, but there might be some use for it.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

Brendan Ryan is not a high-end everyday player. His contract is not very expensive, elite defense is most certainly his greatest attribute, and kind of like that rubber duck, the Yankees aren’t entirely sure what to do with him. But they think he might be useful.

“I know that we have two left-handed hitters up the middle,” Ryan said. “I hit right-handed, so hopefully that means opportunities for me. I haven’t heard too much. I haven’t really talked to Cash or Joe. Hopefully I’ll get an idea of what they expect from me and what my role will be. That should probably carve itself out a little bit as we move forward.”

Right now the Yankees have Didi Gregorius at shortstop, and Stephen Drew looks like the early favorite at second base. They’re both left-handed hitters, which creates some potential for a guy like Ryan, who hits right-handed and could backup at each middle-infield position. He’s been considered an elite defensive players in his career, but he played so little last season that it’s hard to know what exactly he’s capable of doing right now.

Back in 2012, his last year as an everyday player in Seattle, his defense was so good that Baseball Reference had him as a 3.4 WAR player despite the fact he hit just .194/.277/.278. His career OPS against lefties is significantly better than Gregorius and basically the same as Drew. If the Yankees need a right-handed platoon partner up the middle, Ryan could be a defense-first option.

“It’s something that we’ll definitely look at,” Joe Girardi said. “Didi is a guy that, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and have him work on the things that he needs to work on. Stephen has been a guy that’s had success in his career, but if you’re going to spell a guy, that’d be the day (against a lefty) that you’d spell them.”

As Derek Jeter’s backup last season, Ryan hardly sniffed the field. He got just 114 at-bats, and even missing a month with an injury, that’s an incredibly low number. John Ryan Murphy got almost that many at-bats, and he was a part-time backup.

“If Drew or Didi is dominating with left-handed hitting, then they’ve earned the right to play,” Ryan said. “We want to win. Hopefully it’s the same the other way around; if I’m getting it done and helping us win, hopefully I’ll get to play a little more, too. … The defense, I’m very confident there. Lefties, I can think back to St. Louis when I was playing some matchup stuff there. When you start seeing just lefties, you start getting a little more confident. There’s consistency with arm slots, so there’s more comfortability there.”

When the offseason started, Ryan was No. 1 on the shortstop depth chart. But with Gregorius and Drew, he’s now No. 2 at best and possibly No. 3. Not carrying Ryan would mean having two left-handed shortstops — Nick Noonan, the projected Triple-A shortstop, also hits lefty — but carrying Ryan might mean having three middle infielders with limited offensive ability. Carrying a bench of Ryan, Chris Young, Garrett Jones and a backup catcher wouldn’t leave room for either Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela.

“We’re not that far down the road,” Girardi said. “I think a lot of (finding a spot for Refsnyder or Pirela) depends on the way we look at Alex (Rodriguez), in a sense. Usually you have one middle guy and one corner guy (backing up in the infield). A lot of it depends on how everyone’s doing. Is it something we could look at? Sure. But we’ll see how everyone’s doing.”

Associated Press photo

 
 
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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 at 7:37 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Wednesday afternoon notes: “We need to make adjustments too”

Jeff Pentland, Carlos Beltran

For good reason, there’s already been plenty of talk in Yankees camp about the defensive shift. Not about the ways the Yankees might use the shift this season, but about the ways the might try to beat it.

“We’ve talked about it as an organization,” Joe Girardi said. “We will discuss things with players. This is the adjustment defenses have made, and we need to make (offensive) adjustments too. I’m not asking you to be something you’re not. I’m not going to ask you to do something that you’re not comfortable doing, but it’s something that we need to have discussions about and see how we attack it.”

Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira in particular have lost plenty of hits because of shifted infielders. Their thoughts:

McCannTeixeiraMcCann: “I want to hit the ball where it’s pitched. It’s not necessarily that I’m going to try to go up there and hit the ball to left field. If it’s away from me, it needs to go to left field. If they come in on me, I need to be able to pull it, but pull correctly. If you pull correctly, you create back spin which is going to help you hit home runs. … If I hit two or three singles in a row to left field, they’re going to continue to play the shift because that’s where my power is. That’s just the way it is and whether that takes a couple of points off my batting average, if I take the approach I have day in and day out for 500 at-bats, at the end of the year things will be there.”

Teixeira: “Thoughts on (beating) the shift? Hit more home runs, hit more doubles, and walk more. We’ve talked about it ad nauseam. Every time I try to slap the ball the other way, it doesn’t go well for anybody. That’s what the other team wants. They want to take a middle-of-the-order power hitter and turn him into a slap hitter. So if I can hit more home runs, more doubles, walk more, that takes care of the shift. I don’t want to ground out to second base. That’s not what I’m trying to do up there.”

It goes without saying that it’s good to use the whole field, good to take what the defense is giving, and it’s bad to hit ground balls to an area crowded with defenders. The Yankees obviously agree with those principles, but they also seem focused on sticking with a player’s strengths.

“The biggest thing for me is don’t let it get in your head and don’t force things,” new hitting coach Jeff Pentland said today. “Obviously the ability to use the whole field is important. I’m not going to stand here and tell you we’re going to try to force things through the infield or through the shift. We’ve still got to go up there and hit the ball, but there are things we’ll spend time on.”

Alex Rodriguez• Girardi met face-to-face with Alex Rodriguez today. Girardi said he told A-Rod that he would get all the spring at-bats “that he could physically handle.” Girardi also told Rodriguez that he would play some third base this spring, and formally asked him to get some reps at first base. “He’s willing to do anything,” Girardi said.

• Mark Teixeira on working with Rodriguez: “I’m looking forward to working with him over there. Alex and I have been friends for a long time now. I’ll enjoy working with him over there. It’s funny; I was a rookie when Alex was the best player in the world. He got to teach me some things, and now I’m going to be able to teach him some things at first.”

• According to Girardi, the plan is for Rodriguez to play in either the first or second game this spring. The Yankees will not hold him out of games when the exhibition schedule starts. They want him to start getting at-bats right away.

• Pentland on Rodriguez: “I’ve always been a big fan of Alex, are you kidding? … I don’t think he’s going to have that many issues. He was born to hit. That’s the way I feel about him.”

• As usual, Girardi said the Yankees have reached out to National League teams for permission to use a designated hitter in road games against N.L. teams in spring training. Typically, teams are perfectly happy to do that in the first half of the spring schedule. Girardi said some teams aren’t willing to do it as the schedule gets closer to Opening Day. I would expect, though, that there will be a DH when the Yankees open the exhibition schedule against the Phillies on Tuesday.

• Mariano Rivera is expected to be in Yankees camp for nine or 10 days. “He has free rein to help out as much as he can,” Girardi said. “I think the advice that he’ll give young players should be something they should listen to.”

Mariano Rivera, Roman Rodriguez• In full uniform, Rivera watched bullpens and then shagged some fly balls today. I wouldn’t hold out hope for an Andy Pettitte-like return, but it’s hard not to think of it. “I joked with him,” Girardi said. “I said, ‘The last time a guy like you came to spring training, he made two days of coaches meetings and then he went home for three days and decided he wanted to pitch again. So I’m just curious to see how long you’re going to make it in our meetings.’”

• I watched Gary Tuck leading catching drills for a while this afternoon. That group gets pretty intense, and both Joe Girardi and Tony Pena seem to love watching it. Worth noting that each day the Yankees update a contest for which catchers have the fewest drops in camp so far. Right now, three catchers still have zero, and it’s the three big league guys: Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine.

• Pitchers going to the minor league complex to face hitters tomorrow: Andrew Miller, Adam Warren, Jose Ramirez, Nick Rumbelow, Nick Goody, Diego Moreno, James Pazos and Danny Burawa. Austin Romine is heading over there with them, presumably to catch some guys.

• Final word goes to Teixeira: “We have the talent in here. There’s a lot of teams that would love to have our roster right now. It takes talent, it takes health, it takes execution. We have the talent, so it’s the health and execution are the ones we’re going to work on this year. I think we all believe in each other here.”

Associated Press photos

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 at 4:45 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Quick notes: Fresh video of Luis Severino’s latest bullpen

Taboola Home/Section Front Player


Had a pretty good spot for Luis Severino’s bullpen this afternoon. Here’s some video from directly behind the catcher. Also, a few very quick notes from today’s final workout of only pitchers and catchers. We’ll have more in-depth notes later this afternoon. For now, five things from today:

1. Everyone has reported on time, and everyone has passed the physical. Seems like there’s usually at least one player with a travel issue or something else keeping him from being in camp when it opens. This time, Joe Girardi said, everyone has arrived with no issues.

2. Mariano Rivera is expected to be in camp for nine or 10 days serving as a guest instructor. Much like his late playing day, Rivera basically has the green light to do or say whatever he wants. Girardi said he jokingly asked Rivera if he wanted to make some road trips now that he’s a coach. Don’t bank on that happening.

3. New hitting coach Jeff Pentland introduced himself to the beat writers after today’s workout. He talked for a little while about being excited to work with Alex Rodriguez and about his views on the defensive shift. One comment that stood out: “I’m only a good hitting coach if we have good players.” That’s really true.

4. A few pitchers will skip morning meetings tomorrow — stuff they’ve already heard — and will instead go to the minor league complex to face hitters. Just trying to maximize the time, Girardi said. Andrew Miller and Adam Warren will be among those heading over to the complex.

5. Girardi said he expects to have some intrasquad games before the exhibition schedule begins next week. He expects Rodriguez to play in either the first or second Grapefruit League game.

 

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 at 2:34 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Wednesday morning notes: Teixeira feeling strong and confident

Mark Teixeira

Here’s the easy, lazy — but still perfectly true — way to introduce this story:

On the day position players officially reported to Yankees camp, the electricity went out at Steinbrenner Field. Lights went dark. Speakers went silent. The Yankees were, quite literally, without power. It lasted only a moment, then things were back to normal, the perfect metaphor for a lineup in desperate need for renewed production.

An easy way to regain some of that production? Well, that calls for another easy, lazy introduction. It calls for the oldest, most common cliche in all of spring training.

TeixeiraMark Teixeira says he’s in great shape. Maybe not the best shape of his life, but certainly somewhere close to it. Given a full, healthy offseason, Teixeira changed his diet (no gluten, no dairy, no sugar), changed his trainer, and went back to the weight-heavy workouts that defined his younger days.

“I was weaker than I’d probably ever been in my whole career last year just because of the injury the year before and not being able to work out like I usually do,” Teixeira said. “This was just a great offseason all around. … I probably lost two pounds; 15 pounds of fat I lost and gained 13 pounds of muscle, so I ended up losing about two pounds. Just shows how much deficit there was.”

There’s nothing fun about writing a “best shape of my life” story in spring training. It feels dirty; feels cheap. But in the case of Teixeira, strength really does seem to be the key issue. It’s something he was clearly lacking last season when he wore down in the second half and went through a series of nagging injuries. Many of the dietary changes, he said, were meant to better prepare his body to fend off inflammation. The intense weight training was an attempt to get himself back to the true power hitter he’s supposed to be.

At the moment, Teixeira’s health and fitness are key issues that can’t be ignored. In the next few weeks, he’ll have to turn that strength into actual production, but for now, the only issue to figure out is whether Teixeira’s in better shape than last spring. He says, absolutely, yes.

“I’ve always been a big, strong guy,” he said. “Always been a big weight lifter. I convinced myself one offseason that I wanted to work on my swing more, and swung so much that I blew out my wrist. You learn. You learn from mistakes. I think you’re always learning from mistakes. I kind of basically just went back to what I’ve always done, and that’s just hit the weights really hard because I need to be strong. I’m a power hitter, a guy that has to drive the ball from both sides of the plate, and that’s what I did this offseason.

“… Last year, I came into spring training hoping to have a good year. I really didn’t know where I was. I knew I wasn’t feeling great, knew I wasn’t 100 percent. This year I expect to have a great year.”

Mariano Rivera• Mariano Rivera is here. Didn’t expect it, but he showed up this morning and is in uniform, clearly serving as an instructor. I wouldn’t hold out any hope for a comeback.

• Position players report today, but there’s no full-squad workout. I saw just about everyone who might grab your attention. Aaron Judge is still huge. Brett Gardner is still friendly. Among the people I didn’t see is Alex Rodriguez, who is presumably here but didn’t show up in the clubhouse while media were in the room.

• Talked for a little bit with Tyler Austin, who said he feels great this spring. He finished last season strong, having finally recovered from that wrist issue. Reminded me of talking to Slade Heathcott yesterday. There’s legitimate confidence there; he’s not just hoping to stay healthy enough to be productive, he seems to fully expect it.

• Sad news: Teixeira said he’s not doing any more Foul Territory episodes. The web series was actually hilarious last season, but Teixeira said it was a one-time deal that made sense last spring because there were so many new guys.

• Random clubhouse conversation: I asked new reliever Justin Wilson whether he notices significant differences now that he’s in Yankees camp instead of Pirates camp. “Less bunting,” he said. In the National League, Wilson said he and the other pitchers went through bunting drills all the time. Even as a middle reliever, Wilson got a few big league at-bats with the Pirates. “There’s no batting average there,” he said, laughing. Indeed, Wilson is 0-for-6 with six strikeouts and one sacrifice.

• Another full workout for Carlos Beltran. He’ll go through defensive and hitting drills at Steinbrenner Field again today.

• Five pitchers threw live batting practice this morning: Esmil Rogers, Kyle Davies, Jose De Paula, Wilking Rodriguez and Chasen Shreve.

• On Saturday, the Yankees 40-man players and big league veterans on minor league deals are required to attend an anti domestic violence training session. It’s required by the commissioner’s office and the players association.

MartinWilson• Today’s bullpen sessions:

Noon
Jacob Lindgren (to John Ryan Murphy)
Chris Martin (to Brian McCann)
Justin Wilson (to Austin Romine)

12:10
Branden Pinder (to Juan Graterol)
Luis Severiano (to Gary Sanchez)

• Batting practice groups:

Group 1
Francisco Arcia
Trent Garrison
Kyle Higashioka
Eddy Rodriguez
Gary Sanchez

Group 2
Brian McCann
John Ryan Murphy
Austin Romine
Carlos Beltran

• For whatever reason, there’s a bus taking players to the minor league complex tomorrow. No huge names on the list, but Andrew Miller and Adam Warren are among those going over. I assume they’re going over to face minor league hitters. Why do that at the complex? Maybe the Yankees don’t want their regular position players facing live pitching just yet?

Associated Press photos

 
 

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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 at 11:58 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Position players officially report to Yankees camp today

Alex Rodriguez

The first full-squad workout isn’t until tomorrow, but the Yankees’ spring clubhouse will have a little extra life today as position players report for their physicals. And yes, Alex Rodriguez will be involved. Joe Girardi explained yesterday that Rodriguez saw only a couple of specialists when he showed up on Monday. He’ll have to complete the full physical today.

“I think it helps, him coming in the first couple days, because he has spoken with the media,” Girardi said. “It’s not going to be necessarily the first chance people have to the opportunity to talk to him, so I would think that would help.”

RodriguezAs Monday’s high-profile arrival proved — as if there were any doubt — Rodriguez is going to be an unavoidable center of attention this spring. They story is simply too fascinating to get away from it.

Rodriguez is not the guy who will make or break the Yankees’ season. His return is not nearly as important as Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow, or Carlos Beltran’s elbow, or CC Sabathia’s knee, or Brian McCann’s production, or Rob Refsnyder’s potential. Each of those elements will get plenty of attention this spring. You’re also going to read and hear a lot about Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius and Luis Severino these next six weeks.

But on a day-to-day basis, there’s little in Yankees camp more fascinating than Rodriguez.

It really is an unprecedented situation: a player of his caliber, coming off baseball’s longest-ever steroid suspension, after a series of recent injuries and surgeries, having publicly feuded with the league and the front office, no longer trusted at his usual position, providing no clue what to expect on or off the field. It’s a story with endless angles and endless possibilities; it’s fascinating, even if it’s often maddening.

If you’re sick of the whole thing, I completely understand — believe me, there are plenty of days when the last thing I want to write is another A-Rod story — but there’s a reason it’s getting so much attention. It’s like nothing else.

“When you’re guilty of something and you pay your consequence, you pay your consequence and we have to move on,” Girardi said. “From a physical standpoint, is he going to be different? Maybe. That’s something I have to be aware of. He’s a couple years older and there are things I have to be aware of, but I don’t think my job description really changes.”

Associated Press photo

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 at 8:30 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post


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