The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Three pictures worth a thousand words09.27.11

The Yankees passed along some professional photos of last night’s rookie hazing. It’s rare that every single outfit is hilarious, but these were pretty good selections. Whoever made the decision to make the two tall guys Milli Vanilli … bravo! At one point, Jesus Montero was trying to dance like MC Hammer, and pictures will never fully explain just how hilarious it was to watch Austin Romine try to figure out how to get his costume on.

Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances as Milli Vanilli
Brandon Laird as Slash
Hector Noesi as Prince
Austin Romine as Madonna
George Kontos as George Michael
Jesus Montero as MC Hammer

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 341 Comments →

Postgame notes: Hughes to the bullpen for the postseason09.26.11

I’m leaving for the airport in four hours, so I’m going to try to make this quick.

After 14 innings that left the Yankees oh-so-close to a doubleheader sweep, the biggest postgame news involved a player who had nothing to do with either of today’s games.

Joe Girardi announced that Phil Hughes will be moved immediately to the bullpen, and the plan is to leave him there into the postseason.

That’s what we’re going to load at during the playoffs,” Girardi said. “That’s how we’re going to look at him.”

Hughes was informed of the decision in between today’s games. He admitted being disappointed, but also recognized that, because he hasn’t pitched since September 12, the Yankees couldn’t be completely confident that he could be counted on as a starter.

“I did it to myself,” he said. “I had the back issue coming off a good start in Seattle, so therefore I didn’t have an opportunity to pitch. They had to make a decision… I’ve done it before. Just go down there and look to help out any way I can.”

Here’s Hughes talking very briefly about the move to the pen.

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• One of the looming questions throughout tonight’s game was why veterans Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Andruw Jones were never given a chance to pinch hit in key situations. “To me it’s not the right thing to do,” Girardi said. “Their bodies were shutdown since 4 o’clock.” Girardi said he was worried someone might pull something trying to get ready in a hurry, and it wasn’t worth the risk.

• The Yankees rotation against Tampa Bay:

Monday: Hector Noesi
Tuesday: Bartolo Colon
Wednesday: TBA

• Girardi when asked who he’s considering to start Wednesday: “It might be a bullpen day.”

• Girardi was ejected for arguing with first-base umpire Tim McClelland in the 13th inning. McClelland had clearly blown a call at first base, and Nick Swisher — playing first at the time — had gotten into a short argument. “I thought he went at Swish, and I didn’t think that was right,” Girardi said.

• Francisco Cervelli had another concussion test today and was cleared to travel with the team to Tampa. Girardi said he might catch a bullpen this week.

• Austin Romine was hit in the head by a back swing, but he said he’s fine. “I got smacked around a couple of time,” he said. “My head’s fine. I’ve been hit before.”

• Romine on his tag at the plate when Pedroia tried to fly over him: “I’ve never seen anybody try to jump over me before.”

• Girardi on Ivan Nova: “I was pleased with the way he threw the ball tonight.” He really didn’t get into much more detail than that. Neither did Nova, to tell the truth.

• The Yankees fell to 4-11 in extra-inning games this season.

• Forgot to mention after the first game that Brandon Laird was getting a lot of credit for his work at first base in Game 1. “He saved me a couple runs, for sure,” A.J. Burnett said.

• First time through the order against John Lackey, the Yankees went 4-for-7 with two doubles a walk and a strikeout. The went 1-for-13 with two walks and three strikeouts against Lackey the rest of the game. They had just two hits over their final 45 batters.

• At five hours and 11 minutes, this was the Yankees longest game since September 10, 2010 against Texas.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 280 Comments →

Yankees postgame: Bats go cold in the heat07.23.11

Less than 24 hours after putting up 17 runs and 17 hits, the Yankees posted three runs and nine hits. They went just 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11, including the potential tying run at third with two outs in the ninth. Rich Harden had his good changeup and held them to two runs and five hits over 5 1-3. And the A’s won 4-3 on a day when the heat index again hit 100.

“You hold this lineup down to a couple of runs, you’re doing something,” Nick Swisher said. “So you’ve got to give credit where credit is due.”

Still, Swisher and Mark Teixeira agree this lineup misses Alex Rodriguez, expected to be out for about another month after knee surgery. The Yankees are 7-5 since Rodriguez went down. They are 5-5 since the All-Star break, alternating wins and losses in the last six games. And they are 9-9 in their last 18.

“He’s Alex Rodriguez,” Teixeira said. “I mean, this is one of the greatest players of all time. His presence, the fact that he has great at-bats, he makes the pitcher work, and then he’s going to drive in 100 runs, hit home runs and do everything he does.  So obviously we miss him.”

Brandon Laird played the part of A-Rod in this game, making his first major-league start, at third. But the 23-year-old rookie went 0 for 3 and struck out with two outs and the bases packed in the fourth.

“It was my first time coming up with the bases loaded,” Laird said. “I felt pretty good. I was excited. But it just didn’t go my way. … 

“It would’ve been nice to get a win. But I got my first start, got it under my belt, got it out of the way. Hopefully I have some more coming in the future.”

*A.J. Burnett is now winless in his last four starts, but he pitched well enough to win in this one, charged with three runs, six hits, three walks and two hit batters while fanning six in 5 2/3. In 21 starts, he has given up three runs or less 13 times and four runs five times.

“I thought he threw the ball extremely well,” Joe Girardi said.

*Rafael Soriano’s rehab assignment will now shift after two outings with High-A Tampa. The reliever is scheduled to pitch today against Syracuse at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

*David Robertson struck out his ninth consecutive batter with the bases loaded. After a scoreless ninth, he has allowed just two earned runs in his last 26 outings.

*Hideki Matsui’s decisive homer off Boone Logan in the seventh snapped a 16 2-3-scoreless innings streak for the bullpen. Matsui has homered in four of his last five games here, all in a visiting uniform.

*Derek Jeter went 3 for 4 with a walk and is batting .333 (21 for 63) in July after batting a combined .260 the first three months.

*In today’s series finale, Bartolo Colon and lefty Gio Gonzalez will be the starters.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 150 Comments →

Yankees pregame: Thrills continue for Laird07.23.11

Gene Monahan came over to Brandon Laird this morning and handed him a ball encased in a clear display box — his first big-league hit from last night’s game, an RBI single in his second plate appearance and first official big-league at-bat in his first big-league game.

He said it’s headed for his parents’ place where it will rest next to the ball that represents his brother’s first big-league hit. Gerald Laird is now the backup catcher for the Cardinals.

The thrills continue today for Brandon. He will make his first big-league start, at third base.

“I’m still excited and just happy to be here,” he said. “Going into the game yesterday, everything seemed to happen so fast, I didn’t get a chance to be nervous.” 

Laird says he brought two gloves for each position he plays. He can play third, first and the outfield — left and right. He was originally a 27th-round pick in 2007. Last year, he batted .281 with 25 homers and 102 RBI combined between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The homers and RBI topped all Yankees minor-leaguers. He was also named the Eastern League MVP and rookie of the year.

This year, he was batting .266 with 10 homers and 49 RBI in 90 games at Triple-A where he was primarily playing third.

“He had kind of a tough spring this spring, swinging the bat,” Joe Girardi said. “We knew he was a much better player than that. We kept him around. We kept him playing. We sent him down sometimes when he wasn’t getting at-bats with us. He was a guy who was aggressive. You didn’t see him through his struggles ever be tentative. He seemed to fight through everything. I thought that was a good sign.

“I think it’s sometimes good to struggle because I think it brings out the toughness in you. Because the game’s not ever going to be easy. He got off to a slow start in Triple-A this year. But you look at his last three months and they’ve been very good. That’s a good sign as well. It shows me he knows how to make adjustments.”

Gerald Laird viewed the first hit with his Cardinals teammates in Pittsburgh.

“He said he just got in after the game,” Brandon said. “He said he kept everybody in the clubhouse to watch. He said they all went crazy. He gave me a call. He’s proud of me.”

Mark Teixeira played with Gerald Laird in Texas.

 “I saw him get a hit in his first major-league at-bat,” Teixeira said. “I guess I bring good luck to the Laird family.”

*Maybe Joe Girardi is settling on a top six vs. righties in Alex Rodriguez’s absence. For the second straight game, it’s Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher.

*Girardi again didn’t seem particularly concerned over Phil Hughes’ bad start Friday night.

“We know what he can do,” Girardi said. “It’s just Phil has to go out and do it.”

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 15 Comments →

Yankees at the break: Third base07.13.11

When Alex Rodriguez stopped driving the ball late last month, it was obvious something was wrong. The Yankees talked about a sore knee, and it seemed he needed to play through it until he got back to normal. Turns out, getting back to normal required surgery that will force Rodriguez to miss a month or more.

First half
When Rodriguez finished the month of April hitting .290/.407/.609, it seemed he might have regained his MVP form. He’d talked a lot about finally going through his regular offseason routine – he was no longer forced to rehab – and it seemed to be paying off. May wasn’t nearly as productive, June was another big month, and then came the surgery. It was an up-and-down first half even before Rodriguez injured his knee while running the bases in Chicago.

Second half
Rodriguez probably won’t be back until mid-August or so. The Yankees are hoping that he’ll return at 100 percent, ready to hit for power and provide a significant spark down the stretch. He was hitting .302/.413/.623 in the 15 games leading up to that Chicago series, so maybe a healthy knee is all he needs to be one of the best hitters in baseball again. If he comes back as good as ever, the Yankees will have a bigger addition than any team could hope for at the trade deadline. It’s worth noting that Rodriguez has only 13 home runs at this point. His streak of 13 straight seasons with at least 30 homers is probably coming to an end.

The minors
Added to the 40-man after a tremendous 2010 season, Triple-A third baseman Brandon Laird started this season with a .184 average through the month of April, and he’d still hit only two home runs by the end of May, but he’s turned things around significantly and how has a .268 average with 10 homers at the break. He’s been especially good against lefties and could play a role at the big league level to help fill the A-Rod void. In the lower levels, Rob Segedin and Robert Lyerly played well enough to earn mid-season promotions to Tampa and Trenton respectively (Lyerly has primarily played first since joining the Double-A roster). First-round pick Dante Bichette is off to a slow start in rookie ball.

One question
Can Eric Chavez play a role in the second half?
The Yankees seemed to have landed a significant bench player when Chavez started this season hitting .303 as a part-time third baseman, first baseman and designated hitter. He might have pushed Jorge Posada out of the DH spot had he not hobbled off the field in Detroit back in May. He hasn’t played since, and his rehab has included a series of setbacks. If Chavez could come back healthy, he could be the best Rodriguez place holder the Yankees could ask for.

The future
It was the quad in 2008, the hip in 2009, the calf in 2010 and now it’s the knee. Rodriguez remains one of the game’s better hitters, but he’s about to turn 36 years old and he’s showing signs of breaking down. He’s signed through 2017, so the Yankees might have to count on more DH time and fewer starts at third base in the not-so-distant future.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 599 Comments →

Minor league notes: Whelan setting himself apart in Scranton06.06.11

Kevin Whelan opened this season as a rather forgettable part of a potentially memorable Triple-A pitching staff. Legitimate prospects filled the rotation, and the bullpen was dotted with returned Rule 5 picks and veterans with big league experience.

Then there was Whelan, the last remaining piece of the 2006 Gary Sheffield trade. He was a fallen prospect, a guy who always walked too many batters and finally reached a new low with a 6.02 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A last season.

Whelan’s been a completely different pitcher this year. As Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s closer, he’s cut down on the walks significantly. He has a 1.73 ERA, 17 saves, and he’s allowed just 17 hits and six walks through 26 innings. He’s struck out 28, and his 0.88 WHIP is the lowest on the team.

“It is the command, which translates to confidence,” pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras said in an email.

Contraras was the second person I talked to who mentioned confidence when explaining Whelan’s sudden improvement. He’s always had a good fastball and a big splitfinger — and he’s had some real success from time to time — but it seems that things are just now coming together. If the Yankees find an opening for a one-inning guy, Whelan would surely be the front-runner for the job. It’s worth noting that he’s been especially good against left-handers, holding them to a .178 batting average with 19 strikeouts and only two walks.

It’s also worth noting that Whelan’s not on the 40-man, and the Yankees have found more openings for multi-inning relievers than short relievers this season. Jonathan Albaladejo had even better numbers as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s closer last season — and he actually was on the 40-man — but Albaladejo barely got a look at the Major League level. So Whelan might not be looking for apartments in the city, but he’s surely put himself on the map. It’s impossible to ignore a guy who’s always had the potential and is just now finding the consistent results.

• Gary Sanchez is back on the Charleston active roster. He returned Saturday after being sent to extended spring training for what appears to be some combination of a bad back and a bad attitude, probably more of one than the other. He had a hit and drew a walk in his first game back.

• Greg Golson has been activated from the Triple-A disabled list, a move came one day after Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s most productive outfielder, Justin Maxwell, went on the disabled list with a jammed shoulder. Maxwell actually has a higher slugging percentage than Jorge Vazquez and homered in three games in a row just before the injury. For the season he’s hitting .260/.358/.588 and might have hit his way into a big league role had Andruw Jones not started hitting lately.

• Speaking of banged-up Triple-A players who might or might not be playing their way into a call-up: Carlos Silva was scratched from a start on Sunday because of tightness in his shoulder. Doesn’t seem too serious. Manager Dave Miley told Donnie Collins, “We’re just pushing him back.”

• If there’s no spot for Whelan as a short reliever in New York, the Yankees certainly have options for long relief out of Triple-A. George Kontos and Buddy Carlyle are still pitching well in long relief for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Kontos is holding right-handers to a .143 average with 24 strikeouts and four walks. Out of the rotation, tonight’s starter D.J. Mitchell has a 2.78 ERA and pitched seven scoreless in his most recent outing.

• After hitting .218/.292/.287 in April, Kevin Russo hit .316/.384/.408 in May. Brandon Laird made a similar turnaround, from .184/.213/.289 in April to .307/.343/.406 in May. Jesus Montero went the other way, from .365/.360/.473 to .269/.333/.413.

Strange stuff in Double-A Trenton where hitting coach Julius Matos was ejected last week, then got into some sort of argument with manager Tony Franklin and has since been removed from his role. Popular roving hitting instructor James Rowson has taken over the job for now. It’s unclear whether Matos will return in any capacity.

• Austin Romine is the only Trenton regular hitting better than .277, and he’s missed a few games with a stiff neck and back after a home plate collision. Romine has certainly been the high point of the Double-A lineup. Melky Mesa is back to being an all-or-nothing hitter, Bradley Suttle is hitting for good power but a .233 average and Corban Joseph has been good but not great.

• I talked about him a little bit in today’s chat: Trenton reliever Tim Norton is starting to get some attention. Injuries have always been the biggest knock on the guy. This year he’s healthy and putting up incredible numbers (44 strikeouts in 29 innings, for example). One scout told Bill Madden that Norton is, “better than (Joba) Chamberlain right now.”

• Manny Banuelos has a 2.12 ERA and Dellin Betances has a 1.99, so those two are doing just fine despite higher-than-you’d-like walk totals. Craig Heyer, a guy the Yankees sent to the Fall League this offseason, has been awfully good since stepping into the rotation to fill in for some injuries.

• Tampa third baseman Rob Lyerly made the Florida State League all-star team, but as expected, the High-A roster is lowest of the four affiliates in terms of prospect buzz. Starters Brett Marshall and Jairo Heredia, though, are starting to do some things. In Heredia’s past three starts he’s allowed one earned run through 21 innings. He’s walked two and struck out 22. He’s another of those “if-things-go-right” prospects.

• J.R. Murphy remains the best all-around hitter in Low-A Charleston, but first baseman Kyle Roller leads the team with a .563 slugging percentage and corner outfielder Ramon Flores leads with a .407 on-base percentage.

• Slade Heathcott in April: .370/.453/.630. — Slade Heathcott in May: .216/.283/.289.

• The amateur draft begins tonight. The Yankees don’t have a pick until the supplemental first round — No. 51 overall — but they’ll almost certainly be part of the story with pick No. 1. The Pirates are reportedly planning to take Gerrit Cole, the former Yankees first-round pick who ultimately signed with UCLA rather than join the Yankees minor league system.

Headshots of Whelan, Sanchez, Golson, Romine and Norton

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 335 Comments →

Off day minor league notes: Risks behind the plate05.26.11

I didn’t see or hear about last night’s Buster Posey injury until I was several thousand feet above the fly-over states of middle America. After sleeping for a little while and reading for a little while, I turned on the little satellite TV screen in front of me to catch up on the news of the day. Then I flipped briefly to SportsCenter.

Posey is probably out for the year with a broken bone and possibly some ligament damage. It’s a bad situation, and an unfortunate situation, but we can’t pretend it’s a new situation. The Posey injury doesn’t necessarily change anything for Jesus Montero or the other elite catching prospects in the Yankees organization.

It’s not as if the Yankees turned on a television at the same time I did and suddenly realized that being a catcher is dangerous.

If injury concerns lead the Yankees to eventually move Montero or Austin Romine or Gary Sanchez to a different position, it would be perfectly justifiable, but it would not be a move to be taken lightly and with a sigh of relief. Part of what makes these catching prospects so valuable is their ability to play behind the plate, lending a premium bat to a position that often has minimal offensive impact.

Risk comes with the position, but so does reward. That was true before and after Posey was rocked at home plate last night.

• Speaking of catching prospects, Gary Sanchez is playing in extended spring training after opening the year in Low-A Charleston. Mark Newman told Josh Norris that Sanchez is down there because of a back injury. He seemed to be getting things turned around before landing on the Charleston disabled list. Sanchez was hitting .314/.455/.657 in his last 10 games before going on the DL.

• Speaking of behind the plate in Charleston, J.R. Murphy’s breakout season continues with the Low-A affiliate. He’s played some third base and designated hitter, but Murphy continues to get most of his time behind the plate and he just keeps hitting. He’s up to .318/.358/.497, a huge leap from last season.

• While we’re behind the plate: Jesus Montero is hitting .260/.337/.377 this month. I know a lot of the fan base is anxious to get this kid into the big league lineup — and I understand why — but player development is a very real thing, and Montero’s still just 21 years old. Consistency might be the next — and final — part of his development.

• Jorge Vazquez is still hitting home runs at a stunning rate, but the thing that catches my attention is that he has seven walks in his past 10 games (he had four in all of April). Either he’s becoming a little more selective, or teams are completely pitching around him. By the way, his home run total is up to 17. That’s insane, especially in a pitchers’ league.

• Vazquez’s teammate, Justin Maxwell, is second in the International League with 13 home runs.

• Speaking of Triple-A hitters, a few guys who struggled early have started to hit in the past month: Brandon Laird (.293/.341/.373 in May), Kevin Russo (.288/.367/.404 in May), Ramiro Pena (.310/.356/.310 in May).

• D.J. Mitchell, Adam Warren and David Phelps are still pitching well out of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre rotation — well enough that they’d have to be involved in any call-up conversation — but if the Yankees want a new long man, they might also need to look at George Kontos. Lost in the Rule 5 draft this winter — just like Lance Pendleton — Kontos has a 2.22 ERA and a .209 opponents batting average this season, and he’s been better this month than last month. If the Yankees are looking for a one-inning option, Kevin Whelan keeps getting it done in that Triple-A closer’s role.

• Veteran left-hander Randy Flores has yet to allow a hit in four appearances since joining the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen.

• Two Double-A starters you might have heard about: Dellin Betances has a 1.30 ERA with 39 strikeouts through seven starts, and Manny Banuelos has a 1.96 ERA with 34 strikeouts through eight starts. Both have had some walk issues from time to time, but my gut reaction is to blame their youth. On the whole, their numbers are awfully impressive.

• No overwhelming home runs numbers or anything like that, but the Yankees regular Class-A third basemen in are both playing pretty well. In High-A Tampa, Rob Lyerly is hitting .326/.368/.481, and in Low-A Charleston, Rob Segedin is hitting .288/.384/.445. Each has three homers, and between them they have 21 doubles and six triples.

• Talked to Alan Horne earlier today. He’s pitched in extended spring training twice in the past week and he’s pretty encouraged. His fastball’s been good, but he’s still looking to build some arm strength.

• Surprise numbers of the month: Utility man Kelvin Castro who’s hitting .462 with five triples and more walks than strikeouts in 12 games since joining the Tampa infield. Last season he hit .224 with five triples all year. He also struck out more than three times as often as he walked.

• A blast from the recent past: Zach McAllister is starting for Triple-A Columbus tonight, attempting to become the minor league’s first eight-game winner. Traded away in last year’s Austin Kearns deal, McAllister is thriving in his second attempt at Triple-A. He has a 2.48 ERA and seems to be getting better as the season progresses. He had a 5.09 ERA with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before last year’s trade.

Associated Press photo of Posey, headshots of Sanchez, Murphy, Kontos and Whelan

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 498 Comments →

Pregame notes: New look at the top03.17.11

Brett Gardner is not trying to lead all of baseball in pitches per plate appearance. He did it last year but said that was partially because his injured wrist left him reluctant to swing through the second half of the season.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing,” he said. “If you told me I could lead off all year or hit ninth or wherever, see five pitches per plate appearance and still get on 38 percent of the time, I’d sign up for it. I don’t think that’s something that’s easy to do. If I had 500 at-bats last year, probably 400-something of those I hit behind in the count. It’s like you’re always uphill. That’s something I want to try to improve on.”

Tonight, the Yankees will take a look at Gardner in the leadoff spot. Joe Girardi said he’ll probably have his everyday guys in the same lineup another eight or nine times this spring, and he’ll continue to play with different batting orders.

Girardi said he has no plans of dropping Derek Jeter out of the top two spots. He also liked Nick Swisher in the No. 2 spot last season, “and we’re not sure we want to upset that,” Girardi said. Based on last year’s numbers, though, Gardner is a prototypical leadoff man, and the Yankees like the fact that his speed opens some holes on the right side of the infield for Jeter.

“We’re trying it because of what he did last year, and the problems that he causes for other teams,” Girardi said. “He puts pressure on the pitcher, and a lot of times pressure leads to mistakes. You get to the guys in the middle of the order, and those mistakes become bigger mistakes. That’s what we want our hitters to be able to do.”

Gardner led the Yankees in on-base percentage last season, and the ability to draw a walk became his greatest weapon in the second half of last season. In the first half, though, he proved he could both take his walks and get his hits. The Yankees have talked to him about bringing back some of that early aggressiveness.

“That’s something we talk about a lot, something I feel I’ve done a little better job of working on this spring,” Gardner said. “I’ve swung at some 2-0 pitches, some 3-1 pitches, 1-0 pitches. Maybe even an 0-0 pitch. I think I’ve been more aggressive this spring at certain times. I know it’s something I need to improve on and I plan to do that this year.”

• For the record, even hitting in front of the 3-4-5 hitters, Girardi said he wants Gardner to run when he gets on base. “I want him to get a bag any time he can get it,” Girardi said. “I don’t want it to take away from his aggressiveness.”

• Sergio Mitre came through yesterday’s bullpen just fine and will pitch tomorrow, probably around 65 pitches, but Girardi wasn’t sure of the number.

• Rafael Soriano pitched at the minor league complex today and said he walked a guy and gave up a double. He said his command wasn’t great, but he also seemed unconcerned. Girardi said he didn’t find it all that unusual that Soriano didn’t want to face an AL East team yesterday.

• Joba Chamberlain is doing long toss and throwing a flat side today. “We’ll make an evaluation with him after today,” Girardi said.

• Phil Hughes is set for 75 to 80 pitches tonight.

• These are the factors Girardi said he thinks about when deciding which lineup is best: “You look at the consistency of your lineup. You look at how easy it is to bring up situational guys to face your guys, how that’s setup. You look at how hitters work together, if it changes a guy’s approach or not (to have someone else hitting in front or behind).”

• Pat Venditte is up from minor league camp for tonight’s game, but he probably won’t pitch. He’s a backup, and Girardi said he would be more likely to give Ryan Pope or Eric Wordekemper a batter or two. RHP Josh Schmidt also up from minor league camp as a backup.

• Today’s outfield off the bench is made entirely of guys who were optioned down last night: Brandon Laird, Melky Mesa and Kevin Russo.

• Greg Golson is able to run and do defensive drills and could begin swinging a bat again in the next day or two.

Off the bench: C Gustavo Molina, 1B Jorge Vazquez, 2B Ramiro Pena, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Eduardo Nunez, LF Brandon Laird, CF Melky Mesa, RF Kevin Russo, DH Jordan Parraz

Out of the bullpen: Boone Logan, Romulo Sanchez, Luis Ayala, Eric Wordekemper, Steve Garrison, Ryan Pope, Pat Venditte and Josh Schmidt.

Tomorrow’s travelers today: The Yankees regular outfielders are going on the road tomorrow to play the Blue Jays.

Pitchers who will be making the trip: A.J. Burnett, Sergio Mitre, Andrew Brackman, Steve Garrison, Ryan Pope, Eric Wordekemper, Amaury Sanit and Kevin Whelan.

Players who will not be making the trip: Austin Romine, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Greg Golson, Francisco Cervelli and Colin Curtis. Walter Ibarra is scheduled to come up from minor league camp to provide infield depth.

RAYS (8-9-1)
Ben Zobrist 2B
Johnny Damon LF
Evan Longoria 3B
Manny Ramirez DH
Matt Joyce RF
B.J. Upton CF
Dan Johnson 1B
Reid Brignac SS
John Jason C

RHP Chris Bootcheck

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 522 Comments →

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

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 449 Comments →

Kind words from Damon, plus some notes and links03.03.11

I only covered Johnny Damon for about a month in the playoffs, but he’s an instantly likable personality, and the other New York writers seem to always enjoy saying hello to him. Today Damon said he was never close to coming back to the Yankees this winter, but he spoke pretty highly of his time in pinstripes.

“My time in New York was nothing but great,” he said. “I loved every minute of it. I loved going back there. I loved a bunch of the players over there, the coaching staff, the way the organization is. It’s going to be four years I’m always going to remember. Now it’s time for me to help my home team win a championship. It’s been a long time coming for me to have this opportunity to come play for Tampa, so I’m excited about it.”

Here are a few notes and links to wrap up the day.

• At this point I’m guessing we won’t hear anything definitive on Francisco Cervelli until tomorrow. His MRI results are being reviewed by team doctors in New York.

• Nice story by Dan Barbarisi about the Yankees rallying around Red Sox first-base coach Ron Johnson, whose daughter lost her leg in a terrible accident. Johnson used to be Kevin Long’s manager in the minors.

Great interview with VP of baseball operations Mark Newman. There’s a lot of good stuff about the Yankees minor league system in there, including some notes about guys who could very well make the big league roster this year.

• Writing for Baseball America, George King notes that Brandon Laird could put himself into the big league mix at some point this season as a power hitter who can play all four corners.

• Speaking of Baseball America, they’re reporting that the Yankees have signed 1B Nick Ebert, a non-drafted free agent out of South Carolina.

• Yankees single-game tickets go on sale Saturday morning.
Sorry, went to the wrong page on Single game tickets are on sale March 11 at this link. Saturday’s ticket thing is for season tickets.

Associated Press photo of Damon

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 546 Comments →

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