The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Archive for the ‘Misc’

Saturday notes: Gregorius working in the shadow of Jeter (and A-Rod)02.28.15

Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius

If there’s an upside to the relentless Alex Rodriguez stories coming out of Yankees camp, it’s this: No one seems to have noticed the 25-year-old kid trying to replace a legend. Who would have thought it would take a full week of spring training for Derek Jeter’s heir to finally have his locker surrounded by New York media?

“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Didi Gregorius said. “I came here a little bit early so I could get to know everybody. I’m not worried about the attention. Of course I’m going to get interviewed no matter what I do, so it’s fine. When you guys come here, like right now, I’m going to answer you guys. Whenever you guys go talk to Alex, I’ll be waiting.”

You could make the case that Gregorius ranks no higher than seventh in terms of Yankees storylines this spring. He’s somewhere behind Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow, CC Sabathia’s knee, and A-Rod’s public apology, unexpected arrival, early batting practice, and missing first-baseman’s mitt.

Didi Gregorius“People didn’t pay a lot of attention to Didi the first few days of camp,” Joe Girardi said. “It could change as time goes on, but I’m sure it helped him to get comfortable a little bit earlier and get to know his teammates without having to answer a lot of questions.”

Of course, Gregorius seems happy in the shadow of two former superstar shortstops. He was an early arrival to camp, and his constant smile has become a quick mainstay around the clubhouse. His defensive skills are well known, and his offense is an obvious source of steady attention for himself and the coaching staff.

“There’s no perfect beast out there,” Brian Cashman said. “(Hitting lefties) is something that hopefully we can work with him on and improve. He’s a developing guy. He’s definitely not a finished product. He’s got a big ceiling. We’ll see if we can together reach that ceiling.”

Cashman basically dismissed the idea that Arizona was ready to give up on him after taking him out of the everyday lineup in the middle of last season. Cashman pointed to youth, defense and left-handed fly-ball tendency as reasons the Yankees liked him. And he pointed to the length negotiations as evidence the Diamondbacks wanted to keep him.

“They turned me down 10,000 ways over and I had to go through a third team,” Cashman said. “I went through a number of different teams who when I was dealing with them who told me, ‘I tried to get him, too.’ I tried to get him at the deadline. I obviously tried to get him over the winter. A number of failed attempts. And then other teams were conveying back to me their failed attempts. So I would not describe him at all as someone they gave up on because he was a hard get, and he cost us Shane Greene. That’s not someone I was planning to trade in any way, shape or form.”

But the Yankees did trade Greene, which says a lot about what they think of Gregorius (and, perhaps, their desperation to get someone to fill this role).

“I personally can’t worry about a shadow of Derek’s somehow affecting the next guy,” Cashman said. “All you can do is tell the next guy, ‘You’re not Derek, so don’t even waste your time trying to be. Just be the best you can be.’ It’s going to fall short of anything Derek did, because he’s one of the greatest players of all-time.”

Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius• The Yankees never got on the field for infield drills today, but if they had, the projected big leaguers would have been together for the first time (with Rob Refsnyder notably assigned to the Triple-A group). Girardi made it clear that he plans to let the revamped infield work together quite a bit this spring. “I think especially the double play combination is especially important that you try to keep them together as much as possible,” Girardi said.

• Right now, that double play combination is clearly Gregorius and Stephen Drew. I have to imagine Jose Pirela (who was with the big league group today) and Refsnyder will get some reps next to Gregorius, but it’s clear the Yankees want to give Drew ample time to practice the position and get used to playing alongside Gregorius.

• Drew will get at least some time at shortstop this spring, but second base is his position. “I will probably put him over there (at shortstop) maybe a little bit, just in case,” Girardi said. “You never know what’s going to happen.” If the Yankees really aren’t going to give Drew significant time at shortstop this spring, that makes me think Brendan Ryan’s spot is even more secure as the backup shortstop.

• Speaking of Ryan, still no baseball activity, but “he felt better today,” Girardi said.

Garrett Jones• And speaking of infielders who can play multiple positions, Girardi left no doubt that he’s going to play Garrett Jones at both first base and the outfield this season. Doesn’t sound like he’s necessarily focus on one or the other. “We’re going to have him play both in spring training,” Girardi said. “And I imagine there’s a good chance he’s going to play both during the course of the season.”

• Although he’s apparently on track to play in the early spring training games, the Yankees have eased Carlos Beltran into his defensive drills. He’s been shagging fly balls and making throws, but the Yankees are making sure he doesn’t overdo it at this point. “We’re just taking it slow,” Girardi said. “He’s done some throwing. We don’t feel that, with five weeks of games, there’s any reason to rush him. Guys do their work, but let’s make sure he feels really good about where he’s at and we feel really good about where he’s at.”

• Tomorrow should be a busy day in Yankees camp. All the pitchers who were scheduled to throw live batting practice today will instead throw live batting practice tomorrow. In addition, the guys scheduled for live BP tomorrow, will stay on schedule for live BP tomorrow. That should mean a lot of live at-bats.

• Final word goes to Cashman on Gregorius handling such a significant transition: “You research the player on the evaluation side, (as a) person, but it’s a hard read. It’s a hard read. Guys that are tough as nails in some environments we’ve seen, firsthand, some of those guys transition over here and weren’t the same. And then other guys that grew up in real quiet environments, nothing like New York, that you could maybe expect it might be an issue, thrived in this town. So those things are really hard to predict. Obviously we did all the homework we could possibly do about is he a quality person, is he a worker, is he a good teammate, obviously the talent that he possesses and you’re like, all right, I’m going to try it.”

Associated Press photos

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Quick Saturday notes: Washed out in Tampa; pitching in flux02.28.15

Joe Girardi

Although the rain seems to have finally stopped, the field here in Tampa is soaked and the Yankees have basically sent everyone home. Some pitchers threw bullpens and some hitters took batting practice inside, but the bulk of today’s scheduled workout was rained out. A few quick notes from camp:

1. Because of the rain, the pitching situation is now in flux. Joe Girardi said he’ll have to check with Larry Rothschild before announcing any scheduled starters for the first few exhibition games. Adam Warren said he’s still expecting to start Tuesday’s opener, but Girardi said he’ll wait until tomorrow to set anything in stone. “I didn’t get a chance to talk to Larry with all the changes we had to make,” Girardi said. “I don’t know if it changes it, so I’ll put it up tomorrow.” Guys who were supposed to throw live batting practice today didn’t pitch at all. They will instead face hitters tomorrow.

2. Also, no intrasquad game tomorrow. The Yankees were initially talking about playing a game on Sunday, but Girardi said there’s now a “good chance” the intrasquad tuneup will happen on Monday instead.

3. It seems inevitable that Alex Rodriguez will make his spring debut either Tuesday or Wednesday (Girardi said earlier this spring that if Rodriguez doesn’t play the opener, he’ll likely play the second game). That said, Girardi said today that he’s going to check with Rodriguez on Monday to find out how he’s feeling before making a decision about when to throw him into the lineup. The Yankees want to give Rodriguez as many at-bats as possible, so the sooner he plays, the better.

4. Brendan Ryan is progressing but is still not cleared for baseball activities. Girardi said that Ryan and catcher Juan Graterol — a minor league free agent coming back from an arm injury — are the only significant injuries in camp so far. Everyone else is going through normal drills.

5. Today was the first big media scrum about Didi Gregorius. I’m sure I’ll write more about this later today, but it’s pretty amazing that it took this long for Derek Jeter’s replacement to jump into the media spotlight. If there’s an upside to all the A-Rod focus, it might be the fact Gregorius has slipped under the radar for a while.

Associated Press photo

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Saturday morning notes: Watching it rain in Tampa02.28.15

Adam Warren

What’s happening at Steinbrenner Field today? Well, right now, it’s raining. And it’s supposed to keep raining until around 3 p.m. The chances of an actual Yankees workout seems awfully slim right now.

Pitchers who were scheduled to throw a normal bullpen were able to do so inside — Adam Warren threw his side session then said he’s expecting to start the spring opener on Tuesday — but the pitchers who were scheduled to face hitters were placed in a holding pattern.

Living batting practice was supposed to start at 10:10 a.m., but that didn’t happen, and the pitchers assigned to live BP were basically waiting to find out what they’ll be doing instead. My guess is they’ll just throw bullpens inside, but we haven’t been told.

Basically, it looks like this will be a light day in Yankees camp. Probably some indoor bullpens for the pitchers and some indoor batting practice for the hitters. It’s a light Saturday.

WilsonRamirez• Warren said he expects to pitch the spring opener. He set that up by throwing a bullpen today. Wonder if the other guys who threw bullpens this morning — including Justin Wilson and Jose Ramirez — might also pitch in the spring opener. Just a theory. The relievers could be on a different schedule.

• Interesting that infielders were pretty clearly divided into big leaguers and Triple-A guys for today’s scheduled fielding drills. Worth noting that Jose Pirela was assigned to the big league group while Rob Refsnyder was kept with the minor league guys.

• In the back of the Yankees clubhouse is a wall of lockers filled with young guys, and right now, that’s the fun wall. Most of the time it’s pretty quiet over there, but everyone once in a while you see something like Mason Williams and Cito Culver pulling off an elaborate, specialized handshake that’s pretty impressive. A lot of the guys on that wall have been playing together for years, so they know one another really well.

• Random clubhouse conversation this morning with infielder Nick Noonan, who seems ticketed for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster as the starting Triple-A shortstop. Although his big league time has come at second base, Noonan said he’s more comfortable at shortstop and seems to prefer that position. The Yankees like him there. I was told when he signed that the Yankees not only believe he can handle the position, but that he can play it really well. Minor league free agent Cole Figueroa — who’s locker is right next to Noonan’s — could also see some shortstop time in Triple-A.

• Live batting practice/simulated games (as scheduled, anyway):

Early group
Cole Figueroa, Ramon Flores, Jonathan Galvez hitting
Kyle Davies (to Kyle Higashioka)
Wilking Rodriguez (to Trent Garrison)
Nick Goody (to Francisco Arcia)

Late group
Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge, Slade Heathcott hitting
Michael Pineda (to Austin Romine)
Chasen Shreve (to Gary Sanchez
Chris Martin (to John Ryan Murphy)
Jose De Paula (to Eddy Rodriguez)

• Bullpens/sides:

Diego Moreno (to Juan Graterol)
James Pazos (to Roman Rodriguez)
Nick Rumbelow (to Eddy Rodriguez)
Jose Ramirez (to Gary Sanchez)
Adam Warren (to John Ryan Murphy)
Justin Wilson (to Brian McCann)

BirdCulver• Infield groups:

Field 3
Greg Bird, Cito Culver, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, Kyle Roller

Field 4
Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Garrett Jones, Jose Pirela, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira

• Batting practice groups:

Group 1
Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, Brian McCann, Eddy Rodriguez
Group 2
Cito Culver, Jose Pirela, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira
Group 3
Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Garrett Jones
Group 4
Greg Bird, 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 photo

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It’s raining in Tampa02.28.15

After a week of nice, sunny weather, we have a rainy day here in Tampa. Nothing extreme, but the rain is pretty steady and will surely impact today’s workout. The field is set up for a normal workout, but it’s wet out there, and probably won’t be dry anytime soon.

If it happens, Michael Pineda is scheduled to face Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge and Slade Hearhcott in live batting practice.

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Sabathia reports “no problems” after latest bullpen02.27.15

CC Sabathia

I only saw CC Sabathia in the clubhouse very briefly this morning and didn’t get a chance to ask him about today’s bullpen. Here’s a short Associated Press update on his status:

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — CC Sabathia threw 41 pitches during his third bullpen session at spring training.

The 34-year-old left-hander was hobbled by a degenerative cartilage problem in his right knee last season and didn’t pitch after May 10. He had surgery in July.

“No problems,” Sabathia said Friday. “Still working on things. My cutter, my changeup.”

Sabathia said he will have another bullpen session before likely advancing to batting practice.

“Try and take it slow,” Sabathia said. “Not rush it or overdo it in February.”

Sabathia plans on wearing a knee brace this season and will receive injections and have fluid drained as needed.

The six-time All-Star and 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner made only eight starts last year and finished 3-4 with a career-worst 5.28 ERA. He is 208-119 with a 3.63 ERA in 14 seasons.

Ivan Nova, coming back from right elbow ligament-replacement surgery in April, threw 26 fastballs and appears on track to rejoin the major league team by June.

Associated Press photo

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Friday afternoon notes: A-Rod gets an introduction at first base02.27.15

Taboola Home/Section Front Player

The video above is a little bit of footage from Alex Rodriguez’s introduction to first base. It came during pitchers’ fielding practice this afternoon, and as you might guess, the drills were really designed for pitchers, not for a novice first baseman. Rodriguez basically just covered the bag a few times and scooped some slow grounders. You’ll be able to tell from the video above that this was not a thrown-into-the-fire situation. Rodriguez really didn’t do much.

And when the workout was over, as Rodriguez stood in the clubhouse talking about his determination to learn the position, he realized he’d actually lost his brand new first baseman’s mitt.

Perhaps the transition will be harder than anyone realized.

“As we go through these drills, I think it’s important that he go over there and tries to get a better understanding of what the position entails, and the spots he’s supposed to be at,” Joe Girardi said. “… It’s one of the few places that you hold the runner on, in a sense, and then you have to sprint and change the way you’re shaped for a ground ball, so your setup is different. All your responsibilities on cuts and relays. It’s just different. And you’re looking, in a sense, the opposite way.”

Of course, it’s worth wondering if this “learning first base” situation is more smoke than fire, getting a lot of attention strictly because it’s A-Rod and not because it actually matters to the Yankees. If Mark Teixeira is healthy, he’ll surely play first base almost every day. And Teixeira is weakest from the left side, so when he gets a day off, might make more sense to let experienced left-handed hitter Garrett Jones play the position, not inexperienced right-handed hitter Rodriguez.

Girardi, though, dismissed the idea that this is an insignificant experiment.

“I think we’ve seen over the last two years, there’s a lot of times you don’t think someone would ever play a position, and then things change,” Girardi said. “I think you definitely think about playing him on days when you’re giving Mark a day off. Maybe Garrett’s playing right field, maybe your DH is moving around a little bit, maybe you’re DHing Carlos (Beltran) a day. There’s a lot of things you can do.”

Ultimately, Rodriguez’s ability to play first base will be more valuable if he’s hitting well enough that an extra position keeps him in the lineup more often. Even Girardi has acknowledged that hitting is, by far, the most important aspect of his return to the team. So is there some chance that learning a new position is adding an unnecessary wrinkle to this already uncertain process?

“I do whatever they tell me,” Rodriguez said. “I’m just happy to get some playing time. … It’s too quick to tell (how it’s going). I’m anxious to learn, though.”

CC Sabathia• The Yankees have their first injury of the spring. Brendan Ryan is expected to miss about five days of baseball activity because of a mild strain in the middle of his back. He hurt himself lifting weights before reporting to Tampa. Specifically, he was hurt doing biceps curls. “It’s an eyewash exercise anyway,” Ryan said. “… I don’t know what I’m doing in (the weight room) in the first place, you know? What am I going to go from hitting two homers to four?”

• CC Sabathia threw a bullpen today and has been wearing a protective brace on his surgically repaired right knee. “The fact that he’s wearing a brace or not wearing a brace doesn’t concern me anymore,” Girardi said. “If they feel that he’ll stay healthier wearing the brace, then I would tell him, wear the brace.”

• Because of that knee issue, the Yankees are moving slowly with Sabathia. “We’re taking it slow with him, knowing that we don’t really think that he’s behind and he’s got plenty of time,” Girardi said. “We’re not rushing it because of his knee, and we want to take it step by step.”

• Along those lines, Girardi said he will wait until tomorrow to announce the starting pitchers for those early exhibition games. Marly Rivera of ESPN Deportes reported that Adam Warren is “probably” going to start Tuesday’s opener.

• Before Tuesday’s spring opener, the Yankees are scheduled for an intrasquad game on Sunday. Girardi said he expects Monday to be a fairly light day leading into the Grapefruit League games.

Carlos Beltran• For whatever it’s worth, I was told today that Teixeira and Carlos Beltran have made a strong impression from the way they reported to camp. Apparently their early workouts have been impressive, and both are in great shape. Three other names singled out as having reported to camp in especially good shape: Austin Romine, Mason Williams and Cito Culver.

• Also heard a lot of good things about Luis Severino’s sim game today. “Young kid with a great arm,” Giradi said. “Good slider, good changeup. It’s something to get excited about.”

• And Nathan Eovaldi’s two-inning simulated game: “Really good stuff,” Girardi said. “Powerful arm. I think he has a pretty good idea of what he wants to do. He has pretty good command. He threw some good splits today. Athletic. So I think he’ll do a good job in those parts of the game where you have to be an athlete. I liked what I’ve seen and we like where he’s at right now.”

• One personal observation: When Aaron Judge takes batting practice, he doesn’t hit the towering fly balls you might expect from a power hitter his size. It’s all line drives — hard line drives — up the middle and toward the gaps. He didn’t hit very many out today. One that did go out probably never got higher than the top of the scoreboard. Just a line drive that he clobbered. You know who from Judge’s group might have hit the most homers? Ramon Flores.

• Hideki Matsui was the batting practice pitcher for the group of Williams, Romine, Slade Heathcott and John Ryan Murphy.

• Noticed today that Cole Figueroa (who was at second yesterday) got some time at shortstop during defensive drills. Jonathan Galvez (who was at third) got some time at second, and Nick Noonan (who was at short) got some time at third. A lot of utility types who seem destined for Triple-A but could follow the Solarte/Wheeler path to New York.

• A source of annoyance this afternoon: writing a blog post that would have been posted hours ago, if only I’d hit the “public” button instead of the “save draft” button. I guess it’s spring training for everyone.

• Final word goes to Girardi on Rodriguez learning first base: “I think he’s trying to learn. I think he was paying attention and trying to learn. He’s never taken balls over there, he’s never seen what a bunt defense looks like from over there, and that’s going to take some time.”

Associated Press photos

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Friday morning notes: Severino vs. Judge in live batting practice (with video)02.27.15

Taboola Home/Section Front Player

Alex Rodriguez was no where to be found, but even so, it was hard to ignore what was happening on the back field here at the Yankees spring training complex this morning.

Top pitching prospect Luis Severino vs. top hitting prospect Aaron Judge

It was live batting practice, and it’s so early in camp that pitchers are well ahead of the hitters (some guys don’t even like to swing this early, they just track pitches when the step in for live BP). But there’s a lot of fascination about these two key pieces of the Yankees’ plan to get younger through player development.

Severino was part of a pretty impressive group of pitchers facing hitters on the back field. He alternated “innings” with Nathan Eovaldi, then Jacob Lindgren and Branden Pinder came out for an inning apiece. Those are four hard-throwers against a group of four hitters — Judge, Kyle Roller, Jake Cave and Tyler Austin — who just had their first official workout yesterday.

“Not the guys you want to face,” Roller said. “That was rough. Glad we got that out of the way. Everything should look slower now.”

Cave said Severino threw him everything, and while he missed some spots with the offspeed pitches, even those pitches looked sharp. Cave sounded impressed by Severino, but then again, he said Severino always looks impressive.

I think I saw only two Judge vs. Severino at-bats. The first was just as I got onto the back field, and Judge rolled over a ground ball to the shortstop (would have been in the hole, not an easy out but not the kind of thing Judge was trying to do). The second at-bat is the one filmed above. It was a six-pitch at-bat with Judge swinging once and ultimately striking out on a 3-2 pitch.

Mariano Rivera, Roman Rodriguez• The Yankees have some meetings this morning, so today’s workout won’t start until a little later than usual. Batting practice isn’t until around 12:30. All of the pitching stuff was handled earlier this morning.

• Last thing I saw as the Yankees clubhouse closed to media was Mariano Rivera sitting near his old locker, talking to new reliever David Carpenter and Justin Wilson. Carpenter said earlier in the morning that he has so much respect for Rivera, he feels like he should get dressed up just to have a conversation with him.

• Talked to Mason Williams for a little while this morning. I’m sure I’ll write more about it at some point, but Williams said he honestly thinks last season — when he hit just .223/.290/.304 in Double-A — might have been the most important year of his career. He feels like he learned a lot about what he’s been doing wrong and about the way upper-level pitchers are going to attack him. He got a trainer at home in Orlando this offseason and reported to camp in better shape than I’ve ever seen him. This is going to be a big year for him. He has a lot to prove. He also has a spot on the 40-man and said his eyes are set on helping the big league team before the end of the season. Good speed and defense, just needs to show he can hit again.

• Today was photo day in Yankees camp. Lots of photography stations setup all around Steinbrenner Field, and the players had to go to each one, one at a time, to get a series of pictures and videos done. Players … don’t love it.

SabathiaNova• Today’s bullpens:

CC Sabathia (to Brian McCann)
Andrew Bailey (to Juan Graterol)
Esmil Rogers (to Austin Romine)
Ivan Nova (to Roman Rodriguez)
Jose Campos (to Roman Rodriguez)

• Live batting practice:

Field 2
Facing Jake Cave, Kyle Roller, Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge
Nathan Eovaldi (to John Ryan Murphy)
Luis Severino (to Gary Sanchez)
Jacob Lindgren (to Austin Romine)
Branden Pinder (to Eddy Rodriguez)

Field 3
Facing Greg Bird, Cito Culver, Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder
Chris Capuano (to Francisco Arcia)
Scott Baker (to Kyle Higashioka)
David Carpenter (to Trent Garrison)
Dellin Betances (also to Trenton Garrison)

• Infield drills:

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

Field 2
Greg Bird, Cito Culver, Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Garrett Jones, Jose Pirela

McCannMurphy (2)• Batting practice groups:

Group 1
Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, Brian McCann, Eddy Rodriguez
Group 2
Cito Culver, Jose Pirela, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira
Group 3
Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Garrett Jones
Group 4
Greg Bird, 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 photo

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Curiosity up the middle in Yankees camp (with Refsnyder video)02.27.15

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Last night I was asked what I’ll be keeping an eye on the rest of spring training. And for the most part, the answer is obvious.

Now that camp is in full swing, the Yankees have clear points of interest with their trying-to-stay-healthy starting pitchers and their trying-to-stay productive veteran hitters. Alex Rodriguez is his own sort of curiosity, but the success and failure of the Yankees seems to hinge on Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia on the pitching staff, and Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann in the lineup.

Having a pair of good leadoff hitters doesn’t mean much if no one can drive them in, and having a deep core of relievers doesn’t mean much if they aren’t given a lead.

So that’s what I’ll be keeping an eye on … the obvious things.

But I’m also curious about the Yankees middle infielders. Not so long ago, shortstop and second base belonged to Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. Now belong to a whole lot of unknowns.

Can Didi Gregorius take the next step toward being a legitimate everyday player?

Can Stephen Drew rebound from a horrible season to become a real free agent bargain?

Can Rob Refsnyder hit his way onto the lineup?

Can Brendan Ryan’s glove win him a role that comes with some regular playing time?

Can Jose Pirela keep himself on the radar and prove he’s a big leaguer (and maybe more than a big league utility man)?

Can someone like Jonathan Galvez emerge as this year’s Yangervis Solarte?

The middle of the Yankees infield probably won’t make or break the team, but it’s going to be an interesting storyline throughout camp. It’s not really an area that hinges on massive health concerns or aging veterans. There’s some youth at those positions, and there’s some real possibility for better-than-expected production.

Speaking of which, up top is some video of Refsndyer taking batting practice and fielding a few ground balls yesterday. As you can tell from the footage, yesterday’s defensive drills weren’t exactly high intensity. It’s extremely early. We’ll have a better idea of what exactly Refsnyder can do as the Yankees get into the exhibition schedule next week.

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Thursday notes: “Not a bad person… but Alex has made bad decisions”02.26.15

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 Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

Video: Alex Rodriguez goes through first Yankees workout02.26.15

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 Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

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