The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


Yankees postgame: Hughes back in form04.19.13

Yankee Stadium is filled with fog right now at 12:45 in the morning. The only positive that came out of this 12-inning, 6-2 loss to Arizona was that Phil Hughes came out of the fog, pitching well after two bad starts to start the season.

“You don’t want to let the bad starts snowball,” Hughes said. “I just kind of tried to stop the bleeding. It would’ve been nice to get the win tonight, but I feel like I threw the ball much better. Certainly it was a step in the right direction.”

Hughes gave up two runs and six hits over seven, fanning six and walking none along the way.

“I felt more like myself,” Hughes said. “I was being aggressive, attacking hitters.”

Of course, both runs here had to come on homers. Hughes has allowed at least one homer in 32 of his last 43 starts at Yankee Stadium since 2010 and he has allowed 27 homers in 18 home starts covering 2012 and this young year.

“I’m not going to lose my aggressiveness,” Hughes said. “… What comes along with that, I’m going to give up home runs.”

Francisco Cervelli wasn’t dwelling about his tying homer in the ninth.

“The home run right now doesn’t mean anything because we lost the game,” Cervelli said.

He was dwelling more on the two catcher’s inference calls against him, including one in the four-run 12th.

“They were a little late on the swing and I was too close twice,” Cervelli said.

So the Yankees finished the homestand at 4-2 and headed to Toronto at 8-6.

“You’d sign up for four of six any day of the week,” Brett Gardner said. “We would have liked to have won tonight and got out of town on a better note. But I think we’ve been playing pretty well for the most part.”

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 70 Comments →

Pregame notes: “There was a little bit more thought”04.01.13

Taboola Home/Section Front Player


It’s been said that Joe Girardi has one of the easiest jobs in baseball: Just write down the names of a bunch of superstars, call it a lineup, and go win 95 games. Things are a bit different this season, and Girardi acknowledged that this Opening Day lineup took him a little longer than usual.

“It’s a little bit more,” he said. “You look at some of the positions that you’re going to do, and more about where you’re going to put guys in the lineup, in a sense, than maybe who’s playing. Trying to divide up your lefties a little bit against Lester, and having some new faces in Wells and Francisco, trying to figure out where to put them. So there was a little bit more thought.”

Girardi settled on moving Eduardo Nunez near the top of the lineup, strictly to split the lefties. Ichiro Suzuki is batting seventh today, but Girardi said Ichiro will move up to the No. 2 spot when the Yankees face right-hander Clay Buchholz on Wednesday.

“We’ve liked the way Nuney has swung the bat,” Girardi said. “I didn’t particularly want to put three lefties in a row against Lester to start the game. We’ve liked Gardy’s ability to get on base, so I put him in the leadoff spot. And without Jeet, I thought we should put a right-hander in there, and we’ve liked what Nuney has done.”

• Based on this spring’s catching matchups, I really assumed Chris Stewart would catch CC Sabathia today. Then again, I also thought Girardi would stick with Ichiro in the No. 2 spot even against a lefty, so what do I know? “I think the first month, it will be somewhat of a process of figuring out exactly how you’re going to (use the catchers),” Girardi said. “You can play spring training games, but playing in-season games is different. The things you have to handle are different. Your emotions are different. It was something that I thought about the last three or four days. Talked to my coaches about it, and right now it’s probably going to be a fairly even split.”

• It’s worth noting that Cervelli is actually a career .317/.414/.393 hitter against lefties.

According to Brian Cashman, Derek Jeter is scheduled to play catch and undergo treatment today. “There is no exact schedule for Derek because it’s what his ankle allows him to do,” Girardi said. “And we’re really not going to know that until he goes out there.”

• Have not seen Alex Rodriguez, but apparently he’s here. It’s still unclear just how much of the pregame ceremonies he’ll be a part of. “Introductions are usually not the first thing on my mind when I come in here,” Girardi said. “I’m anxious to see him. I want to see how he’s moving around in a sense because I haven’t seen him since, probably the end of January when he was just starting to ride a bike. What he chooses to do today is his prerogative, and I’m fine with whatever he chooses to do.”

• Also no sign of Mark Teixeira, who’s supposed to visit the doctor this morning. I know he was expecting to be out of the checkup in time to be here for the ceremonies.

• A few observations from the clubhouse: Dave Robertson’s has been given a new locker, the one right next to Mariano Rivera. Eduardo Nunez also has a new locker in between Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez. Francisco Cervelli’s old locker now belongs to Chris Stewart, so he’s in Nick Swisher’s old locker. Joba Chamberlain moved to Robertson’s old locker, David Phelps move to Chamberlain’s old locker, Cody Eppley moved to Phelps’ old locker, and Adam Warren has Eppley’s old locker.

• Not great news for Brennan Boesch and Lyle Overbay: They have the lockers generally given to players who bounce back and forth from Triple-A.

• In case it didn’t go without saying, Girardi said the Yankees will stick with just one left-handed reliever for the time being. “You look at our eighth inning and our ninth inning, and that’s nailed down,” Girardi said. “My hope is Joba will nail down the seventh inning. If there’s a lefty we want Boone to face in the seventh inning, we might do that, and then have Joba go after the righties. But I figure, if you can nail down the seventh, eighth and ninth, you can use Boonie earlier.”

• Someone from a Japanese television station said during Girardi’s pregame press conference that Hideki Matsui has been given Japan’s highest civilian honor. “Congratulations to Hideki,” Girardi said. “I think everybody is aware of what this organization thinks of Hideki Matsui. He’s a wonderful man, he was a wonderful player. Did a lot for the New York Yankees in his time here, and represented us very, very well. I think from the Yankees standpoint, we’d like to congratulate him because he’s a man who deserves a great honor.”

• The Yankees will honor the Sandy Hook victims and first responders before today’s game. “I think it’s important to say thank you,” Girardi said. “The town of Newtown has went through so much during the last four or five months, six months, and you think about being a responder. Sometimes we don’t think about what they go through, and how important they are during a situation like that. I think it’s nice that we’re getting an opportunity to say thank you for all that you do, because they’re obviously going to do more as the future goes on.”

• The video above is Girardi’s opening comments from this morning’s pregame press conference.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 41 Comments →

Best case, worst case: Catcher01.28.13

This should be fun…

Best case scenario
The path is finally clear
The situation really needs no introduction. Jesus Montero is gone (you already knew that), Russell Martin is also gone (you knew that too), and the most proven catchers in the Yankees organization are a trio of long-time backups looking for an opportunity to finally get regular playing time (that too has been discussed a few times). There’s very little about the Yankees immediate catching situation that inspires confidence, but it certainly creates opportunity, and the best-case scenario is that Austin Romine takes that opportunity and runs with it.

Sure, there’s something to be said for one of Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart or Bobby Wilson proving the doubters wrong — it’s certainly a good scenario to have one of those three have an impact with the glove and hit a little better than expected — but the absolute best-case scenario is Romine establishing himself. Because he was overshadowed for so long, it’s easy to forget that Romine was a second-round pick who, before last year’s back injury, was considered one of the better catching prospects in the game. Two years ago, MLB.com ranked him ahead of Travis d’Arnaud. A healthy Romine — with a steady bat and a glove that lives up to recent Yankees hype — could be a young, cheap solution for this year and the immediate future.

And if we’re talking best-case scenario’s, Romine will have to take advantage of this window, because the Yankees highest hopes don’t leave much time before Gary Sanchez is ready. Still very much a work in progress, Sanchez’s bat has plenty of believers, but if he can show some maturity in the clubhouse and improvement behind the plate, he just might push himself among the very best prospects in the game. A good year at Double-A will suggest that Sanchez is transitioning from potential to performance, and it could put him on track to have a big league impact as early as the second half of 2014. Add in some Double-A improvement from J.R. Murphy, and the Yankees days of a glove-only catcher could be limited to this offseason only.

Worst-case scenario
Where have you gone Chad Moeller?
Stewart is a career .217/.281/.302 hitter in the big leagues. Cervelli hit .246/.341/.316 in Triple-A last season. Wilson has never started more than 58 games in a major league season. The worst-case scenario behind the plate is just as obvious as the opportunity that it provides: If no one steps up, the Yankees could have an offensive black hole at the position. Defensively, the in-house options provide at least some sense of stability – even in a worst-case scenario, the Yankees should be able to catch and throw behind the plate – but the low side of offensive possibilities is awfully low.

As for a prospect to fill the gap and provide a bat, the immediate option is Romine, with some outside chance of Murphy putting himself into the picture in the second half. But Romine’s back problems kept him sidelined almost all of last year, and back problems have a tendency to linger. If that injury lingers, and if Murphy fails to live up to his offensive potential – which is his prospect calling card – then the Yankees will have no catching prospects within two years of being big league ready.

Sanchez could push to be in New York within two years, but that’s a best-case scenario involving improvements behind the plate and continued development at the plate. In a worst-case scenario, Sanchez creates more doubt and less optimism about his ability to stick at catcher, which would be a significant blow to his prospect status and leave the organization in needing to commit resources – either on the free agent market or via trade – to find a catcher who can handle the job for the next several years.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 5 Comments →

Opportunity knocks for more than just Romine01.23.13

We know Francisco Cervelli is on the roster for Team Italy, but I think it’s worth wondering whether he’ll actually go through with it and play in the World Baseball Classic.

I’ve written before that I tend to agree with Jordan’s morning post — given the current situation, it makes a lot of sense to have Austin Romine open this season behind the plate — but it’s worth remembering that the current catching vacancy is an opportunity for more than Romine. Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Bobby Wilson have each been painted as backups, and that label isn’t easy to shake in this game. The Yankees say they’re willing to stick with their in-house options, and so far they’re putting their (lack of) money where their mouth is.

Should Cervelli be the one who wins the job? Not necessarily, but surely he recognizes the opportunity. And surely last spring opened his eyes to just how fleeting these opportunities can be.

Earlier this month, Cervelli told the Star-Ledger that he wasn’t sure about playing in the World Baseball Classic. He hadn’t talked to the Yankees to get their opinion — as I understand it, the Yankees aren’t allowed to tell him no — but Cervelli recognized the need to make an impression.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone with the Yankees,” Cervelli said. “And I don’t need to talk to anyone until they want to talk to me. I just want them to see I’m ready to play. That’s it.”

Cervelli hit .305/.432/.525 in Venezuela this winter, which isn’t to say he’s suddenly going to put up those numbers in the big leagues, but it does suggest he’s seen some pitches and moved beyond last year’s Triple-A struggles. Hard to say if or when a guy like Cervelli — or Stewart, or Wilson — will have another opportunity like this, and to spend part of spring training working out for another manager and another set of coaches could only open the door for someone else to make an impression.

“The way I’m thinking, I’ve changed a little bit because of what happened last year,” Cervelli told the Star-Ledger. “But I’m very positive and looking forward to being the starting catcher, but I don’t think too much about it. I keep my expectations low because a lot of things can happen. But I really want it and this is my dream. It’s always been my dream.”

It’s time for Cervelli to go after it, because you can bet Romine will.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 123 Comments →

Thursday notes: Cervelli still next in line behind the plate04.05.12

The day after the Yankees set their Opening Day roster, most of the questions seemed to center on guys who aren’t on the list. What’s next for Andy Pettitte? Is there a rehab plan for Michael Pineda? And, once again, why is Francisco Cervelli not on this team?

“I think he’s one of the best 60 catchers in the game, without a doubt,” Brian Cashman said. “I just think that right now, we have maybe three of the best 60 catchers in the game. That’s good for us, but obviously that’s not good for him because one of them is out of options and he’s not that guy.”

Chris Stewart took an overnight flight from California and joined the team this morning. He’s actually somewhat familiar with some of the pitching staff, having previously caught Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. As for Cervelli, he’s been shipped to Lehigh Valley for the Triple-A team’s opening series against the IronPigs.

He’s no longer the Yankees backup, but he’s still second in line for the starting job. Joe Girardi said today that Cervelli would become the starter if Russell Martin got hurt. He’s in Triple-A strictly because that’s the only way the Yankees could make it work while increasing their catching depth with Stewart.

“I think (Cervelli) would play the majority of the games is Russell got hurt,” Girardi said.

Essentially, the Yankees backup plan went from Cervelli/Craig Tatum to Cervelli/Stewart. They see that as an upgrade worth losing a pretty good young relief pitcher. Who they’re carrying as a backup on Opening Day isn’t a huge issue — it is for Cervelli, obviously, but the Yankees seem happy with either option — so this is really about a Plan B should Martin get hurt.

“If we had a problem and all of a sudden we’re vulnerable, and I went out of my way to look for someone to fix it, it’s going to cost,” Cashman said. “At that position it’s going to cost. Now, I don’t feel as vulnerable.”

• Michael Pineda made 25 throws today and experience no problems, but the Yankees are still uncertain about what comes next for him. “What he had was mild, at least by the MRI,” Cashman said. “It was hopefully nothing but a bump in the road. At the same time, you’ve got to wait until he’s back doing what he’s supposed to be doing, so I give that with a little bit of a caveat.”

• Andy Pettitte is not with the team. He’s back in Tampa preparing for his first minor league start, which will probably come on Monday. “I would anticipate that he’ll be on a regular schedule now,” Joe Girardi said. “Throw a side in couple of days, make a start and just continue to build up.”

• It’s too early to know which of Pettitte and Pineda will be ready first. “I can’t really tell you on that until Pineda starts throwing,” Girardi said. “We have to talk about when we think he’s going to pick up a baseball and start playing catch, when do we feel he’ll be on a mound, when do we feel he’s going to be in a game? We haven’t gotten to that, yet. He’s built up, though. That’s the difference. Depending on how long he sits out, we’ll have a difference of when he could be back.”

• Girardi’s made it clear that he plans to play Eduardo Nunez against left-handers, using that as an opportunity to DH either Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter. That likely means Brett Gardner will get a lot of days off against lefties while Andruw Jones plays left field. As for Nunez, the Yankees seem to really believe he’ll be productive this season, and they’re planning to start him Saturday against David Price. “I’m not waiting a month this year (to put him in the lineup),” Girardi said.

• Girardi on David Phelps making the team: “I think it’s important that he really soaks in tomorrow. I tell the players, ‘Just take a second and realize where you’re at, what you’ve worked so hard for your whole life and dreamt about.’ It’s a pretty neat feeling the first time your name is called and you go out there.”

• CC Sabathia had a slight head cold for his final spring start in Miami, but he said that’s gone. “I feel fine now,” he said. “That’s still no excuse for why I didn’t pitch good (last time). It’s just one of those nights.”

• Sabathia was occasionally disappointed by his fastball command this spring. “It was pretty good in my bullpen (after the last start),” he said. “I was excited about that. I throw everything off my fastball — my changeup, my cutter, everything. I need to have that to be able to pitch well.”

• Cashman on Alfredo Aceves being named the Red Sox closer: “When he’s healthy he’s not afraid of anything and he’s capable of everything.”

• Random clubhouse note: Eric Chavez has moved into the locker that Jorge Posada was always assigned here at the Trop. Chavez is now in the row of veterans that includes Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones and Mark Teixeira.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 171 Comments →

Quiet Yankees camp didn’t last long04.05.12

Remember when Yankees camp opened? The A.J. Burnett trade was all but complete, the Raul Ibanez signing was a matter of time and interest in Eric Chavez was public knowledge. There didn’t seem to be many surprises left. The Yankees would pick from six rotation candidates, move the sixth starter into the long relief role and choose someone to round out the bullpen.

Camp stayed quiet almost a full month, but quiet never lasts long around here.

In the past three weeks, Yankees camp has taken plenty of twists and turns, and it started with news that caught everyone by surprise on an otherwise quiet Friday.

March 16
Andy Pettitte comes out of retirement

I don’t know about you, but I was eating lunch when Jack Curry’s tweet hit the internet. I was sitting with Wall Street Journal beat writer Dan Barbarisi, and when he showed me his phone, I told him I didn’t get the joke. Pettitte had been in Yankees camp as a guest instructor in late February, and I’d been standing three feet from from him when he said he was happy in retirement. There was no chance of Pettitte coming back, until suddenly he was back. Quiet Yankees camp? Not any more.

March 22
Joba Chamberlain dislocates ankle

There was something about the way Brian Cashman broke the news that made it sound even worse than it was. He gathered the media in the Yankees dugout and started out by saying Chamberlain, “got into a pretty significant accident with his son.” When you’re thinking the worst, a dislocated ankle doesn’t sound so bad, but obviously it’s a significant setback. Chamberlain wasn’t going to break camp with the Yankees anyway, but this further delays his return from Tommy John surgery and creates further questions of what kind of long-term impact he’s capable of having.

March 30
Michael Pineda feels shoulder soreness

To be honest, it was beginning to feel like Pineda might not make the rotation anyway. His results weren’t particularly bad, but Pineda wasn’t pitching anything like the guy the Yankees meant to acquire — his velocity was down, his offspeed stuff was up – and Joe Girardi couldn’t say enough nice things about Freddy Garcia. Shoulder tendinitis might explain the diminished velocity, or it might have been caused by a desire to generate velocity. Either way, Pineda’s out for at least a few weeks, and it’s still far too early to say the trade was a good one or a bad one.

April 4
Francisco Cervelli demoted, Chris Stewart acquired

Cervelli wasn’t happy, and it was hard to blame him. The Yankees didn’t need to make this move, but they chose to give up some of their considerable pitching depth to improve their short-term catching depth. Necessary? Probably not. But I doubt it’s a game-changer either way. I happen to be a George Kontos believer, but the Yankees didn’t carry him even with a long relief opening. I also happen to like Stewart as a defensive backup, and if the Yankees weren’t comfortable with their catching depth after the Austin Romine injury, this probably helped the situation.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 174 Comments →

Saturday notes: Bichette’s big day with the big leaguers03.31.12

When he looked into the stands, Joe Girardi saw his old friend Dante Bichette holding a video camera. When he looked onto the the field, Girardi saw Dante Bichette Jr. rounding the bases.

Could he imagine the feeling of ever watching his own son hit two home runs in a big league spring training game? Girardi leaned back and smiled.

“Hopefully I’ll get that chance,” he said.

This afternoon, Bichette Jr. came up from minor league camp to get a couple of at-bats against the Astros. First time he went to the plate, he swung at the first pitch and hit a wind-aided home run to right. Second time he went to the plate, he again swung at the first pitch, and hit a legitimate shot to center field.

“I was lucky to make contact with the first two swings, and they went pretty far,” Bichette Jr. said. “I’m happy with that. I was just trying to hit the ball, that’s all. … Family is the world to me, so my Mom and Dad here is everything. It’s a family effort, everything that’s happened so far, so having them here is perfect.”

Bichette Jr. grew up 20 minutes from this ballpark and played here in high school. Hard to imagine he ever had a day quite like this one, though. The wind got harsh as a line of bad weather moved through the area, and that helped the two teams combine for nine home runs. Bichette’s first was a product of that wind. The second one surely got some help, but he hit it pretty hard.

“It was pretty special,” Girardi said. “The second one, he really hit. Seeing his mom and dad, who we’ve been close to for a long time, his little brother; they played on this field a lot. They greew up in the area, so he’s been on this field. It’s pretty neat.”

Did Girardi say anything to Bichette Jr. in the dugout?

“I don’t know, honestly,” Bichette Jr. said. “I don’t remember any of them. It was kind of surreal.”

• If you missed it in the game post, the Yankees final diagnosis of Cesar Cabral is a stress fracture in his olecranon (essentially the tip of his elbow). Girardi said it’s the same injury Warner Madrigal had last spring, and an injury Jonathan Albaladejo had at one point. “It’s frustrating because he had a really good camp for us,” Girardi said. “I can’t tell you what was going to happen, but he had a good camp for us.”

• Francisco Cervelli was taken out of the game after being hit by a pitch in the forearm, but he’s fine. Girardi said there are no concerns about it.

• Certainly the conditions didn’t help, but Adam Warren conceded that he “just wasn’t sharp” this afternoon. He allowed six runs on 10 hits through 5.2 innings. He walked none and struck out three, but said his command was bad from the very beginning. He did feel better as the game progressed, he said. Four of those runs came in the second inning.

• Girardi on Warren: “I thought he threw the ball better than the numbers indicated. It’s a windy day, an extremely fast infield — not great conditions to be a pitcher here. I thought he threw the ball better than what it indicated.”

• The game was called in the middle of the ninth inning because of steady rain. Each team agreed there was no sense taking the risk of injury. “We just said, ‘If it starts raining any harder, we don’t want to get anyone hurt,’” Girardi explained. “It kind of stopped a little bit, they put down some Diamond Dry, and then it started raining hard again. So, that’s it.”

• Clay Rapada gave up a home run to a lefty today, but it was hit to right field, where the wind was carrying fly balls over the wall. Hard to think the Yankees make too much of that.

• Raul Ibanez now has three home runs in his past five games. He’s also raised his spring batting average more than 100 points in that time.

• Curtis Granderson went 3-for-3 to raise his spring average to .381. He’s looked really good at the plate from the very beginning of spring. … Bichette, Ibanez, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira each had two-hit games. … Jose Gil got a start and had another hit. A 1-for-4 day dropped his spring average to .455. … Doug Bernier also had another hit and is having a nice spring of his own. He’s hitting .344 and has played very good defense all over the infield, particularly at short. … Preston Claiborne got in the game and pitched the final two innings for the Yankees. He allowed two runs, one of them on a homer.

• After the game, the Yankees got back on the bus to go to Tampa. When they get back, the guy who are making the road trip to play the Marlins will join their teammates for a flight to Miami. Tomorrow is a day game followed by a night game on Monday. I’m going to hit the road myself. Long drive ahead of me.

Assocaited Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 109 Comments →

Monday notes from the minor league complex03.26.12

I doubt the Yankees would ever frame it this way, but essentially they have to decide whether Phil Hughes will be more like the 2010 version of himself or the 2011 version. So far, he’s very clearly looked more like 2010, and he’s been able to maintain that level of performance throughout the spring.

“The beginning of that year, you come in and that real-season adrenalin starts to kick in,” Hughes said. “Everything is a little bit better, a little bit crisper. I don’t think I’m pitching that well at this point, but that’s not to say that it can’t be there when April rolls around and we get things going. I feel like I’m close.”

Hughes’ fastball velocity has been fairly consistent this spring, and I talked to one scout today who said he wouldn’t be surprised to see it topping out a little higher a month or two into the season. He’s started throwing a harder, tigher curveball, and his changeup seems to be even better than it was in 2010. He’s walked two hitters all spring.

“I think he’s very close (to 2010) right now,” Francisco Cervelli said. “He’s got to keep working, because the season is long. He has to keep getting stronger.”

He looks strong right now, and if he keeps pitching at his 2010 level, I’ll be surprised if Hughes isn’t in the rotation come Opening Day.

• Cervelli threw out three base runners trying to steal and he hit a home run to tie the Hughes game in the fourth inning. Pretty good day for the only Yankees position player who had to work today.

• Hughes was pitching for the High-A team. The Low-A group was also in Tampa today. Triple-A and Double-A were on the road in Clearwater. The Low-A Charleston lineup is really, really impressive. Check it out at the bottom of this post.

• Andy Pettitte will throw his second batting practice tomorrow, but Larry Rothschild said he’s not sure what comes after that. He’s also not sure whether Pettitte will get in a game this spring, but he doesn’t seem to be ruling out the possibility.

• Joe Girardi was home visiting his ill father this morning but Rothschild, Rob Thomson, Billy Eppler and Brian Cashman were among the Yankees decision makers watching Hughes pitch.

• Center field prospect Mason Williams and catching prospect Gary Sanchez have been moved from the Tampa group to the Charleston group (which was expected). J.R. Murphy has been moved from Trenton to Tampa. Those assignments are more in keeping with where they’ll almost certainly open the regular season.

• Speaking of Sanchez, he and Tyler Austin hit back-to-back homers in the Low-A game today.

• I didn’t see it, but apparently Ravel Santana made his spring debut today. He’s back from a ankle injury.

• George King reported yesterday that the Phillies might be interested in Ramiro Pena to help them fill their sudden hole in the infield. Today I heard it’s true that the Phillies might have some interest, but only at a cheap price. They’re not willing to give up much. Today the Phillies signed Chin-lung Hu to give them some utility depth.

• Very good to see P.J. Pilittere this afternoon. The former Yankees minor league catcher is now a coach in the Yankees system. Very good guy. Could be a natural manager some day.

• Here are today’s lineups for Tampa and Charleston. This might be the actual Opening Day lineup for Charleston, and it’s loaded with legitimate prospects. Pretty impressive, actually.

TAMPA
Eduardo Sosa CF
Kelvin Castro 2B
Ramon Flores LF
Rob Segedin RF
Kyle Roller 1B
J.R. Murphy DH (went to catcher in the seventh)
Zach Wilson 3B (made a nice play in the field today)
Carmen Angelini SS
Francisco Cervelli C

CHARLESTON
Mason Williams CF
Ben Gamel LF
Dante Bichette 3B
Gary Sanchez C
Tyler Austin RF
Cito Culver SS
Angelo Gumbs 2B
Reymond Nunez 1B
Anderson Feliz DH

• Finally, I’ll be hosting a chat here on the blog at noon on Wednesday. Stop by if you can. I’m sure we’ll jump into the rotation decision and some of the guys who have made noise this spring.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 62 Comments →

Saturday notes: Garcia shows no rust in rotation return03.24.12

Freddy Garcia could have made things easy for the Yankees this afternoon. Instead, he might have made things harder. Showing absolutely no rust in his first start back from a swollen right hand, Garcia pitched 4.1 scoreless innings with four strikeouts and two walks. The only hit he allowed was a comebacker — of course — that glanced off his leg.

“Freddy was great today,” Joe Girardi said, not even waiting for a reporter to ask him a question. “I mean, everything; slow curveball he used to get ahead in the count sometimes, located his fastball, his split was good, his backdoor slider was good. He had it all. We got him to 64 pitches, so I was very pleased.”

Garcia doesn’t have the longterm upside of Phil Hughes, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova — which means the Yankees might choose to cut him out of the rotation regardless of results — but he’s been very sharp this spring. Garcia ERA is down to 2.92, and he’s looked very much like the guy who pitched so well for the Yankees last season.

“Last year, I signed a minor-league deal and came to spring training to earn a spot,” Garcia said. “Everything was harder for me because I had to come here and pitch really good and show them I can pitch in this league. (This winter) I signed early, but they signed guys and (Girardi) said he liked competition, and we’re in competition. I like that. It’s making my thinking straight. I concentrate better on what you’re doing.”

After last week’s hand injury — on a comebacker in Dunedin — Garcia might have fallen to the back of the pack, but he looked today as if he hadn’t missed a step. Whether you believe him or not, Girardi has said the Yankees will take their five best starting pitchers, and right now Garcia has been more consistent than anyone but Phil Hughes.

“I have to worry about myself and go out there and pitch,” Garcia said. “The way I pitched today, you know, I needed it.”

• Raul Ibanez’s two-run home run in the seventh inning not only gave the Yankees the lead, it also snapped him out of a hitless streak dating back to March 10. “It felt good to be able to make a left turn instead of a right turn,” Ibanez said.

• Ibanez credited extra work with Kevin Long. The two spent an extended session in the cage yesterday, and Ibanez said it paid off. “I felt like I was in a better position to hit,” he said. “And in a better position to take a good swing.”

• Because the Yankees are facing a left-handed starter tomorrow, Ibanez will go to the minor league complex to get at-bats. It’s not uncommon for big league hitters to leadoff every inning in minor league spring training games. They can often get more at-bats by hitting in multiple games. “I told him, as many (at-bats) as he wants,” Girardi said.

• Garcia was fine after being hit by a Jhonny Peralta comebacker in the third inning. He quickly dismissed the training staff and stayed in the game, but it was kind of freaky to see a pitcher hit in his first game back from a comebacker. “It happened to me twice,” Garcia sad. “But it’s nothing to worry about.”

• Francisco Cervelli was taken out of the game after being hit by a pitch in the seventh inning. “He’s fine, too,” Girardi said. “He just got hit in the calf. Well, the shin. He’ll be fine.”

• Dewayne Wise continued his strong spring training with a game-winning, two-run double in the 10th inning. The Yankees went into extras after the Tigers tied the game with two-runs in the ninth. Both runs came off D.J. Mitchell, who was pitching his third inning of work and seemed to lose the strike zone a little bit.

• Another strong showing for Cesar Cabral who had one strikeout in a hitless bottom of the 10th. The Rule 5 pick has 12 strikeouts and only one walk this spring.

• Justin Maxwell picked up his fourth stolen base of the spring as part of a double steal in the 10th inning. Maxwell stole third. … Jose Gil’s batting average is down to .563 after a 1-for-2 day. … Mark Teixeira and Colin Curtis also had hits today. … Boone Logan retired the two batters he faced, and Kevin Whelan retired the three batters he faced.

• Although Joba Chamberlain is being released from the hospital tomorrow, Girardi said he’s not sure when Chamberlain will stop by Yankees camp. Girardi expects Chamberlain to be in camp again at some point, but it might not happen right away. “He’s not capable of driving, so we might see him next week some time,” Girardi said. “It just depends what he wants to do.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 124 Comments →

Wednesday notes: Mitchell steals the show03.14.12

Manny Banuelos is considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and there have been days — both this spring and last spring — when he’s shown every bit of that potential. Today was not one of those days, and it was instead often-overshadowed D.J. Mitchell who stole the show.

“(Banuelos) couldn’t throw his secondary pitches for strikes and he was behind,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s just a tough combination. Look at what D.J. Mitchell did. He was able to throw his curveball and his changeup when he was behind in the count to get back in the count and throw some fastballs for strikes. Manny just really struggled with his command.”

Banuelos labored through a four-run fifth inning when he allowed three hits, walked two batters and coughed up Edwin Encarnacion’s second home run of the day. If previous starts have been a reminder of what he can become, today was a reminder that he’s still very young with inconsistent command. It’s nothing that can’t be sorted out, but there’s still some development to be done.

“He’s a young guy and he’s got four pitches to be in the big leagues,” Francisco Cervelli said. “But with the experience, he’s going to learn how you can make adjustments during the game and have more patience. It’s just a bad day. Next time he’s going to come back and of what he always does because it’s great. I think he’s top three over here, best rookie guys.”

As for the top rookie in camp? Mitchell is making his case. He closed today’s game with three hitless innings, striking out four and walking none. Often labeled as a sinkerballer, Mitchell was drawing praise just last week from a Yankees official who said he doesn’t get enough credit for his secondary pitches. Mitchell does generate a lot of ground balls, but they don’t have to come from his two-seamer. He can get them with his changeup, curveball and slider. He did hit two batter today, but through seven innings in big league camp, Mitchell has allowed just three hits.

He was awfully good this afternoon, and Girardi noticed.  

• Obvoiusly the Yankees got good news on Freddy Garcia’s injured right hand, but there will be considerably curiosity tomorrow to find out whether the injury will cause him to miss significant time. “That’s why we try to have depth every year in case you do run into something freaky like this injury,” Girardi said before hearing the x-ray results. “I hope it’s not going to keep him down, but we’ll find out.”

• Garcia was pitching well at the time of the injury. He’d allowed one run through three innings and had just stranded two runners in the bottom of third. Edwin Encarnacion’s comebacker came in the first at-bat of the fourth. “Freddy’s Freddy,” Girardi said. “He commands all his offspeed. He commands his fastball. He changes speeds. And that’s exactly what he did today. His split was effective. Just got his hand in the way. That’s the only thing I didn’t like.”

• Cervelli on how Garcia was pitching for the injury: “It was great. It was really, really good. The split was good A lot of fastballs today. I think he was throwing 90, a lot of movement in the fastball. Really good. His plan was really good today.”

• It’s a positive sign that Dave Robertson was able to jog without pain, but Girardi said he’ll need to throw a few times on the side before he starts getting into games again. “He’s been out long enough that I think he’s got to do some bullpens,” Girardi said.

• Girardi seems to be used to getting velocity questions. This was the first thing he said about Robertson’s half hour on a treadmill: “I don’t have the speed, but there was no pain.”

• In between Garcia’s three innings and Mitchell’s three innings, both Banuelos and Cory Wade pitched an inning. Wade gave up a two-run homer to J.P. Arencibia, letting Garcia’s final base runner come around to score. Wade also had two strikeouts in his inning.

• In spring training, the media is usually in the clubhouse by the fifth or sixth inning, so I didn’t see any of the Yankees seventh-inning rally. They scored four runs in the seventh, all of them generated by non-starters. Doug Bernier had a bases-loaded, two-run double and Dewayne Wise followed with his own two-run double. Wise also had a stolen base in the inning.

• The one Yankees run I did see came on Curtis Granderson’s RBI double in the third inning. It was one of two doubles for Granderson who’s hitting .316 this spring. Granderson and Wise each had two hits.

• Other Yankees with hits: Derek Jeter, Corban Joseph, Mark Teixeira, Cole Garner, Eric Chavez, Jayson Nix and Cervelli. Cervelli and Garner each doubled. The Yankees lost 7-5.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 42 Comments →

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