The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Postgame notes: Nova dials in his best spring start03.13.12

Ivan Nova never seemed especially worried, but after two sloppy starts this spring, the time was right for him to finally have a good one. Tonight he finally found the strike zone and delivered four scoreless innings. He struck out the final two big league hitters he faced, getting Jacoby Ellsbury on an inside fastball and getting Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a slider.

“I just want to have good stuff,” Nova said. “Not only the good stuff, but when you don’t have the best stuff, you’ve got to pitch. That’s something I did today compared to what I did in Toronto the other day. I had the good stuff but I didn’t pitch. I think in Toronto I had (better) stuff than I had today … but I pitched, and that’s the difference.”

Nova has shown good fastball velocity and pretty good offspeed pitches all spring, the problem has been fastball command. Today, he had the command as well. He threw 55 pitches, 35 for strikes, and he consistently worked ahead in the count.

“I was more aggressive, let the hitters hit the ball,” Nova said. “I’ve got eight people behind me. You’ve got to pitch to contact, you’ve got to throw strikes. … I’m a really confident guy. It doesn’t matter if I pitch good or not, you’ve got to keep your head up (and) you’ve got to keep working. I knew that I would pitch good one day. You’ve got to look forward to the next start, and today I’m going to enjoy it, and get it behind me and wait for the next start.”

• Mariano Rivera laughed when asked if he’s ready for the season to begin. “Tomorrow,” he said. Essentially Rivera got four outs today, pitching around an error for a scoreless fifth inning. “You have to work, you know?” he said. “It’s not just go in there and do whatever you want, you have to work on your pitches and work that strike zone.”

• Rivera’s next outing will likely come either Friday or Saturday. At this point, it seems like he might pitch a little more than his usually eight or nine spring innings. “That’s alright as long as we get eight, nine,” Rivera said. “It will be enough.”

• Dave Robertson ran on an eliptical machine today and could do some light jogging on a treadmill tomorrow. Joe Girardi said there’s a chance Robertson could be on a mound by the weekend.

• The plan is for Eduardo Nunez to take the next three days off. Girardi said Nunez should need only a week to 10 days to be ready for the regular season. He wouldn’t need nearly as much time as Dave Robertson. “You would think that you could get him enough playing time,” Girardi said. “The great thing about minor-league games is you can get him 10 at-bats in one day if you wanted to. You can’t have a pitcher throw 10 innings in one day if they’re a one-inning guy. It’s different.”

• George Kontos came through today’s batting practice just fine, in fact, he was happy with his stuff and doesn’t feel like he lost much during his time off. He’s scheduled to get in a game on Friday.

• Asked which bullpen candidates have made a strong impression, Girardi seemed to be thinking along an obvious theme. “Our lefties have thrown the ball pretty decent,” he said. “(Clay) Rapada has thrown the ball pretty well, Juan (Cedeno) has thrown the ball pretty well, Cesar (Cabral) has thrown the ball pretty well. We think we’ve got some options if we decide to take another lefty. Time will tell.”

• Speaking of which: Another hitless inning for Boone Logan who’s looked really sharp this spring. He pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning against Aviles, Pedroia and Ellsbury. The only lefty he faced was Ellsbury, who struck out.

• Bernie Williams got here last night and was around all day today.

• Another nice outing for David Phelps, who took the loss despite five strikeouts in 2.2 innings. The only run of the game came on a single to right field, where Zoilo Almonte misplayed the ball, after which David Adams made a bad relay throw turning the single into an unearned run. It was a 1-0 Red Sox win because of that play.

• Rapada came in to face one batter, a lefty, and got him to ground out.

• Four hits for the Yankees: Russell Martin, Alex Rodriguez, Corban Joseph and Andruw Jones. All of them were singles.

• Girardi wouldn’t give a specific timetable for Dan Burawa’s return from a torn oblique, but it’s going to be much more than a couple of days. “It could be a while,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure. He hurt his side. I haven’t gotten a timetable. A lot of times ribcage injuries can be tough.”

Suzyn Waldman was profiled on the Baseball Hall of Fame website. The HOF is celebrating Women’s History Month.

• I’m sure I’ll do a full post on this tomorrow, but the Yankees announced today that individual game tickets will first be made available to the public through a MasterCard pre-on-sale online at yankees.com and yankeesbeisbol.com, and via Ticketmaster phone from March 22 at 10:00 a.m. until March 25 at 10:00 p.m. For those using other accepted methods of payment, the general public on-sale will begin on Tuesday, March 27 at 10:00 a.m. at yankees.com and yankeesbeisbol.com, and via Ticketmaster.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 147 Comments →

Postgame notes: Kuroda lacks consistency in second start03.12.12

Hiroki Kuroda said he usually gets off to slow starts in spring training. He leans on an assortment of pitches, and it makes sense that it might take him a while to get comfortable with all of them. Despite pitching three scoreless innings tonight, the new Yankees starter wasn’t happy.

“I don’t think I had all my stuff today,” he said. “Nothing was really consistent. Two-seamer wasn’t there. Cutter wasn’t cutting.”

Joe Girardi said the problem was consistency in the strike zone. Kuroda wasn’t throwing as many quality strikes, and so he had a few more runners on base. He didn’t throw many splitfingers tonight — arguably his best pitch — but he used to to strikeout No. 3 hitter Brian Bogusevic with the bases loaded in the third inning.

“I think probably most of the nights he’s going to have the split and he’s going to have his cutter and he’s going to have his sinker and four-seamer and his slider,” Girardi said. “But early in spring training, it’s hard to get them all going because you’re not out there long enough.”

• Typical for a night game in spring training, the clubhouse was pretty empty after the game. Pretty much everyone expect the guys who were still playing had already gone home, so notes are pretty night tonight.

• One guy who stood out was Dellin Betances. The big right-hander threw two scoreless innings with two strikeouts and one harmless single. “Good curveball. Good changeup. Good fastball,” Girardi said. “Throwing a lot of strikes.”

• No significant injury updates tonight. Girardi said, as far as he knows, everyone came through tonight’s game with no problems and he’s encouraged by the fact Dave Robertson was able to play catch. “He definitely feels better, so that’s a good sign,” Girardi said.

• Girardi was disappointed because the Yankees didn’t turn a double play — leading to two runs in the ninth — and they failed to catch a popup in foul territory which led to a run in the fourth. Ultimately, the Yankees lost 4-3 and had just five hits. They gave up 12 hits.

• Nick Swisher had an RBI triple in the sixth and J.R. Murphy had an RBI single in the ninth. The other Yankees run scored on a ground out. Robinson Cano, Dewayne Wise and Jose Gil — who’s have a nice spring — had the other Yankees hits.

• Girardi said he though Rafael Soriano threw the ball “alright” and should have pitched a scoreless inning had the Yankees caught that popup. It looked like Francisco Cervelli’s ball, but he seemed to not see it until it was too late.

• Nice work by my friend Jon Paul Morosi who took a look back at the day Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera were optioned to Triple-A on the same day. It’s a nice read on the pair of iconic teammates.

• Also, head over to Yankees Fans Unite to read a Q&A with shortstop prospect Cito Culver.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 274 Comments →

Sunday notes: Command improves for both Sabathia and Hughes03.11.12

Spread across two different spring training sites, separated by a little more than two hours worth of highway, a little less than half of the Yankees projected big league pitching staff got on the mound this afternoon. Phil Hughes faced the Twins in Fort Myers. CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, Boone Logan and Cory Wade faced the Phillies in Tampa.

Their combined line: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K.

Most of the attention was naturally on Rivera, and that’s probably the way it’s going to be throughout the season. If the expectation is that he’ll retire at the end of the season, then every one of his outings carries a little extra significance. There’s a little added appreciation to every step along the way. Rivera, Logan and Wade each pitched a hitless inning today, but the bulk of the innings belongs to the starting pitchers.

CC SABATHIA
3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

Before the game, Sabathia told Russell Martin that he wanted to work on his two-seamer and his changeup, and those pitches were the focus of the afternoon. Sabathia wasn’t happy with his fastball command last time out, but he was much better this time, and he got better in the second and third innings.

Sabathia: “Felt good. The fastball command was pretty good, the secondary pitches were working. I still got a little ways to go, you know. I still want to work on my two-seamer. But I feel good today… Fastball command (improved). Getting it in on righties, and Russ did a good job making sure we got a lot of those. He called a lot of two-seamers which is something that we’ve been working on all spring. He did a good job of working in things we were trying to do.”

Martin: “He was great. What I liked about him was he had some good velocity. I don’t know how hard he was throwing, but it felt like the ball was jumping out of his hand. And he threw some good changeups. He threw his curveball for strikes. We talked before the game, he wanted to work on his two-seamer a lot and his changeup, I think we did a good job of that today. We threw some two-seamers in for lefties, made them uncomfortable. Locked a guy up with a slider for a puncy. Threw some good changeups down in the zone off his fastball. He was good today.”

PHIL HUGHES
3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

Joe Girardi went on the road to see Hughes make his second spring appearance. Last time out, Hughes’ arm strength was much better than at this time last season, and his fastball remained in the low 90s this afternoon. I wasn’t there to see it, but it seems to be another solid step forward.

Hughes: “The cutter wasn’t as good as it was last time, but the curveball was much better. Fastball location was much better, as well. Command-wise, it was a lot better, especially in the second and third innings… It seemed like my fastball was good. It was jumping on hitters a little bit based on the swings I was getting. That was a positive thing. Being able to work out of some trouble with guys on, they put together some good at-bats in the first and I was able to get around those.”

Girardi: “I thought he had everything today. Fastball location was much better, he threw some good changeups, curveballs and cutters. I was very pleased. I thought it was a nice step in a positive direction for him. A lot of times at this point in the first couple starts, I’m focusing on the good things. Knowing that they are rusty, you don’t expect them to have their A stuff a lot of times. You want to see what they’ve got the first couple starts. I was pleased.”

• Girardi said today that Hughes and Sabathia will split their next start, four innings apeice, on Friday.

• Dave Robertson is supposed to get his walking boot off tomorrow, but that’s subject to change depending on how he feels. “If he comes in and he’s walking okay and it’s not too painful, he’ll come out of the boot,” Girardi said. “If it’s still pretty painful, we’ll put him back in the boot.” For whatever it’s worth, Robertson seemed to be walking much more easily today.

• Eduardo Nunez could be in a game as early as Tuesday. “We’ll have him take BP Tuesday, and if he has no problem, I’ll put him in the game,” Girardi said.

• Really nice game by Chris Dickerson here in Tampa. He made a nice running play in center field, had the two-run single that gave the Yankees the lead, and he stayed in a rundown long enough to let runners advance to second and third. I’m still surprised no team thought they could carry him as a fourth outfielder this year. He’s a nice player.

• Russell Martin stole another base today. That’s four steals in five games for the Yankees catcher. “I’m putting a little pressure on Gardy,” Martin said. “That’s all I’m doing.” Might be working because Gardner also had a stolen base today. It was Gardner’s second.

• Derek Jeter went 2-for-3 — and had another hit taken away by a nice catch in center field — in the Yankees 3-1 win against the Phillies. Dickerson, Robinson Cano, Gustavo Molina, Bill Hall, Justin Maxwell and call-up-for-the-day Austin Krum also had hits in the win. … Francisco Cervelli went 3-for-3 in the 5-1 loss to the Twins. Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Gary Sanchez, Jayson Nix and Corban Joseph also had hits in that game, as did call-up-for-the-day Walter Ibarra.

• Clay Rapada, Chase Whitley and Kevin Whelan were able to keep the shutout intact in Tampa. … In Fort Myers, Adam Warren allowed one run through three innigns, but the game unraveled when Graham Stoneburner allowed a solo homer in the seventh inning and Adam Miller gave up a three-run homer in the eighth. All five Twins runs came on home runs.

• Add Dan Burawa to the injured list. Girardi said today that Burawa hurt his ribcage yesterday. “He’s probably down for a little bit,” Girardi said. Burawa seemed to be making a pretty good impression this spring but was still just here to get his feet wet. He’s not realistically in the big league picture this season.

• Once again Girardi said Austin Romine is making steady progress from his sore back, but the Yankees are staying extra cautious. There’s no rush to get Romine into regular duty in spring training. “If he’s a backup here, he’s not going to play every day,” Girardi said. “And if he’s in the minor leagues, he’s going to play every day, so you can work him up to three and four days in a row down there. That’s not a problem. I want to see him playing healthy before we leave; that’s the most important thing.”

• A lot of guys up from minor league camp today, but center field standout Mason Williams wasn’t among them. Girardi said today that he expects Williams to come up for a big league game at some point this spring. Girardi’s never seen him play, but “I’m interested,” he said.

• After fracturing the bone around his eye earlier this spring, A.J. Burnett has returned to Pirates camp. He’s still expected to miss two to three months.

• During a surprise Facetime conversation, Alex Rodriguez, Dave Robertson and Tino Martinez spoke with Stephanie Decker, the mother that lost both legs while protecting her two children from a tornado in Indiana last week.

• Want further proof that Mariano Rivera pretty much sets his own schedule in spring training? Here’s Girardi’s I-have-no-idea answer to a question about what’s next for Rivera after today’s debut appearance: “He’ll probably have some days where he has a couple days off. He might throw an inning, do a bullpen the next time, then throw an inning again. He usually gets his seven or eight appearances in, so he’s got plenty of time to do that. There’s no rush.”

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: Nunez anxious to get back03.11.12

Eduardo Nunez looked like a man ready to hit. He was standing at his locker with a bat in his hand, but that’s as close as he’ll get to batting practice. He joked that he keeps his bat with him just so the bat will know he still loves it and hasn’t abandoned it.

“I want to play,” Nunez said. “I’m excited to play. I want to show I’m ready to go, (but) I don’t want to rush anything. I don’t want to play two, three games and go back again to the DL.”

Nunez’s sore right hand feels better than it did six days ago, but it’s still tender. He tried to take batting practice yesterday and had to shut it down. Nunez said a doctor is coming to the field to re-examine him today, but tests have already shown nothing serious. He was hit by a pitch on Monday, and it’s just taking longer than expected for the soreness to go away.

“That’s weird because everything says negative,” Nunez said. “The doctors say I’m fine, but it still hurts a lot, and the doctor is coming back today to see me… It feels better, but it’s coming slow.”

Nunez admitted feeling a little bit worried, but mostly he just seems anxious. He worked out a lot this winter with Robinson Cano and Albert Pujols. He looks stronger, said he feels faster, and he wants to show that he’s a better player than he was a year ago. Right now, though, he’s just waiting. And keeping his bat company.

• Pretty thin clubhouse today. The guys who are traveling to Fort Myers were already gone by the time the clubhouse opened. Joe Girardi is making the trip and Tony Pena will manage the game at home.

• Dave Robertson walked into the clubhouse with no crutches this morning. His right foot is still in a walking boot, but he was moving pretty easily. This is supposed to be his last day in the boot.

• George Kontos threw another bullpen today and threw a few pitches with Larry Rothschild standing in the batters box like a hitter. Kontos will throw batting practice on Tuesday and could get into a game after that. He’s been out with an oblique injury.

• Today’s other sides: Manny Banuelos, D.J. Mitchell and Freddy Garcia.

• Tomorrow’s sides: Brad Meyers, Matt Daley, Joba Chamberlain, Brett Marshall and David Phelps.

• J.R. Murphy will play third base off the bench in the road game against the Twins. He’s played that position in the past but this will be his first time in big league camp. With Jose Gil playing first base in the home game and Gary Sanchez DHing in the road game, a total of seven Yankees catchers will play in some capacity today. That’s not counting Ryan Baker and Jeff Farnham, a pair of minor league catchers called up to help catch bullpens today.

• Several minor league guys were called up to play off the bench today. Most of them went on the road to play against the Twins.

HOME
vs. Phillies

• Available pitchers: CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, Cory Wade, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada, Chase Whitley, Kevin Whelan, Michael O’Connor and Craig Heyer.

• Second string: C Gustavo Molina, 1B Jose Gil, 2B David Adams, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Kevin Russo, LF Cole Garner, CF Justin Maxwell, RF Austin Krum, DH Colin Curtis

• Extra players on the bench: C Mitch Abeita, UT Addison Maruszak, UT Ronnier Mustelier, OF Abe Almonte

ROAD
at Twins

• Available pitchers: Phil Hughes, Adam Warren, Graham Stoneburner, Adam Miller, Juan Cedeno, Cesar Cabral, Ryan Pope, Josh Romanski and Ryan Flannery

• Second string: C. Kyle Higashioka, 1B Luke Murton, 2B Corban Joseph, SS Walter Ibarra, 3B J.R. Murphy, LF Zoilo Almonte, CF Melky Mesa, RF Ray Kruml, DH Gary Sanchez

• Extra players off the bench: INF Jose Pirela and OF Dan Brewer. The Yankees aren’t carrying any additional catchers on the road, but Higashioka, Murphy and Sanchez give them plenty of depth there for the day.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 80 Comments →

Pregame notes: Robertson optimistic while awaiting results03.09.12

Joe Girardi said yesterday that there was a “cause for concern” in yesterday’s MRI on Dave Robertson’s injured foot. This morning, Robertson himself painted a much more optimistic picture.

“The first MRI, they said there wasn’t really anything really wrong,” Robertson said. “Just had some questionable things and they just wanted to make sure. They said it looked fine, but let’s just go ahead and check it out again and make sure nothing’s wrong.”

Robertson went back to the hospital for a second round of tests, and he’s still awaiting those results. Today he shuffled into the clubhouse wearing a walking boot and using crutches. The crutches seemed more for stability than anything. He wasn’t putting all of his weight on them, just sort of using them to carry a little bit of his weight as he walked fairly close to normal (as close as he could in a protective boot).

Optimism aside, Girardi sounded legitimately concerned yesterday. At this point, it’s hard to know what to expect while the Yankees wait for a foot specialist to give his diagnosis.

“After hearing that they didn’t see anything in the first round, I’m feeling better today,” Robertsons aid. “I’m hoping it’s something that’s going to pass in a week or so and I’ll be right back out there.”

• Robertson on having to address the injury: “It’s embarrassing. I don’t even want to have to come and talk to you guys about it. I’d rather be like, I tripped over a chair in the clubhouse or something than tell you I fell down the stairs at my house. And not like a full flight of stairs, just one stair.”

• Truth be told, Robertson’s injury wasn’t nearly the most unusual in baseball yesterday. David Price hurt himself while toweling off between innings, and Robertson was happy to hear he wasn’t the only one talking about an awkward injury. “Yes,” Robertson said, giving a little fist pump. “That’s good news right there. That’s the best news I’ve heard.”*

• For whatever reason, Eduardo Nunez isn’t listed for batting practice today. I didn’t see Nunez in the clubhouse and didn’t have a chance to ask Joe Girardi about it before the clubhouse closed for a team meeting. Could be that he’s just going to take BP inside rather than out on the field with everyone else, but it seemed unusual considering he was making progress from that hand injury.  

• Brad Meyers, George Kontos, Adam Warren, Joba Chamberlain, Cory Wade, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada and Hiroki Kuroda all have sides today. Dellin Betances, David Phelps and Ivan Nova are throwing sides tomorrow.

• J.R. Murphy is planning to get the vast majority of his time at catcher this season, but today he’s working out at third base during fielding drills. The Yankees like his bat and have given him a look at the four corners, adding some versatility to the young catcher. For whatever it’s worth, Brett Gardner will take fly balls in center field today. He said he hadn’t taken any balls in center field this spring before starting there yesterday, but center field always feels more natural for him anyway.

• Today’s available pitchers: Freddy Garcia, Rafael Soriano, Manny Banuelos, D.J. Mitchell, Juan Cedeno, Chase Whitley, Ryan Pope, Kevin Whelan, Dan Burawa, Adam Miller, Michael O’Connor and Cesar Cabral

• Today’s second string: C Gustavo Molina, 1B Jose Gil, 2B Corban Joseph, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Ramiro Pena, LF Cole Garner, CF Dewayne Wise, RF Colin Curtis, DH Zoilo Almonte

• Making the trip to Orlando tomorrow…

Pitchers: Dan Burawa, Cesar Cabral, Juan Cedeno, Brett Marshall, Michael O’Connor, Michael Pineda, Ryan Pope, Graham Stoneburner, Kevin Whelan, Chase Whitley
Catchers: Francisco Cervelli, Jose Gil, Kyle Higashioka, J.R. Murphy, Gary Sanchez
Infielders: David Adams, Doug Bernier, Bill Hall, Corban Joseph, Brandon Laird, Jayson Nix, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Jorge Vazquez
Outfielders: Zoilo Almonte, Colin Curtis, Brett Gardner, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Justin Maxwell, Melky Mesa, Dewayne Wise

* Before any Rays fans get offended, Robertson was clearly kidding and talking strictly about being hurt in an embarrasing way. He quickly said something about not really wanting anyone else to be hurt, he just liked the idea that he wasn’t the only one talking about an unusual injury.

UPDATE, 10:07 a.m.: The Braves have both RHP Buddy Carlye and OF Jordan Parraz on this trip. Those two played in the Yankees system last year, with Carlyle getting a little bit of big league team.

BRAVES
Michael Bourn CF
Tyler Pastornicky SS
Matt Diaz RF
Freddie Freeman 1B
David Ross C
Christian Bethancourt DH
Drew Sutton 2B
Brandon Hicks 3B
Jose Costanza LF

RHP Julio Teheran

Associated Press photo

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Pregame notes: Robertson’s status unclear after foot injury03.08.12

Dave Robertson was moving boxes at his Tampa-area home last night when he stumbled down some stairs. Joe Girardi said it was more like he missed one step, not necessarily went tumbling down an entire flight. His right foot felt fine initially but it eventually became sore and Robertson went for x-rays, which were negative. He’s getting an MRI this morning and is currently wearing a walking boot as a precaution and for comfort.

“They were empty boxes,” Girardi said. “They weren’t even heavy boxes. I told to just kick them down the steps next time.”

There is some concern, obviously. Girardi said Robertson wasn’t walking very well this morning, and the official diagnosis so far is a mid-foot sprain. Girardi said there was no swelling, which he’s taking to be a good sign. Because he’s a reliever, Robertson could miss several days and not be at serious risk of missing the start of the season.

Until the MRI comes back, it’s really too early to know how much time Robertson will miss and whether Opening Day is at risk.

• Mariano Rivera threw batting practice this morning and said he expects to make his first game appearance on Sunday. “I’m ready to go,” he said.

• Joba Chamberlain will throw another bullpen tomorrow, and he’ll throw breaking balls for the first time on Sunday. Those breaking balls won’t come off a mound. He’ll throw them off flat ground. He said things are still going well with his rehab from Tommy John.

• Raul Ibanez has seen most of his time in left field, but he played a lot of right field when he was younger and the Yankees want him to be able to play both outfield corners. That’s why he’s in right field today, to get a few reps out there before the season. “I’m pretty confident that he’s going to play it fine,” Girardi said.

• Eduardo Nunez will take batting practice today, but Girardi still not sure he’ll be ready to play tomorrow. There doesn’t seem to be any significant concern about him, just taking things slowly and making sure he’s ready.

• George Kontos will throw a bullpen tomorrow. If that goes well, hell fall back into a regular spring routine and could face hitters within a few days.

• Cole Garner, who’s been shutdown with a sore hamstring, is making today’s trip to Dunedin but he’s not scheduled to play.

• Today’s sides: Graham Stoneburner, Brett Marshall, Phil Hughes and CC Sabathia.

• Tomorrow’s sides: Brad Meyers, Adam Warren, Joba Chamberlain, Cory Wade, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada and Hiroki Kuroda.

• Today’s available pitchers: Ivan Nova, Michael O’Connor, Dellin Betances, David Phelps, Cesar Cabral, Dan Burawa, Adam Miller, Ryan Pope, Chase Whitley and Juan Cedeno.

• Today’s second string: C J.R. Murphy, 1B Brandon Laird, 2B David Adams, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Jorge Vazquez, LF Zoilo Almonte, CF Melky Mesa, RF Chris Dickerson, DH Colin Curtis

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 164 Comments →

Monday notes: A strong first impression03.05.12

 

The first time Michael Pineda was approached by a massive group of Yankees reporters, he’d just thrown batting practice in Tampa, and as soon as the crowd began to surround his locker, Pineda looked like a deer in the headlights. It had been quite a while since he’d pitched — he wasn’t mobbed as soon as he got to the clubhouse — but he seemed overwhelmed by the attention. You couldn’t help but wonder if it would be a bit much for him.

Today, he stood up in the corner of the clubhouse and gave an easy, light-hearted interview. Asked whether he was nervous to pitch today, he said “Hell no!” and started laughing. He didn’t come across as arrogant, just young and confident and perfectly at ease.

“I feel very good now,” he said. “I feel (a part of) the Yankee team right now.”

Freddy Garcia said yesterday that Pineda has been asking a lot of questions about what it’s like to pitch in New York. Larry Rothschild said he’s been more than willing to try new things that might make him better. Russell Martin was impressed with his willingness to use his developing changeup his first time out.

“In the meeting we had before the game, he was like, ‘I really want to work on my changeup today,’” Martin said. “And I told him, we’re going to use it, and use it the way you would use it during the season. I like him because he wants to work on stuff that he hasn’t mastered yet. He has a really good feel for his slider, his fastball. The velocity wasn’t where it’s going to be during the season but he has good fastball command and that was key.”

What I’ve seen of him, Pineda seems mostly quiet but confident. After today’s start, he was engaging. A language barrier sometimes limited him to one-word answers, but he seemed happy to talk and willing to consider his answers. He said he hadn’t been surrounded by so many reports since last year’s all-star game. As far as first impressions go, this was a good one.

“He seems to have that attitude that nothing really seems to bother him,” Joe Girardi said. “I’m curious to see as we move along how he carries himself on an everyday basis because I don’t know him. You try to learn a guy as soon as you can but you want to see, as they go through things, how they carry themselves.” 

• No radar display at the stadium, but I was told Pineda’s fastball was roughly 89-91 mph and reached 92 once. That’s quite a bit lower than he’s expected to be in the season, but Larry Rothschild seemed unfazed. “Not what it’s going to be later in spring,” he said. “A little bit below, which you expect. Guys that are power pitchers usually take a little bit longer.”

• Pineda said earlier this spring that he showed up weighing about 10 pounds more than last season. He said today that he’s already lost seven to eight pounds and would like to drop two to four more.

• Nick Swisher fouled a ball off his shin but should be fine. No real concerns there.

• Dave Robertson struggled with his command in his spring debut. He allowed a run on a hit and a walk. “Sloppy, very sloppy,” Robertson said. “I just felt like my timing was off… Usually I feel like if you can throw it pretty close to the strike zone, the guys are going to swing (because) they’re not used to seeing it. I wasn’t able to get it in that zone today. I just couldn’t quite find it.”

• Jimmy Rollins stole two bases in that third inning, and Robertson said neither one was Russell Martin’s fault. “Nothing Russ could do about it,” Robertson said. “Because I was so slow to the plate.”

• The thing you really care about: Robertson said he’s thinking about sticking with the stirups this season. He wore them in college and for a while in the minor leagues – I can’t remember whether he had them in Scranton – and he’s taking them on something of a test drive this spring. “Have a bunch more outings like that and I won’t,” he said.

• I was down in the clubhouse and didn’t see much of Ryan Pope’s 1.2 hitless innings, but things were out of hand before that because Adam Miller and Juan Cedeno really struggled. They combined for four walks, five hits and eight earned runs. Miller also hit a guy. Cesar Cabral threw a scoreless fourth inning, but he was hit pretty hard. “You want them to get some outings under their belt before you really start analyzing what they’re doing,” Girardi said.

• Zoilo Almonte. 1-for-1. RBI. Still the late-inning star of these first few games.

• The only Yankee with more than one hit was Gustavo Molina who went 2-for-2. Brett Gardner had a triple, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez, Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena, Jayson Nix and Colin Curtis each singled.

• As planned, George Kontos threw long toss today. That’s his next step back from a sore oblique.

• After failing his physical with the Yankees, Hideki Okajima has signed a deal to return to Japan.

• Newly acquired reliever David Aardsma did a Q&A with the blog Yankees Fans Unite. Check it out.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 225 Comments →

Pregame notes: “You’ve got to win this one”10.06.11

Jim Leyland had a story to tell, and so he sat at the podium before today’s decisive Game 5 and began speaking before anyone asked a question.

“I have an announcement to make,” he said. “This will explain why you think I’m so old and grumpy and messed up. I got a telegram today from a professor from a prominent university. These are my instructions for tonight… I am supposed to pitch Valverde the first five innings tonight, then I’m supposed to pitch Verlander the last three, quote, ‘the seventh and eighth.’ So that’s where we’re at.”

Everyone, you see, has an approach to Game 5.

What interesting is that Leyland and Joe Girardi are approaching this Game 5 very differently. Leyland has shuffled his lineup again, going with the hot hand in Don Kelly at the top. Girardi has stuck with his regulars, whether they’re struggling or not. Leyland has talked about wanting to get through this game with a select group of rested relievers. Girardi has entertained the notion of every key reliever pitching more than an inning.

Mostly, Leyland and Girardi have differed in the way they plan to use their aces.

Leyland says Justin Verlander won’t pitch at all. In fact, Verlander already threw a bullpen this afternoon so that he’s prepared for a possible ALCS Game 1.

“I’m not going to use Verlander,” Leyland said. “I am not under any circumstances… You can argue till the cows come home, I’m not going to do it. I don’t think it’s a wise decision.”

Girardi has told CC Sabathia to be ready. Girardi’s thinks he could throw a “couple” of innings, and he brought up the idea of going to Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning, saving Sabathia to get the final few outs if Rivera runs out of gas before the end of the ninth.

“You can’t tell when you’re going to go to that move,” Girardi said. “There’s not an exact scenario.”

But would he be hesitant to use Sabathia, wanting to save his ace for Game 1 of the next round?

“You’ve got to win this one,” Girardi said. “(Otherwise) there is no Game 1.”

Here’s Girardi’s pregame press conference.

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• What’s the limit or Rivera tonight? “It’s more pitches than anything,” Girardi said. “You start to get around 35, 40 pitches you start to get into a gray area and you start to worry… That might be a situation where you have CC behind him. It could be something like that.”

• Girardi said it’s “very possible” that he’ll use Dave Robertson and Rivera to pitch the final three innings.

• A.J. Burnett is available if this game gets extremely crazy, but right now the plan is to have him in the rotation should the Yankees advance. “I imagine I would start him,” Girardi said. “I haven’t thought that far along, but yeah.”

• Girardi did not give any sort of pregame speech, and he didn’t ask a player or a member of the coaching staff to do so either. “I kind of watch what our guys are doing, and if they need something, they need something,” Girardi said. “I told you, I thought they were very loose the other day going into Game 4. I’ve seen some of the guys now, and they seem loose to me. I didn’t say anything magical to them in Game 4.”

• Today would have been a bullpen day for Sabathia, but he hasn’t thrown one yet. If this game becomes a blowout, and Sabathia starts to get loose, Girardi said that could be nothing more than a bullpen to prepare for the ALCS.

• Leyland explaining his Verlander decision: “One thing you have to remember, he went a little longer than CC the other night. He also was throwing 100 miles an hour in the eighth inning. He’s also thrown a lot of pitches under stressful circumstances. And I also remind you that Scherzer did a pretty good — he has more rest and he did a pretty good job against the Yankees. So Scherzer would be my first guy tonight if I needed a long guy.”

• Despite Leyland’s vow not to use Verlander, Girardi is approaching this game as if Verlander is available. “I know what Jim said,” Girardi said, laughing. “Sometimes circumstances change. You get into a crazy game and he might be the last guy. I’m not saying he’s going to put him in there, but I’m just saying, you get into an 18-inning game, you’re not putting Wilson Betemit out there, you know what I’m saying?”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 248 Comments →

Pregame notes: “I don’t see why it wouldn’t work”09.27.11

It’s been a few days since Joe Girardi approached Mark Teixeira with the idea of moving Robinson Cano up to the third spot in the batting order. The move would have happened sooner, but it’s been a while since Cano, Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez were in the same lineup together.

“I told Joe, not only am I for it, I think it’s a great idea,” Teixeira said. “Obviously, left-handed, my average isn’t where it should be, and Robbie’s had a great season. He’s hot – he’s really hot – and why not mix it up against a righty and hit him third… I think that’s the plan (for the playoffs). I think we’re going to see how it works, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.”

Chances are, the Yankees are going to stick with this lineup into the postseason, but only against right-handers. Girardi said he’s “leaning” toward going back to the old alignment against lefties. Teixeira is still a good all-around hitter against left-handers, and Girardi likes the idea of splitting lefties Cano and Curtis Granderson.

“The thing about managing here is that we have a lot of really good hitters,” Girardi said. “We have a lot of guys who could hit third in other lineups. You try to space it out, try to make it difficult for teams to navigate through. We’re moving Robbie to the three-hole against right-handers and it’s something we could do against lefties, too.”

Teixeira said he’s been working with Kevin Long on changing his approach against right-handers. He’s squared up his stance a little bit, and he’s trying to use the whole field a little more. He admitted that the right-field porch at Yankee Stadium became a little too tempting and got him into some bad habits after his strong 2009 season. Now the defensive shift is frustrating him, and Teixeira is trying to correct the problem without losing his power.

“You don’t want me to turn into a slap hitter,” he said. “But at the same time, I think if I use a little bit more of the field – a little bit more of center field – some of those balls will start falling. I can’t get a ground ball hit left-handed right now. That’s not good for your average, so I need to kind of focus on keeping the ball up the middle and trying to use all of the field… I’m greedy. I want to have it all. I want to get back to being a high-.200s (or) .300s type hitter with the same amount of home runs and RBIs, and I think I can do that again. Actually, I know I can do that again.”

Girardi also admitted that it’s been hard not to notice that teams have been pitching around Cano lately, and that played a role in this decision.

“Hitting in the third spot, it’s a lot of responsibility,” Cano said. “You have to do everything right. You’re going to get pitches to hit because you’ve got a guy behind you that they don’t want to face, either. It’s a situation now where I’m going to get better pitches, so I have to continue doing what I’m doing right now. That’s not going to change my mindset. I’m going to keep playing my game and swing at strikes.”

Here’s Teixeira. He was good talking about his struggles and his attempts to fix them.

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• Major League Baseball has announced that the first game of the Yankees division series will be an 8:37 p.m. first pitch on Friday. The other American League division series will be a 5:07 start, but of course the Yankees got the late game.

• If the Red Sox and Rays have to play a tiebreaker, that game will be at 4:07 p.m. on Thursday.

• Derek Jeter has a standard day off. “He’s played the last three days in a row and I just thought I’d give him a day off,” Girardi said. “He’ll be back in there tomorrow.”

• Actually, Girardi said he expects to have most of his regulars in the starting lineup for tomorrow’s regular season finale.

• Still no Yankees starting pitcher for Wednesday’s game. Girardi said it depends on who pitches tonight. It could be almost anyone.

• Regardless of the score, Girardi definitely plans to use Dave Robertson and Rafael Soriano tonight, and he’ll probably pitch Mariano Rivera. He wants to get them into tonight’s game, then rest them tomorrow and Thursday.

• The Yankees coaching staff met with Brian Cashman today to talk about the postseason roster. “We do have some of the answers, but we don’t have all of the answers,” Girardi said. “We threw a lot of ideas out there. It’s something we have to chew on for a little bit. We have time. Some of it depends on who we play, but we did make some progress.”

• One thing that has been decided is that the Yankees will carry an extra position player in the division series. Girardi said the Yankees will carry 11 pitchers at the most, and they might carry only 10.

• Still no official decision on whether the Yankees will carry three or four starters in the division series, but Girardi said it’s “very possible.”

RAYS
Desmond Jennings LF
B.J. Upton CF
Evan Longoria 3B
Matt Joyce RF
Johnny Damon DH
Ben Zobrist 2B
Sean Rodriguez 1B
Kelly Shoppach C
Reid Brignac SS

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 153 Comments →

Between-game notes: “Why not give him a good headache?”09.25.11

Does one good start in an ultimately meaningless game mean anything?

Since joining the Yankees three years ago, A.J. Burnett had never beaten the Red Sox. He had a 7.36 ERA in two previous starts against them this season, and let there be no doubt, they were certainly playing for something this afternoon. It might have been a meaningless game for the Yankees, but it meant something for the Red Sox.

Did it mean anything for Burnett?

“It’s up to (Joe Girardi),” Burnett said. “I just wanted to come out and give him headaches. I’ve been giving him headaches all year, why not give him a good headache, you know? I got runs early the past month or so and haven’t been able to put it all together, so to go deeper in the game and keep the lead — I still made a couple mistakes to Ellsbury — but for the most part I was able to make pitches when I needed to.”

Burnett pitched 7.2 innings. He allowed two runs on five hits — only Jacoby Ellsbury’s home runs hurt him — and he struck out six. He’s 2-0 with a 4.34 ERA in September, but the last time he pitched this many innings with two runs or less was way back on June 13. He walked off the field to a standing ovation.

“There were lots of (goose bumps), lots of them,” Burnett said. “It means a lot, you know. They’ve been rough, but I’ve given them reason to be rough. That makes up for everything, walking off that mound to that ovation is incredible.”

What does it mean for his spot in the postsaeason?

“We’re going to continue to look at it and talk about it,” Girardi said. “And our opponent has something to do with who we’re going to pitch.”

Burnett hasn’t faced Texas this season, but he made two solid starts against the Tigers, and has pretty good career numbers against the current Detroit roster. Interestingly, Freddy Garcia has much worse career numbers against the current Tigers, and he gave up 10 hits — a season-high — against them earlier this season (Garcia has terrific career numbers against the Rangers and pitched six shutout innings against them this year). Is it possible the Yankees would lean toward Burnett over Garcia if they face Detroit in the first round? Girardi wouldn’t go into specifics.

“I’m just hoping I gave him something to think about, you know,” Burnett said. “He’s been nothing but positive toward me the whole season. He came out and shook my hand on the mound, and it was very professional of him. As many times I’ve gone away mad, he knows I’m not mad at him. He can call Cito (Gaston) and ask him how many times I got mad at Cito. He deals with it well, he deals with me well and when he put his hand out there, it meant a lot.”

Here’s Burnett.

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• Cool pregame ceremony to honor Mariano Rivera’s record-breaking 602nd career save. The Yankees kept it a surprise and announced it to the media pregame with strict orders not to announce it on blogs or Twitter. Rivera was given a fireman’s helmet and a huge picture commemorating the milestone.

• Jorge Posada was out there for the Rivera ceremony, and he got his own moment with a third-inning curtain call after his home run. “The fans have been amazing all through my career, but especially this year,” Posada said. “They’ve been very supportive and for them standing after Andruw gets strike one. I didn’t want to interrupt his at-bat. It’s special to hit a home run and even in the last regular season game.”

• This was the first time that Posada hit cleanup since September 28, 2009. he hit his first cleanup home run since April 10, 2008. Of his 14 home runs this season, 11 have come at Yankee Stadium.

• On the home run, Posada scored his 900th career run. His first-inning walk was No. 934 of his career, moving him past Roy White for sole possession of seventh place on the Yankees all-time franchise list.

• The Yankees scored their first two runs without getting the ball out of the infield thanks to bunt singles by Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter. “It had nothing to do with our game plan,” Jeter said. “I’ve faced Wakefield a bunch and I don’t know if I’ve ever bunted off him before. The opportunity presented itself, and I tried it.”

• Jeter’s batting average is up to .300. “I’m not playing for a batting average,” he said. “I’m playing for trying to stay sharp for the playoffs. (Hitting) .300 obviously is better than .200, but I’ve hit .300 before.”

• This is the first time Jeter’s batting average has been .300 or better at the end of a game since he was hitting .333 after the second game of the season.

• The Yankees are an even 16-16 in Burnett’s starts this season.

• Dave Robertson has allowed one run and 11 hits in his past 26 appearances dating back to July 26. He has a 0.35 ERA in that stretch. According to Elias, Robertson has held opponents hitless in his past 21 at-bats with men on base.

• Robertson leads all American League relievers with 99 strikeouts this season. That’s good news for High Socks for Hope.

• Francisco Cervelli went for further tests today but the Yankees haven’t heard back from the doctors.

• Girardi said he’ll probably announce a Tampa rotation after the second game.

• There’s still no plan in place — or, announced anyway — for Phil Hughes. “We’re going to talk about how we’re going to use him in the next couple of days,” Girardi said.

• The Yankees will finish the season 44-12 in day game, the highest all-time day winning percentage by any team since 1900 according to Elias.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 127 Comments →

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