Today in The Journal News • 03.31.10
Joe Girardi had been excited all spring to see Pat Venditte, and on Tuesday he got his chance. The only switch pitcher in baseball was called up for the day and created quite a stir in the Yankees clubhouse when he faced the Braves.
CC Sabathia got the start against Atlanta. It was his last spring start before Opening Day, and although he struggled in Florida, the Yankees seem unconcerned about their ace. The notebook also has items on Mark Teixeira, Alfredo Aceves and the latest cuts from big league camp.
You can always check out pictures in our daily Yankees gallery.
Notes from Tuesday • 03.30.10
The Yankees reassigned outfielders David Winfree and Jon Weber to minor camp after tonight’s game. Those were the last non-roster outfielders — other than Marcus Thames — who were left in camp, but Joe Girardi said the moves don’t necessarily mean Thames has made the team.
“We haven’t made any final cuts yet,” Girardi said. “But Marcus swung the bat against the lefties today, and we have to make some decisions. We’re going to meet pretty soon.”
Weber hit .483 this spring, and he’s tied for the team lead with four doubles. Problem is he’s a left-handed hitter trying to make a team that needs a right-handed hitter.
“He did everything he could do,” Girardi said. “He’s definitely opened some eyes, for sure.”
Weber had become one of the feel-good stories of the spring. He’s a 32-year-old without a single day in the big leagues, but he made a big impression this spring. Chris Coste was 33 years old without a single day in the big leagues when he made a big impression with the Phillies in the spring of 2007, and he got a call-up later that year.
“It was the best time in my life, in my career, that I’ve ever had,” Weber said. “I made it to the final week with the New York Yankees.”
Here’s the Weber audio. If you want to root for a guy, give this a listen.
• Sergio Mitre allowed a two-run home run in the fourth inning but rebounded to finish with two runs on three hits and no walks through six innings. “That one inning that they scored, my pitches were just up a little bit,” Mitre said. His strong spring continues.
• When Joe Girardi got to this afternoon’s game, he only knew Mark Teixeira was sore after being hit by a pitch yesterday. By the time the night game started, Girardi had learned that Teixeira actually reported to camp with no swelling. The situation actually seems better than might have been expected.
• “Ace was better too,” Girardi said. There’s even a chance Alfredo Aceves will play catch tomorrow.
• CC Sabathia hasn’t had the best spring — his 7.23 ERA doesn’t include his ugly outing in minor league camp — but absolutely no one in Yankees camp seems concerned. “CC needs the adrenalin, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to get it in Boston,” Jorge Posada said.
• Joba Chamberlain “probably won’t” pitch in back-to-back games this spring.
• A decision on whether Phil Hughes will open on the big league roster or be optioned to the minor leagues until the Yankees need a fifth starter may be coming soon. “I think we’re about done with that,” Girardi said. “We should have that for you shortly.”
• Speaking of that decision, Boone Logan pitched another scoreless inning. He has made a strong case to be a second left-handed reliever, and it would be very easy to carry him if Hughes opens in the minors.
• It was an ex-Yankees massacre today in Pirates camp. Jeff Karstens, Steven Jackson and Anthony Claggett were among seven pitchers sent down.
• After today’s day-night double header, the Yankees are reporting to camp late tomorrow morning. They’ll take batting practice on a back field. “We’ve seen enough baseball the last 24 hours,” Girardi said.
• The Associated Press paired two shots of Pat Venditte throwing from each side this afternoon. That’s also an AP photo of Sergio Mitre
Looking for a surprise • 03.23.10
Aside from the 25 players who seem to be favorites for the Opening Day roster, there are still 14 others in big league camp with the Yankees. Could any of these play their way onto the roster?
Two straight seasons on the opening day roster, but that trend will probably come to an end this spring. He’s really struggled with a sinker that hasn’t sunk. On the roster? On his way to Scranton to get things worked out. He was pitching very well at the end of last season.
Might be on waivers, but he’s still in camp. Pitched well for the Yankees last season, but he seems to have been passed by Sergio Mitre. On the roster? It obviously doesn’t look good.
He’s on the 40-man and he’s had a nice spring — .300/.364/.550 with plus speed and defense — but he has yet to prove himself as a consistent hitter in the minor leagues. On the roster? More likely in Scranton trying to prove himself with the bat.
Joe Girardi seems to view a second lefty as a luxury, not a necessity. Logan has an option remaining, so he can be sent to Triple-A. That’s probably not good news for him. He has pitched well, though. On the roster? Not if the Yankees plan to keep the four remaining fifth-starter candidates.
One rocky outing, but otherwise he’s been solid this spring. The Chan Ho Park signing probably crowded out any chances he had of breaking camp with the big league club. On the roster? Not now. Check back in June.
Remember when the Yankees signed Nick Johnson? That was the day Miranda was bumped out of the big league mix. He’s insurance at this point. On the roster? Not as long as Johnson is healthy.
In camp to help handle the extra pitchers but has almost no chance of breaking camp with the team. Needs a chance to play regularly at Triple-A, but obviously Jesus Montero stands in the way. On the roster? A simple, no.
Veteran depth behind the plate, Rivera is around as insurance. He’s clearly behind Francisco Cervelli, and his .125 spring average probably hasn’t helped. On the roster? Not unless someone gets hurt.
Another pitcher who has done well this spring but seems crowded out of the bullpen. Even if the Yankees were to carry a second left, Logan might be the better bet. On the roster? Probably battling Logan for a call-up from Scranton.
He’s a polished hitter, and he’s proven that this spring, but his limited experience at shortstop and in the outfield leaves him as a tough fit for the Yankees. On the roster? Probably not on Opening Day, but keep an eye on his Scranton numbers.
I’ll be perfectly honest: I was surprised Sanit even got a big league invite, but the Yankees clearly saw some things and he’s proven worth the spot with a terrific spring. He won’t break camp with New York, but if he keeps this up he could push for a call-up. On the roster? No, but made a more compelling case than expected.
Minor league veteran was signed to a minor league deal this winter. He’s been solid this spring, but he’s pretty far down on the depth chart. On the roster? It’s a bit difficult to even find a spot for him in Scranton.
Not at all flashy, but the guy knows how to hit and he’s shown it time and again this spring. Being left-handed takes his slim chances and makes them almost nil. On the roster? No. But he might have opened some eyes.
One of the more interesting minor league free agent signings, Winfree is still just 24 and has shown good power. The Yankees say he’s competing for a bench role, but it’s hard to see that happening with Thames in the mix. On the roster? Might be the only guy who could give Thames a challenge, but it still seems unlikely. Mid-season replacement? Very possible.
Notes from Friday • 02.19.10
While Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes were throwing their first official bullpen of the spring, Andy Pettitte followed the lead of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez. He stayed off the mound on Friday and will wait a few days before he starts his spring training throwing schedule.
“My body’s feeling good,” Pettitte said. “Everything feels good coming into the spring. I feel real good about that.”
Pettitte said the extra workload of the playoffs shouldn’t bother him because the Yankees did a good job of keeping their three-man, postseason rotation well rested at the end of the regular season. He feels fresh, and he was happy to see the team add another durable arm in Javier Vazquez. Those two had never met another until this winter, but they’ve already played golf together.
“You can’t ever have enough pitching, and not only is he a great pitcher, he’s a quality human being,” Pettitte said. “He’s going to be great here.”
• Joe Girardi on whether he’ll carry two lefties in the bullpen: “In a perfect world, you’d like to have two lefties. Last year we went with one lefty most of the time, and we were able to do it. We believe that our right-handers get left-handers out very well. You look at what Robertson did down there getting left-handers out, he was very successful. But in a perfect world, you’d love to have two because it gives you so many more options.”
• What’s the first thing Girardi looks for in his pitchers during spring training? “To me early, I want to see command of the fastball,” he said. “That’s extremely important. And that you pitch inside effectively. That’s important to us with all of our pitchers.”
• Yogi Berra was in the clubhouse this morning.
• Add David Winfree to the list of outfielders who have popped into the clubhouse. I really wish I could have covered him in Scranton. I went to say hello and it turned into a five minute conversation. Very easy to talk to. Also, he’s a big dude. I have absolutely no trouble believing he can hit a few balls out of the park. And he’s really excited about being a Yankee. He talked about the prestige of wearing the pinstripes.
• Greg Golson was also around for a little bit this afternoon. He popped in and out a few days ago, but I wasn’t sure it was him. This time I said hello, and Golson said he has something to prove after two teams sent him elsewhere. He was a lot like Winfree, very easy to talk to, seems to be out to prove himself. This could be a good situation for him because of that spot on the 40-man.
• Kind of a funny line from Girardi, asked if anything jumped out this early in camp: “A lot of good arms in camp. You look at some of the sizes of these guys. Those are some pretty intimidating figures on the mound. I need a step stool to go talk to them.” He didn’t name names, but I’m thinking Jason Hirsh, Andrew Brackman, Grant Duff, Jonathan Albaladejo and Romulo Sanchez.
• Finally met Kyle Higashioka and Jeremy Bleich today. They’ve been around, but I hadn’t said hello. For the record, their names are pronounce He-ga-she-oh-ka and Bly-sh.
• Pitchers who threw in the bullpen today:
First group: Chamberlain, Garcia, Hughes, Ramirez
Second group: Igawa, Melancon, Logan, Moseley
Third group: McAllister, Nova, Whelan
Fourth group: Bleich, De La Rosa, Mitchell, Noesi
• Like yesterday, I only wrote down the catchers for the first group: Posada caught Chamberlain, Rivera caught Garcia, Montero caught Hughes and Romine caught Ramirez.
• In the picture up top, Girardi and Dave Eiland are on the far left of the group of coaches watching pitchers get loose.
State of the Yankees: Outfield corners • 02.14.10
Nick Swisher is the Yankees right fielder, but everything else about the Yankees outfield is subject to change. Curtis Granderson will be in there somewhere — for this post, we’ll assume center field — and Brett Gardner is the favorite for the other starting role, but the Yankees have added a long list of candidates for bench jobs and possibly regular time in the lineup. The outfield corners are perhaps the most volatile part of New York’s lineup because of the lack of a big-name left fielder and no obvious replacements in the upper levels of the minor leagues.
Starters: Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher
Backup: Randy Winn
Veteran insurance: Marcus Thames
Almost ready: Jamie Hoffmann, David Winfree
Low Rising: Melky Mesa, Kelvin DeLeon
For a series like this, it’s much easier to lump the outfield corners together, because so many outfielders can handle both spots (including several Yankees minor leaguers who I didn’t list). For the Yankees, Winn seems best positioned to be the immediate backup in left and right — assuming he doesn’t win the everyday left field job — while Thames could very easily win a platoon role by beating out Rule 5 pick Hoffmann in spring training (you have to wonder if the Yankees are willing to let Hoffmann develop at the big league level when they have a proven option like Thames in the mix). The starting job remains Gardner’s to lose, but there are enough pieces to mix and match if necessary. Mesa and DeLeon are both quite raw, with a long road between them and the big leagues.
Worst-case scenario: Look back at 2008, when Swisher hit .219 for the White Sox and Gardner stumbled in his first big league exposure. That’s where the worst-case scenario starts. We know Swisher is going to hit for power and Gardner is going to steal some bags, but they have to make consistent contact and reach base for those things to matter. If Winn repeats 2009, Hoffmann falls flat and Thames falters against left-handed pitching, the Yankees won’t have another experienced outfielder to turn to. They’ve signed and traded for an interesting group of Triple-A outfielders to put around Colin Curtis, but no one in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfield is a sure thing.
Best-case scenario: Throughout the minor leagues, Gardner always improved in his second attempt at a given level. If he can raise his on-base percentage to around .370 — which is still 19 points lower than his career minor league OBP — the Yankees will have no need for those veteran backups they signed this winter. If Swisher finds his power stroke at home, where he had just eight home runs last season, he could easily top 30 homers for the year. A return to form from Winn and solid splits from either Thames or Hoffmann would give the Yankees a valuable outfield bench, and Winfree could hit his way into the major league conversation with a nice power showing in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. If Mesa and DeLeon could cut back on the strikeouts in A-ball, that would be gravy.
The future: The outfield corners could change drastically in the next few years, but that volatility could go away if Gardner proves himself and Swisher remains productive. Winn and Thames are on one-year deals, so they don’t factor into this discussion, but Gardner is still two years from arbitration and Swisher is signed through 2012 (the Yankees can buyout the last year). The Yankees could ultimately stick with those two — and save their free agent money for Jeter, Rivera and a starting pitcher or two — or they could dive into an upcoming free agent market that could include Carl Crawford, Adam Dunn, Michael Cuddyer, Brad Hawpe and David DeJesus.
An attempt at the complete depth chart
An educated guess, but just a guess
Scranton: Colin Curtis, David Winfree
Trenton: Edwar Gonzalez, Dan Brewer
Tampa: Taylor Grote, Melky Mesa
Charleston: Neil Medchill, Zoilo Almonte
Extended: Kelvin DeLeon
Several things could happen in the lower levels. Medchill is a college draftee with power, so he could jump all the way to Tampa. DeLeon is young but very talented, so he could prove himself ready for full-season ball. As is usually the case, there will be some mixing and matching going on in the minor league outfields. Trenton’s outfield is fairly wide open for anyone who earns at-bats.