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