The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Pregame notes: “I just don’t think Alex is ready to do it”09.02.15

Greg Bird, Glen Perkins

Even after Brian Cashman said he was against it, Joe Girardi said yesterday that he was still considering the possibility of Alex Rodriguez getting a little bit of time at first base against left-handed starters.

Today, Girardi changed his tune.

“I just don’t think Alex is ready to do it,” Girardi told reporters in Boston.

Against a left-handed starter this afternoon, the Yankees are sticking with left-handed rookie Greg Bird at first base. Red Sox starter Henry Owens has reverse splits this season, so that might have factored into the decision (though Girardi tabbed Dustin Ackley, another left-handed hitter as the backup first baseman).

Aside from a month of reverse splits at the end of 2014, Bird generally put up better numbers against right-handed pitchers in the minors. His numbers against lefties weren’t awful, but he was significantly better against right-handers in both Double-A and Triple-A this season, so there’s reason for the Yankees to want at least some sort of right-handed first base option. Girardi has previously mentioned Chase Headley, Brendan Ryan and Austin Romine as possibilities, but today he’s sticking with Bird.

If the team is unwilling to let Rodriguez play first base for even a game against a lefty, it’s hard to imagine they’ll want him to play first or third during the three-game series at Citi Field later this month.

CC Sabathia• CC Sabathia threw another bullpen this afternoon. Seems he could face hitters relatively soon. Brian Cashman has said the Yankees still see Sabathia as a starter, not a reliever, when he’s healthy enough to come off the disabled list.

• Jacoby Ellsbury is out of the lineup against a left-handed starter. It’s not unusual for one of the Yankees regular outfielders to sit against a lefty, but Ellsbury has been dealing with a hip issue, and Girardi acknowledged that there’s still some swelling. Girardi called this a healthy day off for Ellsbury, but there could be some desire to give him back-to-back days off with the scheduled off day tomorrow.

• Stephen Drew has six hits and six RBI in his past eight at-bats. With Owens having reverse splits anyway, the Yankees are sticking with Drew at second base for today’s game.

• Speaking of second base, Girardi said he’s not sure when Rob Refsnyder will play. Refsnyder was called up yesterday, but the Yankees have been using Brendan Ryan as their platoon second baseman, they’re clearly committed to Drew against right-handers, and they also have Jose Pirela as an additional right-handed second base option (plus Ackley as yet another second base option). A lot of possibilities at that position going forward.

• The Mariners announced today that they’d optioned Jesus Montero back to Triple-A. Even with expanded rosters. Ouch.

• Two days after the Yankees left Atlanta, the Braves’ box score from yesterday included some familiar names. Manny Banuelos started the game (six hits in 2.2 innings for the loss) and Danny Burawa finished it with two hitless innings and four strikeouts. Banuelos was traded to the Braves this offseason and Burawa was claimed by the Braves off waivers mid-season. Speaking of familiar names in new places: Nick Noonan, who opened this season as the everyday shortstop in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was one of the Giants’ September call-ups. He signed with San Francisco after being released by the Yankees this summer.

• The Yankees have won five consecutive series at Fenway Park since the start of 2014, going 12-5 in that span. They?last won six or more consecutive series at Fenway from September 21, 1956 to June 1, 1958. With a win today, the Yankees will have six straight series wins in Boston.

Associated Press photos

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Bird on Severino: “It’s the same; it’s the same guy that I’ve seen”08.29.15

Yankees Blue Jays Baseball

For most of us outside observers, Luis Severino’s first four Major League starts have been something new. They’ve been highly anticipated, and they’ve largely lived up to the hype, but they’ve also been our first extended look at the Yankees’ top pitching prospect.

Before he arrived, Severino was a name often heard but rarely seen. His minor league statistics spoke for themselves, but relatively few of us had actually seen Severino pitch very much until he was called up to the big leagues earlier this month. Scouting reports gave a sense of expectation, but seeing that fastball first-hand was a relatively new experience.

Luis SeverinoNew for a lot of people, but not for Greg Bird.

Bird homered in a game two years ago when Severino struck out nine and walked none in a start for Low-A Charleston. When Severino went six hitless innings in his second High-A start of 2014, Bird had three hits in the game. When Severino opened this season with one hit, no walks and eight strikeouts in Double-A, Bird went deep in the sixth inning. Bird also homered when Severino struck out 10 in his final Triple-A start before his promotion.

Called up on August 13, Bird has been on the big league roster for Severino’s past two starts. He had a hit when Severino got his first Major League win last Saturday, and he’ll be either in the lineup or on the bench when Severino makes his fifth start tonight in Atlanta.

“I think he’s just a competitor,” Bird said. “It’s the same. It’s the same guy that I’ve seen. Obviously he’s developed too, but I think just the type of competitor that he is (stands out).”

While many of the veteran Yankees have raved about Severino’s poise and confidence, Bird kind of shrugs when talking about it. It’s not that he doesn’t see it or that he’s not impressed by it, it’s just that Bird’s seen that demeanor for a few years now. He’s used to it, and he said it hasn’t changed at this level.

“I think that’s what makes him successful is he goes out every day and puts in the work, does the same things whether it’s here or at Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, down to Low-A,” Bird said. “You know what you’re going to get. He’s developed, but I think that mindset of, I just go out and do my job and kind of let the rest take care of itself, is what’s making him successful.”

It’s one thing to be confident as a fast-rising minor leaguer. It’s another thing to be confident as a 21-year-old first-time big leaguer (or a 22-year-old first-time big leaguer, in Bird’s case). Both Bird and Severino, though, have carried a sense of belonging into the Yankees’ clubhouse. They’ve looked comfortable and familiar, even as many of us are getting our first good looks at them.

“I think that’s something that’s always been harped on us (in the minors),” Bird said. “Keep doing what you’re doing, you know? It’s got you (this far). If you’re doing the right things, just keep doing what you’re doing. Trust it. Don’t change. That’s kind of what I always heard, and especially as I started getting closer. It’s like, if you get there, don’t change. Keep doing that you’re doing. That’s been my goal. And I think that’s (Severino’s) mentality too.”

Associated Press photos

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Bird: “I’ve got to be ready every day, and that’s proof of it”08.18.15

Greg Bird, Glen Perkins

By the time he came to the plate in the 10th inning, Greg Bird had already scored a run and drawn a walk. He’d gotten his first big league hit two days earlier, he’d made his big league debut two days before that, and he was already four innings into his first game at Yankee Stadium.

But that last at-bat was something different. Tied game. In extra innings. Against left-handed closer Glen Perkins. This was a different sort of high-pressure situation. It wasn’t his first at-bat, but it was surely his biggest.

“I felt pretty good; I felt comfortable when I got up there,” Bird said. “… I’m just trying to help this team win. I’m trying to have a good, quality at-bat there. Looking for something to hit, and just kind of let the rest take care of itself. Not trying to do anything special, just help these guys win games.”

Bird pounced on the first pitch and drove it to center field for a double. That’s what set the stage for a long, all-hands-on-deck win last night.

Greg Bird, Kurt SuzukiAnd it didn’t go unnoticed in the Yankees’ clubhouse.

“Greg Bird, to come into that situation, he’s had great at-bats since he’s been here,” Chase Headley said. “We know his reputation. We’ve seen him in Spring Training, and we know he can hit. That’s a big situation, and he comes up with a big double off a tough left-handed pitcher. Great. And then Mac came through with another big swing. Fortunate that we were able to get that one. That would have been a tough one to lose.”

At the trade deadline, it seemed easy to get behind the idea of Luis Severino and Aaron Judge being untouchable prospects. Severino, it turns out, was on the verge of a call-up (and he’s been terrific through three big league starts). Judge remains one of the top hitting prospects in baseball, and he could be a Carlos Beltran injury away from playing right field regularly as early as next season.

Bird, though, doesn’t seem to fire up the imagination quite the way Severino and Judge do. He might not have the absurdly high risk-reward ceiling of a kid like Jorge Mateo, either. The past two years, though, Bird has moved quickly and clearly made a strong impression throughout the organization. He’s gotten past a couple of minor injuries, responded incredibly well to late-season promotions, and improved defensively at first base.

There’s a quiet quality to him, and perhaps that’s what makes him less buzzworthy, while also preparing him for last night’s big at-bat.

“My mindset every day is just to prepare like I’m going to play,” Bird said. “And if I do, great. If I don’t, then learn something. I’ve got to be ready every day, and that’s proof of it.”

In the short term, Bird’s problem is that he’s blocked by Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez (which actually hasn’t been a problem most of the year because those two have been incredibly productive). But Teixeira’s contract expires at the end of next season, and much like Judge in right field, Bird really could be a long-term solution at first base. In the short-term, he’s become a strong alternative as Rodriguez and Teixeira perhaps have worn down a little bit late in the season.

It’s perfectly reasonable that Bird wouldn’t be as highly touted as Judge or Severino, but this three-game sample size has perhaps better explained why the Yankees were similarly reluctant to trade him.

“We’ve all been impressed by Birdy,” Teixeira said. “He’s got a really good swing and doesn’t seem to let anything bother him. We got to see him a lot in Spring Training this year, so hopefully we’re going to see more good things.”

Associated Press photo

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Greg Bird called up from Triple-A (but how often will he play?)08.13.15

Greg BirdLast week it was Luis Severino. Now it’s Greg Bird.

A source has confirmed a report from Jack Curry that the Yankees’ top first base prospect has been called up to essentially fill the spot vacated by Garrett Jones. Bird gives the Yankees a true backup first baseman and — just guessing — I would think he could start in place of Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez as early as tonight.

Although he got off to a bit of a slow start in Double-A, when Bird got on a roll he was quickly promoted to Triple-A and was hitting .301/.353/.500 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In Baseball America’s “best tools” survey of league managers and coaches, Bird was picked as the best defensive first baseman in the Eastern League (though he’s generally considered more of an offense-first player). He was just named the Player of the Week in the International League.

At 22 years old, Bird is among the biggest names in the Yankees’ system, and was one of the guys Brian Cashman labeled “untouchable” at the trade deadline. His role, though, seems limited at the moment.

We saw first-hand just how few at-bats Jones was given (and that was with Jones able to play right field, which Bird can’t do).

Maybe the Yankees are fine with Bird sitting most days, or perhaps they want to rest Teixeira and Rodriguez a little more often this late in the season. Both have struggled lately, and the Yankees might want to be proactive in making sure each one gets a few more days off down the stretch. Teixeira wore down last season, and Rodriguez sat out more than a year, so it might make sense to try to keep their legs a little fresher at this point.

Joe Girardi, of course, denied being worried about fatigue affecting either one.

“Everyone in the game is fatigued at this point somewhat,” Girardi said. “That’s just the nature of the game. But think about the last ball Alex hit (on Tuesday). Does that look like a guy that’s tired? Think about the balls Tex hit (on Tuesday). Does that look like a guy that’s tired? I think sometimes we can overthink it.”

One possibility — and this is strictly my own speculation, definitely a risk of overthinking it — would be that Bird is up for only a few days to rest Teixeira and Rodriguez during this long stretch of games. He could give each of them a day off then return to Triple-A until September, replaced on the big league roster by someone like Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela who might see more playing time as a second base option.

Without overthinking it, Bird was hitting very well in Triple-A, had to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this winter anyway — so his spot on the 40-man roster was inevitable — and the Yankees just lost a left-handed backup first baseman, meaning Bird fits the hole. He’s one of the best hitters in the system, and he’s coming to the big leagues.

Associated Press photo

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Steinbrenner: “I didn’t want to give those kids up”08.13.15

Luis Severino

Speaking to reporters at the Owners’ Meetings in Chicago on Wednesday, Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said the decision to hold onto top prospects at the trade deadline was his own preference. He simply was not willing to give them up for a short-term rental.

“I just wasn’t going to do it,” Steinbrenner said, according to ESPN New York. “I don’t think we kind of had the glaring need that you would address by giving up one of your Triple-A prospects, especially not for a loaner. For a guy you’re going to have three months or so. It’s just not something we were going to consider.”

While it’s widely reported the Yankees were willing to give their top lower-level prospect, Jorge Mateo, in a possible deal for Craig Kimbrel, general manager Brian Cashman has acknowledged that starting pitcher Luis Severino, right fielder Aaron Judge and first baseman Greg Bird — all three of whom were in Triple-A at the trade deadline — were untouchable.

The Yankees did part with relatively redundant upper-level prospect Ramon Flores and Jose Ramirez, but they ultimately did not trade other valuable Triple-A prospects including Rob Refsnyder, Gary Sanchez, Slade Heathcott and Nick Goody. Young and emerging big leaguers Bryan Mitchell, Chasen Shreve, Adam Warren and John Ryan Murphy also stayed put.

“I didn’t want to give those kids up,” Steinbrenner said. “We’ve been looking at them for two, three years now. They’ve progressed perfectly. And they’re all sitting there in Scranton. Any one of them could contribute now if need be, and we’ve already seen that on Severino the last two starts.”

According to Ken Davidoff at the New York Post, Steinbrenner also mentioned future payroll as a factor in the team’s deadline decisions.

“I have always felt, still feel, that you don’t have to be in that position [the top spender] to win world championships,” he said. “Now that we’ve got all this young talent that’s very close, some of whom are here, I think it’s going to make it easier to do things with the payroll in years to come.”

Associated Press photo

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Triple-A standout Greg Bird named Player of the Week08.10.15

Didn’t have a real standout first month in Double-A, then he wound up on the disabled list, and so the season was off to a rocky start for Greg Bird. But it’s taken off at this point. Promoted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in early July, Bird’s Triple-A slash line is up to .295/.353/.516, and he obviously just had a great week. Bird was just named the International League’s Player of the Week. Here are the details from the league:

BirdScranton/Wilkes-Barre’s Greg Bird hit .348 over the past week, with five of his eight hits going for extra bases, while pacing the International League with 10 RBI and a .783 slugging percentage. His most productive game came Wednesday night in Columbus, when Bird turned in his third career multi-homer effort and added his first triple of the season in a 7-2 RailRiders rout of the Clippers. Bird collected RBI in five of his six games played this week, including Sunday when he drove in three runs in a 9-1 win at Toledo. Since his promotion to the RailRiders from Double-A in early July, Bird is among the top ten in the IL in extra-base hits, home runs, RBI, and slugging.

22-year-old Greg Bird is in his fifth season as a professional player after being selected by the Yankees in the 5th round of the 2011 draft. This is his first season playing above the Double?A level. Before his promotion, Bird was hitting .258 with six home runs and 29 RBI for Double-A Trenton. Bird is a native of Aurora, Colorado.

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One year after Lindgren, Yankees looking to capitalize on high draft pick06.08.15

Royals Yankees Baseball

On the day he was drafted, Yankees reliever Jacob Lindgren was home in Mississippi. His girlfriend got into town that morning, and so he showed her around. A family friend invited some people over, and so there was barbecuing and swimming.

“It was nice and hot out,” Lindgren said.

It was June 5 of last year, and Lindgren knew he might be a high-round pick. When his name was called, he was the top selection of a Yankees team that hadn’t had much success with top picks. He was a college reliever built to move quickly, joining an organization notorious for advancing even its top prospects slowly.

Less than a year later, Lindgren was in the big leagues, tangible evidence that this might be a new era for the Yankees on draft day.

“A lot of guys that got drafted behind you, they’re like, oh, why did this guy get drafted ahead of me? Stuff like that,” Lindgren said. “There’s always that. Obviously you’ve just got to play good and show them why they drafted you high.”

The Yankees, too, have something to prove.

Aaron JudgeAfter two decades of far more failure than success, the Yankees enter tonight’s first round of the draft with the 16th overall selection, their highest pick since 1993. They have three of the top 57 selections, and they have something of a hot streak going. Focused heavily on college players like Lindgren, Aaron Judge and Eric Jagielo, the Yankees early picks the past two years have advanced quickly and shown significant promise.

Lindgren is already in the major league bullpen, Judge is considered the top hitting prospect in the system, and Jagielo has nine home runs in Double-A. Both Judge and Jagielo could be in Triple-A by the end of the summer, just two years after being drafted.

“I always heard (the Yankees) were slow moving their guys,” Lindgren said. “But I was going to do everything in my ability to make things happen.”

Lindgren pitched at four levels with 17.5 strikeouts per nine innings the year he was drafted. He pitched well in big league camp this spring, opened the season in Triple-A, and was called up on May 24, the first Yankees prospect since Deion Sanders in 1989 to reach the majors less than a year after being drafted.

It was a significant step for the Yankees, not only because they were willing to make the move, but because they had a top pick playing well enough to deserve the promotion.

Phil HughesWith a few exceptions — Phil Hughes in 2004, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain in 2006 — the Yankees’ top picks have mostly fallen flat since the overwhelming success of Derek Jeter taken sixth overall in 1992.

The Yankees took a high schooler named C.J. Henry during the otherwise talent-rich first round of 2005. They took a shot on injured basketball player Andrew Brackman with their top pick of 2007. They took a signability risk with Gerrit Cole in 2008. They gambled on high school shortstop Cito Culver in 2010 and have watched him hit well below .200 this season. In the decade before that, they picked forgotten names like Shea Morenz, David Walling and David Parrish.

What draft success the Yankees have had in recent years has been largely confined to the middle rounds: Brett Gardner in the third round of 2005; Adam Warren in the fourth round of 2009; Dellin Betances in the eighth round of 2006, the same year they got former closer David Robertson as a 17th-round steal.

Draft classes, though, tend to be defined by their top picks, and so Lindgren stands out as a success story, both for the player and the organization.

He had been a 12th-round pick of the Cubs out of high school, but Lindgren said Chicago didn’t offer him the signing bonus he wanted until the day before classes started at Mississippi State. Lindgren was already moved in, living on campus and ready to start college. He decided to stay and take his chances that pro ball would be waiting for him.

Jacob Lindgren“Early on, especially when you’re not getting the playing time you wanted, you’re like, man, what am I doing here?” Lindgren said. “But it worked out. It kind of taught me how you have to compete for any job you want. … There was a lot of hype and stuff (as a first-round pick), but I knew I had to come in and prove myself. I always tried to prove that I didn’t belong at each level and just tried to move up as fast as possible.”

It’s hard to move much faster than Lindgren has. He made his big league debut in the same year as the Yankees 2009 first-round pick, Slade Heathcott, whose development had been slowed by a series of injuries (he’s back on the disabled list now). The Yankees, though, seem to believe the arrival of Lindgren and Heathcott – plus the development of Judge, Jagielo, and former fifth rounders Rob Refsnyder and Greg Bird – are a sign that the team’s draft futility is turning around. They’ve especially struggled to find impact hitters, and suddenly the upper levels are crawling with both high-probability and high-ceiling bats.

“We do have an evolving system with some high-end position players,” general manager Brian Cashman said.

Tonight, the Yankees look to add to that stable of talent, trying to build off the recent success of their past two drafts, and trying to find someone capable of following Lindgren’s path to the big leagues.

“They probably just draft whoever’s the best available,” Lindgren said. “They’re just trying to bring good talent into the organization.”

Associated Press photos

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Three things that stood out to Joe Girardi this spring04.03.15

Joe Girardi

Late this morning, about two hours before today’s Grapefruit League finale, Joe Girardi was asked what’s surprised him most this spring. Girardi paused for several seconds, then gave three answers:

Rodriguez1. “Really pleased with what Alex did.”
That was Girardi’s first response, a one-sentence answer that basically speaks for itself. Alex Rodriguez was perhaps the least predictable piece of the roster coming into camp, but he’s thrived in all aspects. He’s played a passable version of first base and third base, he’s hit .286/.400/.524, and he’s handled inevitable off-the-field questions without digging himself into a new hole.

“I’ve said all along, I thought Alex was going to help us,” Girardi said. “But until you get into (you don’t know). I mean, it’s two years, really, since he played. I wasn’t 100-percent sure. If I was a betting man, I would have bet on him playing well, but there’s still that, you’ve got to see it after two years of not playing and being 39 and a half.”

Gregorius2. “Pleased with our infield and them working together.”
This was the second sentence of Girardi’s answer, a fairly broad response that involves four players. Third baseman Chase Headley has been arguably the best everyday position player in camp, second baseman Stephen Drew has begun to hit in the last two weeks or so, first baseman Mark Teixeira has looked healthy and stronger than he did late last season, and shortstop Didi Gregorius has been perhaps the team’s most encouraging new addition.

“The way he moves (has been impressive),” Girardi said. “Arm strength. You can watch it go across the diamond, but you don’t realize it’s just that little flick and it’s gone. Relay throws. He’s the whole package. When you watch him play defense, he’s the whole package. And I’m excited to watch him play all year.”

3. “And I was really impressed with our kids.”Heathcott
The Yankees’ farm system — particularly it’s lack of upper-level success stories — has been a problem in recent years, but the organization seems to be getting stronger. Not only with the addition of young talent, but also with the development of on-the-verge prospects. Greg Bird, Aaron Judge and Luis Severino impressed early in camp, while Jacob Lindgren, Rob Refsnyder and Slade Heathcott stuck around long enough to stay on the radar until the very end. That’s to say nothing of Mason Williams’ improvement, Cito Culver’s defense and Nick Rumbelow’s emergence.

“The kids played a lot in spring training,” Girardi said. “Their talent level. The way they hold each other accountable. The way they push each other. It’s really neat to see.”

Associated Press photo

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Cashman not bothered by prospect hype: “People go to the dream aspect”03.11.15

Mark Teixeira, Aaron Judge

Yesterday, Reggie Jackson compared Aaron Judge’s raw power to that of Willie Stargell and Willie McCovey. The day before, Alex Rodriguez called Judge and Greg Bird two of the best young hitters he’d seen in years. All spring, guys like Luis Severino, Jacob Lindgren and Rob Refsnyder have generated significant attention despite having a half-season of Triple-A experience among them.

“That’s what you do in the game, for better or for worse,” Brian Cashman said. “People go to the dream aspect.”

While the big league Yankees seem to have captured anything but the imagination this spring — far more doomsday scenarios than best-case scenarios floating out there — the young Yankees have stolen the show early this spring. At least, in theory they have. Counting my days with the minor league system, I’ve covered nine spring training, and it’s hard to remember a Yankees’ spring with this much prospect hype. Maybe the year of Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy, but this spring is different because many of the players in question are not even on the 40-man roster, much less on the verge of making the Opening Day roster.

Judge probably gets the most attention, and he has just one year of professional experience.

“I don’t think it’s hurtful,” Cashman said. “Listen, we all project what someone could be on a maximum case. Whether people want to throw out Giancarlo Stanton or Dave Winfield or McCovey, it doesn’t matter at all. You’re dreaming on the player’s abilities. Some players, you can dream bigger on than others. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big on a guy, especially a guy like that, that’s that big. It’s not hurtful.”

Seems to help that the Yankees like the mental makeup of their young players. Judge and Refsnyder have lockers right next to one another, and both have been soft spoken all spring. Girardi has raved about Severino’s early spring composure. Bird tends to sit quietly at his corner locker, doing as much observing as talking.

“I’ve discovered that there’s nothing I can do to prevent (growing expectations), regardless,” Cashman said. “I’ve gotten trained over time that whatever will be, will be. … Our young guys — the B-Bombers, I’ll call them — have been great. They’re in tremendous shape, they’re hungry, you can see they play with passion. The performance has been high-end this spring as well. Those are the stories you really want. You want your young guys to step up. It shows your fan base that, hey, there’s some good things on the come.”

Associated Press photo

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Monday afternoon notes: A-Rod dishing out compliments like hits03.09.15

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez already has four hits this spring. He went 2-for-3 today, drove in a run, and raised his spring batting average to .444. He doesn’t have an extra-base hit, but for a guy who’s talked a lot about finding his timing, he’s making pretty decent contact and showing a good eye at the plate. He’s been good, which might impress some people, but it doesn’t impress Rodriguez himself.

“Nothing. Zero,” he said. “(Whether the numbers are) 0-for-9, 4-for-9. … It doesn’t really mean anything. I’ve played for a long time. It’s better than 0-for-9, I guess.”

But that’s not to say Rodriguez hasn’t been impressed this spring. Quite the opposite, actually. Asked a pretty broad question about Opening Day, Rodriguez used the opportunity to heap praise on some of the young guys in Yankees camp.

Greg Bird“I actually like our team,” he said. “One of the nice things about being here in spring this year is seeing the collection of nice young power arms. That’s been a really pleasant surprise. The other thing I’ve seen is two of the finest young hitters I’ve seen in a long time. One is righty and one is lefty. I think they’re both under the age of 24. That’s really encouraging. And I also saw that our lineup has the potential to be pretty deep and that’s something that I think can help us.”

Who exactly are those young hitters?

“Greg Bird and Aaron Judge,” Rodriguez said. “You don’t see those type of young hitters come around very often. We’re lucky to have two of them. I’m very impressed.”

And Rodriguez wasn’t finished there. He also had plenty of kind words for Michael Pineda.

“When you have stuff like that, it makes you be a little bit more relaxed,” he said of Pineda’s recent demeanor. “I think the thing about Pineda that I learned in my rehab with him when we were down here in Tampa together is how athletic he is. He’s one of the fastest guys on the team. It doesn’t make sense that a guy that big can move that fast. He’s extremely athletic and fast. Then in the weight room, he can just lift the whole weight room. Those combinations, when you know that and you see how that transfers to his power stuff, it makes a lot of sense.”

How fast are we talking? Faster than Brett Gardner?

“No,” Rodriguez said. “But he’s faster than me and a lot of other guys.”

David Carpenter• Hard to ignore Pineda in his debut — and it’s impossible to ignore A-Rod saying the Yankees have two of the best young hitters he’s seen in a long time — but it’s worth leaving some of today’s spotlight for Nathan Eovaldi. In his second spring outing, Eovaldi racked up five strikeouts in three innings. “Just working ahead in the counts, I think, for the most part was the big key today,” he said.

• Eovaldi has said all spring that he wanted to work on his offspeed pitches. Today he got two strikeouts on fastballs, two on sliders and one on a split. “With every year you’re going to get more comfort with yourself and what you can and can’t do,” Brian McCann said. “With that stuff, it’s just going to be a matter of putting it all together and elevating when he needs to elevate and put it in the dirt when he needs to put it in the dirt, because he’s an uncomfortable at-bat for anybody.”

• One complaint from Eovaldi, he said he felt like he was rushing some of his offspeed pitches, but the results were still positive. “Besides rushing, I felt good,” he said. “I was able to throw the majority of them for strikes. I threw some splits. I felt like they were quality pitches, I just didn’t get offers on them.”

• Minor league reliever Diego Moreno — who could, honestly, be crowded out of even the Triple-A bullpen — gave up all three Rays runs in today’s 4-3 Yankees win. Moreno struggled, but the rest of the Yankees pitchers really thrived today. David Carpenter (pictured on the right), Justin Wilson and Chris Martin each pitched a scoreless inning today. All three allowed one runner.

• Last time out, Martin seemed to really catch Girardi’s attention. I have to imagine today’s outing did nothing to dull that strong first impression. Martin allowed a double, but he struck out the last two batters of the game. The first was on a 95-mph fastball, the second was on a big breaking ball.

Bobby Wilson, Mark Teixeira• Pineda and Esmil Rogers will start the upcoming split-squad doubleheader on Saturday. Pineda will pitch at home, Rogers on the road. That leaves an upcoming rotation of — Tuesday: Chase Whitley, Wednesday: Chris Capuano, Thursday: Masahiro Tanaka, Friday: Adam Warren, Saturday: Rogers and Pineda.

• Prospect Luis Severino showed up sick this morning and was diagnosed with strep throat. He’s been told to stay home tomorrow and he’ll be back Wednesday. Severino was scheduled for early work tomorrow — I assume it was going to be a bullpen — so it sounds like the illness might only push him back a day or two.

• Shortstop Nick Noonan has a stiff neck and has been scratched from tomorrow’s road trip (Girardi said he might make the trip, but his name was literally scratched off the list). Girardi indicated it’s a minor injury at this point. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” he said.

• Nothing new on Brendan Ryan. He’s still on track to begin light baseball activities on Wednesday.

• Predictably, Girardi wouldn’t say whether he’s planning to use today’s lineup as his Opening Day lineup. That seems like a safe bet, but Girardi would only say, “it’s possible.”

• Rob Refsnyder made his second spring error. He also had another hit and is batting .500 this spring. … Bird and Brian McCann had the Yankees only extra-base hits today. Each doubled. … Slade Heathcott stayed hot with another hit. He’s batting .800. Small sample sizes are fun! … Austin Romine got his first hit. John Ryan Murphy also has just one hit this spring.

• Final word goes to Girardi about feeling at least a little encouraged by A-Rod’s early success: “I think it’s impossible not to. If you’re struggling in the beginning, like a lot of our hitters are, you say it’s timing. That was my concern for Alex, really, coming into camp. How long would it take for him to get his timing? I think he’s done a pretty good job adjusting, and I want to continue to see it.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

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