Sunday notes: “Work on what you need” • 03.25.12
Whether you’re happy with Michael Pineda’s spring training probably depends on whether you believe his fastball velocity will truly spike with added arm strength and regular-season adrenalin.
“Nobody throws hard in spring training, because it’s spring training,” Pineda said. “You think a little more, and work on what you need. Now I’m focused a little more on making good pitches. I learned from last year. That’s what I need.”
Pineda’s fastball generally sat at 90-92 mph today. He reached 93-94, but for the most part, the velocity wasn’t significantly different than we’ve seen in his previous starts. That said, there were times when his changeup seemed to be a legitimate go-to pitch, and Pineda talked about the fact he likes to add and subtract from his slider. It’s not just a power breaking ball, it’s a more nuanced pitch than that, and Pineda hasn’t been strictly a power pitcher, he’s been a little more nuanced as well.
“It’s a little surprising that he does have an idea what he wants to do,” Joe Girardi said. “He can make his slider bigger when he wants to and he can make it different for right-handers and left-handers if he wants to. It is surprising for a kid his age.”
From the moment they traded for him, the Yankees have talked about Pineda’s need to improve his changeup and add consistency. This spring he’s clearly made the changeup a focus, and it’s been a good pitch. He’s not lighting up the radar gun, but he does have a 3.31 ERA through five spring starts.
“Everybody knows last year I threw harder,” Pineda said. “So (they ask), ‘Hey, what happened to Pineda right now?’ But nothing (happened). I feel good. I can pitch. Everybody sees me. I pitch every five days. … I know last year I threw hard, so I have more power. But this is spring training, so the power is coming back.”
• Girardi on Pineda’s changeup: “I think it’s come a long ways. If you look at his tapes last year, he didn’t throw a lot of them for strikes, but you see a lot more of them for strikes and some swings and misses. That’s a good thing.”
• Forgot to mention earlier that Alex Rodriguez was actually checked out by a doctor after he was hit by a pitch today and it was determined that no tests are necessary. Sounds like he’s perfectly fine.
• Derek Jeter didn’t seem to make too much of his 2-for-3 afternoon. His second game back from a calf injury included a home run that let the Yankees get away with a 1-1 tie. “I’m just coming back,” he said. This last week and a half of spring training will be key to getting his timing ready for the season, Jeter said. So far, it looks pretty good. He’s hitting .348 this spring and really seemed to drive the ball this afternoon.
• Dave Robertson wasn’t happy with his command the last time he threw batting practice, but he said it was much better today. He went to the bullpen to throw a few more pitches after his one inning and made a “minor adjustment” to improve his curveball command. His curve was a little short during the game.
• Girardi revealed that he might have been a little more worried about Robertson than he was letting on. “He looked fine to me,” Girardi said. “That’s kind of a sigh of relief. In the back of me there’s still that little bit of concern, but he hasn’t had any issues for a week or so, so I hope we’re through it.”
• Another scoreless inning for Mariano Rivera. That’s 27 straight spring innings without an earned run. The guy’s good in the regular season, the postseason and the preseason.
• None of the players sent out of big league camp this afternoon came as surprises, but there’s something to be said for Jose Gil’s spring. Largely unheralded in the Yankees system, he hit .529/.500/.706 this spring. Probably doesn’t mean much, but he was very good.
• If you knew two months ago that this spring would include injuries to both Jeter and Eduardo Nunez, would you expect that Doug Bernier would outlast Ramiro Pena in big league camp? Bernier’s also had a tremendous spring and seems to have caught Girardi’s attention. There’s little chance he’ll actually make the team, but Girardi seems to like him.
• Other than Jeter, only Nunez, Mark Teixeira and Andruw Jones had hits for the Yankees today. Teixeira and Nunez doubled. … Brett Gardner, Jayson Nix and Dewayne Wise each had outfield assists this afternoon. … Robertson, Rivera, Rafael Soriano, Manny Delcarmen and Clay Rapada each pitched a scoreless inning out of the bullpen.
• Girardi said he won’t be at the minor league complex to watch Phil Hughes tomorrow. Girardi is going to use the off day to go to Illinois to visit his father, who’s been sick for quite some time.
• Former Yankees outfielder Greg Golson has been traded to the White Sox. He was in camp with the Royals.
Associated Press photos
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
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
Wednesday notes: Mitchell steals the show • 03.14.12
Manny Banuelos is considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and there have been days — both this spring and last spring — when he’s shown every bit of that potential. Today was not one of those days, and it was instead often-overshadowed D.J. Mitchell who stole the show.
“(Banuelos) couldn’t throw his secondary pitches for strikes and he was behind,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s just a tough combination. Look at what D.J. Mitchell did. He was able to throw his curveball and his changeup when he was behind in the count to get back in the count and throw some fastballs for strikes. Manny just really struggled with his command.”
Banuelos labored through a four-run fifth inning when he allowed three hits, walked two batters and coughed up Edwin Encarnacion’s second home run of the day. If previous starts have been a reminder of what he can become, today was a reminder that he’s still very young with inconsistent command. It’s nothing that can’t be sorted out, but there’s still some development to be done.
“He’s a young guy and he’s got four pitches to be in the big leagues,” Francisco Cervelli said. “But with the experience, he’s going to learn how you can make adjustments during the game and have more patience. It’s just a bad day. Next time he’s going to come back and of what he always does because it’s great. I think he’s top three over here, best rookie guys.”
As for the top rookie in camp? Mitchell is making his case. He closed today’s game with three hitless innings, striking out four and walking none. Often labeled as a sinkerballer, Mitchell was drawing praise just last week from a Yankees official who said he doesn’t get enough credit for his secondary pitches. Mitchell does generate a lot of ground balls, but they don’t have to come from his two-seamer. He can get them with his changeup, curveball and slider. He did hit two batter today, but through seven innings in big league camp, Mitchell has allowed just three hits.
He was awfully good this afternoon, and Girardi noticed.
• Obvoiusly the Yankees got good news on Freddy Garcia’s injured right hand, but there will be considerably curiosity tomorrow to find out whether the injury will cause him to miss significant time. “That’s why we try to have depth every year in case you do run into something freaky like this injury,” Girardi said before hearing the x-ray results. “I hope it’s not going to keep him down, but we’ll find out.”
• Garcia was pitching well at the time of the injury. He’d allowed one run through three innings and had just stranded two runners in the bottom of third. Edwin Encarnacion’s comebacker came in the first at-bat of the fourth. “Freddy’s Freddy,” Girardi said. “He commands all his offspeed. He commands his fastball. He changes speeds. And that’s exactly what he did today. His split was effective. Just got his hand in the way. That’s the only thing I didn’t like.”
• Cervelli on how Garcia was pitching for the injury: “It was great. It was really, really good. The split was good A lot of fastballs today. I think he was throwing 90, a lot of movement in the fastball. Really good. His plan was really good today.”
• It’s a positive sign that Dave Robertson was able to jog without pain, but Girardi said he’ll need to throw a few times on the side before he starts getting into games again. “He’s been out long enough that I think he’s got to do some bullpens,” Girardi said.
• Girardi seems to be used to getting velocity questions. This was the first thing he said about Robertson’s half hour on a treadmill: “I don’t have the speed, but there was no pain.”
• In between Garcia’s three innings and Mitchell’s three innings, both Banuelos and Cory Wade pitched an inning. Wade gave up a two-run homer to J.P. Arencibia, letting Garcia’s final base runner come around to score. Wade also had two strikeouts in his inning.
• In spring training, the media is usually in the clubhouse by the fifth or sixth inning, so I didn’t see any of the Yankees seventh-inning rally. They scored four runs in the seventh, all of them generated by non-starters. Doug Bernier had a bases-loaded, two-run double and Dewayne Wise followed with his own two-run double. Wise also had a stolen base in the inning.
• The one Yankees run I did see came on Curtis Granderson’s RBI double in the third inning. It was one of two doubles for Granderson who’s hitting .316 this spring. Granderson and Wise each had two hits.
• Other Yankees with hits: Derek Jeter, Corban Joseph, Mark Teixeira, Cole Garner, Eric Chavez, Jayson Nix and Cervelli. Cervelli and Garner each doubled. The Yankees lost 7-5.
Associated Press photos
Sunday notes: Less is more • 02.20.11
The weight issue won’t quite go away here in Tampa. Alex Rodriguez arrived in camp a little bit lighter. Buster Olney reported it was 10 pounds lighter. Joe Girardi said it wasn’t quite that much. Whatever the exact number, it’s more than a pound or two, but not so much that Rodriguez looks drastically different.
“Sometimes guys just feel like they want to be a little bit lighter,” Girardi said. “It might add to their game. Physically they might bounce back quicker. That’s not uncommon for a player to try to put more energy into their body, and sometimes it is by not having to carry so much mass.”
Girardi said he didn’t know Rodriguez was planning to lose weight until Rodriguez reported to camp. But seeing him, Girardi has no complaints.
“This is just the weight that he showed up,” Girardi said. “He showed up in very good shape, so I’m not going to complain about that.”
“I’m careful to not try to push players right now or to say a whole lot to pitchers — we need a little bit more, your breaking ball’s not quite as sharp – because I don’t want them trying to overdo it,” Girardi said. “Sometimes there might even be a guy that’s throwing the ball well, and if I come around I see that he missed a couple of spots, I might just move on (if it’s) a young guy. I don’t want them thinking, gosh, the manager’s watching. Just let them go about their business. There will be plenty of time to evaluate.”
• That said, five pitchers threw batting practice to actual hitters early this morning: Joba Chamberlain, Ivan Nova, Dave Robertson, Brian Anderson and Manny Banuelos. “Some guys got an early morning wakeup call at 8:15,” Girardi said.
• Eight more pitchers will throw BP tomorrow. Girardi didn’t say who.
• Because there are fewer workout days, there will be no intrasquad games before the actual spring schedule.
• Girardi said he knows who he wants to start the spring opener, but he wants to wait a few days to make sure that pitcher is still good to go. He promised to make the announcement on Tuesday.
• When he finished hitting, Jorge Posada spent some time at first base. Girardi said it’s possible Posada could see some time at the position this spring, but whether he’s a legitimate option at first during the season depends on who else is on the roster. “Is it a viable option? Is it an emergency option? A lot of it depends on the makeup of your roster,” Girardi said.
• Kevin Russo was listed as an infielder today, but he instead worked as an outfielder during drills. He said he expects to work in the infield tomorrow.
• Random infield assignments: Eric Chavez, Brad Suttle and Brandon Laird did their infield work at third base, and Jorge Vazquez got his time at first. Those four will probably spend time at both infield corners this spring. Ronnie Belliard and Doug Bernier got time at both second base and shortstop, though the time at short was just fielding grounders. I doubt Belliard is being looked at as a shortstop option. Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez both worked at shortstop.
• Tino Martinez has arrived in Yankees camp as a guest instructor.
• Girardi and his staff are still discussing possible team outings. Not sure what it will be this year.
Associated Press photos of Jeter with Rodriguez during stretch; Nova in the bullpen; and Andruw Jones in the outfield
Derek Jeter and A.J. Burnett need to bounce back. Phil Hughes and Brett Gardner need to keep moving forward. CC Sabathia needs to stay healthy, Mariano Rivera needs to keep defying father time and the Yankees need to find a couple of starting pitchers from a pile of unknowns.
The spring performance of Daniel Brewer is nowhere near the list of Yankees concerns this spring. I get that.
But I can’t help myself.
I’ve always liked seeing players who were fighting to get themselves on the radar. Even if they’re fighting for nothing more than the last spot on the bench or a role in the September bullpen, the non-roster invites are an interesting lot. You might forget about them completely by this time next year, but right now, you just never know.
Eric Chavez and Mark Prior
Just trying to stay healthy
Of all the veterans invited to big league camp, it’s rotation candidates Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia who have the most important challenge ahead of them. But the most intriguing challenge might belong to Chavez and Prior, once very good big leaguers whose careers were torn apart by injuries. It’s impossible to ignore these two, even if they are fighting for bit roles on the bench and in the bullpen.
A rising star
Manny Banuelos is generally considered a Top 50 minor league talent. David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell finished last season in Triple-A. It’s natural that those non-roster invites would generate some attention. What’s surprised me this offseason is how often Warren’s name has been mentioned. Not that I doubt his talent — the numbers paint a pretty compelling picture — but Warren has only 10 games of Double-A experience. Is that really enough to put himself in the mix for a big league spot?
A hitter who can catch, or a catcher who can hit?
It’s kind of ridiculous to include Montero on this list because everyone is going to be paying attention to him. He had a very real chance to be the Yankees Opening Day catcher until Russell Martin signed this winter. Instead, he’s coming to camp as something of a long shot — Francisco Cervelli probably has a leg up on the backup role — but Montero will have a chance to force the Yankees hand and convince them that another year in Triple-A would be a waste of time. It’s impossible to ignore huge talent that’s knocking on the door, and Montero might knock that door of its hinges.
Outfielder turned reliever
What’s not to like about this story? Once considered among the top center field prospects in baseball, Anderson got some time in the big leagues, couldn’t hit, and moved to the mound for the first time since high school. Now he’s trying to establish himself all over again. I have no idea whether it will work, but it will be interesting to see him try. Plus, the guy is one of Shelley Duncan’s good friends. What’s not to like?
A prospect on the verge
Brewer reminds me a little bit of what Colin Curtis was last spring: Not on the 40-man, and not a big-name prospect, but a guy who does enough things well that he couldn’t play himself into a big league role at some point this season. Working against Brewer is the fact the 40-man is loaded with similar outfield options — Curtis, Justin Maxwell and Greg Golson — but if Brewer builds on last season and one of those three takes a step back, the Yankees could have another outfielder to consider if/when a mid-season hole presents itself.
Jorge Vazquez — The power is real. Is everything else ready for the big leagues?
Manny Banuelos — Youngest guy in camp, and arguably the best young arm in the system.
Neal Cotts and Andy Sisco — They’ve been to the big leagues before, and lefties always have a chance to open some eyes and get another shot.
Austin Romine — How would you feel if you were one of the 10 best catching prospects in baseball and were still completely overshadowed in your own organization?
Doug Bernier — He hit .181 in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre two years ago and the Yankees still brought him back. Tells you how good he is with the glove.
Spring decision: Utility infielder • 02.09.11
Just a few days ago, the Yankees agreed to minor league deals with veteran infielders Eric Chavez and Ronnie Belliard. Those two will come to camp trying to prove they can still hit, and if they can, they’ll give the Yankees the option of experienced backup at third base. But even if those two make a surprise run at a roster spot, the Yankees will still need a true utility infielder to backup Derek Jeter at shortstop. They have a short list of candidates.
In reality, there are two candidates. Doug Bernier is a fine defensive infielder in camp on a minor league deal, and Kevin Russo’s versatility includes a little bit of experience at the shortstop position, but this seems to be a choice between Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena.
The easy choice
The Yankees know Pena. They know the positives and the negatives. They know the glove and the bat. They know exactly what to expect from him, and they know he won’t flinch at the big league level. There’s comfort there, and if either Chavez or Belliard shows something in camp — giving the Yankees a offensive-minded backup at third — they could more easily stomach the all-glove, no-hit option of Pena backing up at shortstop every other week.
The best bet for an impact utility infielder is Nunez. His defense seemed to take a step forward last year, eliminating some of his inconsistency. He’s also a proven base-stealer, and his bat is good for an up-the-middle infielder. If the Yankees expect their utility man to play a lot — if they don’t carry another option at second or third — Nunez seems to be their best bet for production out of that role. Otherwise, the Yankees might consider sending Nunez back to Triple-A to keep playing everyday. He’s the best in-house option to replace Jeter if Jeter continues to slip.
A separate but related issue
Alex Rodriguez had surgery in 2009 and landed on the disabled list in 2010. The Yankees know they’re going to have to give him a few DH starts — and maybe a full day off now a then — but spring training should give them some idea of just how far Rodriguez’s hip has come in the past two years, and just how often they’ll need to rest him during the season.
Associated Press photos of Nunez and Pena