Up and down through the middle of March • 03.19.12
The off day seems like a good time to take a look at some of the players making an early impression — one way or another — in Yankees camp. In some cases — Jose Gil hitting .667 or Robinson Cano hitting .185 — the numbers up to this point mean absolutely nothing. Gil isn’t likely to play his way onto the big league radar, and Cano isn’t going to play his way out of the big league lineup. But in some case, players are making an impression that just might matter at some point.
.333/.385/.667 with five doubles
Seems like not much has been written about Granderson’s spring, but he’s been driving the ball consistently, which seems to be a good sign that he might be able to pick up where he left off. Obviously spring training numbers don’t mean much, especially when a lot of these at-bats have come so early in camp, but Granderson has at least given reason to believe last year’s breakout season wasn’t a fluke. So far, so good.
1.08 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, five strikeouts, one walk
Andy Pettitte might complicate things down the road, but for now, the Yankees are still trying to pick five starting pitchers from a group of six. And right now, Hughes is making a strong case that he belongs. With fastball velocity that’s much better than last spring, and fastball command that seems to be improving every time out, Hughes has been a very effective starter this spring, with the lowest ERA and lowest WHIP of any rotation candidate. Freddy Garcia’s hand injury did nothing to hurt Hughes’ cause.
0.00 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, seven strikeouts
A fairly late addition to Yankees camp, Rapada is trying to win the one open spot in the Yankees bullpen, and he’s making a pretty good case for the job. Through 5.1 innings, the lefty specialist has allowed just two hits while striking out seven. He has a track record of getting out left-handers in the big leagues, and depending on what the Yankees want from that last bullpen spot, might have emerged as a favorite to win a big league job.
.065/.121/.097 with seven strikeouts
I’m a real believer that spring training numbers — especially at this point — don’t mean much. But there were plenty of fans who weren’t sold on Ibanez in the first place and his slow start has done nothing to ease those concerns. A lot of his spring at-bats have come against lefties, which he will hardly ever face in the regular season, but he’s admitted that his timing is off right now. Results in spring training might not mean much, but there are certainly plenty of people who would like to see some results at some point.
54.00 ERA, four walks, no strikeouts
Two spring outings. That’s it. It’s a tiny sample size from a pitcher signed to a minor league deal, so it shouldn’t be even a blip on the radar. However, Miller is an intriguing possibility as a former elite prospect trying to work his way back from a series of injuries. He’s still just 27 years old with a past that makes people wonder “what if?” but his early spring impression did nothing but make him one of the first cuts. Not many pitchers have thrown particularly poorly in Yankees camp, but Miller certainly did.
Zero games played
He was always a long shot to make the team, but with Raul Ibanez struggling, Branyon might have been able to open some eyes and at least give the Yankees something to consider. Instead, he’s missed most of camp with soreness in his back. His situation wasn’t particularly good to begin with, but it’s only gotten worse as the injury has lingered.
NOWHERE TO GO
D.J. Mitchell, David Phelps
0.54 combined ERA, 16 strikeouts, six walks
Adam Warren and Dellin Betances have also pitched well this spring, but Phelps and Mitchell have been true standouts. Problem is, it’s hard to know what these numbers mean from two guys who are clearly no higher than eighth and ninth in the rotation pecking order. The addition of Andy Pettitte does nothing to help open a door for them, but they’ve been impressive.
.368/.455/.474 with three stolen bases
The only problem with Maxwell is what to do with him. A shoulder injury robbed him of last year’s second half, but he was productive when he played, and he’s been terrific this spring. The toolsy outfielder might be a great fit on the bench if the Yankees had a spot for him. Instead, his big spring might only help his trade value because he’s out of options and the Yankees don’t seem to have room for him.
.292/.370/.625 with two home runs
No doubt about it, Rodriguez has been good this spring. But unlike Granderson, the questions surround Rodriguez have little to do with his ability to hit. They’re all to do with his ability to stay healthy. So far, Rodriguez has shown no signs of injury, but he showed no signs last spring either and wound up on the disabled list. There’s very little Rodriguez can prove this spring. His only test is whether he can stay on the field through the end of October.
Associated Press photos
Monday notes: A strong first impression • 03.05.12
The first time Michael Pineda was approached by a massive group of Yankees reporters, he’d just thrown batting practice in Tampa, and as soon as the crowd began to surround his locker, Pineda looked like a deer in the headlights. It had been quite a while since he’d pitched — he wasn’t mobbed as soon as he got to the clubhouse — but he seemed overwhelmed by the attention. You couldn’t help but wonder if it would be a bit much for him.
Today, he stood up in the corner of the clubhouse and gave an easy, light-hearted interview. Asked whether he was nervous to pitch today, he said “Hell no!” and started laughing. He didn’t come across as arrogant, just young and confident and perfectly at ease.
“I feel very good now,” he said. “I feel (a part of) the Yankee team right now.”
Freddy Garcia said yesterday that Pineda has been asking a lot of questions about what it’s like to pitch in New York. Larry Rothschild said he’s been more than willing to try new things that might make him better. Russell Martin was impressed with his willingness to use his developing changeup his first time out.
“In the meeting we had before the game, he was like, ‘I really want to work on my changeup today,’” Martin said. “And I told him, we’re going to use it, and use it the way you would use it during the season. I like him because he wants to work on stuff that he hasn’t mastered yet. He has a really good feel for his slider, his fastball. The velocity wasn’t where it’s going to be during the season but he has good fastball command and that was key.”
What I’ve seen of him, Pineda seems mostly quiet but confident. After today’s start, he was engaging. A language barrier sometimes limited him to one-word answers, but he seemed happy to talk and willing to consider his answers. He said he hadn’t been surrounded by so many reports since last year’s all-star game. As far as first impressions go, this was a good one.
“He seems to have that attitude that nothing really seems to bother him,” Joe Girardi said. “I’m curious to see as we move along how he carries himself on an everyday basis because I don’t know him. You try to learn a guy as soon as you can but you want to see, as they go through things, how they carry themselves.”
• No radar display at the stadium, but I was told Pineda’s fastball was roughly 89-91 mph and reached 92 once. That’s quite a bit lower than he’s expected to be in the season, but Larry Rothschild seemed unfazed. “Not what it’s going to be later in spring,” he said. “A little bit below, which you expect. Guys that are power pitchers usually take a little bit longer.”
• Pineda said earlier this spring that he showed up weighing about 10 pounds more than last season. He said today that he’s already lost seven to eight pounds and would like to drop two to four more.
• Nick Swisher fouled a ball off his shin but should be fine. No real concerns there.
• Dave Robertson struggled with his command in his spring debut. He allowed a run on a hit and a walk. “Sloppy, very sloppy,” Robertson said. “I just felt like my timing was off… Usually I feel like if you can throw it pretty close to the strike zone, the guys are going to swing (because) they’re not used to seeing it. I wasn’t able to get it in that zone today. I just couldn’t quite find it.”
• Jimmy Rollins stole two bases in that third inning, and Robertson said neither one was Russell Martin’s fault. “Nothing Russ could do about it,” Robertson said. “Because I was so slow to the plate.”
• The thing you really care about: Robertson said he’s thinking about sticking with the stirups this season. He wore them in college and for a while in the minor leagues – I can’t remember whether he had them in Scranton – and he’s taking them on something of a test drive this spring. “Have a bunch more outings like that and I won’t,” he said.
• I was down in the clubhouse and didn’t see much of Ryan Pope’s 1.2 hitless innings, but things were out of hand before that because Adam Miller and Juan Cedeno really struggled. They combined for four walks, five hits and eight earned runs. Miller also hit a guy. Cesar Cabral threw a scoreless fourth inning, but he was hit pretty hard. “You want them to get some outings under their belt before you really start analyzing what they’re doing,” Girardi said.
• Zoilo Almonte. 1-for-1. RBI. Still the late-inning star of these first few games.
• The only Yankee with more than one hit was Gustavo Molina who went 2-for-2. Brett Gardner had a triple, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez, Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena, Jayson Nix and Colin Curtis each singled.
• As planned, George Kontos threw long toss today. That’s his next step back from a sore oblique.
• After failing his physical with the Yankees, Hideki Okajima has signed a deal to return to Japan.
• Newly acquired reliever David Aardsma did a Q&A with the blog Yankees Fans Unite. Check it out.
Associated Press photos
Pregame notes: “It’s just too early” • 03.03.12
Joe Girardi said this week that Ivan Nova is not guaranteed a rotation spot. So can he start earning his spot today in Clearwater?
“It’s just too early,” Girardi said. “I want to see Nova go out and throw strikes.”
Girardi said he told the pitchers early this spring that their first few outings are strictly preparation. He told them to get ready, stay healthy and prove themselves in the last few weeks of the spring schedule. Nova has two innings today, and it’s more about getting his work in than making an impression.
• Raul Ibanez has his second straight start at DH, and oddly enough, each start has come against a left-handed starter (the Phillies are starting Cole Hamels today). Girardi said he doesn’t get “caught up” in lefty-righty matchups this early in spring training. Even though Ibanez was signed to hit against right-handers, Girardi just wants him to get some at-bats right now.
• Andruw Jones, who isn’t making today’s trip and didn’t get an at-bat yesterday, will start in the outfield tomorrow. Of course, that’s going to be against a right-handed starter.
• Phil Hughes just finished throwing live batting practice — or a sim game, whatever you want to call it — and now Adam Miller is doing the same. Colin Curtis and Francisco Cervelli are the hitters. Larry Rothschild and Triple-A pitching coach Scott Aldred are watching.
• CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda are throwing sides today in Tampa.
• The position players not making the trip will stay behind to go through regular drills. There’s a specific note that Jones and Curtis will get some work in left field. The hitting groups in Tampa:
Group 1: Robinson Cano, Francisco Cervelli, Derek Jeter, Andruw Jones
Group 2: Colin Curtis, Gustavo Molina, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira
• Tomorrow, Adam Warren, Graham Stoneburner and Brett Marshall are each throwing bullpens. Hiroki Kuroda will throw a sim game to Brandon Laird and Zoilo Almonte.
• Today’s available pitchers: Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Cesar Cabral, Michael O’Connor, Chase Whitley, D.J. Mitchell, Juan Cedeno and Clay Rapada. Only the first six are actually expected to pitch.
• Today’s second string: C Gary Sanchez, 1B Jorge Vazquez, 2B Corban Joseph, SS Ramiro Pena, 3B Brandon Laird, LF Chris Dickerson, CF Dewayne Wise, RF Cole Garner, DH Justin Maxwell
UPDATE, 10:52 a.m.: The Phillies are going with Jimmy Rollins plus some outfield regulars.
Jimmy Rollins SS
Shane Victorino CF
Hunter Pence RF
Jim Thome DH
Ty Wigginton 3B
John Mayberry Jr. 1B
Domonic Brown LF
Erik Kratz C
Michael Martinez 2B