The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Sabathia feels “relief” in surgically repaired elbow02.12.13

CC Sabathia always seemed to think he could pitch last season. He went on the disabled list twice, and he through some underwhelming stretches, but Sabathia has a bulldog reputation, and he did his best to live up to it. But after offseason elbow surgery to clean up a bone spur from his left elbow, Sabathia said he can easy feel the difference between health and not healthy.

“I definitely feel a relief,” he said. “Just having that range of motion back and not having that ache at the end of my extension. I felt that right away, so hopefully I can just continue to get better and continue to feel less. After last year, going through what I went through pretty much the whole second half, playing catch so far, it feels a lot better.”

Sabathia hasn’t been on a mound yet — “I never throw off the mound until I get down here anyway,” he said — and expects to throw his first fastball/changeup bullpen on Thursday. But he’s been playing catch, and that’s been enough for him to feel the surgical difference.

“He wasn’t 100 percent last year,” Girardi said. “Any time you need surgery at the end of the year, I think it’s fair to say that you weren’t 100 percent. But probably 95 percent of the players that go out there every day aren’t 100 percent. That’s part of the job. You’re going to play with bumps and bruises and injuries that you can still compete with. But I feel better that we were able to address the problem and he’s coming into spring training healthy. He wasn’t overworked last year, so I feel better about it.”

Even today, Sabathia called the elbow issue an “excuse,” while also acknowledging that it was “always there.” Elbow surguries are generally less concerning than shoulder operations, and Sabathia’s was relatively minor, so he’s expected to be fully healthy for this season. Even in a down year, Sabathia reached 200 innings with a 3.38 ERA last season.

“I just want to concentrate on staying healthy,” Sabathia said. “Any kind of numbers I feel will be there if I’m healthy, so that’s the only thing I’m worried about.”

Some other pitching notes from today:

• David Phelps made the big move from the middle lockers — where most of the minor leaguers are assigned — to a locker on the left wall where most of the big league staff is grouped together. Adam Warren also moved to that wall. Phelps has changed uniform numbers to No. 35. He has a locker right next to Andy Pettitte.

• In other locker-assignment news: The short wall just inside the main door has three lockers: Cesar Cabral, Manny Banuelos and Michael Pineda. That must be rehab central.

• Sabathia said he lost about 10 pounds over the winter and is down to 290. He said that’s what he was last spring, and that seems about right. He looks about the same as last spring. “This is the ideal weight,” he said. “I was probably about 300 by the end of last year, so I probably gained 10 pounds. Room service, different stuff. It’s part of the season. I’m fine with that.”

• Any concerns about Mariano Rivera? “I have extreme confidence in Mo, just knowing how hard he works, wanting to be ready and be prepared, be on top of his game,” Sabathia said. “He’s ageless. He can pitch forever. I have a lot of confidence in him coming back and being the same old Mo.”

• Speaking of Rivera, he’s helped raise another $50,000 toward renovations of his church in New Rochelle.

• A few guys threw in the outfield today, but the first full day of pitching workouts is tomorrow. There was no schedule of bullpens posted, but I’m guessing we’ll have those tomorrow morning when the clubhouse opens.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 272 Comments →

Yankees postgame: Phelps impresses but Lester rules08.18.12

David Phelps continued to make a positive impression despite taking this 4-1 loss to the Red Sox. The rookie went a career-high 6 2/3 and gave up just three runs and seven hits. He struck out seven and walked none in what will likely be his final start before CC Sabathia comes off the DL. Joe Girardi said he hopes that will be Friday night in Cleveland.

But Phelps can still be an asset in the bullpen. He’s 3-4 with a 2.69 ERA in 24 outings overall. In his five starts, including two since Sabathia went down with his elbow problem, Phelps is 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA. Someone will have to go to make room for Sabathia, but Phelps is pitching better than Joba Chamberlain and Cody Eppley right now.

“We like what he does,” Girardi said about Phelps. “He’s a guy that’s somewhat of a swing guy for us. If we need him to start, he can start. If we need him to give us an inning in the bullpen, a couple of innings in the bullpen, he can do that. If we need him to give long relief, he can do that.

“He’s a valuable guy on your team because he can do so many different things, and he’s had success in all areas.”

Phelps was done in by an opposite-field, two-run homer in the first by Adrian Gonzalez.

“It was right where we wanted it,” Phelps said. “The ball was down and off the plate. … It’s incredibly frustrating.”

Jon Lester’s inconsistency has been problematic for Boston, but the Yankees managed just five hits off the lefty. He’s still only 7-10 with a 5.03 after back-to-back starts with one run allowed.

“When you look up at the numbers, you kind of step back because you know that’s not the type of pitcher he really is,” said Nick Swisher, who had two of his three hits off Lester. “Tonight you got the best Jon Lester that we’ve seen in a while.”

The Yankees finished 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

“It’s hard to win a game when you do that,” Girardi said.

Curtis Granderson seems to be breaking out of his slump, coming through with a homer and two hits for the second consecutive game. Both homers were off left-handers. He has hit 11 of his 32 off lefties.

Derek Jeter lost his 13-game hitting streak. He batted .367 over that stretch.

Robinson Cano is struggling right now. He went hitless for the fourth consecutive game with an at-bat, his worst stretch since a four-game hitless run in 2008. His career high is five straight. That was in 2005.

The Yankees need to come up with an answer for Pedro Ciriaco. He had a four-hit game against them at Fenway last month and he went 4 for 4 in this game. He’s batting .517 against them in seven games, going 15 for 29. He’s batting .276 in 28 games against other teams.

“He’s on fire against us,” Phelps said. “It’s one of those things.”

Sunday night baseball on ESPN with feature a pitching matchup between Hiroki Kuroda, who has been very good, and Josh Beckett, who has not.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 30 Comments →

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 263 Comments →

“Same as it’s been, just a few more people”04.08.12

After two months in Tampa, I kind of feel like ended this day on a positive note. Thankfully, David Phelps can help with that.

After he’d gotten loose in the bullpen, been called into the game, thrown his warmup pitches on the mound and let Russell Martin take one practice throw to second base, Phelps walked to the back of the mound to get ready for his first big league appearance. It was Derek Jeter who stopped him and jogged over for a few quick words.

“Same as it’s been,” Jeter told him. “Just a few more people.”

Phelps major league debut was a short one – a strikeout and a groundball to second – but it was a good one. In a weekend full of negatives for the Yankees, Phelps provided a positive moment.

“This game is all about first impressions,” he said. “So you want to go out there and do the best you can, the first time out especially.”

Mission accomplished.

“The kid came in and threw strikes with all his pitches,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s not a situation he’s used to coming into, he’s used to being a starter and he came in and did a nice job.”

In the past three weeks – less than that, actually — Phelps has become a father for the first time, made his first big league roster and made his big league debut. His parents, brother, wife and newborn daughter were all in the stands today. His wife, Maria, is flying home to Pittsburgh tomorrow and would have missed his debut if it hadn’t happened tonight.

“They’ve been here all three days, hoping I’d pitch,” Phelps said. “I was really hoping I would get in these three games because she really didn’t want to miss it. To have it on Easter, you can’t ask for anything more.”

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 463 Comments →

Friday notes: Nova takes positives from fifth start03.23.12

At his best, Ivan Nova was unhitable today, and that’s what he and the Yankees seemed to take out of this outing.

“The command that I had — my fastball, my curveball, slider, especially the changeup today — was unbelievable,” Nova said. “Every time, here in spring training, when you’re trying to work on something, and you have a good day like today – everything was working – you’ve got to take it. You’ve got to be positive on that.”

Nova retired the first 12 batters he faced, then he closed his outing with a 1-2-3 seventh inning. He needed just 76 pitches, 58 strikes, to get through seven. In the middle, there was a two-run home run in the fifth inning and a two-run single in the sixth, but the Yankees came away yet again impressed by an outing that was better than the final pitching line might suggest. Nova’s had a couple of those this spring.

“Seven innings, five of them were really, really excellent,” Joe Girardi said. “He had the two that he struggled a little bit, but I was happy with what he did.”

• Not too far away in Clearwater, Hiroki Kuroda also finished with a pretty good game. He went 5.2 innings allowing one run on six hits. Kuroda got all the way up to 89 pitches in only his fourth start. Nova was making his fifth start and said he expects to start two more before breaking camp.

• The Yankees starters have performed well since Andy Pettitte signed, but Nova said that’s more about time than timing. “I think right now, everybody is in better shape than two weeks ago,” he said. “You’re going to see a lot of good results. Everybody is going to pitch good because everybody is feeling better. Everybody has more command, and I know for sure that pitches are working better than two weeks ago. For me, I expect the guys to pitch well too. I know it’s a competition, but you need not one man, I need my teammates to pitch good and have a good spring.”

• Derek Jeter went 1-for-2 in his return to the lineup. He had a first-inning single and grounded into a double play in the third inning. “I said, ‘You were actually pretty smart today,’” Joe Girardi said. “He didn’t try to kill himself running to first, which was smart.”

• Girardi said there were no other injury updates. He said after the game that he still had not heard any results from MRI and CT scan on Joba Chamberlain’s dislocated ankle.

• Jeter on Chamberlain’s injury: “You feel extremely bad for him. He’s worked hard to get his arm back in shape. It seemed as though he was ahead of schedule on that, and that’s because he worked extremely hard at it. Then to have something like this, a fluke accident, you feel extremely bad for him.”

• Mariano Rivera pitched another hitless inning and has yet to allow a hit in five outings this spring. Rafael Soriano also pitched a scoreless inning out of the bullpen today.

• New father David Phelps pitched in relief of Kuroda in Clearwater and 3.1 innings allowing two runs on three hits and a walk.

• Eduardo Nunez had three hits agianst the Twins today, and Robinson Cano had three hits against the Phillies. … Francisco Cervelli had two hits to raise his average to .214. … Ramiro Pena was 1-for-1 with a solo homer today. … Russell Martin, Brett Gardner, Eric Chavez, Brandon Laird, Chris Dickersona and Dewayne Wise had one hit appiece. … Mason Williams also singled today. He’s 2-for-2 in his pair of appearances in big league camp.

• Doug Bernier had another two-hit game in another start at shortstop. It’s still hard to imagine him making this team, but he’s really had a terrific spring. His batting average is up to .385.

• Speaking of good springs with no obvious roster spot: Justin Maxwell was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. His average is up to .444 this spring.

• Despite Bobby Valentine’s criticism, Girardi offered no apologies for not going into extra innings yesterday. “I’m going to worry about our guys,” Girardi said. Apparently much of Valentine’s criticism was based on the fact he had a pitcher — Clayton Mortensen — who he wanted to get in the game. Girardi said he would have been fine with playing just the top of the 10th if Valentine had asked. “That would have been acceptable to me,” Girardi said. “But there was no communication, and usually there is. And it’s not like this is something new. There’s a lot of tied ballgames in spring training that end in the ninth inning.”

• Mortensen, by the way, was optioned out of big league camp today.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 192 Comments →

Postgame notes: Warren makes an impression vs. Red Sox03.22.12

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

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Gameday Threadwith 364 Comments →

Up and down through the middle of March03.19.12

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.

THREE UP

Curtis Granderson
.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.

Phil Hughes
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.

Clay Rapada
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.

THREE DOWN

Raul Ibanez
.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.

Adam Miller
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.

Russell Branyan
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.

Justin Maxwell
.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.

Alex Rodriguez
.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

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Thursday notes: “It’s got to be something”03.08.12

Ivan Nova knows the meeting is coming. At some point on Friday, Larry Rothschild is going to pull him in front of a video screen and show him the footage of today’s start in Dunedin.

“I know for sure tomorrow we’re going to talk about it,” Nova said.

Nova’s fastball hit 95 mph. He was happy with his slider and happy with his changeup, but much like his previous start against the Phillies, Nova’s command was unreliable at best. He fell behind often against the Blue Jays, and it was a 2-0 pitch that J.P. Arencibia hit for a home run. Hunter Pence homered on a 3-0 pitch from Nova five days ago.

“I throw, for me, perfect bullpens,” Nova said. “Once I get out there, sometimes, I guess I do too much. I think that’s what happened, maybe. I’ve got to figure it out… Sometimes you can be open too much or too quick. The first inning was really good, I wasn’t pushing my body or anything like that. The second and third inning (were bad). It’s got to be something.”

Nova said he doesn’t feel out of shape, and he’s encouraged that his velocity suggests his arm strength is where it needs to be. He just needs to get his mechanics ironed out. Joe Girardi said he’s still a long way from making a judgment about Nova.

“These guys are just getting ready to compete and getting their arm strength,” Girardi said. “We saw some velocity out of him today. We saw some 95s today. They’re still going through all of that.”

• The Yankees were on the verge of a second consecutive shutout when Colin Curtis hit a solo home run in the ninth inning to leave the Yankees with a 6-1 loss. Ramiro Pena was the only Yankee with two hit, and other than the Curtis home run, Pena’s double was the team’s only extra-base hit. Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira, Brandon Laird, Justin Maxwell and Doug Bernier each singled in the game.

• David Phelps let one of Nova’s runners scored on a passed ball by Francisco Cervelli, but otherwise, Phelps pitched 2.1 innings allowing one hit, two walks and a strikeout. I didn’t think he was especially sharp, but he settled in a little bit.

• If he’s going to have a chance of making this team — and the Yankees seem to be giving him a legitimate look — Cesar Cabral is going to have to retire lefties. Giving up a home run to lefty Travis Snider didn’t exactly help his cause this afternoon. It also didn’t help that lefty Eric Thames singled off him later in the inning.

• Raul Ibanez looked fine in right field. He only had two chances to make a play and one of those was a ground ball. The other was a fly ball near the foul line, and Ibanez made a running catch for the out. Not the hardest play in the world, but he made it with no problem. “You have to take balls, and see more balls hit out there,” Ibanez said. “Today was a great thing to be able to go out there, spend a little time out there, and catch one. Angle off the bat is good.”

• Dellin Betances and Dan Burawa each pitched around some trouble to leave runners on base and pitch scoreless seventh and eighth innings. It was a better-than-last-time appearance for Betances.

• As you can imagine, everyone was pretty focused on Dave Robertson after the game. Most conversations centered on his injured foot, but Girardi really didn’t have many answers. “There’s always something in every camp,” Girardi said. “It seems like there’s something freaky that happens.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 53 Comments →

Waiting for doors to open03.03.12

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.

But that wave might not have to wait for long. Joe Girardi has stressed that doors could open sooner rather than later.

“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

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 495 Comments →

Notes from winter ball: Phelps heating up in Arizona11.03.11

Trying to build on a solid but injury shortened Triple-A season, David Phelps first three Arizona Fall League starts were uninspiring. He allowed three earned runs each time, never throwing more than 3.1 innings. His past two outings have been more what the Yankees were hoping to see.

In his past two starts, Phelps has pitched nine innings, allowing two runs on six hits and one walk while striking out seven. And that’s without throwing more than 67 pitches.

Phelps is one of those guys who was brought in to observe late in the season. The Yankees clearly believe he can play a role next season, and his Fall League stint is about building a few more innings before shutting things down for the winter.

• Speaking of young starters: Hector Noesi keeps getting better in the Dominican. After two not-so-great outings, Noesi pitched six innings without an earned run in his most recent start. He struck out five, walked one and dropped his winter ERA to 3.38 through three starts.

Ronnier Mustelier, the utility man from Cuba, continues to hit in the Fall League. He’s batting .390/.405/.610 while playing third base (played mostly outfield and second base in Tampa this season). He’s new to the Yankees farm system, and a little old for a low-level prospect, but so far he’s been a steady hitter.

Jorge Vazquez, the Yankees slugging Triple-A first baseman, is hitting .320/.400/.587 through 75 at-bats in Mexico. He has 21 RBI and 23 strikeouts. That’s pretty much the kind of hitter he is.

• Outside of the Arizona Fall League, there are only four Yankees with more than 20 winter at-bats. One of them is Vazquez. The other three are Jose Gil (an organizational catcher), Luis Nunez (an organizational infielder) and Jose Pirela (a borderline shortstop prospect). Pirela didn’t do much in Double-A this season, but he’s hitting .389/.421/.500 in Venezuela.

Corban Joseph has a modest four-game hitting streak in the Fall League. He’s been kind of up-and-down in Arizona.

Ramiro Pena has played in one game in Mexico. He went 1-for-4.

• Reliever Chase Whitley is a fast riser in the Yankees system, and he has nine strikeouts with one walk in his past seven Fall League outings. That’s a total of 9.1 innings in those appearances. Opponents are hitting .178 against him, and that’s usually an offensive league.

• Class-A reliever Dan Burawa is getting knocked around in Arizona. He was charged with five earned runs today and has a 9.00 ERA through 10 appearances. He’s been charged with multiple runs in each of his past three outings.

• Nine of Pat Venditte‘s 12 appearances in Mexico have been scoreless, but he’s twice allowed multiple runs, pushing his ERA to 4.15. More telling is the fact hitters are batting .238 with 11 strikeouts and just one walk against him.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 237 Comments →

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