A-Rod making first start at first base • 03.29.15
RHP Nathan Eovaldi
Given the option of facing a divisional opponent or pitching in a minor league game, CC Sabathia chose the minor leagues. Then he went to the complex, gave up a long home run on his first pitch, and allowed a three-run home run two innings later.
While Sabathia insists he feels better than he’s felt in years, he’s already allowed five home runs in three spring outings and his official 11.57 ERA — which doesn’t count today’s four runs in five innings — is the highest on the team.
“I don’t give a (darn) what stock they put in it,” Sabathia said, using a word far more racy than darn. “It is what it is. I’ve had spring trainings where I’ve given up a lot of runs and went out and had a good season. I’ve had spring trainings like last year where I didn’t give up no runs, and I gave up five in the first game. Y’all can put stock in whatever you want. I’m not really worried about it.”
Sabathia is defiant that this spring has left him feeling confident. He’s said his surgically repaired right knee feels strong, and his velocity has been legitimately higher than in recent springs. He’s consistently reaching 92-93 mph with his fastball, and his offspeed pitches have been good if not consistent.
“You look at his stuff,” Joe Girardi said. “You try to evaluate his stuff and how you feel about that. What we’ve seen this year is much more positive than what we’ve seen the last (few years), you know, in velocity, the discrepancy between that and the change up and slider, so now to me it’s just ironing out and being more consistent.”
It’s not particularly unusual for a pitcher to not want to face a division team in spring training, but by passing on a start against the Orioles, Sabathia was left open to obvious questions about a five-inning, four-run start against minor leaguers. He walked two and struck out seven.
“Today was a day when we were trying to work on the changeup,” Sabathia said. “I get runners on first and second or whatever it was (and threw) a couple of changeups. Me and (catcher Brian McCann) wanted to work on it so I threw it again. The guy hits a homer. I probably won’t throw it like that in a game.”
McCann noted that he’s seen Sabathia get stronger from start to start. He said he really sees that added strength late in games. McCann said Sabathia’s stuff was basically the same in today’s fifth inning as it was in the first inning.
“The ball was coming out great,” McCann said. “I thought he threw the ball great. Two-seamer was running really good. Ambushed a couple of hits, but all in all, I thought the ball was coming out fantastic. … When you go over there, you’re not pitching to scouting reports. You get guys set up, and then you think you can get something in there, and they hit it. But all in all, I thought changeup was really good, fastball to both sides of the plate, and the slider was great today.”
Sabathia has one more spring start before he pitches the third game of the regular season.
“I was able to go out there five times and pitch five innings and feel great,” he said. “Like I said, I haven’t had any problems. I’m just looking forward to getting into the season and trying to help this team.”
• Alex Rodriguez raised his slash line to .306/.405/.583 and hit his team-leading third home run in a 10-2 loss to Baltimore. “Numbers mean nothing,” Rodriguez said. “But you definitely want to pass the eye test. That means moving around better, putting balls in play, and hitting balls in the mid-90s. Those are things I haven’t done in over a year and a half, so everything for me this year – this spring, at least – is a test.”
• While the numbers might not mean much in the grand scheme of things, they do seem to provide some hope that Rodriguez might have something left. It was one thing when he was drawing walks and getting into good counts early in spring training, but now he seems to be putting together good and productive at-bats even in the final week of exhibition games. “Overall, it’s just repetition,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve said it all along. Any time you can keep adding up at-bats, it’s a good thing.”
• While his first two spring home runs left plenty of doubt off the bat, today’s was clearly gone from the moment Rodriguez made contact. “That one felt good,” he said. “I was excited about that one.”
• Plan is still to have Rodriguez start at first base tomorrow.
• More good news on Jacoby Ellsbury, who came through today’s batting practice with no problems. He’s scheduled for more BP tomorrow and remains on track to play a minor league game on Tuesday.
• No real update on Jose Pirela. “I don’t know what he did today,” Giradi said. “He said he felt better. I didn’t ask him what he did today.”
• Sabathia is certainly not the only Yankees pitcher putting up numbers that aren’t exactly encouraging. Dellin Betances has now allowed a run in five straight outings. He had one walk, one strikeout and allowed a single today. “I’ve been leaving the ball up,” Betances said. “When I get ahead, I leave the ball up. Today, the contact wasn’t as hard. Obviously the first guy I fell behind 3-1 and he had a good swing, but after that, I felt like I threw some good pitches. I’ll be ready.”
• Betances said he’s been working on his leg kick with Larry Rothschild. Concerning that, after being so good last year, he’s having some mechanical issues this spring? “It’s not like I’m missing as bad as I once was (in the minor leagues),” He said. “I’m around the zone. I felt way better even before I came in. I felt like my direction was better, something I’ll try to work on more. As that gets better, I think I’ll be able to throw more strikes and put guys away.”
• Giradri said he was encouraged because Betances had a better breaking ball today. “It’s not what you want,” Girardi said. “But one thing you always talk about a lot is don’t judge people on spring training, right? Sometimes a different beast comes out Opening Day. If this was happening the first month, you’d say, OK, what’s going on? But, I thought he was better today, and I think when the season starts, he’ll be right.”
• Speaking of bullpen guys, Andrew Bailey had another scoreless inning today. Chasen Shreve also pitched a scoreless inning. Those were the pitching bright spots for sure. Otherwise, it was kind of a mess today. Jacob Lindgren allowed his first earned run of the spring. Chris Martin struck out two but let two inherited runners score on a double. Justin Wilson got three strikeouts, but those were hit runners that scored on Martin’s watch.
• Worst pitching line of the day belonged to Scott Baker, who seemed to pitch himself into the roster conversation with a strong outing against the Mets last weekend. This time he had a clean first inning before allowing five runs on five hits including a homer in the second inning. “Physically, I felt great,” Baker said. “First inning, I made some good pitches. Then in the second inning, they found a couple holes and then they got the big hit. Maybe out of the stretch a little bit I was kind of feeling for it, but overall, I felt good. The results don’t necessarily show how I felt.”
• Over at the miner league complex, Bryan Mitchell was hit by a Gary Sanchez throw to second base. He finished the outing and is apparently fine.
• Despite the fact Esmil Rogers is making tomorrow’s road trip to pitch out of the bullpen, Girardi still wouldn’t name a fifth starter today. “Actually we’re going to sit down and talk today about what we’re going to do,” Girardi said.
• Here’s Sabathia talking about Masahiro Tanaka being chosen for Opening Day: “I’m excited for him. I think it’ll be a good deal. I know he’s excited to get a chance to do that. I’m excited to get a chance to be able to enjoy Opening Day. It should be fun.”
• Final word goes to McCann, who’s predictably staying optimistic about underperforming pitchers: “Spring training is not (the regular season),” McCann said. “Adrenaline plays a huge factor in results. You run out of the bullpen with 50,000 people in the stands, if you’re throwing 94 (in spring training), you’re going to throw 97, 98. Adrenaline plays a huge factor in both sides, hitting and pitching. When the lights turn on, it’s a whole other ball game.”
Associated Press photos
Alex Rodriguez is going to play first base on Sunday, and that’s attention-grabbing for obvious reasons. For one thing, it’s Rodriguez, and anything he does seems to generate attention. For another thing, it’s a veteran player learning a new position, and would spark at least some curiosity for even a role player. It’s also noteworthy because the Yankees have been talking about the possibility for months now.
But if you want to really know what this means for the Yankees, consider the fact we’re entering the final week of spring training, and Rodriguez is just now getting a few innings at the position. When camp opened, it seemed to be a bit of a priority that he get some time at first. Now it’s clearly a secondary concern at best.
“You feel pretty good that you got two healthy first basemen,” Girardi said. “So Alex would be kind of the third guy.”
Mark Teixeira is the starter, and Garrett Jones is the go-to backup. Rodriguez is learning first base strictly to fill the void should one of those two get hurt. Essentially, the Yankees would rather play him at first than either Chase Headley or Brian McCann, each of whom had to play the position a few times last season.”
“I’m thinking of first base to give Joe as many options as he could possibly have,” Rodriguez said. “I know he likes to give guys rest. I know he likes matchups. I just want to be an asset to Joe all year. And (Brian Cashman).”
Rodriguez said one of the clubhouse guys has been using his new first baseman’s mitt to play catch, helping get it worn in. Rodriguez has been using his regular infield glove for all of his first base drills, but he said he’ll use the real first base glove when he’s playing the position.
“He’s done some extra work (at first),” Girardi said. “He’ll do some tomorrow, again. We did cut off some relays with the shift the other day, and we had him at first doing it. We’ll go over the bunt defenses again before we leave. Those are the things that are going to be a little tricky. That’s the bottom line if he goes over there. Obviously, I’d probably put Garrett Jones there first, but if something were to happen to one of them, just trying to prepare ourselves.”
It comes down to this: The Yankees had no backup first baseman last season. They’re trying to vaguely have two of them this year. But if either Jones or Rodriguez is seeing a ton of time at first base this season, it won’t be a good thing. Success or failure at first base still largely hinges on Teixeira, who’s so far looked fairly strong and healthy throughout spring training. He had a hit and an RBI today, bringing his spring slash line to .279/.326/.419.
“Discipline, good at bats, letting it go when he swings,” Girardi said. “Everything that we kind of expect from Tex. It’s like we have Tex back, which is great. I feel that we’re going to get a real productive guy.”
Associated Press photo
This is what Joe Girardi said this morning about the way Alex Rodriguez has been running and moving in spring training:
“I think he’s run harder (lately). I think we’ve all seen that, and that that’s definitely improved. I still want to see him go from second to home and from first to third, we have not seen that, but that’s not his fault, that’s just what’s happened behind him.”
Fast forward a few hours, and we’ve now seen Rodriguez do each of those things.
After a first-inning single, Rodriguez went first to third on a Stephen Drew double. He wasn’t exactly flying around the bases, but I did turn to George Kind sitting next to me and say something about Rodriguez running better than I expected. He’s definitely not fast, but it didn’t look like a challenge for him.
After a fifth-inning walk, Rodriguez took second on a single and then scored on a Chris Young double. Again, nothing flashy or fast about it, but he was capable of scoring on a ball he’s supposed to score on. If Rodriguez can be a capable runner at this stage, I think that’s all the Yankees can ask.
“If I can just keep making small strides every day, I’ll take that,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez revealed that earlier this spring, Girardi specifically told him he needed to be running better. Rodriguez said he’d been working on it, and he does seem smoother and less lumbering. Again, he’s not fast, but at least he’s not a total wreck. Today he also had to slam on the breaks after a late stop sign at third base, and Rodriguez said that too was no problem.
“Probably more (running) than he wanted to see,” Girardi said. “But I thought he was moving pretty good. I really did.”
• Five scoreless innings from Michael Pineda today, and it’s not remotely a point of focus. That’s a sign of just how good he’s been this spring. Pineda allowed five hits, walked none and struck out five. He pitched every inning before the game was called because of rain. “I don’t want nothing to change because everything is working good,” Pineda said. “… I have everything I want, so just compete on the mound.”
• Girardi said Pineda didn’t have time to get quite as stretched out as the Yankees would have liked, but they think he got stretched out enough. He has one more start before the regular season. “We were trying to get him to 75 (pitches), but we just felt with the long delay, 68 was pretty good,” Girardi said. “I thought he looked really good.”
• No problems for Jacoby Ellsbury in today’s light hitting drills. Girardi said he expects Ellsbury to take full batting practice tomorrow. He remains on track to play in a minor league game on Tuesday.
• Big day for Stephen Drew. The Yankees second baseman went 3-for-3 and raised his spring batting average from .167 to .231. “He’s swung the bat better the last two weeks,” Girardi said. “And the one thing you want is you want a lineup that there’s pressure on the pitcher of the opposing team the entire time, and I feel that we have that type of lineup that we can do that where so much pressure doesn’t fall on a couple of guys. It’s nice to see everyone swinging.”
• It’s worth noting that Didi Gregorius has also hit pretty well lately, including some hits against lefties. Girardi wouldn’t give his exact lineup plan, but he said it’s entirely possible he’ll go with four straight lefties (Drew and Gregorius stacked at the bottom of the order; Ellsbury and Brett Gardner at the top). “It’s not out of the question because I don’t worry about our top two guys against lefties,” Girardi said. “Didi and Drew, Drew hit a tough lefty today, a guy throwing 96. And Didi’s been swinging the bat good. We’ll talk about it, but it very possibly could be that.”
• After going first to third in the first inning, Rodriguez tried to score on a fly ball to right field and was thrown out easily. He banged into the catcher but clearly didn’t try to knock the ball loose. He also didn’t try to slide. Jeff Francoeur made a really nice throw on the play. “I would have had the short end of that stick (if there had been a real collision),” Rodriguez said. Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp is listed at 6-2, 260 lbs.
• Girardi said he was glad Rodriguez didn’t try to slide on the play at the plate. He also liked the aggressive send by new third-base coach Joe Espada. “It was a pretty good throw,” Girardi said. “You’re going to take that chance with that being the second out. Maybe if it’s the first out, you don’t take it. But you’re going to take that chance, and Franceour’s always been a good thrower.”
• The Yankees saw Phillies prospect Aaron Nola this afternoon. He was the seventh overall pick in last year’s draft and struck out four through three scoreless innings. His changeup was absolutely filthy. “The one I almost choked on?” Rodriguez said. “Yeah. That was a pretty good changeup.”
• Getting his first start alongside Drew, Brendan Ryan was part of two double plays — one he took himself, one he took a feed from Drew — and also went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles.
• The Yankees didn’t score in their first four innings, then they scored seven times in the fifth and three times in the sixth. They finished with 15 hits, including one apiece for Gardner, Rodriguez, Chase Headley, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and Chris Young. Every big leaguer in the starting lineup had at least one hit (Drew and Ryan combined for five). The other three hits came from Eddy Rodriguez, Kyle Higashioka and Tyler Austin. Austin doubled and had three RBI.
• We’ll give the final word to Girardi, talking about his plans for the lineup: “We know that we’re going to have a lot of lefthanders in our lineup. You try to break some of it up with the DH, or the switch-hitters. If I had to make out a lineup today, without talking to all my coaches and everyone, I have an idea what it would be, but that’s something we’ll try to iron out the last week. The one thing is, I feel pretty good about where most of our hitters are at right now, the thing is you want to keep that, keep that feeling of having good at bats.”
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi said that, if CC Sabathia hadn’t been hurt last season, the decision of who to start on Opening Day this year might have been a slam dunk. But that’s not what happened last season, and now for the first time in seven years, someone other that Sabathia will start the Yankees’ opener.
“If CC wouldn’t have had the problem and pitched all 30 starts, it probably would have been a non-issue who was going to go No. 1,” Girardi said. “But it didn’t happen that way, and we had to make sure people were ready. I know it’s a big deal, and it might be somewhat of a deal to them, but when CC looks back, he’s going to worry about Octobers.”
Instead, it’s Masahiro Tanaka getting the Opening Day nod. He’ll be followed by Michael Pineda, Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi. All four will get six days of rest leading into their first start of the season. Because of scheduled off days in April, Tanaka starting Opening Day means he will make each of his first three starts with five days of rest even without the Yankees inserting a sixth starter along the way.
That ability to rest Tanaka’s elbow, Girardi said, was the driving factor in giving Tanaka the Opening Day start. This is more about practicality than rewarding Tanaka for a standout rookie season.
“He did have a great year,” Girardi said. “But I worry more about the physical part than anything because that’s what’s going to carry us through the season. Rewards come at the end of October.”
Girardi gave the starters their assignments earlier this morning.
“I’m honored, obviously,” Tanaka said. “Now that I know when I’m pitching for the season, my job is to get ready for that day.”
Still no fifth starter announcement. Girardi said he wants to discuss it with his coaches and inform the pitchers involved before making a final decision. Just a few days ago, Brian Cashman called Adam Warren the “Secretariat” of the fifth-starter competition. Girardi’s not willing to say the same.
“I’m not comparing horses,” he said.
• Tanaka will be on a slightly limited pitch count in his first start, but Girardi said that shouldn’t be an issue for the second and third starts. With an off day immediately after Opening Day, Girardi will have a full bullpen at his disposal for Tanaka’s start without worrying about burning anyone out for Game 2.
• Plan is for Alex Rodriguez to play first base on Sunday. Girardi’s made it clear that Garrett Jones will be the backup first baseman this season, but the Yankees would like Rodriguez to be kind of a third-string option. If either Jones or Mark Teixeira is hurt, Rodriguez could see actual playing time at the position. For now, he’s more of a designated hitter who might occasionally play third base and would play first only in a near emergency situation.
• Jacoby Ellsbury is scheduled for more tee and toss plus a few rounds of indoor batting practice.
• Didi Gregorius, Garrett Jones, Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott, Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy are skipping the trip and are scheduled for batting practice in Tampa.
• Today’s second string: C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Jonathan Galvez, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Tyler Austin, CF Jake Cave, RF Aaron Judge
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Scott Baker, Jacob Lindgren, Chasen Shreve, Chris Martin, Nick Rumbelow (with Danny Burawa, Kyle Davies, Diego Moreno)
Associated Press photos
Bitter rivals throughout baseball’s Biogenesis investigation, it now seems Rob Manfred and Alex Rodriguez have reached some level of peace and cooperation.
Commissioner Manfred was on hand to watch the Yankees play the Rays today, and he said he’s satisfied with the way Rodriguez has settled back into the game. Manfred even offered some words of congratulations on A-Rod’s strong spring training.
“I think I’ve been pretty public about this,” Manfred said. “Alex served a very long suspension. Once he served that time, baseball ought to welcome him back, and I think we’ve done a good job. The institution as a whole; teams, central baseball, everybody. He’s played well. Good for him.”
In his first spring training back from a year-long suspension, Rodriguez is hitting .290 with two home runs. His .516 slugging percentage is the second-highest among Yankees big leaguers. Although Rodriguez wasn’t in the lineup today, general manager Brian Cashman said yesterday that Rodriguez has played well enough to be the Yankees everyday designated hitter when the season starts.
“I’ve said all along that he’s swung the bat really well in spring training,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Would it be helpful if we could put him in the field every once in a while? Absolutely, to give the guys a day off. But he’s swung the bat well.”
Rodriguez has apologized for the “mistakes” that led to his suspension, and he’s specifically thanked the commissioner’s office for giving him the opportunity to play again. Manfred said Rodriguez will now be treated just like anyone else.
“He’ll be tested exactly like every other player who has violated the program,” Manfred said. “The program requires more frequent testing for players who are coming back after a suspension.”
Associated Press photo
Right before today’s game, general manager Brian Cashman discussed some of the decisions the Yankees have to make in the next week and a half:
Choosing a fifth starter
The Yankees came into camp with Chris Capuano as a rotation favorite, but his injury has opened the door to a true competition. While Chase Whitley, Bryan Mitchell and Scott Baker are a part of that conversation, the decision really seems to have come down to Esmil Rogers and Adam Warren. And right now, Warren is the front runner.
“I think there’s a predictable favorite,” Cashman said. “I guess that’s as far as I can go on that one. Right now, if we had to make a decision today, I think we all know what that decision would be. There’s a Secretariat right now in this race for me that’s got a number of lengths ahead of the field.”
Although he initially seemed hesitant to name a name, Cashman later acknowledged “it would obviously have to be Warren” who’s leading the race. That can change quickly, Cashman said, but it certainly seems that a solid start tomorrow would lock Warren into a rotation job.
Picking a backup catcher
John Ryan Murphy was behind the plate today. Austin Romine will be behind the plate tomorrow. Neither is having a particularly good spring, and the Yankees seem to be giving each one an equal opportunity.
“Don’t have a read yet,” Cashman said. “It’ll take more time.”
For now, the Yankees have sent Gary Sanchez to Double-A. If it stays that way, the Yankees will have a Triple-A spot open just in case. Murphy still has an option remaining. Romine does not.
“It’ll factor in,” Cashman said.
Rounding out the bullpen
The Yankees seem to have 10 pitchers set. They know their top four starters, they know four relievers, and they have two guys — Warren and Rogers — who will almost certainly have jobs in one role or another. That leaves two openings in the bullpen, and there are still plenty of options in camp: there are still 23 pitchers on the spring training roster.
Cashman made clear that this isn’t necessary a permanent decision. The Yankees are quite deep with hard-throwing right-handers, multiple lefties, and a handful of long-relief options.
“The clock is ticking,” Cashman said. “I don’t think it’s a lot of work, (but) I think we have to pick people, and whoever we pick at the end of this, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be guys throughout the process. We’ve had a number of guys that I think are quality and I think are Major League caliber, some of which have gone down with injuries. We’ll obviously finalize it here at some point, but that doesn’t mean we’re married to anybody as we move it through April, May and June.”
Naming a closer
With both Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller appearing to be obvious candidates for the job, Joe Girardi has said he might not name a full-time closer this spring. The managers seems to believe he has more than one guy who can handle the ninth inning, and he’s willing to use them as the situation dictates.
Cashman seems fine with that approach. Basically, it doesn’t seem to be a problem, so there doesn’t seem to be a rush to solve it.
“I haven’t focused on it,” Cashman said. “I just want as many quality arms and choices for our manager as we can possibly have, and go from there. Again, we don’t have to name anything right now, or today, so I’ve got other issues I’m thinking about. It’s not one I’m thinking about right now or my manager’s thinking about right now. Backup catcher and the remaining spots in the pen.”
How to use Alex Rodriguez
Cashman said time and time again — from the early offseason to the start of spring training — that he had no idea what to expect from a 39-year-old coming back from a year-long suspension. Cashman expected A-Rod to be on the team, just didn’t know what exactly he’d be able to do.
Now the Yankees have actually seen Rodriguez perform, and while the results might not have been overwhelming, they’ve been encouraging. They’ve been enough for the Yankees to imagine having Rodriguez in their everyday lineup.
“I think he’s certainly taken a run at the full-time DH situation, for me,” Cashman said. “We’ll talk about all these things, but the way he’s looked so far down here, I would say he’s definitely pushing himself in the mix for full-time DH consideration. … I’m not looking at performance and statistics as much as just how he’s been swinging the bat. He’s got a lot of life in his body. If he continues to show athleticism, that means he’s going to impact the baseball. That will be good for us.”
Associated Press photo
Today it was a breaking ball hung up the zone, where Juan Lagares crushed it for a two-run home run. Last night it was a leadoff walk and a costly line-drive single. Throughout this spring, it’s constantly been on thing or another — four straight outings with at least one earned run — leading Dellin Betances to a 6.75 ERA with a 1.69 WHIP. Opponents are hitting .318 against him, and he has just four strikeouts in 5.1 innings.
Granted, it’s a tiny sample size, but Betances just hasn’t looked as sharp as he did last season.
“I’m obviously frustrated,” Betances said. “I mean, it’s been four outings where every time out, I’ve given up a run. Today I felt better, but you got to make a better pitch than that to Lagares. It’s frustrating, but I’m sure I got four more outings left and I’ll do whatever I can to be better for the season.”
A scout in attendance said he had Betances at 92-93 mph, and while he said he expected Betances to be “much higher,” he also had little problem imagining Betances getting back to the velocity we’re used to seeing. Joe Girardi insisted Betances is actually throwing at least as hard as he was at this time last spring (I can’t find any reports of exactly how hard Betances was throwing in the next-to-last week of camp a year ago).
“He’s actually throwing harder than he did (at this time) last year,” Girardi said. “It was the last week that it kind of jumped up. … It’s all part of the build-up process. Like I said, if it’s the last week, the last day, you might have a little bit more concern.”
Today’s outing was really all about one bad pitch, the one Lagares hit over the wall in left, but even Betances acknowledges he hasn’t been especially good this spring. Relievers are notoriously inconsistent from year to year, so a guy with a short track record like Betances is perhaps susceptible to extra scrutiny coming off one good year.
“I think he set a pretty high standard last year that’s not always so easy to live up to,” Girardi said. “My only concern is that he’s right at the end of spring training. That’s my concern.”
Last spring, Betances came into camp with very little expectation. This year, he’s basically expected to be an elite reliever and possibly a closer. His production will not be a bonus this season. The Yankees are banking on it.
“A lot of these guys know who I am now,” he said. “Last year, there was a lot of unknown, but right now I need to get those few more velos (added velocity) and maybe attack the zone better. But today, I thought it was good, I just made a mistake to Lagares.”
Said Girardi: “He’s a power pitcher, and we expect there’s going to be more. You’re going to see more at the end of spring training.”
• Before today’s game, Brian Cashman said he’d seen enough production out of Alex Rodriguez to think Rodriguez could be the team’s everyday designated hitter this season. Coming into camp there seemed to be a chance the Yankees might try to platoon him if he wasn’t capable of hitting, but Rodriguez went 1-for-3 to raise his average to .290. He’s been good. Not necessarily great, but he’s been good. “I think I’m getting better,” Rodriguez said. “I’m happy with my strike zone discipline, and for me the goal never changes. Just get a good pitch and put my A-swing. I thought I took some good swings today, fouled them off. But anytime I give myself a chance to do some damage and swing at strikes, that’s a good thing.”
• Cashman also said before today’s game that Adam Warren is the clear favorite for the fifth starter job. Girardi, though, wouldn’t make such a commitment. “I told you, when I make a decision, I talk to the players first,” Girardi said. “That’s how I do it. Before I say anything, I think it’s only fair to do it that way.” Warren is starting tomorrow.
• Jacoby Ellsbury is scheduled for tee and toss tomorrow. That’s usually the last step before getting into some light batting practice. The Yankees remain convinced Ellsbury will get back into the lineup before breaking camp. He’s been out more than a week with a strained oblique.
• Jose Pirela’s neck is still sore, and that’s his biggest problem at the mometn. “Until we get that soreness out, Stevie (Donohue) doesn’t really want to elevate his heart rate a lot to see if the (concussion) symptoms come back,” Girardi said. The Yankees are still optimistic that Pirela will get back in a game this spring.
• Weird to see Chase Whitley used for just an inning today. He was originally supposed to pitch in a minor league game, but the Yankees instead kept him here and gave him one inning. He allowed his first run of the season, but said he felt good on the mound, just made a mistake with a fastball. “We’ll get him stretched out again,” Girardi said. “Tanaka with his 60 pitches went pretty far. We thought he might get more innings, it just didn’t work out.”
• Whitley allowed a run. Betances was charged with a run in one-third of an inning. Andrew Miller gave up one run on two hits in a third of an inning. David Carpenter allowed a run in the ninth. “It wasn’t a very good day for our bullpen today overall,” Girardi said. “You have those days. If it was the last day of spring training, you might worry a little bit more about it, but you’re going to have those days. Obviously we know we have to get these guys right, and they’re very important to us.”
• The two exceptions: Justin Wilson got a double play against his only hitter, and Andrew Bailey pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts.
• Seven hits in the past six games for Didi Gregorius. He had a double today. … Chase Headley remains red hot with a two-hit day including a double. … Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Noonan had the other Yankees hits. … The Mets won, 7-2.
Associated Press photos
The Yankees have announced their rotation through Monday’s off day, and it seems to provide some clarity about the their plans for Opening Day.
Wednesday: Masahiro Tanaka
Thursday: Adam Warren
Friday: Michael Pineda
Saturday: CC Sabathia
Sunday: Nathan Eovaldi
By giving Sabathia an extra day of rest this week, the Yankees have effectively eliminated him from the conversation for Opening Day. To pitch the opener, Sabathia would have to make either his last spring start or his first regular-season start on short rest. Hard to imagine that happening. Instead, Sabathia’s now lined up to pitch Game 2 after one more turn on extra rest.
Meanwhile, Tanaka is lineup perfectly to stay on an every-six-days schedule and pitch Opening Day. Because of scheduled off days, Tanaka could make each of his first three starts on five days of rest even without the Yankees plugging in a sixth starter during that time.
“It is flexible because of these days off,” Girardi said. “It’s flexible what we can do. We’ve done that kind of on purpose. The big thing is that Eovaldi, his pitch counts are good, Pineda’s have been good. We still need to build Tanaka and CC up a little more. As long as we can get through their starts and have no issues, we should be able to iron it out the way we anticipate them.”
With Esmil Rogers starting tonight and Warren scheduled for Thursday, Girardi said he could have a fifth starter decided by the end of the week.
“I think it’s a pretty big start for (Rogers),” Girardi said. “… I would think we’ll probably even meet in the next couple days to try to make some decisions here.”
• During fielding drills today, Alex Rodriguez spent a lot of time at first base working on cut offs and relays. Girardi said he still expects Rodriguez to get at least one turn at first base this spring. “You’re probably going to see him going through some drills at first,” Girardi said. “And my guess is you’re going to see him (at first base) in a spring training game before we leave.”
• Girardi said he’d basically just like to have Rodriguez capable of playing first base just in case someone gets hurt. Garrett Jones is the backup first baseman, but if either Jones or Teixeira were to get hurt, Girardi said he’d rather be able to play Rodriguez at first base instead of either Chase Headley or Brian McCann.
• The more important thing with Rodriguez has been his at-bats, and the Yankees seem happy with those. “I just think his at-bats are more consistent (than at the start of camp),” Girardi said. “His timing is more consistent.”
• Jose Pirela is back with the team, but he’s still going through concussions tests. Girardi said the medical staff plans to let Pirela start working out — very lightly — just to see how he reacts to that. Pirela had a concussion two years ago, but he said the symptoms are not as bad this time.
• Jacoby Ellsbury did some light swings with a broomstick yesterday and will gradually increase baseball activities. Girardi remains unconcerned. Said he expects Ellsbury to start playing again before the end of spring training and be ready for the Opener.
• Nathan Eovaldi went 4.2 innings at the minor league complex. Said he was wild with his offspeed pitch early in the game — he started with a walk to former Yankees prospect Melky Mesa, who’s a notorious free swinger — but Eovaldi was ultimately happy with the outing. “I was just rushing (early in the game),” Eovaldi said. “Slider behind, same with the curveball. Fastball was a little all over the place. Once I stayed back over the mound, it was there.”
• With Tanaka starting tomorrow, Chase Whitley is going to the minor league complex to stay stretched out. He’ll pitch four or five innings across the street.
• Today’s bullpen sessions: Adam Warren, CC Sabathia, Vicente Campos, Ivan Nova, Scott Baker, Chris Martin, Danny Burawa
• Today’s second string: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Ali Castillo, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ramon Flores, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Aaron Judge, DH Kyle Higashioka
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Justin Wilson, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Nick Rumbelow
Associated Press photos
Today’s exhibition game is on the other side of the state, and most of the Yankees who are playing in it actually spent last night on the road. It’ll be a game light on big league regulars — Brett Gardner and Brian McCann are the most notable Yankees involved — and so the bigger story of the day seemed likely to happen here in Tampa.
But then it rained.
Instead of playing in another minor league game, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran will simply take some indoor batting practice and call it a day. I assume this makes it more likely that they’ll play tomorrow, but I really don’t know. The plan was to give them a handful of at-bats, but the weather hasn’t cooperated. There was some thought of playing an intrasquad game, but that idea has fizzled.
Basically, it’s just a quiet, rainy day in Tampa. This was going to be the place to be today, now it’s just a place that’s a little too wet for anything to happen.
• The Yankees announced that all tests on Jose Pirela came back clean. Neck and spine MRI findings were normal and he was discharged from the hospital last night. He’s obviously not scheduled to play today.
• By the way, MLB Network announced that it will be live broadcasting today’s game between the Yankees and Nationals, and it will be available in the New York market, so check that out if you have a random Monday off.
• Jacoby Ellsbury said he’s scheduled for more treatment today, but he still hasn’t hit or played catch since the oblique injury. He’s still confident he’ll be ready for Opening Day.
• Nathan Eovaldi sounds encouraged by his spring. Said he’s successfully improved his split and his slider, and he’s done a better job of working up in the zone with his big fastball. He’ll start in a minor league game tomorrow. That’s an effort to get him stretched out while Esmil Rogers auditions by pitching in the big league game at night.
• Today’s second string: C Austin Romine, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Dan Fiorito, SS Cole Figueroa, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Tyler Austin, CF Ramon Flores, RF Slade Heathcott, DH Eddy Rodriguez
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Kyle Davies, Jose Ramirez, Jacob Lindgren, Nick Rumbelow, Chasen Shreve
Associated Press photos