The Yankees have announced their rotation through Monday’s off day, and it seems to provide some clarity about the their plans for Opening Day.
Wednesday: Masahiro Tanaka
Thursday: Adam Warren
Friday: Michael Pineda
Saturday: CC Sabathia
Sunday: Nathan Eovaldi
By giving Sabathia an extra day of rest this week, the Yankees have effectively eliminated him from the conversation for Opening Day. To pitch the opener, Sabathia would have to make either his last spring start or his first regular-season start on short rest. Hard to imagine that happening. Instead, Sabathia’s now lined up to pitch Game 2 after one more turn on extra rest.
Meanwhile, Tanaka is lineup perfectly to stay on an every-six-days schedule and pitch Opening Day. Because of scheduled off days, Tanaka could make each of his first three starts on five days of rest even without the Yankees plugging in a sixth starter during that time.
“It is flexible because of these days off,” Girardi said. “It’s flexible what we can do. We’ve done that kind of on purpose. The big thing is that Eovaldi, his pitch counts are good, Pineda’s have been good. We still need to build Tanaka and CC up a little more. As long as we can get through their starts and have no issues, we should be able to iron it out the way we anticipate them.”
With Esmil Rogers starting tonight and Warren scheduled for Thursday, Girardi said he could have a fifth starter decided by the end of the week.
“I think it’s a pretty big start for (Rogers),” Girardi said. “… I would think we’ll probably even meet in the next couple days to try to make some decisions here.”
• During fielding drills today, Alex Rodriguez spent a lot of time at first base working on cut offs and relays. Girardi said he still expects Rodriguez to get at least one turn at first base this spring. “You’re probably going to see him going through some drills at first,” Girardi said. “And my guess is you’re going to see him (at first base) in a spring training game before we leave.”
• Girardi said he’d basically just like to have Rodriguez capable of playing first base just in case someone gets hurt. Garrett Jones is the backup first baseman, but if either Jones or Teixeira were to get hurt, Girardi said he’d rather be able to play Rodriguez at first base instead of either Chase Headley or Brian McCann.
• The more important thing with Rodriguez has been his at-bats, and the Yankees seem happy with those. “I just think his at-bats are more consistent (than at the start of camp),” Girardi said. “His timing is more consistent.”
• Jose Pirela is back with the team, but he’s still going through concussions tests. Girardi said the medical staff plans to let Pirela start working out — very lightly — just to see how he reacts to that. Pirela had a concussion two years ago, but he said the symptoms are not as bad this time.
• Jacoby Ellsbury did some light swings with a broomstick yesterday and will gradually increase baseball activities. Girardi remains unconcerned. Said he expects Ellsbury to start playing again before the end of spring training and be ready for the Opener.
• Nathan Eovaldi went 4.2 innings at the minor league complex. Said he was wild with his offspeed pitch early in the game — he started with a walk to former Yankees prospect Melky Mesa, who’s a notorious free swinger — but Eovaldi was ultimately happy with the outing. “I was just rushing (early in the game),” Eovaldi said. “Slider behind, same with the curveball. Fastball was a little all over the place. Once I stayed back over the mound, it was there.”
• With Tanaka starting tomorrow, Chase Whitley is going to the minor league complex to stay stretched out. He’ll pitch four or five innings across the street.
• Today’s bullpen sessions: Adam Warren, CC Sabathia, Vicente Campos, Ivan Nova, Scott Baker, Chris Martin, Danny Burawa
• Today’s second string: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Ali Castillo, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ramon Flores, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Aaron Judge, DH Kyle Higashioka
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Justin Wilson, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Nick Rumbelow
Associated Press photos
It’s worth remembering that last spring, CC Sabathia’s numbers were excellent. His fastball velocity was down, but so was his ERA. He made five official starts with a 1.29 ERA with a 0.76 WHIP. His 16 strikeouts were tied for the third-most in camp.
Then he opened the season, got knocked around for a month and a half, and wound up having knee surgery.
“I felt a lot better (today) than I did last spring when I didn’t give up many runs,” Sabathia said after today’s three-homer letdown. “So I’d rather get my (butt) kicked and feel like I did today than give up no runs and feel like I did last year.”
The Yankees keep saying the results don’t matter with Sabathia. At least not the results that end up in the box score. He faced 13 batters today, struck out four of them and gave up hits to five of them. Three of those hits were home runs. One was inside-the-park — and my guess is Jacoby Ellsbury might have caught it — but even that ball was hit awfully hard.
“Just fastballs that were up and they put good swings on them,” Sabathia said. “For me it’s just frustrating because I was throwing the ball so well leading up to this in bullpens and stuff, and to come out here and not have my delivery together is a little frustrating, but it is spring training. It’s March 22 and I’ll take this, file it, and just get ready for the next start.”
The gun here in Port St. Lucie had Sabathia’s fastball at 93-94 mph, and I’m told that, if anything, that gun tends to be slow. That’s encouraging for a guy who needs his strength. For Sabathia’s it’s not all about velocity, but throwing harder is a good sign that his strength is returning. He said that’s a product of a healthy knee, which lets him me more aggressive and direct to the plate.
“I think sometimes we forget that CC didn’t pitch much last year,” Joe Girardi said. “For him it’s just getting back to the consistency and getting him some work. CC’s always thrived on that. It seems the more you work him, the better he gets. He feels great. There’s a lot of life to his arm. I’m still encouraged. I don’t worry about the numbers. I told you I’m not going to because I think he needs to pitch.”
Today’s problem, Sabathia said, was mechanical. Bad mechanics led to pitches up in the zone, and pitches up in the zone were hit hard. When his mechanics were right, Sabathia was plenty effective. Both Sabathia and Girardi said it’s a matter of consistency. There were good pitches today, but also enough bad ones to cause a problem. Opening Day is two weeks away, and Sabathia said that’s enough time — whether he’s pitching Game 1 or not — to get ready for the regular season.
“I’ve still got hopefully two more starts down here, a couple more bullpens,” Sabathia said. “I’m kind of a slow starter anyway. The way I feel right now, I’m encouraged that I could kind of turn this thing around. … Definitely a lot more life than (the fastball had) the past couple of years. It’s just an extra pitch for me that I can use. I feel a lot better. It’s more about getting my command down and hitting my spots and just going from there.”
• Over in Tampa, Alex Rodriguez went 2-for-5 with two singles, two ground outs and a strikeout while playing five innings at third base for the Double-A team. Carlos Beltran started at DH for the Triple-A group and went 2-for-4 with a double, a walk and a strikeout. “Today was just a good day of work,” Rodriguez told reporters in Tampa. “Anytime you can see however many pitches I saw, probably 20, that’s a good day, a productive day.”
• Plan is for Rodriguez to DH and Beltran to play right field at the complex tomorrow. If it rains and the fields are wet, though, Beltran will probably DH as well, Girardi said.
• Speaking of guys getting at-bats, Brendan Ryan started at DH this afternoon. He’ll play again tomorrow, getting his second turn at shortstop.
• Don’t count Scott Baker out of the pitching staff competition just yet. Still vaguely in the mix to be the fifth starter or a long man, Baker delivered 4.1 scoreless innings this afternoon. He allowed just one hit, walked none and struck out two. “He threw really well,” Girardi said. “Down in the zone. Really, really good.”
• Baker’s now appeared in three games. He got clobbered the first time, but he’s been already since then. Still hasn’t walked anyone and said he said today’s results were mostly a matter of throwing better first pitches. There’s also the matter of healthy. Baker said he feels healthier than he has in years. “I feel really good,” he said. “I feel healthy.”
• When the Mets didn’t hold him on at first, Mark Teixeira actually stole a base today. “If you don’t pay attention, he’s a smart player,” Girardi said. “He’s done it before.”
• The Yankees had just three hits today, all singles: Teixeira, Nick Noonan (who’s quietly hitting .300) and John Ryan Murphy had the hits. … The Yankees lost 6-0. … Chasen Shreve allowed the final two Mets runs. He gave up three hits including a homer in the eighth inning.
• Before the game, Girardi talked about Sabathia’s willingness to make his season debut at any time. He said Sabathia’s been fine with the idea that he might not start Opening Day. We’ll make this our final word: “I think CC understands the big picture,” Girardi said. “The big picture is that he’s ready to go and he’s healthy. The last thing we want to do is rush anyone and put them in jeopardy for the season. He’s been really understanding, and he knows we’re just trying to do what’s in the best interest of him and the team.”
Associated Press photos
Spring Game 21: Yankees at Mets • 03.22.15
Didi Gregorius SS
Stephen Drew 2B
Chase Headley 3B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Garrett Jones RF
John Ryan Murphy C
Brendan Ryan DH
Jose Pirela CF
Ramon Flores LF
LHP CC Sabathia (3-4, 5.28 in 2014)
Juan Lagares CF
Curtis Granderson RF
David Wright 3B
Lucas Duda 1B
Michael Cuddyer LF
Wilmer Flores SS
Travis d’Arnaud C
Anthony Recker DH
Matt Reynolds 2B
RHP Matt Harvey (did not pitch in 2014)
TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., YES Network and WFAN
WEATHER: One of the hottest days of the spring.
UMPIRES: HP Sean Barber, 1B Ed Hickox, 2B Mike Estabrook, 3B Adam Hamari
TODAY’S SECOND STRING: C Austin Romine, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Jonathan Galvez, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Aaron Judge, DH Kyle Higashioka
TODAY’S SCHEDULED RELIEVERS: Scott Baker, Jose Ramirez, Chasen Shreve, Chris Martin
BACK IN TAMPA: Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran are each scheduled to get a bunch of at-bats at the minor league complex today and tomorrow.
UPDATE, 1:18 p.m.: Yankees did nothing against Harvey in the top of the first. Here’s CC.
UPDATE, 1:19 p.m.: Leadoff inside-the-park home run off Sabathia. Might have been caught with a usual center fielder, but Pirela couldn’t get there. That’s a problem, because Pirela ran into the wall hard and hasn’t gotten up. He’s down and being carted off the field.
UPDATE, 1:24 p.m.: In the golf cart, Pirela had his head down, arm wrapped around the guy driving. Looked completely dazed. He’s clearly hurt, but it looks — from a distance, with no one to ask for specifics — more like a concussion than an arm or leg injury. Not sure what exactly happened, that’s just what it looked like. He just looked completely out of it.
UPDATE, 1:29 p.m.: Lucas Duda with a two-out solo homer. It’s 2-0 Mets.
UPDATE, 1:31 p.m.: Sabathia gets Cuddyer swinging to end the inning. Two homers (one inside, one conventional) and two strikeouts (one looking, one swinging) in the first inning.
UPDATE, 1:35 p.m.: Single and a stolen base for Teixeira. Mets paid no attention and made it easy for him. Yankees seem to be going all out this afternoon.
UPDATE, 2:00 p.m.: Two-run homer by David Wright in the third inning. Sabathia struck him out the first inning. Also, just a few minutes ago Jose Pirela left the ballpark in an ambulance. A photographer got a shot of him being loaded into the ambulance on a gurney.
UPDATE, 2:02 p.m.: CC is finished with two outs in the third inning. He was limited to 45-50 pitches.
UPDATE, 3:21 p.m.: Don’t take Scott Baker out of the pitching staff discussion just yet. The veteran just delivered 4.1 scoreless innings this afternoon. He allowed just one hit.
My father likes to call me on days like this. Back when I was a senior in high school, already eyeing a career in sports writing, I hated getting up at 6 a.m. to work on the farm. I used to tell my Dad that eventually I’d be covering baseball or basketball, working at night and always sleeping in.
So Dad always laughs at me when I have early mornings like this one. At this point, I’ve already been driving for a while, getting across the state to Port St. Lucie for today’s game against the Mets. I thought about staying behind to watch Alex Rodriguez hit at the minor league complex — maybe tomorrow — but a CC Sabathia vs. Matt Harvey matchup seems worth watching.
Surely Sabathia’s excited to see the young Mets ace.
“Not really,” Sabathia said. “He’s not on my team. I’m curious to see how Tanaka looks. That’s my guy.”
Sabathia said he really hasn’t seen much of Harvey. He knows Harvey pitched in the All-Star Game a couple of years ago, but that’s about it. And playing the Mets in spring training? Not a big deal at all.
So why is Sabathia — a guy with more than enough veteran status to beg out of a trip like this — making the trip in the first place.
“We talked about just wanting the competition,” he said. “I haven’t pitched since May, so just thought this would be the best option. … Throwing the extra batting practice and two extra bullpens has gotten me to this point healthy, so I’m ready to take the next step and that’s getting actually ready for the season.”
Associated Press photo
Barring a trade, injury or something unforeseen, the Yankees basically have their 13 position players in place. They’re trying to settle on one of two backup catchers, but Joe Girardi’s made it clear that there’s not a ton of open competition for bench roles or everyday lineup spots.
Surely that’s frustrating for a guy like Jose Pirela, who’s done everything right this spring. He’s made the road trips, played multiple positions, and hit .370/.433/.630. He’s put himself as close to a roster spot as he could possibly be without having one locked up.
But surely Pirela sees a guy like Brendan Ryan ahead of him on the depth chart and feels ignored.
“No, no, no,” Pirela said. “I’ve just been around those guys and learn the most I can to be like the way they play. And I’m good for that.”
It seems worth remembering that Pirela signed as an amateur free agent way back in 2006. At the time he was a 16-year-old kid out of Venezuela. He was in his seventh full season of pro ball before he even got a taste of Triple-A, and he was in his eighth season before he was even remotely on the big league radar.
No opportunity this spring? That’s clearly not the way Pirela sees it. He knows what it’s like to have no chance, and this isn’t it.
“Every year I’m a more veteran player, and the more I play, the more I learn,” he said. “That’s helped me a lot. All around. … Everybody on the team has an opportunity to play in the majors. If I make the team or not, I keep working hard to be on the team whenever they need me.”
• CC Sabathia is making the trip to Port St. Lucie tomorrow, which seems like an unusually long trip for a veteran like Sabathia. He said the idea is to let him get into a competitive situation since he missed so much time last season. Might have stayed back to pitch a simulated game most springs, but this year Sabathia’s happy to get the game action.
• Baseball America’s latest minor league transactions include a bunch of released Yankees minor leaguers: RHP Cristofer Cabrera, RHP Dayton Dawe, RHP Alex Polanco, RHP David Rodriguez, RHP Hayden Sharp, LHP Hector Martinez, LHP Abel Mora, 1B Mat Gamel, 1B R.J. Johnson, 1B Bubba Jones, 2B Jake Anderson, 2B Casey Stevenson, OF Anderson Feliz, OF Daniel Lopez
• On that list, the name that stands out to me is Anderson Feliz, who once seemed to have legitimate promise as a switch-hitting second baseman or utility man, but he couldn’t stay healthy enough to gain any traction.
• Other notables among the released: Gamel is the veteran who signed just a few days ago in an attempt to come back from multiple injuries. … Anderson and Jones are each former seventh-rounders who never hit much. … Stevenson got to Triple-A last year, but was basically serving as a kind of organizational utility man, filling holes wherever necessary. …Johnson is a former pitcher who the Yankees were trying out as a hitter last season. … None of the pitchers had ever advanced beyond the extremely low levels.
• New Joe Girardi nickname: Today the manager saw his starting catcher and asked: “How’s it going Mac Attack?” So, yeah.
• Nathan Eovaldi, Esmil Rogers, Bryan Mitchell and Kyle Davies are throwing bullpens today.
• Speaking of Mitchell, he’s making the trip to face the Nationals on Monday. The Yankees haven’t announced a starter for that day, but it seems a smart bet that Mitchell will get the ball that day. Davies is also on that trip, but Girardi has said he wants to give Mitchell another start, so I’m guessing that will happen on Monday.
• These next two days, the Yankees play back-to-back road games in Port St. Lucie (on Sunday) and Viera (on Monday). Those are pretty long trips to the east side of the state, so the Yankees are spending the night on the road. A handful of players will be there for each game. There will also be a large group going to Port St. Lucie on Sunday morning and returning on Sunday night, then another group will skip Port St. Lucie and will meet the team in Viera. Basically, most big league guys don’t have to spend the night on the road.
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Justin Wilson, Andrew Bailey, Andrew Miller, Jacob Lindgren, Nick Rumbelow
• Travel squads for Sunday and Monday:
SUNDAY in Port St. Lucie
Pitchers: Scott Baker, Jacob Lindgren, Chris Martin, Jose Ramirez, Nick Rumbelow, CC Sabathia Chasen Shreve
Catchers: Francisco Arcia, Kyle Higashioka, John Ryan Murphy, Eddy Rodriguez, Austin Romine
Infielders: Stephen Drew, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Garrett Jones, Nick Noonan, Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder, Brendan Ryan, Mark Teixeira
Outfielders: Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott
Up from minor league camp: RHP Nick Goody, LHP Tyler Webb, INF Dan Fiorito, OF Tyler Austin, OF Aaron Judge
Players returning that night: Baker, Martin, Sabathia, Drew, Gregorius, Headley, Teixeira, Goody, Webb
MONDAY in Viera
Pitchers: Danny Burawa, Kyle Davies, Bryan Mitchell, Jacob Lindgren, Jose ramirez, Nick Rumbelow, Chasen Shreve
Catchers: Brian McCann, Francisco Arcia, Kyle Higashioka, John Ryan Murphy, Eddy Rodriguez, Austin Romine
Infielders: Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Garrett Jones, Nick Noonan, Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder, Brendan Ryan
Outfielders: Brett Gardner Chris Young, Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott
Up from minor league camp: RHP Brandon Pinder, RHP Kyle Haynes, RHP Cesar Vargas, LHP Fred Lewis, OF Tyler Austin, OF Aaron Judge
Associated Press photos
Today it’s Adam Warren’s turn. Last night it was Esmil Rogers, and at some point it will be Bryan Mitchell again, but today’s it’s Warren trying to make an impression in the fifth-starter competition.
“I always wanted to just come in and get ready for the season,” Warren said. “And those last couple of weeks, get ready to compete a little bit. I think they know what I’m capable of. Maybe not as a starter (though), so just try to go out there and try to prove myself a little bit, and just go from there. I don’t know if I’ve really ramped it up any or anything like that. I just want to go out there and compete. That just says the same no matter what.”
Rogers is relatively new to the organization, and Mitchell has very limited big league experience. The other two vaguely in the mix are Scott Baker and Chase Whitley, another guy who’s new to the organization and another guy with limited big league experience.
Then there’s Warren, who came up through the Yankees organization and has solidified himself as a big league pitcher the past two years. He’s made some spot starts, but his real breakout came as a late-inning reliever last season.
“I was always (thinking), I’m a starter, I’m a starter, I’m a starter,” Warren said. “But then I kind of liked the bullpen the last couple of years. I see myself being more versatile now as opposed to just a starter. I still want to hold onto being a starter because I love doing that. I don’t have a preference. It’s not going to matter to me where I end up. I still want to be labeled as a starter and be a starter because that’s what I’ve always done. … I’m not going to be disappointed either way, but I would love to be a starter so I can kind of hold onto that.”
Joe Girardi has stressed that the Yankees are looking to build a 12-man pitching staff, not just a five-man rotation. They have to take the entire group into account. For a decision like this, it’s not necessarily a matter of picking the best pitcher, putting him in the rotation, and letting the second-best fall into the bullpen. Some guys are better suited for the pen. Some are better suited for the rotation.
Does the fact the Yankees have seen Warren thrive in the bullpen make them lean toward keeping him in the relief role?
“The thing about Adam, I think he’s extremely equipped to do both because he is a four-pitch guy,” Girardi said. “Adam is one of the few guys that uses four pitches out of the bullpen. I think he’s grown up a lot in the last couple years. It’s just trying to figure out how we’re the best.”
• Speaking of the rotation, Girardi said the current rotation order — in which CC Sabathia is on an every-five-days routine that leads toward Opening Day, while Masahiro Tanaka lines up after him — is not necessarily the order the Yankees will take into the season. The Yankees have built in some wiggle room to make adjustments along the way. “We still have plenty of time to iron it out,” Girardi said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. A lot of it depends on Tanaka and CC and where they’re at, where we think they’re at. That’s the bottom line. The fact we haven’t announced anything is because we haven’t got them built up enough to feel comfortable that they’re ready to go.”
• Alex Rodriguez is back at designated hitter today while Garrett Jones gets another turn at first base. Girardi said he still thinks there’s a chance Rodriguez will play first base a game or two this spring, but for now, it’s more important that Jones gets time at the position because he’ll be the go-to backup. “I said I did want to put (Rodriguez) out there one time, two times,” Girardi said. “So it might be something that we mess around with the last couple of weeks. And it may not be.”
• Plan is for Brendan Ryan to play four or five innings at shortstop today. He’s basically on a schedule similar to most guys getting into spring training games for the first time. Girardi wants to make sure he gets a couple of at-bats, but there’s no sense of pushing him to play seven or eight innings right out of the gate.
• Carlos Beltran is skipping the upcoming long road trip to the east side of the state and will instead get at-bats at the minor league complex (Rodriguez is doing the same thing). Girardi said that’s not because Beltran is considered to be behind and in need of extra at-bats, it’s more to let him avoid two long bus rides.
• The Yankees made another round of cuts late last night. Girardi said he didn’t have the full list, but Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, Jose De Paula and Nick Rumbelow had their lockers cleared out this morning. Apparently a full, official list of cuts will be sent out later today.
• Dellin Betances is throwing a simulated game today, pitching to John Ryan Murphy while facing Francisco Arcia and Eddy Rodriguez.
• Jose Ramirez, Ivan Nova and Vicente Campos have bullpens today.
• A few guys are back from minor league camp to add extra depth today: RHP Branden Pinder, RHP Cesar Vargas, LHP Fred Lewis, RHP Chris Smith, INF Ali Castillo, OF Ben Gamel, OF Aaron Judge, OF Jake Cave.
• Today’s second string: C Austin Romine, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Cole Figueroa, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ben Gamel, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Aaron Judge, DH Eddy Rodriguez
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Chase Whitley, Chris Martin, Nick Rumbelow, Jacob Lindgren
Associated Press photos
Just count the days.
CC Sabathia pitched last night. If he pitches every five days between now and April 6, he’ll be perfectly lined up to start Opening Day.
Masahiro Tanaka pitches tonight. If he pitches every six days — which could be part of the strategy for keeping him healthy — he’ll be lined up to start Opening Day on an extra day of rest, which wouldn’t seem out of the question.
“We’ll just see who’s ready,” Joe Girardi said. “We have to see where (Sabathia’s)’s at. That’s been the whole thing all along here. We’ve been patient with him and Tanaka because we want to see where they’re at.”
Now 34 years old and coming back from knee surgery, Sabathia has started Opening Day each of his six seasons with the Yankees, but he no longer has a definite claim to being the team’s best starter. He’s also been brought along slowly this spring, suggesting he might benefit from making his first start a little later that first week of the season.
“I can’t sit here and say it’s going to make or break me if I don’t start Opening Day,” Sabathia said. “I’ve done it a lot. I want to be there in September, and for Game 1 of whatever playoff series. I leave that up to them. I hate to sound like I don’t care, because I do, but whenever I get out there, I’ll be happy with that.”
Tanaka seems to be the consensus top starter (if healthy) in the Yankees’ rotation, but even Tanaka said earlier this spring that he considers Sabathia to be the staff ace (and it’s pretty clear Sabathia carries that status throughout the clubhouse). Tanaka might prefer giving Sabathia the honor of another Opening Day start, but Tanaka might also benefit from the off day that comes immediately after Opening Day. Whoever starts the opener will automatically get an extra day off before his next start.
“All of this goes into it,” Girardi said. “… I think the way we’re looking at it is, who’s ready? We want to make sure that person is ready, obviously. You look at the rotation and how does it benefit each guy? You’re the No. 1 guy on the day you pitch; that’s all that matters to me. Whether you’re the first starter, the second starter, you’re still that No. 1 guy and you’re still going to take your turn every five days or every six days if we have an off-day. I’m not a big believer of skipping people, so it’s just formality, really.”
A formality, sure, but one that carries some weight. The No. 1 starter label carries more significant weight in the postseason. For now it’s more of a statement, if the Yankees choose to look at it that way. Instead, Girardi said it’s all about figuring out how it best lines up based on rest, health and preparation.
While it seems either Sabathia or Tanaka will be choice, Girardi said he considers all options to be on the table.
“Neither one of them (Sabathia or Tanaka) have made a lot of starts in spring training,” Girardi said. “So something could change our mind. I’m pretty open-minded about it right now. Obviously I’ll have to change my mind pretty soon, but right now, that’s not a huge decision for me.”
Associated Press photos
It’s always easy to dismiss the first spring training start of a 34-year-old big league veteran. For a guy like this, early to mid March is all about getting ready. The results don’t matter. It’s all part of a familiar process. Why, then, was CC Sabathia so nervous tonight?
“I didn’t (expect it),” Sabathia said. “But I was, I mean, really nervous. More so than normal. That was kind of weird, but I think it’s just be being back out here and wanting to be with my teammates and just being my first game.”
Sabathia said it had nothing to with worrying about his health. It was all about pitching under the lights for the first time since May. There was a solid crowd at Steinbrenner Field, the Blue Jays brought a legitimate lineup, and Sabathia delivered an encouraging but predictably uneven two innings. He struck out two with a fastball that sat 90-92 and touched 93 mph (on a scout’s gun). At times he looked sharp. He also gave up two runs on four hits and was sometimes hit hard.
“Solid, and definitely way ahead of what I was expecting,” a scout in attendance said. “The guy can still pitch.”
To Sabathia’s credit, he thoroughly dismissed his velocity, which was much better than we’ve seen early in previous spring trainings. Sabathia’s spent the past few years saying diminished velocity doesn’t matter, and he wasn’t about to say that increased velocity tonight was going to be a difference maker.
“I think it’s a good sign for you guys so you can stop asking me,” Sabathia said. “I don’t really care.”
What he does care about is throwing strikes, and Sabathia said he was happy with his location. He threw 31 pitches, 22 of them for strikes. He’s also focused on making his changeup a weapon again. In recent years, his slider/cutter has become his top secondary pitch. He’d like to use the changeup that way this season.
“Changeup has got to be up there for me, just because it’s a big pitch for me,” he said. “I want to be able to throw it in any count, at any time. When I got here, that’s how it was, and I want to get back to that.”
Sabathia said he wants to focus on his changeup in the bullpen before his next start. Tonight he got one strikeout on a cutter, and he got the other on a two-seam fastball.
“That’s the Andy pitch,” Sabathia said. “I think if you look at the way I pitch right now, past five years, a lot reflects what me and Andy (Pettitte) have talked about: moving the ball in and out, throwing my two-seamer in to righties. He’s had a huge influence on me.”
• Gary Sanchez was optioned to Double-A Trenton before today’s game. After the game, Domingo German was optioned to High-A Tampa and RHP Branden Pinder to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. First basemen Greg Bird and Kyle Roller were also reassigned to minor league camp (because Bird and Roller aren’t on the 40-man, they don’t have to be assigned to a specific minor league roster; assignments right now don’t necessarily mean specific players will open the season at those specific levels).
• In the Yankees clubhouse postgame, there was a lot of positive reaction to seeing Sabathia on the mound again and the way he looked after so much time off. “I think (the fact he’s healthy) is the biggest thing,” Joe Girardi said. “And that’s what we need to continue to see because we said all along that we thought he was throwing the ball better this spring than he has the last couple of years, and I think a lot of it’s because he’s healthier. He has some issues taken care of, and now we’ve just got to keep him that way.”
• Alex Rodriguez on Sabathia: “I haven’t been around much the last two years, so it’s hard to think about how these guys feel and what they’re doing. But I know CC’s always a big part of what we do, and he’s part of our DNA. And I thought the ball exploded out of his hand today just from third base.”
• Girardi said he wasn’t sure whether Sabathia was getting an extra day of rest, but he was pretty sure Sabathia would be starting one of those long road trip games coming up, either Sunday against the Mets or Monday against the Nationals.
• Girardi wasn’t positive, but said he was pretty sure Esmil Rogers would start on Thursday. So it’s Masahiro Tanaka tomorrow, then Rogers the next day, but the rotation is unannounced beyond that.
• Sabathia said he’s not worried about whether he gets the ball on Opening Day. He’s done it 11 times in his career and said he’s more focused on making sure he’s available in September (and for Game 1 of a playoff series). Said it won’t bother him if the Yankees go with Tanaka (or anyone else) on Opening Day this season.
• As for the knee, Sabathia said he wasn’t worried about it at all tonight, and he’s not worried about how well it will hold up as he builds innings. “We’ve got a pretty good routine,” he said. “After I come off the mound, stuff we do. In the training room the days in between. I’m pretty confident in our routine and what I’ve been doing to keep my knee healthy.”
• Rodriguez made one solid play at third base, but he also had a ball shoot past him to start the second inning. From up here, it looked playable. Not easy, but playable. Rodriguez seemed not to make much of it. “I saw it perfectly,” he said. “Just a rocket by me. Not even close to me.”
• Another positive outing for Chris Martin. The tall right hander who seems to have a shot at a spot in the big league bullpen went two innings with one hit and three strikeouts. He walked none.
• Dellin Betances actually got hit pretty hard on a third-inning triple. He allowed one run on two hits and a walk. It was Sabathia, though, who took the loss in a 4-2 game. Only saw a little bit of Domingo German’s spring debut. Saw a hard hit. Saw a good curveball for a strike.
• What do you know, another hit for Jose Pirela, this one his second triple of the spring. … Chris Young went 2-for-3 to raise his spring average to .263. … Carlos Beltran and Tyler Austin each doubled. … Mark Teixeira had his first home run of the spring. … Stephen Drew had his third hit of the spring.
• Final word goes to Rodriguez: “It’s so great to have (Sabathia) out there. I thought he looked really well, really good. Threw the ball really well. He’s going to be such a big key to what we do this year, and Tex as well. So great to see Tex and CC both contribute and look so good.”
Associated Press photos
Spring Game 16: Yankees vs. Blue Jays • 03.17.15
Brett Gardner LF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Carlos Beltran RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Garrett Jones DH
Chris Young CF
Stephen Drew 2B
Didi Gregorius SS
LHP CC Sabathia (spring debut)
BLUE JAYS (7-7)
Jose Reyes SS
Josh Donaldson 3B
Jose Bautista RF
Dioner Navarro DH
Danny Valencia 1B
Dalton Pompey CF
Dayan Viciedo LF
Devon Travis 2B
Josh Thole C
RHP Drew Hutchison (1-0, 0.00)
TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: Really beautiful day. My first day back from New York, and the Tampa weather is treating me well. Wind blowing out to right field.
UMPIRES: HP Mark Carlson, 1B Dan Iassogna, 2B D.J. Reyburn, 3B Will Little
TODAY’S SECOND STRING: C Austin Romine, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Jose Pirela, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ramon Flores, CF Mason Williams, RF Tyler Austin
TODAY’S SCHEDULED RELIEVERS: Scott Baker, Justin Wilson, Chris Martin and Branden Pinder are the first of many listed.
FIRST TIME FEELING: The Yankees have moved slowly with CC Sabathia this spring, but tonight he’s making his exhibition debut. Sabathia has said he feels good and his knee is no longer an issue. Still seems possible that he’ll get the nod on Opening Day.
UPDATE, 7:09 p.m.: Nice and easy 1-2-3 first inning for Sabathia. A couple of ground balls to the shortstop, and got Donaldson to strike out swinging at a changeup. The YES gun had him up to 96 mph, but obviously that’s wrong. Apparently YES was about four mph too fast for Tanaka’s first start. If that’s the case again tonight, don’t the Yankees still have to be thrilled with Sabathia throwing 92 in his first spring outing?
UPDATE, 7:29 p.m.: Sabathia got another strikeout in the second inning, but he was also hit pretty hard a few times. Inning ended with a single to left and a runner out at the plate on a 7-6-2. Gregorius made a pretty terrific throw on the relay to get the out. Impressive. Not sure I’d seen him make a throw like that yet. The dude can throw it. It’s 2-0 Blue Jays.
UPDATE, 7:33 p.m.: Scout in attendance said he had Sabathia at a “solid” 90-92 mph, occasionally touching 93. Yankees have to be happy with that in his first spring start.
Tanaka shines in spring training debut • 03.13.15
Masahiro Tanaka’s spring debut couldn’t have gone much better. Here’s the update from Mark Didtler of The Associated Press:
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — New York ace Masahiro Tanaka sparkled in his spring training debut, a Yankees’ 3-2 win over Atlanta Thursday night in which Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was ejected after one pitch by his starter.
Tanaka was perfect in two quick innings, striking out two.
“I think I was able to throw pretty close to how I would be throwing in the regular season,” Tanaka said through a translator.
After Tanaka threw nine of 11 pitches for strikes in the first, Shelby Miller’s first pitch to Yankees leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury was a ball. Gonzalez argued the call and was tossed by plate umpire Dan Iassogna.
“It was balls and strikes,” Gonzalez said. “I thought the balls that the first inning when we were hitting were down and called strikes. We throw a pretty good pitch and call it a ball. It’s a late game at spring training. I get a little ornery because I’m usually in bed at this time, and so maybe my temper got a little bit of me.”
Miller liked his manager sticking up for the team.
“You see some calls that we didn’t like early on in the top of the first, and then it goes around and that first pitch I threw was there,” Miller said. “I thought so, and so did he.”
Tanaka was an All-Star last year during his first season in the majors, but the Japanese right-hander missed 2 1/2 months while rehabilitating a partially torn ligament in his elbow. He returned for two starts in late September.
“I have a good feeling about him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
One day after hitting his first home run since returning to the Yankees following a drug suspension, Alex Rodriguez went 0 for 2 with a walk. A-Rod, who turns 40 in July, has five hits in 13 at-bats (.385) this spring training.
Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, sidelined by an oblique injury, went 1 for 3 in his spring training debut.
“Simmons got through it with everything OK,” Gonzalez said.
Braves: RHP Mike Foltnewicz will start a split-quad game against Detroit, while LHP Manny Banuelos will pitch in the other split-squad with the New York Mets.
Yankees: RHP Adam Warren will start Friday night’s road game against Boston. With LHP Chris Capuano out with a strained right quadriceps, Warren and Esmil Rogers are the top contenders to be the fifth starter.
Braves: Shelby Miller gave up one run and two hits in three innings.
Yankees: Tanaka threw 15 of 19 pitches for strikes. He made 18 more pitches afterward off a bullpen mound.
Braves: OF Nick Markakis (neck) is long tossing and swinging a bat in an indoor cage. “Every day he’s doing a little more,” Gonzalez said. “We’re still kind of targeting opening day, but it’s not set in stone.”
Yankees: LHP CC Sabathia (knee surgery) threw 29 pitches in a two-inning simulated game and said he is ready for his first spring training start. … INF Brendan Ryan (back) has started dry swings and a running program.
Associated Press photo