In the very back of the Yankees’ clubhouse, along the wall that separates the showers from the batting cage door, John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine have sat side-by-side all spring knowing eventually there will be room for only one of them. And now that the Yankees are about to break camp, that time is fast approaching.
With a minor trade and wave of roster cuts, the Yankees have settled just about every aspect of their roster except the backup catcher. Barring a trade or a late waiver claim, the team is set except for that inevitable choice between Romine and Murphy, two guys in their 20s, developed by the organization, and finally given a real chance to make the team out of camp.
“We kind of talk about it,” Murphy said. “It’s no secret. We know what’s going on, and we’re both trying to play our best, and we’re both trying to make the team. Inevitably, one of us is going to and one of us isn’t.”
With Opening Day a little more than 72 hours away, the Yankees have made every other in-camp decision. They’ve set their rotation, picked their relievers, and found a new utility infielder. They could still make a trade or put in a late waiver claim — and this time of year usually sparks a flurry of minor activity — but barring an addition, all that’s left is that inevitable decision between Murphy and Romine.
Joe Girardi said the Yankees might not make that decision until Saturday night, and he’s dreading it. Girardi likes working with catchers, and he’s known these particular catchers for a long time. He doesn’t want to tell either one he hasn’t made the team.
“There’s a mutual respect there,” Romine said. “I like looking across the pitch and seeing a guy who’s busting his butt as hard as I am. I don’t want to say it’s a good thing – he is competition – but at the same time, it’s nice to know someone else is busting their butt; the guy you’re going up against. … However it turns out, I wish him nothing but the best, I’m sure he feels the same upon me. We’re just here trying to play.”
General manager Brian Cashman today wouldn’t comment on any trade talk regarding Romine, who’s out of options and has not hit as well as Murphy this spring. In the past, Cashman has said that the fact Romine’s out of options could factor into the final decision, suggesting the Yankees could elect to carry Romine strictly because they have the option of sending Murphy to Triple-A, but that remains to be seen.
Here’s Cashman explaining some of the other decisions made in the past 24 hours or so:
Gregorio Petit set as utility infielder
This seemed obvious from the moment the Yankees traded for Petit last night. He’s a right-handed hitter, he has big league experience, he hit pretty well this spring — and last season — and he can play all over the infield. Petit was acquired to replace Brendan Ryan on the roster.
“We brought him in here with that in mind,” Cashman said. “He’s right-handed versus, for instance, (Nick) Noonan. We didn’t want (Rob) Refsnyder to sit the bench.”
Ultimately, the in-house candidate who best fit as a Ryan replacement is Jose Pirela, but at this point there’s a solid chance he’ll open the season on the disabled list because of that concussion suffered almost two weeks ago. Without Pirela, it was Refsnyder who seemed to have the best shot, but the Yankees didn’t like the idea of him playing a part-time, platoon role at this stage of his career. They’d rather send Refsnyder to Triple-A to get the defensive reps he needs. Refsnyder’s hit a ton this spring, but he’s also made a team-high six errors.
“I think he had a tremendous camp,” Cashman said. “But at the same time — we were talking to him earlier today — (he has) maybe 240 games at second so far. He just needs to finish off some more defense. If we needed to use him, we’d be comfortable enough, but at the same time, you guys saw in camp he’s got some work to do on the defensive side. We want him to be finished off and ready to go whenever we need him. But at some point, if injuries hit and we have to have him in that role or situation, I’m not saying you won’t see that down the line. But we’d prefer not to do that right now.”
Esmil Rogers set as only long reliever
Yesterday, Joe Girardi really seemed to hint that the Yankees were going to carry a second long reliever. He acknowledged that the team has some workload concerns in the rotation, and said that rainy weather in early April could make it important to carry another multi-inning pitcher in the bullpen. This morning, though, the Yankees made the opposite decision in optioning Chase Whitley to Triple-A.
“We’re going with one long man and that’s Rogers,” Cashman said. “So that was really, basically, it came down to that. (Whitley) will get stretched out and start in Scranton for us and be one of the names vying for an opportunity when and if something presents itself.”
Whitley pitched extremely well this spring, but the Yankees seem to be prioritizing rotation depth ahead of bullpen innings. A bunch of off days early in the season seem to make that a little easier. The idea of using a sixth starter at some point also suggests Whitley could have another opportunity before the end of April.
“It just makes the most sense to get him down there and continue to get stretched out and be ready when and if we need him at some point,” Cashman said. “Obviously he has to pitch well to put himself in that position still, so the competition continues. We have a lot of flexibility with the bullpen, a lot of these guys have options, so it’s going to be something that we can recycle during the season which gives us a lot more flexibility. Chase did everything he needed to. Those are not easy conversations. He’s a Major League pitcher right now on his way to Scranton.”
Chasen Shreve and Chris Martin set in the pen (for now)
The Yankees have decided to keep Andrew Bailey in Tampa, assigned to the Class-A roster, out of spring training. Bailey will stay down here where it’s warm to go through those final steps back from shoulder surgery. He’s pitched well this spring, but he hasn’t pitched much, and he hasn’t gone back to back. He’ll change that in Tampa, which could make him a big league option fairly soon. Bailey said he’s totally on board with the plan.
“Man, he looks good,” Cashman said. “He really does. I love the fact that he also knows his body too, and he agrees that the prudent thing is to finish it off properly to make sure that he responds well, that he’s recovering great from everything and improving on that and feeling better and better. So he’s all in, and he agrees that staying here (is best). We’ll have (Greg) Pavlick watching him every game and working through the back to back situation. If he stays like this and he gets through all that, he can help us.”
With Whitley and Bailey gone, the Yankees have essentially chosen Chasen Shreve and Chris Martin to fill the final two spots in the bullpen. With Martin, in particular, Cashman said the Yankees couldn’t ignore the fact he has 16 strikeouts and only one walk. They also like that he gets ground balls. Shreve has 12 strikeouts with three walks and also gets more ground ball outs than fly outs.
“We always have flexibility if we so choose,” Cashman said. “But obviously these (moves) were all designed where Shreve and Martin would be in the bullpen for the start of the season. But it’s only Thursday, and the season doesn’t start until Monday, and I’m open-minded about things that might present themselves over time. And we can adjust. As of right now, we know those guys are in good position.”
Associated Press photos
Think back to the beginning of March.
Despite a lot of offseason talk about Rob Refsnyder getting a real opportunity this spring, he was getting no significant time with the big league regulars, and it seemed clear the Yankees weren’t considering him an go-to option for the major-league roster. As recently as today’s fifth inning, Refsnyder still seemed to have no realistic chance of opening in the big leagues.
By the end of the sixth inning, he was perhaps a favorite break camp with the team.
Utility infielder Brendan Ryan strained his right calf muscle during an awkward play in the sixth inning, leaving the Yankees searching for a last-minute replacement only five days before Opening Day. One week removed from his 24th birthday, Refsnyder has been one of the Yankees’ best hitters this spring, and just enough dominoes might have fallen to land him a spot in New York.
“The young man, I think, has continually improved,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s a name that I’m sure is going to fly around a lot today.”
It was less than two weeks ago that Ryan returned from a back injury, and the Yankees made it clear they fully expected him to be on their roster despite the shortened spring training. The Yankees liked his defense, liked the fact he hits right-handed, and liked the fact he could play both shortstop and second base. He was going to make the team.
If not Ryan, the best alternative would have been Jose Pirela, another right-handed utility man who had the highest batting average in camp before suffering a concussion last Sunday. Now Pirela’s gone more than a week without baseball activities and Girardi called him a “long shot” to be ready for Opening Day.
That means the only Refsnyder alternative in big league camp is Nick Noonan, who has some big league time but also hits left-handed, making him a less-than-ideal backup to lefties Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew. Even if the Yankees were to bring someone up from minor league camp, Cole Figueroa — the other Triple-A middle infielder — also hits lefty.
“Things can happen quick,” Girardi said. “I think a lot of clubs hold their breath this time of year that you leave camp the way you are. Sometimes it doesn’t happen and you’ve got to deal with it. … Didi and Drew are healthy, so we’re going to have to look at probably more of a second baseman in a sense. You could look at a second baseman more than a shortstop because you have two shortstops.”
Assuming Drew can slide back to shortstop without any problem — he has yet to take a single ground ball there this spring — the Yankees don’t need someone who has Ryan’s versatility. Instead, hitting from Ryan’s side of the plate might be more important. Refsnyder has impressed with a .333/.447/.538 slash line and the most doubles in camp, but he’s also shown room to grow with his team-high six errors. That’s twice as many as anyone else in camp.
“I think that my game reps haven’t reflected how well I’ve fielded in practice,” Refsnyder said. “Some of the errors I’ve made have been tempo plays, getting into the rhythm of the game again. … I wish I could have played better on all sides of the ball. But I’m happy with where my work is right now. Hopefully it translates in the game a little bit more, in the season, to be honest.”
It’s a curious situation. Refsnyder fits the profile of what the Yankees want and need, but they clearly want him to improve defensively, and it’s worth wondering whether they would be OK with one of their top prospects getting sporadic playing time off the big league bench. Carrying Refsnyder is certainly not what the Yankees had in mind, but it might be what they decide to do.
“Shoot, coming into camp, I was 23,” Refsnyder said. “I’m 24 now, and I’m playing with some of the best players in the entire world. Some of the best guys. It’s definitely not discouraging. Every day you can learn and get better from all these guys. They’ve been awesome to younger guys like myself who started this camp. I’ve learned a lot. Some things I can really continue on for the rest of my career hopefully. This has been a great opportunity for me.”
• Really strong outing by Chase Whitley today. He allowed a run on three hits in the second innings, but that was the extent of the damage. He finished with four innings, one run, no walks and six strikeouts. That might have locked up a spot in the Yankees bullpen. “I wanted to have a good spring and I was able to accomplish that,” Whitley said. “The results matched up today with how I felt, so that was pretty good.”
• If the Yankees carry Whitley, it would be as a second long man. Girardi said today that he considers Esmil Rogers locked into a roster spot. Rogers pitched 1.1 innings with an unearned run today. He struck out three and walked one.
• Another bullpen candidate, Chasen Shreve, allowed one hit and one unearned run in two-thirds of an inning. He struck out one. Most damaging to his case might be the fact he allowed a hard double to left-handed hitter James Loney. Presumably, Shreve would have to handle lefties to play much of a role in New York.
• Andrew Bailey delivered another scoreless inning with one hit and one walk. He has yet to allow an earned run this spring, but he’s also thrown just five innings.
• Why Adam Warren as fifth starter? “Consistency,” Girardi said. “Four-pitch mix. He throws strikes. His ability to get lefthanders and righthanders out, holds runners, does the little things, fields his position. He just does a lot of things right.”
• Gregorius is definitely playing tomorrow. “Unless something happens overnight,” Girardi said. “He felt good in BP. He’s scheduled and circled in on the trip. He’s going.” Gregorius said he’s perfectly unconcerned about the wrist after taking BP and going through fielding drills today. He’s fine.
• Alex Rodriguez is playing first base again tomorrow. He’ll play in the home game.
• Both Jacoby Ellsbury and Mark Teixeira came through today’s game with no problems.
• Here’s Girardi on Refsnyder’s defense: “It’s a guy that was a right fielder. I think it’s improved over the spring. I’ve seen him on the back field every day and it’s improved. I think he’ll continue to get better. There’s no shortage of work ethic in this young man. He’s young. That’s the bottom line, he’s young. But depending on what we do, do I think we have a number of candidates that can handle it? Yes, I do. It’s just picking which one we think is the right one.”
• Would Pirela have been the favorite had he stayed healthy? “Yeah, I think he would’ve had a good shot at it,” Girardi said. Amazing how that weird decision to play Pirela in center field in Port St. Lucie — under what circumstances would Pirela play center this season? — might have impacted things.
• No surprise, but Girardi said he plans to stay on rotation at least through the early part of the season. Even after off days, the Yankees won’t skip Warren or any other starter. They’ll use off days for extra rest and occasionally insert sixth starters for even more rest when necessary.
• Chris Capuano is playing catch — not in a chair, standing up — but there’s still no time table for his return. “That’s hard to say,” Girardi said. “Obviously he’s playing catch, but it’s not the freedom you would have if you didn’t have a leg injury.”
• Final word goes to Girardi: “Those guys (Gregorius, Ellsbury, Teixeira), in my mind, I was pretty convinced we’d have them back. Now, it’s different now with Brendan. I think it’s a long shot. What happens, your depth is tested. We’ve got to talk about it. You understand going in that these things can happen and you’ve got to deal with it. I think that’s why they try to go out and acquire as many good players as they can.”
Associated Press photos
Right before today’s game, general manager Brian Cashman discussed some of the decisions the Yankees have to make in the next week and a half:
Choosing a fifth starter
The Yankees came into camp with Chris Capuano as a rotation favorite, but his injury has opened the door to a true competition. While Chase Whitley, Bryan Mitchell and Scott Baker are a part of that conversation, the decision really seems to have come down to Esmil Rogers and Adam Warren. And right now, Warren is the front runner.
“I think there’s a predictable favorite,” Cashman said. “I guess that’s as far as I can go on that one. Right now, if we had to make a decision today, I think we all know what that decision would be. There’s a Secretariat right now in this race for me that’s got a number of lengths ahead of the field.”
Although he initially seemed hesitant to name a name, Cashman later acknowledged “it would obviously have to be Warren” who’s leading the race. That can change quickly, Cashman said, but it certainly seems that a solid start tomorrow would lock Warren into a rotation job.
Picking a backup catcher
John Ryan Murphy was behind the plate today. Austin Romine will be behind the plate tomorrow. Neither is having a particularly good spring, and the Yankees seem to be giving each one an equal opportunity.
“Don’t have a read yet,” Cashman said. “It’ll take more time.”
For now, the Yankees have sent Gary Sanchez to Double-A. If it stays that way, the Yankees will have a Triple-A spot open just in case. Murphy still has an option remaining. Romine does not.
“It’ll factor in,” Cashman said.
Rounding out the bullpen
The Yankees seem to have 10 pitchers set. They know their top four starters, they know four relievers, and they have two guys — Warren and Rogers — who will almost certainly have jobs in one role or another. That leaves two openings in the bullpen, and there are still plenty of options in camp: there are still 23 pitchers on the spring training roster.
Cashman made clear that this isn’t necessary a permanent decision. The Yankees are quite deep with hard-throwing right-handers, multiple lefties, and a handful of long-relief options.
“The clock is ticking,” Cashman said. “I don’t think it’s a lot of work, (but) I think we have to pick people, and whoever we pick at the end of this, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be guys throughout the process. We’ve had a number of guys that I think are quality and I think are Major League caliber, some of which have gone down with injuries. We’ll obviously finalize it here at some point, but that doesn’t mean we’re married to anybody as we move it through April, May and June.”
Naming a closer
With both Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller appearing to be obvious candidates for the job, Joe Girardi has said he might not name a full-time closer this spring. The managers seems to believe he has more than one guy who can handle the ninth inning, and he’s willing to use them as the situation dictates.
Cashman seems fine with that approach. Basically, it doesn’t seem to be a problem, so there doesn’t seem to be a rush to solve it.
“I haven’t focused on it,” Cashman said. “I just want as many quality arms and choices for our manager as we can possibly have, and go from there. Again, we don’t have to name anything right now, or today, so I’ve got other issues I’m thinking about. It’s not one I’m thinking about right now or my manager’s thinking about right now. Backup catcher and the remaining spots in the pen.”
How to use Alex Rodriguez
Cashman said time and time again — from the early offseason to the start of spring training — that he had no idea what to expect from a 39-year-old coming back from a year-long suspension. Cashman expected A-Rod to be on the team, just didn’t know what exactly he’d be able to do.
Now the Yankees have actually seen Rodriguez perform, and while the results might not have been overwhelming, they’ve been encouraging. They’ve been enough for the Yankees to imagine having Rodriguez in their everyday lineup.
“I think he’s certainly taken a run at the full-time DH situation, for me,” Cashman said. “We’ll talk about all these things, but the way he’s looked so far down here, I would say he’s definitely pushing himself in the mix for full-time DH consideration. … I’m not looking at performance and statistics as much as just how he’s been swinging the bat. He’s got a lot of life in his body. If he continues to show athleticism, that means he’s going to impact the baseball. That will be good for us.”
Associated Press photo
Postgame notes: “Not great” • 03.24.15
Asked what he thought of tonight’s outing, Esmil Rogers gave a brief but accurate assessment.
“Not great,” he said.
Just hours after manager Joe Girardi acknowledged that this was a “pretty big start” for the fifth-starter candidate, Rogers had his worst outing of the spring. His first inning was sloppy with three hits, but Rogers limited the damage to one run. His second inning was the real mess with a couple of walks, one hard-hit double, four runs and an error on Rogers himself. His third inning was clean, but at that point, the damage was done: Three innings, five hits, five runs, one earned (unearned runs were because of his own mistake), two walks and two strikeouts.
If the Yankees really are going to address their rotation first and then see how the remaining pieces fall into the bullpen, then it’s hard to see Rogers as a rotation front runner right now. He was having a strong spring before his past two starts, but those past two starts have been pretty bad, and they happened to be the starts when Girardi said results would really matter.
“The stuff is better than the way he’s pitched these last two outings,” Girardi said.
Later, Girardi added this: “You have to look at how the guys are doing. You’re there to compete, they understand that, and you’ve got to be able to make pitches.”
Earlier this spring, Rogers talked about the advice he got from Mariano Rivera about attacking hitters and staying aggressive. Today, he said his problem was that he couldn’t do that. He couldn’t attack because he couldn’t locate.
“I missed the glove today,” he said. “My ball was running a little bit from the lefties, and that’s why I tried to throw fastballs away, the ball cut into the middle. … All I can do is go work. Tomorrow, come in with my head up and keep working. That decision, they’re going to make it. I don’t have to.”
Adam Warren’s next start is Thursday. We could have a fifth-start declared by Friday.
“It’s something that we have to talk about, and I’m sure over the next week or so we’ll talk a lot about what we’re going to do here,” Girardi said. “I think you have to make a decision by the end of the week so the guy that’s not a starter can get to the pen and get some reps.”
• The Yankees won this game 9-8 on a three-run, walk-off homer by Ramon Flores. “He’s a guy that’s definitely on our radar,” Girardi said. “If something was to happen to one of our outfielders, I think he’d be a pretty strong candidate.”
• The YES radar gun had Dellin Betances at 93-94 mph tonight. His spring numbers aren’t great, and right now his velocity is a little down from last season. “I’ve got to just trust whatever I have right now,” Betances said. “I know that the velocity will come. Same thing last year in spring training; last year I just trusted it and this year I’m trying to do a little extra with whatever I have instead of just trusting it.”
• Girardi said a lot of the same stuff about Betances, mostly that Betances wasn’t reaching the upper 90s last spring either. “There’s not concern for me now,” Girardi said. “If it was to go on for a long time, we would be concerned. He wasn’t throwing 97, 98 in spring training last year at this time. He wasn’t. And power pitchers usually take a little bit longer to get going.”
• It’s worth noting that relievers are held back a little bit early in spring training, and Betances has always said — ever since he successfully transitioned out of the rotation — that it’s the constant work out of the bullpen that’s helped him thrive in that role. Because of that, he’s excited to get back out there tomorrow for his first back-to-back appearance. “I’ve just got to pitch more,” he said. “The more I pitch, the better I’ll feel. That’s always been my thing. Ever since I moved to the bullpen, the more I get to pitch, the better I feel with all my pitches.”
• Other Yankees relievers looked much better. Andrew Miller and Justin Wilson pitched a scoreless inning apiece, each with a strikeout. Nick Rumbelow — who’s put up impressive numbers this spring — also looked sharp before a bad play on what should have been the final out of his inning (ruled a hit, but it was a pretty routine grounder to third). That opened the door and Rumbelow wound up allowing two runs, one earned. Back up from minor league camp, James Pazos had three strikeouts in an inning.
• After his two-homer game yesterday, Chris Young delivered the leadoff double that kick-started a three-run Yankees seventh tonight. The double came off a lefty, which is exactly the kind of thing the Yankees are hoping to get from Young this season.
• Later in the inning, Didi Gregorius doubled off the same lefty. Gregorius has actually been getting quite a few hits off lefties lately. The Yankees would like him to be more than a platoon shortstop. Ideally, he’ll prove capable of playing every day.
• Brett Gardner had no steals this spring. Tonight he had two. He leads the Yankees in both strikeouts and walks.
• Kyle Higashioka just missed a grand slam in the seventh inning. He hit it plenty far enough, just hooked it four. Would have been his first hit of the spring. Instead he walked in a run.
• Nathan Eovaldi on today’s minor league game: “A lot of the time I speed up even more (in a tough spot), as opposed to taking a step off the mound and then regrouping. The first inning, it took me about 10, 11 pitches to finally step back and walk it back in. In the third inning, I got into some more trouble and was able to stand back and regroup right away, and get out of it. That’s a good thing.”
• While Girardi said he wouldn’t comment on the Opening Day starter, he did acknowledge that there’s really no chance CC Sabathia would pitch on short rest for either his last spring start or his first regular-season start. “I wouldn’t think I would do that, no,” Girardi said. That effectively means Sabathia is officially of the running for the opener. Also, Giradri said Sabathia’s start on Saturday might be in a minor league game instead of in that day’s big league game against the Orioles.
• No final word today, instead I’ll just direct you to the Yankees OnDemand remake of an iconic Sandlot scene using various Yankees players. It’s pretty incredible. Betances cracks me up, and Brian McCann plays the role perfectly. One of the highlights of spring, for sure.
Associated Press photos
Spring Game 23: Yankees vs. Tigers • 03.24.15
Brett Gardner CF
Chase Headley 3B
Carlos Beltran RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Alex Rodriguez DH
Stephen Drew 2B
Chris Young LF
Didi Gregorius SS
RHP Esmil Rogers (2-0, 5.72 in 2014)
Anthony Gose CF
Ian Kinsler 2B
Miguel Cabrera DH
J.D. Martinez RF
Yoenis Cespedes LF
Alex Avila C
Nick Castellanos 3B
Andrew Romine 1B
Jose Iglesias SS
RHP Anibal Sanchez (8-5, 2.57 in 2014)
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: Temperatures in the low 80s and upper 70s. Been a nice day down here.
UMPIRES: HP Mark Carlson, 1B Bob Davidson, 2B Eric Cooper, 3B Mark Wegner
TODAY’S SECOND STRING: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Ali Castillo, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ramon Flores, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Aaron Judge, DH Kyle Higashioka
TODAY’S SCHEDULED RELIEVERS: Justin Wilson, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Nick Rumbelow
LAST CHANCE FOR ROGERS: The Yankees are expected to make a fifth-starter decision by the end of the week, which means this should be Esmil Rogers’ last chance to make his case. Last time out, Rogers kind of scuffled while Adam Warren thrived. The Yankees, though, already know they like and trust Warren in the bullpen, which could help keep the door open for Rogers. Opinions seem mixed on whether Rogers or Warren is the favorite at the moment.
UPDATE, 7:12 p.m.: Rogers opens the game with a single, a stolen base, a pop up and another single. Runners at the corners with one out for J.D. Martinez.
UPDATE, 7:16 p.m.: Infield single drives in a run. Only an infield single because Gregorius managed to stop the ball from getting into left field (and he nearly got the out at first). Would have been a clean single through the hole last season. It’s 1-0 Tigers.
UPDATE, 7:23 p.m.: Single and a stolen base for Gardner in the bottom of the first.
UPDATE, 7:25 p.m.: Well, now Gardner’s been thrown out trying to go second to third on a fly ball to center. Strong throw by Gose.
UPDATE, 7:27 p.m.: Back to back doubles by Beltran and Teixeira have tied the game at one.
UPDATE, 7:37 p.m.: Rogers just tried to rush a play on a high chopper. Wound up dropping the ball. That came immediately after a walk to utility infielder Andrew Romine. Now there are two on with one out and the top of the order coming up.
UPDATE, 7:41 p.m.: Two-run single up the middle for Ian Kinsler. It’s now 3-1 Tigers. Rogers not looking great in his final two starts before the big fifth starter decision.
UPDATE, 7:45 p.m.: Second walk in the inning for Rogers. Started this inning with a strikeout. Since then: Walk, error, deep fly ball, single, walk.
UPDATE, 7:47 p.m.: Now Rogers has bounced a fastball — it was ruled a passed ball, but it was definitely a wild pitch — and allowed a long, two-run double. It’s a 5-1 Tigers lead heading into the bottom of the second.
UPDATE, 8:09 p.m.: There’s a strong inning for Rogers. He gets through the third inning in order.
UPDATE, 8:13 p.m.: Walk and another stolen base for Gardner. Yankees turn that into a run with a Beltran sac fly and it’s now 5-2.
UPDATE, 8:42 p.m.: Betances gives up a run on a walk and a single in the fifth. Chase Headley helped him out with a really nice charging play on a ground ball that moved the lead runner from first to second. The YES gun had Betances around 93-94 mph.
UPDATE, 8:59 p.m.: And the crowd goes wild as Teixeira slaps a ground ball single through the left side of the shifted infield.
We all know Adam Warren’s background, and so it’s easy to understand why he’s in the mix to be the Yankees’ fifth starter. Warren came up through the organization, made his big league debut as a spot starter, and he moved into the bullpen only because that’s where a door first opened. The Yankees never really stopped seeing him as a potential starter down the road.
Esmil Rogers, though, is less familiar, and his place in this competition is a bit more mysterious. Rogers made 20 starts with the Blue Jays back in 2013, but most of his big league time has been as a reliever, including his two months with the Yankees last season. It’s hard to see a career 5.54 ERA and think he’s really the best option to start games at Yankee Stadium next month.
“Well, he’s got a good arm,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s got four pitches that he can go to, so he’s got a couple of different breaking balls and a changeup, so it allows him to get right handers and left handers out. Larry (Rothschild)’s tried to make subtle changes to come of his mechanics to give him more consistency. It’s there, it just comes down to consistently making pitches. This was a position player who made a change, so sometimes those guys bloom a little later.”
Since he became a pitcher, Rogers has worked as a starter throughout the minor leagues, and he’s been a starter in the Dominican Winter League, where he helped pitch his team into the championship round this offseason. Does raw talent and experience out of the big leagues make him a great rotation option? Probably not, which is why he’s having to earn it this spring.
And on the first day that Girardi said he was really evaluating results, Rogers was knocked around for the first time this spring. He allowed three runs on five hits and a walk through 3.1 innings. He struck out three and said he was specifically working on his curveball, which didn’t do him many favors. Girardi labeled the outing as “OK” and pointed out that Rogers at least limited the damage in individual innings.
“I know I (allowed) a couple of base hits; I got a homer,” Rogers said. “I just try to pound the zone. That’s one of the keys I got in this spring training. Today I came in a couple of times behind in the count, and I’ve got to pay for that.”
Tomorrow, Warren gets his turn to make an impression. In a few days, it will be Bryan Mitchell again. Chase Whitley and Scott Baker are also vaguely in the mix. Is Rogers really going to be the guy who wins this job?
“If they’re going to give me that spot, it’s not because I need it,” Rogers said. “It’s because I (earned) it.”
• The Yankees had just four hits today, but all four came from big leaguers, including Chase Headley’s second home run of the spring. Stephen Drew also had an RBI double and Didi Gregorius had another hit, pushing his average up to .280. Carlos Beltran, another guy who’s struggled so far this spring, had the other Yankees hit. “It’s timing,” Girardi said. “Getting at-bats under your belt. I think you’re seeing our regular guys hit the ball harder more consistently now; better at-bats. One thing you kind of worry about is if they peak too early, they get a little bit bored, so you want them to continue to strive to get to where they need to be Opening Day.”
• Alex Rodriguez went hitless, but he did have one sharp line drive that was caught. “His at-bats have been pretty decent,” Girardi said. “But when we start getting down to the last 10 days or so is really when you start to pay attention and you want to see guys get to where they need to be.”
• Plan is for Rodriguez to DH again tomorrow.
• Brendan Ryan is still on schedule to make tomorrow’s road trip to Lakeland. He’s scheduled to start at shortstop in his first game of the spring.
• Nothing new on Jacoby Ellsbury. “I don’t think we need to rush him,” Girardi said. “I’m not concerned about him being ready for Opening Day now. If we got to the off day (on March 30) and the day after, and he couldn’t play, I’d be concerned.”
• Who had the best night of all the Yankees? Might have been Tyler Webb, who’s already been reassigned to minor league camp, but today he delivered 1.2 perfect innings with two strikeouts. “We like him,” Girardi said. “He’s a guy who was on our radar last year. He’s a young kid, we understand hasn’t had a ton of experience, but we have a number of left handers who we believe will pitch in the big leagues, who may not necessarily be there when we leave here, but they can help us. He’s one of them.”
• One of those left handers is surely Chasen Shreve, the new lefty acquired from Atlanta. Shreve has looked sharp all spring, but he was knocked around a little bit tonight, allowing three runs — two earned — on three hits through an inning.
• Shreve got little help from Jose Pirela, who dropped a ball while playing center field for the first time this spring. He hasn’t played center very often in his career, and the drop came on a ball Pirela had to try to catch on the run going back toward the wall in right center. Not an easy play, but certainly a play you expect a center fielder to make. Bounced off his glove.
• Right-handed pitcher Moises Cedeno has received a 72-game suspension after testing positive for Clenbuterol, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. He was on the Yankees’ Dominican Summer League roster.
• We’ll give the final word to Rogers: “All of my career I’m a starter, so I feel comfortable for a start. I just want to be here to be part of the team. It doesn’t matter what I’m going to be, if I’m going to be in the bullpen or a starter. If I have to fight for that spot, I’m going to.”
Associated Press photos
Spring Game 18: Yankees vs. Phillies • 03.19.15
Didi Gregorius SS
Stephen Drew 2B
Carlos Beltran RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Chase Headley 3B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Austin Romine C
Ramon Flores LF
Slade Heathcott CF
RHP Esmil Rogers (2-0, 5.72 in 2014)
Ben Revere CF
Freddy Galvis SS
Chase Utley DH
Ryan Howard 1B
Carlos Ruiz C
Domonic Brown RF
Cody Asche 3B
Grady Sizemore LF
Cesar Hernandez 2B
RHP Aaron Harang (12-12, 3.57 in 2014)
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network, ESPN and WFAN
WEATHER: Cloudy but without much chance of rain causing a real problem.
UMPIRES: HP James Hoye, 1B Mark Wegner, 2B Marty Foster, 3B D.J. Reyburn
TODAY’S SECOND STRING: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Jonathan Galvez, CF Jose Pirela, RF Tyler Austin
TODAY’S SCHEDULED RELIEVERS: David Carpenter, Chasen Shreve
COMPETITION BEGINS: Joe Girardi has said the fifth-starter competition begins in earnest tonight. Esmil Rogers gets the first turn, then Adam Warren has a start tomorrow (with Chase Whitley pitched out of the bullpen). Bryan Mitchell is scheduled for at least one more start later in the spring.
FOR THE PHILLIES: Among the relievers scheduled to pitch for Philadelphia tonight: former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.
UPDATE, 7:17 p.m.: Esmil Rogers cruised through his first two hitters, but Chase Ultey and Ryan Howard just had back-to-back two-out hits to give the Phillies an early 1-0 lead. Now Rogers has walked Carlos Ruiz. YES gun has him at 94-95 mph with the fastball, but that gun has been fast most of the spring.
UPDATE, 7:28 p.m.: Leadoff hitter in the second inning, Rogers got in a 1-1 count against Cody Asche and gave up home run to right. It’s now 2-0 Phillies.
UPDATE, 7:36 p.m.: There’s a home run for Headley. He’s having a strong start this spring.
UPDATE, 7:37 p.m.: Sharp contact for A-Rod, but it’s a line drive out.
UPDATE, 7:59 p.m.: Rogers allowed another run in the top of the third, but now the Yankees are within a run after an RBI double by Stephen Drew.
Last night, CC Sabathia said he was surprisingly nervous to pitch in his first real game in 10 months. If that was the case, imagine how Andrew Bailey feels about pitching in his first game since July 12, 2013.
“I’m anxious,” Bailey said. “I’m ready to get out there. You just have to trust the work we’ve put in the past year and a half, almost two, and trust that it will be there. We’ve put all the right pieces together, and this is the next step.”
Tonight will be Bailey’s spring debut with the Yankees. He spent all of last year rehabbing after shoulder surgery, and he signed back on a fresh minor league contract to get a fresh look and a new opportunity. Bailey said he still believes he could have enough time to make the Opening Day roster. Joe Girardi said it’s possible, but he seemed to be setting lower expectations.
“Obviously he has a great chance of making an impression,” Girardi said. “Our big thing with him is getting him through these first (outings), and then when does he feel that he’s able to go back-to-back? That’s the big thing because as a bullpen guy you have to be able to do that unless you’re a long guy. … I think, from what we’ve seen so far, I definitely think it’s a possibility he could be a player in our bullpen (at some point). You’re talking about experience, a guy that’s pitched at a high level, that’s pitched in big markets, knows how to close. He could be another nice arm in our bullpen.”
Bailey was an all-star closer his first two big league seasons with Oakland, but he hasn’t thrown as many as 30 innings in a season since 2011. Now 30 years old, Bailey said his bullpens and simulated outings have been encouraging. He doesn’t know how hard he’s throwing, but he said he’s been noticeably better than he was at this time last year. He said he feels the way he did when he thriving in the majors.
“Going through the process, I never thought I’d actually feel this good again,” he said. “You’re going through that process at that time, and the way the shoulder is, it’s pretty complicated. So you’re like, ‘Oh man, is it ever going to happen?’ The doctor said 18 to 24 months, and we’re at 19, and pretty much right on track. It feels really good, and it’s refreshing to feel this. You’re going through the process throwing on the back fields all last year, you’re questioning, what are you even doing? You put the time in, and you grind through it, and you’re here.”
Does Opening Day feel realistic for Bailey?
“I think everybody’s goal here is to make the team Day 1, and mine obviously still is,” he said. “If I need more time, I totally understand that, or if they feel I need more time, I understand that. But I want to be there Day 1, for sure, just as everyone in this room does. … One of my goals was to pitch in spring training and make the decision hard for them. I think that’s all you can do, in my shoes, just make the decision as hard as I can for them.”
• Brendan Ryan remains on track to also play on Friday. That would be Ryan’s first game of the spring.
• Upcoming rotation:
Thursday: Esmil Rogers
Friday: Adam Warren
Saturday: Michael Pineda
Sunday: CC Sabathia
• Girardi said he thinks the rotation competition truly begins this next turn through, beginning with Rogers’ start tomorrow. Girardi said he plans to give Bryan Mitchell at least one more start, but it sounds like Chase Whitley and Scott Baker are unlikely to start again this spring. I would think those two are stronger bullpen candidates than fifth-starter candidates at this point.
• Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to 45-50 pitches tonight. Girardi said he has no plans of asking Tanaka to throw fewer splits given the elbow issue. “I don’t think you can ask him to stop pitching the way he pitches because I think,” Girardi said. “As a pitcher, you feel like you’re going out there without all your weapons, and that probably is not great for confidence. So I don’t think you can really do that.”
• Jose Pirela gets a start in left field tonight. My own take on his situation: I think Pirela is the odd man out right now, but I think he’s the guy who will make the roster if anyone (aside from a catcher) gets hurt. Infielder, outfielder, doesn’t matter. I think Pirela is the next guy in line, which is why he’s getting some time all over the place. Again, that’s just an opinion, though. “You never know what’s going to happen, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “And he played the outfield last year. There’s a chance that you’ll even see him in center this spring training.”
• Ryan, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez and Austin Romine are all scheduled to stay behind and take batting practice in Tampa today.
• Today’s second string: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Cole Figueroa, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ramon Flores, CF Mason Williams, RF Slade Heathcott
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Jose Ramirez, Andrew Bailey, Jacob Lindgren, Danny Burawa, Nick Rumbelow
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi said the Yankees don’t have a full prognosis for Chris Capuano just yet, but it’s pretty clear he won’t be ready for Opening Day.
“I’d be surprised if he’s not down for a while,” Girardi said.
That leaves the Yankees sorting through a bunch of options for the fifth starter spot. Capuano might not have had the job locked up heading into camp, but he seemed to be a heavy favorite. Now the job is wide-open with a series of relievers, prospects and minor league free agents fighting for the gig.
“We’ll look at everyone, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi asid. “Because we need to fill a spot now.”
Adam Warren has a start coming up on Friday and Esmil Rogers has one on Saturday. Earlier today, Brian Cashman sounded impressed by Rogers, and Girardi seems to feel the same way.
“He’s thrown the ball really well,” Girardi said. “Larry (Rothschild) worked with him long and hard last year during some bullpen sessions about changing a few things. I thought he pitched pretty well for us. He’s started in his career and he’s got a number of pitches he can go to. He’s been really good this spring. He’ll be one of the guys we’re really looking at.”
Here are eight guys who could fill that spot in the rotation (though some of them are candidates only in theory):
1. Adam Warren
In my mind, the current favorite of this group. After a breakout season as a late-inning reliever, Warren was told to prepare as a starter this spring, and he’s been stretched out for a situation just like this one. He started the spring opener, has yet to make a relief appearance, and is currently scheduled to make his third spring start on Friday. He’ll have three starts before anyone else on this list has two.
2. Esmil Rogers
Earlier this spring, Joe Girardi said he thinks of Rogers much the same way he used to think of David Phelps. And really, if Phelps were still here, he’d surely become a quick favorite for this rotation opening. Rogers’ numbers have never quite measured up to his raw stuff, but he pitched well as a starter this winter and the Yankees have him scheduled for a season spring start on Saturday.
3. Chase Whitley
In his very first press conference of the spring, Girardi mentioned Whitley unprompted as a candidate to be either a long reliever or a spot starter. He’s pitched five scoreless innings so far this spring, and while he got himself into significant trouble last time out, he also got out of jams with a series of ground balls. Put himself on the radar with a strong big league debut before fading late last season.
4. Bryan Mitchell
Looked excellent in a split-squad start earlier this spring, then was knocked around for four runs on seven hits through two innings this afternoon. Mitchell has great stuff — fastball gets up to 97, effective curveball, relatively new slider/cutter — but his minor league results have been inconsistent. Seems to have a big enough arm that he could impress and pitch his way into this job.
5. Luis Severino
There is surely a lot of desire to think of Severino as a favorite, I’m just not sure there’s much reason to do so. He’s looked great in his early spring outings, but he still has just six games of experience above Class-A ball. Perhaps he can dazzle the rest of the way and force the Yankees’ hand, but he seems more like a second-half possibility. Strep throat has knocked his spring schedule slightly off track.
6. Scott Baker
Strongest track record of anyone on this list, but it’s also been a long time since his last particularly good big league season. Baker was a mainstay in Minnesota before having extensive Tommy John surgery — had to repair the tendon as well — back in 2012. Had a rough spring debut on Saturday. Had a 1.19 WHIP (with a 5.47 ERA) in 25 appearances for Texas last season.
7. Kyle Davies
Like Baker, Davies is a big league veteran in camp on a minor league deal. Unlike Baker, Davies hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011 and the Yankees have not yet given him a start this spring. Seems far more likely to be a veteran presence in Triple-A, but have to mention him as an experienced candidate who’s played this sort of role before.
8. Jose De Paula
Like Davies in that he’s a candidate in theory only. Unlike Davies, De Paula’s candidacy has nothing to do with big league experience and everything to do with a spot on the 40-man roster. He’s never pitched in the big leagues, but the Yankees gave him a big league contract this winter. He pitched two scoreless inning in his only spring appearance so far, but that was a relief outing.
Associated Press photos
If it hadn’t become obvious already, Joe Girardi left no doubt this morning.
“We signed (Stephen Drew) to be out second baseman,” Girardi said. “We didn’t sign him to struggle. We signed him to play at a very high level, and we expect that he will.”
Once again, the Yankees are putting Drew and Didi Gregorius together in the middle of the infield. Neither has played an inning in the field without the other this spring. Brendan Ryan has yet to go through full drills, yet the Yankees seem to have no interest in giving either Jose Pirela or Rob Refsnyder a chance to become familiar with Gregorius as a double-play partner.
“Our plan is for it to be Stephen,” Girardi said.
That’s the plan despite two curious factors: 1. Drew’s only previous experience at second base came when he was thrust into the position late last year, and 2. He’s coming off a horrible season in which he was one of the game’s worst offensive performers.
“We feel that he’ll get back to the form he was at (in 2013),” Girardi said. “… We think these guys (Drew and Gregorius) are more than capable of carrying the load offensively.”
In 2013, Drew had a .777 OPS as the Red Sox starting shortstop. Last season, only five teams got an OPS that high out of the second base position (only the Mariners and Astros got an OPS over .800 at second base). If he does return to form, Drew could be a high-end hitter for a player at that position. If he doesn’t, he could be a fool-me-twice mistake blocking the advancement of a younger alternative.
For now, though, the Yankees seem confident Drew is more of a potential bargain than a potential bust, and they trust that spring training — with all of those starts alongside Gregorius — will give him enough time to truly learn the defensive side of second base.
“He got enough reps last year, we felt pretty comfortable,” Girardi said. “… I think he’s too accomplished a player (to not adjust to the position).”
• The Yankees are giving Chase Whitley a spring training start today. As the top starters are beginning to fill the spring rotation, it seems this could be Whitley’s only true start in the Grapefruit League. The fact he’s getting a turn is an indication the Yankees haven’t forgotten about how well he pitched when he first got to the big leagues last season. The Yankees see him as a starter or a long reliever going forward. “I think you could put Chase anywhere,” Girardi said.
• One thing to consider as guys like Whitley pitch in games, the Yankees are still considering the idea of a sixth starter from time to time. That could be a long man who steps into the rotation occasionally, or it could be a Triple-A starter who’s called up when necessary. Girardi said the Yankees are considering each option, though as it gets later in the season, it would be harder to ask a big league reliever to make a start. Early in the year, that would be a consideration.
• Worth noting: Girardi said Whitley came into camp having learned a new curveball that he’s using occasionally early in the count. His go-to strikeout pitch is a changeup, and last year he greatly improved a cutter/slider, but the curveball gives him a fourth option just to mix it up a little more.
• Ivan Nova threw another bullpen this morning and he continues to feel “better every day.” He will begin throwing breaking balls in the bullpen next week, but he said he’s already spun a few off flat ground. Said it felt good.
• Esmil Rogers will only pitch an inning or two out of the bullpen today. He’s scheduled to start on Saturday.
• As expected, Luis Severino is not in camp today. He was held out because of strep throat. Should return tomorrow.
• Garrett Jones was scratched from today’s road trip because of illness. The Yankees think he simply has food poisoning, but it could be some flu-like situation. He was in the clubhouse this morning, just didn’t look great.
• Nick Noonan isn’t making today’s trip because of a stiff neck.
• Plan is still for Brendan Ryan to do some light baseball drills tomorrow. He has yet to do much this spring because of a back injury.
• Today’s second string: C Gary Sanchez, 1B Kyle Roller, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Cole Figueroa, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Jake Cave, CF Mason Williams, RF Slade Heathcott
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Esmil Rogers, Chasen Shreve, Jose Ramirez, Jacob Lindgren, Branden Pinder, Nick Goody (with Nick Rumbelow, James Pazos and Danny Burawa making the trip just in case)
Associated Press photos