Notes from Wednesday • 03.17.10
When the Yankees boarded the bus to Clearwater this morning, the sky was grey and the forecast said a 30 to 50 percent chance of rain. Not great considering Andy Pettitte opened the exhibition schedule with a sim game, then had to pitch another simulated game when his second outing was rained out last week.
By game time, the sky was mostly clear, and Pettitte was able to get on the mound for an encouraging spring training debut: 4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. The walk came on a 3-2 curveball, a pitch Pettitte said he decided to try just to work on it. The first run came when Ryan Howard fought off a pretty good pitch inside.
“I threw a lot of good stuff, a lot of good pitches,” Pettitte said. “My location I thought was fairly good. The balls they hit were just balls that I just didn’t quite finish on a couple of them.”
Here’s Pettitte talking about his outing.
• Damaso Marte said he’s fine after being hit by a Ryan Howard line drive in the lower back. “He’s going to be sore,” Girardi said. “I asked if he had Bud’s signature on there. They said, just seams.”
• Joba Chamberlain threw 47 pitches in the game and another 15 or so in the bullpen. He wasn’t sure how many pitches he threw in the pen, but he said it was three batters worth. Pettitte was at 55 pitches, 36 strikes.
• Since Pettitte and Chamberlain are on the same scheduled, Girardi said there’s a good chance Pettitte’s next start will come in a minor league game so that Chamberlain can start another big league game.
• Girardi said once again that every fifth starter candidate will get at least one more outing before the Yankees start eliminating people from the competition.
• Two hits brought Brett Gardner’s spring average up to .240. Marcus Thames and Randy Winn also had hits today, just the third spring hit for each of them. “Marcus has swung the bat a little bit and run into a little bit of bad luck,” Girardi said. “You want to see everyone get into their groove because as we get going further, there are going to be less at-bats for people.”
• Give some credit to Amaury Sanit. He was easily the smallest-name Yankees pitcher in this game, but he did throw a hitless, walkless inning with two strikeouts. He hasn’t walked a batter or allowed a run through 3.2 spring innings.
• Three hits for Francisco Cervelli, who’s suddenly batting .583 this spring. That sort of number makes that goofy helmet look good on him. Jon Weber also had another hit. He’s batting .571. Cervelli and Weber have the highest batting averages in camp.
• None of the fifth starter candidates will pitch tomorrow night against the Rays. “We’re going to see some relievers,” Girardi said. Javier Vazquez will start. Chan Ho Park and Dave Robertson are among those scheduled to pitch in relief.
• Split-squad on Friday. CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera will pitch at home. Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre will pitch on the road. The Yankees still haven’t decided when Alfredo Aceves will pitch next. He might pitch in relief of Sabathia on Friday, or he might start on Saturday.
• Recently discovered that I’m allowed to post Associated Press photos on here. It’s very helpful. That’s an AP shot of Pettitte at the top and of Marte in the middle.
Even better than the results • 03.17.10
Damaso Marte is fine. After being drilled by a Ryan Howard line drive, he has a bruise on his lower back but was already going through exercises within a few innings of leaving the game. Joe Girardi said he’s not sure Marte will make his next scheduled appearance on Friday, but he’s not concerned about any lasting impact.
The story of the day, obviously, was Joba Chamberlain. The Yankees lost 6-2, but that hardly mattered because Chamberlain closed the game with four strong innings. Even then, he was at such a low pitch count that he pitched to an additional three simulated hitters in the bullpen.
Chamberlain allowed two hits, walked one and struck out five. Only three strikeouts will show up in the box score and in his spring stats because Chamberlain’s 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth came after the game was official, but the Yankees are well aware of exactly how well he pitched. They’ve said the spring training results are starting to matter, and Chamberlain was even better than the results.
“Outstanding,” Joe Girardi said. “Worked quickly. Attacked the zone. He’s got to go out and throw more, and that’s what you want to see. Quality.”
Here’s Chamberlain talking about his outing.
Chamberlain trying to get back on track • 03.17.10
Phil Hughes seemed to raise the bar with his four scoreless innings on Tuesday. This afternoon, Joba Chamberlain has to keep pace against the Phillies. It will be Chamberlain’s third outing of the spring, and it needs to be better than his first two.
“I told him, just pitch. Do what you have to do,” Joe Girardi said. “We’re not expecting you to work on things any more. We’re expecting you to compete. Show us what you’ve got.”
Despite the fact Chamberlain opened last season in the bullpen, Girardi said he never considered the fifth-starter role to be Chamberlain’s to lose. Girardi said he wouldn’t rule out sending Chamberlain to Triple-A, but it remains more likely Chamberlain will end up in the bullpen if he’s not in the big league rotation.
“I believe he really wants to start,” Girardi said. “For him, he knows this is the time you really have to show us something.”
Here’s Girardi’s morning media session.
• Clearly the most important thing that happened this morning was that Brett Gardner showed up with his hair cut short again. He said his hair was the longest it had been since 2001. That’s him with Posada in the AP photo.
• Girardi told all of the starters that they no longer have to work on things. They can simply pitch for results, but Phil Hughes still used his changeup in key spots last night. “It shows me that he has confidence in it,” Girardi said.
• The pitching plan is the same as yesterday except with different names: Andy Pettitte for four innings, then Damaso Marte for one, then Chamberlain for four. Royce Ring, Amaury Sanit and Ryan Pope are also available.
• Brandon Laird has a sore elbow, but it doesn’t sound serious. “He’s not going to play for a couple of days,” Girardi said.
• Jason Hirsh threw in the bullpen this morning.
• Scheduled to play off the bench: C Mike Rivera, 1B Juan Miranda, 2B Reegie Corona, SS Eduardo Nunez, 3B Jorge Vazquez, LF Jamie Hoffmann, CF Reid Gorecki, RF David Winfree, DH Jon Weber.
• Scheduled Phillies pitchers: RHP Joe Blanton, RHP Jose Contreras, LHP Sergio Escalona, RHP Chad Durbin, RHP David Herndon.
• Top Phillies prospect Domonic Brown was sent to minor league camp yesterday, so you won’t see him this afternoon.
• The Phillies elected not to use a designated hitter, but the Yankees will use one. Cody Ransom is starting at third for the Phillies.
• The Phillies lineup:
Jimmy Rollins SS
Shane Victorino CF
Jayson Werth RF
Ryan Howard 1B
Ben Francisco LF
Cody Ransom 3B
Juan Castro 2B
Carlos Ruiz C
Joe Blanton P
UPDATE, 11:22 a.m.: Yikes. Just saw my mistake in the Yankees lineup. Brett Gardner is leading off and playing center field. Sorry about that. I posted the lineup from my phone in the clubhouse, then drove to Clearwater and started working on this notes post before checking the comments of the previous post. I guess I’d gotten used to putting Jeter’s name at the top.
Towers officially joins Yankees • 03.16.10
In what I guess would be called his introductory press conference, Kevin Towers sat right next to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman in the home dugout here at George M. Steinbrenner Field. The two spoke for about 10 minutes about Towers’ new role as special assignment scout.
“Everybody knows that Kevin and I are the best of friends,” Cashman said. “But I’m not in the business of hiring friends. This is all about business. I’ve got a lot of friends, I just don’t hire all of them. He’s here for professional reasons, to make us better.”
Towers was fired by the San Diego Padres last year, but he has a great reputation for his baseball mind and his scouting eye. He will cover both professional and amateur scouting for the Yankees, and Cashman said he wouldn’t rule out sending him for some international trips.
“It will be a different pool of players that I’ll be focusing on,” Towers said. “In San Diego, the months of November and December for me were trade months. We just weren’t able to be real competitive in the free agent market. Our free agent season was usually late February, who was left over. If anything, I might be able to bring to Cash and his staff here, there is probably a pool of players I focused on that maybe they didn’t focus on. Might be able to find a diamond in the rough.”
Here’s the entire session, with Cashman speaking first, then Towers, then some back and forth between the two.
Next up: The real lineup • 03.14.10
Joe Girardi never said it explicitly, but he gave plenty of hints about his preliminary opening day lineup, and we’ll see it in action on Tuesday.
“Obviously you have an inclination going in, what you think it might be,” Girardi said. “We’re doing some things to move guys around, but Tuesday is going to be pretty close to what it’s going to be, probably.”
We already know Derek Jeter will be leading off, with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez batting third and fourth. Yesterday, Girardi indicated a strong preference for Nick Johnson in the No. 2 hole.
“If you’re going to hit a left-hander fifth, you prefer to have a switch-hitter sixth,” Girardi said. “Then maybe another left-hander seventh, and then a switch-hitter eighth, and then maybe another left-hander.”
Which left-hander will be batting fifth?
“That’s probably where (Cano) will be Tuesday,” he said.
Sounds like this is the lineup the Yankees are leaning toward. Things can change in the final three weeks of spring training — Girardi was careful to say that several times — but this should be the lineup that “could really resemble” the opening day lineup.
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Johnson DH
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada C
Curtis Granderson CF/LF
Nick Swisher RF
Brett Gardner LF/CF
Here’s the Girardi audio. It’s primarily about the lineup, and Cano in particular. It’s from this morning, so there are no game details.
Notes from Saturday • 03.13.10
It remains difficult for me to believe that the Yankees fifth starter won’t be either Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, but Alfredo Aceves is making a strong case early in spring training.
Through 10 innings he’s allowed one run, and that came on today’s solo homer. He has otherwise allowed just two hits — one of them an infield single — while walking none and striking out five. We’re talking about 10 innings, so the sample size is very small and a lot can change between now and April 1, but Aceves has been terrific.
“It’s been impressive,” Joe Girardi said. “It has been because of the different things he’s able to do with the baseball. Change speeds. Movement. Late movement. Pitch up, down. Change eye level. Change in and out. He can do all of those things.”
Aceves said he’s not paying attention to what the other rotation candidates are doing and he quickly pointed out that there are still 20 games to play. It’s very, very early to start thinking about April 4, but give credit where it’s due.
Here’s Girardi, giving a lot of that due credit.
• Sounds very much like Girardi is leaning toward Nick Johnson as the No. 2 hitter. “Nick really fits that bill being the on-base percentage guy,” Girardi said. “But we have to look at how the whole lineup works. When you look at what Nick does, he really fits that area.”
• I believe Curtis Granderson had to make three plays in left field today. One of them was a pretty tough running catch near the stands. “It was a tough wind and sun day,” Girardi said. “It wasn’t an easy day to play left field so I thought he looked good.”
• Boone Logan pitched another hitless inning that included two lefties. Royce Ring also pitched a scoreless inning of relief and Dave Robertson struck out the side in his inning.
• Good day for the big league regulars: Jorge Posada had three hits, Nick Johnson, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira had two each, and Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner each had one.
• Francisco Cervelli went 2-for-3 in his return from a concussion. He had a hit in his first at-bat since getting hit in the head a week ago.
• Aside from pitchers and catchers, it’s pretty rare that young guys get to stay home for a spring training road trip, so Ramiro Pena was pretty excited to look at the list for tomorrow and find his name did not have a circle around it. Other position players not going on tomorrow’s trip: P.J. Pilittere, Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Jamie Hoffmann. Originally, Teixeira was making the trip and Juan Miranda was getting the day off, but that has since swapped with Miranda going and Teixeira staying.
• Pitchers making the trip: CC Sabathia, Jonathan Albaladejo, Zach McAllister, Mark Melancon, Dustin Moseley and Ivan Nova.
• The Pirates starter tomorrow is right-hander Charlie Morton.
Pettitte no-hits the Phillies • 03.12.10
Andy Pettitte wasn’t going through the motions this afternoon. He was going through the Philadelphia Phillies. During his three-inning simulated game in the indoor cage at Steinbrenner Field, pitching coach Dave Eiland called balls and strikes while Pettitte acted as if he were facing the Phillies lineup.
“I didn’t give up a hit in three innings,” Pettitte said. “Unfortunately, this is what we had to do. I got my normal warm-up in, and then I got all of my throws in. And I’m tired. That was the biggest thing, I just wanted to make sure I’m good and fatigued. Obviously I would have loved to have faced hitters, but the way the weather’s been, I just had to get my work in here today.”
Eiland forced Pettitte into various game situations, occasionally calling a foul ball instead of a strike three. When Pettitte finished with his 50 pitches, he was sweating. Maybe he wasn’t exhausted, but he’d certainly been working.
“You’re trying to challenge him,” Eiland said. “You’re also trying to get his pitch count up. You don’t want to just call balls and strikes, you want to make it kind of game-like. He may throw a pitch in a certain count that might get a swing, but I’m not going to give it to him. You have to make it a challenge. It can’t be a go-through-the-motions thing.”
Pettitte chose the Phillies because that’s who he’ll face on Wednesday in his spring training debut. Twelve years ago, such a late spring training debut might have worried him, but not today.
“I’m just at a stage where, emotionally, I’m not going to get overwhelmed when I’m in a regular game,” Pettitte said. “It’s not going to change that much.”
Here’s Pettitte speaking roughly 60 seconds after his final pitch.
Wrapping it up from Lakeland • 03.10.10
Say what you want about Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes, but the most interesting thing I saw all afternoon was the catch that Curtis Granderson made on Miguel Cabrera in the fourth inning.
I know that the defensive value of Granderson vs. Brett Gardner is a hot debate, but when Granderson went back – all the way back – to the wall to catch Cabrera’s 410-foot laser, it was something to see. I’ve always been fascinated by the over-the-shoulder catch, mostly because I think it’s amazing that outfielders are able to see the ball, then look away to run, then turn around and find the ball again. Granderson said the keys to the play are getting a good jump and, even more, listening the other outfielders.
On that play, Gardner and Marcus Thames both began by screaming at Granderson to go back – since they’re on an angle, they can see just how deep the ball is hit – and then, as he approached the wall, they both shouted to let him know that he had just enough room to make the catch without worrying about hitting the wall. As it turned out, he finished about one stride away from the fence. Perfect.
“That’s one of those things where everything has to go right,” Granderson said. “It’s a play that’s hard to practice.”
Take a listen to the audio. It’s pretty interesting to hear just what goes into making a grab like that.
That’s it from here. I’m headed back through the traffic to Tampa. Thanks to everyone for reading today.
Here’s why you don’t get caught up in stats • 03.10.10
Joe Girardi has been saying all spring that he’s not going to focus on statistics when it comes time to decide on the fifth starter. There are other things at work, Girardi says, and not all of them are obvious to the average fan. Here’s an example:
Joba Chamberlain has been told work on getting his pitches in on hitters, particularly right-handers. In his meltdown inning this afternoon, Chamberlain tried to come inside to Austin Jackson and watched Jackson hit a single. Then he tried to come in on Ryan Raburn – another single. Then, a few batters later, he tried to come in on Gerald Laird – grand slam to left and his stat line was suddenly disastrous.
Phil Hughes? He’s been told to work on his change-up. While facing Raburn in the fourth inning today, Hughes was in a 1-1 count. Instead of throwing a cutter (which is what he said he might normally do), Hughes threw two change-ups, both of which missed the plate. Now in a 3-and-1 hole, he had to come over with a fastball that Raburn crushed over the left-field fence.
In both cases, the end results are ugly. But in both cases, the Yankees know that their pitchers were following instructions and trying make themselves better in the long run. Talking about Hughes and his change-up, Girardi said, “I think it comes down to, ‘Does he trust what we’re saying?’ And I think he does.”
My personal opinion is that, regardless of whether it’s based on results or something else, Hughes is firmly in the lead for the fifth starter job. I think the Yankees want him to be a starter long-term and, to this point, he hasn’t done anything that would cost him the spot. Either way, the Yankees are looking at both Chamberlain and Hughes as important pieces for their future – which is why they’re paying attention to a lot more than just the final spring training statistics.
If you’re interested in more from Hughes and Chamberlain, check out some of the audio below.
And here’s Chamberlain:
A little deja vu for CC • 03.09.10
In his second start of last year’s spring training, CC Sabathia got knocked around by the Tigers over in Lakeland. The line was ugly: 1 2/3 innings, six hits, five runs, one day that Sabathia would have liked to forget.
This afternoon – in his second start of this year’s spring training – Sabathia had a similar experience. This time it was the Pirates roughing him up, torching him for five runs and seven hits in 2 1/3 innings. Afterward, Sabathia was realistic – this is spring training after all – but also not particularly happy.
“Everything was up – belt-high and above. It’s pretty easy to hit when it’s like that,” Sabathia said. “I always say results don’t matter until I give up eight runs in two innings to the Pirates.”
But wait, one writer said, you only gave up five runs. “It should have been eight,” Sabathia replied.
The problem, Dave Eiland told Sabathia, is that he was collapsing on his back leg during his delivery, which flattens out his pitches and really affects his off-speed and breaking balls. Considering how Sabathia reacted to last year’s Lakeland disaster – his regular-season was pretty good, no? – Joe Girardi isn’t particularly concerned.
“Every once in a while, you’re going to have a bad day,” Girardi said.
Sabathia’s audio is pretty interesting. Take a listen below.