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
When Mariano Rivera showed up in Yankees camp a few days ago, he spent a lot of time sitting at Esmil Rogers’ locker. It was the kind of conversation that used to happen all the time in the Yankees clubhouse, a young pitcher hanging on every word from the game’s greatest closer. It seemed so natural and typical that the conversation came and went without me thinking about ever again.
But today Rogers threw a lot of strikes, hit his spots and immediately mentioned Rivera’s name.
“I just listen,” Rogers said. “I don’t say nothing. That’s not good when you have people like that, that (are) experienced like that. I just tried to hear it, to catch everything that he said. I’ve got the opportunity now to hear people like that, so I’m going to ask them any questions I can to get out what I need to do. I’m going to ask them.”
“He only told me about what I need to pound the zone,” Rogers said. “And don’t open my arm. The routine, everybody’s got different routines. He only told me about my shoulder. I’m not to (fly) open a little bit (with) my shoulder and front shoulder. Keep it on the line. You saw today, I pound the zone and hit the glove every time.”
Rogers threw two scoreless innings this afternoon. He gave up one hard hit — a double by new Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang — but was otherwise sharp. Joe Girardi has said the Yankees think of Rogers the same way they used to think of David Phelps: as a versatile pitchers capable of pitching long relief or sliding into the rotation.
“I thought he used all his pitches (today),” Girardi said. “I thought he was down in the zone. It’s interesting, it’s a 2-1 game (but) it’s not an easy day to pitch with the way the wind was blowing, but both sides did a nice job.”
It’s funny, Rogers talked about feeling comfortable as a starter and about wanting to make sure he uses all his pitches, then he talked about taking advice from a great closer known for throwing just one pitch. But I suppose Rivera advice carries weight for everyone. For Rogers, he said living up to his raw stuff is a matter of more than throwing strikes. It’s about throwing something other than a fastball.
“I throw fast, and I can throw 96 or whatever,” he said. “But everybody can hit fastballs in this league. … I throw my fastball, curveball, changeup and slider. I just try to use all. I don’t want to stay with one pitch. Before, I only thought about fastball, fastball, fastball and slider. Now, I try to think of everything and try to hit the zone.”
• In a one-run game, the difference was Tyler Austin’s massive home run in the top of the eighth. It was Austin’s only at-bat of the day, and the ball went well out of the park to left-center against Deolis Guerra. “Pretty impressive,” Girardi said. “Not sure where it landed, but somewhere back there. Cars probably took a little damage. I’d ask for my money back if I parked back there.”
• When the game ended, Austin signed a few autographs and was one of the last players to enter the clubhouse. As soon as he walked in, Gene Monahan — who’s serving as an extra trainer down here — looked up and announced: “The man of the day right there, Tyler Austin folks!”
• By the way, Austin had a nasty and bloody scrape on his left side from a diving attempt in the outfield. He was clearly fine — hit the homer not long after — but it was a definite reminder that these guys are banged up all the time. Nothing that would ever be considered a real injury, but if I had a huge bloody patch like that on my side, I’d need a DL stint.
• I wasn’t there, but apparently everything was good about the simulated games at Steinbrenner Field. “I heard CC threw well,” Girardi said. “Pineda threw well. They all threw well. Betances threw well. Larry (Rothschild) was encouraged by everything he saw today.” None of those three has gotten into a game yet this spring. Seems likely CC Sabathia will pitch another simulated game before getting in a real game. Michael Pineda, though, threw two innings today, so he’s probably all set. And I can’t imagine Dellin Betances needs more than one sim game.
• No new injuries to report, Girardi said. Brendan Ryan apparently didn’t do much today. The Yankees, though, don’t sound too concerned that his back injury is putting Opening Day at risk.
• Two outfield assists today, but I’d say both had more to do with horrible base running than great throwing. Austin threw out a guy at home and Brett Gardner threw out Sean Rodriguez trying to stretch a single to a double. The out at the plate was absurd (really nice throw, but totally senseless for the guy to have rounded third in the first place). The out at second was another good throw, but again, made little sense that Rodriguez would have gone for the extra base in the first place.
• Although there were a lot of former Yankees in today’s game, there was one familiar face in the Pirates clubhouse that clearly drew the most attention. “My career’s not done, yet,” Francisco Cervelli said. “I did what I could there. I tried, but injuries (happened). I had the opportunity with Chris (Stewart) in 2013, and I got hurt. Now I’ve got a second chance. But I think the Yankees were the best thing that ever happened in my life. My foundation, the way they treat us since the minor-leagues — win, win, win, win, win; that was the mentality. I think they prepared me, and I’m ready for this job.” Good luck to Cervi, always a real favorite among the guys I’ve covered.
• By the way, Cervelli said he still talks to Carlos Beltran “all the time,” but he’s clearly focused on the Pirates clubhouse. He said he doesn’t remember the last time he spoke to Alex Rodriguez. “He was my teammate. That’s it,” Cervelli said. “I haven’t talked to him. I worry about myself, my teammates and that’s it. I don’t need anything else outside of here; 2013 was a nightmare. I learned so many things from that. It won’t happen anymore, guaranteed.”
• Speaking of former Yankees, it was Mark Melancon who allowed the first Yankees run. It was an RBI double by Garrett Jones, who had two hits today. Rob Refsnyder also had two hits including a double. … Chris Young also had a double in today’s game, also off Melancon. … Ramon Flores was picked off at first base. … Maybe the coolest hit of the day came from Tyler Wade, the young shortstop called up just for the day.
• After Rogers, Chase Whitley also threw two scoreless innings this afternoon. Whitley allowed a couple of singles but walked none and struck out former Yankees prospect Jose Tabata. … Nice debut by Nick Rumbelow, who struck out three batters in the eighth inning. One of them came on a nasty breaking ball. … Good day for pitchers called up for the day. Cesar Vargas got into two innings, Fred Lewis got the win and Taylor Garrison got a save.
• Final word goes to Girardi on what stood out to him about today: “Just the way our pitchers threw the ball again. It’s good. They’re battling. I thought we had some good swings. You see a young kid like Wade come up and get a hit. That’s nice to see. A lot of contributions from our young players.”
Associated Press photos
Spring Game 3: Yankees at Pirates • 03.05.15
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Chris Young RF
Garrett Jones 1B
John Ryan Murphy C
Jose Pirela 3B
Kyle Roller DH
Rob Refsnyder 2B
Cito Culver SS
RHP Esmil Rogers (2-0, 5.72 in 2014)
Rogers vs. Pirates
Jose Tabata LF
Gregory Polanco RF
Andrew McCutchen DH
Starling Marte CF
Andrew Lambo 1B
Jung Ho Kang SS
Chris Stewart C
Sean Rodriguez 2B
Justin Seller 3B
LHP Francisco Liriano (7-10, 3.38 in 2014)
Liriano vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., not on television
WEATHER: Warm and sunny (sorry everyone dealing with the snow). Pretty strong wind blowing from right to left. Seems to always be windy over here.
UMPIRES: HP Tom Hallion, 1B John Hirschbeck, 2B Tim Welke, 3B Will Little
TODAY’S SECOND STRING: C Austin Romine, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Cole Figueroa, SS Tyler Wade, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ramon Flores, CF Jake Cave, RF Tyler Austin
TODAY’S SCHEDULED RELIEVERS: Chase Whitley, Nick Rumbelow, Cesar Vargas, Fred Lewis
FAMILIAR FACES: The Pirates have plenty of former Yankees and former Yankees prospects on their roster. Today’s lineup includes Jose Tabata and Chris Stewart, while Mark Melancon and Jeremy Bleich are scheduled to pitch out of the bullpen.
CRUSH AND DO DAMAGE: Esmil Rogers’ greatest challenge this afternoon might not be Andrew McCutchen or Starling Marte. In the No. 8 spot of the Pirates lineup is Sean Rodriguez, who seems to thrive against the Yankees. In the past three years he’s slugged .379 overall, but .529 against the Yankees. In that same three-year window, Rodriguez has hit six home runs against the Yankees; no more than three home runs against any other opponent.
UPDATE, 1:21 p.m.: Gardner walked and Jones had an infield single, but the Yankees went scoreless in the top of the first.
UPDATE, 1:22 p.m.: Rogers opens the bottom of the inning with a routine grounder to shortstop.
UPDATE, 1:25 p.m.: Rogers works a 1-2-3 first inning. Got McCutchen to pop up to end it. Sounded like a broken bat.
UPDATE, 1:30 p.m.: Wind carried a ball away from Polanco in right, and Refsnyder tried to get a triple out of it. He was thrown out at third. Hit the ball pretty hard into the gap, just didn’t get away from the fielder as much as he thought.
UPDATE, 1:38 p.m.: Another scoreless inning for Rogers. Kang roped a double against him, but otherwise he’s through two inning without any damage. I have to think he’s done for the day.
UPDATE, 1:53 p.m.: Gardner throws out Rodriguez trying to stretch a single into a double, and Whitley ends the inning with a strikeout. Still a scoreless game after three innings.
UPDATE, 3:03 p.m.: Been back and forth to the Yankees clubhouse in the middle of this game. It’s 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh with Fred Lewis in a bit of trouble (runner at third, two outs). Ramon Flores has been picked off first, and Tyler Austin threw out a runner at the plate (though the guy had absolutely no business rounding third).
UPDATE, 3:10 p.m.: Austin just clobbered a long, long home run to put the Yankees in front 2-1 in the eighth.