Archive for the ‘Misc’
Alex Rodriguez might not need a glove this spring, but he could still have an impact on the Yankees’ infield defense.
With Starlin Castro getting used to second base and about to get his feet wet at third, Rodriguez could be a source of information about transitioning to the hot corner, especially for a young guy who’s used to playing shortstop.
“I mean, there are so many things (to learn),” Rodriguez said. “The angles are completely different. There are so many plays that you don’t have at short: there’s bunting, cut off and relays, and obviously you don’t get to see what’s going on with the catcher. You’re just reacting. Shortstop helps you out a little bit, but it’s not the same.”
Rodriguez was 28 when he came to the Yankees in 2004 and learned to play third base. Clearly Castro is in a different situation — he’s already learning a new position at second, and Castro’s not the same kind of defender Rodriguez was in his prime — but this is still the sort of thing that Rodriguez seems to love these days. He’s long had a reputation for enjoying his work with young players, and if nothing else, he offers perspective for Castro, Rob Refsnyder or any other potential third baseman about what it takes to play the position.
“I would tell him what we tell all of our young players,” Rodriguez said. “We want them to be incredibly fit, in great condition. We want them to work hard and be routine oriented. And like I told you guys (on Thursday), we want our young guys to be maniacal about the fundamentals. If he does those three things, he won’t have any issues.”
Beyond any advice he can give, Rodriguez pointed out two other teammates who might have a greater impact on Castro’s transition at both second and third.
“I think one of the things that’s going to be helpful to Castro, in particular, is that he’s going to have Gold Glove caliber to his left and to his right with Didi (Gregorius) and Mark (Teixeira),” Rodriguez said. “I know that helped me tremendously in 2004, having a Gold Glove to my left.”
Associated Press photo
After a long winter and roughly a week of bullpens, the idea of live batting practice sounds really exciting. This early in spring training, though, it’s often fairly dull.
“It’s early for our guys to have live BP, and I don’t expect a lot of guys to take swings,” Joe Girardi said. “Pleased with the strikes the pitchers are throwing, so I think the work that we’re getting is quality.”
The video above is from three live BP sessions today. I tried to get pretty decent action, but the fact is, most guys don’t swing against live pitching this early in camp. A lot of hitters just prefer to track the ball to get their timing and get used to seeing the pitch out of a pitcher’s hand. As you’ll see in the video, Carlos Beltran took some hacks, but I don’t think Jacoby Ellsbury took a swing outside of the indoor cage.
Oh, and people are always gathered around for live batting practice, so getting a decent shot isn’t always easy.
After more than 800 Major League games at shortstop, Starlin Castro is in Yankees camp as a second baseman, a position at which he’s started fewer than 30 games. He’s with a new team, in a new league, expected to play a relatively new position. He’s also expected to still play a backup role at shortstop while also getting his feet wet at third base.
Is it possible the Yankees are asking Castro to do a little too much this spring?
“Well, I think the important thing is, as we go through this, is how comfortable he is and how comfortable we are with moving him (to third),” Joe Girardi said. “If you’re ever going to try it, now is the time to try it. You don’t want to try it April 30. It is a lot because he is still learning second base as well, but it’s something we feel he’s capable of doing, but we just have to get him comfortable and find out if he’s comfortable.”
It’s worth noting that Castro learned second base under much more stressful circumstances last season. He was figuring out the position on the fly, in Major League games, for a team in the playoff race, all while trying to reestablish himself as a big league regular.
“That’s important that Joe talked to me,” Castro said. “He asked me if I can play third base. I tell him yes. I never play there, but that’s why spring training (is happening). Start practicing a couple of games, and let’s see how I feel.”
The video above is Castro and Rob Refsnyder getting some work at second base this afternoon.
The first pitcher to throw live batting practice today was Michael Pineda, and from behind the plate, Brian McCann occasionally let out little shouts of approval at well-placed pitches down in the zone.
“He hit his spots,” McCann said. “The ball was coming out nice and fluid. He had an extra bounce in his step. He looks good. He’s bouncing around like it’s mid-season. He looks great.”
This isn’t the first we’ve heard about Pineda’s energy this spring. On the day strength and conditioning director Matt Krause talked about the new training hill in the back of the Steinbrenner Field complex, he pointed out that Pineda looked good in exercises going up and down that hill.
“I think he came in extremely well prepared to get off to a good start and pitch well in spring training and be where he’s supposed to be,” Girardi said. “That’s what I see. His stuff looked good today.”
No rotation plans just yet
The Yankees have not yet announced starting pitchers for their first few spring training games, and it will certainly take even longer for them announce rotation plans for the regular season. Pineda and Luis Severino each faced hitters today, and CC Sabathia threw a bullpen, but the rotation is nowhere near being set.
“It could take the whole spring because we don’t know exactly where guys are at,” Girardi said. “And we won’t know until we get further down the road here and how comfortable they feel. You have an idea what you want to do, but we came into spring training where we didn’t map it all out, saying this is going to be our No. 1, this is going to be our No. 2. We didn’t know exactly where guys would be at.”
• Although he did hit inside, Mason Williams did not participate in live batting practice this afternoon. He’s cleared for most baseball activities, but not at the level of live pitching. He said his shoulder still feels good.
• News is not so positive for pitching prospect Domingo German. Roughly a year removed from Tommy John surgery, German has been throwing bullpens since pitchers and catchers reported more than a week ago. He threw another one this morning, but afterward his elbow was secured in a big brace. Mark Feinsand reports German is heading for an MRI after feeling elbow pain today.
• Once again, Pete Kozma did not participate in on-the-field drills because of a lower-back injury. Brett Gardner did some work in the outfield, but he did not hit today.
• In the far corner of the Yankees’ clubhouse, Greg Bird still has a spring training locker, and he’s been here every day since position players reported to camp. “I think the hardest thing for players when you go through surgery is when you’re not around; when you feel like you’re not part of something,” Girardi said. “For all their lives, they’ve been part of something, a team. In high school, it might have been part of a couple of teams. Sometimes it can get lonely. I think it is very beneficial for him to be around.”
Although I didn’t see it, Rob Refsnyder apparently took some ground balls at third base yesterday. He and Starlin Castro were back at second base for most of the group infield drills this afternoon.
“They do (third base work) in some of their early work at times,” Giradri said. “It will increase as time goes on. For Ref, he’s going to get reps at second and third. Castro, you’ve got to get second. You’ve got to get a few at short; I don’t really believe that he’s forgotten how to play shortstop. You have to get some at third as well.”
Other defensive assignments for utility-types this afternoon: Dustin Ackley was at second base (he worked exclusively at first base yesterday), Donovan Solano was at third base, Ronald Torreyes was at shortstop, and Jonathan Diaz was at second. Prospects Tyler Wade and Jorge Mateo have worked only at shortstop as far as I can tell.
Former Yankees prospect suspended
Major League Baseball did announce a suspension today, but it has nothing to do with Aroldis Chapman. Indians outfielder Abraham Almonte was suspended 80 games after testing positive for Boldenone, a performance-enhancing substance. Almonte should be a familiar name. He was a Yankees prospect for years before being traded for Shawn Kelley at the start of the 2013 spring training. He quietly had a pretty nice year with Cleveland last season (having previously played in the big leagues with Seattle and San Diego).
Associated Press photos
Batting practice against Tony Pena isn’t much of a challenge for a professional hitter. It’s just a bunch of down-the-middle fastballs thrown by a 58-year-old former catcher who’s standing behind an L screen, so sharp line drives to the gap and occasional home runs just over the wall become commonplace after a while.
In the haze of such monotony, Aaron Judge made everyone at Steinbrenner Field take notice this afternoon.
“Did you see the balls he hit today?,” Brian McCann asked, as if anyone had missed it. “(I’ve) never had that.”
Judge hit a batting practice home run over the big scoreboard in left-center field today. It’s not the first time it’s ever happened, but it’s rare. That’s a drive well over 400 feet, and the small crowd gathered to watch today’s workout actually cheered as Judge stepped out of the cage without much reaction.
“I usually don’t watch them,” he said. “Not even that one. I didn’t. … It just kind of happens. I just got blessed, you know? I’m just trying to make good contact right now. Feel my swing. See how everything is feeling. Some just happen to go that far.”
“I heard a little something, but I didn’t know what they were cheering about,” he said. “You just kind of know. After taking so many swings, you know which ones you get pretty good and which ones you don’t.”
The Yankees didn’t need a massive, batting practice home run to show them Judge has serious power. Everyone in the organization is well aware of what the kid can do. Teammates joke about his size — just today, Mason Williams pretended to fight him to get to one of the laundry bins in the clubhouse — but what he means to the organization is no laughing matter. Judge has serious potential to be an impact player in the not-so-distant future.
“I think it’s adjusting how pitchers are going to pitch him, is the bottom line,” Joe Girardi said. “He went from a league where he was doing really well in Double-A and had some struggles in Triple-A, but you have a lot of crafty people in Triple-A. It’s learning to make adjustments and we feel that he’s made some adjustments in his swing that should help with that.”
Judge had an .866 OPS in Double-A last season, but only a .680 OPS in Triple-A.
“It helped me work on my patience,” Judge said. “That’s the biggest thing. At Double-A I saw a lot of guys that really came after you. Triple-A was a lot of older guys that had been in the league, up and down, and they know how to pitch. Just trying to wait back and get your pitch is really the biggest thing for me.”
Patience is an important part of player development, and the Yankees have shown patience the past year and a half. They’ve rebuilt their team largely through the trade market, but they’ve done so without trading away Judge, Greg Bird, Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez or Jorge Mateo — arguably the top five young talents in the organization.
Bird and Severino delivered impressive big league debuts last season, Sanchez is fighting for a big league job this spring, and Mateo is currently the system’s top-ranked prospect according to Baseball America. Then there’s Judge, the massive outfielder who’s often impossible to ignore.
“It’s super impressive,” McCann said. “Then you meet the guy, and he’s actually, he’s top of the line (as a person). You look around here and you look at the young guys, there are some impact baseball players that are about to hit the big-leagues. It’s how you win these days. You mix veterans with your farm system. I feel like our farm system is producing impactful players at the big-league level.”
Associated Press photo
In the second half of last season, the Cubs basically benched Starlin Castro, then told him that getting back in the lineup meant playing a new position. That’s how he came to be a second baseman. It was out of necessity. The Cubs no longer had room for a shortstop, so Castro had to become something else.
“It’s big difference,” he said this morning. “It’s not the same thing when you’re in the minor leagues. The position, you switch the position, we’ve got plenty of time to practice that position (in the minors). Now they’re saying in the middle of the season, you’ve got to get out there quickly and learn it right away, just (be) ready to play. The first two or three games, I don’t feel really comfortable. I feel the ball was hitting backwards. I just take early work every day and start every day feeling better. I think the most difficult thing is doing the double play. After doing a couple, I feel great.”
Necessity forced Castro to learn second base last season. Curiosity will put him at third base occasionally this spring.
When the Yankees acquired Castro in December, they saw him as an everyday second baseman. They also saw him as a guy who could add some experienced depth at shortstop and just might be able to add some depth at third. It’s a position Castro hasn’t played since rookie ball in 2009, but the Yankees asked if he’d be willing to give it a shot, and Castro agreed.
“I never do it,” Castro said. “But I (will) just start practice maybe next week, start taking the ground balls over there. You know, let’s see how I feel. … I just listen all the things that the coaches tell me about playing that position. You just try to learn. I never stop the learning. If I get in there try to learn it quick, and when I get the opportunity to play there, I just play good.”
During yesterday’s first full-squard workout, Castro took all of his defensive reps at second base. Sounds like he could do the same today. The Yankees want to see how he looks at third, but second base is now his priority, and he’s still learning that position as well.
“Last year I didn’t play (second base) too much, but I start feeling really comfortable,” he said. “Now I feel really a little bit more better.”
• After hitting yesterday for the first time in nearly five months, Brett Gardner said his left wrist felt fine this morning. He actually asked trainer Steve Donohue to let him hit again today, but he was shot down (as he expected). “I tried to talk him into it,” Gardner said. “But he wasn’t feeling it.”
• Good indication for Mason Williams who’s back on the schedule for batting practice this afternoon. Yesterday, Williams hit on the field for the first time since last year’s shoulder surgery. Apparently all’s well, because he’s working out again today.
• After facing hitters yesterday, Jacob Lindgren feels strong and ready to show the Yankees what he can do this spring. He had just a brief big league cameo last season, and he hasn’t had much time to show the Yankees much sense then. He threw some bullpens late last year, but he had a regular offseason and is coming to camp 100 percent. “I feel like I’m coming back stronger and ready to compete,” Lindgren said. “… I threw my live BP for the first time yesterday and everything was coming out good. Everything is the same, so it feels great.” Lindgren made it clear that he’s just trying to do what he does without worrying about open roster spots.
• We finally have our first Ronald Torreyes sighting. The utility infielder arrived in camp a couple of days late because of visa issues, but here’s here today and scheduled to participate in the day’s workout. Torreyes is listed at 5-foot-10, but there’s no way that’s true. Closer to 5-8. Not a very big guy, but apparently he has some legitimate contact skills at the plate. Mostly a second baseman, but can play third and short.
• The past few days, pitchers have been throwing bullpens and sides before workouts. It happened today with a handful of guys, and it looks like it will happen again tomorrow with James Kaprielian, Masahiro Tanaka and Bryan Mitchell among those listed for early work. It suggests Tanaka will have to wait a bit longer to face hitters.
Aroldis Chapman (to Francisco Diaz)
Domingo German (to Sebastian Valle)
CC Sabathia (to Santiago Nessy)
Live batting practice
Looks like these pitchers will be facing full hitting groups
(probably Groups 1-4 on Field 1, Groups 5-8 on Field 2)
Michael Pineda (to Brian McCann)
Luis Severino (to Carlos Corporan)
Chasen Shreve (to Carlos Corporan)
Brady Lail (to Santiago Nessy)
Vinnie Pestano (to Sebastian Valle)
Luis Cessa (to Kyle Higashioka)
Andrew Miller (to Gary Sanchez)
Dellin Betances (Austin Romine
James Pazos (to Austin Romine)
Anthony Swarzak (to Francisco Diaz)
Kirby Yates (to Francisco Diaz)
Richard Bleier (to Eddy Rodriguez)
Tyler Cloyd (to Eddy Rodriguez)
Group 1: Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius, Jorge Mateo, Chris Parmelee, Rob Refsnyder, Deibinson Romero, Ronald Torreyes
Group 2: Dustin Ackley, Jonathan Diaz, Chase Headley, Donovan Solano, Mark Teixeira, Tyler Wade
Batting practice groups
Group 1: Carlos Beltran, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Kyle Higashioka
Group 2: Jacoby Ellsbury, Slade Heathcott, Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann
Group 3: Lane Adams, Ben Gamel, Mason Williams, Carlos Corporan
Group 4: Dustin Fowler, Cesar Puello, Santiago Nessy, Sebastian Valle
Group 5: Starlin Castro, Jorge Mateo, Rob Refsnyder, Eddy Rodriguez
Group 6: Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Mark Teixeira, Gary Sanchez
Group 7: Dustin Ackley, Jonathan Diaz, Donovan Solano, Austin Romine
Group 8: Chris Parmelee, Deibinson Romero, Ronald Torreyes, Tyler Wade, Francisco Diaz
Associated Press photos
Aroldis Chapman is expected back in Yankees camp this morning. We’re still awaiting word from the commissioner’s office regarding the league’s investigation into Chapman’s offseason domestic incident. Since a punishment could be handed down any day now, it seems worth noting that the players’ union has promised to defend players under investigation for domestic violence. Here’s Maureen Mullen of The Associated Press:
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Baseball union head Tony Clark began his tour of the 30 spring training camps by pointing out that his group will defend the rights of players under investigation for domestic violence.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred put Colorado shortstop Jose Reyes on paid leave this week pending a trial scheduled to start April 4. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig also are under investigation by MLB.
“It’s going to be very important that despite what has been written and what has been offered publicly, that due process plays itself out,” Clark said Thursday. “The reality is we’re having dialogue and we’ll continue to, that the rights of the players involved will be protected.”
Clark and union staff are speaking with players ahead of the start of bargaining on a labor contract to replace the one that expires Dec. 1.
“We’ll address the guys more of what to expect over the course of the year and appreciate that there are a lot of moving pieces,” he said.
An agreement was reached in 2006 during the World Series and in 2011 in November, both times ahead of the expiration of the previous deal. This will be the first labor contract since Clark became union head following the death of Michael Weiner.
“There’s an appreciation for this year being a little bit different,” Clark said.
On other topics:
Clark has criticized the impact of qualifying offers on some free agents, whose markets are weakened because of draft-pick compensation. Pitcher Yovani Gallardo (Baltimore) and outfielder Dexter Fowler (Chicago Cubs) did not reach agreements until Thursday, and shortstop Ian Desmond remains unsigned after turning down a $15.8 million qualifying offer in November from the Washington Nationals.
“It has created some issues both on baseball’s side and on the players’ side,” Clark said. “I don’t know that it is beneficial to anyone to have quality players sitting at home, particularly ones that can impact a team or enhance a team’s ability to put their best team on the field. That is one of the conversations that I expect to have.”
“It sounds nice,” Clark said. “But the truth is the dynamic that currently exists in any one of the international countries is such that it’s a very dangerous proposition to drop what some believe is a broken process here in any country where the infrastructure will have a difficult time with it.”
“People are always looking for offense seemingly, and the idea that adding another hitter to the lineup may provide some of that,” he said. “But based on player commentary that we’ve got, I can’t suggest that our group is committed to moving or looking to move or agree to a move at this time, that’s going to shift that thing one way or another.”
Associated Press photo
MLB announces slide and pace-of-play changes • 02.25.16
Major League Baseball today announced a few rule changes meant to protect players attempting to turn a double play and also to further improve the pace of play. Here’s the announcement from the league:
A rule governing slides on possible double plays and two additions to the pace of game program have been approved for the 2016 regular season, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) jointly announced today. The World Umpires Association (WUA) also has given its assent to the new regulations.
Under new Rule 6.01(j), which has been added to the existing Rule 6.01 on “Interference, Obstruction, and Catcher Collisions,” slides on potential double plays will require runners to make a bona fide attempt to reach and remain on the base. Runners may still initiate contact with the fielder as a consequence of an otherwise permissible slide. A runner will be specifically prohibited from changing his pathway to the base or utilizing a “roll block” for the purpose of initiating contact with the fielder. Potential violations of Rule 6.01(j) will be reviewable using instant replay. Also reviewable will be “neighborhood play” calls, which previously were exempted from replay review.
Rule 6.01(j) reads as follows:
Rule 6.01(j) – Sliding To Bases On Double Play Attempts
If a runner does not engage in a bona fide slide, and initiates (or attempts to make) contact with the fielder for the purpose of breaking up a double play, he should be called for interference under this Rule 6.01. A “bona fide slide” for purposes of Rule 6.01 occurs when the runner:
(1) begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base;
(2) is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot;
(3) is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide; and
(4) slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.
A runner who engages in a “bona fide slide” shall not be called for interference under this Rule 6.01, even in cases where the runner makes contact with the fielder as a consequence of a permissible slide. In addition, interference shall not be called where a runner’s contact with the fielder was caused by the fielder being positioned in (or moving into) the runner’s legal pathway to the base.
Notwithstanding the above, a slide shall not be a “bona fide slide” if a runner engages in a “roll block,” or intentionally initiates (or attempts to initiate) contact with the fielder by elevating and kicking his leg above the fielder’s knee or throwing his arm or his upper body.
If the umpire determines that the runner violated this Rule 6.01(j), the umpire shall declare both the runner and batter-runner out. Note, however, that if the runner has already been put out then the runner on whom the defense was attempting to make a play shall be declared out.
PACE OF GAME
The pace of game program will expand this season to include timed 30-second visits to the pitcher’s mound by managers and pitching coaches. In addition, break timers will now mirror the time allotted to broadcasters between innings: 2:05 for locally televised games and 2:25 for nationally televised games, a reduction of 20 seconds each from the 2015 season, when the timers counted down from 2:25 for local games and from 2:45 for national games. The change aims to allow players to more closely match the resumption of play with the return of broadcasters from commercial breaks.
The vast majority of last year’s newly implemented pace of game initiatives will continue in 2016. The 2015 changes centered around enhanced enforcement of Rule 5.04(b)(4) – the “Batter’s Box Rule” – and the addition of ballpark timers measuring the break time between innings and during pitching changes. Those efforts contributed to a reduction of six minutes and seven seconds (6:07) per nine-inning game from 2014 to 2015, dropping the average length from 3:02:21 to 2:56:14.
Associated Press photo
The Yankees sound optimistic — actually, they don’t sound particularly worried at all — but clearly Brett Gardner is behind schedule this spring because of a bone bruise in his left wrist. In Gardner’s own words, here’s what’s going on:
So what exactly happened?
“I aggravated it in the wildcard game on the catch I made in right-center up against the wall. It just was one of those things. I got it checked out by the doctors, multiple times over the off-season. The next day I had an MRI and everything, and nothing glaring stood out that I needed to have anything done to. Thought it would get better over the course of the offseason, and it just kind of lingered. I went and got a second opinion, middle of the offseason, same thing our doctors were seeing. Sometimes, it takes a bone bruise quite a while to heal and there’s not a whole lot you can do to speed up that process. And for me, for some reason, it took a while. It has taken a while and it’s frustrating at times, but I feel a lot better about where I’m at today than let’s say a month ago.”
What can a lefty do (and not do) with a bad left wrist?
“I played catch with Jacoby today and everything felt good with that. They kind of want me to start off slow with that, too. I haven’t done a lot of throwing in the offseason, because I haven’t wanted to aggravate that wrist because it’s obviously my throwing hand. Been doing all my shoulder work. All my lifting I can do without bothering it. So I feel good with where I’m at with that. The last thing that’ll come around is trying to talk Stevie (Donohue) into getting me out on the field to hit hopefully in the next week or so. He’s going to make me take it slow. He already told me I’m not going to swing tomorrow. He’s going to make me take tomorrow off, since I took 50 swings today. I’m sure it’ll be that kind of thing for the first three, four days and then I won’t be too far behind.”
When would you normally start hitting?
“Not the first day of spring training. I’m behind a little bit on that. Usually around the holidays start to get things cranked back up again and get back in the swing of things, if you will, but obviously December and January I knew that I wasn’t ready to do that. The last thing I wanted to do, as I got farther along in the offseason, was to push it too hard, take a step backward, and then I’d be in a really bad place. Obviously I’ve been in contact with the training staff and the doctors and everybody’s been on top of it pretty much on a weekly basis and keeping up with my PT I’ve been doing in Charleston over the course of the offseason and just working on maintaining my flexibility in my wrist and strength and trying to get over that hump.”
That’s pretty far behind schedule. Is Opening Day in doubt?
“I don’t think so. I’m hoping that over the next week, week and a half, I progress, get up to speed and catch up to everybody else. I think that’s the plan. … Three weeks ago I was a lot more concerned than I am now. Yeah. I was excited about the way I felt today hitting. I was a little, I won’t say worried, but curious to see how it would feel today, the ball coming off the bat. I know Stevie’s going to make me take it slow. He’s going to have different hurdles set up for me to meet, but I’m sure it will go well.”
How much did the other wrist injury impact last season?
“I’m not sure. Sometimes when you’re 100 percent healthy and you feel great, you still don’t play well. It’s hard to say how much my wrist affected the way I was playing. I know the last couple of months I didn’t swing the bat real well and that made it that much tougher for me going into the offseason just knowing that I didn’t finish well. That definitely left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m excited to be feeling good again and ready to get out there.”
Associated Press photo
Inside the Yankees’ spring training clubhouse, Alex Rodriguez walked across the room and slapped a familiar high-five with second-year reliever Chasen Shreve. In the dugout, he hung from the railing then stepped onto the field to thunderous applause. During batting practice, he grabbed top prospect Jorge Mateo by the shoulder, shook his hand, then hugged him.
One year ago, A-Rod’s spring training debut was a reality show; scandalous and unpredictable.
On Thursday, Rodriguez’s arrival was a celebration; joyous and inviting.
“Look, I’ve made some big mistakes and that’s never going to go away,” Rodriguez said. “I think last year I made some great progress both on and off the field, but I’m at first base. I have a long ways to go. My life isn’t about just baseball; I have the next – hopefully – 40 years to be a father, to be a friend and an example for my girls. But I have a long ways to go.”
Even without scandal surrounding him, Rodriguez remains a center of attention in Yankees camp. Here are a few notable comments from his afternoon press conference. The video above has a few scenes from his day, including that interaction with Mateo.
On the difference between this spring and last spring
“I’m in a good place. Last year was an extremely challenging situation to come into, a difficult one. I prepared tremendously hard, didn’t know what to expect, but look, I’m coming into this year and I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m very hungry to come back. I think it’s my 22nd or 23rd spring. I’m certainly enjoying it. I know 2015 for me was, in many ways, a Cinderella season, and I don’t take it for granted. To be able to wear a uniform at the age of 40, it’s pretty cool.”
On avoiding last year’s second-half decline
“I kind of went back and studied the season a little bit, and one of the things (was) I started my (training) process November, December, January. Really (significant) workloads for me, kind of prepping for spring training. I ran out of gas in August. My energy kind of picked up again in September, I just stunk. August, I was fatigued a little bit. September, I felt great and played poorly. So one of the things I’ve adjusted going into 2016 is to kind of pace myself a little bit more and use spring training as a ramping instead of coming here ready to go Day 1, which I did last year.”
On his advice for Aroldis Chapman, who’s also facing intense scrutiny
“Obviously that’s a serious situation. Major League Baseball has a process, and we’re going to let that play out. As far as advice, I would say, for one, focus on your job on the field. It starts there. Two, focus on building great relationships in the locker room. The clubhouse is very important; have players to lean on. No. 3, any time any of us run into a challenging situation, it gives you an opportunity to look in the mirror and make some changes.”
On the Yankees honoring him with Bat Day this season
“I would have never thought that day would ever happen. But one of the neatest days in my entire career was when the Yankees honored my 3000th hit. And if I think of a having a day to share with my mother and my two daughters, it was probably the best day of the year for me. Bat Day is pretty cool. My daughters are excited about it. They’re hoping to get two bats. I thank Hank and Hal for the opportunity.”
On his relationships inside the Yankees clubhouse
“Look, it would be unnatural if there wasn’t some uncomfort. I made that for myself. But certainly, once the season got started, come May or June, it felt like (it) was pretty normal. And keeping in touch with most of my teammates this offseason going into (spring training) was just a continuation of what we started last year. We have a special group, and we have good dynamics in the clubhouse. I’m excited to continue to work on that.”
On his relationship with the Yankees front office
“I think it’s in a much better place. I know that I can speak first hand. I’ve had good communication with Cashman this offseason. I’m grateful for the opportunity to get back to playing baseball. Look, like I said, I have a lot more work to do. Like I said earlier, I’m only on first base. I got to keep going.”
Associated Press photo
I’ll try to get more in depth with some things a little bit later, but for now, here are some of the notable bits of information coming out of this first full-squad workout at Steinbrenner Field. The video above just shows some of the infield drills from the afternoon, including a look at Jorge Mateo playing alongside Didi Gregorius and Tyler Wade feeding Willie Randolph on double play drills.
• For the first time since the end of last season, Brett Gardner actually hit a baseball today. He took 25 swings with a tee and 25 swings with the ball tossed to him and reported no problems with his sore left wrist. “The last few weeks, it’s really turned a corner,” Gardner said. The Yankees have said they’re being extra cautious with Gardner, who hurt himself in the wild card game, but Gardner acknowledged that he was a little bit worried three weeks ago. It’s just taken longer than expected to fully heal. Sounds unlikely he’ll play in the early spring training games, but the Yankees hope he’s not too far behind everyone else. He can throw without a problem.
• Another player held out of workouts today was infielder Pete Kozma. The projected Triple-A shortstop, signed to a minor league deal this winter, has a lower-back issue. Girardi said he thinks it will be a “couple of weeks” before Kozma is on the field. As a strong defender who can play all over the infield, Kozma seemed to have some chance of winning that final bench spot. Can’t help wondering if this might make that a little more difficult.
• Although he did go through drills today, Mason Williams is still quite a bit behind everyone else in camp. Still recovering from last year’s shoulder surgery, Williams hit on the field for the first time. He’s been playing catch, but he’s only stretched out to 90 feet, which suggests he probably wouldn’t be able to play the outfield in a game if the exhibition schedule started tomorrow. He’ll start the season on the disabled list.
• So far, so good with Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova, who threw today. “Masahiro feels good,” Girardi said. “Every step that we’ve had has been positive. There’s been no setbacks. Nova actually threw BP so he’s further ahead. I thought he looked good. I’m pleased with where they’re both at.”
• Here’s Girardi on the plan for Rob Refsnyder and Starlin Castro to learn a little third base this spring: “We’re going to look at it. We’re going to work them both out there. Obviously the versatility is important to our club. Let’s just see how it goes the next couple of weeks. I’ll try to give them a heads up and make sure they’re comfortable before we put them in a game.” Today, both Castro and Refsnyder got all of their defensive work at second base.
• Getting no time at second base today was Dustin Ackley. He took all of his ground balls at first base, working in a defensive drills group with Mark Teixeira. Ackley said he expects to work at second base this spring, he just didn’t do it today. He’ll also go into the outfield to shag fly balls during batting practice, just to stay sharp out there.
• Would the Yankees let Refsnyder play some outfield again? “Because he’s played that, I don’t worry so much about that,” Girardi said. “He’s played it in 2014 as well. I don’t worry about that as much as trying to teach him how to play third base.”
• Girardi said he does not expect anyone other than Teixeira, Ackley and Chris Parmelee to get meaningful time at first base this spring. A few lower-level catchers might play some first in the late innings, but that’s it. The only players the Yankees are really going to have work at the position are Teixeira, Ackley and Parmelee. There are specifically no plans to have either Brian McCann or Gary Sanchez play any first base.
• Asked in what circumstance Alex Rodriguez might play the field this season, Girardi couldn’t come up with anything other than a truly desperate situation in which he’s run out of players. The Yankees have no plans to put Rodriguez in the field at all this spring, not even as a just-in-case preparation. “Our plan is just to have him DH, so probably not,” Girardi said. “He worked today. He held his glove. I’m not sure it was his, though.”
• Of the versatile infielders in Yankees camp: Donovan Solano took his reps at second base today, Jonathan Diaz and Tyler Wade took their reps at shortstop, and Deibenson Romero played nothing but third.
• No real news out of Rodriguez’s afternoon press conference, though if you were expecting him to eventually take a managerial job, he shot down that idea. “I won’t be managing,” he said. “You can quote me on that one.”
• Rodriguez said he trained a little differently this offseason to try to protect against fatigue late in the season. “I ran out of gas in August,” he said. “My energy kind of picked up again in September, I just stunk. August, I was fatigued a little bit. September I felt great and played poorly, so one of the things I’ve adjusted going into 2016 is to kind of pace myself a little bit more and use spring training as a ramping instead of coming here ready to go Day 1, which I did last year.”
• Will Rodriguez try to play five more years like Teixeira wants to do? “I’m madly in love with the game of baseball, but I won’t be playing five more years,” he said. “… At age 40 with two hip surgeries, I’m day to day. I plan to prepare hard and play as long as my body lets me.”
• Ultimately, the tone of the A-Rod press conference was all about how much comfortable he feels coming into this spring compared to last spring. There’s still a lot of attention on him, but it’s not negative attention. “Look, I’ve made some big mistakes and that’s never going to go away,” he said. “I think last year I made some great progress both on and off the field, but I’m at first base. I have a long ways to go. My life isn’t about just baseball; I have the next – hopefully – 40 years to be a father, to be a friend and an example for my girls. But I have a long ways to go.”
Associated Press photos