Don’t worry, this hotel desk is made of wood, and I knocked on it before publishing this post…
The Yankees have a roster overloaded with injury concerns, but with a week to go in spring training, they don’t necessarily have a roster overloaded with actual injuries. Their most significant injury of the spring cost them their fifth starter. Otherwise, they’ve dealt mostly with minor bumps and bruises at the major league level.
“There’s nothing major,” Brian Cashman said yesterday. “You’ve got the little stuff. Well, I guess (Jose) Pirela’s concussion, he could be a disabled list situation if it doesn’t resolve. But again, that’s a timing thing. That’s an unpredictable time frame.”
Here’s a quick injury report on where the Yankees stand on the medical front.
Torn elbow ligament
He’s made every scheduled start this spring and reported no problems with his elbow. His offspeed pitches have looked sharp, and there’s little indication he’s holding back. His next start is tomorrow as a final tune-up for Opening Day.
Offseason knee surgery
Just like Tanaka, he’s made every scheduled start. The Yankees kept him on a slow-and-steady schedule early in spring, but now he’s been let loose, and despite rough statistics, his raw stuff has been pretty encouraging. His velocity is up, but consistency remains an issue.
Repeat shoulder issues
After missing much of the past three years with shoulder issues, Pineda has shown no signs of injury or weakness this spring. In fact, he just might be their most reliable high-end starter.
Grade 2 quad strain
The only issue currently expected to impact the Opening Day roster: Capuano came into camp as the heavy favorite for the fifth-starter role, but he’ll likely miss at least a month of the regular season after hurting himself while covering first base.
Tommy John Surgery
A little less than a year removed from surgery, Nova has been throwing full bullpens — including breaking balls — for about two weeks now. He’s still expected back sometime around the first of June.
Got into games later than most pitchers, but he’s pitched well since returning to the field. Bailey missed the past year and a half, but he’s said he feels strong again this spring. Question is whether he has time to go back-to-back and prove he’s capable of breaking camp with the big league team.
Tommy John surgery
On roughly the same schedule as Nova, Campos has also been throwing bullpens and continues his rehab in big league camp until his inevitable reassignment to the minor league complex.
Released and re-signed, Burton came into camp on a minor league deal and got off to a strong start before hurting himself early in camp. The big league veteran began playing catch again this weekend and could become an option during the season.
Hasn’t played since March 15, but after a weekend of batting practice and other drills, Ellsbury is scheduled to get in a minor league game tomorrow. Fully expected to be healthy in time for Opening Day. Could even play in another Grapefruit League game or two.
Hit by a pitch at the minor league complex on Sunday, Teixeira was scheduled to have tomorrow off anyway. He’ll basically rest for two days before being expected back in the lineup on Wednesday.
Offseason elbow surgery
Held back very slightly at the beginning of spring training, Beltran has since been on a fairly normal schedule getting most of his time in right field with only a handful of DH days. No sign the elbow is holding him back at all.
Looked bad when Gregorius landed on his glove hand while trying to make a diving play on Saturday, but X-rays and an MRI came back negative. He’s now had two days off, and he’s scheduled to have another day off on Tuesday. Expected back in the lineup Wednesday.
Arrived in spring training with an injury and didn’t get into a game until March 20. Ryan has since played in seven games, and he’ll play again on Tuesday. He’s seen time at both second and short and is expected to break camp as the Yankees’ backup middle infielder.
Slammed into the outfield wall while playing center field last Sunday. Hasn’t played since, and even regular baseball drills have been put on hold while he tries to move past all symptoms. Was having a great spring, but seemed unlikely to make the team even before the injury.
Repeat knee issues
Had knee surgery yet again last season, but Heathcott arrived in big league camp talking about renewed health and confidence, all of which showed in a strong spring during which he seemed to be running well without pain. Sent to minor league camp yesterday.
Associated Press photos
First, a reminder that we’re doing a chat today at noon. This is an off day in Yankees camp. For me, that means a day to sit in a hotel room and write a whole lot of season preview stuff for the newspaper. For the Yankees, it means a day to catch their breath before one last burst of exhibition games and decision making. Heading into this final week, here are a few thoughts and impressions from Tampa:
• I actually think CC Sabathia looks pretty good. His numbers are awful, but I’m buying it when he says he’s encouraged. He’s clearly stronger than he was last year, and I think it’s good that he’s talking about his changeup a lot. He’s going to have to pitch smart and keep hitters off balance, and I think he’s able to do that. Scouts keep telling me what a “pitcher” he is; that Sabathia knows what he’s doing out there even with diminished stuff. The numbers are awful, but this is one of those situations in which I’m not sure spring training numbers mean much. He’s going to give up some home runs now — that’s just the way it goes — but I think he’ll be better than he was the past two seasons. Not a Cy Young candidate, but I think he’ll be a good No. 3 starter as long as he stays healthy.
• The middle of the order does not look very good. At this point, I think that’s a bigger problem than the rotation. Even if the lineup stays healthy, I’m still not sure what the heart of the order can provide. Carlos Beltran hasn’t looked great, Brian McCann has been so-so, and Mark Teixeira hasn’t hit for much power (though I do think Teixeira seems to be in much better shape than last spring, so maybe he can stay on the field and avoid a second-half decline). I just haven’t seen a lot that suggests the lineup is much better than it was last season. Veteran guys like that might be able to turn it on once they’re in real games, I just don’t think they’ve shown it down here.
• Whether Alex Rodriguez has a successful season might depend on your definition of success. If he carries his spring training slash line through the season he’ll be an MVP candidate, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. More likely, I think he’ll get on base at a decent clip, pounce on some bad pitches to hit home runs now and then, and generally provide what you’d expect from a No. 6-7 hitter. That’s honestly better than I was expecting. He’s not running well, but I think he’s running well enough. He’s not a good defender, but he’ll field balls that are hit right to him. He’s better than I thought he would be.
• As a side note to the Rodriguez situation: He’s also handled all of the off-the-field stuff pretty well. Believe it or not, he actually makes some small talk and jokes with reporters in the clubhouse. Teammates seem to like him. Opposing players don’t seem to completely hate him. He’s heard his share of boos, but he’s heard plenty of cheers as well. I’m telling you, from every angle, this situation has been much better and easier than I expected. The Yankees seem to feel the same way. Both Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi said yesterday that they’re happy with the way Rodriguez has settled back into the clubhouse.
• I have no idea what the Yankees are going to do about those final two spots in the bullpen. I think Chase Whitley is a favorite for one of those spots, if only because I think they’ll want another long man other than Esmil Rogers (and all the other long relief candidates have been sent away). What I can’t figure out is who the favorites might be for that last spot in the pen. I do think it’s worth noting that Chris Martin and Chasen Shreve are on the 40-man and have options, and I think that final bullpen spot might be very flexible early in the season. For that reason — because the 12th reliever might have to go up and down to Triple-A a few times — I’m not surprised the Yankees steered away from Jacob Lindgren. He’s looked great, but I imagine that once he’s on the big league roster, the Yankees want him to stay there. Why not carry Martin or Shreve out of camp, send him down for a sixth starter in late April, and then think about adding either Lindgren or Andrew Bailey?
• Backup catcher might be more wide-open than I expected when camp opened. Last season showed the Yankees clearly prefer John Ryan Murphy, but don’t think they’ve completely given up on Austin Romine. Ideally, I think — and this is just a gut feeling — the Yankees would prefer to trade Romine before the season starts, but I think they’d like to get real value for him. If they can’t, maybe he gets one month to prove himself one way or the other in the big leagues. If he can’t do it, Murphy comes up to take his place. That said, if the Yankees choose to DFA Romine in favor of Murphy, that wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. I really think it could go either way. If I had to guess right now, I think I’d still pick Murphy.
• Slade Heathcott has looked so good this spring, I wonder if the Yankees might get aggressive and send him straight to Triple-A to play center field every day. That would free Jake Cave, Mason Williams and Aaron Judge to play the outfield every day in Trenton (and Williams had a good enough spring that I think he’s worth everyday at-bats as well). Put Heathcott in the Triple-A outfield with Ramon Flores and Tyler Austin and see what happens. This isn’t a typical development year for Heathcott. The Yankees really need to find out by the end of the season whether he’s a high-end asset again.
• At this point, I’m assuming Jose Pirela will end up in Triple-A, but where does he play regularly? Obviously he’ll have to bounce around a little bit — some time in the outfield corners, some time at second base — but it might make sense to see what he can do as a regular third baseman. If Chase Headley gets hurt, Rodriguez isn’t good enough in the field to play third every day, so the Yankees might want to get Pirela prepared just in case he has to play that role at some point. But he really can’t play any one spot every single day. He’s going to have to maintain some flexibility because the Yankees might want his bat at some point even without an injury at third.
• Sure, Sabathia says his knee feels fine and Masahiro Tanaka is pitching like his elbow is healthy, but the biggest reason to be optimistic about the Yankees’ rotation might be Michael Pineda. That guy looks fantastic. He’s still throwing hard, still throwing a ton of strikes, and his offspeed stuff is more effective than when the Yankees first acquired him. It’s amazing that, after missing much of three years with shoulder problems, Pineda just might be the most reliable piece of the Yankees rotation. I think Nathan Eovaldi could be pretty good, but Pineda could be great.
• Speaking of the rotation, what happens if everyone stays healthy and Adam Warren has a 3.00 ERA at the end of May. Would he move right back into the bullpen to make room for Chris Capuano? What about Ivan Nova? Granted, this is a pretty extreme hypothetical — it involves Warren having an all-star caliber first two months, and involves a rotation full of injury concerns staying healthy — but I really think Warren’s a nice pitcher who could thrive. Maybe not to the tune of 3.00, but what about a 3.20 or a even a 3.50? Would you take that out of the rotation in favor of a guy one year removed from Tommy John?
• Relief pitchers are notoriously inconsistent from year to year. Only a very few are able to truly get the job done season after season. For that reason, I think the Dellin Betances struggles should raise some red flags. Not white flags of surrender, but red flags of concern. He just hasn’t looked great, and it’s not just the fact he’s not throwing 98 mph. Some of that added velocity could very easily come with regular-season adrenalin. Right now, he’s also missing spots and looking fairly hitable. I think that should be a bit of a concern. The Yankees have banked on the idea of having a standout bullpen. What if they don’t?
Associated Press photos
Given the option of facing a divisional opponent or pitching in a minor league game, CC Sabathia chose the minor leagues. Then he went to the complex, gave up a long home run on his first pitch, and allowed a three-run home run two innings later.
While Sabathia insists he feels better than he’s felt in years, he’s already allowed five home runs in three spring outings and his official 11.57 ERA — which doesn’t count today’s four runs in five innings — is the highest on the team.
“I don’t give a (darn) what stock they put in it,” Sabathia said, using a word far more racy than darn. “It is what it is. I’ve had spring trainings where I’ve given up a lot of runs and went out and had a good season. I’ve had spring trainings like last year where I didn’t give up no runs, and I gave up five in the first game. Y’all can put stock in whatever you want. I’m not really worried about it.”
Sabathia is defiant that this spring has left him feeling confident. He’s said his surgically repaired right knee feels strong, and his velocity has been legitimately higher than in recent springs. He’s consistently reaching 92-93 mph with his fastball, and his offspeed pitches have been good if not consistent.
“You look at his stuff,” Joe Girardi said. “You try to evaluate his stuff and how you feel about that. What we’ve seen this year is much more positive than what we’ve seen the last (few years), you know, in velocity, the discrepancy between that and the change up and slider, so now to me it’s just ironing out and being more consistent.”
It’s not particularly unusual for a pitcher to not want to face a division team in spring training, but by passing on a start against the Orioles, Sabathia was left open to obvious questions about a five-inning, four-run start against minor leaguers. He walked two and struck out seven.
“Today was a day when we were trying to work on the changeup,” Sabathia said. “I get runners on first and second or whatever it was (and threw) a couple of changeups. Me and (catcher Brian McCann) wanted to work on it so I threw it again. The guy hits a homer. I probably won’t throw it like that in a game.”
McCann noted that he’s seen Sabathia get stronger from start to start. He said he really sees that added strength late in games. McCann said Sabathia’s stuff was basically the same in today’s fifth inning as it was in the first inning.
“The ball was coming out great,” McCann said. “I thought he threw the ball great. Two-seamer was running really good. Ambushed a couple of hits, but all in all, I thought the ball was coming out fantastic. … When you go over there, you’re not pitching to scouting reports. You get guys set up, and then you think you can get something in there, and they hit it. But all in all, I thought changeup was really good, fastball to both sides of the plate, and the slider was great today.”
Sabathia has one more spring start before he pitches the third game of the regular season.
“I was able to go out there five times and pitch five innings and feel great,” he said. “Like I said, I haven’t had any problems. I’m just looking forward to getting into the season and trying to help this team.”
• Alex Rodriguez raised his slash line to .306/.405/.583 and hit his team-leading third home run in a 10-2 loss to Baltimore. “Numbers mean nothing,” Rodriguez said. “But you definitely want to pass the eye test. That means moving around better, putting balls in play, and hitting balls in the mid-90s. Those are things I haven’t done in over a year and a half, so everything for me this year – this spring, at least – is a test.”
• While the numbers might not mean much in the grand scheme of things, they do seem to provide some hope that Rodriguez might have something left. It was one thing when he was drawing walks and getting into good counts early in spring training, but now he seems to be putting together good and productive at-bats even in the final week of exhibition games. “Overall, it’s just repetition,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve said it all along. Any time you can keep adding up at-bats, it’s a good thing.”
• While his first two spring home runs left plenty of doubt off the bat, today’s was clearly gone from the moment Rodriguez made contact. “That one felt good,” he said. “I was excited about that one.”
• Plan is still to have Rodriguez start at first base tomorrow.
• More good news on Jacoby Ellsbury, who came through today’s batting practice with no problems. He’s scheduled for more BP tomorrow and remains on track to play a minor league game on Tuesday.
• No real update on Jose Pirela. “I don’t know what he did today,” Giradi said. “He said he felt better. I didn’t ask him what he did today.”
• Sabathia is certainly not the only Yankees pitcher putting up numbers that aren’t exactly encouraging. Dellin Betances has now allowed a run in five straight outings. He had one walk, one strikeout and allowed a single today. “I’ve been leaving the ball up,” Betances said. “When I get ahead, I leave the ball up. Today, the contact wasn’t as hard. Obviously the first guy I fell behind 3-1 and he had a good swing, but after that, I felt like I threw some good pitches. I’ll be ready.”
• Betances said he’s been working on his leg kick with Larry Rothschild. Concerning that, after being so good last year, he’s having some mechanical issues this spring? “It’s not like I’m missing as bad as I once was (in the minor leagues),” He said. “I’m around the zone. I felt way better even before I came in. I felt like my direction was better, something I’ll try to work on more. As that gets better, I think I’ll be able to throw more strikes and put guys away.”
• Giradri said he was encouraged because Betances had a better breaking ball today. “It’s not what you want,” Girardi said. “But one thing you always talk about a lot is don’t judge people on spring training, right? Sometimes a different beast comes out Opening Day. If this was happening the first month, you’d say, OK, what’s going on? But, I thought he was better today, and I think when the season starts, he’ll be right.”
• Speaking of bullpen guys, Andrew Bailey had another scoreless inning today. Chasen Shreve also pitched a scoreless inning. Those were the pitching bright spots for sure. Otherwise, it was kind of a mess today. Jacob Lindgren allowed his first earned run of the spring. Chris Martin struck out two but let two inherited runners score on a double. Justin Wilson got three strikeouts, but those were hit runners that scored on Martin’s watch.
• Worst pitching line of the day belonged to Scott Baker, who seemed to pitch himself into the roster conversation with a strong outing against the Mets last weekend. This time he had a clean first inning before allowing five runs on five hits including a homer in the second inning. “Physically, I felt great,” Baker said. “First inning, I made some good pitches. Then in the second inning, they found a couple holes and then they got the big hit. Maybe out of the stretch a little bit I was kind of feeling for it, but overall, I felt good. The results don’t necessarily show how I felt.”
• Over at the miner league complex, Bryan Mitchell was hit by a Gary Sanchez throw to second base. He finished the outing and is apparently fine.
• Despite the fact Esmil Rogers is making tomorrow’s road trip to pitch out of the bullpen, Girardi still wouldn’t name a fifth starter today. “Actually we’re going to sit down and talk today about what we’re going to do,” Girardi said.
• Here’s Sabathia talking about Masahiro Tanaka being chosen for Opening Day: “I’m excited for him. I think it’ll be a good deal. I know he’s excited to get a chance to do that. I’m excited to get a chance to be able to enjoy Opening Day. It should be fun.”
• Final word goes to McCann, who’s predictably staying optimistic about underperforming pitchers: “Spring training is not (the regular season),” McCann said. “Adrenaline plays a huge factor in results. You run out of the bullpen with 50,000 people in the stands, if you’re throwing 94 (in spring training), you’re going to throw 97, 98. Adrenaline plays a huge factor in both sides, hitting and pitching. When the lights turn on, it’s a whole other ball game.”
Associated Press photos
Austin Romine’s never come to spring training as a favorite. He’s competed for a job many times, had a chance to open plenty of eyes, but there’s always been someone ahead of him on the projected depth chart whether it was Chris Stewart or Francisco Cervelli or — this year — John Ryan Murphy.
How do we know Murphy was ahead of Romine coming into this spring? Because the Yankees left no doubt last season. Romine got a long look in 2013, but it was Murphy who got the extended opportunity in 2014. Romine got a couple cups of coffee last year, that’s it. He didn’t even get a September call-up when the roster first expanded.
“Last year was tough at the beginning,” Romine said. “It was tough to be, I don’t want to say forgotten. Not forgotten. Just, it’s a business. Stuff happens. Moves get made. You can’t blame people for that. It was tough in the beginning, but once I kind of settled in an figured out, I still have to play good baseball wherever I am. That’s basically what I told myself every day. It was rough for a little while, but I kind of got over it. I got my head down and I started working again.”
This spring, Romine came into camp recognizing it for what it is. It’s another opportunity, perhaps his last in this organization. Murphy might be the favorite, but Romine spent his winter at an intense training facility in California. He said he threw up after the first eight workouts. He ultimately lost 10 pounds, came to camp lean and strong.
He showed up to prove himself. He gets the start behind the plate today, which is another opportunity to do that.
“Everybody says they’re in the best shape ever when they come into spring training,” Romine said. “But I literally was. I wanted to be able to go into the office when they call me — if I’m going up or going down — and know that I gave it everything I had, because they deserve it. They’ve given me a lot, and I want to be the backup catcher to give back to them. They’ve put me in a position to be where I am in my life, so I feel like I owe it to them to give it everything I have.”
Neither Romine nor Murphy has had a particularly good spring at the plate. Murphy’s gotten going a little bit lately, but he still has just a .492 OPS. Romine has a .477. Romine is out of options. Murphy is not. Brian Cashman has said that’s a factor that could play into the decision of who wins the job. In a way, that gives Romine an advantage, if he can only show he’s worth another opportunity.
“I came in here with a plan,” Romine said. “And I’ve put myself in a good position to achieve that plan. I just keep my head down, and I keep working, and I get down what I need to get done. Hopefully I make this team. … I have no idea, no idea (what’s going to happen). Murph doesn’t either. No one does. We just keep playing. They’ll figure it out. That’s their job, so we just keep playing.”
• A reminder that CC Sabathia is pitching in a minor league game today while Scott Baker starts the big league game against Baltimore. Bryan Mitchell, who was originally scheduled to start against the Orioles, said he’s also going to pitch at the minor league complex.
• Tomorrow’s travel squad includes Esmil Rogers, who’s clearly making the trip to pitch out of the bullpen. That seems to be yet another sign that Adam Warren has won the fifth-starter job.
• It will be interesting to see how the long relief role plays out. Obviously Rogers is stretched out and could be one long man, but given the rotation concerns, the Yankees surely want another guy who’s capable of multiple innings. Baker and Chase Whitley are — in my opinion — the top candidates for that job ahead of Mitchell, who makes more sense as Triple-A rotation depth. While Baker is getting a chance to start today, Whitley is on the travel squad for tomorrow, obviously scheduled to pitch an inning or two of relief.
• Ivan Nova has now thrown four bullpens that have included breaking balls. He said his arm still feels great. He’s happy and encouraged by the way his Tommy John rehab has gone. All positive so far.
• Masahiro Tanaka and Adam Warren each threw a side today.
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Justin Wilson, Andrew Bailey, Chasen Shreve, Jacob Lindgren, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller (with Nick Rumbelow, Danny Burawa, Diego Moreno and Tyler Webb listed as available just in case)
• Tomorrow’s travel squad to Kissimmee:
Pitchers: Danny Burawa, Nathan Eovaldi, Jacob Lindgren, Jose Ramirez, Esmil Rogers, Nick Rumbelow, Chasen Shreve, Chase Whitley
Catchers: Francisco Arcia, Kyle Higashioka, John Ryan Murphy, Eddy Rodriguez, Austin Romine
Infielders: Stephen Drew, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, Alex Rodriguez, Brendan Ryan
Outfielders: Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott
From minor league camp: RHP Cesar Vargas, RHP Nick Goody, LHP Fred Lewis, INF Dan Fiorito, OF Ben Gamel, OF Aaron Judge, OF Michael O’Neill
Associated Press photos
Scott Baker was scheduled to pitch multiple innings of long relief this afternoon, but the game was called in the sixth, and so the Yankees will instead have Baker start tomorrow’s game against Baltimore.
CC Sabathia will pitch in a minor league game tomorrow.
“We wanted (Baker) to go long,” Girardi said. “I called him in before that (last) inning and I said, ‘We’re going to wait, because we don’t want you to go just an inning or a half an inning and all of a sudden it starts pouring and they call the game.’ So he’ll start tomorrow.”
The original plan was to have Bryan Mitchell start tomorrow’s big league game. The Yankees don’t want Sabathia to do it because they’re facing the Orioles, and the Yankees would prefer to keep Sabathia out of a game against a division rival. Prioritizing Baker could be a sign that he’s still heavily in the mix for a long relief role.
After a rough spring debut, Baker pitched well against the Mets on Sunday (4.1 innings, one hit, no walks). It’s at least a little curious that the Yankees let Chase Whitley — another long relief candidate — pitch just one inning last time out but preferred to make sure Baker gets a multiple-inning appearance.
Would it make sense to carry Baker as a long man out of camp, while sending both Whitley and Mitchell to Triple-A to stay stretched out as rotation depth (making them potential candidates for spot starts whenever the Yankees want or need a sixth starter)? Opening a 40-man spot for Baker shouldn’t be tough, especially with Ivan Nova and possibly Chris Capuano being obvious 60-day disabled list candidates.
Associated Press photo
Joe Girardi said that, if CC Sabathia hadn’t been hurt last season, the decision of who to start on Opening Day this year might have been a slam dunk. But that’s not what happened last season, and now for the first time in seven years, someone other that Sabathia will start the Yankees’ opener.
“If CC wouldn’t have had the problem and pitched all 30 starts, it probably would have been a non-issue who was going to go No. 1,” Girardi said. “But it didn’t happen that way, and we had to make sure people were ready. I know it’s a big deal, and it might be somewhat of a deal to them, but when CC looks back, he’s going to worry about Octobers.”
Instead, it’s Masahiro Tanaka getting the Opening Day nod. He’ll be followed by Michael Pineda, Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi. All four will get six days of rest leading into their first start of the season. Because of scheduled off days in April, Tanaka starting Opening Day means he will make each of his first three starts with five days of rest even without the Yankees inserting a sixth starter along the way.
That ability to rest Tanaka’s elbow, Girardi said, was the driving factor in giving Tanaka the Opening Day start. This is more about practicality than rewarding Tanaka for a standout rookie season.
“He did have a great year,” Girardi said. “But I worry more about the physical part than anything because that’s what’s going to carry us through the season. Rewards come at the end of October.”
Girardi gave the starters their assignments earlier this morning.
“I’m honored, obviously,” Tanaka said. “Now that I know when I’m pitching for the season, my job is to get ready for that day.”
Still no fifth starter announcement. Girardi said he wants to discuss it with his coaches and inform the pitchers involved before making a final decision. Just a few days ago, Brian Cashman called Adam Warren the “Secretariat” of the fifth-starter competition. Girardi’s not willing to say the same.
“I’m not comparing horses,” he said.
• Tanaka will be on a slightly limited pitch count in his first start, but Girardi said that shouldn’t be an issue for the second and third starts. With an off day immediately after Opening Day, Girardi will have a full bullpen at his disposal for Tanaka’s start without worrying about burning anyone out for Game 2.
• Plan is for Alex Rodriguez to play first base on Sunday. Girardi’s made it clear that Garrett Jones will be the backup first baseman this season, but the Yankees would like Rodriguez to be kind of a third-string option. If either Jones or Mark Teixeira is hurt, Rodriguez could see actual playing time at the position. For now, he’s more of a designated hitter who might occasionally play third base and would play first only in a near emergency situation.
• Jacoby Ellsbury is scheduled for more tee and toss plus a few rounds of indoor batting practice.
• Didi Gregorius, Garrett Jones, Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott, Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy are skipping the trip and are scheduled for batting practice in Tampa.
• Today’s second string: C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Jonathan Galvez, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Tyler Austin, CF Jake Cave, RF Aaron Judge
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Scott Baker, Jacob Lindgren, Chasen Shreve, Chris Martin, Nick Rumbelow (with Danny Burawa, Kyle Davies, Diego Moreno)
Associated Press photos
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