The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Next up: The Class of 200703.08.11

Six players from the Yankees 2006 draft class have already played in New York. Four others have been included in trades for Major League talent, another was taken in the Rule 5 draft, and another is currently one of the top prospects in the system. It’s been a fruitful draft for the Yankees, with Joba Chamberlain and Dave Robertson having already established themselves as mainstays on the roster.

By comparison, the group taken just one year later has been very quiet.

No one from the Yankees 2007 draft class has played in the big leagues, but that might be about to change. Six members of the ’07 class are in big league camp with the Yankees, and three — Andrew Brackman, Austin Romine and Brandon Laird — have put themselves among the top prospects in the organization.

“Some days (making it to the big leagues) feels a lot closer than other days,” Romine said. “You get tastes here and there of what it could be, and it makes you play even harder. Then there are other days when it seems it’s way out of reach.”

Half of the Yankees top ten picks in 2007 have been slowed by injuries, and the fifth and sixth rounders — Adam Olbrychowski and Chase Weems — have been traded away.

Brackman, though, took a huge step forward last season, and he’s begun to look like a legitimate first-round choice again. Romine has shown considerable talent as second rounder, third-round pick Ryan Pope put himself on the map with a move to the bullpen, and fourth-round pick Bradley Suttle is finally healthy and able to hit again. Laird is one of the more pleasant surprises in the entire system as a 27th-round pick who’s played his way to the verge of the big leagues.

“We came up playing together, so we all want each other to succeed,” Pope said. “For the most part there’s been a large core of us, (mostly) college guys, that have stuck together coming up. I think it’s important to keep a class like that together because, once you get to the big leagues, hopefully you guys have already been together three or four years and know how to play together. I think it works its way through, kind of like Mo and Pettitte and Jeter and them, kind of a core group of people.”

Of course, every draft class — fair or not — seems to be defined by its first rounder. For the 2007 class, that means Brackman.

“I didn’t talk to him a whole lot until he got to Double-A,” Pope said. “But if you’re talking about a first pick that’s going to define (class), he’s a pretty good one to follow because of his work ethic, his determination to succeed. He’s definitely a guy who’s going to set a standard for the class.”

Associated Press photo of Romine, headshots of Brackman and Pope

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Tuesday notes: Brackman finally gets his first spring inning03.08.11

Andrew Brackman said he couldn’t sit still in the Yankees bullpen this afternoon. His professional career already included enough waiting, and this month he had to wait through a minor groin injury before finally making his spring debut. Through today’s first six innings, Brackman couldn’t sit still.

“The blood’s pumping a little bit,” he said. “You go out there and you want to see what you’ve got.”

Brackman wasn’t especially happy with his scoreless inning — he said his stuff wasn’t as good as it’s been in the bullpen — but he’s glad the first one it out of the way. Joe Girardi seemed impressed. He said he saw good fastball command, a good curveball, and he couldn’t tell Brackman was anxious.

“You think about (if) somebody goes down and you need a starter, you want to see how these kids are handling themselves in this atmosphere,” Girardi said before the game. “Are they a guy that gets frustrated easily? Are they a guy that lets innings unravel?”

Brackman’s inning didn’t unravel. It actually got better as it went along. Ultimately, Brackman knows he’s an extreme long shot to break camp in the rotation — although he said, in the back of his mind, he still thinks he could win the job — but Girardi twice today said he wouldn’t rule out the idea of breaking Brackman into the big leagues as a reliever.

“I would be open to anything to get me in a pinstripe uniform,” Brackman said. “I feel the Yankees definitely see me as a starter (long term), and I see myself as a starter, and hopefully it can stay that way.”

• Girardi said the first round of cuts could come this weekend.

• Jorge Posada got only two at-bats today, but Girardi said that was the plan coming into the game. He’s not hurt. “Everyone came out good today,” Girardi said.

• Girardi was asked again about the possibility of putting Brett Gardner in the leadoff spot. “We’re in no rush to (make that decision),” he said. “I don’t have to put up a lineup until March 31.”

• Ronnie Belliard seemed to be something of a long shot when camp opened, but after missing nearly two weeks of games, it’s hard to imagine him winning a spot on the Yankees bench. “He’s competing more against Chavez and Vazquez than Nunez and Pena,” Girardi said. Of course, Chavez and Vazquez have been two of the best hitters in camp so far.

• Utility infield candidates Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena each had two hits today. Nunez also stole three bases, while Pena was caught stealing once. Pena did make a nice play at shortstop, though, going toward third base to get the out on a ball Brandon Laird couldn’t quite reach.

• Another double for Jorge Vazquez.

• Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson each had two hits, with Granderson hitting a two-run triple to center field. Posada also had an RBI base hit.

• Dave Robertson struck out the first three batters he faced, but because the first guy reached on a wild pitch, the inning continued through a walk, another wild pitch and a two-run single. Despite three straight strikeouts to start the inning, Robertson was still saddled with two earned runs.

• Romulo Sanchez got a save despite allowing a run in the ninth. Not that I thought of him as a favorite to make this roster, but I did expect Sanchez to get a little more of a look that he’s gotten so far. He’s out of options, he was a starter through most of last season, and he has a huge fastball. Seemed to me he was a solid backup plan as a long reliever, but he’s pitched just two innings.

Associated Press photos. The top one is of a Brett Gardner at bat. I thought the ball looked cool.

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Tuesday morning notes: Stranded in Sarasota03.08.11

After last night’s game in Sarasota, the Yankees clubhouse was not the most alert or busy place this morning. “I had to ask what day it was,” Joe Girardi said.

The Yankees bus is making it way to Orlando for this afternoon’s game against the Braves. Girardi’s not on the players bus, but we can be sure he won’t be driving himself. Turns out, his keys went missing last night in Sarasota and he had to leave his rental truck at the Orioles ballpark.

Kevin Long is a suspect in the case. He apparently borrowed the keys to get his hat out of Girardi’s truck. Long claims he gave them back. Girardi doesn’t remember getting them.

It’s a very sensitive and delicate situation.

• Still no diagnosis on Colin Curtis, who still has his arm in a sling. He can’t move it up and down too well. “Kind of unlucky,” he said. “Sick catch though.”

• No significant concern about Greg Golson, who felt some stiffness in his rib cage yesterday. Girardi said there are no tests scheduled. Turns out, Golson felt some discomfort when he woke up yesterday, but he thought it was normal soreness and decided to play through it. He had to be taken out of last night’s game. “Hopefully it’s not too long,” Girardi said.

• Ronnie Belliard is doing hitting, fielding and base running drills this morning. He’s expected to get in a game later this week. “He’s actually progressed a little bit quicker than we thought (he would),” Girardi said.

• Jorge Posada could get in a game at first base later this week.

• Andrew Brackman will make his first spring appearance today. The Yankees have been wildly impressed by Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, now it’s Brackman’s turn. He’s been slowed by a groin injury, and Girardi said the only concern is that he’ll try to do too much to make up for lost time. “We have to make sure we watch that,” Girardi said.

• By the way… Any chance Brackman could eventually pitch his way into the bullpen this year? “I think that’s something you could definitely consider,” Girardi said.

• Phil Hughes, David Phelps and Steve Garrison had sides today.

Available in the bullpen: Dellin Betances, Dave Robertson, Andrew Brackman, Robert Fish, Warner Madrigal, Romulo Sanchez, Daniel Turpen, Brian Anderson and Eric Wordekemper.

Off the bench: C Gustavo Molina, 1B Jose Gil, 2B Kevin Russo, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Brad Suttle, LF Austin Krum, CF Melky Mesa, RF Jordan Paraz.

• There is no backup DH listed, suggesting the Yankees are going to let Posada get a full game of at-bats.

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Late Monday notes: Nunez making his case03.07.11

Given the state of the Yankees rotation, the flurry of swing changes in camp, the emergence of Jesus Montero as a roster favorite and possible resurgence of Eric Chavez, the position battle that’s gone completely overlooked this spring is between Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena for the utility job. The importance of a utility man will be diminished if a big hitter is available to backup at third, but clearly Derek Jeter isn’t going to play 162 games at short. One of these two is going to get fairly regular at-bats.

“I think I have a good chance,” Nunez said. “I’m working hard.”

Nunez and Pena are friends. They seem to be around one another constantly at the Yankees spring training complex, and their lockers are only a few feet apart, but they seem to be jockeying for one spot. The Yankees know what they have in Pena — terrific glove, big league experience, very little offense — but Nunez is something of an unknown with only 50 big league at-bats, and limited experience away from shortstop.

“I am getting more comfortable with Nuney at second,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s an exciting player. The young man has a lot of talent. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.”

This offseason, Nunez spent seven weeks working with Robinson Cano in the Dominican Republic. He said they worked on hitting and general fitness, but Cano also worked with him at second base, including some work on turning a double play. He’s looked pretty good there this spring, and today he hit a three-run homer that brought his spring average up to .286. Pena just picked up his first hit.

• Turns out Greg Golson hurt his rib cage during tonight’s game. “I’m not exactly sure what he did,” Girardi said. “He came in and said it was bothering him.” Doesn’t sound too bad, but the Yankees should know more tomorrow.

• With three more hits this afternoon, Eric Chavez is continuing to make a strong impression on the Yankees. “You could see it right away that he had life, that the ball was jumping off his bat when we first started,” Girardi said. “He looks good to me. I watched him run the bases. There’s nothing that I’m seeing from him that would tell me he’s been hurt the last couple of years. Let’s keep it that way.”

• Andrew Brackman is scheduled to make his spring debut tomorrow.

• Here’s Girardi explaining the Colin Curtis situation: “He’s going to be out a while. I don’t have the exact diagnosis for you yet. He took the MRI today and Dr. Ahmad is going to look at it. My sense is he’s going to be out a while.”

• Rafael Soriano’s spring debut will be either Wednesday or Thursday. He pitched a simulated inning this morning but had to face one extra hitter because he got three outs too quickly.

• Girardi said we could start to see all of the Yankees regulars in the same lineup as soon as Sunday. “We’re getting closer to playing with some different things (with the lineup),” he said. This morning, the Daily News reported that there’s a strong push for Brett Gardner to slide into the leadoff spot.

• When asked about A.J. Burnett’s outing, Girardi cited the exact same at-bat that Burnett talked about this afternoon. “The way he finished getting (Wilson) Valdez,” Girardi said. “Strike after strike after strike, in a 2-2 count, down and away. I was really happy.”

• Four pitchers likely to make the big league roster pitched today (Burnett, Chamberlain, Feliciano and Mitre). They combined for eight scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks. Burnett, Chamberlain and Feliciano carried a perfect game through the fifth inning of this afternoon’s game.

• Mark Prior pitched another scoreless inning in the afternoon game. He’s still an extreme long shot to make the team, but he’s allowed just one hit through three innings. There might still be something left in that arm.

• Sergio Mitre made his first start after two relief outings. He went three innings, having not thrown more than two in either of his previous appearances. Mitre said he felt no fatigue and got better as the game progressed. “I’m trying to make their (rotation) decision as hard as possible,” Mitre said.

• Mitre’s three scoreless innings were also thanks to a terrific throw by Golson, who threw out Mark Reynolds at the plate, making an on-the-fly throw from mid center field. “We saw (his arm) last year,” Mitre said. “It’s a cannon. Saves runs.”

• Curtis Granderson hit his second spring homer, part of a two-hit day. Jorge Posada also had two hits. Of course, those came in today’s first game. The second game was a scoreless tie with four Yankees hits: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Melky Mesa and Damon Sublett. Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell each pitched two scoreless innings in the nightcap, Andy Sisco and Ryan Pope pitched a scoreless inning apiece.

Associated Press photos of Nunez, Granderson and Posada

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Quick notes: Curtis, Brackman, Soriano, Swisher03.07.11

A few very quick notes before tonight’s game.

• Colin Curtis is going to be out for a while. Joe Girardi said there’s no definite diagnosis yet, but he expects Curtis to be out for an extended period of time.

• Andrew Brackman will make his spring debut tomorrow.

• Rafael Soriano threw his second sim game this morning, and he’ll get into a game before the end of the week.

• Nick Swisher tumbled over a railing making a catch this afternoon, but Girardi said he’s fine. Russell Martin is also feeling good after back-to-back starts behind the plate. “It probably felt better today than it did yesterday,” Martin said.

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Monday morning notes: Reinforcements on their way03.07.11

A lot of extra minor leaguers in camp today, helping the Yankees fill their split-squad rosters. All of the additions are position players. There are still enough pitchers in camp to pitch 18 innings and then some.

Right now, CC Sabathia is on the main mound here at Steinbrenner Field, throwing a side session with Larry Rothschild and Mike Harkey watching from the first-base side of the mound. Otherwise, things are pretty quiet leading into the first game of today’s split double header.

• Rafael Soriano and Ivan Nova threw sim games this morning. They faced Bradley Suttle and Jordan Parraz.

• Looks like Andrew Brackman might get into tomorrow’s game. He’s on the travel squad for Tuesday’s game in Orlando.

• Brandon Laird is getting his first outfield playing time of the spring.

• Jesus Montero said his hand feels fine — “Happens all the time,” he said — and he’ll stay in Tampa to catch off the bench in today’s home game.

• I mentioned there are a lot of extra minor leaguers in camp today. The comedy of today was watching some of the reactions when people realized there’s a Krum and Kruml in the Yankees system. Most assumed the L in Kruml was a typo and that Krum was pulling double duty today.

• The Phillies are bringing a solid set of regulars including Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard. Roy Oswalt has the start for Philadelphia.

This afternoon’s home game
vs. Phillies

Available out of the bullpen: Joba Chamberlain, Pedro Feliciano, Hector Noesi, Mark Prior, Luis Ayala, Dave Robertson, Romulo Sanchez and Warner Madrigal (Robertson is backing up today and probably won’t pitch)

Off the Yankees bench: C Jesus Montero, 1B Luke Murton, 2B Corban Joseph, SS Jose Pirella, 3B Bradley Suttle, LF Brandon Laird, CF Ray Kruml, RF Jordan Parraz, DH Gustavo Molina

• Catcher Mitch Abeita and outfielder Neil Medchill will also be with the Yankees in Tampa as backup players off the bench.

Tonight’s road game
vs. Orioles

Available out of the bullpen: Adam Warren, D.J. Mitchell, Andy Sisco, Ryan Pope, Dellin Betances, Robert Fish, Eric Wordekemper and Daniel Turpen

Off the Yankees bench: C Kyle Higashioka, 1B Jose Gil, 2B Kevin Russo, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Addison Maruszak, LF Jack Rye, CF Austin Krum, RF Taylor Grote, DH Damon Sublett

• Catcher J.R. Murphy and utility man Justin Snyder will also make the trip to Sarasota to be available off the bench. Murphy can play multiple positions, but he’s listed as a catcher.

Shane Victorino CF
Placido Polanco 3B
Jimmy Rollins SS
Ryan Howard DH
Ben Francisco RF
Ross Gload 1B
John Mayberry LF
Carlos Ruiz C
Wilson Valdez 2B

RHP Roy Oswalt

Associated Press photo of Derek Jeter warming up before yesterday’s game

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Saturday notes: Sabathia, Soriano, Brackman and Vazquez03.05.11

Let’s just jump straight into the notes this time.

• CC Sabathia allowed five earned runs through 2.2 innings this afternoon. The Yankees other starters — including all four back-of-the-rotation candidates — have combined to allow one earned run through 18 innings.

• To line him up properly, Sabathia will get an extra day of rest at some point this spring, but it won’t come on the scheduled off day March 15. That will be Sabathia’s day to pitch, and rather than have him take a day off to pitch the 16th, Sabathia will throw a simulated game that morning. Joe Girardi actually apologized to the beat writers for making us come to the stadium that day.

• One last Sabathia note: Just in case you were concerned, Sabathia had reached his pitch limit, which is why he came out of the game in the third. He’s not hurt. Probably goes without saying, but had to make sure.

• Rafael Soriano will throw another simulated game on Monday. He could be in a game a few days after.

• Still no set-in-stone plan for Mariano Rivera. “He’s still a little ways away,” Girardi said. “He’s further away than Soriano.”

• Next time Andrew Brackman pitches, it will likely come in an actual game. “We were really pleased with his BP slash simulated game (this morning),” Girardi said. “He threw like 10 pitches of BP, then got three outs pretty quickly.”

• Nice game from Brett Gardner who had a double and a triple as part of that eight-run fourth inning. Both hits were legitimately driven into the corners, one to left field and the other to right. Gardner has three hits this spring, all for extra bases.

• Two more hits, two more RBI and one more double for Jorge Vazquez. It would be an upset if he made the roster — Eric Chavez’s left-handed bat is a better fit on the bench — but he’s forcing the Yankees coaching staff to take notice. “He’s definitely opening eyes,” Girardi said.

• Speaking of which, Chavez had his fourth hit of the spring and is hitting .364. “He’s swung the bat really well,” Girardi said.

• Dave Robertson and Robert Fish were the only Yankees starters to not give up a hit today — Fish went two innings without a hit — and Ryan Pope closed the game with one of the few scoreless innings. “When we made a mistake in the middle of the plate, they hammered it,” Girardi said. “We didn’t get away with anything today.”

• Those pitching problems started with Sabathia, but Joba Chamberlain didn’t do much to help. After cleaning up Sabathia’s mess in the third, Chamberlain was charged with two runs of his own in the fourth. “He threw the ball OK, and then it looked like he made a couple of mistakes with his fastball,” Girardi said. As far as I know, Chamberlain didn’t speak to anyone after the game. It’s not unusual for the big league guys — all but the starting pitcher — to get out of the park quickly as soon as they’re finished.

• The Nationals top overall draft pick Bryce Harper had two at-bats in the game. He grounded to first against Daniel Turpen, then single to right against Romulo Sanchez. “It’s pretty amazing to be 18 years old and be doing what he’s doing,” Girardi said.

• Looking back through Cervelli’s history of spring injuries I found this post from almost exactly one year ago. Funny that, at this time last year, Cervelli was hurt and Girardi immediately dismissed the idea of Jesus Montero making the team. Veteran Mike Rivera was next in line. This year, Montero has become the favorite, and the veteran Gustavo Molina is strictly emergency insurance.

Associated Press photos of Sabathia, Gardner and Montero with Girardi

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Thursday notes: Betances pretty good, even on a bad day03.03.11

The difference between a spring training game and a regular season game was on display in today’s seventh inning. That’s when Dellin Betances got into a bases-loaded, two-out jam and ran the count full against Tim Beckham. When he missed with ball four, the Rays scored their only run of the game.

Debacle of a performance? Not necessarily.

“He got in a little bit of trouble in the end, but that was kind of neat to see,” Joe Girardi said.

Betances was as good as ever through his first five hitters, getting B.J. Upton, Desmond Jennings and Evan Longoria in order in the sixth inning. He started the seventh by striking out Manny Ramirez and Matt Joyce. Those are five pretty good hitters, and the kid got them all.

“After I gave up that two-out double, I felt like I didn’t have a feel for my pitches,” Betances said. “I felt like trying to think too much instead of just throwing the ball, and I got away from what I was doing early on.”

He got a little rattled. It was Casey Kotchman who doubled, then Betances walked two batters to load the bases and send Larry Rothschild to the mound.

“He was just trying to say, don’t try to do too much,” Betances said. “Just put the ball there. He basically told me to change up. Try to throw breaking ball first pitch, and I did. It was just one of those days where I couldn’t find the location after the first inning and two-thirds.”

It wasn’t a bad at-bat against Beckham, but Betances lost the battle and missed a spot. He came close to a strike three pitch at one point but didn’t get the call — I thought it was a ball, but it was close — and ultimately Adam Warren came in to clean up the mess and end the inning with a strikeout. But the game wasn’t a waste for Betances, and the Yankees didn’t seem especially disappointed with the fact he finally struggled in this atmosphere.

“I thought he threw the ball pretty good,” Girardi said.

• The Yankees had Freddy Garcia at 88-89 mph this afternoon, which was seen as a plus for him. “Freddy was good,” Girardi said. “His velocity was good too.”

• Immediately after Garcia, Ivan Nova pitched three scoreless innings. It’s still incredibly early, but those two still feel like favorites for these rotation openings.

• Now that Garcia has thrown, all of the rotation candidates — depending on whether you count Andrew Brackman — have gotten in a game and should be stretched out a little more next time through. “You just want to see them be more crisp,” Girardi said. “Sometimes pitchers in this time of the year will go through a little bit of a dead arm phase. We might have to watch that a little bit. I’m not saying we will, but you just want see them get crisp, their breaking balls be sharper and more consistency.”

• Brackman will throw a simulated game on Saturday.

• Girardi has no concerns about Russell Martin playing with a knee brace tomorrow. “He did his drills with it the other day and I didn’t see it really hinder him,” Girardi said. “I think sometimes you feel a little bit more stable mentally with it as well. You know it’s not going to give out.”

• Greg Golson played for the first time since being hit in the head during live batting practice.

• We should probably get used to seeing Eric Chavez getting time at first base. ” I don’t really have a huge concern about him playing third base,” Girardi said. “I will give him some reps at third base, but you’ll see me play him (at first) more in the spring than at third base. He looks good. He’s looked good. He’s picked Tex’s brain a lot, and Tino’s brain a lot. Some times at drills we’ll have Tino follow him around so they can talk about it. But he looks comfortable.”

• Speaking of Chavez, he had one of only four Yankees hits today. Curtis Granderson, Kevin Russo and Gustavo Molina also singled, but for this wasn’t a good day for offense. “There were some balls hit pretty hard today and I think the wind affected that,” Girardi said.

• Rule 5 pick Robert Fish was brought in to face one lefty, Casey Kotchman, and Fish struck him out. Obviously, Fish is still a long shot for this bullpen, but he did his job today. The other Yankees Rule 5 pick, Daniel Turpen, followed by allowing a single before striking out two.

• D.J. Mitchell wasn’t scheduled to throw until tomorrow, but when the game went into a 10th inning, Mitchell got the call and pitched a scoreless inning.

• Johnny Damon on whether he was close to coming back to the Yankees this winter: “I don’t really think it was close at all. I think they were very happy with their outfield situation and thought Posada was not going to be catching much. It really made it easy as far as their decision and as far as mine. I’m not ready to be a part-time player in this game.”

Associated Press photos of Montero, Nova and Pena; Montero blocked the plate and finished off the play to get an out at the plate in the third inning

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Away from the rain, Jeter does some early work inside03.01.11

Just watched an early batting cage session between Derek Jeter and Kevin Long. Jeter’s look was priceless when he realized a dozen or so reporters were standing in the tunnel watching him swing at a handful of batting practice pitches.

Because of the rain, Long and Jeter can’t do any work on the field, so Long changed gears and will make the trip to Bradenton after all. He just left, and I’m on my way right behind him. It’s pretty wet here in Tampa, but the rain has stopped and the assumption is that the Yankees will play as scheduled.

“We’re going over, so I’m assuming,” Joe Girardi said.

• Phil Hughes will make his first spring start in a stadium that is notoriously hitter friendly because of the strong wind that usually blows out. “The quality of the pitches has to be better,” Girardi said. “To me, it’s a good thing because the focus has to be there.”

• Of course, this is Hughes we’re talking about, so we’ll probably hear quite a bit about his changeup. “I think (the changeup) is important for him to take that next step,” Girardi said.

• According to Girardi, Andrew Brackman will be able to “air it out” today. Assuming that goes well, he’ll take tomorrow off and throw off a mound Thursday.

• Greg Golson will take batting practice today and should play in a game tomorrow.

• Ronnie Belliard is still at least a week away from testing his calf injury.

• The Swish-hawk is no more. Nick Swisher showed up with a shaved head this morning. He said he did it himself.

Scheduled to play off the bench: C Kyle Higashioka, 1B Jorge Vazquez, 2B Kevin Russo, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Bradley Suttle, LF Austin Krum, CF Justin Maxwell, RF Jordan Parraz, DH Gustavo Molina

Available relievers: Dave Robertson, Steve Garrison, Brian Anderson, Andy Sisco, Eric Wordekemper, Ryan Pope, Boone Logan, David Phelps and Hector Noesi

Upcoming rotation:

Wednesday: A.J. Burnett
Thursday: Freddy Garcia
Friday: Bartolo Colon
Saturday: CC Sabathia
Sunday: Phil Hughes
Monday (DH): A.J. Burnett (home), Sergio Mitre (road)
Tuesday: Freddy Garcia

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Wednesday notes: Young pitchers living up to the hype02.23.11

All winter we heard about the Yankees young pitching talent, a series of arms that could help out sooner rather than later. A week and a half into spring training, manager Joe Girardi is sold on both the quantity and the quality.

“I’ve seen a lot of good things this spring, from a lot of the young kids as well,” he said. “I thought Phelps threw pretty well today. Warren. Brackman. All of these kids have thrown the ball extremely well at this point in camp. I’m happy. Very happy… We’ve talked about that we have pitching coming, and I really believe that.”

Today, Girardi was asked specifically quite a bit about Manny Banuelos, largely because Banuelos faced live hitters on the main field, with Girardi watching most of the BP session. Girardi said what he saw “matches up” with what he’d already heard about Banuelos. Right now, Girardi knows what he wants to see out of young pitchers, and Banuelos has shown it.

“Strikes, and good strikes,” Girardi said. “Not just strikes, but good strikes. If they throw a ball where they don’t want to, can they adjust quickly? Say he throws a curveball and leaves it way up, can they adjust and get it where (they want it)? What I’ve seen, he’s pretty good at it.”

That said, the plan remains the same. The Yankees are happy with their pitching depth, but they brought in some rotation options that might buy the kids a little more time to develop.

“You have to be open minded, you have to evaluate,” Girardi said. “But it’s not necessarily what you plan on going in.”

• More evidence that the Yankees take Bartolo Colon seriously as a rotation option: “He’s looked pretty good,” Girardi said. “It’s the Bartolo that I remember: A guy that keeps the ball down, uses his fastball a lot and is able to hit his spots.”

• New lefty Pedro Feliciano is used to pitching 85 to 90 times each year. Last year, no Yankees reliever made more than 73 appearances. Boone Logan, Damaso Marte and Royce Ring combined for fewer appearances than Feliciano made last season. “I talked to him about the way we do things here,” Girardi said. “That I’m not a big proponent of throwing guys three days in a row, so don’t be surprised if I do some things different. He’s important to our bullpen. We have to keep him healthy all year long.”

• Eduardo Nunez and Austin Romine were sent home sick today. “It’s the head cold and the throat,” Girardi said. “We gave them medicine and sent them home. We felt that was the best thing to do.”

• With Andruw Jones, Eric Chavez and Ronnie Belliard, the Yankees have given themselves some options for veteran experience on the bench. And not just experience, but guys who were very good everyday players before settling into supporting roles. “I think it’s great, because you know they know how to play the game,” Girardi said. “You know that situations when they get in that day to play, there’s not going to be an extreme emotional high. They’re going to prepare the way they’ve always prepared. They know the league, they know the ballparks and they know what it takes to be successful.”

• On the other hand, the Yankees have taken notice of Brandon Laird: “He’s obviously proven that he knows how to drive in a run, he knows how to put good at-bats together when guys are on base,” Girardi said. “He’s a guy that you might think about (on the roster).”

• Speaking of which… Charging choppers at third base this morning, Laird might a nice play on a short hop at the edge of the grass. Minor league defensive coordinator Torre Tyson, who was doing the hitting for the defensive drill, said, “You couldn’t get there two years ago.” Laird agreed, said he had no shot at making that play two years ago. He looks pretty good at third these days. Not implying he’s a defensive wizard, but I haven’t seen anything to make me think Laird can’t play the position.

• Didn’t see anything particularly out of the ordinary about defensive positioning during drills today. Ronnie Belliard continued to take some reps at first base, and I did see Brad Suttle go to first base for a while.

• Dave Robertson was the only pitcher I saw throw his batting practice without a protective screen in front of him. Some pitchers just hate having the thing in front of them and feel like it actually causes them to mess with their mechanics (they feel like their arm or the ball is going to hit the screen). Robertson pitched without it, and as soon as he was done, the screen was put back in place for Ivan Nova.

• Didn’t seem serious, but Colin Curtis fouled a ball off his calf and crashed to the dirt. He was hobbling around for a while, and got some ice for it, but he should be fine.

Here’s a must-read Times piece about the relationship between Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry. Four years ago, during my first spring training covering the Yankees organization, Berra was the very first person I saw when I first walked into the Yankees clubhouse.

Associated Press photos: Girardi surrounded by players; Berra with Derek Jeter; Alex Rodriguez laughing during drills

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 156 Comments →

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