Yesterday, just as the bullpens and catching drills were breaking up, Joe Girardi and Tony Pena stayed behind with Jesus Montero, slightly tweaking the way he squats. They seemed to be working on Montero’s base, getting his feet just slightly farther apart.
When someone told Girardi it was time for Montero’s group to taking batting practice, Girardi responded instantly.
“I know he can hit,” Girardi said.
A little defensive work was, for the moment, a priority.
During the day, Girardi bounces around a little bit. He spends time watching pitchers in the bullpen, but he’s also been involved in a few of Pena’s infamous — and occasionally brutal — catching drills. Today, Girardi specifically did some work with Russell Martin.
“Tony told me he was going to do some things with him today that I wanted to see,” Girardi said. “It’s just the importance of that relationship, getting to know him better, understanding what he’s all about and what makes him tick. Just trying to get a better grasp on the player.
“You think about the responsibility the catcher has, he’s responsible for a lot of guys. He’s responsible for 12 pitchers and himself, and you kind of want him to be an extension of what we’re trying to do here. That relationship is important.”
• Speaking of Martin, although he’s not quite 100 percent right now, the Yankees are expecting no restrictions when the season starts. “He hasn’t shown me anything physically right now that won’t allow us to play him every day,” Girardi said.
• As of right now, no plan is in place for when Mariano Rivera will finally get in a game. “I don’t have an exact date,” Girardi said. “Larry (Rothschild) is going to sit down and give us an exact date of when he’ll throw. He usually gets in a game sometime around the 15th, maybe a little before.”
• Speaking of Rivera: “He picked a good day to come,” Girardi said. “Today is our first off-day from running.”
• In theory, having Rafael Soriano could ease Rivera’s workload, but Girardi said he’s planning to treat his closer the same as ever. Three days in a row is not out of the question with Rivera, not like it is with most other relievers. “I’ll continue to treat Mo the same,” Girardi said.
• With room for only one long reliever, the Yankees might try to stretch out some of their one-inning relievers this spring. “That’s something you might see guys do a little in spring training, where we ask them to get more than three outs and we stretch them out a little bit,” Girardi said. “You’d like to have a couple guys who can give you multiple innings, so that’s something we’ll have to look at and see how they respond to it.”
• According to Girardi, Phil Hughes’ increased workload might have contributed to his shaky second half. “I don’t realty have a whole lot of concern about that,” Girardi said. “I think part was maybe the increased innings, but I saw what he did the last few starts, which were pretty good. The start against Boston, the start against Minnesota, those were pretty good starts. He seemed to bounce back. That’s one of the reasons we do put limitations on them, because you worry about fatigue.”
• Once a highly touted pitching prospect in the Yankees system, right-hander Christian Garcia was released last season after a series of injuries derailed his promising career. The Yankees are aware that Garcia, 25, has been working out and plans to throw for scouts, but I was told today that the Yankees have no plans of bringing Garcia back to the organization.
• For those of you interested in such things, Brandon Laird’s locker has been moved to the middle of the clubhouse, filling the spot that was supposed to go to Reegie Corona. He was assigned a wall locker near the door. This “news” has no impact on anything, just thought I’d share.
• Yogi Berra will be in camp at some point next week.
Associated Press photos: Girardi with Martin, Rivera stretching, Curtis Granderson and Greg Golson at the minor league complex
Pregame notes: Posada plays two, sits one • 05.14.10
After catching the past two days, Jorge Posada has a precautionary day off tonight. Posada said he feels fine and Joe Girardi indicated no physical problem with his regular catcher, but the Yankees are moving with caution after Posada missed a few games last week because of a calf injury.
“Last time we played him three days he had the calf issue,” Girardi said. “I just thought, until we get completely by this and I know we’re completely by this, with the travel day, I thought I’d go with Cervi.”
Cervelli has played well in Posada’s place, but Girardi gave no indication that Cervelli’s hot bat factored into the decision. Instead, he’s simply making sure his catcher doesn’t fall back onto the growing list of injured Yankees.
Some good injury news comes from Nick Swisher, who’s back in the lineup after missing yesterday’s game because of some tightness in his left biceps. Swisher saw the doctor this morning and everything checked out fine. He’ll be in the lineup against the right-handed Twins starter Scott Baker.
“Obviously we’ve had our share of injuries the last couple of weeks,” Girardi said. But we think we’re getting through them.”
Here’s the Girardi audio, which starts with media relations director Jason Zillo announcing the Shane Lindsay waiver claim.
• Chan Ho Park will start tonight’s rehab game with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Romulo Sanchez will come into the game in the second inning. Girardi has indicated Park could be back with the big league club on Sunday.
• Sergio Mitre is officially the Yankees scheduled starter for Sunday, but Girardi said he’s still not ready to announce his rotation beyond that game. The Yankees still have to decide how to use Phil Hughes and Javier Vazquez after Wednesday’s doubleheader.
• Curtis Granderson is scheduled to do some stretching and exercises tonight, and then he’ll hit off a tee for the first time since his groin injury. “Possibly some light jogging tomorrow,” Girardi said.
• Because I’m sure the question has been asked already, here’s Girardi on why he’s putting Thames back in left field: “We look at matchups. We look at the type of pitcher that is pitching that day. Thames has had some success against Baker. Those are the type of things that we’re going to look at. He’s not the defensive player that Winn is, but offensively he offers a lot. You can look at certain guys all the time and say defensively let’s throw him out there, but you have to look at the whole package.”
• As mentioned earlier, the Yankees have claimed hard-throwing right-handed reliever Shane Lindsay off waivers from the Rockies. Lindsay will go to the minor league complex before being assigned to a minor league affiliate. Lindsay has 14 walks in 9.1 innings this season, but Baseball America’s scouting report says he can get his fastball up to 98 mph with a quality curveball. “That’s a big tool there, that arm,” Brian Cashman said.
• To make room for Lindsay on the 40-man roster, the Yankees have given Christian Garcia his unconditional release. Loaded with talent, Garcia is out with his second Tommy John surgery. He’s a great, great guy with a lot of talent, but his body has let him down time and time again.
• For what it’s worth, this is the first line about Lindsay in the Baseball American Prospect Handbook: “The biggest question about Lindsay is if he will ever stay healthy enough to capitalize on his raw ability.” Since 2006, Lindsay has had a broken hand and a torn labrum.
Hard to imagine anyone being more disappointed in Javier Vazquez’s first four starts than the guy who had to answer questions about them this afternoon.
“I’m not doing a good job out there,” Vazquez said. “And it’s kind of embarrassing the way I’m throwing the ball.”
Vazquez was fine through the first three innings this afternoon. He wasn’t great, but he did enough. Bobby Abreu has owned Vazquez in his career, so the third-inning homer was hardly a surprise, but Vazquez otherwise struck out the side that inning. Then came the ugly fourth inning when he hit a batter, walked a batter, allowed two singles and gave up a two-run double.
“At times he gets under the ball, and that’s something that we’re working on correcting,” manager Joe Girardi said. “When he’s on top he’s very good. To me it’s more mechanical than anything.”
Girardi said he doesn’t believe it’s a mental issue with Vazquez. He sees Vazquez lowering his arm angle — not staying up top — and that’s causing a lack of control and velocity on his fastball.
“I’m not locating at all,” Vazquez said. “That’s been my most important pitch my whole career.”
Here’s Vazquez talking about today’s start and his rough first four starts this season.
• Robinson Cano has five home runs this season. Three of them have come off Scott Kazmir, who he’s faced six times.
• Speaking of Cano and Kazmir, Girardi said he didn’t think the second hitting HBP was intentional. “I don’t necessarily think he was trying to hit him,” Girardi said. “He might have been trying to make him uncomfortable.”
• After a double and a walk this afternoon, Marcus Thames is hitting an even .500 with an .857 slugging percentage.
• And speaking of Thames, both Girardi and Vazquez indicated that the ball to left field — the Brandon Wood two-run double — was harder to catch than it might have seemed. It had some top spin on it, which made it drop quickly. Frankly, if he’s going to keep hitting .500, it’s probably worth the occasional defensive downgrade.
• Kendry Morales was 1-for-3 in his career against Damaso Marte. Juan Rivera was 1-for-1 in his career against Dave Robertson.
• Tomorrow’s White House visit includes only the guys who were with the team last season. The new guys won’t go. That’s Curtis Granderson, Marcus Thames, Nick Johnson, Javier Vazquez, Boone Logan and Randy Winn. Granderson said he’ll be doing regular “off day stuff,” including seeing some family in the Baltimore area.
• This was Francisco Cervelli’s first start without a hit.
Associated Press photos.
Other things that happened today • 04.10.10
CC Sabathia was obviously the story of the day, but there was a lot happening this afternoon in St. Petersburg: The Yankees were scoring 10 runs, their defense was making huge plays and their 24-year-old catcher was earning his stripes.
Francisco Cervelli never had the kind of prospect status of Jesus Montero or Austin Romine, but he’s always been terrific behind the plate, and this afternoon he helped guide Sabathia within four outs of a no-hitter. Had Sabathia come out of the game with the no-hitter intact, Joe Girardi might have had a harder time breaking the news to his catcher.
“I think I would have had to calm him down more than CC,” Girardi said. “He was really into it, which is great to see. I think it gives a young catcher a lot of confidence. I think when Jorge caught David Wells’ perfect game it’s just, wow. It gives you a sense of confidence back there. You know what you’re doing, and you have a plan and you’re able to follow the plan.”
Cervelli called Sabathia’s outing “perfect” but downplayed his own two-run double.
“That’s my job here to catch and be good with the pitchers,” Cervelli said. “When I’m hitting I concentrate on my offense, but the first thing for me is catch, catch, catch and catch.”
On offense and on defense, the Yankees were terrific, and much of that spotlight belonged to their big first baseman. Mark Teixeira made a no-hitter-saving catch in the sixth inning. He also finished 3-for-4 with his first three hits of the season.
“During your career you always aim for milestones,” Teixeira said. “So I made sure I went 0-for-17 to have a personal best. After that I wanted to make sure I got a few hits.”
Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner each had two hits. The top six Yankees hitters scored a run. The bottom three combined for five hits, four RBI, two runs and two stolen bases.
As for the defense, Robinson Cano made a nice charging play in the eighth inning — when the no-hitter was still on the line — and Alex Rodriguez made two great plays at third, one to get Evan Longoria out and the other to nab B.J. Upton and keep Sabathia on track.
“Alex’s play was incredible,” Teixeira said. “That was one of the best plays your going to see all year. When you make a few plays like that, and the way CC was throwing the ball, you thought it could happen.”
• Girardi on the eighth-inning play when Sabathia tried to catch the ball with his bare hand: “He bare-hands every ball from Alex, but I would prefer that he doesn’t bare-hand them from hitters. He has some pretty big mitts though.”
• Give some credit to Dave Robertson: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K.
• Brett Gardner has started three games and has three stolen bases.
• Teixeira is friends with Kelly Shoppach and Shoppach caught Sabathia while the two were in the Cleveland organization: “That was the first thing I thought of,” Teixeira siad. “He just messed up his buddy’s no hitter.”
• So far so good for Robinson Cano batting fifth. He hit his second home run today and he’s batting .381 with six RBI.
• Sabathia last threw a no hitter in high school.
• Cervelli said he caught two no-hitters in a week back in Single-A. Both were multiple pitchers.
• Ramiro Pena pinch ran in the ninth, meaning the Yankees have now used every player on the roster except Phil Hughes. Pena and Cervelli were the only position players who hadn’t gotten in a game. Sergio Mitre pitched yesterday and was the last reliever to get in a game.
• Really bad news on Christian Garcia’s elbow. He has a torn ligament.
Those are Associated Press photos of Cervelli talking to Sabathia, of Teixeira getting his first hit and of Rodriguez making the play to get B.J. Upton out in the seventh.
Joe Girardi started his pregame media session with a very, very true statement.
“Day games after night games are always a little slow,” he said. “Nothing happens in the time that we leave.”
On this day, the only exception to that rule was Phil Hughes, who made his final extended spring training start this morning at the Yankees minor league complex. According to Girardi, Hughes threw 84 pitches across six innings. He had “five or six strikeouts,” Girardi said.
Hughes will make his regular season debut on Thursday, and Girardi said there will be no pitch limit. “He’s the same (as the other starters),” Girardi said. “He’s built up.”
As for how the Yankees will manage Hughes innings this season, Girardi said the same thing he said this spring: The limit is higher than Joba Chamberlain’s was last year, and so the team isn’t worried about it right now. They’ve told Hughes not to worry about it when he pitches. If they have to adjust, they’ll adjust, but right now there’s no set plan for when they’ll skip his turn in the rotation.
“If there’s a situation where we feel we need to skip him, we’ll skip him,” Girardi said.
Here’s Girardi’s audio.
• Girardi said he “will not hesitate” to pinch hit for Francisco Cervelli in a big spot this afternoon.
• Who’s the emergency third catcher? “Nino puts the shin guards on from time to time, and A.J. used to catch,” Girardi said. Nino is Ramiro Pena. A.J. is A.J. Burnett. You can guess which of the two is most likely to get out there in an emergency.
• Girardi acknowledged that Brett Gardner probably would have caught the double that got past Marcus Thames last night, but he said he had no problem with Thames diving for the ball. “Marcus did everything he could to get to it,” Girardi said. “But (Gardner) probably does.” Girardi indicated that he might not platoon Thames in left field when the Yankees are playing in a big outfield, but he certainly didn’t commit to that, just mentioned it as something to consider.
• At this time last year — a week into his return to the Yankees lineup — could Alex Rodriguez and his bad hip have tripled on the ball he hit last night? “I don’t think he gets to third base in that situation,” Girardi said. The surgically repaired hip rarely crosses anyone’s mind any more.
• Every reliever except Sergio Mitre is available tonight, but Girardi said Mitre felt good after his 2-plus innings last night.
• A Yankees highlight video of last season was on TV in the Yankees clubhouse this afternoon, but Dave Robertson and the writers seemed to be the only people interested. I don’t think anyone else gave it a second look.
• Mike Ashmore checked in with injured pitching prospect Alan Horne, who has decided to postpone his rotator cuff surgery and will try platelet-rich plasma treatments. Other news from Trenton: Christian Garcia is waiting for MRI results on his sore elbow. It doesn’t sound like a great situation.
Like Girardi said, not much has happened since last night, so I pulled a random AP picture from the Boston series. It was either that or another shot of a dejected Javy Vazquez.
A few links from a day off • 04.08.10
• Details continue to emerge about the investigation into Alex Rodriguez. The Times is reporting that federal investigators want to talk to Rodriguez associates who might know how much time and money he spent in connection to Dr. Tony Galea.
• Hideki Matsui is in the outfield tonight for the Angels. Mike Scioscia announced yesterday that he planned to put Matsui in the field, and sure enough he’s playing left and batting clean up.
• Austin Jackson is off to a strong start with Detroit. Today he had his second straight two-hit day and he has five hits through his first three games. Johnny Damon had two hits in the Tigers opener but went hitless yesterday and today.
• Rays’ No. 3 starter Jeff Niemann left tonight’s game after 12 pitches. He was hit in the shoulder by a comebacker in the second inning. That forced the Rays into their bullpen early, one day before they play the Yankees.
• Chris Garcia was pulled from tonight’s Double-A start in the middle in the sixth inning. Mike Ashmore reports that Garcia seemed to be hurt because he left mid-batter, and only after the trainer met him on the mound. If he’s hurt, that’s one more tough break for the talented righty. Keep checking Ashmore’s blog for updates.
Notes from Tuesday • 02.23.10
Most of the position players were long gone by the time the writers got back into the clubhouse this afternoon. Joe Girardi said he will wait until tomorrow to deliver his spring training message to the team.
“To me, we start over,” Girardi said. “There was a good feeling in that clubhouse and we need to go back and get that good feeling. We have to work at it.”
Girardi once again said that he’s not concerned about the Yankees getting complacent after last year’s championship.
“I’ve said all along, there’s great character in that room and there are guys that are hungry every year,” he said. “…When you sign on here, you know there’s an expectation and you’re reminded of that daily, in a sense.”
Here’s the Girardi audio.
• Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain each threw 40 pitches today. They won’t throw again until Friday, when they throw live batting practice to the Yankees position players.
• Not sure what happens with the pitchers tomorrow. Pitching coach Dave Eiland said Group 1 — the group that pitched yesterday — will throw live batting practice to hitters on Thursday.
• Girardi said he didn’t see Andy Pettitte’s bullpen session. Instead, he went to watch the catchers make throws to second base for the first time this spring. He wanted to see their arms, but he also wanted to make sure they didn’t overdo it. “I told them that was my sole reason for being there, make sure you take it easy,” he said.
• Damaso Marte had an ice pack on his left shoulder this afternoon. He still hasn’t thrown in he bullpen — next week, he said — but he did play catch off flat ground.
• Speaking of left-handed relievers, Boone Logan has decided to go back to using a changeup instead of a splitfinger as his third pitch. He works mostly with a fastball and a slider, but he experimented with a split in recent years. He said the changeup has come back to him fairly quickly.
• Girardi didn’t provide many details, but minor league right-hander Chris Garcia sat out today’s bullpen session because of some pain in his elbow. Good news is he’s expected to play catch tomorrow. I don’t really know Garcia at all, but I’d love to see him get through a healthy season just to show what he can do, for better or for worse.
• Big, power-hitting Double-A first baseman Jorge Vazquez was leaning back in his chair when we got into the clubhouse this morning. Alfredo Aceves said he faced Vazquez a few years ago when the two were playing in Mexico. “A long time ago,” Aceves said. “He got a home run.”
• Pitchers who threw today:
First group: Chamberlain, Hughes, Pettitte, Ramirez
Second group: Igawa, Melancon, Logan, Moseley
Third group: McAllister, Nova, Whelan
Fourth group: Bleich, Mitchell, Noesi
• First group pairings: Rivera caught Chamberlain, Cervelli caught Hughes, Posada caught Pettitte, Pilittere caught Ramirez.
That top picture is Dustin Moseley, Mark Melancon and Kei Igawa after their bullpen session. The second picture is a group of catchers waiting for a bullpen session to start. L to R: Romine, Higashioka, Montero and Gil.