This is worth mentioning one more time at the end of the day.
Yankees reliever Dave Robertson spent his off day back home in Alabama checking on the devastation left by the tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa last month. Not sure who he was able to see or what exactly he was able to do, but I know he was hoping to talk to some people and find out how and where he could be of the most help.
I’ve written before that I grew up in an area that had a lot of tornados, and the difference between being hit and being spared is absolute luck. There’s no way today was fun for Robertson, but when I saw him at Yankee Stadium earlier this week, I told him to try to enjoy the experience. Seeing his hometown had to be horrific, but Robertson and his wife, Erin, are genuinely good people, and they’re doing a really good thing to help some people who need it. I hope they were able to feel good about that part of their day, and maybe smile a few times because of it.
“It’s way worse than I thought it was,” Robertson told the Tuscaloosa News. “You can hear about it and see it on TV, but it’s not the same as being here. It’s total devastation.”
If you’d like to donate, visit the website for The David and Erin Robertson Fund. I wrote my check this morning before I left for the airport.
By the way, whoever came up with the name “High Socks for Hope” should know that I’m pretty sure I put an extra 50 bucks into my donation because of that name alone.
• This is a few days old, but I think the premise still stands: David Schoenfield at ESPN.com made the case that Jorge Posada is among the 10-12 greatest catchers of all-time, but ultimately decided that he’s just short of being a Hall of Famer.
• Donnie Collins reported tonight that the Yankees have released left-handed reliever Andy Sisco. He must have requested his release. He was pitching pretty well in Triple-A, but with Randy Flores onboard, Sisco’s role was pretty much non-existent. The team put him on the DL when Amauri Sanit was optioned down.
• Nice story from Donnie about Triple-A outfielder Dan Brewer. I’ve written a little bit about Brewer in the past. He’s just a guy who does a lot of things right.
• After Buster Posey’s injury, the Giants called up former Yankees catcher Chris Stewart. He never got much big league time with the Yankees, but Stewart’s a very good defensive catcher with enough big league experience to help San Francisco off the bench. Those Scranton Yankees teams I covered were very good, and it’s impossible to overstate just how important Stewart was. You won’t notice it in the stats, but I’m telling you, he was key in that clubhouse.
• Because I was flying for several hours today, I wrote most of today’s posts last night. When I finally got to Seattle, I saw that one of those posts was really similar to a post from the guys from River Ave. Blues. Just wanted to throw a link their way. Sorry guys, didn’t mean to make it look like I was ripping you off!
• Finally, a quick personal note: Last night, a former Scranton Times-Tribune co-worker of mine passed away, a sudden and shocking death really makes me wish I could be back in Pennsylvania tonight to share in all the stories that are surely being told around the newsroom. Mark Coons was a constant reminder that sports are fun, and that even the smallest details are exciting. He loved stats, and he loved history, and he loved being a part of that sports department. And we loved having him with us. God bless you, Mark. And thank you.
Associated Press photos
A few short minor league notes • 05.04.11
A few quick minor league notes this late morning. Don’t forget, we’re doing a chat at 2:30 this afternoon.
• Two injuries to players on the 40-man roster: Greg Golson is on the Triple-A disabled list with a hamstring injury, and Steve Garrison could be headed for the Double-A disabled list after groin pull.
• Two other Triple-A injuries that seem fairly minor: Chris Dickerson has missed three straight games with a neck injury. He would have missed a fourth if not for a rain out last night. Ramiro Pena was out of last night’s lineup with a sore foot.
• Three non-40-man pitchers to keep an eye on: George Kontos (two runs in his past 15.1 innings as Scranton’s long man), Kevin Whelan (much improved control to go with only two hits allowed in past 10.2 innings as Scranton’s closer) and Andy Sisco (still no earned runs with four hits allowed through 10.1 innings as Scranton’s bullpen lefty).
• The Associated Press reports that the Yankees have signed Brad Halsey to a minor league deal and sent him to extended spring.
• He’s still a long, long way from the big leagues, but Slade Heathcott is hitting .351/.436/.574 through 94 at-bats in Charleston. Have to think he’ll be in Tampa around mid-season or so, maybe sooner if he keeps this up. JR Murphy is also really hitting in Charleston (.316/.340/.490) but Gary Sanchez is not (.200/.238/.293).
The Yankees will make their first minor league call-up today. Luis Ayala is going on the disabled list, and Enrique Rojas reports that Hector Noesi will be the replacement in the Yankees bullpen.
There weren’t many options for the Yankees to choose from, but Noesi makes good sense. He last pitched on Saturday, made three Triple-A starts last season and made his way into Baseball America’s top 10 Yankees prospects this season. Highly touted for his command, Noesi walked 28 batters in 160.1 innings last year.
As a minor league planning bonus, calling up Noesi would open a Triple-A rotation spot for Kevin Millwood.
All other 40-man pitchers came with obvious reasons not to call them up.
Dellin Betances: In Double-A. Seems unlikely he’d jump all the way to New York.
Andrew Brackman: Started for Scranton yesterday. Wouldn’t be immediately available.
Steve Garrison: Started for Trenton yesterday. Also would not be immediately available.
Jose Ortegano: On the Triple-A disabled list.
Ryan Pope: On the Triple-A disabled list.
Of the pitchers not on the 40-man, the only one who jumped out at me as a strong option was lefty Andy Sisco. I thought he might make sense as a second lefty who could pitch multiple innings. He’s pitched three innings in Triple-A this season, allowing no hits and one walk while striking out four. His last outing was two innings, he was effective — but wild — in big league camp, and he has 151 games of big league experience.
Then again, the Yankees would have needed to open a 40-man spot for Sisco, and unless today’s MRI on Pedro Feliciano shows a serious problem, there wouldn’t be an easy or obvious way to create an opening.
Mark Prior is all alone in one corner of the Yankees clubhouse. All around him are empty lockers, most of them cleared out this morning through the Yankees first round of cuts.
Prior’s neighbor, Neal Cotts, didn’t make it through the first week of camp. The next three lockers in his row belonged to Buddy Carlyle, Brian Anderson and Andy Sisco but they’re all gone now. In the middle of the clubhouse, empty lockers belonging to Adam Warren, David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell are clustered together.
There seems to have been a bit of a system to the first round of cuts. Of the pitcher in camp on a minor league deals, only Warner Madrigal — who’s dealt with an injury — has fewer innings than Carlyle, Anderson and Sisco. Those three weren’t pitching much anyway. The other four cuts were minor league starters — Phelps, Mitchell, Warren and Hector Noesi — who just pitched either Friday or Saturday. They won’t pitch again for a few days, and with the big league starters stretched out to four-plus innings, it was becoming difficult to get those four stretched out as well.
Still waiting for word on whether any of the seven cuts were released. The assumption is that all seven were simply reassigned (or optioned) to minor league camp.
• The only minor league starters still in big league camp are Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos (and maybe Steve Garrison, depending on how the Yankees plan to use him this season). Might not be long before the Yankees have to send some of the Killer Bs down as well to give them innings.
• Banuelos turns 20 years old today. He’s the youngest guy in camp.
• Combined spring numbers for Mitchell and Warren: 8 G, 10.2 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 10 K, 2.53 ERA. Mitchell walked no one. Warren allowed just one earned run.
• Sisco didn’t allow a hit in big league camp, but he did walk four through 3.1 innings.
• Greg Golson said he’s still not able to do much with that oblique injury. He said it feels better day after day, but he’s not able to swing or doing any real baseball activity until it’s back to 100 percent. “Whenever this thing lets me,” he said.
• Today’s sides: Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, Pedro Feliciano, Mitchell and Phelps.
• Mariano Rivera will make his spring training debut this afternoon against the Twins. We’ll see a lot of the regular Yankees bullpen, with Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain and Dave Robertson also scheduled to pitch. None of the big league relievers is scheduled to make tomorrow’s trip to Fort Myers (except starter Sergio Mitre).
• Minor league utility man Justin Snyder is on the list of players making tomorrow’s trip to play the Red Sox. The Yankees are taking their regular outfielders, but none of the other everyday guys.
• Available in the bullpen today: Rivera, Soriano, Chamberlain, Robertson, Brackman, Romulo Sanchez, Steve Garrison, Ryan Pope, Eric Wordekemper and Dellin Betances. Everyone after Brackman seems to be a backup.
• Off the bench: C Gustavo Molina, 1B Eric Chavez, 2B Ronnie Belliard, SS Eduardo Nunez, 3B Kevin Russo, LF Melky Mesa, CF Austin Krum, RF Daniel Brewer and DH Kyle Higashioka.
• Tomorrow’s travelers today: Tomorrow the Yankees have their second long road trip in three days. They’ll travel to Fort Myers to play the Red Sox before an off day Tuesday. There will be a workout at the stadium in Tampa on Monday afternoon before the bus leaves.
Pitchers who will be making the trip: Sergio Mitre, Luis Ayala, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, Steve Garrison, Ryan Pope, Mark Prior, Romulo Sanchez and Eric Wordekemper.
Players who will not be making the trip: Francisco Cervelli, Russell Martin, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Eric Chavez, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Colin Curtis, Greg Golson and Andruw Jones.
Before the spring schedule started, it was Andrew Brackman who seemed to grab the attention in Yankees camp with his improved command and impressive bullpens. When the spring schedule started, it was Dellin Betances who stole the show with a three-strikeout inning in the second game. Today it was Manny Banuelos who generated some high praise from his teammates and manager, rolling through three big league hitters in a 1-2-3 inning.
“That’s what they want and I did it,” Banuelos said.
The curveball was a dominant pitch this afternoon — “That was breaking really, really good,” Banuelos said — and he used it for two strikeouts, but Banuelos also generated a ground out with his changeup, and his fastball was sitting at 93 mph.
It’s easy to see why the Yankees are excited about their Killer Bs, and it’s easy to understand why some on the outside the organization want to push those three to New York, but the Yankees aren’t going to rush. Just enjoy this for what it is: A small window into the future, and an early indication that the new Big Three just might live up to the hype.
“If they want to send me to Trenton, it’s OK, I just want to try to move up quickly,” Banuelos said. “… I just want to show all the things I can do. I want to show them I can do the work. I can do my job.”
Here’s Banuelos speaking after today’s game.
And here are a few late-night links:
• Brian Cashman told Wally Matthews that the Yankees aren’t engaged in any trade talks. They specifically are not in talks for Francisco Liriano.
• Matt Eddy says the Yankees released Andy Sisco and then re-signed him, which sort of explains the conflicting reports about the big lefty. Sisco is certainly still in camp, and I guess that’s all that matters.
• Apparently Javier Vazquez’s fastball is at 88 mph for the Marlins. As the Yankees know, that’s actually not the worst-case scenario with him (hat tip to MLBTradeRumors).
• Speaking of former Yankees pitchers: Rule 5 pick Lance Pendleton threw a scoreless inning in an otherwise horribly pitched game for the Astros. It was Houston’s spring opener. George Kontos has not pitched in a game for the Padres, but he apparently made a solid impression in the early days of camp.
• If you want to delve into the mind of Phil Coke, here ya go. Fair warning, the mind of Phil Coke is a very random place to be.
Sitting at his familiar locker in the back corner of the Yankees clubhouse, Jorge Posada seemed to be at ease with his new role. He did not appear agitated or frustrated (and Posada has rarely been one to hide his agitation or frustration).
“I think knowing before spring training started that you’re going to be a DH, I think that helped me a little bit,” he said. “That mentality has changed for me a little bit.”
When he got the news this winter, Posada didn’t want to hear it. In the months since, Posada’s feelings seem to have settled. I’m sure there’s still a part of him that wants to catch everything — and thinks he could catch every day — but at 39 years old, Posada recognizes several truths: It’s been three years since he had 400 at-bats, he’s entering the last year of his contract, and the Yankees have plenty of young catchers on the verge.
“I don’t know (what happens after this season),” he said. “A lot has to do with this year. How I feel this year, how I come out after this season. I would like to stay healthy. I think DHing will help me. After the season, see how my body responded the whole year and how I feel after the season and make the decision then. I’m happy with everything that’s gone on.”
Posada has reached out to Edgar Martinez for advice but hasn’t been able to reach him. He said he’ll try to find a routine this summer — Joe Girardi suggested occasional catching drills in the cage during the game — and he’ll pick the brain of any veteran DH the Yankees play against along the way.
As for the physical and mental toll of catching 130-plus games season after season?
“I wouldn’t have done it any other way,” Posada said.
Here’s audio from Posada. That weird sound at the beginning is Posada taping a bat.
• Assuming he does come back for another season, Posada said he can’t imagine playing for any other team. “I really can’t,” he said. “After the year it will be really tough to look somewhere else. We’ll see. If I want to play, I would like to stay here.”
• Joe Girardi indicated that he’d like to give Posada a few spring games at catcher, but that’s not a sure thing. “I think anyone would like to have reps if the possibility is going to occur during he course of the season,” Girardi said. “We’ll just see how he’s doing and make some judgment calls as we go.” Clearly Girardi wants Posada to get most of his spring at-bats as a DH so he can adjust to the role.
• Speaking of the catcher position, Girardi and Brian Cashman were both encouraged by what they saw out of Jesus Montero in the bullpen today. “I think he sits more comfortable,” Girardi said. “I think his hands work better. He’s in outstanding shape. We’ll see as spring training goes along, we’ll get a chance to see him do everything, but he just looks more comfortable (than last spring).”
• Larry Rothschild spoke quite a bit about A.J. Burnett this afternoon — more on that later — but he also touched on Joba Chamberlain. “Really, for him, it’s getting the ball downhill, creating the angle so it’s not flattening out going up to the plate,” Rothschild said. “I think that will help the slider. Pretty much, I think it’s that simple.”
• Most of the guys who threw bullpens today were around 25 pitches, all fastballs.
• Although the Yankees still want to take things slowly with Russell Martin, Cashman said the Yankees are not really worried about him. There’s just some stiffness in his surgically repaired knee. Nothing major, just enough for the Yankees to move with caution.
• Brett Gardner was in camp today. He said he’s allowed to be here ahead of the other position players because he’s doing rehab work. The wrist, though, feels good. He’s been able to throw and hit with no problems. “I’m ready to roll,” he said. “I feel good, man.”
• By the way, Gardner had a series of trips planned for this winter, but had to cancel all of them because of the wrist injury. I told him I went skiing this winter. Gardner said he went once in high school but won’t go again until he’s finished playing. The reason? He broke his wrist that day.
• Spent a little bit of time talking to Rule 5 pick Robert Fish today. He said this is his first big league camp — he was never in big league camp with the Angels — and he was surprised at just how hard the Yankees worked on Day 1. This was no light day.
• Speaking of the Rule 5 picks, Fish and Daniel Turpen are pretty big guys, but the biggest new guy in camp is easily Andy Sisco. He looks a little bit like Shelley Duncan, but even bigger. If he decided to attack Manny Banuelos, poor Manny would never have a chance.
Associated Press photos of Posada with Francisco Cervelli; Mark Prior crouched after sprints; and Martin going through catching drills
Derek Jeter and A.J. Burnett need to bounce back. Phil Hughes and Brett Gardner need to keep moving forward. CC Sabathia needs to stay healthy, Mariano Rivera needs to keep defying father time and the Yankees need to find a couple of starting pitchers from a pile of unknowns.
The spring performance of Daniel Brewer is nowhere near the list of Yankees concerns this spring. I get that.
But I can’t help myself.
I’ve always liked seeing players who were fighting to get themselves on the radar. Even if they’re fighting for nothing more than the last spot on the bench or a role in the September bullpen, the non-roster invites are an interesting lot. You might forget about them completely by this time next year, but right now, you just never know.
Eric Chavez and Mark Prior
Just trying to stay healthy
Of all the veterans invited to big league camp, it’s rotation candidates Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia who have the most important challenge ahead of them. But the most intriguing challenge might belong to Chavez and Prior, once very good big leaguers whose careers were torn apart by injuries. It’s impossible to ignore these two, even if they are fighting for bit roles on the bench and in the bullpen.
A rising star
Manny Banuelos is generally considered a Top 50 minor league talent. David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell finished last season in Triple-A. It’s natural that those non-roster invites would generate some attention. What’s surprised me this offseason is how often Warren’s name has been mentioned. Not that I doubt his talent — the numbers paint a pretty compelling picture — but Warren has only 10 games of Double-A experience. Is that really enough to put himself in the mix for a big league spot?
A hitter who can catch, or a catcher who can hit?
It’s kind of ridiculous to include Montero on this list because everyone is going to be paying attention to him. He had a very real chance to be the Yankees Opening Day catcher until Russell Martin signed this winter. Instead, he’s coming to camp as something of a long shot — Francisco Cervelli probably has a leg up on the backup role — but Montero will have a chance to force the Yankees hand and convince them that another year in Triple-A would be a waste of time. It’s impossible to ignore huge talent that’s knocking on the door, and Montero might knock that door of its hinges.
Outfielder turned reliever
What’s not to like about this story? Once considered among the top center field prospects in baseball, Anderson got some time in the big leagues, couldn’t hit, and moved to the mound for the first time since high school. Now he’s trying to establish himself all over again. I have no idea whether it will work, but it will be interesting to see him try. Plus, the guy is one of Shelley Duncan’s good friends. What’s not to like?
A prospect on the verge
Brewer reminds me a little bit of what Colin Curtis was last spring: Not on the 40-man, and not a big-name prospect, but a guy who does enough things well that he couldn’t play himself into a big league role at some point this season. Working against Brewer is the fact the 40-man is loaded with similar outfield options — Curtis, Justin Maxwell and Greg Golson — but if Brewer builds on last season and one of those three takes a step back, the Yankees could have another outfielder to consider if/when a mid-season hole presents itself.
Jorge Vazquez — The power is real. Is everything else ready for the big leagues?
Manny Banuelos — Youngest guy in camp, and arguably the best young arm in the system.
Neal Cotts and Andy Sisco — They’ve been to the big leagues before, and lefties always have a chance to open some eyes and get another shot.
Austin Romine — How would you feel if you were one of the 10 best catching prospects in baseball and were still completely overshadowed in your own organization?
Doug Bernier — He hit .181 in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre two years ago and the Yankees still brought him back. Tells you how good he is with the glove.