As details of the Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval deals filtered through the internet yesterday, a friend sent this text message: “Remember when the Red Sox went (overboard) in the winter 2010? Traded for Adrian Gonzalez? Got (Carl) Crawford? Yankees responded with…”
The ellipsis was his own, essentially a stand-in for a question mark. His point was this: What exactly did the Yankees do the last time the Red Sox got incredibly aggressive during an offseason?
So lets flash back to the winter of 2010-11…
What the Red Sox did: Most notably, they traded young talent for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford to a seven-year deal. Those two additions were in place before the end of the Winter Meetings (kind of like the Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval deals this offseason). The Red Sox also signed Jason Varitek to one last contract, and they brought in Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler to add bullpen depth (in a relatively minor move at the time, they also signed Andrew Miller).
What others thought: At the time, the Red Sox seemed to have built a powerhouse. They seemed deep in the lineup, in the rotation and in the bullpen. Sports Illustrated picked them to win the World Series. Of course, we now know that the end result was a total mess, but at the time, it looked like the Red Sox were building a juggernaut and the Yankees would have to keep up.
What the Yankees did: It was actually a pretty busy winter for the Yankees. Trading Juan Miranda to the Diamondbacks was only the beginning! The biggest moves, though, weren’t necessarily additions and it’s hard to classify any of these moves as direct reactions to the Red Sox (except maybe one unexpected splash for a player who seemed completely off the radar until he was suddenly on the roster).
These were the Yankees major moves in the winter of 2010-11, the last time the Red Sox went on an offseason spending spree:
1. Re-sign Derek Jeter — This was essentially The Captain’s final contract. It was a three-year deal with an option for a fourth year (rather than exercise that option, Jeter technically signed a new deal for 2014, but it comes down to the same thing). Coming off a bad 2010, Jeter was given four more seasons. He gave the Yankees a solid 2011, a very good 2012, an injured 2013 and a disappointing but memorable 2014.
2. Re-sign Mariano Rivera — This was supposed to be Rivera’s final contract. He signed a two-year deal that would take him through his age-42 season (which seemed perfect for the game’s final No. 42), but after injuring his knee in 2012, Rivera decided to come back for a farewell season. Without the injury, the two-year deal signed in December of 2010 would have been a success. Rivera was as good as ever in 2011 and was off to a strong start in 2012.
3. Sign Russell Martin — This was the initial one-year deal, with the Yankees having Martin under team control for a second year because of arbitration eligibility. Martin had an OK season. He was an all-star and hit for power, but his batting average was down. The Yankees brought him back for one more season, his average dipped even more, and Martin left for Pittsburgh.
4. Sign Pedro Feliciano — This was a total mess. Coming off three straight seasons in which he led the league in games pitched, Feliciano landed a two-year deal with the Yankees, who needed left-handed help in the bullpen. Feliciano was, of course, injured by the time the Yankees broke camp and he never pitched a single inning for the team. Boone Logan, instead, emerged as the go-to lefty.
5. Sign Rafael Soriano — I remember this one quite well because I’m the one who happened to be on the phone with Brian Cashman when he finally seemed to lose his patience with all of the questions about possibly signing Soriano. “I will not lose our No. 1 draft pick,” Cashman told me. “I would have for Cliff Lee. I won’t lose our No. 1 draft pick for anyone else.” Within a few days, Cashman was overruled, a draft pick was gone, and Soriano was in the Yankees bullpen.
6. Sign Bartolo Colon/Freddy Garcia — Two separate signings based on the same idea. The Yankees knew they needed additional rotation depth, and they went looking for it in unlikely places. Colon hadn’t pitched in the big leagues in more than a year, and Garcia had been extremely limited in three of the previous four seasons. Of course, both wound up pitching well that year, with Colon in particular launching a stunning career resurgence.
7. Sign Eric Chavez — Once a star player in Oakland, Chavez had been hurt so often that there were questions about whether he could even handle a part-time role at this point. The Yankees took a shot and got a decent but predictably injury shortened year off the bench. It was the next year that Chavez returned to the Yankees and delivered a truly impressive bounce-back season.
8. Sign Andruw Jones — His second year with the Yankees was kind of a mess, which makes it easy to forget that Jones was actually really good in his first year. The Yankees didn’t finalize their deal with Jones until spring training — he had a locker before he officially had a spot on the roster — and he delivered a .286/.384/.540 slash line against lefties.
Nine fairly significant signings — even if one of them never actually got on the field — but it’s hard to label any one of them a direct reaction to the Red Sox maneuvering. Certainly re-signing Jeter and Rivera had nothing to do with Boston, signing Martin had more to do with internal concerns about Jorge Posada, the Soriano signing didn’t happen until more than a month after the Red Sox big additions, and the other deals were basically attempts at bargain hunting. Seems likely we’ll see more of the same this offseason as the Yankees seem poised to stick with their original plan rather than spend recklessly based on the Red Sox signing two players the Yankees were never really after in the first place.
Associated Press and USA Today photos
One day after announcing the Alex Rodriguez injury, Brian Cashman was approached by various trade and free agent options.
“I’ve had a few of maybe the names I wouldn’t have thought of – lesser names that I wouldn’t have an interest in – volunteer their services for that position,” Cashmans said. “I’ve had some people suggest, ‘Hey, my guy who plays second base, he can swing over to play third.’ That type if stuff. I don’t have an interest in stuff like that. … I did have one irresponsible ask (in a trade suggestion), which I assume has everything to do with yesterday’s announcement. I’m no longer talking to that club.”
Although Cashman expects the market to continue its rapid development — “It seems like this is a market flush with money, the way it’s acting,” he said — but he plans to remain patient. Cashman said he believes it’s possible he could complete a move before these meetings end on Thursday morning, but he feels no need to force the issue.
“The preference is always to get your problems solved and get them fixed,” he said. “But the realistic side of that is that it’s going to take time and you have to solve it over time. If you don’t feel comfortable with the solution, you shouldn’t solve it until you feel comfortable. I’m prepared to drag this thing out.
“Hopefully everybody else is, too.”
• Cashman admitted to speaking with the agents for five different players: Kevin Youkilis, Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Ichiro Suzuki and A.J. Pierzynski. Those were the only names specifically mentioned, and Cashman confirmed that he’s had discussions about each one.
• Despite talking to Pierzynski’s camp, Cashman was as firm as ever in his belief that the Yankees will have an in-house starting catcher next season. “I think our catching will come from within, personally, as we are right now,” Cashman said. “I’d be surprised if it didn’t.”
• Cashman on whether he needs to stick with one-year deals: “Optimally that’s the best way you’d like to go, but it might not be the way I have to go. It just depends on the player and the dollar amount.”
• Earlier today, Joe Girardi said the Yankees need a third base solution that’s capable of playing the position all year because of Alex Rodriguez’s uncertainty. Cashman disagreed. Sort of. “I was just looking to someone who can get there for three months at the very least,” Cashman said. “If it’s somebody that’s good enough to go the whole way, fine, but there’s not a lot of choices out there. I’m not going to limit it by looking at it that way. I understand what he’s talking about – you need to have the protection – but it’s a very limited sandbox to play in.”
• With Ichiro and Ibanez in the mix, Cashman indicated that he’s willing to use an all-left-handed regular outfield. “Beggars can’t be choosers, so to speak,” Cashman said. “If I’m in a situation where we have equal righty or lefty bats, you can gravitate one way or the other, but it doesn’t match up that way. … If we did (sign another left-handed outfielder), we’d need two outfield bats, one from the right side, one from the left side. If we wanted to put another left handed bat in, and it’s all three left handed outfielders, I would say focus on me adding another right-handed bat too, in the Andruw Jones category.”
• To be clear, in no way did I think Cashman was talking about bringing back Andruw Jones, he was just referring to a right-handed outfielder who strictly plays against lefties.
• Will Brett Gardner be in center field next year? “I see Gardner and Granderson both as center fielders,” Cashman said. “Currently Gardner is our left fielder and Granderson is our center fielder, and if we so choose to make a change, we’ll have no problem doing so. But that’s not something we’re talking about right now.”
• By the way, forgot to mention earlier that Girardi said Granderson had his vision checked and it’s fine. There was some speculation that maybe his vision caused last year’s second-half struggles. Apparently that’s not the case.
• Cashman on Chavez: “We know him very well and he had a hell of a year. He’s put himself in a very strong position, I think, in a marketplace that is thin at that position. That will run interference with our interest level, I would think, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make something happen there. We’ll see. We’re engaged.”
Associated Press photo
Yankees ready for sprint to the finish line • 09.24.12
The Yankees seemed encouraged after completing a 7-2 homestand, albeit capped by Sunday’s 5-4 loss to Oakland.
There are 10 games to go and the Yankees own a one-game division edge over Baltimore.
Their schedule has a Minnesota/Toronto/Boston finish — three teams way south of .500. So it would seem on paper to be advantage Yankees, especially since the Orioles have to play a doubleheader today at home against the Blue Jays and conclude with three at Tampa Bay.
“I don’t know if it works to our advantage,” Eric Chavez said. “You’ve still got to play the games. … But are we supposed to beat the teams that we’re supposed to beat? Yeah.
“So we need to go ahead and have another good week and try to finish this thing up as good as we can.
“There are two things at stake. Obviously we want to get in, and we want to be playing well to get in, too. We don’t want to back up into it. We want to gain some momentum.”
Chavez likes how things are shaping for the Yankees beyond the schedule, which continues tonight with Andy Pettitte taking the ball in Minnesota, his second start since returning from his fractured ankle.
“Pettitte came back,” Chavez said. “Alex (Rodriguez) looks great. He’s been huge for our lineup. We started hitting the ball ever since Alex got back, so we really needed that. I think we’re playing good. We started to turn the corner a little bit. It was a good homestand for us. We really needed it.”
So do you think the Yankees are going to win the division or draw a wild card? I’ll cast a vote for the division.
Eduardo Nunez didn’t help the cause yesterday. If you have a moment, check out my linked story today for LoHud.com and The Journal News about that as well as the one looking ahead to Pettitte’s start.
Yankees pregame: Waiting on Chavez • 08.04.12
Brian Heyman here again today for Chad. We’re still waiting on a Yankees lineup because Joe Girardi is waiting to see how Eric Chavez’s ankle holds up in batting practice. He had to come out after eight last night after feeling a problem during his at-bat that inning.
“We think it could be related to when he got hit in the side of the ankle (against Boston),” Girardi said. “It’s only when he swings. He felt a little stiffness in his stride. But it doesn’t bother him to run. It doesn’t bother him to field.”
If he can’t go, Girardi said Jayson Nix would take third. If Chavez can go, Girardi said the lineup would be the same as last night.
Whoever plays third is going to have to hit against Felix Hernandez. He’s 3-1 with a 1.47 ERA in four starts at the new Yankee Stadium. That’s the lowest ERA for all pitchers for at least two starts in the new building. Lifetime, Hernandez is 4-2 with a 2.49 ERA in the Bronx. This season, he’s 9-5 with a 2.79 ERA overall.
“When you get opportunities, you’ve got to make sure you score runs.,” Girardi said. “You can’t give away opportunities because he’s not going to give you a lot.”
Hiroki Kuroda will get the start for the Yankees, coming in at 10-7 with a 3.28 ERA.
“He’s pitched extremely well for us,” Girardi said. “He’s been consistent. He’s given us distance. He’s kept us in games. He could have a lot more wins. There’s no doubt about it. But he’s been in some close games.”
Girardi talked to Mark Teixeira this morning, and there were no problems reported with his left wrist.
If you didn’t get to see my article today on Casey McGehee hoping to make a good impression here and why he fell off so much from his standout 2010 season with the Brewers, please check it out.
Yankees postgame: Sabathia dominates • 08.04.12
CC Sabathia has generally been good, his previous start against the Red Sox notwithstanding. But he finally turned in a dominant start, allowing just three hits and fanning 10 in this 6-3 win over the Mariners.
“CC’s a winner,” Joe Girardi said. “Very seldom I have ever got to worry about CC. I thought he pitched a heck of a game. He went right at the hitters like he always does, but his stuff was really effective.”
CC gave up at least nine hits six times in the final two months last season and then didn’t have a wonderful postseason. There were questions about his weight.
“Last year is last year,” Sabathia said. “I usually feel good at the end of the year. I had some problems last year. But I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited and feel pretty good.”
The Mariners don’t hit much to begin with, but after watching Sabathia’s dipping two-seamer and the rest of his assortment, manager Eric Wedge said: “I think he beats anybody tonight with what he was throwing out there.”
Sabathia is up to 11-3, becoming just the fourth pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to win 11 games in each of his first 12 seasons.
Eric Chavez came out after eight because the ankle he hurt in the Red Sox series was acting up. He came in to put ice on it.
“I don’t think it’s anything serious,” Girardi said.
Chavez has been using an Andruw Jones bat for a few months. This time, Chavez hit the decisive two-run homer.
“It just feels comfortable,” Chavez said.
Before the game, Mark Teixeira met with a doctor and went through batting practice, and he found that he was good to go after missing two games. He had received a cortisone shot for left wrist inflammation. He went 1 for 4.
“Everything checked out pretty good,” Teixeira said. “Hopefully no more issues.”
Ichiro Suzuki went 1 for 4, giving him one hit in each of his first 10 games as a Yankee. That equals the longest hitting streak to start a Yankees career, matching Rey Sanchez in 1997.
Derek Jeter took sole possession of 10th on the all-time list for games played for those who spent their whole career with one team. This was game No. 2,529 for him.
The Yankees have homered in 21 straight home games.
There’s a good pitching matchup later today, Hiroki Kuroda and Felix Hernandez.
The Yankees sure have done a better job getting past their injuries than the Red Sox. They have more talent and more depth than the Red Sox have, too. The pitching is much better. The gap between these first- and last-place teams is now 11 1/2 games after this 10-3 win by the Yankees.
“They don’t focus on the negative,” Joe Girardi said. “They focus on the job at hand. Because you’re going to go through injuries. Every team is going through it. We’re not immune to it. But they focus on what they’ve got to do that day. Who’s in the lineup, they go to work, pitchers go to work, and they try to win a game.”
The Yankees have had 13 players on the DL. The Red Sox have had 22. But Carl Crawford and Jacobi Ellsbury have been back since mid-July. Big Papi Ortiz is due back next Wednesday. The team has lost six of seven to fall to 49-51. The Yankees were saying not to count them out yet. Bobby Valentine was saying the same thing.
“We’ll turn it around,” Valentine said. “We haven’t had our big streak yet. That’s the good news.”
Ichiro went 1 for 4 in his debut in the pinstriped threads. He appreciated the warmth shown by the fans.
“Usually, I come in and the fans behind me are pretty tough on me,” Ichiro said. “But tonight they were great. They were awesome.”
He sure seems to appreciate being here.
“I was very excited,” Ichiro said. “My first game here in Yankee Stadium was against the Boston Red Sox. In Japan, you twist your cheek to see if it’s real or not, if I’m not dreaming. That’s really how I feel right now.”
Phil Hughes gave up three solo homers but only two other hits in seven innings. He’s up to 10-8 after his first win since July 1.
“With nobody on, the last thing I want to do is walk guys,” Hughes said. “That can lead to big innings. If I give up a solo home run here or there, I can work around that and find kind of a rhythm.”
Eric Chavez got hit high on the side of the right ankle in the eighth. He left after the inning when it tightened up, then met the media with a big wrap on it.
Chavez said it looked worse than it was. He said X-rays were negative, that it was just a bruise. He wasn’t sure if he would be available off the bench today. But he isn’t scheduled to start at third these next two games with lefties pitching.
“If there’s a good time to get hit, it was a good time,” Chavez said.
Today’s pitching matchup will feature CC Sabathia and Jon Lester.
Yankees postgame: Martin makes the play; Kuroda improving; Chavez delivers; Nunez brings smiles • 05.01.12
Russell Martin showed off his athleticism again in this 2-1 win over Orioles. He sprung after a Hiroki Kuroda splitter that bounced away with two outs in the seventh. Nick Markakis raced in from third, trying to score the tying run. But Martin flipped to Kuroda and Kuroda tagged out the diving Markakis.
“I didn’t really have time to set myself up to throw overhand,” Martin said. “I kind of just optioned it to him. I never was a quarterback, so that was a first for me.”
Kuroda left after seven, allowing one run and four hits. He has allowed just three earned runs and nine hits in 13 2/3 over his last two starts after struggling in two of his first three starts as an American League.
“It seems like he’s making the adjustment,” Martin said.
“He’s a consistent pitcher and that’s what he’s starting to show,” Girardi said.
Eric Chavez’s lefty bat has gotten more use since Brett Gardner went on the DL. Chavez hit his third homer, a two-run shot. He has just 28 at-bats. He hit only two homers in 160 at-bats last season.
“I kind of do feel like you’re in a good little groove,” Chavez said. “But once he comes back, I know what my role is.”
Eduardo Nunez brought smiles to the Yankees’ faces with a couple of awkward-looking catches in his first career start in left. But he had five chances to catch balls and he made every play.
“He talks funny; he runs funny; he swings funny; he catches the ball funny,” Andruw Jones said. “Everything he does is funny.”
Girardi said: “He was tested with some tough plays and did an outstanding job.”
Mariano Rivera earned his fifth save and moved into sole possession of eighth place on the career appearance list at 1,051.
Derek Jeter finished April with a career-high 37 hits, the top total by a Yankee through April 30 since Alfonso Soriano had 46 in 2003
Curtis Granderson has reached via hit or walk in 21 straight games, the longest active streak in the league.
The Yankees are 17-5 vs. the Orioles since the start of 2011 and 30-10 since the beginning of 2010. They are 4-0 against the Orioles this season.
Tuesday night’s pitching matchup will feature Phil Hughes vs. Brian Matusz.
The day after the Yankees set their Opening Day roster, most of the questions seemed to center on guys who aren’t on the list. What’s next for Andy Pettitte? Is there a rehab plan for Michael Pineda? And, once again, why is Francisco Cervelli not on this team?
“I think he’s one of the best 60 catchers in the game, without a doubt,” Brian Cashman said. “I just think that right now, we have maybe three of the best 60 catchers in the game. That’s good for us, but obviously that’s not good for him because one of them is out of options and he’s not that guy.”
Chris Stewart took an overnight flight from California and joined the team this morning. He’s actually somewhat familiar with some of the pitching staff, having previously caught Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. As for Cervelli, he’s been shipped to Lehigh Valley for the Triple-A team’s opening series against the IronPigs.
He’s no longer the Yankees backup, but he’s still second in line for the starting job. Joe Girardi said today that Cervelli would become the starter if Russell Martin got hurt. He’s in Triple-A strictly because that’s the only way the Yankees could make it work while increasing their catching depth with Stewart.
“I think (Cervelli) would play the majority of the games is Russell got hurt,” Girardi said.
Essentially, the Yankees backup plan went from Cervelli/Craig Tatum to Cervelli/Stewart. They see that as an upgrade worth losing a pretty good young relief pitcher. Who they’re carrying as a backup on Opening Day isn’t a huge issue — it is for Cervelli, obviously, but the Yankees seem happy with either option — so this is really about a Plan B should Martin get hurt.
“If we had a problem and all of a sudden we’re vulnerable, and I went out of my way to look for someone to fix it, it’s going to cost,” Cashman said. “At that position it’s going to cost. Now, I don’t feel as vulnerable.”
• Michael Pineda made 25 throws today and experience no problems, but the Yankees are still uncertain about what comes next for him. “What he had was mild, at least by the MRI,” Cashman said. “It was hopefully nothing but a bump in the road. At the same time, you’ve got to wait until he’s back doing what he’s supposed to be doing, so I give that with a little bit of a caveat.”
• Andy Pettitte is not with the team. He’s back in Tampa preparing for his first minor league start, which will probably come on Monday. “I would anticipate that he’ll be on a regular schedule now,” Joe Girardi said. “Throw a side in couple of days, make a start and just continue to build up.”
• It’s too early to know which of Pettitte and Pineda will be ready first. “I can’t really tell you on that until Pineda starts throwing,” Girardi said. “We have to talk about when we think he’s going to pick up a baseball and start playing catch, when do we feel he’ll be on a mound, when do we feel he’s going to be in a game? We haven’t gotten to that, yet. He’s built up, though. That’s the difference. Depending on how long he sits out, we’ll have a difference of when he could be back.”
• Girardi’s made it clear that he plans to play Eduardo Nunez against left-handers, using that as an opportunity to DH either Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter. That likely means Brett Gardner will get a lot of days off against lefties while Andruw Jones plays left field. As for Nunez, the Yankees seem to really believe he’ll be productive this season, and they’re planning to start him Saturday against David Price. “I’m not waiting a month this year (to put him in the lineup),” Girardi said.
• Girardi on David Phelps making the team: “I think it’s important that he really soaks in tomorrow. I tell the players, ‘Just take a second and realize where you’re at, what you’ve worked so hard for your whole life and dreamt about.’ It’s a pretty neat feeling the first time your name is called and you go out there.”
• CC Sabathia had a slight head cold for his final spring start in Miami, but he said that’s gone. “I feel fine now,” he said. “That’s still no excuse for why I didn’t pitch good (last time). It’s just one of those nights.”
• Sabathia was occasionally disappointed by his fastball command this spring. “It was pretty good in my bullpen (after the last start),” he said. “I was excited about that. I throw everything off my fastball — my changeup, my cutter, everything. I need to have that to be able to pitch well.”
• Cashman on Alfredo Aceves being named the Red Sox closer: “When he’s healthy he’s not afraid of anything and he’s capable of everything.”
• Random clubhouse note: Eric Chavez has moved into the locker that Jorge Posada was always assigned here at the Trop. Chavez is now in the row of veterans that includes Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones and Mark Teixeira.
Associated Press photo
It was the first four innings that Hiroki Kuroda held the Braves scoreless. It was in his last three innings that he gave up a couple of runs. In spring training, though, results are only part of the story, and Kuroda was much happier with the way he finished today’s next-to-last spring start.
“In the beginning I didn’t feel right, but I was able to make adjustments,” he said. “… Every game that I start I have to make some kind of adjustment, and I was able to do that the last few games that I pitched in spring training. I think I’m ready for that. I just hope I don’t get hurt.”
As long as he remains injury free, the Yankees seem happy with their offseason free agent signing. Pitching outside of the National League West for the first time, Kuroda has been exactly what the Yankees were expecting. He doesn’t overwhelm hitters, but he mixes pitches and throws strikes. Today he struck out six and walked none.
“I was pleased with what I saw, really pleased,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s the guy that I thought we were getting.”
The Yankees have planned all year to slot Kuroda into the No. 2 spot in the rotation, and that’s exactly where Kuroda will open the season, as the game-two starter against Tampa Bay. That leaves him lined up to start next month’s home opener.
“I try not to think that far ahead,” Kuroda said. “I’m just focused on this next start that I have to do.”
• More good news on Nick Swisher who managed to get 10 at-bats at the minor league complex today. He’ll go back to the complex tomorrow, and Girardi said he might play the outfield depending on how he feels. Girardi doesn’t expect him to take so many at-bats this time.
• In case you missed it, the Yankees announced today that they’ve claimed catcher Craig Tatum off waivers from the Diamondbacks. The signing seems to make sense given the Austin Romine setback, but a Yankees source also confirmed that Tatum is out of options, meaning he can’t be sent to the minor leagues. Hard to imagine him getting the backup catcher job ahead of Francisco Cervelli. Kind of a head scratcher.
• Speaking of minor moves, Sweeny Murti reported this afternoon that the Yankees have signed Jack Cust to a minor league deal. That would seem to be clear insurance just in case Raul Ibanez can’t shake off his rocky spring. Cust is also a left-handed hitting designated hitter.
• Speaking of Ibanez, he went 1-for-3 today and very nearly had his second spring home run. He was robbed by Jason Heyward’s leaping catch over the wall in right field.
• Speaking of struggles, Cory Wade gave up another run this afternoon. The big hit was a double by Eric Hinske, and Girardi said he felt that was the only truly bad pitch Wade threw (he left it up). Wade has a 7.27 ERA this spring and hasn’t looked sharp, but Girardi made it clear that he’s planning to have Wade in his Opening Day bullpen.
• One more Wade note: Just a few days ago he threw a three-inning simulated game. The Yankees want him to be a little bit stretched out so that he could give multiple innings if necessary. The loser of the rotation competition will likely be the regular long reliever. “You’d like to have two guys down there that could really give you some multiple innings,” Girardi said.
• The Yankees settle for a 5-5 tie after George Kontos gave up a two-run homer in the ninth inning. Kontos stayed in to pitch a scoreless 10th. … Eric Chavez went 3-for-4 including a double and an RBI single. He brought his average up to .235. … Eduardo Nunez’s strong spring continued with two more hits for a .393 average. … Justin Maxwell took an 0-for-2.
Associated Press photo
Monday notes: A strong first impression • 03.05.12
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