Pregame notes: Clean MRI for Soriano • 05.17.11
Rafael Soriano had an MRI today, and it showed nothing but inflammation in his sore right elbow. That’s the same issue he’s been dealing with since last week’s Royals series. All things considered, that seems like good news for the Yankees and their setup man.
But still, this has not been the best-case scenario that the team was hoping for when they gave Soriano a massive three-year deal this offseason. He has not been nearly as good as he was last season, he surely didn’t win over any teammates with last night’s comments and now he’s on the disabled list with an elbow issue that just won’t go away.
“He’s thrown the ball really well for us at times, and he’s struggled at times,” Joe Girardi said. “Unfortunately he hasn’t felt good lately, and we just need to get him back and get him healthy and get him doing what he’s capable of doing.”
Girardi backs his players. It’s what he does. That’s his management style, and we’ve all come to expect it. Asked about Soriano’s comments last night — when Soriano threw the lineup under the bus and said it hasn’t bothered him to miss this rocky stretch — Girardi went about as far as he’ll go to publicly rip a player.
“My thought is, we win as a team and we lose as a team,” Girardi said. “Everyone on this club can always do a little bit more. That’s the bottom line. You can take that for what it’s worth.”
The Yankees decided even before Soriano went for his MRI that he would go on the disabled list. Chris Dickerson said he got the news around midnight, while he was on a bus from Pawtucket to Scranton. The Yankees new that Soriano would have to skip at last three or four days before throwing another bullpen, which meant at least another week or so before he’d be available in a game. They didn’t want to keep playing short, so they put him on the DL.
• Dickerson landed at 2:30 this afternoon and came straight to the ballpark. You might remember that he had a similar rushed arrival in spring training and promptly went 3-for-3 (before being shutdown with an injury).
• Who handles the eighth without Soriano? “Joba has been pitching in the back end (and) Robby has been pitching in the back end,” Girardi said. “We’ll go day-by-day. Sometimes guys aren’t going to be available and you’ve just going to have to get through it.”
• Girardi said he had no second-thoughts about where to put Jorge Posada in today’s lineup, but he indicated that his spot in the lineup is still fluid. “To me it was the place to put him today,” Girardi said. “There’s a lot of things I look at, and I just thought it was the place to put him.”
• Dickerson was always going to be the call-up. That was decided before the team found out Swisher was sick.
Sam Fuld LF
Ben Zobrist 2B
Johnny Damon DH
Evan Longoria 3B
Matt Joyce RF
B.J. Upton CF
Casey Kotchman 1B
Elliot Johnson SS
Kelly Shoppach C
Associated Press photo
A few short minor league notes • 05.04.11
A few quick minor league notes this late morning. Don’t forget, we’re doing a chat at 2:30 this afternoon.
• Two injuries to players on the 40-man roster: Greg Golson is on the Triple-A disabled list with a hamstring injury, and Steve Garrison could be headed for the Double-A disabled list after groin pull.
• Two other Triple-A injuries that seem fairly minor: Chris Dickerson has missed three straight games with a neck injury. He would have missed a fourth if not for a rain out last night. Ramiro Pena was out of last night’s lineup with a sore foot.
• Three non-40-man pitchers to keep an eye on: George Kontos (two runs in his past 15.1 innings as Scranton’s long man), Kevin Whelan (much improved control to go with only two hits allowed in past 10.2 innings as Scranton’s closer) and Andy Sisco (still no earned runs with four hits allowed through 10.1 innings as Scranton’s bullpen lefty).
• The Associated Press reports that the Yankees have signed Brad Halsey to a minor league deal and sent him to extended spring.
• He’s still a long, long way from the big leagues, but Slade Heathcott is hitting .351/.436/.574 through 94 at-bats in Charleston. Have to think he’ll be in Tampa around mid-season or so, maybe sooner if he keeps this up. JR Murphy is also really hitting in Charleston (.316/.340/.490) but Gary Sanchez is not (.200/.238/.293).
A few off day minor league notes • 04.21.11
Off days seem to work pretty well for minor league updates. There’s not much going on with the big league team on these days, so we might as well look into the minor league system.
Today let’s start in Double-A. Austin Romine is always the other catcher in the Yankees system. He’s not considered one of baseball’s elite like Jesus Montero, and he’s not a raw mega-talent like Gary Sanchez, but Romine is a legitimate prospect his bat is heating up.
He hit a walkoff single on Tuesday, then he homered twice on Wednesday. Romine got off to a slow start in the season’s first week, but in the past five games he’s collected nine hits including a double and two home runs. He has nine RBI in the his past five games after not driving in a run in any of his first six games. His slash line is up to .310/.420/.500.
Of course, in this system, Romine isn’t the only minor league catcher who’s been hitting lately.
Jesus Montero continues to rake for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He had another three-hit game last night, and although he hasn’t homered since April 9 and has yet to draw a walk, Montero is batting .423/.423/.558 through 11 games. Down in Charleston, Gary Sanchez is back from a brief stint on the disabled list and had a hit last night. While Sanchez was out — Josh Norris says it was a sore oblique, of course — J.R. Murphy got some regular time behind the plate and his bat is still going strong with three homers, 13 RBI and a .326 average.
For the immediate future, the catching situation that has the most impact on the Yankees is happening in Tampa, where Francisco Cervelli is supposed to be begin a rehab assignment tonight.
• Kei Igawa is up from Double-A to start for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tonight. Kevin Millwood is coming up from the Double-A roster to start for Scranton tomorrow. As Donnie Collins pointed out, Millwood should have time to make one start after tomorrow before his out kicks in.
• Speaking of Triple-A starters, David Phelps and Adam Warren have turned in back-to-back gems this week. Phelps allowed three hits and struck out six through 6.1 innings on Tuesday night, then Warren followed with eight scoreless innings on Wednesday. Minor league pitchers — and big league pitchers for that matter — occasionally talk about creating a friendly rivalry in which one player’s success helps to spark another’s success. Those two outings could start something like that.
• Jorge Vazquez is up to seven home runs in Scranton, meanwhile Chris Dickerson has started hitting in Triple-A. Eight hits in his past four games has Dickerson’s slash line up to .292/.393/.375. He’s had two doubles and a triple in the past three days, his first extra-base hits of the year.
• Manny Banuelos is back from his blister and made his second start on Tuesday night. He allowed two hits and one unearned run through four innings for Double-A Trenton. Dellin Betances is still on the disabled list in Trenton, but he seems close to a return.
• Good numbers from a name you might not know: Mikey O’Brien, a ninth-round pick in 2008, has a 2.16 ERA with 19 strikeouts through his first three starts with Charleston. He’s walked only three and his production has been pretty steady (his numbers aren’t the product of just one good start), but he has yet to get a win. O’Brien could be building on last season when he had a 2.08 ERA in Staten Island.
Joe Girardi has settled on one lineup decision: Derek Jeter will bat leadoff against left-handed starters. “You can bank on that,” Girardi said.
Who bats leadoff against right-handers remains up in the air.
Jack Curry reported today that the Yankees will open the season with Brett Gardner in the leadoff spot. I’m sure Curry’s right, but Girardi said he hasn’t settled on a lineup against right-handed pitchers.
“It’s something we’ll talk about on the plane,” Girardi said.
The Yankees face Justin Verlander on Thursday, and won’t face a lefty through the entire opening series against Detroit. The fact Girardi stuck with Gardner in the leadoff spot through the final two weeks or so of spring training seems to be a pretty good sign that he’s leaning that way for the regular season, but he’s said he won’t set anything in stone until Thursday.
“We’ll find out in a couple of day,” Gardner said. “I’m not worried about it.”
Gardner hit .260 this spring. His nine walks were tied with Jorge Posada for the team lead. Jeter hit .304 and struck out only three times. In the final weeks, he seemed to be driving the ball more often, and Girardi said that’s what stood out to him about his shortstop.
“Some of the balls that he’s pulled with authority,” Girardi said. “I’ve noticed that he seems to get to that better now, and I think it’s something that pitchers are going to have to think about. Everything he used to try to shoot the other way, and he would pull some breaking balls. I’ve seen him pull some heaters with authority. People are going to have to decide whether the risk is worth it now.”
• Pedro Feliciano might be out longer than two weeks. Girardi said Feliciano has been shut down for 10 days and is likely to be out at least three weeks. “He’s going to have to play catch and long toss and flat ground then get off a mound and then throw to hitters,” Girardi said. “I think you’re looking at at least three weeks.”
• Feliciano, Damaso Marte and Colin Curtis are all traveling with the Yankees to New York. They’ll all be checked out in the City, but they won’t necessarily stay with the team for their rehab work.
• Girardi made it clear that if Curtis Granderson isn’t able to open the season, Chris Dickerson is the next in line to take that roster spot. If Granderson does open the season, though, the Dickerson will open in the minors.
• Every healthy Yankees reliever pitched today. Mariano Rivera, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain and Dave Robertson pitched in a simulated game at the minor league complex. Rafael Soriano and Bartolo Colon combined for a hitless inning and a third in the big league game. Even 12th reliever candidates Luis Ayala and Steve Garrison pitched today.
• In his final spring start, Freddy Garcia went 4.2 innings, allowing one run on four hits and two walks. He struck out three. The one run came on a home run by Brennan Boesch.
• Meaningless spring information: Colon started the spring opener, and he threw the final pitch in today’s finale.
• Garrison faced four hitters today. He retired the two right-handers — including a strikeout of Jhonny Peralta — but both lefties singled. Ayala faced three hitters. Magglio Ordonez doubled, Miguel Cabrera grounded out and Victor Martinez flied out.
• Phil Hughes allowed one run through five innings at the minor league complex today. Granderson and Dickerson faced Hector Noesi and some other minor leaguers in their sim game. Thank you to Donnie Collins for the information.
• Austin Romine hit his second spring home run. The two homers came in back-to-back games. The Yankees only other extra-base hit was a double by Andruw Jones, but the Romine homer push the Yankees to a 2-1 win.
• Girardi was asked today if he might be more willing to pinch hit for his catcher this season because he has Jorge Posada as an emergency option. “It’s probably something I would be somewhat reluctant to do,” Girardi said.
• Francisco Cervelli is no longer wearing his protective boot. “I don’t think it’s out of the question to have him May 1,” Girardi said.
• Speaking of Cervelli: “He asked me if I wanted (the boot),” Girardi said. “I said no, I don’t.” Only Cervelli would ask if someone else would like to keep his protective boot.
Associated Press photos of Jeter, Garcia and Rodriguez
Time to make a decision • 03.28.11
The Yankees have announced their rotation, they’ve made it clear that Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez are on the Opening Day roster, and they’ve picked Bartolo Colon as their long man. Joe Girardi is expected to announce the rest of his Opening Day roster this afternoon (except perhaps a pair of injury replacements).
Favorite: Gustavo Molina
After Francisco Cervelli broke his foot, and the prospects showed they still have a few things to learn, Molina has emerged as the clear front-runner for this role. If you weren’t convinced already, the fact he caught CC Sabathia and a series of big league relievers on Saturday should have sold it. Probably a short-term place holder.
Favorite: Eduardo Nunez
Nunez and Ramiro Pena seemed pretty even when camp opened, but Nunez has been dynamic enough that I have to think he’s the favorite for the spot. It wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world to carry Pena — mostly because this is going to be such a minimal role — but Nunez is the one who keeps getting regular time in left field and the most at-bats.
Pedro Feliciano replacement
Favorite: Steve Garrison
Probably won’t get this announcement today, but Garrison does seem to be the front-runner. He’s a lefty — which makes him a natural replacement — but he’s also on the 40-man, which makes him an easier addition than Luis Ayala or Mark Prior. Indications are that Romulo Sanchez will be out of the organization soon, and Garrison would give the Yankees a second lefty who could also pitch three or four innings if necessary.
Curtis Granderson replacement
Favorite: Chris Dickerson
The Yankees have seen more of Greg Golson and Justin Maxwell, but those two are right-handed hitters. Their roles would be minimal with Andruw Jones on the roster. Dickerson is a lefty who’s hit right-handed pitching in his career. He’s the best fit, but he has to get past his hamstring injury. It’s doubtful the Yankees will announce anything about this situation until Tuesday or Wednesday (or maybe even Thursday). There’s still a chance Granderson will break camp.
Associated Press photo of Nunez
Dickerson settles into his new surroundings • 03.26.11
Chris Dickerson said there were more familiar faces than he was expecting when he walked into the Yankees clubhouse this morning. He knows Russell Martin from their time in the National League. He knows Brett Gardner because they played against one another in the minor leagues and were in the Fall League together. He knows Eric Chavez because … actually, I’m not sure why he knows Eric Chavez, but he does.
One thing Dickerson did not expect was to have his first Yankees locker right next to the current Yankees captain. Dickerson had been in the clubhouse for a few minutes — getting his gear and being constantly pointed in the right direction — before he finally realized who was in the locker next to him.
“I just noticed that. Seriously,” he said. “I just got back from the training room with my pants, and I was walking over here and I looked. Ohhh. Okay. Yeah. Wow. A trash can separates us.”
And Yankees, meet your new outfielder.
Dickerson doubled in his first at-bat, then hit an RBI single up the middle in his second. He singled again in his third at-bat and — in a most unexpected twist — was pulled from the game with cramping and spasms in his hamstring. The Yankees are hoping it’s a minor issue that resolves itself in a day or two.
With the Brewers, Dickerson opened the spring in a competition for the starting center field job and had settled into a fourth outfielder role before Friday’s trade. With the Yankees, his best chance of making the Opening Day roster is that Curtis Granderson opens on the disabled list.
“It’s not something that you really want to concern yourself about and think too much about,” Dickerson said. “It’s more just coming here and try to get prepared and put yourself in a position to help the team. Continue to work hard these last couple of days. You can’t make it too complex.”
Dickerson’s mother was born in Brooklyn, his grandmother lives in Queens and the Yankees drafted him out of high school (but his mother wanted him to go to college, so he didn’t sign).
“It’s really exciting for my mom’s side of the family especially,” he said.
Here’s Dickerson talking before the game. He was in the trainer’s room after the game and didn’t talk about the injury.
Associated Press photo
Nothing is settled, but Jesus Montero’s chances of making Yankees roster certainly seem to have diminished in the past week. Montero hasn’t hit especially well this spring, and Joe Girardi has admitted that the 21-year-old seems to be pressing. Francisco Cervelli’s injury opened a door, and it’s only natural that Montero would try to force his way through it.
Would he be upset if someone is gets the job?
“No, I would be fine,” Montero said. “I’ll be working hard. My moment is going to be there.”
In a lot of ways, Gustavo Molina’s moment came in early December. The Yankees were the first team to make an offer, and Molina jumped at the chance after having to sign late last year.
“If you get here, it’s for a reason, to show what I can do on the field,” Molina said. “They know what I can do on paper. Whatever is coming through is my best. I give my best every day. Make a tough decision for anybody, even in the big leagues… You never know. I learned that in ’07 with the White Sox, you never know what can happen in spring training. Sometimes people get hurt and opportunites are coming up, and sometimes you play good and you open eyes for somebody to give you a chance.”
Molina made the White Sox Opening Day roster in 2007. It was his first time in the big leagues. He’s since played for the Orioles, Mets and Red Sox.
“After you make it to the big leagues, you know what you have to do to get there, so that’s what you bring to spring training,” he said. “… I want to be part of this team. You see a lot of good people around, good players, and you want to be a part of that, so I hope I get a chance.”
Montero hopes to get a chance too. He said he’s still trying to prove he belongs, still trying to win that spot on the Yankees bench.
“They decide everything,” Montero said. “I’m doing my best here. I’m doing my job. I’m doing whatever they want me to do. I feel comfortable right now. I don’t know what decisions they’re going to make, but I feel happy.”
• Joe Girardi said he plans to announce his pitching assignments tomorrow. Decisions were made tonight, and Girardi is going to talk to his players first, then make the decisions public. When asked whether Ivan Nova has earned a rotation spot, Girardi said “I need to talk to my players first,” but also nodded his head.
• Speaking of Nova, he didn’t have his good stuff tonight, but still got through six solid innings, allowing two runs on three hits. “His stuff was not extremely sharp tonight, but that’s actually maturing and that’s a good thing,” Girardi said. “You’re not always going to have your A stuff and be sharp, and you have to find a way to do it.
• Nova found out about the Mitre trade when he got to the stadium today. He can count to three. “When he got traded, I know there’s more space now,” Nova said. “That makes me feel good. I don’t want him to leave, but now there’s three spots.”
• Girardi said he occasionally does “different things” with his backup players. Today, Molina was scheduled to be the backup, but Montero instead played the final few innings. Girardi wouldn’t say what should be read into that, but I wonder if it was an effort to give Montero one last big league inning before sending him to minor league camp. Just a guess.
• In his first at-bat back from a minor calf injury, Eric Chavez hit his first spring home run. He singled in his second at-bat and doubled in his third (after nearly hitting a home run that went just foul). He’s now batting .421 this spring.
• Curtis Granderson came through his pregame running feeling good enough that he was cleared to do some light throwing as well. “I think the intensity will be more tomorrow,” Girardi said.
• Joba Chamberalin, Dave Robertson, Boone Logan and Rafael Soriano are all scheduled to pitch back-to-back games, so they should all be back in tomorrow’s game.
• Nick Swisher’s foot came through tonight’s game just fine.
• Russell Martin said he was definitely safe when he was called out tagging up on a fly ball to left. He also said he loved it that Girardi went out to argue on his behalf. Arguing in a spring training game? “I figure you’ve got to practice,” Girardi said.
• New outfielder Chris Dickerson is flying into Tampa tonight. I have to assume he’ll be at the complex for tomorrow’s game against the Pirates.
• Brian Cashman said he’s not sure when Kevin Millwood will actually arrive in Tampa.
• After completing one trade and agreeing to one minor league deal, Cashman said he’s not finished shopping this spring. Doesn’t mean he’ll make another move, but he’ll keep looking around. “I feel that we have some quality choices in house, but my job is always to find people who are better than what we have,” Cashman said.
Top picture was taken by Paul Dean and emailed to me. From left, that’s Montero, Molina, Tony Pena, Russell Martin and Jose Gil. That’s an AP photo of Girardi with Astros first-base coach Bobby Meacham, and an AP photo of Jeter, Swisher and Kevin Long in front of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.