The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


State of the organization: Corner outfield01.18.13

There’s a reason — beyond the obvious talent — that Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Upton and Mike Morse generated so much trade talk among Yankees fans this winter. A big, power-hitting, prototypical corner outfielder would fit incredibly well on this roster. The minor league system might have a legitimate outfield slugger on the way, but he’s at least a year away, and for the time being, the Yankees outfield is filled with two small-ball players and one all-or-nothing free agent to be. Those are three legitimate pieces, but the Yankees outfield could certainly make room for one of Brian Cashman’s big, hairy monsters if he could find one.

Curtis Granderson / Ichiro Suzuki
Signed through 2013 /2014
We know Suzuki will be in right field. We can only guess whether Granderson or Brett Gardner will be in left (as I wrote a couple of days ago, I’m heading into spring training expecting Gardner to shift to center). Either way, the Yankees are going to have considerable speed in their outfield and should cover a lot of ground. They’re going to count on Gardner and Ichiro to run on offense, and on Granderson to hit home runs. What’s still unclear is who they’re going to count on to hit against lefties. Matt Diaz is coming to camp on a minor league deal, and Russ Canzler is going to try to win a job in spring training, but Cashman has made no secret of the fact he’d like to add another right-handed hitting corner outfielder. Nick Swisher gave the Yankees a steady right field presence for four years, and he’s been difficult to fully replace this winter.

On the verge
Maybe Tyler Austin can play his way into the big league picture this year, but it’s more likely that immediate help will have to come from either Zoilo Almonte or Ronnier Mustelier, two players who really weren’t even worth watching two years ago. Almonte was signed way back in 2005, but he didn’t put himself on the map until 2011 when he cut down on his strikeouts and hit .276/.345/.459 between High-A and Double-A. His power numbers went up during a full Double-A season last year, and now he has a 40-man spot with a Triple-A job on the way. He’s a switch hitter who was especially good against righties last year (it hasn’t always been that way). Mustelier is a Cuban defector who didn’t join the Yankees until 2011 when he was already 26 years old. He’s too old to be considered a typical prospect, but he’s hit .324/.378/.497 through two pro seasons, including a pretty good 89 games in Triple-A last year. He’s played some second base and center field, but Mustelier’s ticket to the big leagues might be his ability to play all four corners. He’s kind of a less proven version of Canzler, who’s probably higher in the pecking order. Under certain circumstances, center fielders Melky Mesa and Abe Almonte could also factor into the corner conversation.

Deeper in the system
Austin is easily the top corner outfield prospect in the system, and he appears to have been a 13th-round steal. Drafted out of high school in 2010, Austin was the unquestionable breakout star of the Yankees minor league system last year. He hit .322/.400/.559 while climbing all the way from Charleston to Trenton. Despite that little bit of Double-A experience, the Yankees are considering sending Austin back to High-A to open this season. If he repeats last year’s results, he won’t stay there for long. Austin’s breakout season easily overshadowed Ramon Flores, a left-fielder who has a knack for getting on base (.362 on-base percentage in his minor league career). Flores was added to the 40-man this winter and is ticketed for Trenton. It’s hard to mention all of the system’s mildly interesting corner outfielders — converted third baseman Rob Segedin, under-the-radar Cuban prospect Adonis Garcia, does-a-little-of-everything Ben Gamel, and 2012 draftees Taylor Dugas and Nathan Mikolas are names worth knowing — but I’ll save room for Jake Cave, the Yankees sixth-round pick in 2011 who’s hardly played since being drafted because of a knee injury. Cave could have been drafted as either a left-handed pitcher or an outfielder, but the Yankees liked his bat. There’s upside to him, just no professional track record.

On the move
College outfielder Rob Refsnyder played right field for the Yankees Low-A team last year but seems likely to shift to second base next season. On the flip side, long-time middle infielder Jose Pirela began to see considerable time in left field last year and kept at least a little bit of prospect status alive with a strong Double-A season. The Yankees have shown a willingness to move players into the outfield corners when necessary — that’s how Austin got there after signing as a corner infielder — and they could eventually do that with last year’s second-round pick Austin Aune, who will first get a chance to sink or swim as a shortstop. Obviously, if top center field prospects Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott each get to New York, one of them will have to shift to left field.

What to watch
The development of Austin is among the most interesting aspects of the Yankees system this season. Last year was a revelation, the kind of year that suggested he just might be a real life, in-house, power-hitting corner outfielder that can rise through the system and get to New York within two years. That would be huge for the Yankees. For now, the thing to watch is the Yankees on-going pursuit of a right-handed outfield bat and the how-long-can-he-last uncertainty of Ichiro’s two-year deal.

Associated Press photo; headshots of Granderson, Ichiro, Almonte, Mustelier, Austin, Flores, Williams and Heathcott

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 103 Comments →

State of the organization: Center field01.16.13

Three years ago, the Yankees traded their center fielder of the future (who was basically ready for the big leagues) to acquire a center fielder of the present (who had a team-friendly contract through four more seasons). For the Yankees, the trade looked a lot better at this time last year, before Granderson took a step back and Jackson took a step forward. Now that Curtis Granderson is entering the final year of his contract, attention has shifted to the next wave of center fielders. It’s generally assumed that Granderson won’t be back next year — might not even be in center field this year — there are two players who can legitimately claim to be the Yankees center fielder of the future.

Brett Gardner
Second year of arbitration
I can’t tell you who exactly is going to play center field next season, but because the Yankees have acknowledged considering the idea of Gardner in center, I’m heading into spring training expecting that to happen. It’s not based on concrete facts — I honestly believe the Yankees are open to either option – but we’ve seen Granderson run a little less in recent years, my gut says that Gardner would be a better defensively, and it might make sense to go ahead and use Gardner in center now and go shopping for a left fielder next winter. Either way, the Yankees have options (even Ichiro Suzuki has proven he can still handle center if necessary). Gardner is an elite defensive player with speed. Granderson is, at the very least, one of the top power hitters in the game. The position is not a short-term concern for the Yankees.

On the verge
Speed, power and defense make Melky Mesa a tantalizing young player. Strikeouts make him a player who might never get more than the two Major League at-bats he had last season. In the minors last year, Mesa struck out 118 times, and that was actually his lowest single-season total since he reached full-season leagues. His Triple-A slash line of .230/.271/.524 pretty much tells the story of a guy who can hit the ball out (if he actually makes contact). Mesa can also run, but he is perhaps best known for failing to touch a base during his late-season call-up last year. He might be an all-or-nothing wild card, but Mesa does give the Yankees immediate depth in center. Zoilo Almonte has also played some center field in his career, and speedy Abe Almonte could be another option if he can build on a solid 2012 season in Trenton (and if he can get playing time on a crowded Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster). Another name to watch here is Adonis Garcia. The Cuban outfielder played well in winter ball and could become an option if he hits.

Deeper in the system
I considered listing Slade Heathcott as an “on the verge” option, but I’m just not sure I buy Damon Oppenheimer’s optimism that Heathcott could be in the big leagues this year. Heathcott still hasn’t played above High-A Tampa, and although he was terrific in the Arizona Fall League, it’s hard to imagine the Yankees suddenly pushing Heathcott too hard (not when they’ve previously worked so hard just to keep him healthy). But even if he doesn’t arrive this year, Heathcott is on his way. So is Mason Williams. They are two of the Yankees truly elite prospects, and it seems likely that Heathcott will open this season in Double-A with Williams right behind him in High-A. Both have significant upside, but they still need some development time and some patience. Ravel Santana was a part of this conversation a year ago, but he struggled so badly in Staten Island last season — .216/.304/.289 — that his stock has taken a considerable hit.

On the move
Overshadowed on a stacked Charleston roster, 2010 10th-round pick Ben Gamel had a so-so first half last season, but after Williams was promoted, Gamel shifted from left field to center field and hit .320/.347/.419 in the second half. He doesn’t stand out in this system — and he might not see a ton of center field time considering the other options — but there’s something to like about him. It’s also worth noting that Ronnier Mustelier has played quite a bit of center field, including some time as a center field regular this winter. The Yankees have never shown signs of making that a go-to position for him, but he does have experience there. Like with shortstop, it’s rare to see a player shift from any other position into center field. It happens occasionally — Abe Almonte moved from second to center when he was extremely young — but for the most part, guys play their way out of center field, not into center field.

What to watch
There’s an fairly immediate decision to make. Are we going to see Gardner getting regular center field reps this spring? Are we going to see Granderson getting most of his time in left? The decision isn’t going to revolutionize the big league roster, but it’s going to be interesting to watch. For those who closely follow the minor leagues, it seems that every full-season team will have a center fielder worth watching. Can Mesa cut down on the strikeouts? Can Heathcott stay healthy? Can Williams carry his success to High-A? Can Santana get back on the prospect map (and will the Yankees make him repeat short-season ball)?

Associated Press photo; headshots of Gardner, Mesa, Heathcott, Williams and Gamel

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 142 Comments →

Winter Meetings Day 2 notes: “I’m prepared to drag this thing out”12.04.12

One day after announcing the Alex Rodriguez injury, Brian Cashman was approached by various trade and free agent options.

“I’ve had a few of maybe the names I wouldn’t have thought of – lesser names that I wouldn’t have an interest in – volunteer their services for that position,” Cashmans said. “I’ve had some people suggest, ‘Hey, my guy who plays second base, he can swing over to play third.’ That type if stuff. I don’t have an interest in stuff like that. … I did have one irresponsible ask (in a trade suggestion), which I assume has everything to do with yesterday’s announcement. I’m no longer talking to that club.”

Although Cashman expects the market to continue its rapid development — “It seems like this is a market flush with money, the way it’s acting,” he said — but he plans to remain patient. Cashman said he believes it’s possible he could complete a move before these meetings end on Thursday morning, but he feels no need to force the issue.

“The preference is always to get your problems solved and get them fixed,” he said. “But the realistic side of that is that it’s going to take time and you have to solve it over time. If you don’t feel comfortable with the solution, you shouldn’t solve it until you feel comfortable. I’m prepared to drag this thing out.

“Hopefully everybody else is, too.”

• Cashman admitted to speaking with the agents for five different players: Kevin Youkilis, Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Ichiro Suzuki and A.J. Pierzynski. Those were the only names specifically mentioned, and Cashman confirmed that he’s had discussions about each one.

• Despite talking to Pierzynski’s camp, Cashman was as firm as ever in his belief that the Yankees will have an in-house starting catcher next season. “I think our catching will come from within, personally, as we are right now,” Cashman said. “I’d be surprised if it didn’t.”

• Cashman on whether he needs to stick with one-year deals: “Optimally that’s the best way you’d like to go, but it might not be the way I have to go. It just depends on the player and the dollar amount.”

• Earlier today, Joe Girardi said the Yankees need a third base solution that’s capable of playing the position all year because of Alex Rodriguez’s uncertainty. Cashman disagreed. Sort of. “I was just looking to someone who can get there for three months at the very least,” Cashman said. “If it’s somebody that’s good enough to go the whole way, fine, but there’s not a lot of choices out there. I’m not going to limit it by looking at it that way. I understand what he’s talking about – you need to have the protection – but it’s a very limited sandbox to play in.”

• With Ichiro and Ibanez in the mix, Cashman indicated that he’s willing to use an all-left-handed regular outfield. “Beggars can’t be choosers, so to speak,” Cashman said. “If I’m in a situation where we have equal righty or lefty bats, you can gravitate one way or the other, but it doesn’t match up that way. … If we did (sign another left-handed outfielder), we’d need two outfield bats, one from the right side, one from the left side. If we wanted to put another left handed bat in, and it’s all three left handed outfielders, I would say focus on me adding another right-handed bat too, in the Andruw Jones category.”

• To be clear, in no way did I think Cashman was talking about bringing back Andruw Jones, he was just referring to a right-handed outfielder who strictly plays against lefties.

• Will Brett Gardner be in center field next year? “I see Gardner and Granderson both as center fielders,” Cashman said. “Currently Gardner is our left fielder and Granderson is our center fielder, and if we so choose to make a change, we’ll have no problem doing so. But that’s not something we’re talking about right now.”

• By the way, forgot to mention earlier that Girardi said Granderson had his vision checked and it’s fine. There was some speculation that maybe his vision caused last year’s second-half struggles. Apparently that’s not the case.

• Cashman on Chavez: “We know him very well and he had a hell of a year. He’s put himself in a very strong position, I think, in a marketplace that is thin at that position. That will run interference with our interest level, I would think, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make something happen there. We’ll see. We’re engaged.”

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 62 Comments →

Yankees pregame: The injured come into focus08.05.12

The injured Yankees were dressed in their pinstripes again this morning to say hello, pose for pictures and bump fists with season-ticket holders filling the warning track. Those players included Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Brett Gardner.

Joe Girardi said Andy Pettitte has been frustrated with the healing rate of his fractured fibula. There was talk of a setback recently. The Yankees are still thinking September for him.

“That’s our hope,” Girardi said. “I think Andy thought with his broken leg that he was going to be on the mound in two weeks. That’s just Andy. I think you have to hold players back and they have to understand that it’s a process. But as players, we get anxious to come back. That’s the bottom line. I think that’s what happened with Andy.

“It takes time. When you miss as much time as he has, you have to build a guy up. You can’t rush him and make him come back too soon when he’s not ready. We’ll just take it day by day.”

As for Rivera and his mending ACL, is it 100 percent that he isn’t coming back this season as Brian Cashman has said?

“Nothing is ever 100 percent, but I would say it’s 99 percent, 99.9,” Girardi said. “But nothing is ever 100 percent in life. There have been a lot of people that have said that they’re done playing and they find a way back. We will die, though. I can tell you that for sure.”

As for Gardner possibly returning in September from his elbow surgery, Girardi said, “If there’s a way he can help us, we’ll definitely use him, especially in the month of September when you can expand rosters. If there’s certain things that he can’t do and it’s during the month of August, then you’re kind of limited and you limit your roster. But with an expanded roster, if he can help us, we’ll definitely use him, if it doesn’t jeopardize him getting back next year.”

So it’s the homestand finale and Curtis Granderson is leading off again, breaking up two righty batters, Chris Stewart in the nine hole and Derek Jeter in the two hole.

“Grandy falls in the category of he’s one of our higher (on-base) guys, so that’s why he goes there,” Girardi said. “Well, you could say, ‘Grandy is a power hitter.’ Well, so is Cano. So is Tex. So is Swish. So is Ibanez. So you say, ‘Why don’t you move him back?’ Well, then who do I move up to the front with speed? You might say, ‘OK, why don’t you move Ichiro up?’ Well, his on-base is not as high as it’s been in the past. So then you try to break up your left-handers with your switch-hitters and your right-handers, so it’s not easy for them to get through the lineup.

“If we had all of our hitters present, Granderson wouldn’t lead off. But with the injury to Alex, you have to make some adjustments.”

Derek Jeter comes in leading the AL in hits with 138.

“It’s pretty incredible,” Girardi said. “It just shows you the type of player he is, the type of worker that he is and what he brings to the park every day. He’s a special player and he’s been a special player for a long time.
“I think if you were to look at Derek Jeter when he was 25 and say he’d be playing every day at 38 and hitting .310 or whatever he’s hitting with a chance to have 190 to 200 hits, you’d probably say, ‘Thirty-eight, I don’t know if a guy could do that.’ But knowing Derek and the way he handles himself and takes care of himself, am I surprised? A little bit, but not much, just because of the type of person he is. I don’t know when it’s going to end for Derek. This guy’s playing at a high level and I think it’s because of what’s inside of him.”

 

 

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 19 Comments →

Yankees postgame: Grandy messes up for a change07.28.12

Curtis Granderson has played a wonderful center field for the Yankees, but he had a bad moment in the ninth and it cost the Yankees this game against the Red Sox.

It was 6-6 with Jacoby Ellsbury on first and one out in the ninth when Pedro Ciriaco hit the drive to center.

“I thought (Ciriaco) was good and we were lucky,” Bobby Valentine said.

Because Granderson broke in, then drifted back, got twisted around and missed in his reach for the ball.

“We haven’t seen much of that, him getting turned around like that,” Joe Girardi said.

Ellsbury scored and Ciriaco ended up on third. Then he scored on Dustin Pedroia’s sacrifice fly.

“You’re going to make some mistakes out there,” Granderson said. “I didn’t get the best read on it. … I just didn’t think it was hit that hard.”

CC Sabathia really didn’t help the cause, either, allowing six runs and eight hits over six innings.

“It’s tough … not being able to get out there and pitch the way you want, especially against a team in your division,” Sabathia said.

Nick Swisher struck out as a pinch hitter in the ninth after failing to start for the seventh straight game because of that strained hip flexor. Swisher wants back in Sunday night in the series finale.

“I think to be able to pinch hit after sitting on the bench for three hours, you’d be able to DH at least,” Swisher said. “We’ll come back here tomorrow and see what they say.

“I’ve been penned up for a while. I’m ready to go.”

Ichiro Suzuki has hit in all five games as a Yankee. Robinson Cano had his 13-game hitting streak against Boston snapped.

I’ll have more on Mark Teixeira’s homer off Vicente Padilla in our 9 a.m. posting.

Sunday night’s pitching matchup pits Hiroki Kuroda and Felix Doubront.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 85 Comments →

Yankees pregame: Granderson gets a rest07.18.12

Brian Heyman here for Chad today at Yankee Stadium for this homestand finale. This is game six of 13 straight coming out of the break. Curtis Granderson had started 89 of the first 90 games, 88 of them in center. But Joe Girardi picked today to sit him at the start with lefty Ricky Romero going for the Blue Jays.

“If I’m going to take a day off for him, I’m going to do (it against) a left-hander,” Joe Girardi said. “I think on the road trip we’re going to see six out of seven right-handers, so I just chose today.”

The Yankees have scored at least three runs in 41 straight games, becoming just the third team in the Live Ball Era to do that in a single season, joining the 1994 Cleveland Indians and the 1930 Philadelphia Athletics.

“It’s still amazing,” Girardi said. “You expect them to score runs with this club and the home runs we hit. But there are going to be days when pitchers throw the ball extremely well and runs are tough to come by. But our guys have done a good job of just finding a way in some of those tough games to scratch some runs across.”

Robinson Cano will try to extend his career-high hitting streak to 21 games. The 20-game run is the longest active streak in the majors. Derek Jeter is the last Yankee to have a longer streak in a single season at 25 games in 2006. It’s the longest by a Yankees regular second baseman since Joe Gordon’s 29-game streak in 1942. Cano is batting .405 with six homers and 20 RBI in this stretch. He has delivered at least two hits in 11 of the 20 games.

“I’m excited about it now,” Girardi said. “I mean, 20-game hit streak, it means that he’s being productive. As far as how far it goes, I really haven’t thought too much about that. I think all of us expect Robbie to put good at-bats every day. When he does that, he’s going to get his base hits. So him hitting in 20-straight games doesn’t really surprise me.”

Girardi doesn’t see the streak being a burden to Cano at this time.

“I think he’s pretty carefree,” Girardi said. “I don’t think he would focus on it yet. If it got to be way up there, I think every player, no matter how carefree you are, you’d focus on it a little bit because you’d be asked questions. But right now I don’t think he thinks much about it.”

Girardi said Joba Chamberlain’s next rehab outing should be Friday. Girardi had no update on Brett Gardner’s MRI results. And Mariano Rivera rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 26 Comments →

Yankees get three starters in All-Star Game07.01.12

The starting lineups are out for July 10 in Kansas City. Derek Jeter is now a 13-time All-Star, although he bowed out last year. Robinson Cano will be at second for the third straight year. He’s a four-time pick. Curtis Granderson is a three-time All-Star and will start for the second straight year. CC Sabathia was picked for the sixth time, but he’s on the DL.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 43 Comments →

Postgame notes: Garcia’s role uncertain after another bad start04.28.12

The benefit of the doubt has been the only thing working in Freddy Garcia’s favor this season, but even that might have ended after today’s debacle. Manager Joe Girardi said he wanted to “sleep on things” before making a decision, but it’s clear that Garcia’s spot in the rotation is in doubt.

“I can’t tell you exactly what we’re going to do,” Girardi said. “I’m not going to come to any rash decisions. Obviously we’re trying to evaluate what’s going on here. It’s frustrating for the player and it’s frustrating for us, but we all know Freddy is better than what he has shown. We saw all last year how he competed, we saw it in spring training. For some reason it’s not coming out (of his hand).”

Although Garca said he physically feels fine, Girardi said it’s entirely possible that the Yankees will send him for medical tests. Garcia’s fastball velocity has dipped, and his split — an effective put-away pitch last season — has been cutting. It was an 0-2 split that Andy Dirks hit for a three-run home run in the first inning.

“I don’t see the crispness in his pitches,” Girardi said. “If we didn’t see it in spring training I’d say, well, maybe it’s not going to be there. But it was there. He threw great in spring training. He threw harder than he did last year. For whatever reason it’s not there right now.”

Garcia seemed baffled, frustrated and uncertain following the loss. He said he’d like to make his next start, but acknowledged that he’s not sure the Yankees will send him back out there.

“I’m just struggling, man,” he said. “For me, it’s really hard. I like to compete and I’m not competing right now. It’s frustrating. … My velocity is down. We work hard last week on a couple of things and things are not going in the right way right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

• For the first time, Girardi called David Phelps a candidate to move into the rotation. “Any time you have a long man, he’s a candidate to be a starter,” Girardi said. “Your long man is someone who is a sixth starter all the time in the bullpen.”

• After three hitless innings today, Phelps ERA is down to 3.57. After two rocky outings, today looked much more like what the Yankees saw out of Phelps in the first two weeks of the season. “My last two outings I was just trying to do a little bit too much instead of staying within myself,” he said. “I kind of got back to that today.”

• The bullpen allowed one run through 7.1 innings. Cody Eppley gave up a solo homer to Miguel Cabrera, but that was the extent of the damage. Despite Garcia’s awful start, the Yankees had a chance because of the pen. “It just speaks volumes to the quality of arms we have in our bullpen, the job that we’ve done all year,” Phelps said. “You saw tonight, we were 10 or 15 feet away from having a tie ballgame. It’s what we’re supposed to do, go in and give our team a chance to win. We’ve been doing a great job of it so far.”

• Those 10 or 15 feet came on Eric Chavez’s fly ball to end the game. A three-run ninth got Chavez to the plate as the tying run with two outs in the ninth. He gave the ball quite a ride, but it was caught short of the wall.

• Nick Swisher homered from both sides of the plate for the 11th time in his career, tying Eddie Murray and Chili Davis for the second-most such games all time behind Mark Teixeira. This was the first time Swisher had homered at home this season. He has six home runs.

• Curtis Granderson hit his seventh homer of the season. It was his first home run off a left-hander this season.

• Garcia has allowed nine first-inning runs this season.

• This is the first time in Garcia’s career that he’s gone back-to-back starts without pitching out of the second inning. Last time it happened to a Yankees starter was Chien-Ming Wang in 2009. That’s not exactly the comparision he wants right now.

• That Dirks home run was the first time Garcia had allowed a homer on an 0-2 pitch since Cabrera did it against him in 2009.

• Girardi said the team might call up a reliever before tomorrow’s game. “We’ll figure that out,” Girardi said. “Obviously we could make some adjustments.”

• It’s worth noting that D.J. Mitchell last started on Tuesday, making Sunday his regular day to pitch.

• Speaking of minor league starters: The Yankees confirmed that Andy Pettitte’s next start will be with High-A Tampa, not Double-A Trenton. They don’t want him pitching in the cold.

• Finally, here’s Girardi on whether Garcia is hurt: “It’s something I’ve thought. You see it one start and you don’t think much of it. You see it a couple starts and you start seeing it three starts, you really start to wonder.”

Associated Press photos (the Garcia shot was taken through the mesh at the front of the dugout)

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 257 Comments →

Saturday notes: Bichette’s big day with the big leaguers03.31.12

When he looked into the stands, Joe Girardi saw his old friend Dante Bichette holding a video camera. When he looked onto the the field, Girardi saw Dante Bichette Jr. rounding the bases.

Could he imagine the feeling of ever watching his own son hit two home runs in a big league spring training game? Girardi leaned back and smiled.

“Hopefully I’ll get that chance,” he said.

This afternoon, Bichette Jr. came up from minor league camp to get a couple of at-bats against the Astros. First time he went to the plate, he swung at the first pitch and hit a wind-aided home run to right. Second time he went to the plate, he again swung at the first pitch, and hit a legitimate shot to center field.

“I was lucky to make contact with the first two swings, and they went pretty far,” Bichette Jr. said. “I’m happy with that. I was just trying to hit the ball, that’s all. … Family is the world to me, so my Mom and Dad here is everything. It’s a family effort, everything that’s happened so far, so having them here is perfect.”

Bichette Jr. grew up 20 minutes from this ballpark and played here in high school. Hard to imagine he ever had a day quite like this one, though. The wind got harsh as a line of bad weather moved through the area, and that helped the two teams combine for nine home runs. Bichette’s first was a product of that wind. The second one surely got some help, but he hit it pretty hard.

“It was pretty special,” Girardi said. “The second one, he really hit. Seeing his mom and dad, who we’ve been close to for a long time, his little brother; they played on this field a lot. They greew up in the area, so he’s been on this field. It’s pretty neat.”

Did Girardi say anything to Bichette Jr. in the dugout?

“I don’t know, honestly,” Bichette Jr. said. “I don’t remember any of them. It was kind of surreal.”

• If you missed it in the game post, the Yankees final diagnosis of Cesar Cabral is a stress fracture in his olecranon (essentially the tip of his elbow). Girardi said it’s the same injury Warner Madrigal had last spring, and an injury Jonathan Albaladejo had at one point. “It’s frustrating because he had a really good camp for us,” Girardi said. “I can’t tell you what was going to happen, but he had a good camp for us.”

• Francisco Cervelli was taken out of the game after being hit by a pitch in the forearm, but he’s fine. Girardi said there are no concerns about it.

• Certainly the conditions didn’t help, but Adam Warren conceded that he “just wasn’t sharp” this afternoon. He allowed six runs on 10 hits through 5.2 innings. He walked none and struck out three, but said his command was bad from the very beginning. He did feel better as the game progressed, he said. Four of those runs came in the second inning.

• Girardi on Warren: “I thought he threw the ball better than the numbers indicated. It’s a windy day, an extremely fast infield — not great conditions to be a pitcher here. I thought he threw the ball better than what it indicated.”

• The game was called in the middle of the ninth inning because of steady rain. Each team agreed there was no sense taking the risk of injury. “We just said, ‘If it starts raining any harder, we don’t want to get anyone hurt,’” Girardi explained. “It kind of stopped a little bit, they put down some Diamond Dry, and then it started raining hard again. So, that’s it.”

• Clay Rapada gave up a home run to a lefty today, but it was hit to right field, where the wind was carrying fly balls over the wall. Hard to think the Yankees make too much of that.

• Raul Ibanez now has three home runs in his past five games. He’s also raised his spring batting average more than 100 points in that time.

• Curtis Granderson went 3-for-3 to raise his spring average to .381. He’s looked really good at the plate from the very beginning of spring. … Bichette, Ibanez, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira each had two-hit games. … Jose Gil got a start and had another hit. A 1-for-4 day dropped his spring average to .455. … Doug Bernier also had another hit and is having a nice spring of his own. He’s hitting .344 and has played very good defense all over the infield, particularly at short. … Preston Claiborne got in the game and pitched the final two innings for the Yankees. He allowed two runs, one of them on a homer.

• After the game, the Yankees got back on the bus to go to Tampa. When they get back, the guy who are making the road trip to play the Marlins will join their teammates for a flight to Miami. Tomorrow is a day game followed by a night game on Monday. I’m going to hit the road myself. Long drive ahead of me.

Assocaited Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 109 Comments →

Wednesday notes: Kuroda happy with spring adjustments03.28.12

It was the first four innings that Hiroki Kuroda held the Braves scoreless. It was in his last three innings that he gave up a couple of runs. In spring training, though, results are only part of the story, and Kuroda was much happier with the way he finished today’s next-to-last spring start.

“In the beginning I didn’t feel right, but I was able to make adjustments,” he said. “… Every game that I start I have to make some kind of adjustment, and I was able to do that the last few games that I pitched in spring training. I think I’m ready for that. I just hope I don’t get hurt.”

As long as he remains injury free, the Yankees seem happy with their offseason free agent signing. Pitching outside of the National League West for the first time, Kuroda has been exactly what the Yankees were expecting. He doesn’t overwhelm hitters, but he mixes pitches and throws strikes. Today he struck out six and walked none.

“I was pleased with what I saw, really pleased,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s the guy that I thought we were getting.”

The Yankees have planned all year to slot Kuroda into the No. 2 spot in the rotation, and that’s exactly where Kuroda will open the season, as the game-two starter against Tampa Bay. That leaves him lined up to start next month’s home opener.

“I try not to think that far ahead,” Kuroda said. “I’m just focused on this next start that I have to do.”

• The Yankees got good news on Curtis Granderson’s right elbow. An MRI showed no problems, and Girardi didn’t rule out the idea of Granderson playing as early as tomorrow.

• More good news on Nick Swisher who managed to get 10 at-bats at the minor league complex today. He’ll go back to the complex tomorrow, and Girardi said he might play the outfield depending on how he feels. Girardi doesn’t expect him to take so many at-bats this time.

• In case you missed it, the Yankees announced today that they’ve claimed catcher Craig Tatum off waivers from the Diamondbacks. The signing seems to make sense given the Austin Romine setback, but a Yankees source also confirmed that Tatum is out of options, meaning he can’t be sent to the minor leagues. Hard to imagine him getting the backup catcher job ahead of Francisco Cervelli. Kind of a head scratcher.

• Speaking of minor moves, Sweeny Murti reported this afternoon that the Yankees have signed Jack Cust to a minor league deal. That would seem to be clear insurance just in case Raul Ibanez can’t shake off his rocky spring. Cust is also a left-handed hitting designated hitter.

• Speaking of Ibanez, he went 1-for-3 today and very nearly had his second spring home run. He was robbed by Jason Heyward’s leaping catch over the wall in right field.

• Speaking of struggles, Cory Wade gave up another run this afternoon. The big hit was a double by Eric Hinske, and Girardi said he felt that was the only truly bad pitch Wade threw (he left it up). Wade has a 7.27 ERA this spring and hasn’t looked sharp, but Girardi made it clear that he’s planning to have Wade in his Opening Day bullpen.

• One more Wade note: Just a few days ago he threw a three-inning simulated game. The Yankees want him to be a little bit stretched out so that he could give multiple innings if necessary. The loser of the rotation competition will likely be the regular long reliever. “You’d like to have two guys down there that could really give you some multiple innings,” Girardi said.

• The Yankees settle for a 5-5 tie after George Kontos gave up a two-run homer in the ninth inning. Kontos stayed in to pitch a scoreless 10th. … Eric Chavez went 3-for-4 including a double and an RBI single. He brought his average up to .235. … Eduardo Nunez’s strong spring continued with two more hits for a .393 average. … Justin Maxwell took an 0-for-2.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 121 Comments →

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