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
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
Joe Girardi said the Yankees don’t have a full prognosis for Chris Capuano just yet, but it’s pretty clear he won’t be ready for Opening Day.
“I’d be surprised if he’s not down for a while,” Girardi said.
That leaves the Yankees sorting through a bunch of options for the fifth starter spot. Capuano might not have had the job locked up heading into camp, but he seemed to be a heavy favorite. Now the job is wide-open with a series of relievers, prospects and minor league free agents fighting for the gig.
“We’ll look at everyone, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi asid. “Because we need to fill a spot now.”
Adam Warren has a start coming up on Friday and Esmil Rogers has one on Saturday. Earlier today, Brian Cashman sounded impressed by Rogers, and Girardi seems to feel the same way.
“He’s thrown the ball really well,” Girardi said. “Larry (Rothschild) worked with him long and hard last year during some bullpen sessions about changing a few things. I thought he pitched pretty well for us. He’s started in his career and he’s got a number of pitches he can go to. He’s been really good this spring. He’ll be one of the guys we’re really looking at.”
Here are eight guys who could fill that spot in the rotation (though some of them are candidates only in theory):
1. Adam Warren
In my mind, the current favorite of this group. After a breakout season as a late-inning reliever, Warren was told to prepare as a starter this spring, and he’s been stretched out for a situation just like this one. He started the spring opener, has yet to make a relief appearance, and is currently scheduled to make his third spring start on Friday. He’ll have three starts before anyone else on this list has two.
2. Esmil Rogers
Earlier this spring, Joe Girardi said he thinks of Rogers much the same way he used to think of David Phelps. And really, if Phelps were still here, he’d surely become a quick favorite for this rotation opening. Rogers’ numbers have never quite measured up to his raw stuff, but he pitched well as a starter this winter and the Yankees have him scheduled for a season spring start on Saturday.
3. Chase Whitley
In his very first press conference of the spring, Girardi mentioned Whitley unprompted as a candidate to be either a long reliever or a spot starter. He’s pitched five scoreless innings so far this spring, and while he got himself into significant trouble last time out, he also got out of jams with a series of ground balls. Put himself on the radar with a strong big league debut before fading late last season.
4. Bryan Mitchell
Looked excellent in a split-squad start earlier this spring, then was knocked around for four runs on seven hits through two innings this afternoon. Mitchell has great stuff — fastball gets up to 97, effective curveball, relatively new slider/cutter — but his minor league results have been inconsistent. Seems to have a big enough arm that he could impress and pitch his way into this job.
5. Luis Severino
There is surely a lot of desire to think of Severino as a favorite, I’m just not sure there’s much reason to do so. He’s looked great in his early spring outings, but he still has just six games of experience above Class-A ball. Perhaps he can dazzle the rest of the way and force the Yankees’ hand, but he seems more like a second-half possibility. Strep throat has knocked his spring schedule slightly off track.
6. Scott Baker
Strongest track record of anyone on this list, but it’s also been a long time since his last particularly good big league season. Baker was a mainstay in Minnesota before having extensive Tommy John surgery — had to repair the tendon as well — back in 2012. Had a rough spring debut on Saturday. Had a 1.19 WHIP (with a 5.47 ERA) in 25 appearances for Texas last season.
7. Kyle Davies
Like Baker, Davies is a big league veteran in camp on a minor league deal. Unlike Baker, Davies hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011 and the Yankees have not yet given him a start this spring. Seems far more likely to be a veteran presence in Triple-A, but have to mention him as an experienced candidate who’s played this sort of role before.
8. Jose De Paula
Like Davies in that he’s a candidate in theory only. Unlike Davies, De Paula’s candidacy has nothing to do with big league experience and everything to do with a spot on the 40-man roster. He’s never pitched in the big leagues, but the Yankees gave him a big league contract this winter. He pitched two scoreless inning in his only spring appearance so far, but that was a relief outing.
Associated Press photos
Spring Game 10: Yankees vs. Red Sox • 03.11.15
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Carlos Beltran RF
Brian McCann DH
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Garrett Jones 1B
Jose Pirela 2B
Austin Romine C
Cito Culver SS
LHP Chris Capuano (3-4, 4.35 in 2014)
RED SOX (5-2)
Mookie Betts CF
Brock Holt SS
Allen Craig DH
Bryce Brentz LF
Daniel Nava RF
Christian Vazquez C
Garin Cecchini 3B
Travis Shaw 1B
Jeff Bianchi 2B
RHP Joe Kelly (6-4, 4.20 in 2014)
TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: Cloudy but nice. Should have no trouble getting this one in. Wind blowing from right to left.
UMPIRES: HP Jeff Gosney, 1B Bill Welke, 2B Paul Emmel, 3B Will Little
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
FIRST DAY ON THE JOB: The Yankees had a press conference this morning to officially introduce Hideki Matsui as the team’s newest special assistant to the general manager. Matsui will work with hitters throughout the organization. He acknowledged this could set the stage for a coaching job in the future, but that’s not necessarily in the plans at the moment.
UPDATE, 1:09 p.m.: Chris Capuano out after two batters with some sort of leg injury. Looks like right hamstring, maybe? Right ankle? Happened while covering first base. He came up limping on his left leg, clearly not wanting to put much weight on the right leg.
UPDATE, 1:41 p.m.: Scoreless second inning by Betances, now here’s Miller to handled the third inning.
UPDATE, 1:43 p.m.: On YES Network, Brian Cashman just said Capuano has a strained right quadriceps.
UPDATE, 1:51 p.m.: Double by Pirela. That guy is really hitting early in camp.
UPDATE, 1:58 p.m.: Two-out RBI singles by Ellsbury and Beltran have the Yankees in front 2-1 in the third.
UPDATE, 2:15 p.m.: Three innings after a rotation spot became wide open, Mitchell is getting knocked around here in the fourth. Six hits and four runs already.
UPDATE, 2:23 p.m.: Alex Rodriguez with his first home run of the spring. Pretty huge ovation for it, too. He hit an 88 mph pitch out to left center.
A-Rod back at third vs. Boston • 03.11.15
LHP Chris Capuano
Spring Game 5: Yankees vs. Pirates • 03.06.15
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Carlos Beltran RF
Brian McCann C
Alex Rodriguez DH
Garrett Jones 1B
Jose Pirela 2B
Jonathan Galvez 3B
Cole Figueroa SS
LHP Chris Capuano (3-4, 4.35 in 2014)
Pedro Florimon 3B
Francisco Cervelli C
Jordy Mercer SS
Neil Walker 2B
Jose Tabata LF
Pedro Alvarez 1B
Tony Sanchez DH
Mel Rojas Jr. RF
Jaff Decker CF
LHP Jeff Locke (7-6, 3.91 in 2014)
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., not on television
WEATHER: Rainy most of the day but looks like this game will start on time. Little chilly outside, but really can’t complain down here in Tampa.
UMPIRES: HP Mark Carlson, 1B Eric Cooper, 2B Mark Wegner, 3B James Hoye
TONIGHT’S SECOND STRING: C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Tyler Wade, SS Cito Culver, 3B Dante Bichette, LF Jake Cave, CF Chris Young, RF Tyler Austin, DH John Ryan Murphy
SCHEDULED RELIEVERS: David Carpenter, Chris Martin, Diego Moreno, Jacob Lindgren, Jose Ramirez, Chasen Shreve
FAMILIAR FOES: This is the Yankees’ fifth spring training game, but they’ve so far played only the Pirates (twice) and Phillies (three times).
BACK IN THE LINEUP: This is Carlos Beltran’s first game of the spring, which makes it his first game since offseason elbow surgery. Alex Rodriguez is playing his second game of the spring.
UPDATE, 7:26 p.m.: Well, Gardner singled up the middle, but Beltran went down looking and McCann grounded to second — real nice play by Walker — to end the first inning with the game still scoreless.
UPDATE, 7:36 p.m.: Capuano allowed a two-run homer to Tony Sanchez on a 3-2 pitch. It’s now 2-0 Pirates in the second inning.
UPDATE, 8:19 p.m.: Beltran just struck out swinging in his second at-bat. Better news: both David Carpenter and Chris Martin got outs when they needed them to strand runners in the third and fourth innings.
UPDATE, 8:27 p.m.: A guy named Jaff Decker just hit a long home run off Jose Ramirez. It’s now 3-0 Pirates in the fifth.
I’ll try to have video from today’s intrasquad game posted to the blog soon. For now, a few quick notes from today:
1. Alex Rodriguez will make his spring training debut at home on Wednesday. He will start at designated hitter. Joe Girardi said he expects to give him two or three at-bats.
2. Carlos Beltran is scheduled to make his spring debut on Friday. No setback in camp, just moving intentionally a little slower with him.
3. Yankees sound happy with Masahiro Tanaka’s first live batting practice of the spring. “He’s right where we want him to be,” Joe Girardi said. CC Sabathia will face hitters for the first time later this week.
4. After Adam Warren on Tuesday, Nathan Eovaldi on Wednesday and Esmil Rogers on Thursday, the Yankees will have Bryan Mitchell and Chris Capuano start Friday’s split-squad doubleheader. Capuano will start the home game.
5. Catching prospect Luis Torrens has a shoulder injury. Assistant general manager Billy Eppler says the team is still evaluating the situation but should know more in the next 24 hours or so about the severity and the next step.
Associated Press photo
I really thought today was Ivan Nova’s first full bullpen since Tommy John surgery. I was wrong, but it turns out that wasn’t entirely my fault.
“This is my third,” Nova said, laughing. “The first one, I remember I was so excited I forgot to say it was on the full mound so everyone was making fun of me because I said it was on a half mound. That day, I confused a lot of things, even in my house.”
So, now that Nova’s excited has calmed down a little bit, this is what we know. Today was his third post-surgery bullpen. He threw 25 pitches, all fastballs. Nova said he’s supposed to that four times before he adds changeups to the mix. After a few fastball-changeup bullpens, he’ll add breaking balls.
“One good thing, you know you’re not going to be ready in April,” Nova said. “So you prepare yourself to be ready whenever they tell me. I don’t have to be thinking right now that I’ve got to be ready in April, so that’s kind of fortunate. I’m just taking it day by day, and I know that — I believe — a month before they think I’m going to be ready to go to the big leagues, they’re going to tell me. So that’s the time when I’m going to really prepare for that day.”
Nova said he hasn’t looked through the Yankees upcoming schedule trying to figure out when exactly he might return. He’s staying focused on the take at hand — he gets a rehab schedule one week at a time — and he’s just taking each step as it comes. So far, though, he seems to feel as good as could be expected.
“It’s a tough surgery,” Nova said. “We have to take it step by step and hopefully everything can go the way it’s gone so far, and we will be over there (in New York) soon.”
• Another workout at the minor league complex for Alex Rodriguez, and this time he’s actually spending time with third baseman Chase Headley. The Associated Press filed several pictures of those two working together, including one that shows them side-by-side fielding ground balls from their knees at third base.
• Chris Capuano was the first of four pitchers to throw live batting practice this morning. He said he recognizes that his spot in the rotation is far from a lock. “I think they’ve shown that the best five guys are going to start,” he said. “That’s a great feeling to be able to come in and try to earn that spot and be one of those best five coming out of spring.”
• Speaking of the five best guys: I joked with Adam Warren today that — after his name was thrown into the closer mix yesterday — I’m going to start mentioning him as a possibility for every role: closer, setup, fifth starter, long man … and even second base. It was a joke, but it turns out Warren played second base all though high school. So let’s add Warren to the mix with Stephen Drew, Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela.
• Random clubhouse conversation this morning: New reliever Chris Martin said he’s gotten used to his back story — about going from stocking shelves to pitching in the big leagues — getting some attention every time he lands with a new team. He’s used to that and the inevitable Coldplay references (he shares a name with Coldplay’s lead singer). So does Chris Martin the pitcher like Chris Martin the singer? “Some of his songs,” Martin said.
• Young reliever Nick Goody hurt his ankle in a car wreck the last time he was invited to big league camp. Then he had Tommy John surgery. Now Goody sounds incredibly optimistic. He will be two years removed from surgery in April, and he said he feels great. Said having surgery gave him a new appreciation for the game. Oh, and he said he’s not driving much this spring. Playing it safe this time!
• Brian McCann will catch Nathan Eovaldi for the first time this afternoon.
• Carlos Beltran is once again scheduled for a full day of drills and batting practice. He’s allowed to workout here because he’s technically a rehabbing player. If not for the offseason surgery, he’d be at the minor league complex with the other position players.
• Today’s early work (this stuff already happened)
Bullpen sessions: Ivan Nova, Tyler Webb and Jose Campos
Live batting practice: Chris Capuano, David Carpenter, Chase Whitley and Bryan Mitchell
Andrew Bailey (Eddy Rodriguez catching)
Dellin Betances (Gary Sanchez catching)
Scott Baker (Juan Graterol catching)
Nathan Eovaldi (Brian McCann catching)
Michael Pineda (John Ryan Murphy catching)
Danny Burawa (Kyle Higashioka catching)
CC Sabathia (Austin Romine catching)
Adam Warren (Francisco Arcia catching)
Jared Burton (Trent Garrison catching)
• Batting practice:
John Ryan Murphy
Associated Press photos
The Yankees just got started this morning. Chris Capuano just got on the mound for live batting practice. The clubhouse still hasn’t opened to media, but I’m guessing Capuano is one of several who willb e facing hitters today. Tyler Webb, Jose Campos, David Carpenter, Chase Whitley and Bryan Mitchell were also scheduled to report early today.
Ivan Nova was also on the early report list, though it’s hard to imagine that’s a sign that he’s ready to face hitters. A simple bullpen would be a pretty significant step forward for him.
Meanwhile, across the street, Alex Rodriguez has apparently reported for another workout at the minor league complex.
Cell phone photo
Tomorrow is the Yankees’ first spring workout, so tonight we’ll finish our countdown of the most pressing spring training issues by looking at one that could single-handedly determine the success or failure of this season.
Do the Yankees actually have a good starting rotation, or even a viable starting rotation?
Some of this is out of the Yankees’ hands at this point. All they can do is hold their breath and hope Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow doesn’t snap, Michael Pineda’s shoulder doesn’t blow out, and CC Sabathia’s fastball isn’t smacked all over the yard. They can only follow protocol with Ivan Nova’s rehab, work on Nathan Eovaldi’s offspeed pitches, and evaluate their options for the fifth starter spot. For the most part, their major rotation decisions were made weeks ago. Maybe even months ago. In some cases, years ago.
But at some point, the Yankees will have to decide whether they have enough.
Is this a rotation capable of getting the Yankees into the postseason. Should they consider a trade for a guy like Cole Hamels? Have they left themselves too short-handed to make a serious run?
This winter, the Yankees chose to role the rotation dice. They acknowledged in the fall that their rotation was a concern, but they didn’t want to make a Sabathia-like commitment to Jon Lester or Max Scherzer, and they didn’t like the going rate for high-risk secondary options like Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. They chose to sacrifice one starting pitcher to acquire a shortstop, which made their one trade for another starting pitcher more of a replacement than an upgrade.
• Is there any indication Tanaka’s favoring his elbow; has this rehab protocol really worked?
• Does Pineda seem to have his usual arm strength; is this spring 2012 all over again?
• What kind of pitcher is Sabathia at this point; has he successfully transitioned to a new stage in his career?
• Did the Yankees find a young gem in Eovaldi; can he do anything more than light up a radar gun?
• How much does Chris Capuano have left; did the Yankees get his last drop of effectiveness last season?
• Are Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers legitimate options; have the Yankees overly neglected their immediate depth?
• Can Bryan Mitchell or Chase Whitley spot start if necessary; how far away is Luis Severino?
Whatever the answers to those questions, there’s only so much the Yankees can do at this point. Their most important rotation decisions came when they passed on Scherzer and Lester, when they made a pair of rotation-based trades (three trades counting the Manny Banuelos deal), and when they selected Capuano and a handful of minor league free agents to build their back-of-the-rotation depth.
In some ways, their key 2015 rotation decisions came when they traded for Pineda, extended Sabathia, and elected to forgo surgery on Tanaka.
But as pitchers and catchers settle into Steinbrenner Field, it’s still hard to look at this Yankees team and see a more all-or-nothing situation than the state of the rotation. This spring, the Yankees will have to figure out whether this rotation is good enough to make the Yankees contenders or thin enough to keep them out of the playoffs.
And as with any spring training decision, the evaluation will be subject to change once the season gets started.
Associated Press photos