Election day in the Yankees clubhouse • 11.04.14
It’s election day, so let’s have some fun with that!
I’m not going to say that I hope you all voted today. I’ll say instead that I hope you got yourself educated on the issues, really looked into the candidates and the possibilities, and then voted. That’s the way to take the responsibility seriously.
This blog post is one way to not take it seriously.
Remember being a senior in high school and voting on class personalities? If not, I’m sure you at least understand the reference. It’s not like voting for a senator or voting for an amendment. It’s done with a sense of having a good time, and that’s what this blog post is about. Here are a few suggestions for the leading candidates for various class superlatives on the current Yankees roster.
Most Likely to Succeed – Jacoby Ellsbury
With good reason, we focus a lot on the uncertainty of the Yankees current roster (and we’re going to focus on it again in a few sentences), but it’s interesting to do the opposite. What’s the most reliable piece heading into next season? I’d argue it’s Ellsbury, who more or less lived up to expectation in his first season with the Yankees. Factoring in track record, injury concerns, age, and everything else, I’d say Ellsbury is as reliable as it gets for next season.
Least Certain to Succeed – Masahiro Tanaka
Not least likely to succeed, just least certain. There can be no doubt about Tanaka’s talent – the first half of his rookie year proved his stuff can be plenty effective against major league hitters – but we also know that his elbow ligament was slightly torn last season. We know he can succeed, just can’t be certain he’ll have a successful 2015.
Class President – CC Sabathia
It will probably be several years before we see another Yankees captain, and the current roster really has no one quite like Derek Jeter in terms of clear clubhouse leadership. Recognizing that reality — acknowledging there’s no natural fit for team captain — who carries all those qualities you think of in a Class President? I think Sabathia fits best. He’s most certainly respected, he’s incredibly well liked, and he’s been around almost as long as anyone in the room.
Class Clown – Brendan Ryan
This is not intended as a joke about Ryan’s talent or impact. This is intended literally to point out that he’s a bit of a goofball. In a clubhouse full of veterans, where the word stoic is far more applicable than silly, Ryan is a breath of fresh air. He was in good spirits despite rarely playing last season, and there were days he literally went bounding through the locker room laughing like a little kid. As long as it doesn’t cross the line from amusing to annoying, I tend to think a clubhouse needs a guy like that.
Teacher’s Pet – Martin Prado
Honestly, I’m kind of guessing here, but doesn’t Prado seem like exactly the kind of guy a manager could fall in love with? Willing and able to play anywhere in the field. Willing and able to hit basically anywhere in the lineup. Willing (and sometimes able) to play hurt. Does all of that with a real sense of professionalism. With good reason, I could see Prado becoming a Joe Girardi favorite.
Greatest Overachiever – Brett Gardner
Walk-on in college. Labeled a fourth outfielder throughout the minor leagues. Relegated to platoon playing time when he got to the big leagues. Even Gardner’s believers seemed to always acknowledge that he might not actually become an everyday guy, yet this season he landed a multi-year deal and led the Yankees in WAR (according to Baseball Reference; FanGraphs had him second). That’s defying expectation in a big way.
Greatest Underachiever – Brian McCann
At this point, I’m just piling on against a player who I still believe could be a really nice hitter next season (he was awfully good in September). But, the thing with McCann’s disappointing season is that it can’t be blamed on injury or age. Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian Roberts and Alfonso Soriano had some excuses in place. McCann never really had one — and to his credit, he never made one — for his disappointing year.
Most Anticipated – Michael Pineda
If we’re looking ahead to next year, then Rob Refsnyder might fit in this spot. If we’re looking beyond next year, then maybe Luis Severino or Aaron Judge. If we’re looking back to last year, then it’s surely Tanaka. But as a combination — last season, next season, and beyond — the anticipation of Pineda is difficult to overlook. The Yankees waited years to finally get him on the field, and they still haven’t seen what he can do in a full season.
Mr. Nice Guy – Adam Warren
Here’s the thing: If Adam reads this and sees a “Mr. Nice Guy” category, he’ll know that he’s going to win it. So will every one of his teammates. It’s not that there are a bunch of jerks in that room — Francisco Cervelli? Incredibly nice guy. Zelous Wheeler? Impossible to dislike. CC Sabathia? Ivan Nova? Brett Gardner? All invited to any dinner I’m attending. — but Warren’s a really, genuinely, nice guy. I don’t know how else to describe him. By the way, Chase Whitley might have been the choice here, but he’s made fun of Missouri football too many times. Total jerk, that guy.
Least Popular – Alex Rodriguez
I know, I know, this one is too easy. But who else fits this description, and what other distinction best fits this player? Rodriguez has gone beyond a lightning rod. At this point, he’s simply a cautionary tale about bad contracts, and performance enhancing drugs, and poor public relations decisions. Rodriguez will probably be booed a lot next year, but if he hits, I bet he’ll be cheered again.
Life of the Party – Dellin Betances
Not in the usual sense. Betances isn’t the life of the party because he’s an over-the-top personality (he’s actually pretty subdued for the most part). He’s the life of the party because he was surely the best thing about last season, and he’s one of the absolute bright spots heading into next season. If you want to look at the roster and find an undeniably good thing, a young success story like Betances — who’s not tied to a bad contract, who’s still in his 20s, who came up through the minor league system, who still has an exciting future — is about as good as it gets for the Yankees right now. The life of the party brings excitement when things get dull, and that’s certainly what Betances is doing.
Associated Press photos
Yesterday the Associated Press reported that this year’s qualifying offer will be set at $15.3 million, a raise of nearly $1 million from last season. For the Yankees, that number is most interesting for free agent closer Dave Robertson, who’s ready to test the market for the first time and might have to seriously consider becoming the first player to ever accept such an offer.
First things first, the Yankees have not definitively said they’re going to extend a qualifying offer to Robertson, it just seems to be a strong possibility if only because it would be a chance to retain their closer on a short-term deal, keep their immediate bullpen depth intact, and buy some time for other young arms to develop while waiting for Dellin Betances to eventually take over the ninth inning. A qualifying offer would nearly triple Robertson’s 2014 salary and would make him a very, very well-paid relief pitcher, which is why he would have to consider accepting it. Then again, MLB Trade Rumors on Tuesday guessed that Robertson could earn something in the neighborhood of four years, $52 million on the open market, which is why he would have to consider rejecting.
Bottom line: Robertson is going to get paid this winter. The only questions are by which team and for how long? For our purposes, the questions get even more specific: Should the Yankees bring him back and on what kind of contract?
Here’s a quick look at what the Yankees already have in place for next year’s bullpen:
Proven late-inning arms
Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley
Betances is still two years from arbitration, Warren is one year from arbitration, and Kelley has a year of arbitration left. That puts three pretty good relievers under team control for next season. That late-inning depth was one of the bullpen’s great strengths this season, giving the Yankees plenty of alternatives when Robertson and Kelley dealt with injuries, when Warren went cold for a few weeks, and when go-to relievers were inevitably shut down because of workload concerns. Might be a stretch to call either one of them “proven,” but the Yankees also have Esmil Rogers and Preston Claiborne under team control. Rogers seems like a prime non-tender candidate, but Claiborne is in place as additional bullpen depth.
Long relief options
David Phelps, Chase Whitley, Shane Greene, Bryan Mitchell
Before he was hurt late in the year, Phelps really seemed to be emerging as a solid back-of-the-rotation option for next season. His overall numbers weren’t great, but at his best, Phelps was a perfectly good starting pitcher and seems to be an obvious swingman candidate to work as either a starter or reliever next season. Same could be said for Whitley, who had fairly drastic ups and downs, possibly attributable to his increased workload in his first season as a starting pitcher. Again, when he was good, Whitley threw strikes and got outs with a good changeup/slider combination. Depending on rotation depth, the Yankees could also consider putting either Greene or Mitchell into the bullpen if necessary. Such a move worked well with Warren this season, but the Yankees may be better served with Greene in the big league rotation and Mitchell in the Triple-A rotation to open the season.
David Huff, Jacob Lindgren, Tyler Webb, James Pazos
One thing to keep in mind about that list of four left-handed relief options is that there’s a solid chance none of them will be on the 40-man roster in spring training. Huff is a non-tender candidate while Lindren, Webb and Pazos have such little professional experience that none needs to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this offseason. Left-handed relief is kind of an odd spot for the Yankees right now because they don’t have a reliable option in place — they traded away Matt Thornton — but their minor league system could be ready and able to fill the hole immediately. They could also jump into the market for a guy like Andrew Miller.
Minor league depth
Jose Ramirez, Dan Burawa, Mark Montgomery, Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow
Ramirez might be a more reliable option by now, but he was hurt again — it was a lat issue this time — and the latest injury held him to just 22.1 innings this season. That said, he’s expected to be healthy for spring training, which makes him an obvious bit of bullpen depth. Burawa, Montgomery and Pinder are each strong 40-man candidates this offseason, and Rumbelow pitched his way to Triple-A in just his first full season of pro ball. “Has toughness and poise,” Mark Newman said. The Yankees have some bullpen depth in place, but it would be hard to count on this group for a can’t-miss reliever this season. Someone might emerge, there’s just some uncertainty here. Ramirez has the injury history, Burawa and Montgomery have been inconsistent, Pinder has just 13 games of Triple-A experience, and Rumbelow was in college two years ago.
Without signing a free agent or making a trade, the Yankees could pretty easily roll out an Opening Day bullpen of Betances, Kelley, Warren, Lindgren, Phelps, Whitley and Huff (just to pick a group that might make some sense), and that might not be the worst bunch of relievers in the world. The Yankees would have a big-time arm for the ninth inning, two pretty good setup men, an experienced long reliever in Phelps and a high-potential young lefty in Lindgren.
Adding another arm like Robertson, though, would greatly increase the bullpen depth, and that’s largely what the Robertson decision is about.
Based on what he showed this year, Betances is a capable closer in waiting. But adding a one-inning guy like Robertson would free Betances to put out fires in the seventh inning before building a bridge through the eighth. It would free Kelley and Warren to hover as late-inning alternatives and high-end options as early as the sixth inning. It might even free Warren to become a rotation option again (same with Phelps), and it might minimize the need to immediately put a guy like Lindgren into high leverage situations in his first big league season.
It’s often seen as foolish to give too much money to a reliever because relievers are unpredictable, but that unpredictability is the same reason it’s worthwhile to stockpile a bunch of bullpen arms. With so many young, cheap options already in place, the Yankees could pay Robertson for a few years and still keep their overall bullpen payroll relatively low. That said, this is a team looking to get younger and cheaper, and the emergence of Betances and Warren might give the Yankees a chance to immediately do both of those things in the bullpen.
If it were up to me, I’d bring Robertson back, keep him in the ninth inning, and build a young bullpen around him. But it’s not my roster, not my money, and it’s certainly not my decision. Both the Yankees and Robertson could be facing a tough choice come time for qualifying offers to go on the table.
Associated Press photos
Postgame notes: “You never really lose hope” • 09.05.14
From the outside, this really looked like a new low for the Yankees underwhelming offense. They’d come up with one hit since the third inning, their best chance to score had been doubled off first base, and Koji Uehara was jogging in from the bullpen with a one-run lead in the ninth. To start this month of must-win games, the Yankees were three outs away from losing two of three against a last-place team.
But to hear Chase Headley tell the story, that sense of impending doom was strictly from the outside looking in.
“I think there’s enough confidence in (the dugout), and there’s enough guys who’ve done it before, that you never really lose hope,” Headley said. “You expect each and every day that you come on that field that it’s going to turn around, and hopefully we’re on that way. I feel like we’ve swung the bats better lately. Even some tough outs and balls that we hit at people, it seems to be getting better so hopefully we continue on that trend, but there’s never any give up or any it can’t happen. There’s just too good of players on this team, too good of offensive weapons for this not to happen.”
Mark Teixeira hit his first home run since August 17, then Headley walked off with his fourth homer since coming over from San Diego.
“(The dugout) erupted,” Teixeira said. “It’s been an up and down season for all of us. When you can win a game like that, win a series in that fashion, it just doesn’t happen very much. You don’t hit two home runs off one of the best closers in baseball very much. That was a fun dugout.”
One win doesn’t change the situation. The Yankees are still on the outside looking in. They still face a bunch of must-win games, and there are still a bunch of teams ahead of them, but for at least one night the Yankees kept all hope from disappearing completely.
“We’re very confident, I can tell you that much,” Headley said. “The guys in the clubhouse believe it’s going to happen. It hasn’t happened yet, but we expect it to happen. Obviously walk-off wins, late-inning comebacks, that kind of win gives you some momentum. Having said that, you can’t just rely on that. You have to come out every day and play the game on the field. Hopefully we can build on this, but we expect it to happen. We’re going with the expectations that we’re going to go on a run, we’re going to get it done. The confidence, the belief, the effort, that’s all going to be there. So we’re just going to keep going.”
• Game-tying and game-winning home runs in the ninth inning tend to overshadow a lot of things. In this case, they overshadowed a terrific night for the Yankees bullpen, which pitched 4.2 scoreless innings without using either Dellin Betances or Dave Robertson. “I think games like this when we’re called on to give a lot of innings, we try to take the team on our back and say we’re going to keep the Red Sox there and allow the offense to come back,” Adam Warren said. “And that’s what we did. We’re just going out there and trying to put zeroes.”
• Warren got arguably the biggest outs by retiring three straight in the ninth inning to strand a pair of runners that were on base strictly because of his own mistakes. “With (Allen) Craig I just let the fastball get away and hit him,” Warren said. “Then I expected the bunt and just bobbled it first and kind of panicked after that instead of staying under control. Just trying to get ahead of guys once that happened, and trying to get outs, especially on the ground.”
• Interesting choice by Joe Girardi to trust Rich Hill — who was sent down just a few days ago — against David Ortiz in the fifth. Hill did the job with a big strikeout against a guy who’d homered in his previous two at-bats. “He’s just a really different look, being a sidearmer,” Girardi said. “Ortiz is a great hitter, but anytime you can give a hitter different looks, it’s beneficial. You talk about bullpens, you want different looks in your bullpen, so they’re not used to seeing the same guys. When Rich Hill is right, he’s really tough on left handers.”
• Costly mistake for Antoan Richardson. In his Yankees debut, Richardson was a seventh-inning pinch runner and wound up doubled off first base on a fly ball to center. He was running on the pitch, which complicated matters, but his mistake came in not picking up the ball soon enough. “I’ve got to peek a little earlier,” Richardson said. “I picked it up almost a step before I got to second base, and that’s just a little bit too late. … I think any time the ball gets into the outfield in the air you should be able to get back if you’re running on the pitch. If I execute the way I’m supposed to, I think I get back.”
• Girardi on Richardson: “We brought him here to steal bases. That’s why he’s here. The big thing is, you’ve got to peek. When you’re a baserunner, you have more than one responsibility than just running the bases. You’ve got to see where the ball’s hit. And it’s important that baserunners do that.”
• Teixeira on his at-bat against Uehara: “It’s funny how baseball works. Until two strikes, I was trying to hit a home run. Once I got to two strikes, his split is so good, if you try to pull a split and he throws it, you’re probably going to miss it or roll over it. I’m trying to hit a line drive to left there, actually. He hung a split in the middle of the plate, and because of that, I stayed on it and put a good swing on it.”
• Headley on his at-bat against Uehara: “You’ve got to try to get him up and he’s got the great split (with) good separation on the fastball and the split velocity-wise, so you really have to get him up in the zone. I felt like I was seeing him pretty good. He threw me a good fastball down and away in a hitter’s count, and I took it because it wasn’t what I was looking for. When it finally got to 3-2, I got a pitch I could handle and that was the at-bat.”
• Chris Capuano on the two Ortiz home runs: “The guy is a Hall of Famer. You’ve got to be tight with your location when you’re making pitches to him. I made two loose pitches, a fastball that came over the middle and kind of a hanging slider. He hammered it. He’s a good hitter. He does that.”
• This was Headley’s third career walk-off home run, and it was his second walk-off since coming to the Yankees. His first came in his game with the team. “I actually knew everybody’s name this time,” he said.
• It was the Yankees sixth walk-off of the season and their third via home run (also Carlos Beltran in June and Brian McCann in August). It was the team’s 34th come-from-behind win of the season, and by coming back from three runs they matched their largest comeback of the season.
• Derek Jeter got his 540th career double tying his childhood hero Dave Winfield and Joe Medwich for 32nd place on baseball’s all-time list. He hit the ball pretty hard three times tonight. “That (double) was crushed,” Teixeira said. “He just missed one in his first at-bat; that ball was crushed. It’s a good sign. Like I said, all bets are off in September. Derek might hit six or seven home runs this month. We’d like that. You just never know, because baseball is a weird game.”
• Final word goes to Girardi: “I think this team has fought all year long. We’ve went through a lot of tough losses. We’ve went through a lot of tough things and this team has never given up. Extra-inning wins and ninth-inning wins, it’s who this group is. There’s a lot of character in that room and at times we’ve had a lot of things that haven’t went right for us, but they’ve never stopped fighting.”
Associated Press photos
Adam Warren is well aware that he hasn’t been pitching very well lately. Even last night, when he wasn’t charged with a run, he didn’t make a particularly good pitch with a slider, and the resulting line-drive is the way the Astros took their first lead.
“It’s a fine line that they walk, location of pitches, being ahead in the count and being able to put hitters away,” Joe Girardi said. “It looked like he left a slider up, and it didn’t break much, and it got hit.”
Warren knows all of that. He also knows that he pitched really well for most of the year, and that a 9.00 ERA in his past 10 outings suggests something has gone out of whack recently. It happens to every pitcher at some point, and the key is getting it fixed.
Warren said it’s not a matter of fatigue, not a problem of workload. He believes he’s simply not staying back long enough in his delivery. It’s a small flaw that affects that fine line in a big way.
“My body feels fine,” Warren said. “I’ve had a week off between outings, so physically I feel fine. I think it’s just one of those funks where I just feel like I can’t quite get on top of the ball and feel like my stuff’s not quite as sharp. Just trying to get back to good solid mechanics. I feel like I’m getting there. I haven’t quite gotten there yet, but I feel like I’m getting closer.”
Go back one month to the All-Star break and there was some talk about whether the Yankees should get Warren stretched out to join the rotation. At the time, he was one of their most trusted arms, and even in his first few games after the break Warren was steady and reliable. But he gave up a home run on July 24, and since then the results have been inconsistent at best, really bad at worst.
Getting Warren back on track would go a long way toward making the Yankees bullpen as deep and dependable as it was earlier in the season. And if the offense is going to remain inconsistent, the Yankees are going to need their bullpen. Last night’s not going to be their last close game in the late innings.
“Mechanically I feel a little off, but I feel like I’m taking a step in the right direction and getting where I need to be,” Warren said. “… Just (working on) really just focusing on mechanics when you can and when you do throw in (bullpen) sessions. Some dry work on the mound, just really focusing on staying back a little bit longer.”
Associated Press photo
Yankees pregame: Cervelli back, Murphy down • 06.17.14
John Ryan Murphy has been sent down to Triple-A and Francisco Cervelli has been activated from the DL, not just to be the backup catcher, but again to possibly be one of the backups for Mark Teixeira. When Cervelli hurt his hamstring back in mid-April, it was a game in which he started at first base. Two of his five starts in April were at first.
Joe Girardi said a choice between Kelly Johnson and Cervelli would come down to matchups.
“I think I’m comfortable there,” Cervelli said. “But I don’t want to forget about catching. That’s what I like, but I want to help any way I can.”
This has been the second straight season Cervelli has missed a huge chunk of time. He said he stayed positive these last two months.
“It’s frustrating,” Cervelli said. “But this time I took it differently. … I spent time with my dad. I recovered so fast before the 60 days.”
John Ryan Murphy got sent down to Triple-A to make room. He hit .286 with one homer and eight RBI in 24 games.
“He played extremely well,” Girardi said. “Obviously we were pleased with what he did. … We think it’s important for him to go play every day.”
CC Sabathia threw a 25-pitch bullpen yesterday and will have another session out there tomorrow. Joe Girardi compared this to the beginning of spring training for him.
Michael Pineda, who was shut down after his setback, is scheduled to play catch Saturday.
Rotation fill-in Vidal Nuno is 1-3 with a 5.90 ERA. Adam Warren has been mentioned as a possible replacement. But the reliever would have to be stretched out. Girardi said Warren could probably only go up to about 50 pitches now.
“We’ll continue to evaluate our staff and decide what we’re going to do,” Girardi said.
Tonight it appears the ball is in good hands. It’s Masahiro Tanaka time.
“Obviously Tanaka is the best pitcher on the planet,” Sabathia said.
Photo by The Associated Press
Warren sees opportunity for larger role • 05.06.13
Young players always talk about their dream of playing in the big leagues. But let’s be honest, that’s not the dream. No one fantasizes about being a fifth outfielder, backup catcher or mop-up reliever. Small roles get a player to The Show — and that in itself is a dream come true — but it’s not the dream.
“I’m a patient guy,” Adam Warren said. “I’m pretty laid back, but the competitor in you kind of wants to pitch the big innings. You have to ease your way into it a little bit. I think pitching in some games that aren’t very close, if I take the mindset that, in my mind it’s close, then when you start getting into close games, it’s kind of the same feeling. You’re just going out there and pitching. You just have to be patient and see what comes your way.”
Injuries open opportunities. They open the door for guys like Preston Claiborne to get to the big leagues, and they open the door for guys like Jayson Nix, Chris Stewart and Warren to take on larger roles. When Joba Chamberlain went on the disabled list, and Dave Robertson was unavailable with a hamstring injury on Friday, Warren stepped into a two-run game and pitched three scoreless innings. He allowed some base runners, but got some big outs and did his part to give the Yankees a chance in a tight game.
“We lost (so) it can’t be too satisfying,” Warren said. “But it’s a step in the right direction. I just want to keep taking steps in the right direction and not take a step back. … Obviously we’re hoping these guys get back as fast as possible, but while they’re out we’ve just got to try to step up as a bullpen and eat innings as much as possible. I do see it as an opportunity to kind of improve myself a little bit.”
A year ago, David Phelps broke camp in the Warren role. He was a long reliever with no big league track record, and he was used primarily in extreme situations. But he pitched pretty well, opportunities presented themselves, and Phelps became a trusted and versatile part of the pitching staff.
You can bet Warren was paying attention.
“You just have to stay mentally focused,” he said. “Things can change so quick. For me personally, I try to have a good attitude about whatever role I’m in. Opportunities arise. You do have to stay kind of mentally focused even though you may not be pitching in games that are close to start out with, just try to stay sharp for when you do get that opportunity.”
Associated Press photo
Andy Pettitte loved the idea of pitching in the World Baseball Classic. The Yankees did not.
“They weren’t crazy about it, and I understand it,” Pettitte said. “I mean, it’s understandable. I spoke with Cash and I spoke with Joe. (They said), ‘If you decide to do this, we’re going to support you,’ but obviously they were hoping it was something that I wouldn’t do, and like I said, I understand it. And at the time that I was considering it, I was just hoping they would understand, which I knew they probably couldn’t. I’ve done a lot of things in this game, but I’ve never had a chance to play for my country. I don’t know if that sounds corny, but it was a big deal for me.”
Doesn’t sound corny to me, but it also doesn’t sound unreasonable for the Yankees to have some hesitation about a 40-year-old playing in an unnecessary exhibition.
“This needed to be the focus,” Pettitte said. “I guess it just came down to not really wanting to take quite that chance of having something go wrong and then kicking yourself all year long.”
• The spring’s first workout went smoothly, but it’s always a little more boring when it’s just the pitchers and catchers. The position players really bring the place to life. Two interesting pitch counts: Phil Hughes threw 40 pitches and Clay Rapada threw 35. Rapada joked that he’s going to be a long man. Hughes explained that he’d already thrown six bullpens before today.
• Hughes isn’t alone. Quite a few of the pitchers seem more advanced than usual (including Mariano Rivera, who actually threw a bullpen today rather than waiting another week). Some of the younger guys in camp — including guys like David Phelps, Adam Warren and Chase Whitley who could be in the big league mix — have already faced hitters. Phelps, Warren and Whitley threw batting practice at the minor league complex on Monday. Whitley said he expects to face hitters when he throws his first spring bullpen tomorrow.
• Because he’s coming back from an injury, Derek Jeter is allowed to report to spring training immediately (you may remember that David Adams and Justin Maxwell came to camp with the pitchers and catchers last year), but Girardi said he doesn’t expect Jeter to report early. “I don’t think so,” Girardi said. “I think he’s doing most of his stuff down at the minor league facility, doing his drills and all his work.”
• Girardi said all of the pitchers and catchers reported to camp on time. No one was late this year. “Not that I know of,” Girardi said.
• Pettitte said he’s well aware that the Yankees might try to protect him, but he wants — even expects — to make 30 starts this season. “I know Joe is going to protect me as best he can as far as keeping my innings limited,” Pettitte said. “But I want to throw 200 innings, make all my starts. Heck, I want to win 20 games, that’s what I want to do.”
• Is this Pettitte’s last year? He said he honestly hasn’t made up his mind. “I can tell you right now, as I sit right here, I hope this is it,” he said. “But having gone through this and done this, I’m not going to shut it down again unless I know for a fact that I’m done with this.”
Associated Press photos
When he looked into the stands, Joe Girardi saw his old friend Dante Bichette holding a video camera. When he looked onto the the field, Girardi saw Dante Bichette Jr. rounding the bases.
Could he imagine the feeling of ever watching his own son hit two home runs in a big league spring training game? Girardi leaned back and smiled.
“Hopefully I’ll get that chance,” he said.
This afternoon, Bichette Jr. came up from minor league camp to get a couple of at-bats against the Astros. First time he went to the plate, he swung at the first pitch and hit a wind-aided home run to right. Second time he went to the plate, he again swung at the first pitch, and hit a legitimate shot to center field.
“I was lucky to make contact with the first two swings, and they went pretty far,” Bichette Jr. said. “I’m happy with that. I was just trying to hit the ball, that’s all. … Family is the world to me, so my Mom and Dad here is everything. It’s a family effort, everything that’s happened so far, so having them here is perfect.”
Bichette Jr. grew up 20 minutes from this ballpark and played here in high school. Hard to imagine he ever had a day quite like this one, though. The wind got harsh as a line of bad weather moved through the area, and that helped the two teams combine for nine home runs. Bichette’s first was a product of that wind. The second one surely got some help, but he hit it pretty hard.
“It was pretty special,” Girardi said. “The second one, he really hit. Seeing his mom and dad, who we’ve been close to for a long time, his little brother; they played on this field a lot. They greew up in the area, so he’s been on this field. It’s pretty neat.”
Did Girardi say anything to Bichette Jr. in the dugout?
“I don’t know, honestly,” Bichette Jr. said. “I don’t remember any of them. It was kind of surreal.”
• If you missed it in the game post, the Yankees final diagnosis of Cesar Cabral is a stress fracture in his olecranon (essentially the tip of his elbow). Girardi said it’s the same injury Warner Madrigal had last spring, and an injury Jonathan Albaladejo had at one point. “It’s frustrating because he had a really good camp for us,” Girardi said. “I can’t tell you what was going to happen, but he had a good camp for us.”
• Francisco Cervelli was taken out of the game after being hit by a pitch in the forearm, but he’s fine. Girardi said there are no concerns about it.
• Certainly the conditions didn’t help, but Adam Warren conceded that he “just wasn’t sharp” this afternoon. He allowed six runs on 10 hits through 5.2 innings. He walked none and struck out three, but said his command was bad from the very beginning. He did feel better as the game progressed, he said. Four of those runs came in the second inning.
• Girardi on Warren: “I thought he threw the ball better than the numbers indicated. It’s a windy day, an extremely fast infield — not great conditions to be a pitcher here. I thought he threw the ball better than what it indicated.”
• The game was called in the middle of the ninth inning because of steady rain. Each team agreed there was no sense taking the risk of injury. “We just said, ‘If it starts raining any harder, we don’t want to get anyone hurt,’” Girardi explained. “It kind of stopped a little bit, they put down some Diamond Dry, and then it started raining hard again. So, that’s it.”
• Clay Rapada gave up a home run to a lefty today, but it was hit to right field, where the wind was carrying fly balls over the wall. Hard to think the Yankees make too much of that.
• Raul Ibanez now has three home runs in his past five games. He’s also raised his spring batting average more than 100 points in that time.
• Curtis Granderson went 3-for-3 to raise his spring average to .381. He’s looked really good at the plate from the very beginning of spring. … Bichette, Ibanez, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira each had two-hit games. … Jose Gil got a start and had another hit. A 1-for-4 day dropped his spring average to .455. … Doug Bernier also had another hit and is having a nice spring of his own. He’s hitting .344 and has played very good defense all over the infield, particularly at short. … Preston Claiborne got in the game and pitched the final two innings for the Yankees. He allowed two runs, one of them on a homer.
• After the game, the Yankees got back on the bus to go to Tampa. When they get back, the guy who are making the road trip to play the Marlins will join their teammates for a flight to Miami. Tomorrow is a day game followed by a night game on Monday. I’m going to hit the road myself. Long drive ahead of me.
Assocaited Press photos
Adam Warren was supposed to pitch yesterday, and it wasn’t until after the game — after he’d waited and waited for his turn to come — that he found out his turn would wait a little longer for a primetime start against the Red Sox.
“That’s what I think spring training is about for us guys trying to make it is to just make an impression,” Warren said. “For me, I’m just trying to go out there and show I can handle the situation, just trying to go out there and attack the zone. I’m just going to go out there and take care of my own business, not really worry about where I stand.”
Warren took care of business, alright. Facing a lineup full of Boston regulars, the Yankees pitching prospect fired four scoreless innings with three strikeouts, no walks and two hits. One of those hits was a ball that glanced off Warren’s own glove for an infield single.
“Warren was excellent,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought he moved the ball in and out well. His slider was really good tonight. I thought he was excellent.”
Dellin Betances followed Warren with three hitless innings. David Phelps — who was supposed to start this game before his wife went into labor — has pitched 7.2 innings without an earned run this spring. D.J. Mitchell has a 0.89 WHIP and 1.00 ERA. The Yankees upper-level pitching prospects have each made strong impressions this spring, suggesting they’re more than capable of filling a hole should this overflowing rotation need a spot starter or two.
“I’m not going to worry about who’s ahead of me or how people are doing,” Warren said. “I just want to focus on myself and not get caught up in everything else. I feel like, I take care of my business and things will take care of themselves.”
• Tonight’s game ended in a tie because Girardi had run out of pitchers who he actually planned on pitching in this game. The Yankees had extra lower-level pitchers on the trip, but it seems Girardi didn’t want to use them. “I just said, that’s it,” Girardi said.
• Bobby Valentine wasn’t happy with Girardi for calling the game before it could go into the 10th inning. It is odd that Girardi had extra pitchers on the travel roster but chose not to use them. He said that he was worried about tomorrow’s doubleheader. “We’ve got a long day tomorrow too,” he said. “We need pitching.”
• One seemingly available pitcher was D.J. Mitchell, but the Yankees had him throw a side when it seemed there wouldn’t be enough innings for him to pitch. “We have a responsibility to build him up too,” Girardi said.
• Turns out CC Sabathia was hit in the shin by a comebacker this afternoon, but that was in the first inning and Sabathia stayed in to pitch five more innings. Sounds like he’s fine. Girardi’s not concerned.
• Raul Ibanez had another 0-for-3 and his average dropped to .054 this spring. “I’m just worried about us staying healthy down here right now,” Brian Cashman said. “Veterans like him, I’m certainly not going to make any judgments on.”
• Cashman said there are no real concerns about any of the nagging injuries (Jeter, Swisher, etc) in Yankees camp. Girardi said Derek Jeter came through today’s workout just fine and plans to play tomorrow.
• He’s pretty far down the depth chart, but Doug Bernier is really having a nice spring. He had two more hits today, including a two-run single. He also made a nice play up the middle in the fourth inning. He’s hitting .364.
• Rough day for Cory Wade who let the Red Sox back in the game with four hits and three earned runs in the eighth inning. Wade got only two outs in the inning before Juan Cedeno finished it.
• RBI triple for Curtis Granderson, who continues to have a terrific spring. … Brett Gardner, Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez each had a hit in this game, but none of those three is hitting better than .194 this spring. … Jose Gil is batting .571 after his 1-for-3 night, and Gustavo Molina is batting .545 after his 1-for-1. Neither has a lot of at-bats.
• Jorge Vazquez was hit by a pitch in the hand and had it heavily wrapped after the game, but there’s no word on how serious the injury might be. He had to be taken out of the game, letting Jose Toussen get some unexpected playing time.
• I wrote this morning about how good Clay Rapada has looked in camp, but Rule 5 Cesar Cabral has also looked pretty sharp with 11 strikeouts and only one walk. The Yankees seem to have room for only one of those two. “(Cabral)’s pitched so well,” Cashman said. “If he was looking terrible, 29 other clubs would pass on him, (but) he ain’t looking terrible. To me, he’s either making this club, getting waiver-claimed or getting traded.”
• Rapada, by the way, has an out in his contract at the end of spring training. Cashman confirmed that this afternoon.
• For those of you who closely follow the minor league system, reports that Rafael DePaula has obtained a visa are true, but in an email, Mark Newman said DePaula still has to pass a physical “before anything progresses.” DePaula signed with the Yankees in 2010 but has been stuck in limbo ever since. He has a chance to be a legitimate talent.
• Phelps’ wife, by the way, had the baby late last night.
Associated Press photos
Waiting for doors to open • 03.03.12
There was nothing David Phelps, Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances could have done this afternoon to make themselves favorites for the Yankees rotation. There are plenty of big league starters on the roster, and as long as everyone stays healthy, the next wave of pitching talent will have to wait.
“I made that clear in my first meeting with all the guys,” Girardi said. “I said, ‘Look, we used 28 pitchers last year, and I guarantee you all 28 weren’t on the 40-man when the year started. But at some point, they were there. If you think we’re not going to call you up because you’re not on the 40-man, think again. Everyone in this room has an opportunity to possibly pitch for us this year or you wouldn’t be here.’ I think it’s important that they know that. We like to use our system, and we want our system to be deep.”
The Yankees have homegrown Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and Dave Robertson on the roster. Joba Chamberlain will be there soon enough, and guys like Betances, George Kontos and Kevin Whelan got some big league time last year. The young guys have seen doors open, and they’re well aware it could happen again.
“We saw it last year,” Phelps said. “The majority of the guys that were in camp last year helped the team at some point or another. It’s more about going out and trying to prove to myself that I can do it… We were down in Triple-A last year seeing a lot of our friends and teammates getting called up. It’s great watching them pitch, and it’s like, ‘I could be next.’ It’s a matter of going out and doing your job and hopefully your turn will come. It’s definitely motivation. It’s knowing that if you go out and do your job to the best of your ability, there’s a good chance that at some point during the season, you’ll be able to help the club.”
If one of those doors is opened much sooner than expected, these early spring outings could be a factor in which young pitcher gets the call. “You try to get a feel for who would handle the situation the best,” Girardi said. Today, Phelps seemed to make the best impression, but Adam Warren looked good yesterday and there’s still a long way to go.
“We get a lot of questions about how it feels to compete against your friends,” Phelps said. “We don’t see it as we’re competing against each other; we know that if we go out and do what we’re capable of doing, it’s not like if I pitch well, that means Warren isn’t going to get called up if Warren goes out and pitches well. If we all go out and do what we’re capable of doing, it’s going to be good for all of us. We feed off each other; when one is doing well, it really helps out the rest. We go over scouting reports, pick each other’s brains about how to set up hitters. If anything coming up with the same group of guys and being comfortable with them has made it easier to succeed as a group.”
Associated Press photo of Betances