The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Pregame notes: “I’m anxious to see him get back out there”07.17.11

Hope you weren’t counting on massive breaking news coming out the pregame clubhouse this morning. Aside from the arrival of Chris Dickerson — he flew in from Toledo last night — things were pretty routine. At this point, the story of the day will almost certainly be Phil Hughes.

“I’m anxious to see him get back out there and try to get him back to the form that we had him last year,” Joe Girardi said. “As you said, he’s had some time off, and that’s always a little bit of a concern about how strong he’ll be coming out of the gate, but he did do his share of bullpens.”

Trade talk is starting to heat up, but Girardi said a healthy and fully capable Hughes could be more significant than any sort of deadline addition. And Girardi thinks that Hughes knows just how important he can be in the second half.

“I think he does, and I think he relishes the responsibility,” Girardi said. “He’s excited to get back on track.”

• The Yankees swapped Dickerson for Greg Golson, who was optioned back to Triple-A. The Yankees wanted Golson for the past three games because they were facing two left-handed starters. With right-handers pitching four of the next five games against the Yankees, they preferred the lefty Dickerson.

• Derek Jeter was going to get one game off this road trip. Girardi decide today made the most sense.

• How did Girardi decide who started at short and who started at third? “We thought Nuney did a pretty good job at short while Jeet was gone, and we want him to continue some reps over there for when Alex does get back,” Girardi said. “If you play him a month at third and he never gets any reps at short, could that become an issue for a couple of days when you do put him over there?”

• Rafael Soriano is still on schedule to start Tuesday in Tampa. “Soriano’s going to have to have a few appearances,” Girardi said. “We’ll have to talk about, does he need to go back-to-back? To me the important thing is, let’s take it one day at a time and see how he feels after Tuesday.”

• Still not sure when Eric Chavez will begin a rehab assignment: “I’m not sure when Chavy is going to play. He’s obviously doing better. Hopefully it won’t be too long that we can get him going.” Marc Carig reports that Chavez could rehab as early as Tuesday.

• Alex Rodriguez has been riding a bike and doing upper-body workouts. He’ll stay in Miami for roughly two weeks total.

• Bartolo Colon is still on schedule to start Tuesday.

BLUE JAYS
Rajai Davis CF
Eric Thames DH
Yunel Escobar SS
Adam Lind 1B
Edwin Encarnacion 3B
Travis Snider LF
Aaron Hill 2B
J.P. Arencibia C
Corey Patterson RF

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 61 Comments →

Yankees at the break: Center field07.13.11

The change started late last season when Curtis Granderson finally had enough and asked Kevin Long for help. He made some minor mechanical changes, and since then he’s been one of the most dangerous hitters in the baseball.

First half
At the all-star break, Granderson is a legitimate MVP candidate. He’s always had good power for a center fielder, but now he’s showing Mark Teixeira-type power. While he’s still better against right-handers, he’s no longer a platoon candidate. He actually has a higher slugging percentage against lefties this season. He moved into the No. 2 spot in the order when the Yankees were experimenting with their lineup, and he hasn’t let it go. He’s been so good that Joe Girardi has found it almost impossible to rest him.

Second half
Because the improvements started last season, it’s hard to label this kind of production a first-half fluke. Granderson has been this good for almost a year now. He likes to say that the home runs have simply come a little earlier than usual, but he’s about to venture into uncharted home run territory. He’s only five away from his single-season career high, and at this rate he could be there by August. Granderson has started 86 games this season, and he’s played in 87 of them. Girardi might have to be careful about overplaying him in the second half, but so far, it’s been hard to take his bat out of the lineup. And it won’t be any easier without Alex Rodriguez.

The minors
Early on, this seemed to be Slade Heathcott’s breakout season. The first-rounder was unbelievably good in April, but he slowed won in May and now he’s on the disabled list with a shoulder problem that reportedly could cost him the rest of the year. Abe Almonte has not had the breakout season the Yankees were hoping for in Tampa, and Eduardo Sosa has been good but not great as Heathcott’s replacement in Charleston. Melky Mesa is hitting .211 in Trenton. The bright spot is Greg Golson, who might be hitting his way into a call-up in Triple-A. Also, keep an eye on Mason Williams in Staten Island. Last year’s fourth-round pick is off to a pretty impressive start.

One question
Do the strikeouts matter?
Before the break, Granderson said he’s been disappointed by his number of multi-strikeout games and by the fact he’s already approaching 100 strikeouts for the season. Obviously it’s not a perfect scenario, but it might simply come with the territory, and as long as it comes with this sort of production, the Yankees might be more than happy with the tradeoff.

The future
Granderson is under contract for next year with a team option for 2013. The Yankees gave up Austin Jackson because they believed Granderson could be their center fielder of the present and the future. Right now, it looks like they were exactly right. Barring something unforeseen, he’ll be around for at least two more years.

Associated Press photo

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Second-half question: Do you believe in Greg Golson?07.11.11

CC Sabathia so thoroughly dominated the Rays yesterday, that Curtis Granderson didn’t know where to stand. He was playing center field, with a perfect view of the pitcher and the plate, but he had trouble positioning himself.

“I’m always trying to figure out where I want to be versus this lineup (with) some guys who could potentially pull the ball,” Granderson said. “But with CC keeping guys off balance I had to second-guess myself a lot today. Luckily I had Andruw to my left who has a great deal of experience. I could trust him to say, let’s move the other way, these guys aren’t necessarily going to catch up to what he’s got going on.”

It was an interesting insight into Andruw Jones’ knowledge of the game, but surely the Yankees can get more value than that out of their fourth outfielder.

Jones’ batting average is down to .195 after an 0-for-3 yesterday. He’s hitting .231/.315/.446 against lefties, but he hasn’t had an extra-base hit since May 29, which says a lot about how infrequently he’s played and about how unproductive he’s been when he’s gotten at-bats.

There is a familiar alternative in Triple-A. Greg Golson is hitting .295/.350/.432 in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He’s been especially productive lately, but he comes with two concerns: 1. He doesn’t have a history of hitting quite like this, and 2: His platoon splits are completely backwards. Golson is hitting just .196 against lefties. Another right-handed Triple-A outfielder, Jordan Parraz, also has impressive numbers with the same unusual splits (though not as extreme). Chris Dickerson is a lefty, which doesn’t let him perfectly fill Jones’ role.

Given the Yankees three outfield regulars, the team don’t need much out of their fourth outfielder. But right now, Jones’ only real value is his experience, and that’s not helping too much.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 235 Comments →

Minor league notes: Whelan setting himself apart in Scranton06.06.11

Kevin Whelan opened this season as a rather forgettable part of a potentially memorable Triple-A pitching staff. Legitimate prospects filled the rotation, and the bullpen was dotted with returned Rule 5 picks and veterans with big league experience.

Then there was Whelan, the last remaining piece of the 2006 Gary Sheffield trade. He was a fallen prospect, a guy who always walked too many batters and finally reached a new low with a 6.02 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A last season.

Whelan’s been a completely different pitcher this year. As Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s closer, he’s cut down on the walks significantly. He has a 1.73 ERA, 17 saves, and he’s allowed just 17 hits and six walks through 26 innings. He’s struck out 28, and his 0.88 WHIP is the lowest on the team.

“It is the command, which translates to confidence,” pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras said in an email.

Contraras was the second person I talked to who mentioned confidence when explaining Whelan’s sudden improvement. He’s always had a good fastball and a big splitfinger — and he’s had some real success from time to time — but it seems that things are just now coming together. If the Yankees find an opening for a one-inning guy, Whelan would surely be the front-runner for the job. It’s worth noting that he’s been especially good against left-handers, holding them to a .178 batting average with 19 strikeouts and only two walks.

It’s also worth noting that Whelan’s not on the 40-man, and the Yankees have found more openings for multi-inning relievers than short relievers this season. Jonathan Albaladejo had even better numbers as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s closer last season — and he actually was on the 40-man — but Albaladejo barely got a look at the Major League level. So Whelan might not be looking for apartments in the city, but he’s surely put himself on the map. It’s impossible to ignore a guy who’s always had the potential and is just now finding the consistent results.

• Gary Sanchez is back on the Charleston active roster. He returned Saturday after being sent to extended spring training for what appears to be some combination of a bad back and a bad attitude, probably more of one than the other. He had a hit and drew a walk in his first game back.

• Greg Golson has been activated from the Triple-A disabled list, a move came one day after Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s most productive outfielder, Justin Maxwell, went on the disabled list with a jammed shoulder. Maxwell actually has a higher slugging percentage than Jorge Vazquez and homered in three games in a row just before the injury. For the season he’s hitting .260/.358/.588 and might have hit his way into a big league role had Andruw Jones not started hitting lately.

• Speaking of banged-up Triple-A players who might or might not be playing their way into a call-up: Carlos Silva was scratched from a start on Sunday because of tightness in his shoulder. Doesn’t seem too serious. Manager Dave Miley told Donnie Collins, “We’re just pushing him back.”

• If there’s no spot for Whelan as a short reliever in New York, the Yankees certainly have options for long relief out of Triple-A. George Kontos and Buddy Carlyle are still pitching well in long relief for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Kontos is holding right-handers to a .143 average with 24 strikeouts and four walks. Out of the rotation, tonight’s starter D.J. Mitchell has a 2.78 ERA and pitched seven scoreless in his most recent outing.

• After hitting .218/.292/.287 in April, Kevin Russo hit .316/.384/.408 in May. Brandon Laird made a similar turnaround, from .184/.213/.289 in April to .307/.343/.406 in May. Jesus Montero went the other way, from .365/.360/.473 to .269/.333/.413.

Strange stuff in Double-A Trenton where hitting coach Julius Matos was ejected last week, then got into some sort of argument with manager Tony Franklin and has since been removed from his role. Popular roving hitting instructor James Rowson has taken over the job for now. It’s unclear whether Matos will return in any capacity.

• Austin Romine is the only Trenton regular hitting better than .277, and he’s missed a few games with a stiff neck and back after a home plate collision. Romine has certainly been the high point of the Double-A lineup. Melky Mesa is back to being an all-or-nothing hitter, Bradley Suttle is hitting for good power but a .233 average and Corban Joseph has been good but not great.

• I talked about him a little bit in today’s chat: Trenton reliever Tim Norton is starting to get some attention. Injuries have always been the biggest knock on the guy. This year he’s healthy and putting up incredible numbers (44 strikeouts in 29 innings, for example). One scout told Bill Madden that Norton is, “better than (Joba) Chamberlain right now.”

• Manny Banuelos has a 2.12 ERA and Dellin Betances has a 1.99, so those two are doing just fine despite higher-than-you’d-like walk totals. Craig Heyer, a guy the Yankees sent to the Fall League this offseason, has been awfully good since stepping into the rotation to fill in for some injuries.

• Tampa third baseman Rob Lyerly made the Florida State League all-star team, but as expected, the High-A roster is lowest of the four affiliates in terms of prospect buzz. Starters Brett Marshall and Jairo Heredia, though, are starting to do some things. In Heredia’s past three starts he’s allowed one earned run through 21 innings. He’s walked two and struck out 22. He’s another of those “if-things-go-right” prospects.

• J.R. Murphy remains the best all-around hitter in Low-A Charleston, but first baseman Kyle Roller leads the team with a .563 slugging percentage and corner outfielder Ramon Flores leads with a .407 on-base percentage.

• Slade Heathcott in April: .370/.453/.630. — Slade Heathcott in May: .216/.283/.289.

• The amateur draft begins tonight. The Yankees don’t have a pick until the supplemental first round — No. 51 overall — but they’ll almost certainly be part of the story with pick No. 1. The Pirates are reportedly planning to take Gerrit Cole, the former Yankees first-round pick who ultimately signed with UCLA rather than join the Yankees minor league system.

Headshots of Whelan, Sanchez, Golson, Romine and Norton

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Notes from Newman: Brackman, Sanchez, Heathcott and more05.27.11

At the very top of the Yankees minor league system, two Triple-A starters — Andrew Brackman and Adam Warren — are top five in the International League in walks. Down in Low-A, one of the Yankees best young catchers — Gary Sanchez — is hitting just .238 with 37 strikeouts in 32 games.

“It’s like somebody trying to lose weight and looking at the scale every day,” vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. “It’ll drive you nuts.”

Less than two months into the minor league season, the big picture is nowhere near coming into focus, and Newman said this part of the season is still about making initial adjustments to a new level. The Yankees focus more on the second-half results for most of their minor leaguers, curious to see how they adjust and adapt.

Right now, Warren is eight walks away from his total for last season. Brackman is 12 away from his 2010 total. From the outside, the Brackman number is more glaring because, 1. His ERA is three runs higher than Warren’s, and 2. He had similar control issues in 2009.

“I don’t think it’s going to be an issue long term, because he’s showing he can throw strikes,” Newman said. “He’s just got to get back (to last year’s command). His mark right now is well above where we want it to be, but I don’t think it’s going to stay there.”

As for Sanchez, he was hitting .314 with three home runs in his previous 10 games before going on the disabled list a week ago. More importantly, he’s 18 years old.

“He’s swinging it good now,” Newman said. “He’s like a high school senior playing in that league. He’s doing well.”

• Speaking of letting the big picture come into focus… Slade Heathcott and J.R. Murphy were the Yankees first- and second-round picks in the 2009 draft, and both are off to eye-opening starts in Charleston. Newman called it little more than the natural progression of two talented kids who had very little little experience when they put up pedestrian numbers in Charleston last season. “That was a helluva challenge,” Newman said. “Now they’re getting a little experience, and we’re seeing what kind of players they are. There’s nothing particularly surprising about it.”

• As you might expect, Newman said both Heathcott and Murphy will “probably” jump to Tampa midseason.

• As previously reported, Newman said Sanchez has a “stiff lower back” that he’s trying to work through in extended spring training. Once he’s through that, Sanchez will return to Charleston.

• In the wake of the Buster Posey injury, Newman said the Yankees have not discussed moving any of their catchers from behind the plate just to avoid injury. “Not because of health concerns,” he said. “All of our catchers do work at first base. We have a lot of young catching prospects. Who knows who’s going to catch, who’s going to play first base and who’s going to DH?” Newman once again stressed that the Yankees believe Jesus Montero can catch.

• Other injury updates:

Greg Golson: About a week away from playing in games.
Mark Prior: “Not throwing (off a mound),” Newman said. “He’s really struggling with this kind of hip, abdominal thing. Hard to nail it down.
Alan Horne:
Throwing in extended spring and building arm strength.
Graham Stoneburner, Steve Garrison, Jeremy Bleich: “Still a ways to go,” Newman said.
David Adams:
Having some leg problems that the Yankees believe to be related to the ankle injury that forced him to miss most of last season. He was back and playing, but then the leg started bothering him. Not sure how close he is to returning.

• Carlos Silva can opt out in mid-June and pitched well last night. “This is a contingency plan,” Newman said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”

• Veteran Brad Halsey, signed to a minor league deal earlier this month, is throwing in Tampa, basically going through his own spring training.

• Outfielder Damon Sublett has been throwing some bullpens in Double-A. He was a closer in college and hasn’t been getting a ton of playing time as a position player, so he asked the Yankees if he could start working out on the mound. “We’re just checking it out, getting his arm in shape,” Newman said.

• Newman said there’s no one in extended spring training who’s “setting any world records or anything,” but the name-to-know that jumped to his mind was starting pitcher Bryan Mitchell. “He’s got electric stuff,” Newman said. “He’s got the stuff to be the next Banuelos, Betances. The high-end guy. That’s Mitchell.”

Brackman photo from my friends at the Scranton Times-Tribune

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 190 Comments →

A few short minor league notes05.04.11

A few quick minor league notes this late morning. Don’t forget, we’re doing a chat at 2:30 this afternoon.

• Two injuries to players on the 40-man roster: Greg Golson is on the Triple-A disabled list with a hamstring injury, and Steve Garrison could be headed for the Double-A disabled list after groin pull.

Two other Triple-A injuries that seem fairly minor: Chris Dickerson has missed three straight games with a neck injury. He would have missed a fourth if not for a rain out last night. Ramiro Pena was out of last night’s lineup with a sore foot.

• Three non-40-man pitchers to keep an eye on: George Kontos (two runs in his past 15.1 innings as Scranton’s long man), Kevin Whelan (much improved control to go with only two hits allowed in past 10.2 innings as Scranton’s closer) and Andy Sisco (still no earned runs with four hits allowed through 10.1 innings as Scranton’s bullpen lefty).

• The Associated Press reports that the Yankees have signed Brad Halsey to a minor league deal and sent him to extended spring.

• He’s still a long, long way from the big leagues, but Slade Heathcott is hitting .351/.436/.574 through 94 at-bats in Charleston. Have to think he’ll be in Tampa around mid-season or so, maybe sooner if he keeps this up. JR Murphy is also really hitting in Charleston (.316/.340/.490) but Gary Sanchez is not (.200/.238/.293).

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Time to make a decision03.28.11

The Yankees have announced their rotation, they’ve made it clear that Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez are on the Opening Day roster, and they’ve picked Bartolo Colon as their long man. Joe Girardi is expected to announce the rest of his Opening Day roster this afternoon (except perhaps a pair of injury replacements).

Backup catcher
Favorite: Gustavo Molina
After Francisco Cervelli broke his foot, and the prospects showed they still have a few things to learn, Molina has emerged as the clear front-runner for this role. If you weren’t convinced already, the fact he caught CC Sabathia and a series of big league relievers on Saturday should have sold it. Probably a short-term place holder.

Utility infielder
Favorite: Eduardo Nunez
Nunez and Ramiro Pena seemed pretty even when camp opened, but Nunez has been dynamic enough that I have to think he’s the favorite for the spot. It wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world to carry Pena — mostly because this is going to be such a minimal role — but Nunez is the one who keeps getting regular time in left field and the most at-bats.

Pedro Feliciano replacement
Favorite: Steve Garrison
Probably won’t get this announcement today, but Garrison does seem to be the front-runner. He’s a lefty — which makes him a natural replacement — but he’s also on the 40-man, which makes him an easier addition than Luis Ayala or Mark Prior. Indications are that Romulo Sanchez will be out of the organization soon, and Garrison would give the Yankees a second lefty who could also pitch three or four innings if necessary.

Curtis Granderson replacement
Favorite: Chris Dickerson
The Yankees have seen more of Greg Golson and Justin Maxwell, but those two are right-handed hitters. Their roles would be minimal with Andruw Jones on the roster. Dickerson is a lefty who’s hit right-handed pitching in his career. He’s the best fit, but he has to get past his hamstring injury. It’s doubtful the Yankees will announce anything about this situation until Tuesday or Wednesday (or maybe even Thursday). There’s still a chance Granderson will break camp.

Associated Press photo of Nunez

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Wednesday notes: Hughes slides by with his cutter03.23.11

Phil Hughes had seven strikeouts tonight, and the way he remembers it, all but one came on a modified version of his cutter. Disappointed in the pitch this spring, Hughes tweaked his cutter grip and turned the pitch into more of a slider, something slightly slower and bigger.

“It’s probably technically more slider now,” Hughes said. “But I’ll still call it a cutter because I don’t want to get in the mode of getting around it and lazy with it. If I just tell myself it’s a cutter, I’ll throw it with conviction.”

Hughes threw a slider when he was younger, including his early years in the Yankees minor league system, but he eventually dumped the pitch and picked up the cutter. When the cutter disappointed him again last week, Hughes had Larry Rothschild work with him on finding a new cutter/slider grip. He tried a few slight modifications, found one he liked and used the pitched 25 to 30 times tonight. He threw it more than either his curveball or changeup.

“It’s bigger so I assume it has to lose a little velocity to get that,” he said. “I don’t think it’s something that’s slow enough that they recognize it… I have to give it my fastball arm speed and not get lazy with it. If I do that, I don’t think it will fall in the same mode I was when I was 16 years old throwing my slider, because I didn’t really know what I was doing (back then).”

Here’s Hughes, who began his interview with his usual banter, suggesting we wouldn’t be able to come up with a first question without Kim Jones, who usually starts the postgame interviews.

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Curtis Granderson is the fourth Yankee to hurt his oblique this spring, and the others told him that the day after is usually the worst. For Granderson, that was good news. He woke up feeling pretty good today. He can feel that something’s still not quite right, but the oblique didn’t really hurt him today.

“Normal movements feel fine,” he said.

The test will come when Granderson is cleared to begin baseball activities. Doctors have told him than an internal oblique injury is unusual — it’s usually the external that’s hurt — and Granderson said his injury is most similar to Joba Chamberlain’s. If he’s out a little more than a week, like Chamberlain was, it might make sense to DL him out of camp and add an extra outfielder for a few days. Granderson could stay back and play out the rest of the minor league spring schedule, which runs through April 3.

“(The weather in New York) can add to potential issues considering what we have and trying to keep it warm,” Grandersons aid. “Obviously being here in Tampa is the best place to be right now.”

Here’s Granderson discussing the injury before tonight’s game.

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• No X-rays for Nick Swisher, who fouled a ball off his foot and was taken out of the game. “Hopefully it’s just day-to-day,” Joe Girardi said.

• Facing another right-heavy lineup, Hughes didn’t use his changeup too often tonight, but he said he was happy with the handful he did throw. “The changeup definitely has its place,” Hughes said. “I didn’t change the slider to not have to answer any more questions about the (changeup).”

• When Girardi said pregame that he thought Granderson could be healthy enough for Opening Day, the the Yankees did not yet have the MRI results. Girardi said the MRI didn’t change his opinion. “I still think there’s a possibility he’s going to be there Opening Day for us,” Girardi said.

• If you missed it in the game post, Jorge Vazquez, Greg Golson, Jose Gil, Jordan Parraz, Brandon Laird, Kevin Russo and Melky Mesa were sent to minor league camp today. Russo, Mesa and Laird were optioned previously, but they’ll actually report to minor league camp this time.

• After the game, the Yankees also sent Ryan Pope, Steve Garrison and Eric Wordekemper to minor league camp. Pope and Garrison were previously optioned but had been sticking around big league camp to serve as backups.

• Sending Golson to minor league camp doesn’t rule him out of making the Opening Day roster. In fact, he was sent down because the Yankees consider him a possible replacement if Granderson does end up on the DL. “Goley is a guy that we would definitely consider if Curtis is down,” Girardi said. “We want him to go get some at-bats. He’s been kind of behind and I don’t want him getting one at-bat (per game) here.”

• Freddy Garcia will pitch at the minor league complex tomorrow. He’s the only big leaguer scheduled to pitch. Jesus Montero will catch him. Austin Romine caught A.J. Burnett at the minor league complex today.

• Alex Rodriguez’s 13-game hitting streak ended on Monday. Tonight, his streak of eight straight games with an RBI came to an end. He did go 2-for-4, though.

• Other than Rodriguez, the Yankees had only four hits, but they beat the Blue Jays 5-3. Derek Jeter, Greg Golson, Brandon Laird and Robinson Cano had the other hits.

• Jeter has a modest four-game hitting streak, with a double in two of the four games. He’s struck out once since March 6.

• One scoreless inning from Mariano Rivera, and one scoreless from Boone Logan. Logan once again struck out three. He also picked up his first save. Hughes was thrilled to learn he’d picked up his first spring win.

• Today’s lineup with Jeter in the leadoff spot and Brett Gardner batting ninth could be the Yankees usual setup against left-handed starters. Girardi said he’s seriously considering a different leadoff man for righties and lefties. “It could possibly happen,” he said. “It’s not unusual to have one lineup for left-handers and one for right-handers. Sometimes guys move up in the order or you drop a guy down a little bit.”

Associated Press photos

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Uncertainty in the outfield03.22.11

The Yankees will find out tomorrow whether Curtis Granderson’s oblique injury is worth legitimate concern. Already this spring, the Yankees have seen one oblique injury take two or three days, another take roughly a week, and another take exactly two weeks.

In all three cases, the player in question — Sergio Mitre, Joba Chamberlain and Greg Golson — said the injury was not serious.

“The way (Granderson) was talking, it’s not that serious,” Andruw Jones said.

That’s obviously the best-case scenario. If Granderson is out for a couple of days, it’s a non-issue. If he’s out a couple of weeks, though, the Yankees might have to look into an extra outfielder to carry at the start of the regular season.

Colin Curtis might have been the perfect fit here.

As a left-handed hitter, Curtis would have been a nice compliment to the right-handed Jones, and he would have given the Yankees another option behind Brett Gardner in center field (I’m betting Curtis is better in center than Jones at this point).

Without Curtis, the Yankees still have two good options. Both Greg Golson and Justin Maxwell fit the profile of fourth/fifth outfielders who can play all three spots and offer some speed of the bench, but this is one situation in which a healthy Curtis might have jumped into roster contention.

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Yankees clubhouse thinning out after first cuts03.13.11

Mark Prior is all alone in one corner of the Yankees clubhouse. All around him are empty lockers, most of them cleared out this morning through the Yankees first round of cuts.

Prior’s neighbor, Neal Cotts, didn’t make it through the first week of camp. The next three lockers in his row belonged to Buddy Carlyle, Brian Anderson and Andy Sisco but they’re all gone now. In the middle of the clubhouse, empty lockers belonging to Adam Warren, David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell are clustered together.

There seems to have been a bit of a system to the first round of cuts. Of the pitcher in camp on a minor league deals, only Warner Madrigal — who’s dealt with an injury — has fewer innings than Carlyle, Anderson and Sisco. Those three weren’t pitching much anyway. The other four cuts were minor league starters — Phelps, Mitchell, Warren and Hector Noesi — who just pitched either Friday or Saturday. They won’t pitch again for a few days, and with the big league starters stretched out to four-plus innings, it was becoming difficult to get those four stretched out as well.

Still waiting for word on whether any of the seven cuts were released. The assumption is that all seven were simply reassigned (or optioned) to minor league camp.

• The only minor league starters still in big league camp are Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos (and maybe Steve Garrison, depending on how the Yankees plan to use him this season). Might not be long before the Yankees have to send some of the Killer Bs down as well to give them innings.

• Banuelos turns 20 years old today. He’s the youngest guy in camp.

• Combined spring numbers for Mitchell and Warren: 8 G, 10.2 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 10 K, 2.53 ERA. Mitchell walked no one. Warren allowed just one earned run.

• Sisco didn’t allow a hit in big league camp, but he did walk four through 3.1 innings.

• Greg Golson said he’s still not able to do much with that oblique injury. He said it feels better day after day, but he’s not able to swing or doing any real baseball activity until it’s back to 100 percent. “Whenever this thing lets me,” he said.

• Today’s sides: Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, Pedro Feliciano, Mitchell and Phelps.

• Mariano Rivera will make his spring training debut this afternoon against the Twins. We’ll see a lot of the regular Yankees bullpen, with Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain and Dave Robertson also scheduled to pitch. None of the big league relievers is scheduled to make tomorrow’s trip to Fort Myers (except starter Sergio Mitre).

• Minor league utility man Justin Snyder is on the list of players making tomorrow’s trip to play the Red Sox. The Yankees are taking their regular outfielders, but none of the other everyday guys.

Available in the bullpen today: Rivera, Soriano, Chamberlain, Robertson, Brackman, Romulo Sanchez, Steve Garrison, Ryan Pope, Eric Wordekemper and Dellin Betances. Everyone after Brackman seems to be a backup.

Off the bench: C Gustavo Molina, 1B Eric Chavez, 2B Ronnie Belliard, SS Eduardo Nunez, 3B Kevin Russo, LF Melky Mesa, CF Austin Krum, RF Daniel Brewer and DH Kyle Higashioka.

Tomorrow’s travelers today: Tomorrow the Yankees have their second long road trip in three days. They’ll travel to Fort Myers to play the Red Sox before an off day Tuesday. There will be a workout at the stadium in Tampa on Monday afternoon before the bus leaves.

Pitchers who will be making the trip: Sergio Mitre, Luis Ayala, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, Steve Garrison, Ryan Pope, Mark Prior, Romulo Sanchez and Eric Wordekemper.

Players who will not be making the trip: Francisco Cervelli, Russell Martin, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Eric Chavez, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Colin Curtis, Greg Golson and Andruw Jones.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 214 Comments →

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