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
Masahiro Tanaka’s taking the mound tonight for his spring training debut. That’s the main event in Yankees camp today, but earlier today, CC Sabathia pitched a simulated game. Here’s the AP update on what should be Sabathia’s final outing before getting in an exhibition game.
The New York Yankees left-hander threw 29 pitches broken down into two innings during his first simulated game of spring training Thursday. Sabathia is lined up to possibly pitch on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old was hobbled by a degenerative cartilage in his right knee that required surgery. He didn’t pitch after May 10.
“I’m not hurt. I feel good. That’s the only way I’m judging myself right now,” Sabathia said. “I’m encouraged.”
Sabathia was seen bending over a couple times after his outing. When asked why, he said it was “hot.”
The six-time All-Star was 3-4 with a career-worst 5.28 ERA in eight starts last year.
Chris Capuano, the top candidate to be the Yankees’ fifth starter, will likely be on the disabled list for the first month of the season after straining his right quadriceps while covering first base on a grounder Wednesday against Boston. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection for the injury.
“It’s pretty stiff and sore today,” he said. “Would love to be ready for the start of the season, but it might be a week or two in.”
Associated Press photo
This is a big day for the Yankees’ rotation, but the team has to hope five days from now is an even bigger day. And five days after that is even bigger still. Getting this rotation through the season is going to be a process, especially for CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka, each of whom is pitching today.
“We’re certainly hoping for big things from those guys,” Brian Cashman said. “But we need big things from a lot of guys.”
The most important piece of this fragile puzzle just might be Tanaka, who’s scheduled for two innings in his exhibition debut tonight. Sabathia has a simulated game around 2:30, but Tanaka will be pitching in a real game — as real as they get in spring training, anyway — which should be a fresh test for his elbow.
“It’s not in my control whether Tanaka stays healthy for 10 more years or 10 more days,” Cashman said. “It’s not something, quite honestly, I’m going to worry about. If it declares itself in an adverse way, we’ll just have to deal with it and do whatever the next course of action is, which would be a surgery if he has a problem, you’d think. But he’s been great. Everything has been as good as we could expect for all those guys thus far. (Tonight) will be another step in the process, and yes, you’ll find out if it looks good, feels good.
“You still swing by the trainer’s room the next day (to ask), ‘How did he report himself,’ all that stuff. But I do that anyway, to be honest.”
If both Sabathia and Tanaka were to stay on an every-five-days schedule, they would each be perfectly lined up to pitch on Opening Day. Obviously only one of them can take the ball that day — right now, I’m assuming they’re still the logical candidates — so the next turn or two might give us an idea of which one is actually going to start the opener.
It’s worth noting that there’s a day off after Opening Day, so whoever starts that day can take a free extra day of rest before his second start (because of another off day, the fifth starter will also get a free extra day between starts one and two). Who needs that first extra day of rest more, Sabathia or Tanaka? I honestly don’t know the answer.
Just a heads up that I’m taking these next few days off. I’ve done the full seven weeks the past few years, but it really leaves you fried at the end, and I actually need to be home for a few days. I’ll see you all when the exhibition schedule resumes after the weekend.
Associated Press photo
The Yankees have a night game — their first of the spring — so we have a few hours to kill today. Let’s start with a few random observations and thoughts as we enter the middle of March:
• So who’s the fifth starter now, what does that mean for the rest of the pitching staff, and what does that mean for the Yankees idea of using six starters a few times in April and May? It really seems those questions could be answered any number of ways by the time Opening Day roles around. My feeling is that Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers are the heavy favorites for the rotation opening, which further opens the possibility of either Chase Whitley or Bryan Mitchell taking a long-relief role. I also wonder if the Yankees might carry a guy like Scott Baker as their long man, sending Whitley and Mitchell to Triple-A to stay stretched out for a call-up to make a spot start here and there. If I have to guess right now, I’ll say it’s Warren in the rotation, Rogers in the bullpen, with Whitley and Jose Ramirez breaking camp as the 11th and 12th pitchers on the staff. But that’s a true shot in the dark.
• Honestly, Alex Rodriguez looks better than I expected. I don’t think he looks great, but he seems to still have a solid eye at the plate, and I think he can at least make the routine plays at third base. The Yankees might be able to get away with starting him there every 10 games or so, knowing they’ll have to bring Chase Headley or Brendan Ryan (or Jose Pirela) in to play some late-inning defense. Saying that Rodriguez looks better than I thought isn’t to say I think he’s going to be a middle-of-the-order slugger, only that I think there’s at least some reason to hope he can be a useful hitter near the bottom of the order (maybe a little higher against lefties). Most surprising thing about A-Rod this spring: fans seem to be mostly on his side. Certainly not completely on his side, but definitely more cheers than boos.
• Weird thing about covering Masahiro Tanaka’s spring is that each good day seems like a tease. The best the Yankees can say is, well, his elbow hasn’t blown out yet. That’s it. Maybe optimism grows each time he goes out there, but a successful bullpen, batting practice or exhibition game doesn’t eliminate the possibility of his elbow blowing out the very next time he pitches. I think the Yankees should feel encouraged at this point, but I’m not sure they’ll ever feel secure. I do think they made the right call in trying to rehab — I honestly think we rarely hear about the success stories when pitchers approach it that way — but even if Tanaka makes 30 starts this year, those are going to be 30 uneasy outings.
• Tanaka is the best pitcher on this team, but it’s hard to be in the Yankees clubhouse and not see CC Sabathia as the clear ace. Pitchers still look to him for advice. They look to him for leadership. And the big man provides. I have no clue whether he can be a great big league pitcher again. I don’t even know if he can be a solid No. 3. But I don’t think his role in the clubhouse has changed from what it was three years ago. Even veteran guys will gather around near his locker to talk to him about anything and everything.
• When camp opened, I thought Rob Refsnyder would get some chance to compete for a roster spot. I didn’t think he’d win one, but I thought he’d get some significant attention beyond that of his other inevitable Triple-A teammates. Instead, Refsnyder doesn’t seem to be getting any more of a look than Jonathan Galvez or Nick Noonan. Refsnyder might jump into the picture if Stephen Drew gets hurt, but it really seems — they haven’t said this, just seems obvious — that the Yankees have no intention of sending Refsnyder anywhere but the minor leagues, probably to work on his defense.
• Three ways I see for Jose Pirela to make the roster. 1. Brendan Ryan’s back doesn’t get better and the Yankees choose Pirela as a right-handed platoon infielder, sliding Drew to shortstop on days Didi Gregorius needs a break. 2. Chris Young gets hurt, and Pirela is the right-handed fourth outfielder. 3. Alex Rodriguez absolutely can’t play third base, leaving Ryan as the only backup at second, short and third. If that’s the case, the Yankees could decide they need a bigger bat and settle on Pirela instead (again, using Drew at shortstop on days Gregorius sits). Even in that third situation, though — with A-Rod relegated to DH only — I still tend to think Ryan would actually keep the bench job ahead of Pirela, at least coming out of camp. The Yankees seem to want to make sure they have enough shortstop depth to open the season, and losing Ryan really makes that position thin.
• I think Nathan Eovaldi is going to be good, but I also think the closest thing to a sure thing in the Yankees rotation is Michael Pineda, and that’s just crazy after what that guy’s been through these past three years.
• Slade Heathcott looks good so far. Incredibly small sample size, but he’s hit pretty well and has played a pretty good center field when he’s been out there. Heathcott is always in insane shape, and he’s clearly convinced the knee problems are behind him. He lost considerable prospect status and a spot on the 40-man roster for good reason — he simply has to stay healthy — but there’s still a lot of talent there.
• Backup catcher? I still think it’ll be John Ryan Murphy, even though he’s not doing much at the plate. If that’s the case and the Yankees have to put Austin Romine on waivers, I honestly hope he’s claimed so that he can get another shot somewhere else. Romine seems to do things the right way, and he’s just been buried in this organization.
• One thing making me think the Yankees are preparing themselves for the possibility of losing Romine is that Eddy Rodriguez seems to be catching quite a few bullpens with big league pitchers. He caught Masahiro Tanaka’s sim game the other day. He’s caught CC Sabathia. I wonder if the Yankees are trying to get Rodriguez a little familiarity with the big league staff just in case they lose Romine and need another catcher during the year. There’s no guarantee Gary Sanchez will deserve a call-up — and the Yankees might not want Sanchez to be a backup at this stage of his development — so Rodriguez could be that just-in-case veteran waiting in Triple-A. If so, it would make some sense to let him get a little familiar with the guys on the big league staff.
• Carlos Beltran looks healthy, but he’s done nothing at the plate so far. Everyone should know not to make anything of these early at-bats for a veteran guy like Beltran, but it’s hard to apply that logic when he’s coming off such a bad year and the Yankees are counting on him so heavily. I make nothing of Jacoby Ellsbury’s slow start, nothing of Didi Gregeoius’s slow start, and I guess I make nothing of Beltran’s slow start, but I can’t help noticing it.
• Four players who I absolutely do not expect to make the big league roster under any circumstances: Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Luis Severino and Heathcott. Yes, they’re high-end talents, but I just don’t think the Yankees are seriously considering them as big leaguers out of camp. In the second half? Maybe. Especially for Severino. But out of spring training is way too ambitious. I think Refsnyder and Jacob Lindgren could make it under some circumstances — probably Lindgren easier than Refsnyder — but I just don’t see any of the most hyped prospects actually being on the big league radar for April. They’re getting attention because they’re talented, not because they’re about to make the team.
Associated Press photos
Eight Yankees have hit a home run this spring. Only one of them is expected to actually break camp with the big league team.
“Some of the guys were saying that it looked like I didn’t even swing,” Alex Rodriguez said. “That’s always a good sign for me. It looked like a little pepper swing and the ball jumped pretty good, so that’s a good sign.”
Who had A-Rod in the first big league Yankee to homer pool? If you did, congrats, because today he got an 88-mph, 3-1 pitch from right-handed Red Sox pitcher Brandon Workman and sent it over the wall in left-center field. It was Rodriguez’s first home run since September 20, 2013. He said he had no idea when he hit it whether it would carry over the wall.
“I haven’t hit a ball like that in a long time,” Rodriguez said. “So I don’t know what’s a home run and what’s not. … It feels good. Look, I’m happy that I can contribute. It’s early March. Let’s see what happens. You have to do that in New York where it counts. It’s certainly a good start.”
Both Rodriguez and Joe Girardi seemed most impressed by the fact Rodriguez was in a 3-1 count. He’s shown a pretty good eye this spring, and good counts usually lead to easier pitches.
“He’s getting in good counts to hit,” Girardi said. “He drove a breaking ball the other day pretty well to right center that was down in the zone, which is not necessarily easy to do. I don’t see him chasing pitches, which I think is key for him.”
Said Rodriguez: “Laying off the 1-1 slider, the 2-1 fastball, gets you to a 3-1 count. I think that’s going to be the key for our offense this year, to really stay disciplined.”
Did Rodriguez ever doubt he’d hit another home run at some point?
“You always have doubt,” he said. “Look, I haven’t played in a long time. You guys have been writing it. It’s a tough game. What I’m trying to do, not a lot of people have been able to have this comeback. I’m working hard every day trying to make the team and contribute.”
• The Yankees announced that Chris Capuano’s right quad strain in a Grade 2. That’s definitely going to keep him off the Opening Day roster. “I think it happened right before he got (to first base),” Girardi said. “I thought it was a calf the way he pulled up, but obviously it’s an upper quad.”
• This was Rodriguez’s second game at third base. He had to make another play and another long throw, but he still hasn’t really tested his range. It’s pretty clear he’s not expecting to cover a ton of ground. “I forgot how far that throw is,” Rodriguez said, laughing. “The game is really hard, but I’m having a lot of fun playing it and I’m working hard at it. I want to be able to play a respectable enough third base where Joe feels comfortable enough where I can give him an option here and there to give those guys a blow.”
• The plan is for Rodriguez to DH tomorrow.
• Speaking of tomorrow, Girardi said Tanaka is scheduled for two innings in his spring debut. “We’re pretty happy with where he’s at,” Girardi said. “But we need to build him up now. It was good that he started two games last year because I think there would have been even bigger of a deal tomorrow. The first game he started, I sat on the edge of my seat a little bit. I feel pretty good about where he’s at.”
• Before Tanaka’s debut, CC Sabathia is scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. simulated game. “We’ve been really pleased with where he’s at,” Girardi said. “He’s throwing the ball well. We get through the simulated game and then we’ll probably get him in a game.”
• Andrew Miller allowed a solo homer to lead off the second inning today. It was hit by young first baseman Travis Shaw. “Don’t want to face young kids early on in spring,” Girardi said. “They let it fly.”
• That sentence might be reassuring for Miller, but it goes both ways. Right now the Yankees have some hitting putting up huge numbers, but they’re also young kids. Girardi said he keeps that in mind when evaluating what the prospects are doing so far. “They joke about when Major League pitchers go down to throw minor league games in spring training, they try to set these kids up,” Girardi said. “No chance. They’re hacking. That’s what happens.”
• Speaking of young guys who are putting up big numbers, Slade Heathcott hit a ninth-inning home run today and is batting .625 so far this spring. … Also read hot is Jose Pirela, who went 2-for-2 and raised his early spring average to .533. … Bryan Mitchell was knocked around for four runs on seven hits in two innings today. Tyler Webb allowed two runs on three hits in one inning, and Chris Martin allowed three runs — one earned — also on three hits in one inning.
• Rob Refsnyder made his third error of the spring. That’s not at all helped his case for a spot on the Yankees roster (not that it seemed he was getting a real look anyway). … Brendan Ryan did a pretty light workout. He’s scheduled to take dry swings tomorrow. … After missing two days with a stiff neck, Nick Noonan is expected back tomorrow.
• Luis Severino played light catch today. “We’ll slow him down a just little because he’s been sick,” Girardi said.
• Low-level minor league pitcher Brayan Alcantara has received a 72-game suspension after testing positive for metabolites of Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
• Final word goes to Rodriguez about (sort of) getting to be a part of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry again. “It’s like nothing in sports, Red Sox-Yankees. I have so much respect for that organization over there. It’s just great. Even saying hello to the umpires, saying hello to double-five over there, (Brian) Butterfield, he’s a good friend. Just being back in the game and the great reception I’ve been getting from the fans, it’s been a pleasant surprise.”
Associated Press photos
It’s worth remembering that, only two years ago, Jose Pirela was about to open his third straight season in Double-A. He’d been an awfully good hitter in Double-A the year before, but his prospect status had nearly disappeared, and moving him up the ladder was clearly not a priority for the Yankees.
Now Pirela’s in big league camp with a spot on the 40-man roster and a few big league at-bats to his name. He’s getting legitimate playing time with the obvious major leaguers, and the Yankees clearly see him as a candidate for a big league job.
Brendan Ryan might ultimately push him off the roster, but Pirela does not seem to feel dismissed. He knows what dismissed looks like, and this isn’t it.
“I’m very thankful to the Yankees for this opportunity,” Pirela said. “They’ve given me plenty of opportunities. I just want to continue doing my job and I just hope to keep getting a chance to show what I can do.”
Pirela is back in the lineup today, playing second base and hitting seventh — ahead of big league bench candidate Austin Romine — for the first spring matchup against the Red Sox. Ryan’s health is still up in the air, it’s still unclear just how well Alex Rodriguez can play third base, and Pirela could still win a spot on the Opening Day roster. He’s not necessarily considered a favorite, but he might be the contingency plan for several possible scenarios.
“Whether someone is hurt or not, that isn’t something that I consider,” Pirela said. “No one wants a teammate to ever be hurt, especially starting the season. I have to focus on myself, competing with myself.”
Hitting .333/.360/.542 in a brief big league cameo last season surely didn’t hurt his chances.
“It was an extraordinary experience,” Pirela said. “It was unexpected but it finally came. I learned a lot from being with those veteran players. The very little time that I had up in the Majors, it was one of the most special experiences for me.”
• CC Sabathia will throw his simulated game tomorrow (scheduled to face Trent Garrison and Cito Culver). Interesting that he’s pitching on the same day as Masahiro Tanaka. I assume at some point one of those two will get an extra day of rest, splitting up so that one of them will pitch Opening Day and the other will start Game 2.
• Andrew Bailey is also scheduled for early work tomorrow. Not sure whether that’s a bullpen or if he’s a part of the simulated game. I’m assuming a bullpen.
• Luis Severino is back in camp after missing yesterday because of strep throat. He said he’s feeling better, but he’s not sure when he’s throwing another bullpen.
• Random clubhouse conversation this morning: Spent quite a while talking to Rob Refsnyder about nothing in particular (not an interview, just a conversation). At one point, he looked across the clubhouse at Austin Romine’s locker and randomly began talking about how much respected he has for Romine, and how much Romine worked with him and helped him last year in Triple-A. Also a big help to Refsnyder last season: since departed infielder Corban Joseph, who could have seen Refsnyder as an internal threat and instead went out of his way to work with him in the cage and on the field.
• Aaron Judge was laughing this morning that some places have listed him at 225 pounds. One look at him, and Judge’s is clearly bigger than that. The Yankees’ online roster has him at 255, and even that’s off by roughly 15 pounds. Judge said he weighed in closer to 270 this spring.
• Nathan Eovaldi is throwing a bullpen today. Looks like Michael Pineda will throw one tomorrow. That’s significant only because those two last pitched on the same day. Perhaps Pineda pitches the day after Eovaldi the next time through the rotation?
• Garrett Jones is back in the lineup after missing yesterday because of food poisoning. Nick Noonan is not in the lineup, but after missing yesterday with a stiff neck, he is scheduled to face pitchers in live batting practice.
• No update on Brendan Ryan. Didn’t see him this morning, but he’s supposed to resume light baseball drills today.
• For Boston: The Yankees are facing starting pitcher Joe Kelly this afternoon. Steven Wright, Edwin Escobar, Craig Breslow, Mitchell Boggs and Brandon Workman are among the relievers making the trip for the Red Sox.
Domingo German (to Trenton Garrison)
James Pazos (to Kyle Higashioka)
Danny Burawa (to Eddy Rodriguez)
Worth noting that both Pazos and Burawa are scheduled for two “innings” of work
• Today’s second string: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Cole Figueroa, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Slade Heathcott, CF Mason Williams, RF Chris Young, DH Tyler Austin
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Bryan Mitchell, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Jared Burton, Tyler Webb, Nick Rumbelow (with Chris Martin and Diego Moreno available just in case)
Associated Press photos
CC Sabathia was apparently scheduled for 30 pitches in today’s live batting practice, but pitch No. 29 shattered Greg Bird’s bat, and so the Yankees ended the session right then and there.
“I had a couple of (good) changeups, got a broken bat with a lefty,” Sabathia said. “Larry told me that those two guys (Bird and Rob Refsnyder) were hot, so they were swinging the bat good. They told me that after. It made me feel good about a couple of pitches that I threw that they were on.”
Sabathia said he was able to throw at 100 percent effort, and although he wears a small sleeve on his knee when he pitches, he said he’s had no need to ice it after bullpens. He said he has no doubts he’ll be ready to break camp with the team.
“I haven’t had a setback and I’ve been feeling so good,” Sabathia said. “Able to participate in every drill and haven’t had where I’ve needed a day (off). I feel good about how we’re going and the pace that we’re moving at.”
That pace is slower than most everyone else in camp, but Sabathia said that was the plan heading into spring training. And at this point, Sabathia said he’s been around long enough that he doesn’t need many spring games to get ready for the season. He can learn enough from bullpens and simulated games to make his spring adjustments.
“I’ve seen enough action that I just want to be healthy and be able to get out there,” Sabathia said. “We’re just kind of moving at this pace that we set before Spring Training, just one step at a time.”
Tyler Wade just turned 20 in November. He’s too far from the major league radar to have gotten a real invitation to big league camp, but the Yankees keep bringing him up from the minor league complex day after day to play a little middle infield in the late innings.
The guy already has more spring training hits than Alex Rodriguez, Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner.
With the Yankees trailing by one in the ninth inning this afternoon, it was Wade who started the game-winning rally with a leadoff single to right. Jonathan Galvez and Jake Cave added singles of their own. Nick Noonan walked in the tying run, Rob Refsnyder put the Yankees in front with a two-run single, and Greg Bird put the game out of reach with a home run.
“Really (exciting) to see that our system has a lot of good players,” Joe Girardi said. “And a lot of kids are going to contribute along the way here is what we’re going to see at some point. That’s what you need. We need to continue to have young players come up and contribute, and a lot of it’s been in the bullpen the last couple of years, but it looks like you’re getting some real position players who are coming up too.”
To be fair, a lot of minor league players began hitting at the minor league complex long before the big league hitters arrived. In the late innings, minor league hitters are usually facing minor league pitchers, and it seems that minor leaguers — eager to open eyes — go all out early in camp, while big league hitters take their time and try to fine tune specifics without really trying to get early results.
That said, the Yankees have hit a total of five home runs so far this spring, and each one was hit by a minor leaguer (Bird, Cave, Ramon Flores, Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge). Eight players have more than two hits, and only one of them — Garrett Jones — seems to have a spot on the big league roster. Wade already has two hits, and he’s not even officially here.
“It’s pretty fun to watch young players contribute and what they’re capable of doing,” Girardi said. “… You watch their at-bats. You watch the pitches that they’re swinging at. If they’re over-swinging. Their approach. How the ball comes off the bat. You saw a lot of good things.”
• After this morning’s simulated game, Masahiro Tanaka said once again that he feels ready to pitch in a real game. He seems to really feel that the elbow is a non-issue at this point. “It’s obviously really good and I really don’t think about it at all,” he said. “I think all of the pitches I threw today, I’m pretty satisfied with.”
• While Tanaka’s split gets a lot of understandable attention, Tanaka said that’s not the pitch that tells him his elbow is fine. “I do look at the split, how it moves and all that,” he said. “But I actually look at my fastball the most when I’m pitching. The fastballs are coming off my hand pretty good right now.”
• Although Girardi wouldn’t give an exact date, he said Tanaka’s next outing will in fact be a real game.
• Speaking of pitchers in a real game, Scott Baker said he felt better than the numbers indicate. He was disappointed with some of the pitches he made early in counts, and the Astros came out swinging, which caused problems. But he got better later in the inning. “They jumped on Baker pretty quick,” Girardi said. “He made some adjustments as the inning went along and got his split going and got some outs with that. His first outing, I don’t make too much of that.”
• Asked a broad question about today’s pitching, Girardi singled out Nick Rumbelow and Jose De Paula — who was making his spring debut — as guys who pitched well. Rumbelow was charged with a run, but only after he went out for a second inning of work (when he didn’t end up recording an out). His first inning was clean with a strikeout.
• Shortstop Didi Gregorius got another start against a left-handed pitcher, and the Yankees seem to like that. They want him to see lefties in hopes of improving his numbers against them. “To be honest, it’s the only way you’re going to get better,” Gregorius said. “Not getting better if you’re not doing work. For me, facing all these lefties means I’ll stay in there and get more comfortable against lefties.”
• Gregorius said he’s already made a minor mechanical change. “Just trying to stay a little bit taller and a little bit closer (with the hands) too,” he said. “I tend to fly open. I’m going to try not to do that and stay on the ball more and drive the ball the other way.”
• Jose Pirela struck out during that go-ahead, six-run ninth inning, but Girardi was quick to point out that he really helped get the rally going with an RBI double in the eighth. That’s what pulled the Yankees within a run (after Cave had homered earlier in the inning).
• Girardi on the fact it’s taking CC Sabathia a long time to get into games this spring: “We’re taking it slow. We just think it’s a good idea to do it. He’s probably going to throw a couple of innings tomorrow. It’s like starting in a game but you can control it more, that’s all.”
• We’ll give the final word to Gregorius, talking about the Yankees infield defense. “It looks really good, I’m not going to lie. Defensively we look really good. Offense is getting there. It’s Spring Training, so we’re getting there. It’s really good guys we’re playing with. … Today (Headley) cut one of my ground balls off. That means he plays hard. Trying to catch everything. The whole infield is like that and it’s great.”
Associated Press photos (that’s Wade and Judge at the top, Flores in the middle, Bird at the bottom)
Today’s main event might be the afternoon intrasquad game, but the most important development is surely Masahiro Tanaka’s first live batting practice session.
Tanaka faced hitters earlier this morning and once again showed no signs of struggle or discomfort. He was scheduled to face a handful of minor league hitters, but Brett Gardner and Chris Young also got involved (they seemed to tracking pitches more than trying to actually hit).
Although Tanaka didn’t speak to media immediately after the session, he seemed to go straight to a normal workout, which is surely a good sign that he came through it healthy. Another step forward for a guy who claims to feel nothing unusual in his elbow. Tanaka sounds incredibly optimistic, and he’s passed every test so far.
Long way to go, but so far, so good.
There’s some video of the batting practice session at the top of this post.
• Alex Rodriguez will DH and hit cleanup in today’s intrasquad game, but he will not make tomorrow’s road trip to Clearwater. It seems his spring debut will be Wednesday at home, a game that happens to be televised on YES Network. Looks like Rodriguez and the bulk of the Yankees projected infield will be playing on Wednesday, while the outfielders will make the road trip tomorrow.
• Carlos Beltran is not playing in today’s intrasquad game, and he’s not making tomorrow’s road trip. Beltran, though, said he feels fine and deferred to Joe Girardi regarding the decision about not playing today or tomorrow. Beltran has been going through pretty normal drills, and was clearly on his way to the cage when he said he felt fine this morning. Seems like the Yankees are simply being cautious with him.
• Top pitching prospect Luis Severino is making tomorrow’s road trip and said he’s definitely scheduled to pitch. Severino’s been in Tampa since January 18, so he’s been throwing for a while and is clearly ready for games.
• You know who was pretty psyched to see his name on tomorrow’s travel roster: Slade Heathcott. I was talking to him at his locker before he’d seen the travel squad, and even then he said he was hoping to make the trip because it’s been so long since he played in a game. I’ve written before that Heathcott sounds as confident and optimistic as he’s been in a long time. Last spring, he seemed to be hoping his knee would stay healthy. This spring, he seems to fully expect it.
• Every catcher now has a drop in the Yankees spring “drop contest.” The last catcher without a drop was John Ryan Murphy, but he apparently dropped one yesterday.
• CC Sabathia threw a bullpen today. He was the only true bullpen listed on the schedule. He threw to Brian McCann.
With Cole Figueroa, Slade Heathcott and Aaron Judge hitting
Chris Capuano (to Eddy Rodriguez)
Jose Ramirez (to Trent Garrison)
James Pazos (to Gary Sanchez)
Nick Rumbelow (to Kyle Higashioka)
With Ramon Flores, Tyler Austin and Jonathan Galvez hitting (Gardner and Young joined them)
Masahiro Tanaka (to John Ryan Murphy)
Dellin Betances (to Austin Romine)
Scott Baker (to Francisco Arcia)
Team Gator: Cito Culver (SS), Cole Figueroa (3B), Kyle Roller (1B) and Rob Refsnyder (2B) are scheduled to play off the bench as straight-up replacements for Gregorius, Headley, Teixeira and Drew.
Team Goose: Slade Heathcott (CF), Jake Cave (LF), Aaron Judge (RF), Eddy Rodriguez (C) and Francisco Arcia (1B) are scheduled to play off the bench as straight-up replacements for Ellsbury, Gardner, Young, Romine and Bird.
• Tomorrow’s travel squad:
Pitchers: Danny Burawa, Kyle Davies, Nick Goody, Jacob Lindgren, Diego Moreno, Branden Pinder, Luis Severino, Chasen Shreve, Adam Warren, Tyler Webb
Catchers: Francisco Arcia, Kyle Higashioka, John Ryan Murphy, Austin Romine
Infielders: Greg Bird, Cito Culver, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Garrett Jones, Nick Noonan, Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder, Kyle Roller
Outfielders: Tyler Austin, Jake Cave, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Slade Heathcott, Aaron Judge, Mason Williams, Chris Young
• Tomorrow’s early work:
Chris Martin, Ivan Nova, Vicente Campos, Michael Pineda, Jared Burton, Esmil Rogers, Bryan Mitchell, Chase Whitley, Justin Wilson, Andrew Bailey and David Carpenter are each scheduled to do early pitching work tomorrow morning.
Associated Press photo