The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Archive for the ‘Misc’

Masahiro Tanaka focusing on two-seam fastballs this season03.25.15

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka’s velocity is down this spring, but that might not be a matter of a diminished fastball, it might simply be a different fastball. Tanaka said today that he’s been throwing basically nothing but two-seamers since camp opened.

“The reason I’m not throwing much is that a lot of the four-seamers have been hit last year during the regular season,” Tanaka said. “So I’m doing this on purpose, I’m working on the two-seamers purposely.”

A scout in the stands had Tanaka’s fastball velocity roughly the same as YES Network showed, 88 to 90 mph. The scout mentioned that it was “really” top heavy. That velocity’s not far off from the two-seam velocity Tanaka showed last season. So the question isn’t about how hard Tanaka’s throwing, it’s about why he’s choosing the sinker ahead of the four-seamer.

Sample size from last season is fairly limited, but according to Brooks Baseball, Tanaka’s four-seam fastball generated a significantly higher opponents’ batting average beginning in June (presumably after major league hitters had a chance to adjust by jumping on the four-seamer to avoid his offspeed stuff). Slugging percentage was also higher and the whiff percentage lower against the four-seamer after those first two months of the season.

The data seems complicated by the elbow injury. Beyond the end of June, there just weren’t many healthy starts to use as a gauge, but there does seem to be some statistical evidence to support Tanaka’s theory. One scout suggested the two-seamer could also be easier on Tanaka’s elbow because it requires less effort and creates less stress. Effectively using a four-seamer often requires big velocity up in the zone, truly maxing out a pitcher’s effort. A two-seamer naturally and intentionally works with less velocity down in the zone.

“There were some times he gave up hard-hit balls on four-seamers, yes,” Joe Girardi said. “… (Using the two-seamer) is something that he’s talked about. He’s tried to use it more. I think we’ve seen him use it much more this spring than he did last year, and he’ll continue to work on it. He’s just trying to add to his repertoire and see how it goes.”

While Tanaka said he’s basically throwing all two-seam fastballs this spring, he said he still plans to use his four-seamer during the season. He hasn’t scrapped the pitch, just thinks his other weapons are more effective.

“I think there’s room for both (fastballs),” Girardi said. “Four-seam you’re going to see more velo; might be something you climb the ladder with, do some different things. But sometimes you get quick outs with sinkers and there’s more movement. He’s just trying to improve his game.”

It seems worth noting that Tanaka’s final pitch today was a 93-mph fastball — probably his hardest pitch of the day — that was hit for a double. That’s basically the same four-seam velocity he showed last season, suggesting the arm strength is there if he needs it and wants it.

“I think he’s paced himself a little bit as far as really turning the ball loose,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “Today, the last hitter with two strikes, you wouldn’t see that pitch (in the regular season). I think he felt like he wanted to air it out with a fastball a little bit and his last three pitches were probably his hardest pitches. He knew what he was dong and the purpose that he had behind it.”

Associated Press photo

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Spring Game 24: Yankees vs. Mets03.25.15

Masahiro Tanaka

YANKEES (13-9-1)
Brett Gardner CF
Chase Headley 3B
Carlos Beltran RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Garrett Jones LF
Stephen Drew 2B
Didi Gregorius SS
John Ryan Murphy C

RHP Masahiro Tanaka (13-5, 2.77 in 2014)

METS (12-10)
Juan Lagares CF
Ruben Tejada SS
Lucas Duda 1B
John Mayberry Jr. LF
Kik Nieuwenhuis RF
Travis d’Arnaud C
Johnny Monell DH
Alex Castellanos 3B
Matt Reynolds 2B

RHP Rafael Montero (1-3, 4.06 in 2014)

TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., YES Network

WEATHER: Cloudy but shouldn’t have any trouble getting the game in.

UMPIRES: HP Eric Cooper, 1B Bob Davidson, 2B Dan Iassogna, 3B Doug Vines

TODAY’S SECOND STRING: C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Brendan Ryan, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Ben Gamel, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Ramon Flores

TODAY’S SCHEDULED RELIEVERS: Chase Whitley, Justin Wilson, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, David Carpenter, Andrew Bailey

NEXT TO LAST TUNE UP: This should be Masahiro Tanaka’s next-to-last start of the spring. At this point he’s expected to stay on an every-six-days schedule and start Opening Day in New York.

UPDATE, 1:11 p.m.: After a sharp double and a routine fly ball, Tanaka bounced a ball in front of the plate, where Murphy blocked it but had to scrambled to pick it up. That gave Lagares time to take third, and Murphy’s throw was a bad one, letting Lagares score easily.

UPDATE, 1:16 p.m.: Tanaka also had a walk in the inning, but he finished with back-to-back strikeouts against Mayberry Jr. and Nieuwenhuis. It’s a 1-0 Mets lead in the first.

UPDATE, 1:38 p.m.: Tanaka got a double play and a strikeout in the second inning. He has three Ks through two.

UPDATE, 1:59 p.m.: Headley’s strong spring continues with an RBI double in the third (after Gregorius doubled earlier in the inning). Tanaka out for his fourth inning with a tied game.

UPDATE, 2:05 p.m.: Just a bad curveball from Tanaka, and Mayberry hit it for a solo home run. That’s the third Mets hit of the day.

UPDATE, 2:07 p.m.: That’s a three-strikeout inning for Tanaka, with the Ks coming all around that solo homer. Tanaka’s throwing a ton of offspeed stuff today, including what seems like an unusually high number of splits. It’s been plenty effective. Six strikeouts through four innings.

UPDATE, 2:24 p.m.: Tanaka is finished after 4.2 innings. YES gun had his last fastball at 93 mph, which is one of the few fastballs he seems to have thrown today. It was hit for a double.

UPDATE, 2:25 p.m.: Betances just gave up a two-run homer to Lagares and it’s a 4-1 Mets lead.

UPDATE, 2:46 p.m.: Rough day for Andrew Miller in his first back-to-back appearance. He hit a guy and gave up two singles, one of them driving in a run. Justin Wilson came in and got out of the inning thanks to a really nice play by Chase Headley to turn a line drive into a double play. It’s 5-1 Mets heading into the bottom of the sixth.

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Murphy behind the plate for Tanaka’s start03.25.15

MurphyBrett Gardner CF
Chase Headley 3B
Carlos Beltran RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Garrett Jones LF
Stephen Drew 2B
Didi Gregorius SS
John Ryan Murphy C

RHP Masahiro Tanaka

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Postgame notes: “Not great”03.24.15

Esmil Rogers

Asked what he thought of tonight’s outing, Esmil Rogers gave a brief but accurate assessment.

“Not great,” he said.

Just hours after manager Joe Girardi acknowledged that this was a “pretty big start” for the fifth-starter candidate, Rogers had his worst outing of the spring. His first inning was sloppy with three hits, but Rogers limited the damage to one run. His second inning was the real mess with a couple of walks, one hard-hit double, four runs and an error on Rogers himself. His third inning was clean, but at that point, the damage was done: Three innings, five hits, five runs, one earned (unearned runs were because of his own mistake), two walks and two strikeouts.

Didi Gregorius, Esmil Rogers, Larry RothschildIf the Yankees really are going to address their rotation first and then see how the remaining pieces fall into the bullpen, then it’s hard to see Rogers as a rotation front runner right now. He was having a strong spring before his past two starts, but those past two starts have been pretty bad, and they happened to be the starts when Girardi said results would really matter.

“The stuff is better than the way he’s pitched these last two outings,” Girardi said.

Later, Girardi added this: “You have to look at how the guys are doing. You’re there to compete, they understand that, and you’ve got to be able to make pitches.”

Earlier this spring, Rogers talked about the advice he got from Mariano Rivera about attacking hitters and staying aggressive. Today, he said his problem was that he couldn’t do that. He couldn’t attack because he couldn’t locate.

“I missed the glove today,” he said. “My ball was running a little bit from the lefties, and that’s why I tried to throw fastballs away, the ball cut into the middle. … All I can do is go work. Tomorrow, come in with my head up and keep working. That decision, they’re going to make it. I don’t have to.”

Adam Warren’s next start is Thursday. We could have a fifth-start declared by Friday.

“It’s something that we have to talk about, and I’m sure over the next week or so we’ll talk a lot about what we’re going to do here,” Girardi said. “I think you have to make a decision by the end of the week so the guy that’s not a starter can get to the pen and get some reps.”

Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann• The Yankees won this game 9-8 on a three-run, walk-off homer by Ramon Flores. “He’s a guy that’s definitely on our radar,” Girardi said. “If something was to happen to one of our outfielders, I think he’d be a pretty strong candidate.”

• The YES radar gun had Dellin Betances at 93-94 mph tonight. His spring numbers aren’t great, and right now his velocity is a little down from last season. “I’ve got to just trust whatever I have right now,” Betances said. “I know that the velocity will come. Same thing last year in spring training; last year I just trusted it and this year I’m trying to do a little extra with whatever I have instead of just trusting it.”

• Girardi said a lot of the same stuff about Betances, mostly that Betances wasn’t reaching the upper 90s last spring either. “There’s not concern for me now,” Girardi said. “If it was to go on for a long time, we would be concerned. He wasn’t throwing 97, 98 in spring training last year at this time. He wasn’t. And power pitchers usually take a little bit longer to get going.”

• It’s worth noting that relievers are held back a little bit early in spring training, and Betances has always said — ever since he successfully transitioned out of the rotation — that it’s the constant work out of the bullpen that’s helped him thrive in that role. Because of that, he’s excited to get back out there tomorrow for his first back-to-back appearance. “I’ve just got to pitch more,” he said. “The more I pitch, the better I’ll feel. That’s always been my thing. Ever since I moved to the bullpen, the more I get to pitch, the better I feel with all my pitches.”

• Other Yankees relievers looked much better. Andrew Miller and Justin Wilson pitched a scoreless inning apiece, each with a strikeout. Nick Rumbelow — who’s put up impressive numbers this spring — also looked sharp before a bad play on what should have been the final out of his inning (ruled a hit, but it was a pretty routine grounder to third). That opened the door and Rumbelow wound up allowing two runs, one earned. Back up from minor league camp, James Pazos had three strikeouts in an inning.

Brett Gardner• After his two-homer game yesterday, Chris Young delivered the leadoff double that kick-started a three-run Yankees seventh tonight. The double came off a lefty, which is exactly the kind of thing the Yankees are hoping to get from Young this season.

• Later in the inning, Didi Gregorius doubled off the same lefty. Gregorius has actually been getting quite a few hits off lefties lately. The Yankees would like him to be more than a platoon shortstop. Ideally, he’ll prove capable of playing every day.

• Brett Gardner had no steals this spring. Tonight he had two. He leads the Yankees in both strikeouts and walks.

• Kyle Higashioka just missed a grand slam in the seventh inning. He hit it plenty far enough, just hooked it four. Would have been his first hit of the spring. Instead he walked in a run.

• Nathan Eovaldi on today’s minor league game: “A lot of the time I speed up even more (in a tough spot), as opposed to taking a step off the mound and then regrouping. The first inning, it took me about 10, 11 pitches to finally step back and walk it back in. In the third inning, I got into some more trouble and was able to stand back and regroup right away, and get out of it. That’s a good thing.”

• While Girardi said he wouldn’t comment on the Opening Day starter, he did acknowledge that there’s really no chance CC Sabathia would pitch on short rest for either his last spring start or his first regular-season start. “I wouldn’t think I would do that, no,” Girardi said. That effectively means Sabathia is officially of the running for the opener. Also, Giradri said Sabathia’s start on Saturday might be in a minor league game instead of in that day’s big league game against the Orioles.

• No final word today, instead I’ll just direct you to the Yankees OnDemand remake of an iconic Sandlot scene using various Yankees players. It’s pretty incredible. Betances cracks me up, and Brian McCann plays the role perfectly. One of the highlights of spring, for sure.

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: Sabathia no longer lined up for Opening Day03.24.15

Masahiro Tanaka

The Yankees have announced their rotation through Monday’s off day, and it seems to provide some clarity about the their plans for Opening Day.

Wednesday: Masahiro Tanaka
Thursday: Adam Warren
Friday: Michael Pineda
Saturday: CC Sabathia
Sunday: Nathan Eovaldi

By giving Sabathia an extra day of rest this week, the Yankees have effectively eliminated him from the conversation for Opening Day. To pitch the opener, Sabathia would have to make either his last spring start or his first regular-season start on short rest. Hard to imagine that happening. Instead, Sabathia’s now lined up to pitch Game 2 after one more turn on extra rest.

Meanwhile, Tanaka is lineup perfectly to stay on an every-six-days schedule and pitch Opening Day. Because of scheduled off days, Tanaka could make each of his first three starts on five days of rest even without the Yankees plugging in a sixth starter during that time.

“It is flexible because of these days off,” Girardi said. “It’s flexible what we can do. We’ve done that kind of on purpose. The big thing is that Eovaldi, his pitch counts are good, Pineda’s have been good. We still need to build Tanaka and CC up a little more. As long as we can get through their starts and have no issues, we should be able to iron it out the way we anticipate them.”

With Esmil Rogers starting tonight and Warren scheduled for Thursday, Girardi said he could have a fifth starter decided by the end of the week.

“I think it’s a pretty big start for (Rogers),” Girardi said. “… I would think we’ll probably even meet in the next couple days to try to make some decisions here.”

Alex Rodriguez• During fielding drills today, Alex Rodriguez spent a lot of time at first base working on cut offs and relays. Girardi said he still expects Rodriguez to get at least one turn at first base this spring. “You’re probably going to see him going through some drills at first,” Girardi said. “And my guess is you’re going to see him (at first base) in a spring training game before we leave.”

• Girardi said he’d basically just like to have Rodriguez capable of playing first base just in case someone gets hurt. Garrett Jones is the backup first baseman, but if either Jones or Teixeira were to get hurt, Girardi said he’d rather be able to play Rodriguez at first base instead of either Chase Headley or Brian McCann.

• The more important thing with Rodriguez has been his at-bats, and the Yankees seem happy with those. “I just think his at-bats are more consistent (than at the start of camp),” Girardi said. “His timing is more consistent.”

• Jose Pirela is back with the team, but he’s still going through concussions tests. Girardi said the medical staff plans to let Pirela start working out — very lightly — just to see how he reacts to that. Pirela had a concussion two years ago, but he said the symptoms are not as bad this time.

• Jacoby Ellsbury did some light swings with a broomstick yesterday and will gradually increase baseball activities. Girardi remains unconcerned. Said he expects Ellsbury to start playing again before the end of spring training and be ready for the Opener.

• Nathan Eovaldi went 4.2 innings at the minor league complex. Said he was wild with his offspeed pitch early in the game — he started with a walk to former Yankees prospect Melky Mesa, who’s a notorious free swinger — but Eovaldi was ultimately happy with the outing. “I was just rushing (early in the game),” Eovaldi said. “Slider behind, same with the curveball. Fastball was a little all over the place. Once I stayed back over the mound, it was there.”

• With Tanaka starting tomorrow, Chase Whitley is going to the minor league complex to stay stretched out. He’ll pitch four or five innings across the street.

Today’s bullpen sessions: Adam Warren, CC Sabathia, Vicente Campos, Ivan Nova, Scott Baker, Chris Martin, Danny Burawa

Today’s second string: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Ali Castillo, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ramon Flores, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Aaron Judge, DH Kyle Higashioka

Today’s scheduled relievers: Justin Wilson, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Nick Rumbelow

Associated Press photos

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Headley hitting second as Ellsbury sits again03.24.15

Brett Gardner CF

Chase Headley 3B

Carlos Beltran RF

Mark Teixeira 1B

Brian McCann C

Alex Rodriguez DH

Stephen Drew 2B

Chris Young LF

Didi Gregorius SS

RHP Esmil Rogers

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Eovaldi set for five minor league innings03.24.15

Nathan Eovaldi is at the minor league complex today. He’s scheduled for five innings. Austin Romine is coming down to catch for him. Romine will also get some at-bats whenever the Yankees want him to take them. Here’s the AAA lineup he’s playing with.

Taylor Dugas DH

Ben Gamel CF

Tyler Austin RF

Kyle Roller 1B

Rob Segedin 3B

Dan Fiorito 2B

Danny Oh LF

Hoy Jun Park SS

Tyson Blaser C (when Romine is finished)

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Yankees minor league work groups03.24.15

Yankees Spring Baseball

I’m planning to head over to the minor league complex for at least a little while this afternoon to catch some of Nathan Eovaldi’s start. The major league clubhouse opens soon after that game gets started, so I won’t be able to catch all of it, but I’ll try to get over there for at least a little while. With Eovaldi heading to the complex, this seems like a good time to post the current minor league work groups.

A quick reminder: These are not the individual rosters for each level. Some players are assigned exactly where the Yankees expect them to start the season (for example, it makes sense that Greg Bird, Aaron Judge and Jake Cave are currently assigned to Double-A) but many players are simply put where they’re needed. The Triple-A roster looks nothing like it will at the start of the season because most of the actual Triple-A guys are still in big league camp (Thairo Estrada, for example, I can’t imagine opening in Triple-A).

So, take these for what they are: The assignments for this stage of spring training. There are still a lot of decisions to come, many of which could send players — including a lot of upper level pitchers — up or down to fill spots.

Here are the current assignments in minor league camp:

Branden PinderSCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE
A quick observation about this group: You could pretty easily make a case for at least 10 of the pitchers listed here actually opening the season in Triple-A. That’s without Danny Burawa, Jose Ramirez and Jose De Paula, each of whom has already been optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre without being officially listed in the work group. There are also nine or so guys still in big league camp who won’t have a spot on the big league roster and could/should end up in Triple-A. That’s 22 pitchers for probably 12 spots. Some cuts will be easy, but some are going to be tricky.

Also, Adonis Garcia is not listed in any work group, but I’m told he’s still in the organization, is not injured, and should be joining the workouts soon. What’s going on? “Jedi tricks,” I was told. Seriously.

Pitchers
Andrew Chin
Caleb Cotham
Joel De La Cruz
Brett Gerritse
Chaz Hebert
Brady Lail
Fred Lewis
Jaron Long
Jordan Montgomery
Mark Montgomery
Diego Moreno
Zach Nuding
James Pazos
Branden Pinder
Eric Ruth
Alex Smith
Caleb Smith
Matt Tracy
Cesar Vargas
Tyler Webb

Catchers
Kevin Alexander
Tyson Blaser
Juan Graterol
Wes Wilson

Infielders
Kevin Cornelius
Thairo Estrada
Dan Fiorito
Jose Javier
Hoy Jun Park
Kyle Roller
Rob Segedin
Junior Valera

Outfielders
Tyler Austin
Yeicok Calderon
Taylor Dugas
Ben Gamel
Robert Hernandez
Adam Kirsch
Danny Oh

Greg BirdTRENTON
A quick observation about this group: Gary Sanchez was optioned to Double-A, not Triple-A. And it apparently wasn’t just for show, because Sanchez is legitimately playing with the Trenton guys, including a turn at DH on Sunday when Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran were in minor league camp. I wasn’t expecting a Double-A assignment to Sanchez, and certainly the Yankees could still bump him up to Triple-A to start the season. But one thing that’s probably worth noticing: This winter, the Yankees added former big league catcher Michel Hernandez to the Trenton coaching staff. They also moved former catcher P.J. Pilittere up to be the Double-A hitting coach. That staff is certainly equipped to work with a young catcher, and maybe that’s what the Yankees have had in mind all along.

Pitchers
Johnny Barbato
Derek Callahan
Dan Camarena
Ethan Carnes
Jordan Cote
Taylor Garrison
Tim Giel
Nick Goody
Travis Hissong
Justin Kamplain
Stefan Lopez
Matt Marsh
Luis Niebla
Mike Noteware
Jose Pena
Evan Rutckyj
Luis Severino
Chris Smith
Miguel Sulbaran
Chad Taylor
Eric Wooten

Catchers
Jesus Aparicio
Radley Haddad
Gary Sanchez
Isaias Tejeda

Infielders
Dante Bichette
Greg Bird
Ali Castillo
Vicente Conde
Cito Culver
Eric Jagielo
John Murphy
Jose Rosario
Matt Snyder

Outfielders
Devyn Bolasky
Jake Cave
Claudio Custodio
Aaron Judge
Nathan Mikolas
Brady Steiger
Mason Williams
Zach Wilson

TAMPA
A quick observation about this group: There are some interesting cases in this group including young Leonardo Molina, undrafted Mike Ford and potentially make-or-break Angelo Gumbs. The name that jumps out to me, though, is Tyler Wade if only because that guy actually made an impression in big league camp simply by getting a few one-day call ups to fill in off the bench. Those at-bats say nothing about his ultimate potential — the smallest of small sample sizes — but if Wade makes it to the big leagues while Joe Girardi is still the manager, I’m willing to be Girardi will remember him from this spring. Might need to be reminded of it, but Girardi loves little moments like that, and Wade had a few nice moments in his limited opportunities. Nice player, just young with a long way to go.

Pitchers
Andury Acevedo
Ian Clarkin
Nestor Cortes
Rookie Davis
Simon De La Rosa
Andre Del Bosque
Gabe Encinas
Yoel Espinal
Caleb Frare
Giovanny Gallegos
Kyle Haynes
Conner Kendrick
Joey Maher
Dillion McNamara
Jose Mesa
Melvin Morla
Monolo Reyes
Angel Rincon
Philip Walby
Matt Wotherspoon

Catchers
Alvaro Noriega
Trent Garrison
Collin Slaybaugh
Jackson Valera

Infielders
Miguel Andujar
Bryan Cuevas
Matt Duran
Billy Fleming
Mike Ford
Angelo Gumbs
Ryan Lindermuth
Tyler Wade

Outfielders
Jordan Barnes
Dominic Jose
Ericson Leonora
Leonardo Molina
Michael O’Neill
Mark Payton

CHARLESTON
A quick observation about this group: These are the young guys, many of whom will open the season in extended spring training and most of whom will probably never sniff the big leagues (that’s just the reality of it, the road is long and extremely difficult). One thing to notice is that you don’t see names like Nelson Gomez, Wilkerman Garcia and Juan De Leon listed here. Those were three of the biggest names the Yankees acquired during last year’s international spending spree, but they’re so young, they’re not even at this level yet. Just something to keep in mind. Those teenagers added to the system last year are really, really far away.

Pitchers
Domingo Acevedo
Sam Agnew-Wieland
Rigoberto Arrebato
Rony Bautista
Matt Borens
Sean Carley
Lee Casas
Luis Cedeno
Cale Coshow
Austin Decarr
Jonny Drozd
Jordan Foley
Joe Harvey
Ty Hensley
Jonathan Holder
Deshorn Lake
Anthony Marzi
Jhon Morban
Conner Mullee
David Palladino

Catchers
Eduardo DeOleo
Jake Hernandez
Kale Sumner

Infielders
Abiatal Avelino
Drew Bridges
Gosuke Katoh
Renzo Martini
Jorge Mateo
Graham Ramos
Dalton Smith
Connor Spencer
Derek Toadvine
Allen Valero

Outfielders
Austin Aune
Chris Breen
Kendall Coleman
Dustin Fowler
Frank Frias
Griffin Gordon
Alexander Palma
Brandon Thomas

Associated Press photos (the individual players are Pinder and Bird)

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Monday afternoon notes: Ellsbury still confident he’ll be ready03.23.15

Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury

The Yankees have one starting pitcher with a torn elbow ligament, another with a surgically repaired knee, and another who’s dealt with shoulder issues for three years now. Yet it’s the veteran No. 5 starter who hurt himself earlier this spring.

In the lineup, they have a right fielder coming back from elbow surgery, a first baseman who couldn’t stay on the field last season, and a designated hitter who’s approaching 40 and hasn’t played in more than a year. Yet it’s the reliable center fielder who spent the past week in the trainers’ room.

“I guess all I can tell is just how I feel each and every day,” Jacoby Ellsbury said this morning. “But until I swing a bat, until I throw, until I do really explosive stuff, that will be the real test. But it does feel better each and every day.”

Ellsbury has a mildly strained oblique. The injury was supposed to keep him out of the lineup a couple of days, but he’s now gone a week without baseball activities. Ellsbury remains confident he’ll play on Opening Day, and for now it seems to be more bump in the road than significant concern. The Yankees have to hope it stays that way, because Ellsbury might be their most dependable position player.

“If not the most important, one of the most important guys on our team and definitely in our lineup,” Alex Rodriguez said. “He is certainly one of the guys that I’m super excited about coming back. He’s kind of a rock star and he has a lot of skills. He reminds me of a very skilled point guard in baseball. He can do a lot of things very well, and I hated to play against him because he was so dangerous.”

While Ellsbury has a history of injuries, his two most significant were the product of collisions and not some chronic health problem. Just last spring he missed the last two weeks of Grapefruit League games with a calf injury, but he still opened the season with a strong month of April.

“Coming into the season I felt pretty good,” he said. “I got some at-bats across the street and everything. I felt pretty good. I felt like I was seeing the ball, tracking pitches. And I felt pretty good a couple of days ago in the games with that (before getting hurt). Hopefully I should get some at-bats before we break.”

The Yankees know they have some health and age concerns in their lineup, but Ellsbury’s not supposed to be the one having problems.

“He’s such a unique talent,” Rodriguez said. “You don’t see talent like that come around very often. … There’s a lot of things that I admire about his game and I look forward to hopefully driving him in this year.”

Yankees Nationals Baseball• The Yankees lost 7-6 this afternoon, but it’s hard to blame Chris Young. The Yankees fourth outfielder had a pair of home runs in the loss. The Yankees gave him another turn in center field today, though it seems more likely he’ll play some sort of platoon role in the corners. “The entire goal is just to be ready for whatever,” Young told MLB.com. “Be prepared for whatever situation is going to get thrown my way.”

• Young starter Bryan Mitchell was charged with two runs through 3.1 innings. Both runs scored after he left the game, but Mitchell allowed his share of base runners with four hits and three walks. His stuff is impressive, and the Yankees keep saying he’s still in the fifth-starter mix, but Mitchell also has a 7.36 ERA and 2.18 WHIP this spring. It’s only 7.1 innings total — hardly defines Mitchell as a pitcher — but in the short term, it suggests he’ll likely be on the outside looking in. “This is a young man with good stuff,” Joe Girardi said after the game. “It’s learning how to pound the strike zone with that good stuff and learning how to put guys away that is going to be a factor for him. I think this kid’s got a pretty high ceiling, I do. There’s stuff there.”

• Speaking of the fifth starter: Esmil Rogers gets the start tomorrow, and it sounds like Adam Warren might pitch on Thursday. Girardi said today that he’d like to have the fifth starter spot ironed out by the end of the week.

• Four relievers got in today’s game. Chasen Shreve allowed an RBI hit to a pitcher, Jose Ramirez — who’s already been sent down — struck out three but also was charged with a run, and Kyle Davies took the loss after allowing three runs in the seventh. The one pitching standout for the day was young Jacob Lindgren, who’s been terrific all spring. He’s flown remarkably under the radar, but he’s still around and still has terrific numbers.

• Brian McCann hit his second home run of the spring. He also threw out Bryce Harper trying to steal second on a pitch out. … John Ryan Murphy had two hits but is still hitting just .185 this spring. It was also a two-hit day for Rob Refsnyder (including a double). … As planned, Brendan Ryan got another turn at shortstop. He also got some at-bats as a designated hitter yesterday. Despite missing time with that back injury, Ryan still seems fairly secure in his spot on the Opening Day roster.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

Betances, Miller unfazed by bullpen uncertainty03.23.15

Dellin Betances, Austin Romine

Dellin Betances turned 27 years old today. His gift from the Yankees coaching staff?

Continued uncertainty about his role for this season!

Actually, Betances seems perfectly indifferent to the fact Joe Girardi might not name a closer by the end of spring training. Betances said it’s clarity enough to know he’ll be pitching often and pitching in the late innings. That’s far more than he knew at this time last year.

“I think it’s helpful to know what role you have,” Betances said. “Not necessarily closer, but if you know you’re one of the late-inning guys, you kind of prepare yourself toward the end. At times, you never know, even if you’re a late-inning guy. Even when I was the eighth-inning guy, sometimes I came in in the sixth inning. You just have to prepare whenever your name is called and try to be ready.”

For the most part, bullpen roles tend to be determined in the course of a season. That’s how Betances moved up the ranks last season, and it’s how Andrew Miller got into bigger and bigger situations through his career.

“I never got called into (Red Sox manager) John Farrell’s office (to be) told I was the seventh-inning lefty specialist or I was the setup guy or anything,” Miller said. “I think neither of us has been in a situation where we’ve been an anointed closer before, so it’s not like we can say that’s a comfort zone for us. When the phone rings, we’ll pitch, and until otherwise, I have no problem with it. And I can’t imagine anyone else does.

“I think it might be a little unique, but I think we’ve come to establish that closing, that three outs in the ninth inning doesn’t have to be that specific as it has been historically the last couple of decades or whatever. For me, it doesn’t matter. I feel like I’m starting to throw the ball better here in the spring and that’s what’s important. When they ask me to pitch, I’ll be ready.”

That’s the idea. Neither Miller nor Betances has been assigned a traditional ninth-inning role in the past. Each has a single career save, but Miller’s came in extra innings and Betances got his in a two-inning appearance.

“I don’t know what it feels like,” Betances said. “If that’s what I get handed, I’ll try to ask (for advice). You’ve got (Andrew) Bailey here that’s closed before. I’ll ask advice and talk to guys, see how they treat it. For me, I’ll try to treat it the same way. I don’t know what it feels like, and I haven’t done it, but we’ll see what happens.”

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

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