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.
• 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)
Adam Warren was supposed to pitch yesterday, and it wasn’t until after the game — after he’d waited and waited for his turn to come — that he found out his turn would wait a little longer for a primetime start against the Red Sox.
“That’s what I think spring training is about for us guys trying to make it is to just make an impression,” Warren said. “For me, I’m just trying to go out there and show I can handle the situation, just trying to go out there and attack the zone. I’m just going to go out there and take care of my own business, not really worry about where I stand.”
Warren took care of business, alright. Facing a lineup full of Boston regulars, the Yankees pitching prospect fired four scoreless innings with three strikeouts, no walks and two hits. One of those hits was a ball that glanced off Warren’s own glove for an infield single.
“Warren was excellent,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought he moved the ball in and out well. His slider was really good tonight. I thought he was excellent.”
Dellin Betances followed Warren with three hitless innings. David Phelps — who was supposed to start this game before his wife went into labor — has pitched 7.2 innings without an earned run this spring. D.J. Mitchell has a 0.89 WHIP and 1.00 ERA. The Yankees upper-level pitching prospects have each made strong impressions this spring, suggesting they’re more than capable of filling a hole should this overflowing rotation need a spot starter or two.
“I’m not going to worry about who’s ahead of me or how people are doing,” Warren said. “I just want to focus on myself and not get caught up in everything else. I feel like, I take care of my business and things will take care of themselves.”
• Tonight’s game ended in a tie because Girardi had run out of pitchers who he actually planned on pitching in this game. The Yankees had extra lower-level pitchers on the trip, but it seems Girardi didn’t want to use them. “I just said, that’s it,” Girardi said.
• Bobby Valentine wasn’t happy with Girardi for calling the game before it could go into the 10th inning. It is odd that Girardi had extra pitchers on the travel roster but chose not to use them. He said that he was worried about tomorrow’s doubleheader. “We’ve got a long day tomorrow too,” he said. “We need pitching.”
• One seemingly available pitcher was D.J. Mitchell, but the Yankees had him throw a side when it seemed there wouldn’t be enough innings for him to pitch. “We have a responsibility to build him up too,” Girardi said.
• Turns out CC Sabathia was hit in the shin by a comebacker this afternoon, but that was in the first inning and Sabathia stayed in to pitch five more innings. Sounds like he’s fine. Girardi’s not concerned.
• Raul Ibanez had another 0-for-3 and his average dropped to .054 this spring. “I’m just worried about us staying healthy down here right now,” Brian Cashman said. “Veterans like him, I’m certainly not going to make any judgments on.”
• Cashman said there are no real concerns about any of the nagging injuries (Jeter, Swisher, etc) in Yankees camp. Girardi said Derek Jeter came through today’s workout just fine and plans to play tomorrow.
• He’s pretty far down the depth chart, but Doug Bernier is really having a nice spring. He had two more hits today, including a two-run single. He also made a nice play up the middle in the fourth inning. He’s hitting .364.
• Rough day for Cory Wade who let the Red Sox back in the game with four hits and three earned runs in the eighth inning. Wade got only two outs in the inning before Juan Cedeno finished it.
• RBI triple for Curtis Granderson, who continues to have a terrific spring. … Brett Gardner, Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez each had a hit in this game, but none of those three is hitting better than .194 this spring. … Jose Gil is batting .571 after his 1-for-3 night, and Gustavo Molina is batting .545 after his 1-for-1. Neither has a lot of at-bats.
• Jorge Vazquez was hit by a pitch in the hand and had it heavily wrapped after the game, but there’s no word on how serious the injury might be. He had to be taken out of the game, letting Jose Toussen get some unexpected playing time.
• I wrote this morning about how good Clay Rapada has looked in camp, but Rule 5 Cesar Cabral has also looked pretty sharp with 11 strikeouts and only one walk. The Yankees seem to have room for only one of those two. “(Cabral)’s pitched so well,” Cashman said. “If he was looking terrible, 29 other clubs would pass on him, (but) he ain’t looking terrible. To me, he’s either making this club, getting waiver-claimed or getting traded.”
• Rapada, by the way, has an out in his contract at the end of spring training. Cashman confirmed that this afternoon.
• For those of you who closely follow the minor league system, reports that Rafael DePaula has obtained a visa are true, but in an email, Mark Newman said DePaula still has to pass a physical “before anything progresses.” DePaula signed with the Yankees in 2010 but has been stuck in limbo ever since. He has a chance to be a legitimate talent.
• Phelps’ wife, by the way, had the baby late last night.
Associated Press photos
Up and down through the middle of March • 03.19.12
The off day seems like a good time to take a look at some of the players making an early impression — one way or another — in Yankees camp. In some cases — Jose Gil hitting .667 or Robinson Cano hitting .185 — the numbers up to this point mean absolutely nothing. Gil isn’t likely to play his way onto the big league radar, and Cano isn’t going to play his way out of the big league lineup. But in some case, players are making an impression that just might matter at some point.
.333/.385/.667 with five doubles
Seems like not much has been written about Granderson’s spring, but he’s been driving the ball consistently, which seems to be a good sign that he might be able to pick up where he left off. Obviously spring training numbers don’t mean much, especially when a lot of these at-bats have come so early in camp, but Granderson has at least given reason to believe last year’s breakout season wasn’t a fluke. So far, so good.
1.08 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, five strikeouts, one walk
Andy Pettitte might complicate things down the road, but for now, the Yankees are still trying to pick five starting pitchers from a group of six. And right now, Hughes is making a strong case that he belongs. With fastball velocity that’s much better than last spring, and fastball command that seems to be improving every time out, Hughes has been a very effective starter this spring, with the lowest ERA and lowest WHIP of any rotation candidate. Freddy Garcia’s hand injury did nothing to hurt Hughes’ cause.
0.00 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, seven strikeouts
A fairly late addition to Yankees camp, Rapada is trying to win the one open spot in the Yankees bullpen, and he’s making a pretty good case for the job. Through 5.1 innings, the lefty specialist has allowed just two hits while striking out seven. He has a track record of getting out left-handers in the big leagues, and depending on what the Yankees want from that last bullpen spot, might have emerged as a favorite to win a big league job.
.065/.121/.097 with seven strikeouts
I’m a real believer that spring training numbers — especially at this point — don’t mean much. But there were plenty of fans who weren’t sold on Ibanez in the first place and his slow start has done nothing to ease those concerns. A lot of his spring at-bats have come against lefties, which he will hardly ever face in the regular season, but he’s admitted that his timing is off right now. Results in spring training might not mean much, but there are certainly plenty of people who would like to see some results at some point.
54.00 ERA, four walks, no strikeouts
Two spring outings. That’s it. It’s a tiny sample size from a pitcher signed to a minor league deal, so it shouldn’t be even a blip on the radar. However, Miller is an intriguing possibility as a former elite prospect trying to work his way back from a series of injuries. He’s still just 27 years old with a past that makes people wonder “what if?” but his early spring impression did nothing but make him one of the first cuts. Not many pitchers have thrown particularly poorly in Yankees camp, but Miller certainly did.
Zero games played
He was always a long shot to make the team, but with Raul Ibanez struggling, Branyon might have been able to open some eyes and at least give the Yankees something to consider. Instead, he’s missed most of camp with soreness in his back. His situation wasn’t particularly good to begin with, but it’s only gotten worse as the injury has lingered.
NOWHERE TO GO
D.J. Mitchell, David Phelps
0.54 combined ERA, 16 strikeouts, six walks
Adam Warren and Dellin Betances have also pitched well this spring, but Phelps and Mitchell have been true standouts. Problem is, it’s hard to know what these numbers mean from two guys who are clearly no higher than eighth and ninth in the rotation pecking order. The addition of Andy Pettitte does nothing to help open a door for them, but they’ve been impressive.
.368/.455/.474 with three stolen bases
The only problem with Maxwell is what to do with him. A shoulder injury robbed him of last year’s second half, but he was productive when he played, and he’s been terrific this spring. The toolsy outfielder might be a great fit on the bench if the Yankees had a spot for him. Instead, his big spring might only help his trade value because he’s out of options and the Yankees don’t seem to have room for him.
.292/.370/.625 with two home runs
No doubt about it, Rodriguez has been good this spring. But unlike Granderson, the questions surround Rodriguez have little to do with his ability to hit. They’re all to do with his ability to stay healthy. So far, Rodriguez has shown no signs of injury, but he showed no signs last spring either and wound up on the disabled list. There’s very little Rodriguez can prove this spring. His only test is whether he can stay on the field through the end of October.
Associated Press photos
Ivan Nova allowed five earned runs on seven hits through four innings. His evaluation of the night?
“Unbelievable,” he said. “I think I had all I needed today.”
“We just had bad communication in the first inning,” Nova said. “That affected my game too much, but I feel really good today. … I was shaking too much. That slowed my game. We threw a couple bad pitches, like the curveball for a homer and the slider for the other homer. In that situation, you have to move the hitter, and we didn’t do it. Sometimes you want to throw that pitch and he doesn’t call that pitch. You start shaking and you get out of what you want to do. I think that happened out there.”
Nova retired seven of the last eight batters he faced, and really didn’t look too bad giving up a run on two singles in the second inning. It was the first inning that caused him problems, and he said that started when Gustavo Molina called for a curveball with two on against Adam Jones. Nova tried to shake off the pitch, but Molina went back to it and Jones clubbed a three-run homer to center field. Two batters later, Matt Wieters homered on a slider.
“(Molina) didn’t see me,” Nova said. “He called a curveball again and he hit a homer. That’s the game. Sometimes you struggle a little, but I have to step up and call him before I throw the pitch. I didn’t. … I was out of my game right there because I gave up the first home run. After that inning, we picked it up and we finished strong. That’s a good thing. I made that adjustment and that’s something positive that I can take out of the game today.”
Joe Girardi agreed with the assessment and said it’s up to Nova to take charge in those situations. As Girardi put it, “he’s the one with the ball.”
“That’s something you have to learn from,” Girardi said. “When you make a pitch, you’d better have conviction. I don’t care if you have to shake 17 times, you better have conviction.”
• X-rays were negative on Robinson Cano’s left hand. He was hit by a pitch near his pinkie, in that sort of meaty part on the side of the hand. Sounds like the Yankees don’t expect it to be an issue. “We’ll see how he is Tuesday, but I don’t imagine it will be long,” Girardi said.
• Nova has said several times this spring that he’s been happy with his offspeed pitches, and today was no different. “I’ve been doing what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I’ve been working on my changeup, I’ve been working on my curveball for a first-pitch strike. I was working on my slider and it was good today the last couple of times so you’ve got to be happy.”
• Girardi said this would be a start to really begin evaluating Nova, and he seemed happy overall. “The first two innings he had no rhythm,” Girardi said. “The last two innings he had great rhythm, he was working quick and he looked very good to me. He just couldn’t seem to get in a rhythm his first two innings and then he found it.”
• Raul Ibanez had another hitless game, going 0-for-3 to drop his average to .065. “I got under a couple of balls,” he said. “But I got them into the air, and I think when I’m making outs in the air it’s much better for me personally than when I’m making outs on the ground like I was earlier in the spring. Obviously, you don’t want to make any outs. You want to hit line drives, and you want to hit balls into the gaps, but today I felt better. The last couple of days I’ve felt better.”
• Center field prospect Mason Williams made his first appearance in a big league spring training game. He pinch ran for Mark Teixeira in the sixth inning and was promptly thrown out trying to steal second base. He was caught stealing by Matt Wieters who threw out three different base runners, one of them a pickoff of Dewayne Wise at second.
• Williams got his first big league spring at bat in the eighth and singled on the first pitch he saw. “I’ll remember that until the last day,” Williams said. “It was an awesome experience. I didn’t smile while I was on the bases, but in my head I was smiling a lot.”
• Eduardo Nunez had his hand wrapped after the game but said he feels fine. His timing is a little off, he said, and his hands feel a little heavy from all the extra work he’s been doing lately, but the pain is gone. This was his second game in a row after sitting out almost two weeks.
• George Kontos made his spring debut with a hitless eighth inning. He struckout the last batter he faced.
• Clay Rapada came out of the bullpen to face a lefty with runners at the corners and two outs. He got a groundball to end the inning. Rapada’s looked pretty sharp this spring, and he’s legitimately tough on left-handers.
• He’s pretty far under the radar, but Dewayne Wise is having a nice camp. He went 2-for-2 today to raise his spring average to .474. He also stole a base (though he was picked off another time).
• Brett Gardner got his fourth stolen base of the spring. He also had an outfield assist… Mark Teixeira had his first double… Ronnier Mustelier got a surprise at-bat and singled… Nunez’s infield single was the Yankees other hit… D.J. Mitchell allowed his first run of the spring but also finished with three strikeouts in two innings.
• Hiroki Kuroda was not in camp today. Girardi said he gave him the day off, told him didn’t have to come in.
Associated Press photo
Wednesday notes: Mitchell steals the show • 03.14.12
Manny Banuelos is considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and there have been days — both this spring and last spring — when he’s shown every bit of that potential. Today was not one of those days, and it was instead often-overshadowed D.J. Mitchell who stole the show.
“(Banuelos) couldn’t throw his secondary pitches for strikes and he was behind,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s just a tough combination. Look at what D.J. Mitchell did. He was able to throw his curveball and his changeup when he was behind in the count to get back in the count and throw some fastballs for strikes. Manny just really struggled with his command.”
Banuelos labored through a four-run fifth inning when he allowed three hits, walked two batters and coughed up Edwin Encarnacion’s second home run of the day. If previous starts have been a reminder of what he can become, today was a reminder that he’s still very young with inconsistent command. It’s nothing that can’t be sorted out, but there’s still some development to be done.
“He’s a young guy and he’s got four pitches to be in the big leagues,” Francisco Cervelli said. “But with the experience, he’s going to learn how you can make adjustments during the game and have more patience. It’s just a bad day. Next time he’s going to come back and of what he always does because it’s great. I think he’s top three over here, best rookie guys.”
As for the top rookie in camp? Mitchell is making his case. He closed today’s game with three hitless innings, striking out four and walking none. Often labeled as a sinkerballer, Mitchell was drawing praise just last week from a Yankees official who said he doesn’t get enough credit for his secondary pitches. Mitchell does generate a lot of ground balls, but they don’t have to come from his two-seamer. He can get them with his changeup, curveball and slider. He did hit two batter today, but through seven innings in big league camp, Mitchell has allowed just three hits.
He was awfully good this afternoon, and Girardi noticed.
• Obvoiusly the Yankees got good news on Freddy Garcia’s injured right hand, but there will be considerably curiosity tomorrow to find out whether the injury will cause him to miss significant time. “That’s why we try to have depth every year in case you do run into something freaky like this injury,” Girardi said before hearing the x-ray results. “I hope it’s not going to keep him down, but we’ll find out.”
• Garcia was pitching well at the time of the injury. He’d allowed one run through three innings and had just stranded two runners in the bottom of third. Edwin Encarnacion’s comebacker came in the first at-bat of the fourth. “Freddy’s Freddy,” Girardi said. “He commands all his offspeed. He commands his fastball. He changes speeds. And that’s exactly what he did today. His split was effective. Just got his hand in the way. That’s the only thing I didn’t like.”
• Cervelli on how Garcia was pitching for the injury: “It was great. It was really, really good. The split was good A lot of fastballs today. I think he was throwing 90, a lot of movement in the fastball. Really good. His plan was really good today.”
• It’s a positive sign that Dave Robertson was able to jog without pain, but Girardi said he’ll need to throw a few times on the side before he starts getting into games again. “He’s been out long enough that I think he’s got to do some bullpens,” Girardi said.
• Girardi seems to be used to getting velocity questions. This was the first thing he said about Robertson’s half hour on a treadmill: “I don’t have the speed, but there was no pain.”
• In between Garcia’s three innings and Mitchell’s three innings, both Banuelos and Cory Wade pitched an inning. Wade gave up a two-run homer to J.P. Arencibia, letting Garcia’s final base runner come around to score. Wade also had two strikeouts in his inning.
• In spring training, the media is usually in the clubhouse by the fifth or sixth inning, so I didn’t see any of the Yankees seventh-inning rally. They scored four runs in the seventh, all of them generated by non-starters. Doug Bernier had a bases-loaded, two-run double and Dewayne Wise followed with his own two-run double. Wise also had a stolen base in the inning.
• The one Yankees run I did see came on Curtis Granderson’s RBI double in the third inning. It was one of two doubles for Granderson who’s hitting .316 this spring. Granderson and Wise each had two hits.
• Other Yankees with hits: Derek Jeter, Corban Joseph, Mark Teixeira, Cole Garner, Eric Chavez, Jayson Nix and Cervelli. Cervelli and Garner each doubled. The Yankees lost 7-5.
Associated Press photos
This was more like it. After a somewhat erratic spring debut, Manny Banuelos looked more like an elite pitching prospect on the verge of the big leagues this afternoon. His fastball was in the mid-90s and he mixed offspeed pitches without walking anyone. He struck out three in two scoreless innings.
“I think he battled some nerves his first time out,” catcher Russell Martin said. “He looked like he was a little erratic. This time out, he was just pitching. Powering his fastball, downward plane, and he looked like he just had more control of all his pitches. So I think as we progress here, he’s just going to sharpen up.”
The Yankees have seen improvement in each of their top pitching prospects. Banuelos showed it today. Dellin Betances showed it yesterday. David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell and Adam Warren have been pretty sharp all spring, drawing consistent praise from Joe Girardi.
“I thought (Banuelos) attacked the zone better and was able to get his secondary pitches over,” Girardi said. “I thought Betances made a big jump too, yesterday. Betances was aggressive yesterday, threw some strikes and was throwing 95. You’re trying to get them more comfortable to attack the zone with their good stuff. I think we saw it from both of them.”
Expectation is that both Banuelos and Betances have next to zero chance of making the big league roster. They’re ticketed for Triple-A, and might not even be the first pitchers called up if the Yankees need a spot starter. But the Yankees have seen progress, and all eyes are on each of their outings.
Today it was Banuelos’ turn to shine.
“He’s got great stuff, no question,” Martin said. “But he still has to work on his changeup, and he still has to work on his breaking ball command for him to be who he wants to be. But it’s still early in the spring, and from this outing compared to the last, it’s already a nice leap forward. He definitely has the stuff. He’s got a lot of life on his fastball. It’s easy. He struck a couple guys out just elevating his fastball. But the main thing for him, he’s the type of guy who will get himself in trouble. He’s not going to get banged around because his stuff’s so good. But you don’t want the guy to walk guys and create his own troubles. And that’s what we’re trying to keep him from doing. Just make sure that he’s throwing the ball over the plate and using all his pitches.”
• Not much to say about Freddy Garcia’s outing. He went three scoreless innings with two strikeouts and one hit, keeping his pitch count low and working quickly. “Vintage Freddy,” is what Girardi called it. Before the game, Garcia told Martin that he wanted to work on his changeup a little bit, and Garcia said his changeup was arguably his best pitch of the day.
• Martin on Garcia: “His pitch count was relatively low because he got contact. He was throwing strikes. That’s what you want from him, just to be able to throw all his pitches over the plate, and induce contact. That’s what he did.”
• It was just yesterday that Joba Chamberlain told me he would begin throwing breaking balls on Sunday. Turns out, he’s ahead of even his own schedule. Chamberlain wound up throwing breaking balls this morning, throwing five sliders for the first time since Tommy John surgery. “Once I threw the first two, the last three were a lot better,” he said. Chamberlain went through his usual routine of 10 pitches off flat ground, 20 off a mound, a short rest, then 10 more off the mound. When that was finished, he threw all five sliders with his catcher standing up so that he wouldn’t feel the need to overthrow and keep the ball down.
• Most of the pitching attention today was on Garcia and Banuelos, but I thought Mitchell look pretty sharp. He’s known for that sinker, but he really has to use his changeup and breaking ball to stay effective, and today he got a swinging strike three with a good changeup that had good movement. He pitched two scoreless, allowing one hit and one walk.
• Juan Cedeno is probably the longest of long shots to make this team as a left-handed releiver, but today he came in to face one batter — big league lefty Freddie Freeman — and Cedeno got a strikeout. Kevin Whelan closed out the win with the final two outs.
• The 3-0 win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Yankees.
• Great play by Martin to get Michael Bourne out on a bunt in the third inning. It was a pretty good bunt up the third-base line, and Martin made a kind of twirling throw to get one of the fastest players in baseball. “That’s as good as it gets from a catcher,” Girardi said. “There aren’t too many people who can make that play, just because of his athleticism.”
• Even though the CT scan came back negative, the Yankees are taking things slow with Eduardo Nunez’s sore right hand. “We said, ‘Don’t take (batting practice) today and let’s see where you are tomorrow,’” Girardi said. As of right now, Nunez is not scheduled to make tomorrow’s trip to play the Braves.
• No one had more than one hit today, but four Yankees — Martin, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez and Doug Bernier — did have doubles in the win. It was Swisher’s second double of the spring. Robinson Cano picked up his second RBI. Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Melky Mesa and Gustavo Molina also had hits.
• For Sunday’s split-squad games, the plan is for the big league outfielders to travel to Fort Myers with Phil Hughes. The big league infielders will stay in Tampa to play behind CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera. Girardi is going to the road game. I’m still making up my mind.
Associated Press photos
Waiting for doors to open • 03.03.12
There was nothing David Phelps, Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances could have done this afternoon to make themselves favorites for the Yankees rotation. There are plenty of big league starters on the roster, and as long as everyone stays healthy, the next wave of pitching talent will have to wait.
“I made that clear in my first meeting with all the guys,” Girardi said. “I said, ‘Look, we used 28 pitchers last year, and I guarantee you all 28 weren’t on the 40-man when the year started. But at some point, they were there. If you think we’re not going to call you up because you’re not on the 40-man, think again. Everyone in this room has an opportunity to possibly pitch for us this year or you wouldn’t be here.’ I think it’s important that they know that. We like to use our system, and we want our system to be deep.”
The Yankees have homegrown Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and Dave Robertson on the roster. Joba Chamberlain will be there soon enough, and guys like Betances, George Kontos and Kevin Whelan got some big league time last year. The young guys have seen doors open, and they’re well aware it could happen again.
“We saw it last year,” Phelps said. “The majority of the guys that were in camp last year helped the team at some point or another. It’s more about going out and trying to prove to myself that I can do it… We were down in Triple-A last year seeing a lot of our friends and teammates getting called up. It’s great watching them pitch, and it’s like, ‘I could be next.’ It’s a matter of going out and doing your job and hopefully your turn will come. It’s definitely motivation. It’s knowing that if you go out and do your job to the best of your ability, there’s a good chance that at some point during the season, you’ll be able to help the club.”
If one of those doors is opened much sooner than expected, these early spring outings could be a factor in which young pitcher gets the call. “You try to get a feel for who would handle the situation the best,” Girardi said. Today, Phelps seemed to make the best impression, but Adam Warren looked good yesterday and there’s still a long way to go.
“We get a lot of questions about how it feels to compete against your friends,” Phelps said. “We don’t see it as we’re competing against each other; we know that if we go out and do what we’re capable of doing, it’s not like if I pitch well, that means Warren isn’t going to get called up if Warren goes out and pitches well. If we all go out and do what we’re capable of doing, it’s going to be good for all of us. We feed off each other; when one is doing well, it really helps out the rest. We go over scouting reports, pick each other’s brains about how to set up hitters. If anything coming up with the same group of guys and being comfortable with them has made it easier to succeed as a group.”
Associated Press photo of Betances
Random thoughts on the way back home • 07.22.11
Last time the Yankees played at home, they were still feeling warm and fuzzy in the glow of Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit. Seems like that was three months ago. This eight-day road trip was a long one.
“Obviously you’d like to have done better,” Joe Girardi said. “But after how we started losing the first two, we finished up pretty good and it will be nice to get off the turf and get home for a while. I think we have 10 games in 10 days, and I think our guys are looking forward to that.”
Just a few thoughts before I get back to New York.
• Phil Hughes gets the ball tonight. It will be his first start at home since the start that convinced the Yankees he needed to go on the disabled list. It’ll be interesting to see if that curveball is as good as it was in Toronto.
• Be careful what you wish for at the top of the order. I can’t see Derek Jeter being dropped to the bottom, so moving Brett Gardner to the top only pushes Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher down a spot. As always, I’m of the belief that lineup construction doesn’t matter all that much.
• Also worth considering (as Sweeny Murti pointed out a couple of days ago): In the eight games since the all-star break, Gardner is hitting .517 with a .576 on-base percentage. In the eight games before the break, he was hitting .207 with a .281 on-base percentage. I think he’s the right choice at the top, but you have to accept that he’s a streaky hitter.
• Big spot in the seventh inning, who would you trust more: Luis Ayala, Hector Noesi or Cory Wade? Who do you think Girardi would most trust? I’m honestly not sure the right answer to either of those questions.
• Gardner, Jeter, Andruw Jones and Jorge Posada have each taken turns as the most anger-inducing Yankees hitter this season. Now it seems to be Mark Teixeira’s turn. He’s also a streaky hitter, and he always talks about waiting for that next hot streak that will turn his batting average around.
• Girardi when asked if he’ll have to eventually take Teixeira out of the No. 3 hole if the batting average doesn’t improve: “He has taken his fair share of walks and gotten on base. That’s the one thing Tex does. Sometimes people look at average a lot. We’re going ot look at on-base percentage too because he does take his fair share. You hit .250 and you’ve got a .370 on-base percentage or .360, you’re doing OK.” It’s a fair point — and Teixeira does have a higher OBP than Cano — but Girardi overestimated the numbers a little bit. Teixeira has a .240 average with a .341 on-base.
• If the Yankees are going to trade for a starter, they really only have a spot for a legitimately elite pitcher. They have plenty of No. 3 types. To find someone obviously better than what they have is going to cost a lot in terms of young players. Maybe it’s worth it, maybe it’s not, but it would be costly.
• I’ve always liked but never loved U2, but I absolutely loved this performance on Letterman. I’m surprised I haven’t broken the internet watching it over and over again the past few days. Say what you will about Bono, but the guy has a terrific voice and knows how to deliver a song.
• Kind of surprised that Eric Chavez was able to get in the field this quickly. Not much to lose there, I guess. The Yankees need to find out before July 31 whether he can help them in the second half.
• George Kontos has to get to New York eventually, right? The Yankees could actually use a long man now, and Kontos has 64 strikeouts and a .210 opponents batting average in Triple-A. Also worth mentioning that D.J. Mitchell and Lance Pendleton just put together terrific back-to-back starts.
• Speaking of Triple-A guys: Jorge Vazquez’s numbers have fallen off quite a bit, but Kevin Russo is really hitting again. And if you were waiting for Jordan Parraz to fall off, it doesn’t seem to be happening.
• If Russell Martin really is a Gold Glove caliber catcher, and he keeps hitting exactly like this — low batting average with occasional pop — is he worth bringing back next season? All things considered, isn’t he still one of the better everyday catchers in the league?
• Don’t let the fact that you gave up on Boone Logan in the first half — or that he misplayed a ball three nights ago — keep you from seeing the fact he’s pitching much better. I know I’m usually a glass-half-full kind of guy, but since May 28 opponents are hitting .196 with four walks and 17 strikeouts against Logan.
• There’s still something very fun about talking to a guy who just got his first big league call-up. It was fun when I was covering the minor leagues, and it’s just as fun now that I’m covering the big leagues.
• Martin made the right choice. He put in a good effort and did everything the right way, but the mustache had to go. It was time. It really was, “ugly as (crap).”
Associated Press photos
Yankees at the break: The rotation • 07.12.11
This was supposed to be the Yankees weakness. It’s become a strength. Because of better-than-expected performances from Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, the Yankees rotation has been dependable, and it’s grown deep enough that Ivan Nova is tucked away in Triple-A.
This winter, there was one free agent starter who could make the Yankees feel confident about their rotation. He picked Philadelphia, and the Yankees were left scrambling for spare parts. Those spare parts have been outstanding, A.J. Burnett has bounced back from last season’s misery, Nova has been inconsistent but generally pretty good as a rookie, and CC Sabathia is once again an early Cy Young candidate. When Phil Hughes landed on the DL after just three starts, the Yankees rotation was tested, but it rose to the challenge.
The Yankees have obvious rotation depth heading into the second half of the season. Nova was crowded out of the rotation despite success, so he’s ready to step in if the Yankees need someone. Based on results, there’s little reason to doubt Colon and Garcia, but their age and recent injuries raise some obvious red flags. The biggest question, though, is probably Hughes. He’s made just one start since coming off the disabled list, and although his velocity was much better than it was in April, he didn’t exactly plow through the Indians lineup. The Yankees are hoping that the Hughes saw in last year’s first half shows up for this year’s second half.
D.J. Mitchell, David Phelps, Adam Warren and Lance Pendleton each have ERAs of 3.38 or lower in Triple-A. Now they’re joined by Nova to give the Yankees a good, young Triple-A rotation. Their success helps cover the fact that Andrew Brackman has been surprisingly bad, losing his rotation spot and struggling to find consistency as a reliever.
The bigger names are in Double-A, where Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances have each pitched well – Betances especially – but their control issues are proof that they’re still young and have some work to do. Both have 40 walks in fewer than 80 innings this season. In the lower levels, Mikey O’Brien, Josh Romanski and Nik Turley have pitched their way into call-ups. A few other standouts whose names might not be familiar: Craig Heyer (Fall League selection with a 3.19 ERA in Double-A), Jairo Heredia (improving prospect with a 3.29 ERA in High-A) and Brett Marshall (outstanding since the end of April in High-A).
What happens if Nova dominates in Triple-A?
In his return to Triple-A, Nova struck out 10 and walked none through 7.2 innings that proved he was a Major League pitcher in a minor league game. If that pace continues and one of the Yankees starters slips – doesn’t get hurt, doesn’t fall apart completely, just starts allowing four runs every time out – how quickly would the Yankees make a change and decide they need to move Nova back into the big league rotation?
It will be interesting to see whether the Yankees push either Betances or Banuelos in the second half. It’s entirely possible that they’ll be big league ready at some point next year, but it might not be at the start of the season unless they get at least a half season at Triple-A. It’ll also be interesting to see if Phelps, Mitchell or Warren gets some big league time kind of like Nova did last year. The bigger question, though, centers on Sabathia, who can opt out of his contract at the end of this season. Even if Sabathia opts out, the Yankees would remain a favorite to bring him back, but it’s an issue that could have a significant impact on the next five or six years (maybe more).
Associated Press photos of Sabathia and Colon, headshots of Mitchell, Banuelos and Nova
From his spot in center field, Curtis Granderson has a perfect view of Bartolo Colon’s two-seamer. He’s not trying to hit it, and he’s not trying to catch it. He’s just watching it move.
“Even Gardner in left can see it,” Granderson said. “We’ll make hand gestures to each other about how much the ball is moving. It’s definitely moving a lot.”
Colon has a breaking ball and a changeup, but it’s that fastball that makes him so good. It’s the reason he gets so many strikeouts looking. He’s now thrown 13 consecutive scoreless innings, a stretch of dominance that extended to both sides of a DL stint.
“That happened to me before when I went to the DL,” he said. “Every time I come back, I pitch the same way.”
There have been plenty of chances to doubt Colon. There was reason to scoff at Brian Cashman for signing him this winter, and there was reason question whether he was fit enough for spring training, and there was reason to wonder whether he could take three weeks off and return to form without a single rehab start. But Colon just keeps doing the same thing, defying all expectation and pitching like a man in his prime.
“The way he’s been pitching for us all year long,” Nick Swisher said. “It’s hard to think about anything else.”
Here’s Joe Girardi’s postgame press conference.
• Derek Jeter is finished in Trenton. He went 1-for-2 with a walk and a run. He started one double play and had to make at least one impressive, spinning play. I have to assume he came through the game just fine. Haven’t heard any different.
• As always, check with my old friend Mike Ashmore for a ton of Jeter notes from down in Trenton.
• Speaking of shortstops, you know all about Eduardo Nunez’s 7-for-8 the past two days. It turns out, his only out was caught by an old friend of his. Nunez has known Mets second baseman Justin Turner for a few years now, and in the sixth inning, Turner made a terrific play to rob Nunez on a line drive headed for the gap. “He told me, you can’t be 7-for-7,” Nunez said. “He’s my friend.”
• Biggest out of today’s game had to be Dillon Gee’s fifth-inning ground ball to third base. The Mets had loaded the bases, but Colon got the Mets starting pitcher to ground to Alex Rodriguez for an inning-ending double play. It was a scoreless game at the time. “That was very big for me and for the team,” Colon said. “Because the next inning, that’s when we started scoring runs.”
• Speaking of the Yankees offense, Colon got a bunt down and also went down swinging in his two plate appearances. “I enjoyed the bunt,” Colon said. “When I struck I started laughing a lot, but that’s what I always do. I enjoy the game.”
• Girardi said he had some advance notice that Colon might be this good. “They said he was really sharp on Monday,” Girardi said. “His velocity was good and the movement was good. He’s kind of surprised us all year long in a sense. We weren’t sure what we were going ot get out of him in spring training, and he just continued to pitch well and he did today.”
• By the way, Girardi said he’s not positive he’ll have an announcement about Phil Hughes tomorrow. That seems a little crazy since he’s on turn to start Monday, but that’s what Girardi said.
• For the second day in a row, the Yankees and Mets drew the largest ever crowd at Citi Field. They had 42,042 today. They had 42,020 last night.
• The Yankees are now 24-4 in day games. That’s an .857 winning percentage. They’re also on track for exactly 100 wins with a 50-31 record midway through the season.
• Nick Swisher’s eight-game hitting streak ended.
• Two more scoreless innings from Cory Wade. The Yankees really seem to have found something there. Russell Martin caught Wade when he had a 0.925 WHIP out of the Dodgers bullpen in 2008. “He looks like he’s even sharper now,” Martin said.
• Sergio Mitre made his season debut with the Yankees and gave up two runs in the ninth.
• Dominant pitching performances for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tonight, as well. D.J. Mitchell pitched seven shutout innings in the first game of a double header, then George Kontos spot-started the second game and went four scoreless with no walks and five strikeouts. Keep an eye on both of them. Those would be legitimate long relief options if Mitre continues to struggle.
Associated Press photos