The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Game 8: Yankees at Orioles04.14.15

CC SabathiaYANKEES (3-4)
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Chase Headley 3B
Carlos Beltran RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Garrett Jones DH
Chris Young LF
Stephen Drew 2B
Didi Gregorius SS

LHP CC Sabathia (0-1, 6.35)
Sabathia vs. Orioles

Everth Cabrera SS
Manny Machado 3B
Adam Jones CF
Steve Pearce 1B
Delmon Young RF
Chris Davis DH
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Caleb Joseph C
Alejandro De Aza LF

RHP Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 1.59)
Gonzalez vs Yankees

TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network

WEATHER: Been rainy all day, but looks like there’s a solid chance they’ll get this game in.

UMPIRES: HP Cary Cederstrom, 1B Sean Barber, 2B Eric Cooper, 3B Lance Barksdale

TOUGH MATCHUP: Orioles shortstop Everth Cabrera has just four career at-bats against CC Sabathia, but he’s had success with those opportunities. He’s 4-for-4 with a triple.

GRAND TIME: Last night, Stephen Drew hit a pinch-hit go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning. It was the first pinch-hit grand slam by a Yankee since Jorge Posada on June 6, 2001, which was also against Baltimore (off Mike Trombley). According to Elias, since 1980, the only Yankees other than Drew to hit a pinch-hit, go-ahead grand slam are Glenallen Hill (2000) and Jorge Posada (2001).

ON THIS DATE: Sixty years ago today, Elston Howard became the first black player in Yankees history when he made his MLB debut on April 14, 1955. The two-time Gold Glove Award-winning catcher contributed to nine pennants in his first 10 seasons with the club. He was the winner of the 1963 American League MVP and was elected to the All-Star Game in nine different seasons (1957-65).

UPDATE, 7:20 p.m.: Two quick outs for Sabathia, then a solo homer by Adam Jones.

UPDATE, 7:36 p.m.: Couple of two-out base runners for the Yankees in the second inning, but Gregorius went down swinging. If there’s an upside, it might be that Gonzalez has already thrown 38 pitches.

UPDATE, 7:40 p.m.: The Yankees know CC can’t move very well and might not be able to cover first base very often. Might have cost them a double play opportunity here in the second inning.

UPDATE, 7:43 p.m.: Slow roller that Sabathia couldn’t get to very quickly, and now it’s two on with two outs for De Aza.

UPDATE, 7:44 p.m.: Sabathia’s through the inning without any damage done. This is why the Yankees say they’re OK with him not moving very well. It’s obviously not ideal — costs him pitches and creates some risk — but the Yankees feel he can ultimately pitch his way out of being hurt by that shortcoming.

UPDATE, 8:07 p.m.: Sabathia’s first walk of the year comes back to hurt him. A soft single moved the runner to third and a sac fly brought him in to score. It’s now 2-0 in the fourth.

UPDATE, 8:16 p.m.: Infield single. Wild pitch. Two strikeouts. Two-out, RBI single to right. This is looking more and more like Sabathia’s first start of the year. Other than the home run, he really hasn’t been hit hard, but he’s allowed three runs on five hits.

UPDATE, 8:39 p.m.: Two-out RBI double for Teixeira puts the Yankees on the board and cuts the lead to 3-1 in the sixth.

UPDATE, 9:10 p.m.: Second extra-base hit Sabathia has allowed this season was a leadoff triple in the seventh inning. Ellsbury nearly made a diving catch, but he couldn’t get there and a sacrifice fly brought in the fourth Orioles run of the night. This start feels a lot like Sabathia’s first start of the year.

UPDATE, 9:15 p.m.: Couple of hits and an RBI ground out have cut the lead to 4-2 in the eighth. Didi Gregorius actually got a hit, if you can believe it.

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Pitching matchups at Baltimore04.13.15

Michael Pineda

RHP Michael Pineda (0-0, 3.00)
LHP Wei-Yin Chen (0-0, 6.23)
7:05 p.m., PIX 11

LHP CC Sabathia (0-1, 6.35)
RHP Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 1.59)
7:05 p.m., YES Network

RHP Nathan Eovaldi (0-0, 5.06)
RHP Bud Norris (0-1, 24.00)
7:05 p.m., YES Network

Associated Press photo

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Postgame notes: “It’s something to build on”04.09.15

CC Sabathia

All through spring training, CC Sabathia insisted he felt great despite the fact he was pitching his way to an 8.10 ERA and a loss in each of his three starts.

Tonight’s regular-season debut felt similar.

There were plenty of obvious good things — eight strikeouts, no walks, no extra-base hits — but Sabathia still allowed five runs, four earned, through 5.2 innings. For now, that’s enough for a 6.35 ERA and an 0-1 record. Sabathia is usually hard on himself after a loss, but he seemed mostly encouraged after this one, despite the ugly result.

CC Sabathia“It’s something to build on,” he said. “No walks. Not a lot of good contact. So I think we threw the ball pretty good, it was just, you know, bad luck.”

The real problem was the second inning when Sabathia allowed four runs on five singles and a couple of run-scoring ground outs. A comebacker off Sabathia’s own glove might have been a double play had he not touched it, but Sabathia’s deflection loaded the bases with no outs, and the Blue Jays chipped away from there.

“If he’s going to be hit that hard every time he starts, I’ll take it because he’s not going to give up that many runs in most games,” Joe Girardi said. “But it was just one of those nights. … We’ll take our chances when you’re getting ground balls because you’re going to get some double plays there. It looked like we may have had the one if he doesn’t touch it, and that could have changed the whole complexion of that inning. I thought he threw the ball pretty good.”

Sabathia said he got away from pitching inside in that second inning, and that was his biggest problem. He need to keep pounding fastballs inside to get hitters off his offspeed pitches. He didn’t do that in the second inning, and the Blue Jays pounced; not with home runs and doubles, but with a lot of contact and a lot of effective base hits.

Aside from the second inning, and before he allowed a pair of two-out hits in the sixth, Sabathia actually faced the minimum. The only other hit he allowed was quickly wiped out by a double play. There were some positives, and on some nights he might have finished with better results, but one big inning is nothing new for Sabathia. It’s also nothing new for the Yankees, who were undone by a similar inning by Masahiro Tanaka on Monday.

“He kept the ball in the ballpark,” Girardi said. “He kept the ball on the ground. He did what he was supposed to do, in a sense.”

In a sense, that’s true. In another sense, a loss is a loss, and four earned runs are four earned runs.

“A bad inning got away from us,” Sabathia said. “I wish I could have stopped the bleeding right there.”

Alex Rodriguez• Alex Rodriguez hit his first home run since September 20, 2013. “I felt like I needed Google Maps or something to round the bases,” he said. “It’s been a long, long time. It certainly felt good to get some cheers in front of the home fans and get us going a little bit.”

• Moved into the second spot in the order, Rodriguez also drew a walk. He struck out in his other two at-bats. “We talked about it in spring training, anything that I do this year is going to be kind of a surprise to everyone – sometimes even myself,” Rodriguez said. “That one felt good to get us on the board and start a little momentum.”

• The home run, by the way, was No. 655 in Rodriguez’s career. His last homer came off former Yankees prospect George Kontos.

• Continuing a familiar issue, the Yankees went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. They had similar problems last night. Their only RISP hit tonight was an RBI single by Didi Gregorius, who was promptly thrown out rounding too far around first base. “To win games, you have to hit with runners on,” Girardi said.

• Speaking of Gregorius, that’s his second base-running blunder in three games. “I slipped a little bit trying to go back to first and I got stuck there,” he said. “That’s what happened. … For me, I just want to be aggressive on the bases. I slipped on that one, and I can’t take it back. It happened and just go forward from there.”

• Girardi on the Gregorius mistake: “He takes too wide of a turn, he slips and then he’s out. You’ve got to read the throw, and if the throw is low enough, you can’t take that wide of a turn.”

Josh Donaldson, Chase Headley• Two fielding mistakes by Sabathia tonight. The first was the comebacker that he couldn’t snag in the second inning. If he’d let it go through, it probably would have been a double play. “I asked Didi, he was standing right behind me,” Sabathia said. “So I just gotta trust that he’s going to be there and he would’ve made the play.”

• The second fielding mistake came when Sabathia didn’t back up at third base in the sixth inning. When a throw from right field hit the runner, the ball got away and let a run score. “He went toward first (on contact), and it’s hard for him to get over there (to third),” Girardi said. “With his knee issues, we might have to live with that from time to time. I’m not so sure he’s even going to make it over there.”

• For whatever it’s worth, Sabathia said he felt great despite the cold weather.

• This was the 21st time in Sabathia’s career that he struck out at least eight without allowing a single walk. Last time he did it was May 31, 2013. … Sabathia has now lost each of his past four starts at Yankee Stadium, his longest home losing streak since joining the Yankees in 2009.

• Mark Teixeira homered to score the 1,000th run of his career. It was also his 500th RBI with the Yankees.

• Two doubles for John Ryan Murphy, who was making his first start of the season. Murphy got off to a slow start in spring training, but he started to hit a little toward the end. The Yankees chose to keep him over Austin Romine as the backup catcher.

• Jacoby Ellsbury was caught trying to steal in the third inning snapping a streak of 16 consecutive stolen bases without being caught. That streak dated back to July 18 of last season.

• We’ll give the final word to Rodriguez: “It’s three games. Today, I was more encouraged. We hit some of the hardest balls; some were outs. Tex hit a rocket that easily could have been a couple ribbies. Ellsbury had some great at-bats, Didi hit the ball well. Sometimes a run with this type of weather can count for two or three.”

Associated Press photos

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Game 3: Yankees vs. Blue Jays04.09.15

CC SabathiaYANKEES (1-1)
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Carlos Beltran RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Chase Headley 3B
Chris Young LF
John Ryan Murphy C
Gregorio Petit 2B
Didi Gregorius SS

LHP CC Sabathia (3-4, 5.28 in 2014)
Sabathia vs Blue Jays

Jose Reyes SS
Russell Martin C
Jose Bautista RF
Edwin Encarnacion DH
Josh Donaldson 3B
Danny Valencia 1B
Kevin Pillar CF
Steve Tolleson LF
Devon Travis 2B

LHP Daniel Norris (0-0, 5.40 in 2014)
Norris vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network

WEATHER: Still cold. Still don’t like it.

UMPIRES: HP Jerry Meals, 1B Paul Schrieber, 2B Fieldin Culbreth, 3B Jim Reynolds

LIMITED EXPERIENCE: The Yankees collectively have a total of four career plate appearances against Daniel Norris. In those four plate appearances they have one walk and one hit. The one hit is a home run. It was hit by Brian McCann, who is of course not playing today.

RED SOX SET THEIR WEEKEND ROTATION: Boston’s weekend rotation has included a TBA for Saturday, but the Red Sox have now settled on Joe Kelly as the Saturday starter. Wade Miley will start tomorrow’s series opener and Clay Buchholz will start the Sunday night finale.

ON THIS DATE: It was on April 9 that the Yankees played their home opener in 1996. Joe DiMaggio threw the ceremonial first pitch, and both Joe Girardi (replacing Mike Stanley) and Tino Martinez (replacing Don Mattingly) were booed during pregame introductions.

UPDATE, 7:33 p.m.: Good first inning for Sabathia, but the Blue Jays have been relentless in chipping away at him here in the second. Five singles this inning have the Blue Jays in front 4-0.

UPDATE, 7:49 p.m.: Two strikeouts to open the third inning. Sabathia has five strikeouts already. It’s those five singles that have killed him.

UPDATE, 8:01 p.m.: Ellsbury’s two-out single was the Yankees’ first hit of the night, but he was promptly thrown out trying to steal second. Ended the third inning, and ended Ellsbury’s streak of 16 steals without being caught.

UPDATE, 8:07 p.m.: Eight strikeouts through four innings for Sabathia. He’s been perfect outside of that second inning.

UPDATE, 8:12 p.m.: Walk for Rodriguez, double by Beltran, and Teixeira nearly put the Yankees on the board but his sharp line drive was snagged by Donaldson at third.

UPDATE, 8:17 p.m.: Blown opportunity in the bottom of the fourth. Runners at second and third with no outs, and the Yankees get nothing out of it.

UPDATE, 8:39 p.m.: Well, the Yankees are on the board after Murphy’s double and a Gregorius single, but Gregorius was caught too far off first base, so the inning was limited to one run. Second base-running mistake in three games for Gregorius.

UPDATE, 8:54 p.m.: Couple of two-out singles and an error gave the Blue Jays another run in the top of the sixth, but the Yankees have answered in the bottom of the inning with a pair of home runs by Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.

UPDATE, 9:05 p.m.: Second double of the game for Murphy. Drew hitting for Petit with two on and two outs in the sixth.

UPDATE, 9:06 p.m.: And Drew struck out. Still 5-3.

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Pregame notes: “You have to regain the trust every day”04.09.15

Alex Rodriguez

With the lineup already posted on the door that leads to the batting cage, Alex Rodriguez came walking through the clubhouse this afternoon and suddenly stopped in his tracks. Someone had just mentioned that he was hitting second. The words initially seemed to pass without Rodriguez hearing them, then he froze and looked back.

“You’re kidding me,” he said.

He walked to the door. Looked at the lineup. Walked away. Came back. Looked again and kind of whispered, “wow” before going to hit in the cage.

Rodriguez“I didn’t tell him,” Joe Girardi said with a little laugh. “But we’re taking Gardy out, and against a left-hander I decided to move (Rodriguez) up. I like the way he’s swinging the bat, so we moved him up today.”

For a guy with Rodriguez’s resume, a turn in the No. 2 hole in early April surely doesn’t rate as any sort of real accomplishment. But for a guy who’s almost 40 and coming off a year-long suspension, hitting second seems pretty telling. Can’t imagine Rodriguez — even with Brett Gardner out of the lineup, even with a lefty on the mound — would be hitting second if he hadn’t shown the Yankees quite a bit in spring training.

Six weeks ago, the Yankees had no idea what to expect from him. Now he’s as dependable as anyone at the top of the order.

“Joe and I have a long history,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been through a lot together, we won a championship together, so I think there’s a lot of trust on both sides. Whether you’re hitting second or seventh, third or fourth, the goal doesn’t change. You have to help the team win.”

Asked if he’s surprised by the way Rodriguez has looked at the plate, Girardi said that after spring training, he’s come to expect it. Rodriguez has shown a good eye since exhibition games started, and he’s done a good job of making contact and occasionally driving mistake pitches.

“Naturally, any time you hit at the top of the order, you should have better pitches to hit because they want to stay out of the meat of the order,” Rodriguez said. “It doesn’t matter where they’re hitting me; I think they’re always going to honor the power at some point.”

So today he’s in the No. 2 spot. Tomorrow, who knows?

“Anything that Skip wants me to do, I’m ready to do,” Rodriguez said. “… It’s all about trust. You have to regain the trust every day. Every day is an opportunity to prove yourself and help the team win.”

John Ryan Murphy• Stephen Drew, Brian McCann and Brett Gardner all have the day off because of the lefty starting for Toronto. No one is hurt. It’s just a chance to give guys a day off, and so three lefties are on the bench. Girardi said he plans to play Drew and sit Didi Gregorius tomorrow. Seems safe to assume McCann will be back in the lineup tomorrow as well, and I would expect the same for Gardner.

• Usually Girardi likes to pair his backup catcher with one particularly pitcher, but he said the decision to starter John Ryan Murphy today had more to do with the opposing starter and less to do with the Yankees starter. Doesn’t sound like Murphy and Sabathia will be paired together regularly, it just worked out that way this time around. “I think I’ll try to rotate it based on when Mac needs a day,” Girardi said.

• Speaking of today’s Yankees starter, it’s CC Sabathia’s return. “It means a lot to him, I know it does,” Girardi said. “But it also means a lot to us. It’s important that we have him in our rotation. I look back on last year, I didn’t realize how few starts he actually made. It’s really great to have him back, and we’ve just got to keep him in the rotation. I think that’s the important thing.”

• First two games of the season, the first pitcher out of the bullpen has been Chris Martin, and Martin’s been impressive. Two innings, no base runners, three strikeouts. “We’ve liked what we’ve seen obviously his last outing,” Girardi said. “But his last few outings of spring training (were also encouraging). His breaking ball has improved, which I think is really going to help him during the course of this season. He had the cutter, but he’s added a little bit bigger breaking ball which gives a different look. So I feel good about our guys in the bullpen, and I brought him in a close game hoping he would keep it there. I think our parts are somewhat interchangeable down there, and you just have to keep the guys fresh.”

• Rodriguez has moved up in the order, but when’s he going to play the field? “I have no idea,” he said. “I already took my ground balls this afternoon. Did the same thing yesterday early. I’m ready when my number is called.”

• Minor league seasons get started tonight. Bryan Mitchell has the start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Associated Press photos

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Keeping veterans rested was a spring priority for Girardi04.04.15

CC Sabathia

CC Sabathia pitched just 10 innings this spring, Masahiro Tanaka made just four starts, and Carlos Beltran got just 37 at-bats, only four more than Jacoby Ellsbury who was hurt for more than two weeks.

Recognizing the age and injury concerns up and down their roster, the Yankees went with an intentionally lighter workload for several key players this spring. Sabathia and Tanaka progressed slowly and will be on slightly limited pitch counts when they make their first regular season starts. Beltran got quite a few at-bats at the minor league complex, but he didn’t play a ton in actual Grapefruit League games. Alex Rodriguez played the field sparingly, including just two games at first base, a position he’d never before played in his career.

But the additional rest went beyond those obviously diminished statistics.

Carlos Beltran“I opted to give them more complete days off this spring than just not playing,” Joe Girardi said. “It was something I thought would help refresh them more. You play a night game and you’re not playing the next day, and (if) you come in and work out, you’re not into the first two or three rounds of BP because maybe you’re a little bit tired. Then you’re frustrated because you don’t like your BP, so you go and take 150 swings. It kind of defeats the whole purpose.

“So there were times I chose to say, ‘I don’t want you coming in tomorrow. Stay home and relax.’ I think it helped; I do. I think it breaks up the monotony of spring training, too, for veteran guys.”

Despite a long list of obvious injury concerns, the only projected big leaguers set to open the season on the disabled list are Chris Capuano (an older player, but not one with a lingering health issue) and Brendan Ryan (a little used utility man who’s still not sure how he strained his calf muscle on a relatively routine play). The only other significant sprint injury was Jose Pirela’s concussion, which happened because of a collision in the outfield, not because of workload or lack of rest.

So far, Tanaka’s elbow seems fine. So does Beltran’s. Rodriguez has complained of no problems with his hips, Sabathia says his surgically repaired knee feels fine, and Mark Teixeira suffered no significant injuries throughout spring training (a month-long healthy streak possibly unmatched all of last season). Most of the injuries that did pop up — Teixeira’s bruised knee, Jacoby Ellsbury’s strained oblique, Didi Gregorius’s sprained wrist — cleared up well before breaking camp.

Injuries can popup when players and coaches least expect them, but the Yankees have done what they can to keep guys healthy this spring, and it seems to have worked so far. If it means Tanaka and Sabathia are slightly limited in their first starts, it’s still a long way from the worst-case scenario.

“(Sabathia) makes one more start in the season and he’s where everybody else is,” Girardi said. “I don’t really consider him that far behind. We chose to do this because we had guys coming off injuries and we said we were going to take it slow. If their pitch count is a little bit less the first start, so be it. We’ll deal with that.”

Associated Press photo

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Postgame notes: “Couple of ticks away from where I want to be”04.03.15

CC Sabathia

Three hits, three runs and two walks in the first inning. Two hits, one walk and no runs through the next 4.1 innings. That was CC Sabathia’s final start of the spring. The YES Network gun showed his velocity basically the same as we’ve seen it all spring — low 90s with his fastball — and Sabathia was stretched out to 83 pitches in his final tune-up before the regular season.

For Sabathia, that was a successful finish to an encouraging spring.

Sabathia“I am (ready), I am,” he said. “I think just being able to go out there and throw 85 pitches or whatever pain free is very encouraging so I’m ready for the next one. … I feel great. I feel like I’m just a couple of ticks away from where I want to be.”

Those last few ticks, Sabathia said, are mostly about command. It’s in finishing off a few hitters and getting ahead of others. It’s a pretty sparse crowd here today, so it was pretty easy to hear Sabathia yelling at himself occasionally on the mound (something he does often). Today’s biggest blow up might have been after Danny Espinosa lined out to center to finish off a 1-2-3 fourth inning.

Sabathia had the result that he wanted, but he wasn’t happy with himself for letting the No. 8 hitter make such solid contact in that situation.

“I got the pitcher on deck, there’s two outs, I gotta make a better pitch,” he said. “I can’t give them a chance to extend the inning. I want to start the next inning with the pitcher leading off. Hopefully that’s an easy out. Just frustrated in that way. Like I said, I just need to narrow my focus and be able to make pitches to get us off the field.”

That’s Sabathia in spring training, a pretty clear indication that his expectations remain pretty high. There was no exhale of relief about a hard out, just a shout of frustration knowing he could have made a better pitch.

“I’m happy with the stuff, and I think the consistency will come,” Girardi said. “I do. I think you’ll see a different guy. He hasn’t pitched a lot (in recent years). He’s had to deal with a lot of injuries. The arm strength is much better than it’s been. His knee has been good. So, I’m encouraged.”

Andrew Miller• Andrew Miller on the strong possibility that the Yankees will not have a defined closer this season: “There’s no established closer in here,” Miller said. “There’s nobody where they can expect to be in that role, you’re not ruffling any feathers, really. So I think they’ll treat us three outs at a time, one hitter at a time, whatever cliché you want to use, and we should be okay. … It’s a good problem to have when you can’t determine who to give the ball in the ninth inning. We’re all flexible. There’s nobody in here who can say they have a routine that will help them pitch better if they pitch in the ninth inning.”

• Girardi said the decision to go without a defined closer would have nothing to do with Betances having a shaky spring. Girardi said he would have made the same decision even if Betances had pitched as well as he did last spring. “I think so, I do,” Girardi said. “I just think because of the two arms we have there, you can do it. It’s an interesting thought. If you name one, you do it that way. But if you don’t name one, maybe some of the things you can do with it (will be more effective) if you don’t name one.”

• It really seems that both Miller and Betances were prepared for spring to end with this sort of late-inning situation. Each one has stressed that he doesn’t care about a specific role, and neither has indicated that being name closer would be particularly meaningful. “I think neither of us has been in a situation where we’ve been an anointed closer before,” Miller said a few days ago. “So it’s not like we can say that’s a comfort zone for us. When the phone rings, we’ll pitch, and until otherwise I have no problem with it. And I can’t imagine anyone else does. I think it might be a little unique, but I think we’ve come to establish that closing… doesn’t have to be that specific as it has been historically the last couple of decades or whatever.”

• Of the seven expected relievers, Betances is the only holdover from last year’s Opening Day bullpen. There’s a lot of unfamiliarity in the pen, but Girardi said that’s not the reason he’s hesitant to define roles. “It’s not that I’m not sure how the pieces fit together,” Girardi said. “It’s just that I think you can move the pieces around and put the puzzle together every night, as opposed to being so cut-and-dried, this is the way it is. I know what we have, and I know how I want to use them, but a lot of it is going to depend on the lineups those days.”

David Carpenter, Austin Romine• No roster developments during or immediately after today’s game. The Yankees ended the game planning to bring both Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy to Washington D.C. for tomorrow’s exhibition finale. Chasen Shreve and Chris Martin are also traveling with the team as the final two pieces of the bullpen, and Gregorio Petit is set as the utility infielder. That could change this weekend, but that’s how the Yankees broke camp.

• Plan is still for Carlos Beltran to play tomorrow. He sat out the past two days because of flu-like symptoms.

• Not Yankees news, but pretty significant baseball news: MLB announced that Twins starter Ervin Santana has tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance. He’ll get an 80-game suspension. The league also announced that neither Josh Hamilton (recreational drugs) nor Jarred Cosart (gambling) will be suspended by the league. It was ruled that Cosart didn’t bet on baseball, while an arbitrator ruled that Hamilton didn’t violate his treatment program.

• Josh Norris tweeted some of the preliminary minor league assignments for the Yankees. They include Danny Burawa, Jacob Lindgren and Nick Rumbelow each getting spots in the crowded Triple-A bullpen. Norris noted that these assignments could change, but they seem to be indications of where the Yankees are leaning. A lot of tough decisions coming, especially in that Triple-A pen.

• Biggest adjustment Sabathia made this afternoon was not so much mechanical: “It was just hard for me to get a grip (in the first inning),” he said. “I kept going to the dirt. I was trying to dry my hand off. I came back in the dugout and was able to get it dry and felt pretty good after that. It was hot outside.”

Bailey• Andrew Bailey was charged with three runs on a hit and two walks in his final appearance of the spring. Didn’t help him that Nick Goody allowed a three-run home run that brought in two of Bailey’s runners. Still, an encouraging spring for Bailey, who will stay behind to get more work done here in Tampa.

• The Yankees lost their spring finale, 8-2, against the Nationals. … Branden Pinder came up from minor league camp to strand a runner and finish off the sixth inning. … Chase Headley stayed hot with his fifth double of the spring, and Rob Refsnyder hit his team-leading sixth double. Refsnyder will finish spring training with a .372 batting average. The kid can hit. Headley’s two-hit day leaves him with a .321 average. … Mark Teixiera also doubled. The other Yankees hits belonged to Brian McCann, Chris Young, Ramon Flores and Ben Gamel.

• Final word goes to Girardi: “I thought camp went good. I mean, I’m pleased with the way it went. We had a couple of injuries that we have to deal with. We’ll try to get through these next two days without anything happening, but (it was) pretty good.”

Associated Press photos

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Spring Game 33: Yankees vs. Nationals04.03.15

CC Sabathia

YANKEES (16-15-1)
Brett Gardner LF
Didi Gregorius SS
Brian McCann DH
Mark Teixeira 1B
Garrett Jones RF
Chase Headley 3B
Chris Young CF
Gregorio Petit 2B
John Ryan Murphy C

LHP CC Sabathia (3-4, 5.28 in 2014)

NATIONALS (10-15-4)
Michael Taylor CF
Yunel Escobar 3B
Bryce Harper RF
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Wilson Ramos C
Ian Desmond SS
Tyler Moore LF
Danny Espinosa 2B
Stephen Strasburg P

RHP Stephen Strasburg (14-11, 3.14 in 2014)

TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., YES Network

WEATHER: Just a perfect final day down here in Tampa.

UMPIRES: HP Dan Iassogna, 1B Mark Carlson, 2B Vic Carapazza, 3B D.J. Reyburn

TODAY’S SECOND STRING: C Austin Romine, 1B Jonathan Galvez, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Eric Jagielo, LF Ben Gamel, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Ramon Flores, DH Stephen Drew

TODAY’S SCHEDULED RELIEVERS: Chasen Shreve, Andrew Bailey, Branden Pinder, Cesar Vargas, Nick Goody

GET AWAY DAY: The Yankees clubhouse was filled with suitcases this morning. The team is flying to Washington D.C. after today’s game and will play their final exhibition tomorrow. Barring a trade — which could very well happen — the Yankees have just one decision left, choosing between Murphy and Romine for the backup catcher.

UPDATE, 1:18 p.m.: Three runs on three hits and a walk off CC Sabathia in the first inning. He was hit hard several times. Hard triple. Hard double. RBI single.

UPDATE, 2:06 p.m.: After that three-hit first inning, Sabathia’s allowed just one hit through the next three innings. It’s still a 3-0 Nationals lead in the bottom of the fourth.

UPDATE, 2:09 p.m.: Chase Headley’s terrific spring continues with an RBI double.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Gameday Threadwith Comments Off

Pregame notes: Yankees might not name a true closer04.03.15

Dellin Betances

For years, Joe Girardi has talked about the value of defined roles in the bullpen. Even this spring he’s talked about it. Relievers like to know when they’re getting in a game, and so it helps to have a true closer, setup man, long reliever, lefty specialist, etc.

But on this final day of camp, it seems the Yankees might be prepared to go into the season with more flexibility than definition in their pen. Girardi strongly indicated that he has no plan of naming a closer and will instead mix-and-match the final two innings, using Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances interchangeably depending on matchups.

“I really think that if you do it that way, and as long as you’re prepared, it has a chance to be advantageous to you,” Girardi said.

Girardi said the Yankees have not prioritized a closer decision, and now it seems they won’t make a decision at all. Instead, Girardi said he’s looking at Miller and Betances as his eighth- and ninth-inning relievers, but he’s open to using either one in either role. If there are lefties coming up in the eighth, then Miller will be the setup man and Betances the closer. If there are more lefties due up in the ninth, the roles will reverse.

“My thought has been more like with a power lefty who strikes out a lot of guys and a power righty, the lineups just might match up where one day he’s the eighth inning guy and then one day he’s the ninth inning guy a little bit better,” Giradri said. “… I think you start managing who you’re going to use (in the ninth) in about the sixth inning, because you try to prepare them.”

The flexibility goes beyond the ninth. The Yankees are currently planning to carry three lefties, but Girardi has said none is necessarily a true left-on-left specialist. They’ll all be used to get right-handers out as well. And while Esmil Rogers is the only real long man in the pen, today Girardi named him along with David Carpenter and Justin Wilson as options to will basically the seventh-inning role that Adam Warren had last season. Chasen Shreve was a starter through much of his minor league career, and Chris Martin has pitching multiple innings this spring, so one of those two might be available for long relief if necessary.

The Yankees see their bullpen as a strength, but they also see it as a evolving piece of the roster, which could change from day to day and game to game.

“I’ve talked to both (Miller and Betances)” Girardi said. “They’re concerned about winning more than (roles), in the sense of I’m this guy, I’m this guy. That’s the sense I’ve got from them. Now, could it iron itself out and you start to do it one way? Yes. But we talked a little bit about it yesterday. I’ll continue to talk about it with my coaches and Larry and his feelings about it as they get a feel, and Gary Tuck who’s in the bullpen, what do you think the importance of it is that we actually set a role? But as of right now, we haven’t felt that we have to.”

CC Sabathia• CC Sabathia is cleared for 80-85 pitches today. This will be his final start before pitching the third game of the season. Sabathia has so far thrown only 4.2 innings this spring and will surely break camp with less than 10 innings of actually game experience, but Girardi said he’s satisfied that Sabathia’s gotten all the work he needs. After one regular season start, he’ll basically be as stretched out as any other starter, and the Yankees prioritized taking it slow ahead of giving him a ton of spring training work.

• Normal day off for Alex Rodriguez today. Carlos Beltran is also sitting out a second straight day because of flu-like symptoms. Girardi said he expects both to play tomorrow’s final exhibition game in Washington D.C.

• Still no catcher decision. Girardi said both John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine will make tomorrow’s trip to D.C. He expects to make a final decision after tomorrow’s game.

• Although they’re playing in a National League park, the Yankees will use a designated hitter tomorrow. Girardi said he expects to give all of his regulars a few at-bats. Sounds like the Opening Day lineup might be in there tomorrow.

• Talked to Slade Heathcott a little bit this morning. I didn’t realize this, but Heathcott said this should be the first year he’s ever broken camp with a team. Amazing how much injuries have slowed him down, but a source said yesterday that the team is planning to open Heathcott in Triple-A strictly because he’s played so well this spring. He finally feels fully healthy. “DL and injury are not in my vocab anymore,” Heathcott said.

• Just based on a few conversations these past few days, it seems a bunch of the upper-level minor league relievers are getting anxious to find out about Opening Day assignments. They all seem to recognize that there are way too many guys for the Triple-A bullpen, so some are going to naturally be forced back to Double-A. These guys have to get an apartment somewhere in the next few days, and right now it seems none of them has a clue where he’s going.

• The two Tommy John rehab guys, Ivan Nova and Vicente Campos, are each throwing bullpens today. Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled for long toss and some flat ground work.

Today’s second string: C Austin Romine, 1B Jonathan Galvez, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Eric Jagielo, LF Ben Gamel, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Ramon Flores, DH Stephen Drew

Today’s scheduled relievers: Chasen Shreve, Andrew Bailey, Branden Pinder, Cesar Vargas, Nick Goody

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith Comments Off

Injury report from Yankees camp: “There’s nothing major”03.30.15

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.

Masahiro TanakaMasahiro Tanaka
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.

CC Sabathia
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.

Michael Pineda
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.

Chris Capuano
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.

Ivan Nova
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.

Andrew Bailey
Shoulder rehab
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.

Vicente Campos
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.

Jared Burton
Strained lat
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.

Jacoby EllsburyJacoby Ellsbury
Strained oblique
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.

Mark Teixeira
Knee contusion
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.

Carlos Beltran
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.

Didi Gregorius
Sprained wrist
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.

Brendan Ryan
Strained back
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.

Jose Pirela
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.

Slade Heathcott
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

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

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