Hard to make much of Game 1 lineup in spring training, but after seeing a similar batting order in yesterday’s intrasquad game, it seems we have a pretty good idea how Joe Girardi plans to stack the top of his lineup. Barring a surprising change of plans, Jacoby Ellsbury is the leadoff hitter, and Brett Gardner is the No. 2 hitter.
“It’s definitely a possibility,” Joe Girardi said (that’s about as much as he’ll ever commit to anything this time of year). “I think that both of them are capable of leading off. Ells has done it a little more in his career than Gardy, but I just kind of like the combination of those two guys together. We’ll take a look at it a lot this spring as we try to keep the outfielders together a lot early on, and the infielders together, just to see how it works. Left-handed, right-handed, in my mind right now I’m not really worried either way.”
Girardi wouldn’t go into detail about why exactly he likes Ellsbury ahead of Gardner — said it was about strategy, and he didn’t want to discuss strategy — but beyond Ellsbury’s experience in the leadoff spot, I think of the fact that Ellsbury seems to run more often than Gardner, and Gardner sees a lot of pitches, which creates plenty of opportunities for Ellsbury to take second or third.
“I would love (stealing bases) to be a successful tool whenever they can do it,” Girardi said. “That’s the key. Our success rate was really good last year. The one thing you don’t want to do is run yourself out of innings. But they’re both capable of stealing a ton of bases, creating a lot of pressure. Putting pressure on defenses, pitchers; maybe taking 10 percent, 15, 20 percent of their attention off the hitter, which is always great for the hitter, and I like that.”
While Girardi said it doesn’t bother him having two lefties at the top of the order, the situation gets a little more tricky when you consider Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius are natural fits in the No. 8 and 9 spots in the order, creating a lineup with four lefties in a row.
“That’s the one thing that we have to kind of iron out, how that’s going to work,” Girardi said. “It’s possible you could have four in a row, and if I don’t have concerns about 1 and 2, then maybe late in the game you pinch hit at the bottom. They bring in their lefty, you bring in a righty to hit for them, so (the other team has) to make a choice.”
• Adam Warren is starting for the Yankees this afternoon. Girardi said he would consider using Warren as a starter even if everyone is healthy, but he also acknowledged that it’s tempting to keep Warren in the bullpen considering how well he handled that role last season. “I think (putting him in the rotation) is something you have to look at with the way he’s pitched,” Girardi said. “And with the health of our pitchers I think we also have to be prepared. I think it’s both reasons.”
• Alex Rodriguez said he’ll be “a little nervous, for sure” to face live pitching tomorrow. He’s staying behind in Tampa to go through normal drills. He said he expects to begin really focused first-base drills “within the next week.”
• Carlos Beltran is among those scheduled to stay behind in Tampa and go through normal workout drills, with hitting and fielding. Pretty much the same stuff the Yankees have been doing since position players showed up last week. Rodriguez, Stephen Drew, Ramon Flores, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley and Mark Teixeira will all participate in those drills. The catchers who are staying behind are scheduled to catch bullpens and hit.
• Brendan Ryan said he’s scheduled to take batting practice and field ground balls today. Yesterday he hit off a tee and played some light catch. The said his back is progressing well. Seems to be moving a lot a little quicker than he expected.
• Should be cool to see Luis Severino get into his first big league spring training game. “Pretty calm,” Girardi said. “Strike-thrower with very good stuff. I thought the BP sessions, the second one was better than the first; you saw growth, and him getting more comfortable. There’s kind of a buildup for pitchers. I don’t expect them to be in mid-season form their first BP, but he’s pretty calm. He’s a worker too, which is really good.”
• Francisco Arcia and Tyler Austin are making the trip to Clearwater, but they’re not scheduled to play. Drew the short straw, I guess.
Chris Martin (to Eddy Rodriguez)
Jared Burton (to Eddy Rodriguez)
Justin Wilson (to Gary Sanchez)
Andrew Bailey (to Gary Sanchez)
David Carpenter (to Trent Garrison)
• Bullpen sessions in Tampa:
Ivan Nova (to Austin Romine)
Jose Campos (to Juan Graterol)
Michael Pineda (to Brian McCann)
Esmil Rogers (to Joe Graterol)
Bryan Mitchell (to Roman Rodriguez)
Chase Whitley (to Juan Graterol)
• Today’s second string: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Cito Culver, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Slade Heathcott, CF Jake Cave, RF Aaron Judge, DH Mason Williams
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Luis Severino, Jacob Lindgren, Branden Pinder, Nick Goody, Diego Moreno (also on the trip as just-in-case backups: Kyle Davies, Danny Burawa, Chasen Shreve and Tyler Webb)
Associated Press photos
I’ll try to have video from today’s intrasquad game posted to the blog soon. For now, a few quick notes from today:
1. Alex Rodriguez will make his spring training debut at home on Wednesday. He will start at designated hitter. Joe Girardi said he expects to give him two or three at-bats.
2. Carlos Beltran is scheduled to make his spring debut on Friday. No setback in camp, just moving intentionally a little slower with him.
3. Yankees sound happy with Masahiro Tanaka’s first live batting practice of the spring. “He’s right where we want him to be,” Joe Girardi said. CC Sabathia will face hitters for the first time later this week.
4. After Adam Warren on Tuesday, Nathan Eovaldi on Wednesday and Esmil Rogers on Thursday, the Yankees will have Bryan Mitchell and Chris Capuano start Friday’s split-squad doubleheader. Capuano will start the home game.
5. Catching prospect Luis Torrens has a shoulder injury. Assistant general manager Billy Eppler says the team is still evaluating the situation but should know more in the next 24 hours or so about the severity and the next step.
Associated Press photo
Today’s main event might be the afternoon intrasquad game, but the most important development is surely Masahiro Tanaka’s first live batting practice session.
Tanaka faced hitters earlier this morning and once again showed no signs of struggle or discomfort. He was scheduled to face a handful of minor league hitters, but Brett Gardner and Chris Young also got involved (they seemed to tracking pitches more than trying to actually hit).
Although Tanaka didn’t speak to media immediately after the session, he seemed to go straight to a normal workout, which is surely a good sign that he came through it healthy. Another step forward for a guy who claims to feel nothing unusual in his elbow. Tanaka sounds incredibly optimistic, and he’s passed every test so far.
Long way to go, but so far, so good.
There’s some video of the batting practice session at the top of this post.
• Alex Rodriguez will DH and hit cleanup in today’s intrasquad game, but he will not make tomorrow’s road trip to Clearwater. It seems his spring debut will be Wednesday at home, a game that happens to be televised on YES Network. Looks like Rodriguez and the bulk of the Yankees projected infield will be playing on Wednesday, while the outfielders will make the road trip tomorrow.
• Carlos Beltran is not playing in today’s intrasquad game, and he’s not making tomorrow’s road trip. Beltran, though, said he feels fine and deferred to Joe Girardi regarding the decision about not playing today or tomorrow. Beltran has been going through pretty normal drills, and was clearly on his way to the cage when he said he felt fine this morning. Seems like the Yankees are simply being cautious with him.
• Top pitching prospect Luis Severino is making tomorrow’s road trip and said he’s definitely scheduled to pitch. Severino’s been in Tampa since January 18, so he’s been throwing for a while and is clearly ready for games.
• You know who was pretty psyched to see his name on tomorrow’s travel roster: Slade Heathcott. I was talking to him at his locker before he’d seen the travel squad, and even then he said he was hoping to make the trip because it’s been so long since he played in a game. I’ve written before that Heathcott sounds as confident and optimistic as he’s been in a long time. Last spring, he seemed to be hoping his knee would stay healthy. This spring, he seems to fully expect it.
• Every catcher now has a drop in the Yankees spring “drop contest.” The last catcher without a drop was John Ryan Murphy, but he apparently dropped one yesterday.
• CC Sabathia threw a bullpen today. He was the only true bullpen listed on the schedule. He threw to Brian McCann.
With Cole Figueroa, Slade Heathcott and Aaron Judge hitting
Chris Capuano (to Eddy Rodriguez)
Jose Ramirez (to Trent Garrison)
James Pazos (to Gary Sanchez)
Nick Rumbelow (to Kyle Higashioka)
With Ramon Flores, Tyler Austin and Jonathan Galvez hitting (Gardner and Young joined them)
Masahiro Tanaka (to John Ryan Murphy)
Dellin Betances (to Austin Romine)
Scott Baker (to Francisco Arcia)
Team Gator: Cito Culver (SS), Cole Figueroa (3B), Kyle Roller (1B) and Rob Refsnyder (2B) are scheduled to play off the bench as straight-up replacements for Gregorius, Headley, Teixeira and Drew.
Team Goose: Slade Heathcott (CF), Jake Cave (LF), Aaron Judge (RF), Eddy Rodriguez (C) and Francisco Arcia (1B) are scheduled to play off the bench as straight-up replacements for Ellsbury, Gardner, Young, Romine and Bird.
• Tomorrow’s travel squad:
Pitchers: Danny Burawa, Kyle Davies, Nick Goody, Jacob Lindgren, Diego Moreno, Branden Pinder, Luis Severino, Chasen Shreve, Adam Warren, Tyler Webb
Catchers: Francisco Arcia, Kyle Higashioka, John Ryan Murphy, Austin Romine
Infielders: Greg Bird, Cito Culver, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Garrett Jones, Nick Noonan, Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder, Kyle Roller
Outfielders: Tyler Austin, Jake Cave, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Slade Heathcott, Aaron Judge, Mason Williams, Chris Young
• Tomorrow’s early work:
Chris Martin, Ivan Nova, Vicente Campos, Michael Pineda, Jared Burton, Esmil Rogers, Bryan Mitchell, Chase Whitley, Justin Wilson, Andrew Bailey and David Carpenter are each scheduled to do early pitching work tomorrow morning.
Associated Press photo
The video above is a little bit of footage from Alex Rodriguez’s introduction to first base. It came during pitchers’ fielding practice this afternoon, and as you might guess, the drills were really designed for pitchers, not for a novice first baseman. Rodriguez basically just covered the bag a few times and scooped some slow grounders. You’ll be able to tell from the video above that this was not a thrown-into-the-fire situation. Rodriguez really didn’t do much.
And when the workout was over, as Rodriguez stood in the clubhouse talking about his determination to learn the position, he realized he’d actually lost his brand new first baseman’s mitt.
Perhaps the transition will be harder than anyone realized.
“As we go through these drills, I think it’s important that he go over there and tries to get a better understanding of what the position entails, and the spots he’s supposed to be at,” Joe Girardi said. “… It’s one of the few places that you hold the runner on, in a sense, and then you have to sprint and change the way you’re shaped for a ground ball, so your setup is different. All your responsibilities on cuts and relays. It’s just different. And you’re looking, in a sense, the opposite way.”
Of course, it’s worth wondering if this “learning first base” situation is more smoke than fire, getting a lot of attention strictly because it’s A-Rod and not because it actually matters to the Yankees. If Mark Teixeira is healthy, he’ll surely play first base almost every day. And Teixeira is weakest from the left side, so when he gets a day off, might make more sense to let experienced left-handed hitter Garrett Jones play the position, not inexperienced right-handed hitter Rodriguez.
Girardi, though, dismissed the idea that this is an insignificant experiment.
“I think we’ve seen over the last two years, there’s a lot of times you don’t think someone would ever play a position, and then things change,” Girardi said. “I think you definitely think about playing him on days when you’re giving Mark a day off. Maybe Garrett’s playing right field, maybe your DH is moving around a little bit, maybe you’re DHing Carlos (Beltran) a day. There’s a lot of things you can do.”
Ultimately, Rodriguez’s ability to play first base will be more valuable if he’s hitting well enough that an extra position keeps him in the lineup more often. Even Girardi has acknowledged that hitting is, by far, the most important aspect of his return to the team. So is there some chance that learning a new position is adding an unnecessary wrinkle to this already uncertain process?
“I do whatever they tell me,” Rodriguez said. “I’m just happy to get some playing time. … It’s too quick to tell (how it’s going). I’m anxious to learn, though.”
• The Yankees have their first injury of the spring. Brendan Ryan is expected to miss about five days of baseball activity because of a mild strain in the middle of his back. He hurt himself lifting weights before reporting to Tampa. Specifically, he was hurt doing biceps curls. “It’s an eyewash exercise anyway,” Ryan said. “… I don’t know what I’m doing in (the weight room) in the first place, you know? What am I going to go from hitting two homers to four?”
• CC Sabathia threw a bullpen today and has been wearing a protective brace on his surgically repaired right knee. “The fact that he’s wearing a brace or not wearing a brace doesn’t concern me anymore,” Girardi said. “If they feel that he’ll stay healthier wearing the brace, then I would tell him, wear the brace.”
• Because of that knee issue, the Yankees are moving slowly with Sabathia. “We’re taking it slow with him, knowing that we don’t really think that he’s behind and he’s got plenty of time,” Girardi said. “We’re not rushing it because of his knee, and we want to take it step by step.”
• Along those lines, Girardi said he will wait until tomorrow to announce the starting pitchers for those early exhibition games. Marly Rivera of ESPN Deportes reported that Adam Warren is “probably” going to start Tuesday’s opener.
• Before Tuesday’s spring opener, the Yankees are scheduled for an intrasquad game on Sunday. Girardi said he expects Monday to be a fairly light day leading into the Grapefruit League games.
• For whatever it’s worth, I was told today that Teixeira and Carlos Beltran have made a strong impression from the way they reported to camp. Apparently their early workouts have been impressive, and both are in great shape. Three other names singled out as having reported to camp in especially good shape: Austin Romine, Mason Williams and Cito Culver.
• Also heard a lot of good things about Luis Severino’s sim game today. “Young kid with a great arm,” Giradi said. “Good slider, good changeup. It’s something to get excited about.”
• And Nathan Eovaldi’s two-inning simulated game: “Really good stuff,” Girardi said. “Powerful arm. I think he has a pretty good idea of what he wants to do. He has pretty good command. He threw some good splits today. Athletic. So I think he’ll do a good job in those parts of the game where you have to be an athlete. I liked what I’ve seen and we like where he’s at right now.”
• One personal observation: When Aaron Judge takes batting practice, he doesn’t hit the towering fly balls you might expect from a power hitter his size. It’s all line drives — hard line drives — up the middle and toward the gaps. He didn’t hit very many out today. One that did go out probably never got higher than the top of the scoreboard. Just a line drive that he clobbered. You know who from Judge’s group might have hit the most homers? Ramon Flores.
• Hideki Matsui was the batting practice pitcher for the group of Williams, Romine, Slade Heathcott and John Ryan Murphy.
• Noticed today that Cole Figueroa (who was at second yesterday) got some time at shortstop during defensive drills. Jonathan Galvez (who was at third) got some time at second, and Nick Noonan (who was at short) got some time at third. A lot of utility types who seem destined for Triple-A but could follow the Solarte/Wheeler path to New York.
• A source of annoyance this afternoon: writing a blog post that would have been posted hours ago, if only I’d hit the “public” button instead of the “save draft” button. I guess it’s spring training for everyone.
• Final word goes to Girardi on Rodriguez learning first base: “I think he’s trying to learn. I think he was paying attention and trying to learn. He’s never taken balls over there, he’s never seen what a bunt defense looks like from over there, and that’s going to take some time.”
Associated Press photos
The Yankees might not have an experienced closer on their roster, but they do have one in camp.
Andrew Bailey is back with the Yankees on a minor league contract. He threw a bullpen this afternoon, and said he no longer thinks of himself as a rehab pitcher just trying to get healthy. He sees himself as a legitimate reliever trying to make the big league roster.
“One hundred percent,” Bailey said. “I came in and spent the offseason training, working as I would if I played last year. The doctor gave me 18, 24 months (to be healthy after surgery), and we’re in that 18th, 19th month. Everyone around here, training staff, coaches and strength and conditioning have all kind of (treated it as if) I’m a normal guy with some needs. Hopefully we get rid of those needs. Everything feels great. I’m with the team and doing everything as I would normally, and if I need a little extra work here or there, that’s fine too. I’m here to compete and earn a spot.”
Bailey has thrown five bullpens since he reported to Tampa after the Super Bowl. In between bullpens, he takes a few more days off than other guys, but the Yankees believe that’s a temporary precaution. Bailey expects to start throwing live batting practice around the time the exhibition schedule begins, which he believes will give him enough time to pitch the innings necessarily to break camp.
“I thought today he looked pretty good, actually,” Joe Girardi said. “I talked to Gil Patterson about it. Compared to where he was last year to where he is (now), there’s significant improvement. I don’t know exactly what we’ll see as far as games, and his bullpens are a little more spread out than maybe some of the other relievers, but that’s on purpose right now, and our hope is that we can catch him up and keep him healthy.”
Bailey’s still just 30 years old. He made two all-star teams as a closer in Oakland, and he could be an option for that wide-open spot in the Yankees bullpen (maybe not as closer, and maybe not by Opening Day, but certainly at some point he could play a significant role). Hard to know what exactly to expect from a guy who hasn’t pitched anything beyond a simulated game in more than a year, but Bailey was awfully good in the past, and he said he feels that way again.
“To feel as good as I do and locate as well as I have been, it’s a pretty awesome feeling,” Bailey said. “I feel fresh and ready to go, and excited for the next step.”
• Bailey is one of the few players who aren’t expected to be ready to play in games the first week of camp. Bailey is just slightly behind the others, but Girardi said he expects Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and CC Sabathia to each be ready for games when the spring schedule starts.
• Over at the minor league complex, Rodriguez was asked about the leadership void in the Yankees clubhouse. “First, no one can replace The Captain,” Rodriguez told reporters. “I know I’m going to miss him tremendously. I’ve been around a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of things. If guys want to ask questions, I love talking baseball, and you guys know that better than anyone. I love the game, and I love to talk it. Whoever needs my help, I’m available.” Clearly Rodriguez isn’t going to be a leader in the way Derek Jeter is a leader, but he really does talk hitting with other players a lot.
• Speaking of which, Didi Gregorius said he got some hitting tips from Rodriguez at the minor league complex this afternoon. Said it was good to meet him. “He’s a good teammate,” Gregorius said. “He introduced himself to everybody when he walked in (at the complex). New player, you don’t know everybody yet, so everybody comes to introduce (themselves) or you go to them.”
• Several other position players began to move stuff into their lockers this afternoon, including outfield prospects Slade Heathcott, Ramon Flores and Tyler Austin, who have three lockers in a row right next to one another on a back wall. Jose Pirela also arrived today. Rodriguez, Gregorius, Chase Headley, Chris Young and Garrett Jones all worked out at the minor league complex.
• Heathcott had yet another knee surgery last season and spent six months recovering at the Andrews Institute. He said he feels a significant difference between now and last spring. “Excellent,” he said. “I’m ready to play in a game right now.” I’ve been talking to Heathcott for many springs at this point, this is the most confident I’ve heard him in years. Finally sounds like he truly believes he’s healthy.
• So far, no significant injuries to report in Yankees camp, though minor league catcher Juan Graterol is still coming back from a broken arm and hasn’t been taking batting practice with the other guys. He’s been catching bullpens, though.
• Speaking of bullpens, there were a lot of them today. I caught most of Michael Pineda’s, and he looked sharp. “I thought his bullpen was excellent,” Girardi said. “I think he ended up throwing 35 pitches. I thought everything was working for him. Arm strength was really good, so that was good.” Remembering that spring of 2012, the arm strength seems to be a key issue.
• Another bullpen that seemed to catch the manager’s eye: “You know, I thought (CC Sabathia’s) bullpen was good today,” Girardi said. “I was pleased, I mean really pleased, with what I saw. Physically, I know the recovery is important, and going out there inning after innings, sitting down and getting back up (will be a different challenge), but I saw a lot of good signs today.”
• Girardi has not yet talked to Rodriguez face-to-face about playing first base, but he said he expects that conversation at some point. “I anticipate that, yeah,” Girardi said. “I’ll talk to him about taking some grounders over there just to be prepared, if I need to give a guy a day off or whoever we chose to do it, but yeah, I’m going to talk to him about it and see how comfortable it is.”
• With Rodriguez set to work at first base, and Headley having some experience there, Girardi left open the decision about who will backup Mark Teixeira. There seems to be one obvious standout candidate, though, and Girardi mentioned him by name. “I think it’s too early to decide who our backup first baseman is,” Giradri said. “Garrett Jones has played over there. That’s something that we’ll work on in spring training.”
• Interesting tidbit from Brendan Kuty: Former Gold Glove third baseman Scott Rolen has been working with third-base prospect Eric Jagielo at the minor league complex. That was at the suggestion of Gary Denbo.
• Final word goes to Girardi, about the way he’ll handle Rodriguez now that position players are set to report in the morning. “The idea for me as a manager is to get the most out of a player,” Girardi said. “I have to do whatever it takes; that’s my job. Will I be any different? I don’t know if the situations will be the same, in a sense. In 2013, he hadn’t served his suspension, a lot of things were still in question and it was different. Now it’s different. He’s served his suspension, a lot of questions have been answered, and now my job is to get to the most out of him again. I’ll do what it takes.”
Associated Press photos
This became a surprisingly busy morning with two bits of late-breaking news:
1. Yoan Moncada has signed with the Red Sox.
2. Alex Rodriguez is reporting to Yankees camp earlier than expected.
Brian Cashman would not confirm Rodriguez’s arrival, suggesting he was either holding back information or that he really has not communicated with his highest-paid player.
“I’ve had two people in the media tell me they think he’s coming today to the minor league camp,” Cashman said. “We’re trying to confirm if that’s the case. Not aware of that. Trying to figure that out if that’s the case.”
However, Cashman did have something to say about the Yankees’ pursuit of Moncada, the 19-year-old Cuban phenom who worked out extensive in front of Yankees scouts and decision makers. He reportedly went to the Red Sox for a $31.5 million signing bonus (total of $63 million with taxes for the Yankees). According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees offered $25 million and were willing to go as high as $27 million (total of $54 million). So, essentially, Moncada signed for $13 million more than the Yankees initial offer.
“We made our final and best (offer) yesterday,” Cashman said. “I don’t think anybody disagrees with the ability. I would doubt there’s any disagreement on the scouting assessment of the player. It just comes down to how much money you were willing to commit. We put our best foot forward yesterday, it was a significant offer, but it fell short of where he’s rumored to have signed.”
Clearly the Yankees baseball operations department like Moncada, but so did every other baseball operations department in the game. This was never a matter of talent evaluation. It was always going to come down to which team was willing to pay the most money for a teenager with limited experience, considerable risk and extreme upside.
Last summer, the Yankees took on a strategy of extreme spending on the international market and had already blown way past their international allotment. So why not go all out and give Moncada whatever it took?
“If we were going to go all out, there would have been more,” Cashman said. “We went to where we were comfortable going, and it was an uncomfortable number to put forth. But it still fell short. We’re proud of the players that we did sign and the work we’ve done on the international side, but we’re continuing to look at what’s available out there, and we were involved in the Moncada efforts until the very end. Yesterday they said they were going to make a decision and wanted your best offer. We presented that. It just didn’t work.”
• I’m still over at Steinbrenner Field, but apparently there’s a massive group of media camped out across the street waiting for Rodriguez’s arrival at the minor league complex. Joe Girardi said earlier this spring that he expected Rodriguez to report on Wednesday with the rest of the position players. Mark Feinsand is reporting that Rodriguez was planning to begin a workout at the complex around 11 a.m. but will instead get his physical today.
• Andrew Bailey had an early report time this morning. Yesterday, the early report guys threw live batting practice. Today, Bailey started early because he’s not facing hitters. Every other guy throwing today will throw live batting practice. Total of eight pitchers facing hitters this afternoon.
• As for Bailey, he had pitching coach Larry Rothschild standing at the plate as a mock hitter for his bullpen session. Rothschild and Joe Girardi called balls and strikes for the session. This was Miller’s first bullpen since camp opened, but he was throwing pens leading into camp (happened to throw his previous bullpen the Friday before the first workout). “Long ways to go,” Miller said, “but I’ll take it for where I am on February 23. All in all, nothing really to write about, but I’m sure you guys will find a way.”
• By the way, Miller said once again that he really doesn’t care what his role is. He’s happy to be the closer. Happy to be anything else.
• As expected, Carlos Beltran is back in camp after taking the day off on Sunday.
• Random clubhouse conversation of the morning: After pitching out of the stretch almost all of last year, Adam Warren is working as a starter again, and so he’s back to working out of the windup. Said it’s taking a while to get his timing back, but he feels more comfortable having a windup as a starter. I mentioned that he had such success out of the stretch last year, why go back? Warren said he realizes it makes no real sense, but it’s just more comfortable for him to have a windup as a starter, and feeling comfortable and confident is a big part of having success. So he’s going back to the windup as long as he’s a rotation candidate.
• A lot of pitchers scheduled for early work tomorrow, including Ivan Nova. Others listed for early report times tomorrow: Tyler Webb, Jose Campos, Chris Capuano, David Carpenter, Chase Whitley and Bryan Mitchell.
• The first two workouts, Brian McCann was assigned to catch new relievers who are definitely going to be in the big league bullpen. Seems fairly significant that today he’s been assigned to catch Jacob Lindgren.
• Plenty of live batting practice today. Beltran is not going to hit against the live pitching (he’ll just take normal batting practice today). Instead, the pitchers will basically face a collection of catchers.
12:25: Luis Severino (with John Ryan Murphy catching)
12:35: Jacob Lindgren (with Brian McCann catching)
12:45: Nick Rumbelow (with Austin Romine catching)
12:55: Diego Morena (with Eddy Rodriguez catching)
12:25: Jose Ramirez (with Gary Sanchez catching)
12:35: Branden Pinder (with Francisco Arcia catching)
12:45: Nick Goody (with Kyle Higashioka catching)
12:55: Jamez Pazos (with Trent Garrison catching)
John Ryan Murphy
Associated Press photos
Late in this morning’s live batting practice session, pitching coach Larry Rothschild gave specific instruction to catcher Gary Sanchez. Up in the zone. That was the target. New starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi was on the mound, and this session was about a clear checklist of goals.
“We worked on some different things, (including) elevating certain pitches,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Larry does a great job of giving them a plan of what each guy is supposed to work on that day whether it’s pitching inside or bouncing a breaking ball on top of home plate. That’s good, because it’s not just going out there throwing pitches. You have a plan, and I think that’s important for pitchers.”
While some guys are trying to build up arm strength right now, the Yankees have little reason to worry about Eovaldi’s ability to generate velocity. He can throw a four-seam fastball with the best of them, but his low strikeout numbers show plenty of room for improvement. So, among other things, Eovaldi was working this morning on getting his fastball up in the zone. He was also working with a slightly tweaked grip on his split-finger, a pitch he just started using last season, and one he’s planning to use a little more often this year.
Even though he’s no longer a prospect — not with three-plus years in the big leagues; not with a rotation job locked up — Eovaldi is barely a week removed from his 25th birthday, so he’s still a work in progress.
“You’re not talking about a guy that’s 30,” Girardi said. “He’s learning on the job and developing as time goes on. I think it’s just part of his game. I think learning how to pitch with his fastball, moving it around more, is still something he’s capable of doing that will help him. I don’t necessarily think one pitch is going to change everything, but obviously (the split) can help.”
Eovaldi talked this morning about recognizing his past limitations. He knows he needs to improve his offspeed stuff. He knows the split could be a key pitch. He wants to improve his strikeout numbers, without necessarily over-extending his pitch count. He needs to be more consistent, and he thinks his workload and health were the most significant positives from last season.
The fact he’s already facing hitters seems to be a pretty clear indication that the Yankees have already put in a lot of time working with him.
“He looked good,” Girardi said. “He threw a batting practice session, worked on some things, worked on some different ideas with his split. I was very encouraged by it. Arm strength is good. It’s still very early in camp, but it was positive.”
• Today was Masahiro Tanaka’s second bullpen since he arrived in Tampa. He threw 35 pitches and said his elbow felt “absolutely good.” He felt like he was throwing harder, and he added more breaking balls into the mix. Up next is at least one more bullpen — maybe more — before he faces live hitters.
• Girardi on Tanaka’s bullpen: “I thought he was good. He threw 35 pitches, threw everything and had no issues. That was encouraging.”
• This morning’s live batting practice was the first time Girardi had ever seen Eovaldi pitch in person.
• Apparently Carlos Beltran has been able to work quite a bit recently, so he was given today off. “He’ll be back tomorrow,” Girardi said. “He’s worked pretty hard the last few days.”
• The only non-catching position player I saw in the clubhouse today was Didi Gregorius, who was around for the second day in a row getting his locker situated. “I’m anxious to see him in games and to get him going just to learn more and more about him,” Girardi said. “It’s one thing to see him on tape, but you want to see him in person. That’s always important for me because I think you get a much better feel for how a guy is doing.”
• Smaller group of bullpens today than yesterday, but among those who got on the mound were two new lefties, Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson. “We’ve got a couple of lefties we can go to, when you start thinking about it,” Girardi said. “There’s some quality left handers here. I think it really gives you options as a manager. And I like that.”
• Among those lefties getting a look will be last year’s top draft pick, Jacob Lindgren. “I’m curious to see him,” Girardi said. “Because a lot of times you don’t see those guys a whole lot. There’s a bunch of young players that, you know, strike your curiosity here.”
• For the first time, I’ll take today’s final word, offering a huge congratulations to Chase Whitley on the birth of his son, Clete Coleman. It’s the first child for Whitley and his wife, who’s with him down here in Tampa and gave birth earlier today. You might remember the spring of 2012 when David Phelps’ wife had their first child, and Phelps soon made his first Opening Day roster as a long man. Wonder if the same could happen for Whitley, especially given the Yankees consideration of a sixth starter from time to time (maybe Whitley as a long man who can get a start here and there).
Associated Press photo
Here’s some video and some very quick notes from Yankees camp today. Masahiro Tanaka threw a bullpen, as did new left-handed relievers Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve, as well as potential long man Esmil Rogers. We’ll have more in-depth stuff later this afternoon. For now:
• Carlos Beltran had a healthy day off. Joe Giradri said Beltran’s been able to work hard the past few days, but this would be “his last Sunday off for a while.”
• Andrew Miller is the only pitcher listed for early work tomorrow. Based on what happened today — when the early guys all threw live batting practice — I’m guessing Miller will be facing hitters tomorrow morning.
• While Girardi said he has not seen any of Yoan Moncada’s private workouts, Girardi did say he’s heard good things about the young Cuban infielder. “They’re good reports,” he said. “They’re positive reports on a 19-year-old player.”
There was nothing jarring about seeing CC Sabathia in the Yankees clubhouse this morning. He didn’t look unusual, and the fact he’d put on weight — while obvious as soon as someone mentioned it — never occurred to me while I talked to him. He just looked … normal.
“I lost a bunch of weight drastically, pretty quick, two years ago,” he said. “Kind of was off balance and didn’t know really how my body was working. So just talking to Dr. Ahmad and to the trainers, I feel like this is a good weight.”
Sabathia said he wants to be between 295 and 305 pounds this season. He said it’s not at all the heaviest he’s ever been, but he’s intentionally put on a lot of the weight he lost the past two offseasons. As you might recall, there was some talk about Sabathia’s weight loss when he struggled through the 2013 season, and there was more talk about it when he reported to camp last spring.
In retrospect, it’s interesting to look back at this quote from an unnamed talent evaluator. It comes from August, 2013, when unusually skinny Sabathia had an unusually large 4.73 ERA. As told to the Boston Globe:
The weight loss has created a balance problem for him. He’s all over the place. He’s learning how to pitch in that body, a body he’s really never had. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him other than that. Sometimes you pitch at a certain weight all your life and then someone has the brilliant idea that you should lose weight because it’s putting stress on your knees, you do it, and then you’re dealing with something else.
Indeed, Sabathia’s past weight issues might have played a role in the degenerative knee problem that caused him to miss most of last season, but slimming down wasn’t enough to avoid surgery, and Sabathia simply wasn’t as good at a diminished weight. Was that the cause of his lackluster 2013 and his slow start before the injury in 2014? Pretty much impossible to say, but it would make sense. Pitching is about repetition, and Sabathia changed the very core of his balance and mechanics.
“I think I was just trying to find a good weight to play at,” he said. “I think last year I came in a little too light. By the end of the year last year, I felt good in where I was at. In the offseason I put on 10 more pounds, and I’ll work that off over the course of the season.”
To me, Sabathia looked unusual last year. This year, he looked like his old self. If he can look that way on the mound as well, I doubt anyone will care too much about how he’s tipping the scales.
“We’re comfortable with where he’s at,” Joe Girardi said. “The big thing for us is to keep him out there; that’s what we have to do on a consistent basis, so he can build off of each start. I have no concerns about that.”
• Girardi acknowledged today that the Yankees will “do things more in this spring training” to teach hitters to beat the defensive shift. That said, it seems the Yankees aren’t looking to force anything. “They’ve spent a long time in their career learning how to hit a certain way,” Girardi said. “And then once people start to defense it different, it’s not easy just to switch. You can work on bunting. You can work on hitting the ball the other way. Those are the two things that you can try. You don’t want to take a guy out of his comfort zone and make him something he’s not and have him lose confidence, but those are things that you will work on in spring training.”
• Among those most affected by the shift is Brian McCann: “I want to hit the ball where it’s pitched,” he said. “It’s not necessarily that I’m going to try to go up there and hit the ball to left field. If it’s away from me, it needs to go to left field. If they come in on me, I need to be able to pull it, but pull correctly. If you pull correctly, you create back spin which is going to help you hit home runs. … If I hit two or three singles in a row to left field, they’re going to continue to play the shift because that’s where my power is. That’s just the way it is and whether that takes a couple of points off my batting average, if I take the approach I have day in and day out for 500 at-bats, at the end of the year things will be there.”
• Actually, McCann says the shift wasn’t the biggest factor in last year’s disappointing numbers. “My bat path last year got out of whack, for whatever reason,” he said. “I had to go back this offseason and kind of study what I was doing wrong. I was able to pinpoint what the problem was and I feel good coming into camp. … The whole reason I went down to no toe tap (last year) was, I lost my bat path. I wasn’t using my hands. Spreading out, I was able to start slapping the ball around a little bit, and I didn’t have much power like that. But then when I stood back up tall, my hands started working again. At the end of the year, I felt like I was able to start driving the baseball like I should be.”
• Speaking of McCann, he caught only one bullpen today, but it was a new guy with whom he’s pretty familiar. McCann caught David Carpenter, his Atlanta teammate in 2013. “I think we were able to let him understand more about how to pitch,” McCann said. “What certain situations bring and just kind of diving into the game a little bit more. He was able to do that and posted a 1.70 or whatever it was. He was our setup guy for Kimbrel. We expect big things this year.”
• McCann said he was sent 10 to 15 video clips of every new Yankees pitcher this offseason, and the “clips” must have been pretty long. McCann said he feels like he saw “pretty much” every 2014 outing of every new reliever.
• Carlos Beltran went through outfield drills with Rob Thomson, and he took batting practice with McCann and the two catchers competing for the big league backup job.
• At least among media, three pitchers clearly generated the most attention during today’s bullpens: The first was Sabathia, the last was Jacob Lindgren, and in the middle was Luis Severino. “It’s a live arm,” Girardi said. “It’s a player that is bigger in (stature) than I thought when I heard some of the comparisons. He’s bigger than I thought. A lot of times you worry about the rigors of players that are extremely thin, but he’s a strong young kid, I believe, with a lot of talent.”
• The Yankees have hired former Angels outfielder Reggie Willits to be their minor league outfield and baserunning coordinator. He’ll be one of several minor league coaches working with the players in big league camp this spring.
• Former Yankees currently listed as guest instructors for this spring: Eric Chavez, Billy Connors, Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry, Reggie Jackson, Hideki Matsui, Lee Mazzilli, Stump Merrill and Andy Pettitte.
• Final word on Workout 1 goes to Girardi: “There’s a collection of good young arms here. Obviously there’s guys that you’ve seen, but you look at the younger players that we had a chance to look at today. Those are some pretty good arms. And it’s not just from one side. It’s not just right-handed or left-handed, it’s both. And that’s exciting to us.”
Associated Press photos
Although there’s obvious curiosity about Luis Severino and obvious significance in Dellin Betances, the most intriguing part of today’s first Yankees workout has to be CC Sabathia’s first official bullpen. Sabathia said he’s thrown off a mound a few times this winter, but always off a turf mound because of the snow in New York.
“Just making sure that my control is where it needs to be (this season),” Sabathia said. “(Making sure) my two-seamer is good and my changeup is better than it’s been. Just making sure that I can spot up and throw the ball where I need to. I’ve been talking to Andy (Pettitte) a lot about how he would attack guys later in his career, so I think I’ve got a pretty good plan.”
At this point, it seems clear that Sabathia wants his results to speak for themselves. He shrugged off questions about how good he can be now that he’s 34 years old and coming off back-to-back disappointments: one because of diminished results and one because of inning lost to a knee injury that eventually required surgery.
Sabathia said he’s been getting regular PRP injections through the offseason to help deal with the degenerative damage in that knee, and he’ll probably get more around the all-star break. He’s slightly adjusted workouts to protect the knee, but he said it’s not something he thinks about when he’s throwing.
“I feel like playing catch and throwing off the turf mound that I did, I went as hard as I can go,” he said. “So, no (it’s not a concern). I wanted to come down here with a clear mind and just go out and pitch. I feel like I passed every test leading up to coming down here.”
Sabathia is scheduled for 25 pitches today, all fastballs and changeups. It’s a small step toward what he’s hoping will be a big comeback.
“I don’t think as an athlete you should lower your expectations,” Sabathia said. “You just go out and see what I’ve got. I think last year pitching through spring training, I was pretty healthy, and I felt pretty good, and I pitched pretty good (in spring training). So if I can stay right there, I think I’ll be alright.”
• Dellin Betances is throwing a bullpen today, one of the biggest names getting on a mound this morning. Betances said he’s already thrown a few bullpens leading into spring training. He’s scheduled to begin facing hitters at the end of next week. Several other guys — Adam Warren, Tyler Webb, Chase Whitley, probably many others I haven’t talked to — have already faced hitters once or twice in the past few weeks.
• Esmil Rogers was stretched out as a starter in winter ball, and he said that felt natural for him because he’s always worked as a starter in winter ball. Despite having a good portion of his contract guaranteed, Rogers said he’s fully focused on making the team and doesn’t care if it’s as a starter or a reliever. He said he doesn’t feel like he has a job locked up; he knows he has to prove himself to stick around, even with $750,000 guaranteed.
• Nearly three years removed from Tommy John surgery, Scott Baker sounds incredibly optimistic. He said he feels significantly better than he did the past two springs, and that when he hit the two-year mark, there was a big difference in the way his arm felt. He’d been able to pitch for basically a year before that, but it wasn’t until he got a full two years out of surgery that his arm started to feel remotely normal again.
• Carlos Beltran is basically a full participant in today’s workout. I believe that’s because players coming back from surgery are allowed to officially report early. The other position players who are already here — guys like Stephen Drew and Chase Headley — have to do their workouts at the minor league complex. Beltran will go through drills here at Steinbrenner Field.
• Nathan Eovaldi, Adam Warren and Danny Burawa are each scheduled for early work tomorrow. Not sure what exactly they’ll be doing, the board just indicates that they’ll start ahead of everyone else.
• Still no baby for Chase Whitley. His wife is due any day now and has the cell phone number for a member of the Yankees’ security team. If she goes into labor mid-workout, Whitley will be ready to bolt.
John Ryan Murphy
Dellin Betances (to Eddy Rodriguez)
Chris Capuano (to Austin Romine)
David Carpenter (to Brian McCann)
CC Sabathia (to John Ryan Murphy)
Scott Baker (to Gary Sanchez)
Jared Burton (to Francisco Arcia)
Bryan Mitchell (to Trent Garrison)
Chase Whitley (to Kyle Higashioka)
Diego Moreno (to Murphy)
James Pazos (to Rodriguez)
Nick Rumbelow (to Juan Graterol)
Luis Severino (to Romine)
Nick Goody (to Garrison)
Jacob Lindgren (to Higashioka)
Branden Pinder (to Sanchez)
Tyler Webb (to Arcia
Associated Press photos