Archive for the ‘Notes’
Bottom of the first, the Yankees first out of the game was a routine 5-3 grounder. Except this time, Alex Rodriguez was the 3, not the 5. Making his career debut at first base, Rodriguez looked perhaps awkward, but passable at the position. He had three chances — two throws and one ground ball — and made all the plays.
“It was quite interesting after 20 years in the league to see the game from a totally different lens,” Rodriguez said. “It was pretty cool. … Not relieved. It was fun. Any time I get to go out and play the field and play baseball, I have a good time. I do hope, in all seriousness, that I can be an asset for Joe at some point during the year. If Tex or Chase needs a blow at some point, hopefully I can be an asset for Joe at some point.”
That seems to be the plan for Rodriguez in the field. He’s not going to play defense very often, and when he does, the Yankees just want him to make the routine plays. Play a passable version of first and third and Rodriguez will do his job. There’s a solid chance he won’t even get a turn at first during the regular season, but the Yankees want him to get some experience there just in case.
“It’s not something we’re looking to do,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s if something happens to one of our other guys. I would feel comfortable throwing him out there. I think he can handle it just fine. … The toughest things are when you get into cuts, relays and bunts, and we didn’t get into any of that today. Fielding ground balls, I’m not worried about that. Really, I’m not. Catching the ball, I’m not worried about that. I’d think he’d be pretty good around the bag, even scooping, because you get a lot of those hot shots at (third) base.”
Rodriguez took throws from third base and second base, but his toughest play was on a ball to his right. He had to charge it and field on a kind of in-between hop. He bobbled briefly but made a good throw to Nathan Eovaldi covering the bag.
“I’ve never made that play,” Rodriguez said. “I felt like a quarterback hitting my tight end on the run. I’ve never done that before, I don’t think.”
More important is the fact Rodriguez went 1-for-1 with a walk. He’s still having a great spring at the plate, he’s been healthy enough to play regularly, and both Girardi and Brian Cashman today said they’ve been happy with the way he’s settled back into the clubhouse.
“I’m happy to be playing baseball,” Rodriguez said. “I’m here to play baseball, I’m here to do exactly what my bosses want me to do, and I just want to help the team win. I’ll tell you that I’m a lot more happy, fortunate, and grateful than I was 12 months ago.”
• A quick heads up that we’re doing a chat tomorrow at noon. Stop by if you can. It’s the last off day before the Yankees get out of Tampa, and there’s obviously plenty to talk about. Chat. Here. Noon. Be there if you can.
• Girardi said there’s no real concern about Mark Teixeira after he was hit by a pitch to the knee in a minor league game this afternoon. Teixeira got some ice treatment and is expected to play again — as scheduled — on Wednesday. Didi Gregorius is also still on track for Wednesday, and Jacoby Ellsbury remains on track to play Tuesday.
• As the Yankees head into a Monday off day, Girardi said he hopes to set his roster — picking a backup catcher and deciding on the final two spots in the bullpen — before Saturday’s exhibition game in D.C. “I would hope we would have everything done before we go,” Girardi said. “Sometimes you don’t, because there might be other things involved that are out of my control.”
• Even with Esmil Rogers and Chase Whitley pitching out of the bullpen today — and seemingly every other rotation candidate shipped out of camp — Girardi is still not ready to name Adam Warren his fifth starter. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to some other players I need to talk to before I make any more announcements,” he said.
• While Girardi has said a few times that he’s not sure he’ll set a closer before the end of spring training, he said that if does make such a decision, he’ll make it known. The closer role won’t be a mystery heading into Opening Day. “Whatever we have the first game, there will be a plan in place on what we’re going to do,” Girardi said. “If I was to name a closer, I’d make it public.”
• Another good start for Nathan Eovaldi who went 4.2 scoreless innings with three hits, no walks and five strikeouts. It’s been a good and encouraging spring for him. “Just being able to use all four of my pitches (has been the best thing),” Eovaldi said. “Last year it was either fastball or slider. Now I’ve been able to mix in the curveball first pitch, using the split, and then being able to elevate with the fastball as well.”
• One downside to Eovaldi’s outing: it took him 89 pitches to get through 4.2 innings. Just not overly efficient considering he had so few base runners. He did have five strikeouts, but he had a lot more strikeout opportunities. “I felt like they were fouling off every pitch,” Eovaldi said. “I felt like I’d get ahead 1-2, 0-2 and then they’d work the count 3-2. I’d have to battle through it, but fortunately I didn’t walk anybody today and I was able to pitch out of it. … It’s important to me (to put guys away). I don’t want to get into those counts, those 3-2s. In my head, 0-2, 1-2, I need to be able to put them away with one or two pitches.”
• Girardi on Eovaldi: “He’s had a really good spring. I thought he pitched really well again today. He’s got a lot of life on his fastball. I think his split has developed, I think his curveball, he uses it effectively, his slider, I like what I see. He holds runners. We like him.”
• After being stretched out most of the spring, Chase Whitley faced just one batter today. He entered in the middle of an inning and got a strikeout to end it. Now that he’s working with a windup, Whitley said it actually felt important to have a day like this when he didn’t know when he was coming into a game. He had to get ready fairly quickly, and he’ll have to do that if he has a bullpen role this season.
• Speaking of Whitley’s role, he’s not sure whether he’s going to be a major league reliever or a minor league starter, but he seems ready to roll with either decision. He said he’s literally just trying to think about each pitch, letting the eventual role take care of itself. “You can paint enough small pictures to get a big picture,” he said. Good line.
• Esmil Rogers went 1.2 hitless innings today, Chasen Shreve went 1.1 hitless, and Jose Ramirez allowed two hits in a scoreless ninth. Ramirez also struck out two.
• Chase Headley’s strong spring continued with a home run, his third of the year. That was part of a three-hit day. … Rob Refsnyder had two hits, both doubles. … John Ryan Murphy and Stephen Drew each doubled. For Murphy, that’s important. He’s started to hit, which might help him in the catcher competition. … Brendan Ryan had a hit today. He also struck out twice.
• Final word goes to Girardi talking about Rodriguez: “There was probably more intrigue around him from all of us and probably from himself. I’m sure he had confidence in what he could do, but when you sit out a year and you don’t play a lot for two years, you’re probably curious what it’s going to feel like, how I’m going to feel every day, how my body is going to respond. I think it’s responded pretty well. I think he’s handled it well and he’s played well, so we’re encouraged by it.”
Associated Press photos
Given the option of facing a divisional opponent or pitching in a minor league game, CC Sabathia chose the minor leagues. Then he went to the complex, gave up a long home run on his first pitch, and allowed a three-run home run two innings later.
While Sabathia insists he feels better than he’s felt in years, he’s already allowed five home runs in three spring outings and his official 11.57 ERA — which doesn’t count today’s four runs in five innings — is the highest on the team.
“I don’t give a (darn) what stock they put in it,” Sabathia said, using a word far more racy than darn. “It is what it is. I’ve had spring trainings where I’ve given up a lot of runs and went out and had a good season. I’ve had spring trainings like last year where I didn’t give up no runs, and I gave up five in the first game. Y’all can put stock in whatever you want. I’m not really worried about it.”
Sabathia is defiant that this spring has left him feeling confident. He’s said his surgically repaired right knee feels strong, and his velocity has been legitimately higher than in recent springs. He’s consistently reaching 92-93 mph with his fastball, and his offspeed pitches have been good if not consistent.
“You look at his stuff,” Joe Girardi said. “You try to evaluate his stuff and how you feel about that. What we’ve seen this year is much more positive than what we’ve seen the last (few years), you know, in velocity, the discrepancy between that and the change up and slider, so now to me it’s just ironing out and being more consistent.”
It’s not particularly unusual for a pitcher to not want to face a division team in spring training, but by passing on a start against the Orioles, Sabathia was left open to obvious questions about a five-inning, four-run start against minor leaguers. He walked two and struck out seven.
“Today was a day when we were trying to work on the changeup,” Sabathia said. “I get runners on first and second or whatever it was (and threw) a couple of changeups. Me and (catcher Brian McCann) wanted to work on it so I threw it again. The guy hits a homer. I probably won’t throw it like that in a game.”
McCann noted that he’s seen Sabathia get stronger from start to start. He said he really sees that added strength late in games. McCann said Sabathia’s stuff was basically the same in today’s fifth inning as it was in the first inning.
“The ball was coming out great,” McCann said. “I thought he threw the ball great. Two-seamer was running really good. Ambushed a couple of hits, but all in all, I thought the ball was coming out fantastic. … When you go over there, you’re not pitching to scouting reports. You get guys set up, and then you think you can get something in there, and they hit it. But all in all, I thought changeup was really good, fastball to both sides of the plate, and the slider was great today.”
Sabathia has one more spring start before he pitches the third game of the regular season.
“I was able to go out there five times and pitch five innings and feel great,” he said. “Like I said, I haven’t had any problems. I’m just looking forward to getting into the season and trying to help this team.”
• Alex Rodriguez raised his slash line to .306/.405/.583 and hit his team-leading third home run in a 10-2 loss to Baltimore. “Numbers mean nothing,” Rodriguez said. “But you definitely want to pass the eye test. That means moving around better, putting balls in play, and hitting balls in the mid-90s. Those are things I haven’t done in over a year and a half, so everything for me this year – this spring, at least – is a test.”
• While the numbers might not mean much in the grand scheme of things, they do seem to provide some hope that Rodriguez might have something left. It was one thing when he was drawing walks and getting into good counts early in spring training, but now he seems to be putting together good and productive at-bats even in the final week of exhibition games. “Overall, it’s just repetition,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve said it all along. Any time you can keep adding up at-bats, it’s a good thing.”
• While his first two spring home runs left plenty of doubt off the bat, today’s was clearly gone from the moment Rodriguez made contact. “That one felt good,” he said. “I was excited about that one.”
• Plan is still to have Rodriguez start at first base tomorrow.
• More good news on Jacoby Ellsbury, who came through today’s batting practice with no problems. He’s scheduled for more BP tomorrow and remains on track to play a minor league game on Tuesday.
• No real update on Jose Pirela. “I don’t know what he did today,” Giradi said. “He said he felt better. I didn’t ask him what he did today.”
• Sabathia is certainly not the only Yankees pitcher putting up numbers that aren’t exactly encouraging. Dellin Betances has now allowed a run in five straight outings. He had one walk, one strikeout and allowed a single today. “I’ve been leaving the ball up,” Betances said. “When I get ahead, I leave the ball up. Today, the contact wasn’t as hard. Obviously the first guy I fell behind 3-1 and he had a good swing, but after that, I felt like I threw some good pitches. I’ll be ready.”
• Betances said he’s been working on his leg kick with Larry Rothschild. Concerning that, after being so good last year, he’s having some mechanical issues this spring? “It’s not like I’m missing as bad as I once was (in the minor leagues),” He said. “I’m around the zone. I felt way better even before I came in. I felt like my direction was better, something I’ll try to work on more. As that gets better, I think I’ll be able to throw more strikes and put guys away.”
• Giradri said he was encouraged because Betances had a better breaking ball today. “It’s not what you want,” Girardi said. “But one thing you always talk about a lot is don’t judge people on spring training, right? Sometimes a different beast comes out Opening Day. If this was happening the first month, you’d say, OK, what’s going on? But, I thought he was better today, and I think when the season starts, he’ll be right.”
• Speaking of bullpen guys, Andrew Bailey had another scoreless inning today. Chasen Shreve also pitched a scoreless inning. Those were the pitching bright spots for sure. Otherwise, it was kind of a mess today. Jacob Lindgren allowed his first earned run of the spring. Chris Martin struck out two but let two inherited runners score on a double. Justin Wilson got three strikeouts, but those were hit runners that scored on Martin’s watch.
• Worst pitching line of the day belonged to Scott Baker, who seemed to pitch himself into the roster conversation with a strong outing against the Mets last weekend. This time he had a clean first inning before allowing five runs on five hits including a homer in the second inning. “Physically, I felt great,” Baker said. “First inning, I made some good pitches. Then in the second inning, they found a couple holes and then they got the big hit. Maybe out of the stretch a little bit I was kind of feeling for it, but overall, I felt good. The results don’t necessarily show how I felt.”
• Over at the miner league complex, Bryan Mitchell was hit by a Gary Sanchez throw to second base. He finished the outing and is apparently fine.
• Despite the fact Esmil Rogers is making tomorrow’s road trip to pitch out of the bullpen, Girardi still wouldn’t name a fifth starter today. “Actually we’re going to sit down and talk today about what we’re going to do,” Girardi said.
• Here’s Sabathia talking about Masahiro Tanaka being chosen for Opening Day: “I’m excited for him. I think it’ll be a good deal. I know he’s excited to get a chance to do that. I’m excited to get a chance to be able to enjoy Opening Day. It should be fun.”
• Final word goes to McCann, who’s predictably staying optimistic about underperforming pitchers: “Spring training is not (the regular season),” McCann said. “Adrenaline plays a huge factor in results. You run out of the bullpen with 50,000 people in the stands, if you’re throwing 94 (in spring training), you’re going to throw 97, 98. Adrenaline plays a huge factor in both sides, hitting and pitching. When the lights turn on, it’s a whole other ball game.”
Associated Press photos
Austin Romine’s never come to spring training as a favorite. He’s competed for a job many times, had a chance to open plenty of eyes, but there’s always been someone ahead of him on the projected depth chart whether it was Chris Stewart or Francisco Cervelli or — this year — John Ryan Murphy.
How do we know Murphy was ahead of Romine coming into this spring? Because the Yankees left no doubt last season. Romine got a long look in 2013, but it was Murphy who got the extended opportunity in 2014. Romine got a couple cups of coffee last year, that’s it. He didn’t even get a September call-up when the roster first expanded.
“Last year was tough at the beginning,” Romine said. “It was tough to be, I don’t want to say forgotten. Not forgotten. Just, it’s a business. Stuff happens. Moves get made. You can’t blame people for that. It was tough in the beginning, but once I kind of settled in an figured out, I still have to play good baseball wherever I am. That’s basically what I told myself every day. It was rough for a little while, but I kind of got over it. I got my head down and I started working again.”
This spring, Romine came into camp recognizing it for what it is. It’s another opportunity, perhaps his last in this organization. Murphy might be the favorite, but Romine spent his winter at an intense training facility in California. He said he threw up after the first eight workouts. He ultimately lost 10 pounds, came to camp lean and strong.
He showed up to prove himself. He gets the start behind the plate today, which is another opportunity to do that.
“Everybody says they’re in the best shape ever when they come into spring training,” Romine said. “But I literally was. I wanted to be able to go into the office when they call me — if I’m going up or going down — and know that I gave it everything I had, because they deserve it. They’ve given me a lot, and I want to be the backup catcher to give back to them. They’ve put me in a position to be where I am in my life, so I feel like I owe it to them to give it everything I have.”
Neither Romine nor Murphy has had a particularly good spring at the plate. Murphy’s gotten going a little bit lately, but he still has just a .492 OPS. Romine has a .477. Romine is out of options. Murphy is not. Brian Cashman has said that’s a factor that could play into the decision of who wins the job. In a way, that gives Romine an advantage, if he can only show he’s worth another opportunity.
“I came in here with a plan,” Romine said. “And I’ve put myself in a good position to achieve that plan. I just keep my head down, and I keep working, and I get down what I need to get done. Hopefully I make this team. … I have no idea, no idea (what’s going to happen). Murph doesn’t either. No one does. We just keep playing. They’ll figure it out. That’s their job, so we just keep playing.”
• A reminder that CC Sabathia is pitching in a minor league game today while Scott Baker starts the big league game against Baltimore. Bryan Mitchell, who was originally scheduled to start against the Orioles, said he’s also going to pitch at the minor league complex.
• Tomorrow’s travel squad includes Esmil Rogers, who’s clearly making the trip to pitch out of the bullpen. That seems to be yet another sign that Adam Warren has won the fifth-starter job.
• It will be interesting to see how the long relief role plays out. Obviously Rogers is stretched out and could be one long man, but given the rotation concerns, the Yankees surely want another guy who’s capable of multiple innings. Baker and Chase Whitley are — in my opinion — the top candidates for that job ahead of Mitchell, who makes more sense as Triple-A rotation depth. While Baker is getting a chance to start today, Whitley is on the travel squad for tomorrow, obviously scheduled to pitch an inning or two of relief.
• Ivan Nova has now thrown four bullpens that have included breaking balls. He said his arm still feels great. He’s happy and encouraged by the way his Tommy John rehab has gone. All positive so far.
• Masahiro Tanaka and Adam Warren each threw a side today.
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Justin Wilson, Andrew Bailey, Chasen Shreve, Jacob Lindgren, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller (with Nick Rumbelow, Danny Burawa, Diego Moreno and Tyler Webb listed as available just in case)
• Tomorrow’s travel squad to Kissimmee:
Pitchers: Danny Burawa, Nathan Eovaldi, Jacob Lindgren, Jose Ramirez, Esmil Rogers, Nick Rumbelow, Chasen Shreve, Chase Whitley
Catchers: Francisco Arcia, Kyle Higashioka, John Ryan Murphy, Eddy Rodriguez, Austin Romine
Infielders: Stephen Drew, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, Alex Rodriguez, Brendan Ryan
Outfielders: Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott
From minor league camp: RHP Cesar Vargas, RHP Nick Goody, LHP Fred Lewis, INF Dan Fiorito, OF Ben Gamel, OF Aaron Judge, OF Michael O’Neill
Associated Press photos
This is what Joe Girardi said this morning about the way Alex Rodriguez has been running and moving in spring training:
“I think he’s run harder (lately). I think we’ve all seen that, and that that’s definitely improved. I still want to see him go from second to home and from first to third, we have not seen that, but that’s not his fault, that’s just what’s happened behind him.”
Fast forward a few hours, and we’ve now seen Rodriguez do each of those things.
After a first-inning single, Rodriguez went first to third on a Stephen Drew double. He wasn’t exactly flying around the bases, but I did turn to George Kind sitting next to me and say something about Rodriguez running better than I expected. He’s definitely not fast, but it didn’t look like a challenge for him.
After a fifth-inning walk, Rodriguez took second on a single and then scored on a Chris Young double. Again, nothing flashy or fast about it, but he was capable of scoring on a ball he’s supposed to score on. If Rodriguez can be a capable runner at this stage, I think that’s all the Yankees can ask.
“If I can just keep making small strides every day, I’ll take that,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez revealed that earlier this spring, Girardi specifically told him he needed to be running better. Rodriguez said he’d been working on it, and he does seem smoother and less lumbering. Again, he’s not fast, but at least he’s not a total wreck. Today he also had to slam on the breaks after a late stop sign at third base, and Rodriguez said that too was no problem.
“Probably more (running) than he wanted to see,” Girardi said. “But I thought he was moving pretty good. I really did.”
• Five scoreless innings from Michael Pineda today, and it’s not remotely a point of focus. That’s a sign of just how good he’s been this spring. Pineda allowed five hits, walked none and struck out five. He pitched every inning before the game was called because of rain. “I don’t want nothing to change because everything is working good,” Pineda said. “… I have everything I want, so just compete on the mound.”
• Girardi said Pineda didn’t have time to get quite as stretched out as the Yankees would have liked, but they think he got stretched out enough. He has one more start before the regular season. “We were trying to get him to 75 (pitches), but we just felt with the long delay, 68 was pretty good,” Girardi said. “I thought he looked really good.”
• No problems for Jacoby Ellsbury in today’s light hitting drills. Girardi said he expects Ellsbury to take full batting practice tomorrow. He remains on track to play in a minor league game on Tuesday.
• Big day for Stephen Drew. The Yankees second baseman went 3-for-3 and raised his spring batting average from .167 to .231. “He’s swung the bat better the last two weeks,” Girardi said. “And the one thing you want is you want a lineup that there’s pressure on the pitcher of the opposing team the entire time, and I feel that we have that type of lineup that we can do that where so much pressure doesn’t fall on a couple of guys. It’s nice to see everyone swinging.”
• It’s worth noting that Didi Gregorius has also hit pretty well lately, including some hits against lefties. Girardi wouldn’t give his exact lineup plan, but he said it’s entirely possible he’ll go with four straight lefties (Drew and Gregorius stacked at the bottom of the order; Ellsbury and Brett Gardner at the top). “It’s not out of the question because I don’t worry about our top two guys against lefties,” Girardi said. “Didi and Drew, Drew hit a tough lefty today, a guy throwing 96. And Didi’s been swinging the bat good. We’ll talk about it, but it very possibly could be that.”
• After going first to third in the first inning, Rodriguez tried to score on a fly ball to right field and was thrown out easily. He banged into the catcher but clearly didn’t try to knock the ball loose. He also didn’t try to slide. Jeff Francoeur made a really nice throw on the play. “I would have had the short end of that stick (if there had been a real collision),” Rodriguez said. Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp is listed at 6-2, 260 lbs.
• Girardi said he was glad Rodriguez didn’t try to slide on the play at the plate. He also liked the aggressive send by new third-base coach Joe Espada. “It was a pretty good throw,” Girardi said. “You’re going to take that chance with that being the second out. Maybe if it’s the first out, you don’t take it. But you’re going to take that chance, and Franceour’s always been a good thrower.”
• The Yankees saw Phillies prospect Aaron Nola this afternoon. He was the seventh overall pick in last year’s draft and struck out four through three scoreless innings. His changeup was absolutely filthy. “The one I almost choked on?” Rodriguez said. “Yeah. That was a pretty good changeup.”
• Getting his first start alongside Drew, Brendan Ryan was part of two double plays — one he took himself, one he took a feed from Drew — and also went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles.
• The Yankees didn’t score in their first four innings, then they scored seven times in the fifth and three times in the sixth. They finished with 15 hits, including one apiece for Gardner, Rodriguez, Chase Headley, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and Chris Young. Every big leaguer in the starting lineup had at least one hit (Drew and Ryan combined for five). The other three hits came from Eddy Rodriguez, Kyle Higashioka and Tyler Austin. Austin doubled and had three RBI.
• We’ll give the final word to Girardi, talking about his plans for the lineup: “We know that we’re going to have a lot of lefthanders in our lineup. You try to break some of it up with the DH, or the switch-hitters. If I had to make out a lineup today, without talking to all my coaches and everyone, I have an idea what it would be, but that’s something we’ll try to iron out the last week. The one thing is, I feel pretty good about where most of our hitters are at right now, the thing is you want to keep that, keep that feeling of having good at bats.”
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi said that, if CC Sabathia hadn’t been hurt last season, the decision of who to start on Opening Day this year might have been a slam dunk. But that’s not what happened last season, and now for the first time in seven years, someone other that Sabathia will start the Yankees’ opener.
“If CC wouldn’t have had the problem and pitched all 30 starts, it probably would have been a non-issue who was going to go No. 1,” Girardi said. “But it didn’t happen that way, and we had to make sure people were ready. I know it’s a big deal, and it might be somewhat of a deal to them, but when CC looks back, he’s going to worry about Octobers.”
Instead, it’s Masahiro Tanaka getting the Opening Day nod. He’ll be followed by Michael Pineda, Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi. All four will get six days of rest leading into their first start of the season. Because of scheduled off days in April, Tanaka starting Opening Day means he will make each of his first three starts with five days of rest even without the Yankees inserting a sixth starter along the way.
That ability to rest Tanaka’s elbow, Girardi said, was the driving factor in giving Tanaka the Opening Day start. This is more about practicality than rewarding Tanaka for a standout rookie season.
“He did have a great year,” Girardi said. “But I worry more about the physical part than anything because that’s what’s going to carry us through the season. Rewards come at the end of October.”
Girardi gave the starters their assignments earlier this morning.
“I’m honored, obviously,” Tanaka said. “Now that I know when I’m pitching for the season, my job is to get ready for that day.”
Still no fifth starter announcement. Girardi said he wants to discuss it with his coaches and inform the pitchers involved before making a final decision. Just a few days ago, Brian Cashman called Adam Warren the “Secretariat” of the fifth-starter competition. Girardi’s not willing to say the same.
“I’m not comparing horses,” he said.
• Tanaka will be on a slightly limited pitch count in his first start, but Girardi said that shouldn’t be an issue for the second and third starts. With an off day immediately after Opening Day, Girardi will have a full bullpen at his disposal for Tanaka’s start without worrying about burning anyone out for Game 2.
• Plan is for Alex Rodriguez to play first base on Sunday. Girardi’s made it clear that Garrett Jones will be the backup first baseman this season, but the Yankees would like Rodriguez to be kind of a third-string option. If either Jones or Mark Teixeira is hurt, Rodriguez could see actual playing time at the position. For now, he’s more of a designated hitter who might occasionally play third base and would play first only in a near emergency situation.
• Jacoby Ellsbury is scheduled for more tee and toss plus a few rounds of indoor batting practice.
• Didi Gregorius, Garrett Jones, Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott, Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy are skipping the trip and are scheduled for batting practice in Tampa.
• Today’s second string: C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Jonathan Galvez, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Tyler Austin, CF Jake Cave, RF Aaron Judge
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Scott Baker, Jacob Lindgren, Chasen Shreve, Chris Martin, Nick Rumbelow (with Danny Burawa, Kyle Davies, Diego Moreno)
Associated Press photos
Yesterday, Brian Cashman declared Adam Warren the “Secretariat” of the fifth-starter competition. Today, Warren struck out five and allowed one run in 3.1 innings. Are the Yankees really going to bump him back into the bullpen tomorrow? While Joe Girardi said the team still wants to have some discussions, it seems clear Warren has realistically locked up the open rotation job.
“He threw well again,” Girardi said. “Not easy conditions to pitch in today either, so I thought he threw the ball, mixed everything in again, and that’s what he’s done all spring.”
At this point, the bigger question seems to be whether Warren can carry his bullpen success into the rotation. Specifically, just how good can he be as a regular starter? Over on FanGraphs, there’s a post called: Who Might Adam Warren Be? It’s an analysis of his raw stuff — a 94-mph fastball that generates weak popups, an effective changeup that he throws for strikes, a groundball inducing curveball — leading to a series of comparisons in search of just how good Warren might be if given a long look in the rotation.
The name that pops up most often is overwhelmingly optimistic: Dodgers No. 2 starter Zack Greinke.
They’ve both got straight, rising fastballs complemented by good sinkers. Greinke’s slider is better than his change, and Warren’s change is better than his slider, but the ratio between the two pitches is similar. Neither curve is great, but Warren’s gets so many ground balls that it might shorten the distance between their respective abilities to command their arsenals.
That’s a pretty giant comparison to throw out there. Warren pitched well out of the bullpen last season, and he was a pretty highly regarded prospect in the minors. Could he pitch well enough in the first month or so to keep a rotation job even after Chris Capuano is healthy? What about when Ivan Nova is healthy? If the Greinke comparison seems a bit too much, some of the other names mentioned in the FanGraphs piece range from the uninspiring (Erasmo Ramirez, Kevin Correia) to the impressive (Matt Cain, Homer Bailey).
“I feel like pitching is pitching,” Warren said. “I’ve proved I can pitch at this level. I just got to go out there and learn from some of the guys who have started and learned the mindset of being aggressive, attacking always, getting early outs. But I feel like I’ve got the stuff. It’s just going out there and executing pitches.”
John Ryan Murphy said he really doesn’t call a game much differently if Warren’s pitching as a starter vs. as a reliever. In either role Warren’s used all four of his pitches, and Murphy said all four are quality pitches that can be thrown for strikes and used to get outs.
“I think you just try to keep the foot on the pedal as long as possible,” Warren said. “The biggest thing for me — and I didn’t do a very good job today — that I want to focus on is getting outs early in the count, just be efficient with my pitches. My pitch count got a little high today and I didn’t have my best stuff, but being able to attack the zone is the biggest thing. Just try to go out with my best stuff from pitch one and see how far I can go with it.”
For now, it seems that approach has carried him into the starting rotation.
• There was a giant birthday cake in the Yankees clubhouse today (it was actually a bunch of cupcakes arranged to look like one big cake). Ramon Flores, Rob Refsnyder and Brendan Ryan all celebrated their birthdays today.
• Girardi said Jacoby Ellsbury came through today’s light baseball activity with no problem. Assuming he shows up feeling good tomorrow he’ll do more tee and toss and increase to taking a few rounds of batting practice inside. Girardi said he’s expecting Ellsbury to play a minor league game on Tuesday. Whether he gets in another Grapefruit League game will basically depend on how he’s feeling (when he was hurt late last spring, the Yankees kept Ellsbury in minor league games at the end of camp so that they could back-date any possibly DL stint; they seem less concerned this time around).
• Jose Pirela continues to have some concussion symptoms, so he won’t be playing any time soon. “Yesterday he rode the bike and was fine,” Girardi said. “Today he rode the bike and got dizzy. He’ll see a neurologist again. That’s the hardest thing to predict with a concussion; even though he looked great, he got dizzy today. We’ll back off a little bit, talk to the neurologist and try it again fairly soon.”
• The Yankees unconditionally released RHP Jared Burton from his minor league contract. Burton is a big league veteran and he was pitching well before he got hurt. If he wasn’t going to break camp with the big league team, though, the Yankees overwhelming bullpen depth probably didn’t leave much room for him.
• Austin Romine was supposed to catch this game, but he got some sort of stomach bug and had to be scratched. His competition for the backup catcher job, Murphy, played instead and went 1-for-2, raising his spring batting average to .219. “I think it’s going to come down to the last couple days,” Girardi said of the decision between Romine and Murphy.
• Girardi still expects to get Alex Rodriguez in a game at first base. “It’s coming up,” he said. “I didn’t have a chance to talk to him, but I have it on the board.”
• The plan is for Masahiro Tanaka to make Tuesday’s road trip to Fort Myers to pitch against the Twins. That keeps him lined up for Opening Day.
• As for today’s game, after Warren left the game, the Yankees relievers had a tough time. Jose Ramirez gave up two runs, so did Chris Martin, and Danny Burawa allowed one run. Tyler Webb finished the day with a scoreless eighth, but it still wasn’t a great day for the pen. Worth noting, of course, that of those relievers, Martin’s the only one actually still in big league camp. He struck out three but also allowed a home run to Desmond Jennings.
• Here’s Girardi on choosing his final relievers: “I think you’re going to look at the last 10 days. They’ve all had their ups and downs. That’s the interesting part of it. We’re going to make a decision over the next 10 days and it’s probably going to be the guys that we feel are going to give us the best chance to help us, but maybe have pitched the best the last 10 days.”
• While Girardi said he thinks Andrew Bailey has pitched well this spring, he’s still not sure whether Bailey will have a real chance to break camp with the team. “The fact that he hasn’t went back-to-back — and I don’t know if he’ll go back-to-back in spring training — might make it difficult,” Girardi said. “It’s something that we have to talk about next week, where we feel he’s at and how ready he is. But he’s throwing the ball pretty good.”
• Another nice game for Slade Heathcott, who had a double, a walk and pushed his spring batting average to .320. “He’s played great,” Girardi said. “The biggest thing we’ve said about this kid is we’ve got to keep him healthy. There are a lot of tools there offensively, defensively, running the bases. It’s just, he hasn’t had a lot of at-bats, but there’s a lot of talent.”
• Two-hit day for Didi Gregorius. He had a double and pushed his spring batting average up to .308. He’s definitely been a standout this spring. … After his walkoff homer a couple of nights ago, Flores had a two-hit day. He and Refsnyder each doubled on their birthday. Ryan went 0-for-3 with a walk. … One reason Refsnyder seems not ready for the big leagues: he made his fifth error today. … Jake Cave had an RBI single but was also caught stealing in the ninth.
• Girardi said “it’s possible” he’ll be ready to name a fifth starter tomorrow. We basically know who it’s going to be, but it would be nice to have the Yankees waste no time making it official.
• Let’s give the final word to Warren: “I came into the spring and wanted to pitch well. Wherever I ended up, I wanted it to be because I pitched well and not because I didn’t pitch well. I feel like I’ve gone out there and proven myself. It all comes back to, I just want to get ready for the season. I was a little more comfortable this year just being around the guys, early on working on some things and then ramping it up these last two outings and really go out there and compete. It’s been a fun spring for me. ”
Associated Press photos
Today it was a breaking ball hung up the zone, where Juan Lagares crushed it for a two-run home run. Last night it was a leadoff walk and a costly line-drive single. Throughout this spring, it’s constantly been on thing or another — four straight outings with at least one earned run — leading Dellin Betances to a 6.75 ERA with a 1.69 WHIP. Opponents are hitting .318 against him, and he has just four strikeouts in 5.1 innings.
Granted, it’s a tiny sample size, but Betances just hasn’t looked as sharp as he did last season.
“I’m obviously frustrated,” Betances said. “I mean, it’s been four outings where every time out, I’ve given up a run. Today I felt better, but you got to make a better pitch than that to Lagares. It’s frustrating, but I’m sure I got four more outings left and I’ll do whatever I can to be better for the season.”
A scout in attendance said he had Betances at 92-93 mph, and while he said he expected Betances to be “much higher,” he also had little problem imagining Betances getting back to the velocity we’re used to seeing. Joe Girardi insisted Betances is actually throwing at least as hard as he was at this time last spring (I can’t find any reports of exactly how hard Betances was throwing in the next-to-last week of camp a year ago).
“He’s actually throwing harder than he did (at this time) last year,” Girardi said. “It was the last week that it kind of jumped up. … It’s all part of the build-up process. Like I said, if it’s the last week, the last day, you might have a little bit more concern.”
Today’s outing was really all about one bad pitch, the one Lagares hit over the wall in left, but even Betances acknowledges he hasn’t been especially good this spring. Relievers are notoriously inconsistent from year to year, so a guy with a short track record like Betances is perhaps susceptible to extra scrutiny coming off one good year.
“I think he set a pretty high standard last year that’s not always so easy to live up to,” Girardi said. “My only concern is that he’s right at the end of spring training. That’s my concern.”
Last spring, Betances came into camp with very little expectation. This year, he’s basically expected to be an elite reliever and possibly a closer. His production will not be a bonus this season. The Yankees are banking on it.
“A lot of these guys know who I am now,” he said. “Last year, there was a lot of unknown, but right now I need to get those few more velos (added velocity) and maybe attack the zone better. But today, I thought it was good, I just made a mistake to Lagares.”
Said Girardi: “He’s a power pitcher, and we expect there’s going to be more. You’re going to see more at the end of spring training.”
• Before today’s game, Brian Cashman said he’d seen enough production out of Alex Rodriguez to think Rodriguez could be the team’s everyday designated hitter this season. Coming into camp there seemed to be a chance the Yankees might try to platoon him if he wasn’t capable of hitting, but Rodriguez went 1-for-3 to raise his average to .290. He’s been good. Not necessarily great, but he’s been good. “I think I’m getting better,” Rodriguez said. “I’m happy with my strike zone discipline, and for me the goal never changes. Just get a good pitch and put my A-swing. I thought I took some good swings today, fouled them off. But anytime I give myself a chance to do some damage and swing at strikes, that’s a good thing.”
• Cashman also said before today’s game that Adam Warren is the clear favorite for the fifth starter job. Girardi, though, wouldn’t make such a commitment. “I told you, when I make a decision, I talk to the players first,” Girardi said. “That’s how I do it. Before I say anything, I think it’s only fair to do it that way.” Warren is starting tomorrow.
• Jacoby Ellsbury is scheduled for tee and toss tomorrow. That’s usually the last step before getting into some light batting practice. The Yankees remain convinced Ellsbury will get back into the lineup before breaking camp. He’s been out more than a week with a strained oblique.
• Jose Pirela’s neck is still sore, and that’s his biggest problem at the mometn. “Until we get that soreness out, Stevie (Donohue) doesn’t really want to elevate his heart rate a lot to see if the (concussion) symptoms come back,” Girardi said. The Yankees are still optimistic that Pirela will get back in a game this spring.
• Weird to see Chase Whitley used for just an inning today. He was originally supposed to pitch in a minor league game, but the Yankees instead kept him here and gave him one inning. He allowed his first run of the season, but said he felt good on the mound, just made a mistake with a fastball. “We’ll get him stretched out again,” Girardi said. “Tanaka with his 60 pitches went pretty far. We thought he might get more innings, it just didn’t work out.”
• Whitley allowed a run. Betances was charged with a run in one-third of an inning. Andrew Miller gave up one run on two hits in a third of an inning. David Carpenter allowed a run in the ninth. “It wasn’t a very good day for our bullpen today overall,” Girardi said. “You have those days. If it was the last day of spring training, you might worry a little bit more about it, but you’re going to have those days. Obviously we know we have to get these guys right, and they’re very important to us.”
• The two exceptions: Justin Wilson got a double play against his only hitter, and Andrew Bailey pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts.
• Seven hits in the past six games for Didi Gregorius. He had a double today. … Chase Headley remains red hot with a two-hit day including a double. … Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Noonan had the other Yankees hits. … The Mets won, 7-2.
Associated Press photos
Around 9:30 this morning, Chris Martin walked across the Yankees clubhouse, wrapped his long arms around Jose Pirela’s shoulders, and offered an apology that was nearly three years in the making. Pirela smiled and slapped Martin on the arm. All was forgiven a long time ago.
Three days ago, Pirela crashed into an outfield wall, hit his head on the warning track, and suffered the second concussion of his career. His first concussion came on April 11, 2012 when he was playing second base and batting seventh in a Double-A game against Portland. It was the fifth inning when he was hit flush in the head by a fastball. Pirela still remembers that it was registered at 97 mph.
Pirela, and the pitcher who hit him, Martin.
“I remember it clearly,” Martin said. “As soon as it hit him, he hit the ground. I was just like man, I hope he’s OK. Obviously he got up and walked off. I had no idea he had a concussion. I didn’t know who it was. I thought I actually hit Abe Almonte. I didn’t know it was him.”
Pirela missed a little more than a month recovering from that head injury. He said he experienced constant headaches and he kept vomiting, two symptoms he hasn’t had this time around.
“The only thing I have is a little bit of soreness in my neck and my entire back,” Pirela said.
Martin throws hard — that’s what carried him all the way to the big leagues last season — and he said he’s only ever hit one player in the head. He was surprised to learn this morning that the player he hit, the image he remembers so well, is currently playing with him in Yankees camp.
“Obviously you never want to hit a guy,” Martin said. “Sometimes you hit a guy – hit him in the butt, in the leg – it’s going to sting a little bit and they take first base. You never want to break a bone, never want to put them out. In the head, that could be a career. Obviously it’s a rough thing, but you have to throw in to be successful. You have to do it. I mean, not in the head, but you have to be able to throw in on their hands. That’s their hole. You feel bad when you do it, but it’s only happened once to me, and hopefully that’s the only one. I’m sure they it’s vice versa. If they hit one back at us, I’m sure they feel bad too. It’s just a game and things happen.”
• This will be the first time John Ryan Murphy has ever caught Masahiro Tanaka in a game. Murphy’s caught him in bullpens, but even though his extended time in the big leagues last season — and through last spring training — Murphy never caught him in a game.
• What does it mean for the backup catcher competition that Murphy is getting a turn with Tanaka? I honestly have no idea. You could make the case that this is a clear indication the Yankees are getting Murphy ready to catch their ace, but you could also make the case that the Yankees will generally keep Brian McCann paired with Tanaka, and it’s more telling that Austin Romine caught Nathan Eovaldi’s minor league game yesterday (Romine’s going on the road to catch Adam Warren tomorrow). It really does seem that the Yankees are keeping each backup catcher possibility on the table.
• Justin Wilson, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances are each scheduled to pitch today. It will be the first time going back-to-back for each of them.
• Yesterday Chase Whitley thought he was going to pitch in a minor league game this afternoon. Today he said he expects to stay here and pitch in today’s big league game. Yesterday, Joe Girardi said he expects guys like Betances and Miller to face only one or two batters, so there might be plenty of innings leftover for Whitley to get stretched out a little bit.
• Just a thought, but I also wonder if keeping Whitley in today’s big league game is a sign the Yankees plan to keep him as a long man. If he’s going to break camp in that role, there’s really no need to have him start a minor league game and get stretched out behind three innings or so. Just a thought, not sure it really means much.
• Andrew Bailey is also scheduled to pitch today. It will be his third spring outing. The Yankees have said they’re not sure when he’ll go back to back, which they want him to do before they really consider him for a spot in the big league bullpen.
• Brendan Ryan is playing shortstop off the bench today. He’s also scheduled to make tomorrow’s road trip. He’s making that trip with Didi Gregorius, but Stephen Drew isn’t going. Makes me wonder if tomorrow’s going to be Ryan’s first chance to play second alongside Gregorius, something he’s likely to do during the season.
• For those asking: While the Yankees have officially optioned Jose Ramirez and Danny Burawa to Triple-A, each has actually remained in big league camp. As far as I know, neither has spent a day at the minor league complex since being sent down. Might be some technical reason the Yankees needed to option them already even if they wanted to keep them around.
• Today’s bullpen sessions: Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Bryan Mitchell, Kyle Davies, Chasen Shreve, Jacob Lindgren
• 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 (with Nick Rumbelow, Jacob Lindgren, Alex Smith, Chris Smith and Nick Goody available just in case)
• Tomorrow’s travel squad:
Pitchers: Danny Burawa, Chris Martin, Jose Ramirez, Nick Rumbelow, Adam Warren, Tyler Webb (up from minor league camp)
Catchers: Francisco Arcia, Kyle Higashioka, Eddy Rodriguez, Austin Romine
Infielders: Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Didi Gregorius, Garrett Jones, Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, Brendan Ryan
Outfielders: Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott, Chris Young
• For those curious, the rest of the Trenton lineup on the day Pirela was hit in the head: Abe Almonte, Ronnier Mustelier, Dan Brewer, Cody Johnson, Melky Mesa, Gustavo Molina, Addison Maruszak and Walter Ibarra. Shaeffer Hall was the Thunder starting pitcher.
Associated Press photos
Perhaps the only mistake the Yankees made in today’s 7-1 win was a fat fastball to the Reds’ Chris Heisey. Brandon McCarthy, cruising at the time, saw his fifth-inning offering shipped into the left field seats for a solo home run.
For a pitcher who has now surrendered 16 home runs in just 20 starts, McCarthy’s reaction was pretty reserved. The Yankees led at the time, no one was on base and he threw the pitch he wanted to. In fact, according to McCarthy, that has been the main difference in his two starts here – and the reason for his optimism amid a woeful season.
Of most importance, McCarthy said he has found a team that will allow him to throw his cut fastball. That pitch and easy chemistry with catch Brian McCann has left the lanky righty at ease so far in New York. He showed it Saturday in another strong outing, an economical six-inning, one-run, six-hit, nine-strikeout effort to earn his first win as a Yankee in his pinstriped debut in the Bronx.
“He’s got top-of-the-rotation stuff,” McCann said. “We’re really glad to have him.”
At the behest of the organization, McCarthy had curtailed that stuff in Arizona, almost completely shelving his cutter. He said he threw just one (a rare frontdoor cutter to NL MVP Andrew McCutchen) in his last two starts with the Diamondbacks compared to 10 or more in his first two with the Yankees.
“It wasn’t something I totally agreed with,” McCarthy said. “Now, coming here, and them going back over everything I’ve done and realizing that was a big part of my success, we decided to add that back in. It’s been a nice change.”
McCarthy and McCann said reintroducing the cutter has allowed McCarthy to pitch all all quadrants of the strike zone. He became reliant on his sinker in Arizona, but he has thrown the sinker, the cutter and a four-seamer here with the Yankees.
“The sinker was there and it could work, but it has to be kept alive,” McCarthy said. “The cutter today I thought set that up well.”
McCarthy said returning the cutter to his arsenal was among the topics in his first meeting with McCann and the coaches. McCann compared McCarthy’s repertoire to that of Tim Hudson, whose primary weapon is also a sinker.
McCann believes McCarthy can continue to pitch well for the Yankees, who could certainly use another anchor in their rotation with four-fifths of the opening day rotation on the DL.
“He has the ability to do what he did tonight every fifth day,” McCann said. “I truly believe that. I think his stuff’s always been there. What I saw today and from his first start, he’s got it.”
• Here’s more from McCarthy, who, among other things, talked about his wife (Amanda) being stuck in traffic:
• McCarthy had been dreadful in three previous starts in this ballpark. Here’s what he said about the opportunity to pitch in New York:
“It’s the Yankees. I think just pitching for the Yankees is an opportunity no matter what the circumstances are. For me, it’s at a point in my career where I want to be challenged, I want to be in a pennant race, I want to be close to the playoffs. I want to be close to the playoffs. I want to be in a market that is difficult. It’s a great opportunity in that sense.”
• McCarthy’s sinker – the highlight being a 95-mph seed to strike out Billy Hamilton – is the reason the Yankees acquired him, according to Joe Girardi. So far, so good:
“I really liked what he did in Cleveland, too. Both of his starts have been very good. I think his sinker has been very effective in both his starts. That’s one of the reasons we went out and got him. He’s a ground ball pitcher, and he’s able to pitch down in the zone and use his curve ball. His two starts have been excellent.”
• McCarthy is now 3-0 with a 1.78 ERA in his last four starts. His team has won all four games.
• Carlos Beltran hit a solo home run in the second inning and has now had two strong games at the plate to open the second half. Is it something to build off of?
“I really hope so,” Girardi said. “I said before, he started to swing the bat pretty well before he decided to hit the ball off his nose. I thought he was getting going. I was hoping the week off wouldn’t hurt him, and he seems to be doing well up there.”
Beltran is now batting .308 with three home runs in his last 10 games.
• Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and Matt Thornton combined to toss three scoreless innings of relief. The Yankees recorded 13 strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter, making this the first time since July 7, 2006 and first time at home since Sept. 28, 2001 that they had that many strikeouts without issuing a walk.
• The Yankees announced all of their draft signings today. Not among them: Mariano Rivera Jr. I’m told he’s expected to return to Iona for his senior season.
• The Yankees will go for the sweep on Sunday. They had actually lost three consecutive home series, and have won just six of 16 series at home.
Photo by Getty Images
“I would’ve liked to see him get in,” Girardi said. “Obviously, you don’t want to see him go two or three innings. I understand that you have to hold somebody back. That’s what I talk about, I think if you go, you should get a chance to get in the game. But that’s not the way it is.”
Girardi said it’s a similar scenario to the one he wrestled with managing the All-Star Game in the past. He is in favor of adding the re-entry rule, which would allow players to return to the field if a team ran out of players.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I think it is difficult. You feel like you have to save one. I would love to see them put in the re-entry rule in a sense because everyone could get in.”
Girardi said the American League coaching staff communication with clubs to check on players’ availability. He wouldn’t delve into the nature of that communication in regard to Betances.
“Dellin’s worked a lot, but, like I said, I think Dellin was one of the guys who was saved until the end,” Girardi said. “We were OK with that, but I still wish that everyone could at least get one batter, one at-bat, or be in the field for one inning. I just like that.”
• Brian McCann has been hot since he and hitting coach Kevin Long removed the toe tap from McCann’s swing. Girardi believes that is no coincidence.
“You can make minor adjustments that can lead to big things because timing is such an important issue in hitting,” he said. “If it helps you have better timing and be in the right place at the right time, it can make a huge difference.”
• The Angels acquired reliever Huston Street from the Padres Friday night, but Girardi doesn’t expect it to be a busy trade market.
Of course you follow what other clubs are doing. Does it really change my approach? No. Do I get hopeful? No. I always figure that these are the guys I’m going to manage the rest of the year because it takes two teams to trade and you have to match up. I really don’t know how much movement there’s going to be because there’s so much parity in baseball. Every team probably almost feels like they’re in it.”
• Not surprisingly, the Yankees will continue to shift liberally in the second half of the season.
“I don’t see us changing our approach,” Girardi said. “There might be a little bit more data to say maybe do this or this or this because guys have had 300 at-bats, but it’s the same principle.”