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.
A lot of balls got some help from the wind this afternoon. Alex Rodriguez’s home run in the fifth inning did not. Off to a strong start this spring, Rodriguez’s first home run was legitimate, continuing his strong start this spring.
“It doesn’t matter,” Rodriguez said. “It feels good to be getting my work in.”
Rodriguez is hitting .462 with four doubles and today’s home run. Only Jorge Vazquez, who homered in his first two games, has better spring numbers for the Yankees.
“I did take notice, I thought (Rodriguez) was pretty locked in from day one,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s a talented player. His offseason workouts, he works out extremely hard, and that’s the only thing I can really say. He’s a pretty good player.”
Rodriguez said this is the result of a winter spent training instead of rehabbing. He’s a little bit lighter, said he feels a little more flexible, and Hitting coach Kevin Long met with him more than once this offseason.
“(Spring training is) just a continuation of what we started in November,” Rodriguez said.
• Rodriguez has talked about being more relaxed than in the past. Today’s home run came maybe an inning after Cameron Diaz took a seat behind home plate, and when Rodriguez nearly hustled out of the clubhouse without talking to reporters, one writer joked with him, “What, do you have a date?” Upset him? Not this time. Rodriguez just laughed. “Behave yourself,” he said.
• Russell Martin had his first two hits this afternoon. He also stole a base, suggesting his knee is feeling pretty good. The Yankees will have him catch tomorrow’s home game, giving him back-to-back starts behind the plate.
• And how is Martin behind the plate? “He’s got a good idea back there,” Phil Hughes said. “He’s a good receiver, catches the ball well, frames pitches well and gets some (calls) you might not get with a guy that doesn’t stick as well as he does.”
• Derek Jeter had two more hits today and has his spring batting average up to .357. It’s still too early to know much of anything, but he’s looked a little better at the plate day by day.
• Five Yankees, aside from Martin and Jeter, had two hits today: Eduardo Nunez, Robinson Cano, Andruw Jones, Jordan Parraz and Justin Maxwell. Mark Teixeira and Eric Chavez had a hit apiece, continuing their strong springs. Greg Golson homered.
• Steve Garrison continues to be stretched out in big league camp. He went three innings today, a pretty clear indication that the Yankees are looking at him as a starter instead of a reliever (he’ll open in the minor leagues). On a day like this, giving up one run on three hits was awfully good.
• Converted outfielder Brian Anderson had a tough day on the mound. He faced seven batters, and five of them had a hit.
• Dan Brewer had a stolen base and a double, and Colin Curtis made two nice catches and threw a runner out at the plate, but both left the game with injuries. Right field was apparently not the place to be today.
• I never saw him, but apparently Roger Clemens was here to see his son Koby, who plays for the Astros.
• As you can tell from the picture above, Yogi Berra made the trip to Kissimmee.
Associated Press photos of Berra with Cano; Rodriguez after the home run; Jeter looking back at Jones
Sunday notes: Less is more • 02.20.11
The weight issue won’t quite go away here in Tampa. Alex Rodriguez arrived in camp a little bit lighter. Buster Olney reported it was 10 pounds lighter. Joe Girardi said it wasn’t quite that much. Whatever the exact number, it’s more than a pound or two, but not so much that Rodriguez looks drastically different.
“Sometimes guys just feel like they want to be a little bit lighter,” Girardi said. “It might add to their game. Physically they might bounce back quicker. That’s not uncommon for a player to try to put more energy into their body, and sometimes it is by not having to carry so much mass.”
Girardi said he didn’t know Rodriguez was planning to lose weight until Rodriguez reported to camp. But seeing him, Girardi has no complaints.
“This is just the weight that he showed up,” Girardi said. “He showed up in very good shape, so I’m not going to complain about that.”
“I’m careful to not try to push players right now or to say a whole lot to pitchers — we need a little bit more, your breaking ball’s not quite as sharp – because I don’t want them trying to overdo it,” Girardi said. “Sometimes there might even be a guy that’s throwing the ball well, and if I come around I see that he missed a couple of spots, I might just move on (if it’s) a young guy. I don’t want them thinking, gosh, the manager’s watching. Just let them go about their business. There will be plenty of time to evaluate.”
• That said, five pitchers threw batting practice to actual hitters early this morning: Joba Chamberlain, Ivan Nova, Dave Robertson, Brian Anderson and Manny Banuelos. “Some guys got an early morning wakeup call at 8:15,” Girardi said.
• Eight more pitchers will throw BP tomorrow. Girardi didn’t say who.
• Because there are fewer workout days, there will be no intrasquad games before the actual spring schedule.
• Girardi said he knows who he wants to start the spring opener, but he wants to wait a few days to make sure that pitcher is still good to go. He promised to make the announcement on Tuesday.
• When he finished hitting, Jorge Posada spent some time at first base. Girardi said it’s possible Posada could see some time at the position this spring, but whether he’s a legitimate option at first during the season depends on who else is on the roster. “Is it a viable option? Is it an emergency option? A lot of it depends on the makeup of your roster,” Girardi said.
• Kevin Russo was listed as an infielder today, but he instead worked as an outfielder during drills. He said he expects to work in the infield tomorrow.
• Random infield assignments: Eric Chavez, Brad Suttle and Brandon Laird did their infield work at third base, and Jorge Vazquez got his time at first. Those four will probably spend time at both infield corners this spring. Ronnie Belliard and Doug Bernier got time at both second base and shortstop, though the time at short was just fielding grounders. I doubt Belliard is being looked at as a shortstop option. Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez both worked at shortstop.
• Tino Martinez has arrived in Yankees camp as a guest instructor.
• Girardi and his staff are still discussing possible team outings. Not sure what it will be this year.
Associated Press photos of Jeter with Rodriguez during stretch; Nova in the bullpen; and Andruw Jones in the outfield
You go your way (and I’ll go mine) • 02.13.11
I can’t remember the last time I was genuinely excited to see the Grammy Awards, but I’ll be watching tonight.
I’m sure most of the ceremony will be rather forgettable, but mixed into the nonsense, Arcade Fire is scheduled to perform, Mick Jagger will be part of a tribute to Solomon Burke, and Bob Dylan will be the third act in a three-artist medley with Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons. That’s a can’t miss combination.
That’s how I’ll spend my last night before the baseball chaos ensues. For now, here is one last batch of offseason notes and links. Have a good night, everyone. Pitchers and catchers report in the morning.
• Nice work by Marc Carig, who looked into the personality of new Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild. “He knows when to hit the accelerator,” Al Leiter said. “He knows when to hit the brakes.”
• Speaking of new faces, Anthony McCarron profiled non-roster pitcher Brian Anderson, the converted outfielder trying to reestablish himself as a pitcher. “Pitching was always what I wanted to do,” Anderson said.
• The Yankees are not necessarily a finished product. Jon Heyman reports that they’re still talking to starter Kevin Millwood, but no deal seems close. Remember what Brian Cashman has said time and time again: If any current free agent starters are going to land in New York, it’s going to have to be at the Yankees price.
• George King took a look at 10 issues facing the Yankees heading into spring training.
• Cool story in the New York Times about the history of the Negro Leagues at Yankee Stadium.
• Funny story from Buster Olney about a minor league run-in with Deion Sanders. The only time I can remember a player being angry and confronting me about it, the story in question — a blog post actually — had been misinterpreted by a family member, who told the player that I was pushing for the Yankees to release him. This was in spring training a few years ago, the player was new to the team, and he’s just been sent down from big league camp. The whole thing got sorted out pretty quickly, and he actually became a go-to guy in the clubhouse, but in that moment, he was not pleased.
Associated Press of Rothschild with Carlos Zambrano
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.
Unable to address their rotation needs, the Yankees have instead built what should be one of the better bullpens in baseball. Of their three major league additions this offseason, two have been relievers. They’ve also locked up two more years with the game’s greatest closer.
In the big leagues
Whether you like the Rafael Soriano deal or not, it clearly gives the Yankees one of the deepest bullpens in baseball. They have two legitimate closers, the Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera, and the new guy Soriano, who could step in should Rivera actually begin to show his age. Joba Chamberlain and Dave Robertson give the Yankees two young right-handers, while Pedro Feliciano and Boone Logan give them two legitimate lefties. As long as everyone stays healthy, the last spot in the bullpen will likely go to a long reliever, probably Sergio Mitre as long as he’s not needed in the rotation. The wild card here is Mark Prior, the former elite young starter trying to make his way back to the big leagues after a series of injuries.
On the verge
The Yankees have proven that a pitcher on the verge of helping the big league bullpen doesn’t necessarily have to pitch out of a minor league bullpen. There’s a solid chance at least one of the minor league starters will play some sort of bullpen role this season. Just last year, Ivan Nova made his first big league appearance out of the pen. There has always been some outside-the-organization talk of Andrew Brackman’s potential as a reliever. The same could be said for Graham Stoneburner and Shaeffer Hall, each of whom is expected to be in the Double-A rotation this year. For now, though, all of those pitchers will continue to develop as starters. The Yankees will keep them there until development or need forces a change.
Of the young pitchers actually expected to pitch as minor league relievers this season, right-hander Ryan Pope, lefty Steve Garrison and newly acquired Brian Schlitter are the only ones on the 40-man. Early call-ups will be wide open now that Mark Melancon and Jonathan Albaladejo are out of the organization, and those three would certainly be the easiest to move to New York. Assuming they open the season in Scranton, minor league signees Prior and Neal Cotts could also be in the call-up mix. It might be a long shot, but if Brian Anderson, a converted outfielder, can continue to make strides as a pitcher, he could build some level of prospect buzz as a potential major league reliever. He throws pretty hard and had some short-term success last season despite having not pitched in years.
Deep in the system
The top low-level pitching prospects usually develop as starters — regardless of long-term plans — but the Yankees actually have some notable young pitchers already working as relievers in the lowest levels. The stats that stand out come from three college kids taken in last year’s draft.
Tommy Kahnle was the Yankees fifth-round pick — the highest pitcher they took in the draft — and he allowed just three hits while striking out 25 through 16 innings in Staten Island. Chris Whitley (15th round) allowed a .157 opponents batting average and had 44 strikeouts in Staten Island before finishing the season with High-A Tampa. Preston Claiborne (17th round) also skipped straight to Tampa after a 1.18 WHIP with 30 strikeouts in Staten Island. All three could skip Charleston completely to open in Tampa this season, probably depending on how they do in spring training. The wild card here might be Conor Mullee, a 2010 draftee who moved from shortstop to the mound and put up good numbers in the Gulf Coast League.
Organizational depth chart
My own rough guess. It’s far too early for the Yankees to settle on who will be where next season.
New York: Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, Dave Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Pedro Feliciano, Boone Logan, Sergio Mitre
Scranton/WB: Ryan Pope, Brian Schlitter, Mark Prior, Brian Anderson, Eric Wordekemper, Neal Cotts, Andy Sisco
Trenton: Craig Heyer, Pat Venditte, Adam Olbrychowski, Josh Schmidt, Noel Castillo, Steve Garrison, Wilkins Arias
Tampa: Tommy Kahnle, Scottie Allen, Benjamin Watkins, Ryan Flannery, Francisco Gil, Ronny Marte, Ryan Acosta
Charleston: Preston Claiborne, Chris Whitley, Conor Mullee, Danny Burawa, Kramer Sneed, Manny Barreda, Juan Marcado, Brett Gerritse
If things go to plan, the Yankees seem to have no room for either of their Rule 5 draft picks, Daniel Turpen or Robert Fish. Things also don’t look good for Romulo Sanchez, the hard-throwing right-hander who’s out of options but could make a run at beating Mitre for the long-reliever spot.
In the minor leagues, George Kontos will surely fit somewhere — probably in Scranton — if he doesn’t stick as a Rule 5 pick with the Padres. There are always more relievers than there are spots heading into spring training, and guys like Buddy Carlyle, Kevin Whelan, J.B. Cox and Phil Bartleski should also be in the running for relief spots in Double-A and Triple-A.
Figuring out lower-level bullpens is tricky to say the least. A lot of my predictions are only mildly educated guesses. Some of those assignments will ultimately be determined by spring training performance. Right now, it’s hard to know which of the 2010 college draftees will skip Charleston to open in Tampa and which of the high school draftees will be ready for a full-season assignment instead of a trip to extended spring training. It’s also hard to know what the plans are for new addition Scottie Allen — who came over in the Juan Miranda trade and has worked as both a starter and a reliever — and it’s hard to know what the Yankees will do with young guys coming back from injuries (Manny Barreda, Caleb Cotham, Gavin Brooks, Brandon Braboy, etc.).
Associated Press photo of Rivera, headshots of Robertson, Pope and Claiborne
A few links on a Saturday night • 11.27.10
Just a few links and notes from this chilly Saturday.
• Over at ESPN.com, Rob Neyer makes the case the Derek Jeter re-signing with the Yankees was never really a sure thing.
• Also at ESPN, Buster Olney looks at the alternatives for Jeter and finds it hard to believe any other team could actually top the Yankees current offer. As always, Olney has a lot of other good notes and such.
• Jonathan Albaladejo’s deal in Japan is complete. He’ll make $950,000 with the Yomiuri Giants. Had he pitched in the big leagues all of next season, he would have earned roughly $400,000.
• MLBTradeRumors looks at the free agency of George Sherrill. Just thinking out loud, but he could be another fit for the Yankees left-handed relief opening. His splits are good.
• Reading a little bit about Brian Anderson, I found this pretty funny: On the day the Royals announced Anderson’s decision to switch from outfielder to pitcher, their starting center fielder was Rick Ankiel, a starting pitcher turned outfielder.
• It’s not quite Nevada beating Boise State — congrats to Nevada’s own Marc Carig — but it’s always a good day when Mizzou beats up on Kansas.
Associated Press photo