The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Monday morning notes: With lineup regulars, A-Rod hitting seventh03.09.15

Joe Girardi

I doubt Joe Girardi will admit it, but today’s lineup has to be the frontrunner for Opening Day.

The Yankees have left no doubt these nine are the favorites at each position. Even if there’s a vague competition at second base, the Yankees are prioritizing Stephen Drew by letting him regularly play alongside Didi Gregorius. Something could change between now and then, but for right now, these are the starting position players.

And if these are the starting position players, why not put them in the order Girardi’s considering for Opening Day?

Lessons learned from today’s batting order: Stephen Drew batting ahead of Gregorius, Alex Rodriguez in the No. 7 spot behind Chase Headley, and Mark Teixeira in the cleanup spot after hitting fifth on Opening Day last season.

I do wonder if things might be different if the Yankees see a lefty on Opening Day.

Masahiro Tanaka• Masahiro Tanaka threw another bullpen this morning and came back into the clubhouse laughing before heading for a workout. He has yet again managed to throw a bunch of pitches without his elbow falling apart.

• Two random Tanaka moments from the clubhouse: Because Tanaka’s locker is really close to a row of young position players, a bunch of prospect hitters actually seem to have gotten to know Tanaka a little bit this spring. This morning, Jake Cave came over to Tanaka’s translator strictly to say that he likes Tanaka’s shoes (Tanaka loved that). Mason Williams also engaged Tanaka in a random round of Rock-Paper-Scissors, and it was clearly not the first time they’d done that. Seems to be a running thing between the two of them. Tanaka threw paper and lost. Mason gloated. A lot. Tanaka, again, loved it. He’s definitely more one of the guys than you might expect.

• Andrew Bailey will throw a simulated game tomorrow. He’s already thrown live batting practice, but I have to think a sim game will the final step toward getting him in a real game. Despite Brian Cashman’s previous statements about Bailey being an extreme longshot, Bailey continues to say that he feels great. He’s throwing all of his pitches and sounds encouraged by the results. Needs to get in games, though.

• Mostly a quiet morning in the clubhouse today. There weren’t even very many pitchers in the room through much of the morning. Now everyone is here and the morning workout has started. Typical stuff, fielding drills first and then batting practice.

De PaulaBaker• Morning bullpen sessions:

Group 1
Masahiro Tanaka (to Juan Graterol)
Chris Capuano (to Gary Sanchez)
Scott Baker (to Eddy Rodriguez)
Kyle Davies (to Kyle Higashioka)

Group 2
Jose De Paula (to Trent Garrison)
Domingo German (to Roman Rodriguez)
Tyler Webb (to Juan Graterol)

• Bailey will pitch his simulated game early tomorrow. CC Sabathia, Adam Warren, Luis Severino, Wilking Rodriguez, Jose Campos and Ivan Nova are also scheduled for early work tomorrow, though they’ll presumably throw regular bullpens.

RomineCulverToday’s second string: C Austin Romine, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Cito Culver, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Ramon Flores, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Tyler Austin, DH Jake Cave

Today’s scheduled relievers: Nathan Eovaldi, David Carpenter, Justin Wilson, Chris Martin, Diego Moreno (with Nick Rumbelow, Danny Burawa and Nick Goody on standby just in case)

• Tomorrow’s travel squad to Sarasota:

Pitchers: Danny Burawa, Nick Goody, Jacob Lindgren, James Pazos, Branden Pinder, Jose Ramirez, Esmil Rogers, Nick Rumbelow, Chasen Shreve, Chase Whitley
Catchers: Trent Garrison, John Ryan Murphy, Eddy Rodriguez, Gary Sanchez
Infielders: Cito Culver, Stephen Drew, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Garrett Jones, Nick Noonan, Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder, Kyle Roller, Mark Teixeira
Outfielders: Jake Cave, Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott, Aaron Judge, Mason Williams, Chris Young
From minor league camp: None listed so far

Associated Press photos

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A-Rod: “It’s not going to be an Ozzie Smith year”03.08.15

Alex Rodriguez, Adam Warren

Five innings in the field. One play for Alex Rodriguez. It was a fairly sharp grounder that Rodriguez had to backhand, and he made a long throw to get the out easily. Not an especially difficult play, but not a ground ball off a fungo bat either.

It was, basically, the kind of play Rodriguez expects to make at third base this season. And it sounds like he’s not expecting much more.

“I wouldn’t expect too much movement,” Rodriguez said. “My expectation is, if the ball’s hit to me, catch it and throw to first. It’s not going to be an Ozzie Smith year.”

After a year away from baseball, Rodriguez said today’s start at third base did feel a bit foreign.

“Felt like 10 years at least,” he said. “I couldn’t believe I had to throw the ball that far across the diamond. That’s a long ways. … I think the body acts like it’s supposed to act, but game speed is the one thing you can’t emulate being away from the game. That’s obviously the hardest thing to adjust to.”

The plan is for Rodriguez to play again tomorrow. He’ll DH while Carlos Beltran moves back into right field. In two at-bats, Rodriguez had a double — a weak blooper hit to just the right spot — and a strikeout. He went down swinging at an 81-mph curveball.

“I haven’t gotten to the encouraging part yet,” he said. “But so far, so good. Like any spring, March 6, March 7, obviously there’s some challenges. It’s going to take two or three weeks before I start evaluating where I’m at. Right now it’s repetitions.”

Associated Press photo

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A-Rod making his first spring start at third base03.08.15

RodriguezJacoby 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

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Friday postgame notes: “Now it’s just time to get the timing”03.06.15

Carlos Beltran

Carlos Beltran walked twice, struck out once, played six innings in right field and said he did it all with no pain or discomfort in his right elbow. He wore a brace during the game, but had nothing on his arm when it was over.

“Honestly I’m not concerned at all,” he said. “I’ve been taking a lot of swings in spring training and taking a lot of BP. Thank God every day I wake up feeling good. I have no concerns. Now it’s just time to get the timing and that’s it.”

The walk came in Beltran’s third and final plate appearance before he was lifted for a pinch runner. He had only one play in the field, which was basically recovering a double.

After offseason surgery to repair a bone spur and remove loose pieces from his elbow, Beltran got into spring training games a little later than most of his teammates, but he’s been going through drills since pitchers and catchers reported two weeks ago.

“The good thing is I am pain free,” he said. “Now it’s time to continue to get better and put good at-bats during the whole spring training. … Honestly speaking I have no idea (how many at-bats are necessary). I’m just going up with the program and I know that once we get less people here, you’re going to start playing more often and almost every day. Once we get to that point, then that will be good for us.”

Alex Rodriguez• Alex Rodriguez was also 0-for-2 with a walk tonight. He struck out and lined softly to short on a broken bat. “All I’m looking to do right now is just square the ball, start hitting the ball with good contact,” he said. “I think like any other spring, hopefully in the last week four, week five, I’ll start driving the ball. It’s par for the course right now. You don’t want to be locked in on March . . . whatever it is.”

• Rodriguez’s last at-bat was a strikeout against hard-throwing Blake Wood, whose fastball averages roughly 97 mph. Rodriguez didn’t swing at three straight called strikes. “The last at-bat, I don’t think I saw one of those pitches,” Rodriguez said. “I was hoping one of them was a ball. … The other day I got a 96 MPH fastball and hit it sharply to short. Some days are going to be pretty goods, some days are going to be pretty bad. This is just a work in progress.”

• Plan is for Rodriguez to play again on Sunday. “Do I put him at third?” Giradri said. “It’s possible.”

• The Yankees had their own hard-throwing right-hander on the mound tonight, getting their first look at offseason addition Chris Martin. He seemed to make a pretty strong impression stranding two runners with a strikeout and a couple of ground balls. “Martin did a really good job keeping his fastball down, and they did not have good swings on him tonight,” Girardi said. “That’s something obviously you pay attention to moving forward. Obviously there’s some deception there. He’s tall, and he’s got a real downhill angle.”

• This was also the spring debut of David Carpenter. While Martin is trying to win a spot in the bullpen, Carpenter seems to have one locked up. “Obviously they both have good fastballs,” Girardi said. “… I thought Carpenter threw a really good split. He got a strikeout on it. So we saw some really good things.”

• Yankees starter Chris Capuano had four strikeouts but also allowed a two-run homer in his two innings. He took the loss in a 3-1 game. … The other Pirates run came on a solo homer off Jose Ramirez. … Two strikeouts in an inning and a third for Jacob Lindgren. Another lefty, Chasen Shreve, pitched a scoreless ninth with no hits and two strikeouts. … Only five Yankees hits tonight, one apiece for Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jake Cave, Eddy Rodriguez and Francisco Arcia. Cave had the one Yankees RBI.

Chris Capuano• Yankees starters this weekend: Scott Baker on Saturday and Adam Warren on Sunday. No starters announced beyond that, though the rotation — as we’ve seen it so far — lines up for Nathan Eovaldi on Monday and Esmil Rogers on Tuesday.

• Girardi sounded impressed by Bryan Mitchell’s start in the afternoon game. While Mitchell clearly has a big arm, Girardi certainly made it sound like the Yankees aren’t considering him for that open spot in the bullpen. “He’ll be a starter, yes,” Girardi said. “That doesn’t man that during the season you couldn’t use him different, but we’re preparing him to start.”

• For now, I really have to think the Yankees are thinking of Mitchell as readily available rotation depth, perhaps as an option for some of those sixth-starter opportunity. “He’s a guy at some point is going to help us this year,” Girardi said. “… It’s hard to say (whether he could win a job out of camp). There’s always those guys who you’re not sure where they’re going to be at, and they have a great camp and all of a sudden they surprise you and they’re part of your club. One of the reasons we’re starting him is we want him to get the experience because we believe he’s going to help us.”

• Plan was for Jaron Long to pitch two innings this afternoon, but after the 50-minute rain delay, the Yankees kept it to just one inning. “He knows how to pitch,” Girardi said. “He knows how to locate, he knows how to change speeds, so it was nice to watch.”

Gamel M• From Baseball America’s Mat Eddy: The Yankees have signed Mat Gamel to a minor league deal. Gamel’s brother Ben plays in the Yankees system, and Mat was a pretty good young hitter before a series of knee injuries derailed his career. He hasn’t played in two years, but he used to rake in the minors, and he’s still just 29. Worth a shot I guess. He used to play a lot of third base, but was mostly a first baseman when he got hurt. Makes me wonder how the Yankees might use him if he’s healthy. Gamel hits left-handed, and so do the Yankees top upper-level first basemen Kyle Roller and Greg Bird.

• Final word to Girardi: “You saw some guys get out there for the first time. Martin for the first time and had a really good downhill fastball. Carpenter for the first time, which was good to see. It was good to see Gardy hit a ball on the screws and get on. Jake hit a ball on the screws. That sort of thing. It’s a lot of baseball, but it was a good day.”

Associated Press photos

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Friday morning notes: Rodriguez getting close to playing the field03.06.15

Alex Rodriguez

As expected, Carlos Beltran will play right field and Alex Rodriguez will DH in the second game of today’s split-squad doubleheader.

Joe Girardi said he could have played Rodriguez at third — A-Rod has said he’s ready to play the field — but playing him at DH makes it easier to assure he gets three at-bats. He will play the field soon.

“I debated doing it today, but I thought, you know what, my focus is to get him at-bats,” Girardi said. “So it’s probably better just to do it this way.”

It’s funny, there’s all this attention on Rodriguez, and it’s often labeled as a distraction or a circus. Well, the circus part is over. At this point, the stories are all about a 39-year-old former superstar trying to be a viable baseball player again, and that doesn’t feel circus-like at all. As for being a distraction, the opposite might be true.

In his own weird way, Rodriguez has made it easier for everyone else to focus on the task at hand.

“I’m sure it makes it a lot easier on the guys,” Girardi said. “A lot of people think it’s a distraction. It makes it easier on 90 percent of the people that go. It made it easier on me one day. Alex hitting at the minor-league facility and there were four people in here asking me questions.”

Masahiro Tanaka• Masahiro Tanaka has another sim game tomorrow, then his next outing will be in a real game. By getting stretched out to two innings in a sim game, Tanaka will likely go three innings for his first game appearance. Girardi said this sim games are basically just an easier, safer way to get Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia stretched out a little bit early in camp.

• Called up from minor league camp for the day, bullpen prospect Mark Montgomery said he sees a noticeable difference in the way he’s been pitching this spring. He said his shoulder always felt fine last season, but tests showed his range of motion was limited, which suggested there was still some tightness in there. Montgomery said that finally went away in November, and he’s been facing hitters this spring with better results. Said he’s getting swings and misses again; feels like he’s able to throw his fastball by guys like he used to. Needs to reestablish himself, but sounds confident and optimistic.

• Heard from a scout this morning who said yesterday’s Tyler Austin home run didn’t get much help from the wind. It was a monster shot, but the scout said that’s because Austin crushed the ball, not because Mother Nature got ahold of it.

• Jaron Long, former hitting coach Kevin Long’s son, is up from minor league camp and scheduled to pitch in today’s game in Clearwater. Jaron has been around the clubhouse for years, but Girardi’s never seen him pitch in person. “I’m anxious to see it,” Girardi said.

• Justin Wilson and Andrew Bailey are each throwing live batting practice today. They’ll be facing Mason Williams and Rob Refsnyder.

• No lineup posted for tonight’s home game, but minor leaguers Tyson Blaser, Tyler Wade, Dante Bichette and Ben Gamel are coming up from the minor league complex for it.

• Just an FYI for anyone making the trip to Clearwater today: The Yankees are stretching and taking batting practice here in Tampa. The bus to Clearwater doesn’t even leave until 11 a.m., so the Yankees won’t be doing much on the field pregame. There obviously will be a separate stretch and batting practice before the night game.

Williams (2)RollerToday’s bullpens: Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Miller, Ivan Nova, Jose Campos and Wilking Rodriguez.

Second string in Clearwater: C Kyle Higashioka, 1B Kyle Roller, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Eric Jagielo, LF Michael O’Neill, CF Mason Williams, RF Taylor Dugas

• Scheduled relievers in Clearwater: Nick Goody, Jaron Long, Matt Tracy and Mark Montgomery (with James Pazos, Caleb Cotham and Branden Pinder making the trip just in case).

• Tomorrow’s travel squad to Kissimmee:

Pitchers: Scott Baker, Danny Burawa, Kyle Davies, Jose De Paula, James Pazos, Wilking Rodriguez, Nick Rumbelow, Tyler Webb
Catchers: Francisco Arcia, Kyle Higashioka, John Ryan Murphy, Austin Romine
Infielders: Greg Bird, Cito Culver, Stephen Drew, Jonathan Galvez, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Nick Noonan, Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder, Kyle Roller, Mark Teixeira
Outfielders: Tyler Austin, Jake Cave, Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott, Aaron Judge, Mason Williams
From minor league camp: RHP Taylor Garrison, RHP Zach Nuding

Associated Press photos

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Rodriguez makes the crowd cheer with first spring hit03.04.15

Alex Rodriguez

Three plate appearances in early March really don’t tell us much about what to expect from a 39-year-old coming back from a year-long suspension. Instead, the biggest takeaway from Alex Rodriguez’s return to real baseball might be this: If he hits, the crowd will cheer.

“Once you hit rock bottom,” Rodriguez said, “anytime you hear a few cheers these days, it’s a pleasant surprise.”

Met with a mix of boos and cheers during pregame introductions and before his first at-bat, Rodriguez brought a legitimate roar when he singled in today’s first inning. He’d swung through a pair of 91-mph fastballs, but the third pitch came in at 89 mph, and Rodriguez lined it to left field.

“I felt like I was swinging underwater (on the first pitch),” Rodriguez said. “I was like, man, it’s been a long time. … I was happy I just made contact, and I was pleasantly surprised it was a base hit.”

Rodriguez’s second at-bat ended in a fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop. His third at-bat, Rodriguez took a low 3-2 pitch for a walk.

Alex Rodriguez“For this time of spring, they’re pretty good at-bats,” manager Joe Girardi said. “A two-strike base hit, he hit a ground ball hard and worked a walk in a situation where they didn’t give him much to hit. He put us I a situation to score a bunch of runs even though we didn’t. These at-bats for these guys aren’t necessarily really easy right now.”

That much is true. Rodriguez certainly isn’t the only guy in the Yankees clubhouse talking about feeling a bit sluggish at this point. Even the guys who have only waited a single offseason since last taking an at-bat are currently knocking off some rust.

“I actually think (Rodriguez) is somewhat motivated,” one opposing scout in attendance said. “Too early to tell (how good he’ll be), but give Alex credit for being in good shape.”

The plan is for Rodriguez to go through normal drills tomorrow, then he’ll play again on Friday. It seems likely he’ll DH, but neither Rodriguez nor Girardi has ruled out the idea of playing the field. At-bats, everyone agrees, are more important than reps in the field.

“It’s going to be a spring of firsts,” Rodriguez said. “Everything feels a little odd right now. Even stepping into the box with my metal cleats, saying hi to (umpire) Marty Foster and Tommy (Joseph), the kid behind the plate, everything feels a little strange for me. … I told Marty and Tommy to take it easy on the old man. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been in the box.”

Rodriguez said he continues to be humbled and motivated by the texts and emails of support he’s received from people throughout the league. There was certainly no indication that anyone on the Phillies held any harsh feelings toward him, and the crowd here in Tampa has been supportive far more than it’s been dismissive. The reaction will surely be different on the road, but it always is with Rodriguez.

For now, the important thing is figuring out whether he can still hit.

“It’s going to take time,” Rodriguez said. “I think two or three weeks from now I’ll have a better idea. Right now it’s all about getting into playing shape. … I love the game, and I’ve been away from it for a long time. But I love to play, and it’s just great to be back and have a bat in my hand.”

Associated Press photos

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Spring Game 2: Yankees vs. Phillies03.04.15

Yankees Spring Baseball

YANKEES (0-0-1)
Didi Gregorius SS
Alex Rodriguez DH
Brian McCann C
Mark Teixeira 1B
Chase Headley 3B
Stephen Drew 2B
Tyler Austin RF
Ramon Flores LF
Mason Williams CF

RHP Nathan Eovaldi (6-14, 4.37 in 2014)
Eovaldi vs. Phillies

PHILLIES (0-0-1)
Odubel Herrera CF
Freddy Galvis SS
Domonic Brown RF
Ryan Howard DH
Maikel Franco 3B
Darin Ruf 1B
Grady Sizemore LF
Cord Phelps 2B
Tommy Joseph C

RHP Kevin Slowey (1-1, 5.30 in 2014)
Slowey vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., YES Network

WEATHER: A really nice afternoon with wind blowing out to left field. Very similar to yesterday, actually.

UMPIRES: HP Marty Foster, 1B Bob Davidson, 2B Tom Hallion, 3B Mark Wegner

TODAY’S SECOND STRING: C Gary Sanchez, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Nick Noonan, SS Cito Culver, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Jake Cave, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Aaron Judge

TODAY’S SCHEDULED RELIEVERS: Andrew Miller, Kyle Davies, Danny Burawa, Wilking Rodriguez, James Pazos, Tyler Webb

FAMILIAR FOE: Nathan Eovaldi is not stranger to the Phillies, who have seen him a handful of times in the National League East. Ryan Howard is a career .267/.313/.533 hitter against Eovaldi in 15 big league at-bats. Domonic Brown is a .200/.273/.200 hitter in 20 at-bats.

HOME SWEET HOME: As the giant logo in foul territory says, this is the Yankees 20th spring training at the stadium now known as George M. Steinbrenner Field.

UPDATE, 1:02 p.m.: Mix of boos and cheers for Rodriguez when he was introduced along the baseline during the pregame ceremony. From the concourse, I actually thought there were more boos that cheers. The writers in the press box say I’m definitely wrong, there were more cheers than boos. Either way, it was mixed. Nothing overwhelming one way or the other.

UPDATE, 1:06 p.m.: With no Jeter, it was basically McCann and Teixeira together who led the Yankees onto the field for the first inning.

UPDATE, 1:12 p.m.: Nice play by Chase Headley to get the second out of the first inning. Strong throw.

UPDATE, 1:14 p.m.: Eovaldi gets through a scoreless first. Against Howard for the final out, he mixed a 94 mph-fastball with a called-strike curveball and what looked like a couple of splits.

UPDATE, 1:18 p.m.: Way more cheers than boos for Rodriguez’s first at-bat.

UPDATE, 1:19 p.m.: Swung and missed on back-to-back 91 mph fastballs, then lined an 89-mph pitch into left field for a single. That’s a base hit in his first at-bat. My guess is you’ll read about that a lot in the next few hours.

UPDATE, 1:23 p.m.: McCann flies to left, but at least he went the other way, amirite?

UPDATE, 1:55 p.m.: Eovaldi looked pretty good through his two innings. Got his fastball up to 97 mph (didn’t see the 98, but was told he hit that number as well). Gave up one run, but mostly I thought he looked pretty sharp. Miller followed with a scoreless third inning, leaving a runner stranded at third base while getting two strikeouts and a grounder to first.

UPDATE, 2:23 p.m.: Through four innings, Rodriguez has the Yankees’ only hit. Of course he does.

UPDATE, 2:28 p.m.: Two-out RBI single off Davies. On the play, Mason Williams nearly threw out a runner a third base, but the throw got past Headley, which started a 1-2-5-2 putout at the plate. In the middle of the fifth inning, it’s a 2-0 Phillies lead.

UPDATE, 2:34 p.m.: Top of the sixth and the reserves are in for the Yankees. Danny Burawa is the new Yankees pitcher.

UPDATE, 2:36 p.m.: Actually, looks like Williams stayed in the game to get one more at-bat.

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Wednesday morning notes: Mason Williams playing with something to prove03.04.15

Mason Williams

There are three distinct groups in today’s Yankees lineup.

1. The big league infielders. Familiar names all around the diamond, each with well-established story lines, from bounce back seasons, to lingering health issues, to a young shortstop trying to make a strong first impression.

2. The designated hitter. A thoroughly unique situation, and the one that will most certainly generate the most attention this afternoon. Is there any chance Alex Rodriguez won’t be the focus today? Nope.

3. The young outfielders. Three guys on the 40-man roster but with no time in the big leagues. All three have a chance to play a big league role this season (and a chance to be overshadowed and forgotten by September).

Of the nine players in today’s batting order, the one most easy to dismiss just might be the guy who, only two years ago, was considered by many to be the top prospect in the entire Yankees system. Mason Williams gets the start in center field today, one year after he hit just .223/.290/.304 in Double-A.

“Obviously everyone knows this is a game of failure,” Williams said. “And for me, honestly, that’s the first time I’ve ever really failed (at baseball). For me, honestly, last year was probably the biggest year of my career so far. I feel like I learned the most I could have by going through that failure and seeing my struggles. Now I feel like I’m knowing what I do when I go wrong and how to not put myself back into that situation.”

There is no doubt Williams has a lot to prove this season, especially when he can look around the Yankees clubhouse and see Ramon Flores sitting right next to him, Slade Heathcott two lockers away, Jake Cave wandering through the middle lockers, and Aaron Judge generating as much attention as anyone other than A-Rod. Williams used to be a standout. Now he’s a guy with big tools and disappointing numbers in a system heavy on upper-level outfield prospects.

But it says quite a bit that the Yankees protected him from the Rule 5 draft this winter. His speed and defense are already seen as big league ready. It’s the bat that has to make some strides.

“For me, I learned that I’ve got to give myself chances,” Williams said. “Last year, I struggled, and I feel like I gave a lot of at-bats away. And that’s something I want to clean up this year. … I want to be a better player in general. I want to be a better teammate. I want to be better on the field, in the dugout. Even in my house. I just want to be a better person. I feel like if I try to be that, other things will be OK.”

Williams arrived in camp in good shape. He said he began really focusing on the nuances of the game last season, and he feels like a smarter player because of it. He spent his offseason training at home in Orlando, driving the hour or so to the minor league complex every once in a while to check in. With that new spot on the 40-man, Williams isn’t simply setting his sights on finally conquering Double-A. Players on the 40-man are one opportunity and one phone call away from the big leagues.

“It definitely shows they still believe in me,” Williams said. “I obviously still have a lot of faith in myself, and I believe in myself. Knowing that they still believe in me, come out here and try to help New York this year and try to win a championship.”

Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira• The clubhouse opened to media pretty early this morning, and there was no sign of Rodriguez, who’s return to the lineup will obviously be the biggest story of the day. I assume he’s hitting second to make it a little easier to give him extra at-bats. It’s worth noting that no one is listed as the backup DH for today. Someone might replace him at some point, but the Yankees seem to be leaving Rodriguez’s playing time pretty open-ended.

• Ramon Flores is starting in left field today. Long overshadowed by guys like Williams, Flores has become an organizational standout. A severe ankle injury probably robbed him of a big league call-up last season, but he put up a .347/.435/.505 slash line in winter ball. Flores said his ankle was never 100 percent even after he came off the disabled list late last season, and he was still nervous about it when he started playing this winter. Eventually, though, he became convinced that he was completely healthy, and the results were pretty overwhelming.

• In the other outfield corner is Tyler Austin, who finally recovered from a lingering wrist injury last season and hit .336/.397/.557 in the second half. While Austin acknowledged heath might have played a part in that, he said that strong second half had more to do with physical adjustments he’d been working on with hitting coach Marcus Thames. They simply began to click in the second half, and the numbers took off. Count Austin among many, many people in the organization who love Thames has a hitting guru.

• Vicente Campos threw a 25-pitch bullpen yesterday. It was all fastballs, and Campos said he’ll start incorporating changeups next week. Working his way back from Tommy John surgery, Campos said he’s targeting May for his return to game action.

• Today is the two-year anniversary of Brian Cashman breaking his ankle while skydiving. Cashman said he was invited to try it again but turned down the invitation.

• Jose De Paula is throwing a simulated game today. He’ll pitch to Kyle Higashioka and face Greg Bird and Cito Culver.

Capuano (2)TanakaThree bullpen sessions today:

Chris Capuano (to John Ryan Murphy)
Masahiro Tanaka (to Eddy Rodriguez)
Domingo German (to Juan Graterol)

Today’s second string: C Gary Sanchez, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Nick Noonan, SS Cito Culver, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Jake Cave, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Aaron Judge

Today’s scheduled relievers: Andrew Miller, Kyle Davies, Danny Burawa, Wilking Rodriguez, James Pazos, Tyler Webb (with Nick Rumbelow, Scott Baker and Jose Ramirez listed as just-in-case options)

Tomorrow’s travel squad to Bradenton:

Pitchers: Jacob Lindgren, Diego Moreno, Esmil Rogers, Nick Rumbelow, Chasen Shreve, Chase Whitley
Catchers: Trent Garrison, John Ryan Murphy, Eddy Rodriguez, Austin Romine
Infielders: Greg Bird, Cito Culver, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Garrett Jones, Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder, Kyle Roller
Outfielders: Tyler Austin, Jake Cave, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ramon Flores, Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Mason Williams, Chris Young
Up from minor league camp: SS Tyler Wade, RHP Cesar Vargas, LHP Fred Lewis, RHP Zach Nuding, RHP Taylor Garrison

Associated Press photos

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A-Rod batting second for spring home opener03.04.15

RodriguezDidi Gregorius SS
Alex Rodriguez DH
Brian McCann C
Mark Teixeira 1B
Chase Headley 3B
Stephen Drew 2B
Tyler Austin RF
Ramon Flores LF
Mason Williams CF

RHP Nathan Eovaldi

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17 months, 1 week and 1 day later: A-Rod “a little nervous” about return03.03.15

Alex Rodriguez

September 25, 2013.

In the fifth inning of a five-run loss to the Rays, Alex Rodriguez struck out looking at a 93 mph fastball from David Price. It was a five-pitch at-bat, and Rodriguez never swung once. He hasn’t had a professional at-bat since.

Wednesday will be 17 months, one week, one day, three lawsuits and one season-long suspension since Rodriguez was last in uniform, in the lineup, and in the batter’s box against major-league pitching.

“I’ll be a little nervous, for sure,” Rodriguez said this morning. “I haven’t been in front of our fans for a long time, I’m excited about that. I have some challenges ahead.”

Truth is, Rodriguez was facing challenges even during that last at-bat of 2013. He was banged up back then, dealing with hamstring and calf injuries that ultimately kept him out of the lineup the final four games of that season. He was pulled for a pinch hitter three innings after the strikeout, and he finished the season having hit .203 for the month of September. That’s to say nothing of the looming appeal hearing and everything else that as going on off the field.

“That was a different time. That was a crazy time,” Rodriguez said. “To be honest with you, I don’t even know how I did what I did. It was a blur. I know that I hit a grand slam (against) San Francisco (late in the year) and was like, wow, that’s pretty cool. I think I’m in a much better place today. I’m in better shape.”

It’s interesting that Rodriguez immediately remembered that grand slam against the Giants (even if he said it was in San Francisco, not in the Bronx, as it actually was). I actually had no idea what he was talking about, but looking back, it was the last home run Rodriguez hit before his suspension. It was a tied game, and Rodriguez turned it into a win. He only had one more hit before he was shutdown for the rest of the season, and ultimately suspended for the next season.

No wonder it stands out in his mind. It really was his last great moment before fading away.

“I’m excited for tomorrow. Totally,” Rodriguez said. “I think it’s just that time. Ready to go. Not sure how ready, but I’ll give it a shot.”

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

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