The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Archive for the ‘Misc’

Heathcott hitting leadoff for second spring game03.03.16

Slade Heathcott CF
Carlos Beltran RF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Mark Teixeira 1B
Chase Headley 3B
Gary Sanchez C
Rob Refsnyder 2B
Lane Adams LF
Tyler Wade SS

RHP Ivan Nova

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Castro, Gregorius together for spring opener03.02.16

Didi Gregorius SS
Starlin Castro 2B
Brian McCann C
Mark Teixeira 1B
Aaron Hicks CF
Dustin Ackley DH
Aaron Judge RF
Ben Gamel LF
Donovan Solano 3B

RHP Luis Severino

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The most interesting lineup in Yankees camp03.01.16


Just to finish the day with something different…

The Yankees’ Grapefruit League opener, and Joe Girardi said this afternoon he’d already put together lineups for the first five spring training games.

Problem was, he couldn’t remember which names were on the lineup card for tomorrow.

We already know Luis Severino will be the starting pitcher, but Girardi hasn’t committed to which position players will be on the field. He’s only said that not all of the big league regulars will play.

If it’s not going to be all of the big leaguers together, then why not go with the most buzzworthy, interesting lineup the Yankees could possibly put together?

Based strictly on excitement and anticipation — based strictly on guys worth watching in a this exhibition setting — this is my attempt to put together the most interesting group of position players for Wednesday’s spring opener. This is not the team that should break camp, just a team that would have something interesting — something worth watching — at every position.

And by the way, in no way do I expect these to be the actual starting position players tomorrow. It’s just a collection of guys worth watching at each spot.

Yankees Spring BaseballCatcher — Gary Sanchez
Austin Romine is a stand-up guy who has been, perhaps, dismissed a little too much when it comes to this backup catcher competition. But still, there’s no catcher in camp who generates excitement and possibility quite like Sanchez. Coming off a big year that seemed to convince the Yankees he’s ready for the big leagues, Sanchez seems to have a real chance to make the big league team. Let him start trying to win that job from Day 1.

First baseman — Mark Teixeira
There’s some temptation to put Dustin Ackley here just because he’s relatively new and could play a key role as Teixeira’s backup, but this is the final year of Teixeira’s contract and he’s a legitimately fascinating piece of the puzzle. After last year’s injury, there’s some intrigue about whether he can stay healthy and repeat his resurgent 2015 numbers. With Greg Bird on the shelf, the first bases position is really in Teixeira’s hands.

Second baseman — Starlin Castro
Let’s not overthink this one. Have to go with the new guy who’s playing a relatively new position. The Yankees gave up a pitcher of significant value in Adam Warren, which tells you what they think of Castro’s potential. If this guy can be a good/solid defender and hit like an all-star again, the Yankees could have their second baseman for the foreseeable future. Might as well meet the new guy in the first game.

Shortstop — Jorge Mateo
Was going to say Didi Gregorius because it’s worth seeing him alongside Castro up the middle. Those two could form a middle infield combination that lasts into the foreseeable future, and that’s a pretty exciting thing to roll out in the spring opener. But, really, for one game that doesn’t mean anything, the most buzzworthy shortstop would be the kid who led all of the minors in stolen bases last season. Mateo’s future is bright. Get that future started right away.

Robert RefsnyderThird base — Rob Refsnyder
It will never happen because Refsnyder’s only had a few days of defensive drills at third base, but if you want to put together the most interesting lineup possible, it definitely includes Refsnyder at third. If he can play the hot corner, Refsnyder could suddenly have a real role on the big league bench. He could still get some time at second, and perhaps provide a third base alternative should Chase Headley stumble again. It’s not often that the final bench spot is interesting. This year is an exception.

Left field — Ben Gamel
Put this kid on the radar. Yankees fans know all about Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams — and Dustin Fowler’s day will come — but Gamel deserves some attention after arguably the best season in all of the Yankees’ minor league system last year. With Brett Gardner dealing with a bone bruise, someone else will have to play left in these early spring games, and Gamel’s earned a bit of attention. A spring opener isn’t nearly the same as big league Opening Day, but it would be a nice bit of recognition for last year’s success.

Center field — Aaron Hicks
There’s a lot to be said for the all-out way Heathcott plays the game, and obviously there’s a lot to be said for a young kid like Fowler who’s coming off a breakout season, but there’s also plenty of reason to keep an eye on Hicks as a new guy who could see quite a bit of playing time this season. Jacoby Ellsbury will get plenty of at-bats this spring. Might as well give Yankees fans an immediate look at a former first-round pick who just might still have some upside.

Right field — Aaron Judge
Obviously. This has to be the easiest call of the bunch. If you want excitement for the spring opener, put the massive right fielder in the lineup. Heck, bat him third, right in front of Teixeira. That would get some attention. Barring an injury, it’s hard to imagine Judge can make the big league roster out of spring training, but he will still generate about as much attention as anyone in Yankees camp. Put him out there from the very beginning. Why not?

Alex RodriguezDesignated hitter — Alex Rodriguez
We already know this one won’t happen — A-Rod isn’t playing until Thursday — but he’s still about as fascinating as anyone in camp. If you’re looking for the spring training lineup that would stir the most interest, it has to include Rodriguez. No player in Yankees camp has heard louder cheers this spring, and it’s not even close. It’s a totally different environment when he walks out of the dugout and onto the field for batting practice. He just might be the most popular player on the big league roster. Amazing, but true.

Starting pitcher — Luis Severino
I would argue the Yankees actually are using their most interesting starting pitcher. Maybe CC Sabathia has more intrigue, Ivan Nova has more to prove, and James Kaprielian is the hot-shot new prospect, but Severino is a young kid who should be a key piece — perhaps even a vital piece — of this uncertain rotation. Of the realistic candidates to start a game (which rules out Aroldis Chapman), who would you rather watch start a spring opener?

Associated Press photos

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Thoughts in the wake of Chapman’s 30-game suspension03.01.16

Aroldis Chapman

A few thoughts following commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision to suspend Aroldis Chapman 30 games. 

1. The Yankees knew something like this was coming

Sure, they didn’t know what the exact punishment would be, and they didn’t know when it would be announced, but realistically the Yankees knew Chapman would be suspended. At the very least, they were prepared for it as a very likely scenario. They were banking on Chapman being worth the prospect price, even without a full season. They’ve had two months since acquiring Chapman to prepare for this inevitability.

“We talked through all of it,” Brian Cashman explained earlier this spring. “I would just state that he is going to be playing in the Majors this year. He’s going to play for somebody this year, performing and working, not denied work, and so we made the determination that he would be here. He was going to pitch somewhere. And we determined that it would be here.”

The Yankees 30th game this season is May 8, meaning Chapman should be eligible for activation on May 9 (and apparently he’ll be eligible on May 9 even if multiple games are rained out before that). That is, of course, assuming he’s able to stay game-ready throughout the suspension. How the Yankees plan to approach that is probably a question to be answered tomorrow.

Chapman USAT2. In theory, the Yankees have a bullpen to weather the storm

Without Chapman, the Yankees still have a proven closer and a dominant one-two punch at the back of the bullpen. It puts a little more pressure on Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, but that’s nothing new. Those two were expected to do the heavy lifting last season, and there’s little reason to think they can’t do the same for a little more than a month this year.

Also worth noting that during those first 30 games of this season, the Yankees have five off days and only once play more than six games in a row. That should help keep some guys rested and available. Chapman will return one week into a stretch of 20 games in a row, which is pretty decent timing, all things considered.

This spring, the key is to comb through the many other relievers in camp to find another dependable arm or two. Could be Chasen Shreve, who was terrific in the first five months of last season and filled in as the seventh-inning guy for about a month while Miller was hurt (basically the exact role the Yankees have to fill while Chapman is suspended). They could also consider veteran Vinnie Pestano, who had some good seasons as a late-inning setup man in Cleveland. There are also plenty of young, upper-level relievers — Nick Rumbelow, James Pazos, Branden Pinder, Jacob Lindgren, Nick Goody, Johnny Barbato — worth consideration.

The Yankees are light on experience but deep on options for their bullpen. In that way — with two high-end relievers still in place, and plenty of off days early — they’re in a fairly good position to withstand the Chapman suspension.

3. Everything should stay the same after the suspension

There was some chance Chapman could be suspended long enough to postpone his free agency, but 30 games doesn’t do it. He’s still on track to reach free agency at the end of the 2016 season, meaning his stint with the Yankees is likely to last only one partial season. Players association director Tony Clark clarified on Saturday that — unlike players suspended for PEDs — players suspended under the domestic violence policy are eligible for the postseason, so Chapman should be available should the Yankees advance to the playoffs.

Once Chapman returns to the active roster, his situation should be unchanged from what anyone expected heading into spring training. Does that mean he will instantly become the closer? It certainly means Girardi will still have that option. Whether that remains the plan will be up to the manager, and presumably subject to change depending on how things go in that first month or so.

One thing that has changed after the suspension: the league now has precedent for any other domestic violence suspension. Not every case is the same, but there’s now a baseline to set expectation.

Chapman4. Strange that Chapman decided not to appeal

It was exactly one week ago that Chapman left no doubt that he would fight any punishment handed down by the commissioner.

“To me, if it doesn’t go my way, I’m just going to appeal,” he said last Tuesday. “I haven’t hurt anybody. … I never hurt anybody ever in my life.”

Clearly Chapman had a change of heart. Could be that the league gave him incentive to do so — wouldn’t be stunned to learn the league threatened a larger suspension if Chapman did appeal; perhaps long enough to put his free agency in doubt — but in the league’s statement, Manfred said that Chapman “acknowledged conduct on that day to be inappropriate under the negotiated Policy, particularly his use of a firearm and the impact of that behavior on his partner.” Perhaps the use of a gun, more than any physical abuse of the girlfriend, was the tipping point?

All we know for certain is that one week ago, Chapman was absolutely planning to appeal. By this afternoon, he’d changed his mind.

5. We still don’t know what exactly happened that night

Chapman had plenty of opportunities this spring to tell his side of the story, and he’s declined. I have no problem with that or any judgment of that, it’s just a fact. The police report paints a picture too vague for any arrest or any charges. It seems stories have changed and opinions have varied and it’s unlikely we’ll ever have absolute clarity.

We only know that something happened, that Chapman insists he hurt no one, but that he acknowledges making some poor choices. The commissioner’s statement suggests the involvement of a gun, even though no one was shot, was a key factor in the decision. It’s interesting that various people have stressed that abuse doesn’t have to mean physical violence, and it seems possible that Chapman’s actions — even if he’s right and no physical harm was done — were indeed abusive.

There’s nothing good here. Clearly something not great happened that night, and it was enough that Major League Baseball felt the need to punish a player (perhaps to send a message that anything of this sort will not be tolerated). What’s left is to see what happens next. Of all people, it was Alex Rodriguez who took that point of view this afternoon.

“He’s going through some serious issues,” Rodriguez said. “But that presents an opportunity to kind of make strides forward in your life way beyond baseball.”

Associated Press photos

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Chapman: “I should have exercised better judgment”03.01.16

ChapmanFrom Ken Rosenthal: Aroldis Chapman has released a statement explaining his decision to accept the suspension:

“Today, I accepted a 30 game suspension from Major League Baseball resulting from my actions on October 30, 2015. I want to be clear, I did not in any way harm my girlfriend that evening. However, I should have exercised better judgment with respect to certain actions, and for that I am sorry. The decision to accept a suspension, as opposed to appealing one, was made after careful consideration. I made this decision in an effort to minimize the distractions that an appeal would cause the Yankees, my new teammates and most importantly, my family. I have learned from this matter, and I look forward to being part of the Yankees’ quest for a 28th World Series title. Out of respect for my teammates and my family, I will have no further comment.”

The Yankees also have released a brief statement about the suspension:

“The New York Yankees support the decision made by The Commissioner today. We are pleased that Aroldis has accepted this discipline.”


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Aroldis Chapman suspended 30 games; will not appeal03.01.16

Aroldis Chapman

One day before the Yankees spring training opener, Major League Baseball has announced a 30-game suspension for new Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, who was found to have violated the league’s domestic violence policy.

Chapman has agreed not to appeal.

His suspension will be effective on Opening Day, leaving him free to participate in all Spring Training games and activities.

“Much of the information regarding the incident has been made public through documents released by law enforcement,” commissioner Rob Manfred said in a released statement. “Mr. Chapman submitted to an in-person interview with counsel present. After reviewing the staff report, I found Mr. Chapman’s acknowledged conduct on that day to be inappropriate under the negotiated Policy, particularly his use of a firearm and the impact of that behavior on his partner.

“I am gratified that Mr. Chapman has taken responsibility for his conduct, that he has agreed not to appeal the 30-game suspension, and that he has agreed to comply with the confidential directives of the Joint Policy Board established under the parties’ Policy to ensure that a similar incident does not occur in the future.”

The Major League Baseball Players Association released the following statement:

“The Major League Baseball Players Association and its members do not condone the mistreatment of others by playing or non-playing personnel. At the same time, the MLBPA remains committed to protecting and ensuring the rights granted to Players under the applicable provisions of the sport’s new Joint Policy on Domestic Violence. As such, the MLBPA supports Mr. Chapman’s decision to forgo his right to an appeal.”

The league’s investigation focused on the night of October 30, when police arrived at Chapman’s home in response to a call about a domestic incident. Initial accusations included Chapman choking and shoving his girlfriend before firing a handgun in his garage, but no charges were filed or arrests made due to “conflicting stories and a lack of cooperation from all parties involved.” Chapman’s girlfriend later softened her accusations about what exactly happened that night, and the case was closed by law enforcement.

When spring training started, Chapman said he planned to appeal any suspension stemming from the incident.

“I never hurt anybody ever in my life,” he said. “… That’s not my character or the person I am.”

The Yankees repeatedly have expressed support for Chapman, while also supporting Manfred’s right to punish under the new domestic violence policy. Manager Joe Girardi has said players should be held to higher standards, and general manager Brian Cashman has expressed faith in the league’s investigators.

“It’s obviously in the hands of the Commissioner and we’ll do what’s best for our sport,” Cashman said. “We’ve got a lot of trust there. Wait and support whatever his decision will be.”

Associated Press photo

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Severino feels need to prove himself in Wednesday’s spring opener03.01.16

Luis Severino

As the price of pitching soared to unprecedented levels, the Yankees did nothing to upgrade their rotation this offseason. The Red Sox signed David Price, the Diamondbacks traded for Shelby Miller, and the Yankees’ added … a minor leaguer with limited Triple-A experience.

With essentially the same cast of characters returning from last season, the Yankees best hope for an improved rotation just might be a full year of Luis Severino, the young phenom who will start the Yankees’ spring training opener against the Tigers on Wednesday.

“I think they know what I do,” Severino said. “(I did) a very good job last year, but I have to do the same job or more better this year.”

Luis SeverinoManager Joe Girardi has so far stopped short of guaranteeing Severino a spot in the big league rotation. He’s committed to Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi – if healthy – but he’s said Severino still has something to prove.

It’s not a matter of talent. It’s a matter of expectation and execution.

“I think it’s dangerous, when you have a young player, to anoint them and put pressure on them,” Girardi said. “So we want to see how he does this spring and how he handles it. I’ve always felt it’s one thing to come up and do well. It’s another thing to perform when you’re expected to do well. … I haven’t seen anything (to suggest he won’t handle it), but I think you have to go through it before you make a decision.”

When the Yankees acquired no pitching at last year’s trade deadline, they instead supplemented their rotation by summoning Severino from Triple-A. He was 21 years old, the most highly touted prospect in the organization, and he delivered a 2.89 ERA through 11 starts.

There’s no need for nuance in evaluating his impact. Severino’s maturity and poise were impressive, but that’s not what mattered most.

“The performance, bottom line,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “It’s a performance industry at that level. He hit the ground running and slotted in perfectly, gave us everything. I couldn’t have acquired — unless it was David Price — I couldn’t have acquired anybody else that could have impacted us any better.”

This winter, the Yankees again did nothing to improve their rotation. If anything, they lost depth by trading away Adam Warren. They added nothing but minor leaguers — headlined by former Mets and Tigers prospect Luis Cessa — to address their overwhelming injury concerns. Severino doesn’t carry significant health concerns, but he does bring some workload uncertainty. He’s never thrown more than 162 innings in a season but says he’d like to get up to 200 this year.

For now, Severino plans to begin earning his place in the Yankees’ rotation with his start in the exhibition opener. He’ll be limited to an inning or two, and Girardi has said he never makes concrete evaluations based on early spring results, but Severino sees every start as an opportunity to prove himself.

“The first, the second, the last, I’m going to do the same,” he said. “I’m going to go hard and work my pitches. … Everybody wants to start in the big leagues, and I’m going to prove (I belong) and show all my stuff to the Yankees.”

Associated Press photos

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New blog format coming tomorrow02.29.16

Yankees Spring Baseball

Just a quick heads up to everyone, we’re moving the blog into a new format at some point tomorrow. I’m not entirely sure when it’s going to happen — late morning, I’m told — but the blog is going to look quite a bit different. It’s a format the newspaper has been using for quite a while with all of its other blogs, and the Yankees blog is finally making the transition. I believe the new format was live for a few minutes at some point last week, so some of you might have caught a glimpse of it.

It’s an entirely new system for me, so it might take some trial and error for me to figure out what’s working and what’s not. As we go along, feel free to post comments or email me about what you like or don’t like. It’s going to be an adjustment for me as well, but we want to make it as accessible and functional as possible.

As always, thank you all for reading. Exhibition games are only a couple of days away.

Associated Press photo

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Monday workout notes: Shreve hit by comebacker, Pineda still impressive02.29.16

Taboola Home/Section Front Player

Today was the final full day of workouts before the Yankees begin their spring training exhibition schedule. The first Grapefruit League game is Wednesday, but tomorrow is an off day for the team’s annual bonding event. Not sure what exactly the Yankees are doing, but it’s something at Steinbrenner Field, which will be closed to the public. No workout at all tomorrow. Next baseball action for the Yankees will be Wednesday’s spring opener against the Tigers.

For now, here are some notes from today. Up top is a video of Bryan Mitchell facing both Starlin Castro and Rob Refsnyder in live batting practice.

Nathan EovaldiInjury report

• Here’s Girardi discussing Nathan Eovaldi‘s sore left groin: “I’m not concerned about it. His side is Wednesday. … He’s done two flat grounds in between. So it’s more of just saying, you can (give it time) in spring training, do it. I’m not too concerned. Now, if he comes out and has a problem when he throws a bullpen, then I’ll (be concerned), but he’s done everything. He’s thrown. He threw that day where he wasn’t supposed to throw his bullpen.”

• Doesn’t seem to be a real injury, but Chasen Shreve was hit in the back line a line drive in batting practice today. Aaron Hicks hit the ball. This happen on the back field, so Girardi didn’t see it (neither did I). “They said he was OK,” Girardi said. “His session was basically over so they just stopped it.”

• Indoor batting practice has been pushed back a day for Brett Gardner. He was supposed to hit inside tomorrow, but Girardi wants tomorrow to be a full day off for everyone. The team is doing some sort of bonding event at Steinbrener Field, so Gardner will instead take indoor batting practice on Wednesday. Gardner said he felt fine doing defensive drills today. “One day is not going to make a difference,” Girardi said. “It’s supposed to be an off day for everyone; I want it to be an off day.”

Chapman impresses in live BP

Obviously a lot of attention on Aroldis Chapman is focused on his potential suspension, but the Yankees acquired him because of what he can do on the mound, and today was their best look yet. Chapman faced hitters for the first time since the end of last season.

“I felt great,” Chapman said. “Physically, I felt awesome out there. It’s the first time I’ve faced live hitters since last season, but I feel great.”

Chapman threw early live batting practice along with CC Sabathia, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller.

“(Chapman) threw the ball really well,” Girardi said. “All of those guys did. Those four guys who threw early this morning, I thought, threw the ball well.”

Yankees Spring BaseballWaiting for Tanaka’s next step

The only Yankees starters who haven’t faced hitters are Eovaldi and Masahiro Tanaka. Eovaldi would have if not for a mild groin injury. Tanaka, on the other hand, got up to 61 pitches in the bullpen yesterday — that’s quite a bit — but the Yankees have not said when he’ll finally throw live batting practice.

“Obviously he is much closer to that, especially if he’s feeling good,” Girardi said. “Larry (Rothschild) likes to do some simulated games with guys during this stretch to build people up and get them started, but I don’t have an exact date when he’s pitching.”

Pineda continues to impress

With Eovaldi and Tanaka not yet facing hitters, it seems Michael Pineda could be the first of the Yankees’ top three starters to get in a game this spring. And so far, Pineda feels like an early standout in Yankees camp.

“Michael has looked really, really good in spring training,” Girardi said. “I saw him again today and was really impressed by his bullpen.”

So why are the Yankees opening with Luis Severino, Ivan Nova and Bryan Mitchell? Do the Yankees want to see more of those three, or are those simply the three best prepared to pitch in a game at this point?

“These three were probably the guys that are probably the most ready to go out and do their thing,” Girardi said.

Defensive drills

Today was the first time Yankees infielders and outfielders worked together during fielding drills. The team basically practiced relays and cut-offs, making sure each player knew where to be on balls hit into the corners or gaps. For parts of the workout, players were actually making throws, but there were also times the team just had baseball’s on the ground in each corner and each gap, and the players would basically go through the motions — outfielder running to the ball, infielders rotating into position — without actually doing any throws. Maybe the Yankees have done that in the past, but I don’t remember seeing it.

One thing I missed today: Apparently Cesar Puello made an impressive, one-hop throw from right field to home plate.

Associated Press photo

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Aroldis Chapman still waiting for MLB investigation decision02.29.16

Taboola Home/Section Front Player

There’s still some time left in the day, so maybe we’ll have some clarity in a few hours, but at this point we’re still waiting for word from Major League Baseball regarding its investigation into Aroldis Chapman. It’s been a week and a half since pitchers and catchers reported to spring training — and it’s been nearly three months since news of Chapman’s domestic incident went public — and still the wait continues.

“At some point, we’re going to hear something,” Brian Cashman said. “Now it’s not out of my mind, but it’s not in our control. We’re not aware (of what’s going to happen). We just wait. We just knew when we acquired him that there would be something that we’re dealing with. It was (a question of), what level of something? We’ve gone through the criminal phase which, that side of it, wasn’t pursued. Now it’s obviously in the hands of the commissioner, and we’ll do what’s best for our sport. We’ve got a lot of trust there. Wait and support whatever his decision will be.”

The video above is Chapman addressing the situation very briefly.

“I’m just waiting like everybody else,” Chapman said through a translator. “Nothing to add to it.”

I posted the video only so that everyone else can see what we in the media have seen. If the wait for answers is bothering Chapman, it’s hard to tell.

“He seems to be the same guy that he’s been every day in the clubhouse,” Girardi said. “Now, obviously during the course of a season, you’ll see guys a lot more than you do in spring training because they’re all over the place, but I haven’t seen anything different (in his demeanor).”

At this point in spring training, all of the Yankees pitchers are basically just getting ready. Not much is being lined up or evaluated, so the uncertainty doesn’t really change much. But certainly it would be better to know sooner than later.

“I think we’ve all lived through it enough to know that when they’re prepared to make some sort of decision, only then (will something be announced),” Cashman said. “And they know it, not us. All the other speculation prior have been wasted energy for all of us. Listen, it’s a serious issue, and so I know the commissioner and the Players Association — it’s not just (Rob Manfred), it’s both of them — are in a position to try and make sure that everything they do is on the same page, I’m sure.”

For now, Chapman just continues to go about his work. Today he faced hitters for the first time this spring.

“I just wanted to see what it was like,” said shortstop prospect Tyler Wade, who faced Chapman this morning. “Obviously I’ve seen him on TV a lot, and it wasa good experience. It was everything I’d heard of and more.”

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