We all know Adam Warren’s background, and so it’s easy to understand why he’s in the mix to be the Yankees’ fifth starter. Warren came up through the organization, made his big league debut as a spot starter, and he moved into the bullpen only because that’s where a door first opened. The Yankees never really stopped seeing him as a potential starter down the road.
Esmil Rogers, though, is less familiar, and his place in this competition is a bit more mysterious. Rogers made 20 starts with the Blue Jays back in 2013, but most of his big league time has been as a reliever, including his two months with the Yankees last season. It’s hard to see a career 5.54 ERA and think he’s really the best option to start games at Yankee Stadium next month.
“Well, he’s got a good arm,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s got four pitches that he can go to, so he’s got a couple of different breaking balls and a changeup, so it allows him to get right handers and left handers out. Larry (Rothschild)’s tried to make subtle changes to come of his mechanics to give him more consistency. It’s there, it just comes down to consistently making pitches. This was a position player who made a change, so sometimes those guys bloom a little later.”
Since he became a pitcher, Rogers has worked as a starter throughout the minor leagues, and he’s been a starter in the Dominican Winter League, where he helped pitch his team into the championship round this offseason. Does raw talent and experience out of the big leagues make him a great rotation option? Probably not, which is why he’s having to earn it this spring.
And on the first day that Girardi said he was really evaluating results, Rogers was knocked around for the first time this spring. He allowed three runs on five hits and a walk through 3.1 innings. He struck out three and said he was specifically working on his curveball, which didn’t do him many favors. Girardi labeled the outing as “OK” and pointed out that Rogers at least limited the damage in individual innings.
“I know I (allowed) a couple of base hits; I got a homer,” Rogers said. “I just try to pound the zone. That’s one of the keys I got in this spring training. Today I came in a couple of times behind in the count, and I’ve got to pay for that.”
Tomorrow, Warren gets his turn to make an impression. In a few days, it will be Bryan Mitchell again. Chase Whitley and Scott Baker are also vaguely in the mix. Is Rogers really going to be the guy who wins this job?
“If they’re going to give me that spot, it’s not because I need it,” Rogers said. “It’s because I (earned) it.”
• The Yankees had just four hits today, but all four came from big leaguers, including Chase Headley’s second home run of the spring. Stephen Drew also had an RBI double and Didi Gregorius had another hit, pushing his average up to .280. Carlos Beltran, another guy who’s struggled so far this spring, had the other Yankees hit. “It’s timing,” Girardi said. “Getting at-bats under your belt. I think you’re seeing our regular guys hit the ball harder more consistently now; better at-bats. One thing you kind of worry about is if they peak too early, they get a little bit bored, so you want them to continue to strive to get to where they need to be Opening Day.”
• Alex Rodriguez went hitless, but he did have one sharp line drive that was caught. “His at-bats have been pretty decent,” Girardi said. “But when we start getting down to the last 10 days or so is really when you start to pay attention and you want to see guys get to where they need to be.”
• Plan is for Rodriguez to DH again tomorrow.
• Brendan Ryan is still on schedule to make tomorrow’s road trip to Lakeland. He’s scheduled to start at shortstop in his first game of the spring.
• Nothing new on Jacoby Ellsbury. “I don’t think we need to rush him,” Girardi said. “I’m not concerned about him being ready for Opening Day now. If we got to the off day (on March 30) and the day after, and he couldn’t play, I’d be concerned.”
• Who had the best night of all the Yankees? Might have been Tyler Webb, who’s already been reassigned to minor league camp, but today he delivered 1.2 perfect innings with two strikeouts. “We like him,” Girardi said. “He’s a guy who was on our radar last year. He’s a young kid, we understand hasn’t had a ton of experience, but we have a number of left handers who we believe will pitch in the big leagues, who may not necessarily be there when we leave here, but they can help us. He’s one of them.”
• One of those left handers is surely Chasen Shreve, the new lefty acquired from Atlanta. Shreve has looked sharp all spring, but he was knocked around a little bit tonight, allowing three runs — two earned — on three hits through an inning.
• Shreve got little help from Jose Pirela, who dropped a ball while playing center field for the first time this spring. He hasn’t played center very often in his career, and the drop came on a ball Pirela had to try to catch on the run going back toward the wall in right center. Not an easy play, but certainly a play you expect a center fielder to make. Bounced off his glove.
• Right-handed pitcher Moises Cedeno has received a 72-game suspension after testing positive for Clenbuterol, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. He was on the Yankees’ Dominican Summer League roster.
• We’ll give the final word to Rogers: “All of my career I’m a starter, so I feel comfortable for a start. I just want to be here to be part of the team. It doesn’t matter what I’m going to be, if I’m going to be in the bullpen or a starter. If I have to fight for that spot, I’m going to.”
Associated Press photos
Last night, CC Sabathia said he was surprisingly nervous to pitch in his first real game in 10 months. If that was the case, imagine how Andrew Bailey feels about pitching in his first game since July 12, 2013.
“I’m anxious,” Bailey said. “I’m ready to get out there. You just have to trust the work we’ve put in the past year and a half, almost two, and trust that it will be there. We’ve put all the right pieces together, and this is the next step.”
Tonight will be Bailey’s spring debut with the Yankees. He spent all of last year rehabbing after shoulder surgery, and he signed back on a fresh minor league contract to get a fresh look and a new opportunity. Bailey said he still believes he could have enough time to make the Opening Day roster. Joe Girardi said it’s possible, but he seemed to be setting lower expectations.
“Obviously he has a great chance of making an impression,” Girardi said. “Our big thing with him is getting him through these first (outings), and then when does he feel that he’s able to go back-to-back? That’s the big thing because as a bullpen guy you have to be able to do that unless you’re a long guy. … I think, from what we’ve seen so far, I definitely think it’s a possibility he could be a player in our bullpen (at some point). You’re talking about experience, a guy that’s pitched at a high level, that’s pitched in big markets, knows how to close. He could be another nice arm in our bullpen.”
Bailey was an all-star closer his first two big league seasons with Oakland, but he hasn’t thrown as many as 30 innings in a season since 2011. Now 30 years old, Bailey said his bullpens and simulated outings have been encouraging. He doesn’t know how hard he’s throwing, but he said he’s been noticeably better than he was at this time last year. He said he feels the way he did when he thriving in the majors.
“Going through the process, I never thought I’d actually feel this good again,” he said. “You’re going through that process at that time, and the way the shoulder is, it’s pretty complicated. So you’re like, ‘Oh man, is it ever going to happen?’ The doctor said 18 to 24 months, and we’re at 19, and pretty much right on track. It feels really good, and it’s refreshing to feel this. You’re going through the process throwing on the back fields all last year, you’re questioning, what are you even doing? You put the time in, and you grind through it, and you’re here.”
Does Opening Day feel realistic for Bailey?
“I think everybody’s goal here is to make the team Day 1, and mine obviously still is,” he said. “If I need more time, I totally understand that, or if they feel I need more time, I understand that. But I want to be there Day 1, for sure, just as everyone in this room does. … One of my goals was to pitch in spring training and make the decision hard for them. I think that’s all you can do, in my shoes, just make the decision as hard as I can for them.”
• Brendan Ryan remains on track to also play on Friday. That would be Ryan’s first game of the spring.
• Upcoming rotation:
Thursday: Esmil Rogers
Friday: Adam Warren
Saturday: Michael Pineda
Sunday: CC Sabathia
• Girardi said he thinks the rotation competition truly begins this next turn through, beginning with Rogers’ start tomorrow. Girardi said he plans to give Bryan Mitchell at least one more start, but it sounds like Chase Whitley and Scott Baker are unlikely to start again this spring. I would think those two are stronger bullpen candidates than fifth-starter candidates at this point.
• Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to 45-50 pitches tonight. Girardi said he has no plans of asking Tanaka to throw fewer splits given the elbow issue. “I don’t think you can ask him to stop pitching the way he pitches because I think,” Girardi said. “As a pitcher, you feel like you’re going out there without all your weapons, and that probably is not great for confidence. So I don’t think you can really do that.”
• Jose Pirela gets a start in left field tonight. My own take on his situation: I think Pirela is the odd man out right now, but I think he’s the guy who will make the roster if anyone (aside from a catcher) gets hurt. Infielder, outfielder, doesn’t matter. I think Pirela is the next guy in line, which is why he’s getting some time all over the place. Again, that’s just an opinion, though. “You never know what’s going to happen, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “And he played the outfield last year. There’s a chance that you’ll even see him in center this spring training.”
• Ryan, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez and Austin Romine are all scheduled to stay behind and take batting practice in Tampa today.
• Today’s second string: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Cole Figueroa, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ramon Flores, CF Mason Williams, RF Slade Heathcott
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Jose Ramirez, Andrew Bailey, Jacob Lindgren, Danny Burawa, Nick Rumbelow
Associated Press photos
The Yankees have a night game against the Red Sox in Fort Myers. Bad start time, long road trip, against a division rival — not a combination likely to generate a big league heavy lineup. And so, here’s the group heading south today. Worth paying attention to Adam Warren, who suddenly has a good opportunity to win a spot in the Yankees’ rotation.
RHP Adam Warren
Today’s second string: C Gary Sanchez, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Tyler Wade, SS Cito Culver, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Jake Cave, CF Mason Williams, RF Aaron Judge, DH Tyler Austin
Today’s scheduled relievers: Chasen Shreve, Jose Ramirez, Jacob Lindgren, Branden Pinder, Nick Goody
The Yankees have a night game — their first of the spring — so we have a few hours to kill today. Let’s start with a few random observations and thoughts as we enter the middle of March:
• So who’s the fifth starter now, what does that mean for the rest of the pitching staff, and what does that mean for the Yankees idea of using six starters a few times in April and May? It really seems those questions could be answered any number of ways by the time Opening Day roles around. My feeling is that Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers are the heavy favorites for the rotation opening, which further opens the possibility of either Chase Whitley or Bryan Mitchell taking a long-relief role. I also wonder if the Yankees might carry a guy like Scott Baker as their long man, sending Whitley and Mitchell to Triple-A to stay stretched out for a call-up to make a spot start here and there. If I have to guess right now, I’ll say it’s Warren in the rotation, Rogers in the bullpen, with Whitley and Jose Ramirez breaking camp as the 11th and 12th pitchers on the staff. But that’s a true shot in the dark.
• Honestly, Alex Rodriguez looks better than I expected. I don’t think he looks great, but he seems to still have a solid eye at the plate, and I think he can at least make the routine plays at third base. The Yankees might be able to get away with starting him there every 10 games or so, knowing they’ll have to bring Chase Headley or Brendan Ryan (or Jose Pirela) in to play some late-inning defense. Saying that Rodriguez looks better than I thought isn’t to say I think he’s going to be a middle-of-the-order slugger, only that I think there’s at least some reason to hope he can be a useful hitter near the bottom of the order (maybe a little higher against lefties). Most surprising thing about A-Rod this spring: fans seem to be mostly on his side. Certainly not completely on his side, but definitely more cheers than boos.
• Weird thing about covering Masahiro Tanaka’s spring is that each good day seems like a tease. The best the Yankees can say is, well, his elbow hasn’t blown out yet. That’s it. Maybe optimism grows each time he goes out there, but a successful bullpen, batting practice or exhibition game doesn’t eliminate the possibility of his elbow blowing out the very next time he pitches. I think the Yankees should feel encouraged at this point, but I’m not sure they’ll ever feel secure. I do think they made the right call in trying to rehab — I honestly think we rarely hear about the success stories when pitchers approach it that way — but even if Tanaka makes 30 starts this year, those are going to be 30 uneasy outings.
• Tanaka is the best pitcher on this team, but it’s hard to be in the Yankees clubhouse and not see CC Sabathia as the clear ace. Pitchers still look to him for advice. They look to him for leadership. And the big man provides. I have no clue whether he can be a great big league pitcher again. I don’t even know if he can be a solid No. 3. But I don’t think his role in the clubhouse has changed from what it was three years ago. Even veteran guys will gather around near his locker to talk to him about anything and everything.
• When camp opened, I thought Rob Refsnyder would get some chance to compete for a roster spot. I didn’t think he’d win one, but I thought he’d get some significant attention beyond that of his other inevitable Triple-A teammates. Instead, Refsnyder doesn’t seem to be getting any more of a look than Jonathan Galvez or Nick Noonan. Refsnyder might jump into the picture if Stephen Drew gets hurt, but it really seems — they haven’t said this, just seems obvious — that the Yankees have no intention of sending Refsnyder anywhere but the minor leagues, probably to work on his defense.
• Three ways I see for Jose Pirela to make the roster. 1. Brendan Ryan’s back doesn’t get better and the Yankees choose Pirela as a right-handed platoon infielder, sliding Drew to shortstop on days Didi Gregorius needs a break. 2. Chris Young gets hurt, and Pirela is the right-handed fourth outfielder. 3. Alex Rodriguez absolutely can’t play third base, leaving Ryan as the only backup at second, short and third. If that’s the case, the Yankees could decide they need a bigger bat and settle on Pirela instead (again, using Drew at shortstop on days Gregorius sits). Even in that third situation, though — with A-Rod relegated to DH only — I still tend to think Ryan would actually keep the bench job ahead of Pirela, at least coming out of camp. The Yankees seem to want to make sure they have enough shortstop depth to open the season, and losing Ryan really makes that position thin.
• I think Nathan Eovaldi is going to be good, but I also think the closest thing to a sure thing in the Yankees rotation is Michael Pineda, and that’s just crazy after what that guy’s been through these past three years.
• Slade Heathcott looks good so far. Incredibly small sample size, but he’s hit pretty well and has played a pretty good center field when he’s been out there. Heathcott is always in insane shape, and he’s clearly convinced the knee problems are behind him. He lost considerable prospect status and a spot on the 40-man roster for good reason — he simply has to stay healthy — but there’s still a lot of talent there.
• Backup catcher? I still think it’ll be John Ryan Murphy, even though he’s not doing much at the plate. If that’s the case and the Yankees have to put Austin Romine on waivers, I honestly hope he’s claimed so that he can get another shot somewhere else. Romine seems to do things the right way, and he’s just been buried in this organization.
• One thing making me think the Yankees are preparing themselves for the possibility of losing Romine is that Eddy Rodriguez seems to be catching quite a few bullpens with big league pitchers. He caught Masahiro Tanaka’s sim game the other day. He’s caught CC Sabathia. I wonder if the Yankees are trying to get Rodriguez a little familiarity with the big league staff just in case they lose Romine and need another catcher during the year. There’s no guarantee Gary Sanchez will deserve a call-up — and the Yankees might not want Sanchez to be a backup at this stage of his development — so Rodriguez could be that just-in-case veteran waiting in Triple-A. If so, it would make some sense to let him get a little familiar with the guys on the big league staff.
• Carlos Beltran looks healthy, but he’s done nothing at the plate so far. Everyone should know not to make anything of these early at-bats for a veteran guy like Beltran, but it’s hard to apply that logic when he’s coming off such a bad year and the Yankees are counting on him so heavily. I make nothing of Jacoby Ellsbury’s slow start, nothing of Didi Gregeoius’s slow start, and I guess I make nothing of Beltran’s slow start, but I can’t help noticing it.
• Four players who I absolutely do not expect to make the big league roster under any circumstances: Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Luis Severino and Heathcott. Yes, they’re high-end talents, but I just don’t think the Yankees are seriously considering them as big leaguers out of camp. In the second half? Maybe. Especially for Severino. But out of spring training is way too ambitious. I think Refsnyder and Jacob Lindgren could make it under some circumstances — probably Lindgren easier than Refsnyder — but I just don’t see any of the most hyped prospects actually being on the big league radar for April. They’re getting attention because they’re talented, not because they’re about to make the team.
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi said the Yankees don’t have a full prognosis for Chris Capuano just yet, but it’s pretty clear he won’t be ready for Opening Day.
“I’d be surprised if he’s not down for a while,” Girardi said.
That leaves the Yankees sorting through a bunch of options for the fifth starter spot. Capuano might not have had the job locked up heading into camp, but he seemed to be a heavy favorite. Now the job is wide-open with a series of relievers, prospects and minor league free agents fighting for the gig.
“We’ll look at everyone, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi asid. “Because we need to fill a spot now.”
Adam Warren has a start coming up on Friday and Esmil Rogers has one on Saturday. Earlier today, Brian Cashman sounded impressed by Rogers, and Girardi seems to feel the same way.
“He’s thrown the ball really well,” Girardi said. “Larry (Rothschild) worked with him long and hard last year during some bullpen sessions about changing a few things. I thought he pitched pretty well for us. He’s started in his career and he’s got a number of pitches he can go to. He’s been really good this spring. He’ll be one of the guys we’re really looking at.”
Here are eight guys who could fill that spot in the rotation (though some of them are candidates only in theory):
1. Adam Warren
In my mind, the current favorite of this group. After a breakout season as a late-inning reliever, Warren was told to prepare as a starter this spring, and he’s been stretched out for a situation just like this one. He started the spring opener, has yet to make a relief appearance, and is currently scheduled to make his third spring start on Friday. He’ll have three starts before anyone else on this list has two.
2. Esmil Rogers
Earlier this spring, Joe Girardi said he thinks of Rogers much the same way he used to think of David Phelps. And really, if Phelps were still here, he’d surely become a quick favorite for this rotation opening. Rogers’ numbers have never quite measured up to his raw stuff, but he pitched well as a starter this winter and the Yankees have him scheduled for a season spring start on Saturday.
3. Chase Whitley
In his very first press conference of the spring, Girardi mentioned Whitley unprompted as a candidate to be either a long reliever or a spot starter. He’s pitched five scoreless innings so far this spring, and while he got himself into significant trouble last time out, he also got out of jams with a series of ground balls. Put himself on the radar with a strong big league debut before fading late last season.
4. Bryan Mitchell
Looked excellent in a split-squad start earlier this spring, then was knocked around for four runs on seven hits through two innings this afternoon. Mitchell has great stuff — fastball gets up to 97, effective curveball, relatively new slider/cutter — but his minor league results have been inconsistent. Seems to have a big enough arm that he could impress and pitch his way into this job.
5. Luis Severino
There is surely a lot of desire to think of Severino as a favorite, I’m just not sure there’s much reason to do so. He’s looked great in his early spring outings, but he still has just six games of experience above Class-A ball. Perhaps he can dazzle the rest of the way and force the Yankees’ hand, but he seems more like a second-half possibility. Strep throat has knocked his spring schedule slightly off track.
6. Scott Baker
Strongest track record of anyone on this list, but it’s also been a long time since his last particularly good big league season. Baker was a mainstay in Minnesota before having extensive Tommy John surgery — had to repair the tendon as well — back in 2012. Had a rough spring debut on Saturday. Had a 1.19 WHIP (with a 5.47 ERA) in 25 appearances for Texas last season.
7. Kyle Davies
Like Baker, Davies is a big league veteran in camp on a minor league deal. Unlike Baker, Davies hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011 and the Yankees have not yet given him a start this spring. Seems far more likely to be a veteran presence in Triple-A, but have to mention him as an experienced candidate who’s played this sort of role before.
8. Jose De Paula
Like Davies in that he’s a candidate in theory only. Unlike Davies, De Paula’s candidacy has nothing to do with big league experience and everything to do with a spot on the 40-man roster. He’s never pitched in the big leagues, but the Yankees gave him a big league contract this winter. He pitched two scoreless inning in his only spring appearance so far, but that was a relief outing.
Associated Press photos
The fourth inning started with a foul popup lost in the sun. No matter. Andrew Miller simply retired the next three batters, one of them on a strikeout. The fifth inning started with a double to right field. No problem. Dellin Betances simply retired the next three batters, two of them on strikeouts.
Change those innings to the eighth and the ninth, and today might have been our first preview of the Yankees restructured back of the bullpen with Miller forming the bridge (and pitching an inning with two lefties due up), and Betances closing the door (getting familiar swings and misses on his big breaking ball).
Both Miller and Betances said they’re ignoring any sort of “competition” aspect to this spring. Each one has a roster spot locked up, each one is going to be trusted with key outs, and each one seems indifferent to the exact role. Maybe they’re just saying that, but these are also two guys who not so long ago seemed more like failed prospects than future closers.
“I just want to help the team win, whatever role I’m going to be in,” Betances said. “… I think it’s an advantage for the team. Joe Girardi has more options. Obviously if he wants to go to a lefty or a righty, he has that option. We have a bunch of great guys down there that we acquired. It’s going to be fun. I’m excited to see all of us pitching in spring and getting ready for the season.”
Said Miller: “I don’t think either of us are treating it (as a competition). I’ve got my own problems. I’m trying to figure out where the ball is going and make sure I’m sharp. That stuff (about specific roles) always takes care of itself. It’s the least of my concerns. I want to go out and pitch well, and if I pitch well, I’ll be happy. Wherever that is, it’s fine with me.”
While Girardi has said he’d like to have defined roles in the bullpen, he seems in no rush to make exact judgments. My own speculation: There is something to read into today’s bullpen usage. Betances seems to be on the closer routine — getting into games a little later than everyone else — and why not pitch Miller first if that’s not the way Girardi’s leaning? Ultimately, I’m not sure it matters.
“I don’t really think we’re going to have any doubts that both of them can do it,” Girardi said. “So I don’t really know if there’s anything that we need to see. I think we have to see how the bullpen in our mind shapes up and what, as an organization, we decide to do. I’m not really too worried about their stuff.”
• Adam Warren looked pretty sharp through three innings. He said he wanted to focus on working ahead of guys, so he fired a first-pitch fastball against the leadoff hitter, and saw it leave the park for a home run. That was the only damage done. He allowed three more hits but stranded every base runner. “I felt much better this outing than I did the one before,” Warren said. “I feel like I’m pounding the zone, throwing strikes, which is good for me early on. I think everything was sharper today, just have to get a little bit more consistent, but I’m happy with where I’m at right now.”
• Upcoming Yankees starters:
Monday: Michael Pineda
Tuesday: Chase Whitley
Wednesday: Chris Capuano
Thursday: Masahiro Tanaka
Friday: Adam Warren
• I assume Esmil Rogers will pitch in relief of Whitley on Tuesday. When those two last pitched, the roles were reversed. Rogers had the start and Whitley pitched in relief.
• Plan is to have Alex Rodriguez DH and Carlos Beltran play right field tomorrow. It will be the first time either has played in back-to-back games this spring.
• Although Brendan Ryan expressed some concern this morning about his ability to get ready for Opening Day, Girardi said he’s not worried yet. “No, not yet,” he said. “There’s still a lot of time.” Girardi said the plan is for Ryan to begin doing baseball drills again on Wednesday.
• If Ryan’s not able to break camp, Jose Pirela seems like a ready alternative. He had two more hits today, and the Yankees could use him as a right-handed platoon at second base (with Stephen Drew handling shortstop on days Didi Gregorius needs off). “Whether someone is hurt or not, that isn’t something that I consider,” Pirela said. “No one wants a teammate to ever be hurt, especially starting the season. I have to focus on myself, competing with myself. … I’m very thankful to the Yankees for this opportunity. They’ve given me plenty of opportunities. I just want to continue doing my job and I just hope to keep getting a chance to show what I can do.”
• Hard not to be impressed by Luis Severino, who was consistently hitting 96, 97 mph with his fastball today. He struck out three in 1.1 innings. “He challenges people,” Giradri said. “He’s not overwhelmed by the situation. I know he walked a guy today, but he kept throwing strike after strike, and put a tough at-bat on him. I really liked his approach. I mean, obviously you can see the stuff is there. It’s easy to get excited about that, but the approach is really good too.”
• They don’t fit on the radar nearly as well as the other guys who pitched today, but James Pazos, Wilking Rodriguez and Jared Burton combined for 2.2 hitless innings. Pazos walked a guy and let an inherited runner score, but ultimately those three pitched well. Rodriguez got the win, Burton the save.
• The Yankees had nine hits, only two for extra bases. Rodriguez had his bloop double, and Pirela had a legitimately hard-hit double. … Aaron Judge was charged with an error. … Pirela was the only Yankees player with more than one hit. Rodriguez, Judge, Brett Gardner, Brian McCann, Kyle Roller, Nick Noonan and Cole Figueroa had a hit apiece.
• Freshly signed to a minor league deal, former top Brewers prospect Mat Gamel — who’s brother, Ben, is in the Yankees’ system — completed his physical today and worked out at the minor league complex.
• Final word to Girardi on the way Rodriguez is moving so far this spring: “Pretty much like we expected. We understand he’s not 25 years old. I thought his approach on that ground ball was good. Threw it well. We’ll get him out there more, but my main focus is that at-bats, and if we put him out there too much, I think it lessens his at-bats. And I want to see where he’s at there. … I think his pitch selection has been pretty good, pitches he’s swung at. Got a couple of walks in there, and that’s what you want to see. You want guys to see a lot of pitches this time of year.”
Associated Press photos
Spring Game 7: Yankees vs. Nationals • 03.08.15
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Carlos Beltran DH
Brian McCann C
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Garrett Jones 1B
Chris Young RF
Jose Pirela 2B
Nick Noonan SS
RHP Adam Warren (3-6, 2.97 in 2014)
Michael Taylor CF
Kevin Frandsen 3B
Ian Desmond SS
Tyler Moore LF
Kila Ka’aihue 1B
Mike Carp DH
Jose Lobaton C
Clint Robinson RF
Wilmer Difo 2B
RHP Doug Fister (16-6, 2.41 in 2014)
TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., YES Network (radio broadcast on WFAN)
WEATHER: Nicer day than yesterday. Few clouds, but mostly sunny.
UMPIRES: HP Manny Gonzalez, 1B Tom Hallion, 2B Eric Cooper, 3B Phil Cuzzi
TODAY’S SECOND STRING: C Gary Sanchez, 1B Kyle Roller, 2B Cole Figueroa, SS Cito Culver, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ben Gamel, CF Mason Williams, RF Aaron Judge
TODAY’S SCHEDULED RELIEVERS: Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and Luis Severino (with Wilking Rodriguez, James Pazos and Jared Burton.
UPDATE ON SABATHIA: CC Sabathia threw 29 pitches of live batting practice. He was apparently scheduled for 30, but his 29th pitch broke Greg Bird’s bat, and the Yankees just ended the session then and there. Sabathia said he was happy with everything. Up next is a two-inning sim game sometime in the coming week.
UPDATE, 1:08 p.m.: Warren allowed a home run on his first pitch of the game. Got the next guy to ground out to short.
UPDATE, 1:28 p.m.: Warren sets the side down in order in the second inning.
UPDATE, 1:30 p.m.: Technically, Alex Rodriguez just doubled. What he more accurately did is hit a shallow fly ball into no-man’s land in shallow right field, right along the foul line. The second baseman couldn’t make the catch, the ball bounced into the stands, and Rodriguez had a two-base hit.
UPDATE, 1:45 p.m.: Rodriguez gets his first ball of the day. Ground ball to his right, long throw for the out. Had plenty of time. Not an especially hard play, but it was certainly not a fungo grounder during fielding drills. Had to backhand for the stop and make a pretty long throw.
UPDATE, 1:48 p.m.: Pirela with a double to start the third inning. Good time for a reminder that there might suddenly be a bench job up for grabs.
UPDATE, 1:54 p.m.: Two-out RBI single by Gardner makes it a 1-1 game in the third.
UPDATE, 2:04 p.m.: McCann lost a foul pop along the third-base line, but Andrew MIller pitched around it for a 1-2-3 fourth inning. He had one strikeout against the lefty Mike Carp.
UPDATE, 2:10 p.m.: Rodriguez struck out swinging at an 81-mph curveball in his second at-bat.
UPDATE, 2:17 p.m.: Infield single by Pirela scores a run and puts the Yankees in front 2-1. That’s his second hit of the day.
UPDATE, 2:20 p.m.: Here comes Dellin Betances for his first appearance of the spring.
UPDATE, 2:42 p.m.: Luis Severino consistently hitting 96, 97 mph in the sixth inning. Got two strikeouts after a double.
Luis Severino and Aaron Judge surely spark some optimism for the future, but if you were looking for immediate impact in the present, the big names from today’s Yankees spring opener were Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner.
“I think we can do some damage as long as we both stay healthy and do our jobs,” Gardner said. “Get on base and take some attention from the hitter and (put it) on us from the pitcher and the catcher; get over into scoring position and give those guys in the middle of the lineup some RBI opportunities.”
That’s the idea, and the Yankees might actually be able to put it into action this season. When Ellsbury signed last winter, there was some immediate thought about the impact he and Gardner might have together as speed-oriented hitters and defenders. They played well side-by-side in the outfield, but they rarely hit together in the lineup. It seems inevitable that they’ll do that this year.
They didn’t do much today — a combined 0-for-6 — but last season, Gardner and Ellsbury ranked first and second in OPS among Yankees everyday players. They combined for 60 steals and each hit more home runs than any Yankee other than Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann. They are, perhaps, the most reliable pieces of this season’s projected lineup.
“If I play a full season this year and hit six (home runs), or if I hit 20, it really doesn’t matter to me,” Gardner said. “I still have to get on base. I don’t have to drive myself in. I just have to get on base and put myself into scoring position and those guys in the middle will drive me in if they’re healthy. … Get on base a little more (than last year), run a little more, and just use my speed to my advantage. Just taking things pitch by pitch, try and keep things simple. I kind of felt like I fell off a little bit towards the end of the season, the last month of last year. Right now I feel great. Just stay strong, try to stay healthy all season.”
For Ellsbury, hitting ahead of Gardner means he should have plenty of chances to run. Gardner’s a patient hitter, and Ellsbury can be an aggressive runner.
“I tend to go early in the count just to give a hitter a better opportunity before he’s down in the count or whatnot,” Ellsbury said. “But yeah, if I don’t go early, it just gives me opportunities to take a base. Brett does a good job with the bat and controlling the bat. Maybe he just advances me from second to third with no outs, something like that. … If I feel I can go, I’m going to take off unless they give me the red light and want the guy to hit if they’re so focused on the hitter seeing a pitch. I feel if I get my jump, I’m going to make it more often than not.”
• Pretty solid first outing for Adam Warren, who allowed just one hit — a weak single — through two scoreless innings. “I wanted to get ahead of hitters,” Warren said. “Didn’t really do that great today, but also wanted to establish fastball in to a lot of guys, which I did well today. Just have to keep working and improving. Getting ahead of guys for me is a the name of the game, so I want to do that a little bit better, but overall felt good.”
• Warren said he feels like he’s competing for a rotation spot and not simply serving as rotation insurance in case someone gets hurt. “Who knows where I’ll end up,” he said. “But right now my mind is being a starter and see where that leads.”
• Joe Girardi’s impression of Warren’s start: “A lot of quality strikes today. Good counts.”
• Every prospect reliever seemed to really thrive today except Jacob Lindgren. I was doing interviews in the Yankees clubhouse while Lindgren was pitching, so I actually missed most of his outing. He went two-thirds of an inning, gave up two hits and allowed two runs, which were unearned because of a Rob Refsnyder throwing error. Branden Pinder wound up finishing off that inning with a strikeout.
• Refsnyder wasn’t the only young second baseman with a throwing error. Jose Pirela also threw a ball away trying to make a tough turn on a double play.
• Aaron Judge on seeing his game-tying home run go over the fence. “I thought he robbed it, so I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to turn around or keep going. So I just kept going, and no one stopped me.”
• Luis Severino said he believes he could be pitching in New York at some point this season, but he quickly shot down the idea that he’s trying to make a big impression this spring to make that happen. “No,” he said, flatly. “The same I do last year, I’ve got do this year the same.”
• Some of the pace of play rules were used today. The field had two red clocks counting down two minutes and 25 seconds for a pitcher to get ready at the start of an inning. I honestly didn’t even notice it at first. “It was a little strange,” Warren said. “I didn’t think about it the first inning. I went out there for the second inning, I noticed it at like a minute, 50 (seconds) when I first got out there. I’m like, ‘Crap, that’s not long at all.’ Then all of a sudden I look back after my last pitch, it’s at 50 seconds still, so it only took me a minute. After you’ve already gone out there, and you’re already a little bit loose, it didn’t affect me. I think you just have to get used to knowing the time’s ticking down to kind of know how long it takes you.”
• Garrett Jones singled in his first at-bat with the Yankees. Chris Young also had a single today. Of the guys really fighting for a roster spot, Pirela was the only other one who had a hit. Both Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy went 0-for-2. Jake Cave, Slade Heathcott, Greg Bird, Kyle Roller, Mason Williams, Jonathan Galvez, Nick Noonan, and of course Judge all had at least one hit today.
• Girardi said everyone came through today’s game healthy. No new injuries to report.
• Final word goes to Girardi: “You want to learn as much as you can about these (young) guys because we haven’t seen them a lot. See what their abilities are, what some of their strengths are. I think we’ve said all along, there’s some really good position players that are coming. They’re getting closer and closer, and at some point – you hope that you don’t have injuries, but at some point you know that it usually happens and these kids get a call-up and a chance to do something.”
Associated Press photos
Spring Game 1: Yankees at Phillies • 03.03.15
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Chris Young RF
Garrett Jones 1B
Jose Pirela 2B
Austin Romine C
Kyle Roller DH
Jonathan Galvez 3B
Nick Noonan SS
RHP Adam Warren (3-6, 2.97 in 2014)
Warren vs. Phillies
Ben Revere CF
Freddy Galvis SS
Grady Sizemore LF
Ryan Howard 1B
Carlos Ruiz DH
Domonic Brown RF
Cody Asche 3B
Cesar Hernandez 2B
Cameron Rupp C
RHP Jerome Williams (6-7, 4.77 in 2014)
Williams vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., not on TV or radio
WEATHER: Beautiful afternoon with wind blowing out to left field.
UMPIRES: HP Vic Carapazza, 1B Tom Hallion, 3B Bob Davidson
TODAY’S SECOND STRING: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Cito Culver, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Slade Heathcott, CF Jake Cave, RF Aaron Judge, DH Mason Williams
TODAY’S SCHEDULED RELIEVERS: Luis Severino, Jacob Lindgren, Branden Pinder, Nick Goody, Diego Moreno
FOR THE PHILLIES: Starting pitcher Jerome Williams pitched for Houston, Texas and Philadelphia last season. No huge names scheduled to pitch out of the Phillies bullpen today, though two lefties — Joely Rodriguez and Mario Hollands — are on the list. Believe it or not, this is pretty close to their projected lineup except without Chase Utley, who’s hurt.
HARANG SCRATCHED: Scheduled to start for the Phillies tomorrow in Tampa, Aaron Harang has been scratched because of a back issue. The Yankees will instead face Kevin Slowey.
GETTING STARTED: This is the Yankees spring opener. They will play a total of 34 Grapefruit League games, and this year they did not open against a college team (something they’ve done in recent years). For many of the Yankees, this will be the first time seeing live pitching since last season. The Yankees play their first home game of the spring tomorrow at Steinbrenner Field. This is the 20th consecutive season the Yankees have held spring training in Tampa.
UPDATE, 1:06 p.m.: The spring schedule starts with Ellsbury hitting into a routine ground out to second. And Jerome Williams isn’t pitching for the Phillies. Even the Philly writers seem confused about why.
UPDATE, 1:08 p.m.: Chris Young single through the right side of the infield. He also had a “hit” yesterday, but that was pretty easy to forget considering he struck out in his second pitching machine at-bat.
UPDATE, 1:11 p.m.: Three straight two-out singles for the Yankees, all to the right side. Jones singled down the line, sending Young to third, then Pirela chopped a ball over the infield for an RBI single. It’s a 1-0 Yankees lead with Romine at the plate and runners at the corners.
UPDATE, 1:19 p.m.: There’s a one-two-three inning for Warren. Still a 1-0 Yankees lead after one inning.
UPDATE, 1:25 p.m.: Two of the stars of yesterday’s intrasquad game, Jonathan Galvez and Nick Noonan just hit back-to-back singles here in the second. Galvez had one of the worst slides I’ve ever seen going into third base, but he was safe. He was then thrown out at the plate after Ellsbury grounded to third.
UPDATE, 1:31 p.m.: Ryan Howard lifts a little single to left field to beat the shift. I honestly think he might have miss-hit the ball — kind of an awkward swinging, sounded weird off the bat — but it was effective. That’s the first hit Warren’s allowed.
UPDATE, 1:40 p.m.: Warren pitched around the single in the second inning. Pirela almost made a really nice turn on a potential double play. He bare-handed the toss from Noonan, but then his throw to first sailed way too high. Warren got the next guy out to end the inning.
UPDATE, 1:51 p.m.: Impressive spring debut for Luis Severino. Fastball up to 95 mph. Got a strikeout looking an an offspeed pitch, then a strikeout swinging through a fastball, then a broken-bat ground out to third.
UPDATE, 2:12 p.m.: Severino’s second inning wasn’t nearly as good as his first. The inning opened with three straight singles, capped by an RBI flare by Ryan Howard. After a fly out to left field, Severino allowed another single to Domonic Brown — this one a bloop to left — and was pulled from the game. All four hits against him were by lefties. He retired two other lefties and retired the only two right-handed hitters he faced. He was ultimately charged with two runs after a sacrifice fly off reliever Diego Moreno.
Hard to make much of Game 1 lineup in spring training, but after seeing a similar batting order in yesterday’s intrasquad game, it seems we have a pretty good idea how Joe Girardi plans to stack the top of his lineup. Barring a surprising change of plans, Jacoby Ellsbury is the leadoff hitter, and Brett Gardner is the No. 2 hitter.
“It’s definitely a possibility,” Joe Girardi said (that’s about as much as he’ll ever commit to anything this time of year). “I think that both of them are capable of leading off. Ells has done it a little more in his career than Gardy, but I just kind of like the combination of those two guys together. We’ll take a look at it a lot this spring as we try to keep the outfielders together a lot early on, and the infielders together, just to see how it works. Left-handed, right-handed, in my mind right now I’m not really worried either way.”
Girardi wouldn’t go into detail about why exactly he likes Ellsbury ahead of Gardner — said it was about strategy, and he didn’t want to discuss strategy — but beyond Ellsbury’s experience in the leadoff spot, I think of the fact that Ellsbury seems to run more often than Gardner, and Gardner sees a lot of pitches, which creates plenty of opportunities for Ellsbury to take second or third.
“I would love (stealing bases) to be a successful tool whenever they can do it,” Girardi said. “That’s the key. Our success rate was really good last year. The one thing you don’t want to do is run yourself out of innings. But they’re both capable of stealing a ton of bases, creating a lot of pressure. Putting pressure on defenses, pitchers; maybe taking 10 percent, 15, 20 percent of their attention off the hitter, which is always great for the hitter, and I like that.”
While Girardi said it doesn’t bother him having two lefties at the top of the order, the situation gets a little more tricky when you consider Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius are natural fits in the No. 8 and 9 spots in the order, creating a lineup with four lefties in a row.
“That’s the one thing that we have to kind of iron out, how that’s going to work,” Girardi said. “It’s possible you could have four in a row, and if I don’t have concerns about 1 and 2, then maybe late in the game you pinch hit at the bottom. They bring in their lefty, you bring in a righty to hit for them, so (the other team has) to make a choice.”
• Adam Warren is starting for the Yankees this afternoon. Girardi said he would consider using Warren as a starter even if everyone is healthy, but he also acknowledged that it’s tempting to keep Warren in the bullpen considering how well he handled that role last season. “I think (putting him in the rotation) is something you have to look at with the way he’s pitched,” Girardi said. “And with the health of our pitchers I think we also have to be prepared. I think it’s both reasons.”
• Alex Rodriguez said he’ll be “a little nervous, for sure” to face live pitching tomorrow. He’s staying behind in Tampa to go through normal drills. He said he expects to begin really focused first-base drills “within the next week.”
• Carlos Beltran is among those scheduled to stay behind in Tampa and go through normal workout drills, with hitting and fielding. Pretty much the same stuff the Yankees have been doing since position players showed up last week. Rodriguez, Stephen Drew, Ramon Flores, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley and Mark Teixeira will all participate in those drills. The catchers who are staying behind are scheduled to catch bullpens and hit.
• Brendan Ryan said he’s scheduled to take batting practice and field ground balls today. Yesterday he hit off a tee and played some light catch. The said his back is progressing well. Seems to be moving a lot a little quicker than he expected.
• Should be cool to see Luis Severino get into his first big league spring training game. “Pretty calm,” Girardi said. “Strike-thrower with very good stuff. I thought the BP sessions, the second one was better than the first; you saw growth, and him getting more comfortable. There’s kind of a buildup for pitchers. I don’t expect them to be in mid-season form their first BP, but he’s pretty calm. He’s a worker too, which is really good.”
• Francisco Arcia and Tyler Austin are making the trip to Clearwater, but they’re not scheduled to play. Drew the short straw, I guess.
Chris Martin (to Eddy Rodriguez)
Jared Burton (to Eddy Rodriguez)
Justin Wilson (to Gary Sanchez)
Andrew Bailey (to Gary Sanchez)
David Carpenter (to Trent Garrison)
• Bullpen sessions in Tampa:
Ivan Nova (to Austin Romine)
Jose Campos (to Juan Graterol)
Michael Pineda (to Brian McCann)
Esmil Rogers (to Joe Graterol)
Bryan Mitchell (to Roman Rodriguez)
Chase Whitley (to Juan Graterol)
• Today’s second string: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Cito Culver, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Slade Heathcott, CF Jake Cave, RF Aaron Judge, DH Mason Williams
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Luis Severino, Jacob Lindgren, Branden Pinder, Nick Goody, Diego Moreno (also on the trip as just-in-case backups: Kyle Davies, Danny Burawa, Chasen Shreve and Tyler Webb)
Associated Press photos