A.J. Burnett threw his first bullpen this morning. Roughly 30 pitches, all fastballs. It was his first time on a mound since the end of last season.
“You get anxious,” Burnett said. “Especially after last year. You want to come in and be ready to go.”
Cervelli said Burnett looked sharp — “Very good,” Cervelli said — but at this stage, it’s more about knocking off the rust than hitting the corners. Burnett said most of his offseason work with Larry Rothschild focused on his lower half, making sure he didn’t swing open. Ultimately, Burnett said last year’s struggles were a mental issue, and he has to move on.
“Just mentally staying right,” Burnett said. “I think every time we talked last year, the good games, I was there. I was locked in. The bad games, I think mentally I wasn’t there. It’s a matter of staying on top of my game, paying attention to every pitch and doing what I did before last year, which was not letting anything bother me. Not worrying about a thing, going out there one pitch at a time until Skip takes me out. If I do that, I’ll be fine.”
• As a precaution because of his offseason knee surgery, Jorge Posada will not catch a bullpen until next week. He’ll go through the regular catching drills — he’ll squat and said the knee doesn’t bother him right now — but the Yankees want to give him a week before they push him into a bullpen session.
• I’ll have more on Posada later, but he seemed at peace with the idea of being a fulltime designated hitter. He called himself the third-string emergency catcher, then laughed at the idea. He admitted it was hard to hear at first, but now he’s hoping this keeps him healthy enough for 500-plus at-bats. He hasn’t had that many since 2007.
• One non-catcher position player will be in camp today, with Brett Gardner coming to camp to do some work, including batting practice with the catchers. I have to assume this is all part of his rehab from wrist surgery.
• CC Sabathia will throw his first bullpen today. He’ll throw to his likely Opening Day catcher, Russell Martin.
• Brian Schlitter was designated for assignment yesterday, but he’s still in camp and will throw a bullpen today.
• Scheduled bullpen sessions (with catchers):
Bartolo Colon (to Gustavo Molina)
Freddy Garcia (to Francisco Cervelli)
Sergio Mitre (to Jesus Montero)
CC Sabathia (to Russell Martin)
Luis Ayala (to Jose Gil)
Boone Logan (to Jesus Montero)
Mark Prior (to Austin Romine)
Buddy Carlyle (to Kyle Higashioka)
Robert Fish (to Francisco Cervelli)
Ryan Pope (to Gustavo Molina)
Brian Schlitter (to Jose Gil)
• Hitting groups:
Associated Press photo of Burnett and Cervelli after today’s bullpen
Yankees officially sign Jones, DFA Schlitter • 02.14.11
Heard today that the Yankees were just finalizing some language in Andruw Jones’ contract. Now the deal is finally official. Here’s the announcement from the Yankees.
Jones, 33, is a 15-year Major League veteran, appearing in 2,025 combined games with Atlanta (1996-2007), Los Angeles-NL (2008), Texas (2009) and Chicago-AL (2010). He owns a .256 (1,840-for-7,176) career batting average with 368 doubles, 36 triples, 407 home runs and 1,222 RBI, and is one of four players all time with at least 400 career home runs and 10 Gold Glove Awards, joining Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Ways and Mike Schmidt.
Originally signed by the Braves as a non-drafted free agent in 1993, Jones is tied for 46th on Baseball’s all-time home runs list, hitting at least 25 homers in 10 consecutive seasons from 1998-2007 (tied for sixth-most such seasons among active players) and recording seven seasons of 30-or-more home runs. He has also collected at least 100 RBI in a season five times and scored at least 100 runs four times.
Jones’s defense garnered him 10 consecutive Gold Glove Awards with the Braves from 1998-2007, making him one of just five outfielders in Major League history to win the honor that many times – also Roberto Clemente (12), Willie Mays (12), Ken Griffey Jr. (10) and Al Kaline (10). He owns a career fielding percentage of .990, including a .992 mark in centerfield (39 E, 4,597 TC).
He is a career .273 (65-for-238) batter in the postseason with eight doubles, 10 home runs and 33 RBI, appearing in 75 career playoff games. He has twice appeared in the World Series in 1996 and 1999 with Atlanta, losing both times to the Yankees. In his first career World Series contest (Game 1 in 1996), he went 3-for-4 with three runs, two home runs and five RBI at the original Yankee Stadium, homering in each of his first two World Series at-bats to join Oakland Gene Tenance (1972) as the only players all time to accomplish the feat.
Jones batted .230 (64-for-278) with 41 runs, 12 doubles, 19 home runs and 48 RBI in 107 games with the White Sox in 2010, appearing at all three outfield positions (62 games in right field, 17 in centerfield and 12 in left field). He recorded his highest average, on-base percentage (.341) and slugging percentage (.486) since 2006, while his average of 14.63 AB/HR was the sixth-highest in the Majors among players with at least 100 games played.
He is a career .261 (461-for-1,768) batter against left-handed pitchers with 102 home runs.
A native of Willemstad, Curacao, Jones became the third player from Curacao to reach the Majors when he made his debut at 19 years, three months and 23 days old on August 15, 1996 with Atlanta, joining Yankees outfielder Hensley Meulens and Florida’s Ralph Malliard.
In a corresponding move, the Yankees designated RHP Brian Schlitter for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.
Associated Press photo
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
Yankees claim RHP Brian Schlitter • 01.05.11
Schlitter is a 25 year old who pitched out of the Cubs bullpen seven times last year. He spent most of the season with Triple-A Iowa, going 2-1 with 13 saves and a 3.15 ERA (45.2IP, 16ER) in 37 relief appearances. Not bad numbers in the hitter-friendly PCL.
Schlitter has a career 3.32 ERA in 154 minor league relief outings.
UPDATE, 5:59 p.m.: Just talked to a Major League source who’s seen quite a bit of Schlitter. The basic scouting report is this:
Schlitter is built around a fastball that sits around 92 mph and reaches 94-95 with good sink. He also has a changeup and a slider’s that’s “OK” but could get better with a little work. He’s a good makeup guy, “a good kid.”
The guy I talked to was surprised the Cubs couldn’t find a way to keep Schlitter on their 40-man.
“He’s somebody that could help next year,” he said.
It’s worth noting that the Yankees could use some upper-level relievers. Mark Melancon and Jonathan Albaladejo are gone, Romulo Sanchez is out of options and the only Triple-A reliever on the 40-man roster is Ryan Pope, who hasn’t pitched above Double-A. The roster is pretty wide open at this spot, so adding a guy like Schlitter makes some obvious sense.