The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Tuesday morning notes: Stranded in Sarasota03.08.11

After last night’s game in Sarasota, the Yankees clubhouse was not the most alert or busy place this morning. “I had to ask what day it was,” Joe Girardi said.

The Yankees bus is making it way to Orlando for this afternoon’s game against the Braves. Girardi’s not on the players bus, but we can be sure he won’t be driving himself. Turns out, his keys went missing last night in Sarasota and he had to leave his rental truck at the Orioles ballpark.

Kevin Long is a suspect in the case. He apparently borrowed the keys to get his hat out of Girardi’s truck. Long claims he gave them back. Girardi doesn’t remember getting them.

It’s a very sensitive and delicate situation.

• Still no diagnosis on Colin Curtis, who still has his arm in a sling. He can’t move it up and down too well. “Kind of unlucky,” he said. “Sick catch though.”

• No significant concern about Greg Golson, who felt some stiffness in his rib cage yesterday. Girardi said there are no tests scheduled. Turns out, Golson felt some discomfort when he woke up yesterday, but he thought it was normal soreness and decided to play through it. He had to be taken out of last night’s game. “Hopefully it’s not too long,” Girardi said.

• Ronnie Belliard is doing hitting, fielding and base running drills this morning. He’s expected to get in a game later this week. “He’s actually progressed a little bit quicker than we thought (he would),” Girardi said.

• Jorge Posada could get in a game at first base later this week.

• Andrew Brackman will make his first spring appearance today. The Yankees have been wildly impressed by Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, now it’s Brackman’s turn. He’s been slowed by a groin injury, and Girardi said the only concern is that he’ll try to do too much to make up for lost time. “We have to make sure we watch that,” Girardi said.

• By the way… Any chance Brackman could eventually pitch his way into the bullpen this year? “I think that’s something you could definitely consider,” Girardi said.

• Phil Hughes, David Phelps and Steve Garrison had sides today.

Available in the bullpen: Dellin Betances, Dave Robertson, Andrew Brackman, Robert Fish, Warner Madrigal, Romulo Sanchez, Daniel Turpen, Brian Anderson and Eric Wordekemper.

Off the bench: C Gustavo Molina, 1B Jose Gil, 2B Kevin Russo, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Brad Suttle, LF Austin Krum, CF Melky Mesa, RF Jordan Paraz.

• There is no backup DH listed, suggesting the Yankees are going to let Posada get a full game of at-bats.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 96 Comments →

Late Monday notes: Nunez making his case03.07.11

Given the state of the Yankees rotation, the flurry of swing changes in camp, the emergence of Jesus Montero as a roster favorite and possible resurgence of Eric Chavez, the position battle that’s gone completely overlooked this spring is between Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena for the utility job. The importance of a utility man will be diminished if a big hitter is available to backup at third, but clearly Derek Jeter isn’t going to play 162 games at short. One of these two is going to get fairly regular at-bats.

“I think I have a good chance,” Nunez said. “I’m working hard.”

Nunez and Pena are friends. They seem to be around one another constantly at the Yankees spring training complex, and their lockers are only a few feet apart, but they seem to be jockeying for one spot. The Yankees know what they have in Pena — terrific glove, big league experience, very little offense — but Nunez is something of an unknown with only 50 big league at-bats, and limited experience away from shortstop.

“I am getting more comfortable with Nuney at second,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s an exciting player. The young man has a lot of talent. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.”

This offseason, Nunez spent seven weeks working with Robinson Cano in the Dominican Republic. He said they worked on hitting and general fitness, but Cano also worked with him at second base, including some work on turning a double play. He’s looked pretty good there this spring, and today he hit a three-run homer that brought his spring average up to .286. Pena just picked up his first hit.

• Turns out Greg Golson hurt his rib cage during tonight’s game. “I’m not exactly sure what he did,” Girardi said. “He came in and said it was bothering him.” Doesn’t sound too bad, but the Yankees should know more tomorrow.

• With three more hits this afternoon, Eric Chavez is continuing to make a strong impression on the Yankees. “You could see it right away that he had life, that the ball was jumping off his bat when we first started,” Girardi said. “He looks good to me. I watched him run the bases. There’s nothing that I’m seeing from him that would tell me he’s been hurt the last couple of years. Let’s keep it that way.”

• Andrew Brackman is scheduled to make his spring debut tomorrow.

• Here’s Girardi explaining the Colin Curtis situation: “He’s going to be out a while. I don’t have the exact diagnosis for you yet. He took the MRI today and Dr. Ahmad is going to look at it. My sense is he’s going to be out a while.”

• Rafael Soriano’s spring debut will be either Wednesday or Thursday. He pitched a simulated inning this morning but had to face one extra hitter because he got three outs too quickly.

• Girardi said we could start to see all of the Yankees regulars in the same lineup as soon as Sunday. “We’re getting closer to playing with some different things (with the lineup),” he said. This morning, the Daily News reported that there’s a strong push for Brett Gardner to slide into the leadoff spot.

• When asked about A.J. Burnett’s outing, Girardi cited the exact same at-bat that Burnett talked about this afternoon. “The way he finished getting (Wilson) Valdez,” Girardi said. “Strike after strike after strike, in a 2-2 count, down and away. I was really happy.”

• Four pitchers likely to make the big league roster pitched today (Burnett, Chamberlain, Feliciano and Mitre). They combined for eight scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks. Burnett, Chamberlain and Feliciano carried a perfect game through the fifth inning of this afternoon’s game.

• Mark Prior pitched another scoreless inning in the afternoon game. He’s still an extreme long shot to make the team, but he’s allowed just one hit through three innings. There might still be something left in that arm.

• Sergio Mitre made his first start after two relief outings. He went three innings, having not thrown more than two in either of his previous appearances. Mitre said he felt no fatigue and got better as the game progressed. “I’m trying to make their (rotation) decision as hard as possible,” Mitre said.

• Mitre’s three scoreless innings were also thanks to a terrific throw by Golson, who threw out Mark Reynolds at the plate, making an on-the-fly throw from mid center field. “We saw (his arm) last year,” Mitre said. “It’s a cannon. Saves runs.”

• Curtis Granderson hit his second spring homer, part of a two-hit day. Jorge Posada also had two hits. Of course, those came in today’s first game. The second game was a scoreless tie with four Yankees hits: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Melky Mesa and Damon Sublett. Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell each pitched two scoreless innings in the nightcap, Andy Sisco and Ryan Pope pitched a scoreless inning apiece.

Associated Press photos of Nunez, Granderson and Posada

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Thursday notes: Betances pretty good, even on a bad day03.03.11

The difference between a spring training game and a regular season game was on display in today’s seventh inning. That’s when Dellin Betances got into a bases-loaded, two-out jam and ran the count full against Tim Beckham. When he missed with ball four, the Rays scored their only run of the game.

Debacle of a performance? Not necessarily.

“He got in a little bit of trouble in the end, but that was kind of neat to see,” Joe Girardi said.

Betances was as good as ever through his first five hitters, getting B.J. Upton, Desmond Jennings and Evan Longoria in order in the sixth inning. He started the seventh by striking out Manny Ramirez and Matt Joyce. Those are five pretty good hitters, and the kid got them all.

“After I gave up that two-out double, I felt like I didn’t have a feel for my pitches,” Betances said. “I felt like trying to think too much instead of just throwing the ball, and I got away from what I was doing early on.”

He got a little rattled. It was Casey Kotchman who doubled, then Betances walked two batters to load the bases and send Larry Rothschild to the mound.

“He was just trying to say, don’t try to do too much,” Betances said. “Just put the ball there. He basically told me to change up. Try to throw breaking ball first pitch, and I did. It was just one of those days where I couldn’t find the location after the first inning and two-thirds.”

It wasn’t a bad at-bat against Beckham, but Betances lost the battle and missed a spot. He came close to a strike three pitch at one point but didn’t get the call — I thought it was a ball, but it was close — and ultimately Adam Warren came in to clean up the mess and end the inning with a strikeout. But the game wasn’t a waste for Betances, and the Yankees didn’t seem especially disappointed with the fact he finally struggled in this atmosphere.

“I thought he threw the ball pretty good,” Girardi said.

• The Yankees had Freddy Garcia at 88-89 mph this afternoon, which was seen as a plus for him. “Freddy was good,” Girardi said. “His velocity was good too.”

• Immediately after Garcia, Ivan Nova pitched three scoreless innings. It’s still incredibly early, but those two still feel like favorites for these rotation openings.

• Now that Garcia has thrown, all of the rotation candidates — depending on whether you count Andrew Brackman — have gotten in a game and should be stretched out a little more next time through. “You just want to see them be more crisp,” Girardi said. “Sometimes pitchers in this time of the year will go through a little bit of a dead arm phase. We might have to watch that a little bit. I’m not saying we will, but you just want see them get crisp, their breaking balls be sharper and more consistency.”

• Brackman will throw a simulated game on Saturday.

• Girardi has no concerns about Russell Martin playing with a knee brace tomorrow. “He did his drills with it the other day and I didn’t see it really hinder him,” Girardi said. “I think sometimes you feel a little bit more stable mentally with it as well. You know it’s not going to give out.”

• Greg Golson played for the first time since being hit in the head during live batting practice.

• We should probably get used to seeing Eric Chavez getting time at first base. ” I don’t really have a huge concern about him playing third base,” Girardi said. “I will give him some reps at third base, but you’ll see me play him (at first) more in the spring than at third base. He looks good. He’s looked good. He’s picked Tex’s brain a lot, and Tino’s brain a lot. Some times at drills we’ll have Tino follow him around so they can talk about it. But he looks comfortable.”

• Speaking of Chavez, he had one of only four Yankees hits today. Curtis Granderson, Kevin Russo and Gustavo Molina also singled, but for this wasn’t a good day for offense. “There were some balls hit pretty hard today and I think the wind affected that,” Girardi said.

• Rule 5 pick Robert Fish was brought in to face one lefty, Casey Kotchman, and Fish struck him out. Obviously, Fish is still a long shot for this bullpen, but he did his job today. The other Yankees Rule 5 pick, Daniel Turpen, followed by allowing a single before striking out two.

• D.J. Mitchell wasn’t scheduled to throw until tomorrow, but when the game went into a 10th inning, Mitchell got the call and pitched a scoreless inning.

• Johnny Damon on whether he was close to coming back to the Yankees this winter: “I don’t really think it was close at all. I think they were very happy with their outfield situation and thought Posada was not going to be catching much. It really made it easy as far as their decision and as far as mine. I’m not ready to be a part-time player in this game.”

Associated Press photos of Montero, Nova and Pena; Montero blocked the plate and finished off the play to get an out at the plate in the third inning

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Wednesday notes: Chamberlain, Jeter and the catchers03.02.11

Joe Girardi didn’t have the numbers in front of him — and he met with the media literally a minute or two after the game had ended — so he wasn’t sure what Joba Chamberlain’s velocity was this afternoon, but he said that this spring the Yankees have clocked Chamberlain throwing harder than at this time the past two years.

“I think it has to do with how he’s breaking his hands,” Girardi said. “He can speed up his arm.”

Chamberlain has reverted back to old mechanics, moving his hands lower. It’s a small tweak, but it’s also something that worked in the past. Chamberlain credited the increased velocity, at least partially, to a different set of old habits.

“I felt like my first year when my velocity was good and everything like that, it was because I really never stopped playing catch,” he said. “I wanted to take that and use that to see if it helped. As far as velocity-wise and feel on the mound, I think it’s a night-and-day difference to the previous two or three years I think.”

Chamberlain started throwing a lot earlier this offseason, and he tried to throw quite a bit more.

“I think I’m doing everything I can to get back to where I was,” he said.

• Derek Jeter went 1-for-3 and made solid contact today. “I didn’t get so many questions about it,” Girardi said. “He hit two line drives, so everyone’s not concerned today.”

• Russell Martin will DH again tomorrow, and he’s scheduled to catch on Friday. He’ll be wearing a very light knee brace that he labeled a precaution. He wore it today and said it’s light and doesn’t bother him. “Until it’s completely 100 percent, it will be like a safety net for me,” Martin said.

• Jesus Montero will be the starting catcher tomorrow.

• One more catching note, Girardi said it will be at least two days before Cervelli plays in another game, no matter what the final results of the MRI indicate. For whatever it’s worth, Cervelli was optimistic when he left the stadium. “I think it’s nothing bad,” he said. “A couple of days and that’s it.”

• Mariano Rivera will throw batting practice next week. Rafael Soriano is a few days ahead of Rivera, but he has also not thrown to hitters yet.

• Greg Golson will play tomorrow. He went through batting practice with no problems, but Girardi decided to give him on more day. “He could have played today,” Girardi said.

• Sergio Mitre pitched only one inning, but that was planned. He’s had lest rest between appearances than the other rotation candidates, so he’s had two shorter outings. He’ll go deeper into the game when he starts on Monday.

• During batting practice, Jorge Posada went through more defensive drills at first base, fielding throws from shortstop.

• The Yankees reserves had an eventful top of the seventh: Jordan Parraz made an error in right field, Brandon Laird threw a ball away at third base and Melky Mesa made a strong but offline throw home where catcher Austin Romine got a glove on the ball but didn’t catch it. All of that led to four unearned runs off David Phelps, who had pitched a scoreless sixth.

• The Yankees won on Martin’s bases-loaded walk off Lance Pendleton, the former Yankees minor leaguer in Astros camp as a Rule 5 pick. Pendleton wasn’t supposed to pitch today, but was summoned after Douglas Arguello allowed four hits and two walks and couldn’t pitch around Houston’s own defensive mistakes. It was a 6-5 Yankees win, their second of the spring.

• Hector Noesi got the win with two scoreless innings. Boone Logan allowed the first Houston run in the fifth inning.

• Jordan Maxwell was 1-for-1 with a walk and a stolen base. During that ninth-inning rally, Dan Brewer, Austin Romine, Melky Mesa and Eduardo Nunez each had base hits, Kevin Russo and Martin drew walks, and Jordan Parraz reached on an error. Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira had hits earlier in the game.

Associated Press photos of Chamberlain, Jeter and Cervelli. The Chamberlain photo is from earlier this spring. Didn’t see one from today’s game.

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Away from the rain, Jeter does some early work inside03.01.11

Just watched an early batting cage session between Derek Jeter and Kevin Long. Jeter’s look was priceless when he realized a dozen or so reporters were standing in the tunnel watching him swing at a handful of batting practice pitches.

Because of the rain, Long and Jeter can’t do any work on the field, so Long changed gears and will make the trip to Bradenton after all. He just left, and I’m on my way right behind him. It’s pretty wet here in Tampa, but the rain has stopped and the assumption is that the Yankees will play as scheduled.

“We’re going over, so I’m assuming,” Joe Girardi said.

• Phil Hughes will make his first spring start in a stadium that is notoriously hitter friendly because of the strong wind that usually blows out. “The quality of the pitches has to be better,” Girardi said. “To me, it’s a good thing because the focus has to be there.”

• Of course, this is Hughes we’re talking about, so we’ll probably hear quite a bit about his changeup. “I think (the changeup) is important for him to take that next step,” Girardi said.

• According to Girardi, Andrew Brackman will be able to “air it out” today. Assuming that goes well, he’ll take tomorrow off and throw off a mound Thursday.

• Greg Golson will take batting practice today and should play in a game tomorrow.

• Ronnie Belliard is still at least a week away from testing his calf injury.

• The Swish-hawk is no more. Nick Swisher showed up with a shaved head this morning. He said he did it himself.

Scheduled to play off the bench: C Kyle Higashioka, 1B Jorge Vazquez, 2B Kevin Russo, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Bradley Suttle, LF Austin Krum, CF Justin Maxwell, RF Jordan Parraz, DH Gustavo Molina

Available relievers: Dave Robertson, Steve Garrison, Brian Anderson, Andy Sisco, Eric Wordekemper, Ryan Pope, Boone Logan, David Phelps and Hector Noesi

Upcoming rotation:

Wednesday: A.J. Burnett
Thursday: Freddy Garcia
Friday: Bartolo Colon
Saturday: CC Sabathia
Sunday: Phil Hughes
Monday (DH): A.J. Burnett (home), Sergio Mitre (road)
Tuesday: Freddy Garcia

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 469 Comments →

Monday notes: Timing and patience for Jeter02.28.11

For any player, one hit on February 28 means almost nothing. When that hit comes from guy who has nearly 3,000 in his career, it means even less, so we’ll have to excuse Derek Jeter for not getting worked up about a leadoff single in the top of the fifth.

“It’ll take a while to get comfortable,” Jeter said. “When was the first game? Two days ago? That was the first time I’ve seen pitching with (the new mechanics). It’s going to take a while to get comfortable. You have more time because there’s no stride. Now you’ve just got to figure out when to swing.”

Figuring out when to swing seems like a pretty basic piece of hitting, but Jeter in eliminating his stride, Jeter has changed his timing at the plate. It’s taking a while to get used to the changes, and Jeter said he still goes to the plate actively thinking about his mechanics, which is a bad thing. But it’s also an unavoidable thing at this point.

Tomorrow, hitting coach Kevin Long will stay behind in Tampa — he won’t make the team’s trip to Bradenton — so he can work one-on-one with Jeter.

“His timing is just a little bit off on the outside pitch,” Long said. “He’s got to wait a little bit longer on those pitches, and the ones in, he’s been a little bit late on. We’ll gain on it and go day by day with it. I’m certainly not, at this point, ready to cash it in and start from scratch with it. It’s going to take a little time.”

When Jeter tried to make this change in September, he still had a little bit of a stride. Now he’s trying to get rid of the stride completely, and that’s left him with more time to wait for pitches. If it’s going to work, it’s going to take repetition and patience. Joe Girardi said this morning that he won’t start truly evaluating Jeter’s swing until “three weeks or so” into spring training.

“You hope that it becomes second nature so you don’t have to think about it,” Jeter said. “The good thing is, my foot hasn’t been moving. That’s a step in the right direction, I guess.”

Here’s Jeter.

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• Russell Martin did more blocking drills this morning and said his knee feels better each day. He’s expected to get one more DH start and catch a game either Thursday or Friday. “A little stiffness when I’m running full out, 100 percent, but nothing else really,” Martin said. “It’s getting better still, even throughout the game today.”

• After taking an A.J. Burnett pitch to the head on Sunday, Greg Golson is expected to workout tomorrow, and he’ll probably get in a game Wednesday.

• Two more hits, including a double for Jorge Vazquez. He’s easily the Grapefruit League MVP through three games. He’s still a long-shot to break camp with the Yankees, but he could certainly make a big impression that keeps him on the radar.

• Mark Prior had a 1-2-3 inning in his first spring appearance, including a strikeout on the splitfinger he’s been working on. “It felt great,” Prior said. “I didn’t really know what to expect, but I felt good. Got some things I need to work on, but I think all and all, I think it went well.”

• Speaking of 1-2-3 innings, add Manny Banuelos to the list of young Yankees starters who have been outstanding in their spring debuts. “He looked really good,” Girardi said. “Three pitches he threw for strikes. Couple of strikeouts on a couple of curveballs. Ability to get back in the count with his changeup. Throwing hard. I mean, he looked really good.”

• Speaking of young starters who looked good, I talked to Nardi Contreras a little bit about Dellin Betances making such a strong first impression yesterday. To my mild surprise, Contreras seemed even more impressed with Ivan Nova’s outing.

• Rule 5 picks Daniel Turpen and Robert Fish each gave up two runs this afternoon. Contreras said Fish was throwing strikes, it was a matter of location in the zone. He had control, but not command. Turpen was given a blown save, and Fish was given the loss.

• Two-hit day with an RBI for Mark Teixeira. Francisco Cervelli also had two hits. Andruw Jones had the other Yankees RBI.

Associated Press photos of Jeter and Alex Rodriguez

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Early Monday notes: Big guy on the mound and new guy in camp02.21.11

Exactly one week after the first official workout for pitchers and catchers, Yankees camp opened this morning with Dellin Betances taking the mound on the main field here at Steinbrenner Field. Two hitters, Austin Krum and Greg Golson, took turns against him.

I asked Golson how Betances looked, and Golson gave a classic hitter’s response: He said he refuses to say any pitcher’s stuff was good, even if it’s during a batting practice session in front of no one but a few coaches. If Golson gets out, it’s his own fault. I thought it was pretty funny, but I don’t think Golson meant it as a joke.

Apparently Betances is the only pitcher who faced hitters this morning. There should be more later in the day.

• Infielder Addison Maruszak has been added to big league camp, but he’s here as a catcher. Primarily a shortstop, he was the Yankees 17th-round pick in 2008, and he’s played all over the infield. This fall Maruszak started getting some time at catcher during instructs. The Yankees have always like Maruszak’s arm, and he said they’re grooming as a kind of eight-position utility man. He’s never played the outfield as a pro, but he’s certain he could handle it. Maruszak said he’s already pretty comfortable behind the plate, though he’s still honing his instincts back there.

• Maruszak said he’s not sure how long he’ll be in big league camp. He doesn’t know whether this will be an occasional thing, a one-or-two day stint, or if he’s here until being reassigned just like everyone else. As far as I know he hasn’t been officially added to the spring roster.

• Hector Noesi said this morning that he was throwing bullpens back home, so he’s not really behind the other pitchers in camp. He was never concerned that he wouldn’t be able to get here.

• Random observation: Francisco Cervelli spent the winter working out with Robinson Cano, but it’s funny how much he still follows and constantly talks to Jorge Posada. Once a mentor, always a mentor, I guess.

• On the sheet of paper that lists the hitting and defensive assignments for the day, every player name is typed in black ink with two exceptions: Brandon Laird and Kevin Russo are written in red. I assume that’s because they’re the guys who will shuttle between infield and outfield drills.

• Bullpen assignments:

Andy Sisco (to Francisco Cervelli)
Andrew Brackman (to Kyle Higashioka)
Steve Garrison (to Kyle Higashioka)
Daniel Turpen (to Jesus Montero)
David Phelps (to Austin Romine)
Adam Warren (to Jose Gil)
D.J. Mitchell (to Jose Gil)
Eric Wordekemper (to Addison Maruszak)

• Hitting groups: Most are the same as yesterday, with catchers moving around

Infield Group 1: Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Jorge Posada
Infield Group 2: Ronnie Belliard, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Austin Romine
Infield Group 3: Eric Chavez, Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo, Jose Gil
Infield Group 4: Doug Bernier, Brad Suttle, Jorge Vazquez, Addison Maruszak

Outfield Group 1: Greg Golson, Andruw Jones, Nick Swisher, Russell Martin
Outfield Group 2: Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Justin Maxwell, Francisco Cervelli
Outfield Group 3: Colin Curtis, Jordan Parraz, Melky Mesa, Kyle Higashioka
Outfield Group 4: Daniel Brewer, Austin Krum, Brandon Laird, Gustavo Molina, Jesus Montero

• Fielding groups: The exact same as yesterday’s groups, Maruszak wasn’t listed with a defensive group

Catcher Group 1: Jose Gil, Russell Martin, Gustavo Molina, Russell Martin
Catcher Group 2: Francisco Cervelli, Kyle Higashioka, Jorge Posada, Austin Romine

Infield Group 1: Doug Bernier, Robinson Cano, Eric Chavez, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Brad Suttle, Jorge Vazquez
Infield Group 2: Ronnie Belliard, Brandon Laird, Ramiro Pena, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Russo, Mark Teixeira

Outfield Group 1: Daniel Brewer, Curtis Granderson, Andruw Jones, Austin Krum, Jordan Parraz
Outfield Group 2: Colin Curtis, Brett Gardner, Greg Golson, Justin Maxwell, Melky Mesa, Nick Swisher

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 540 Comments →

Friday notes: All flat ground for Soriano and Rivera02.18.11

There’s only so much to talk about with only pitchers and catchers in camp. Even these bullpen sessions don’t mean a whole lot.

“You don’t put a lot of stock into bullpens, especially this early in camp,” Joe Girardi said. “I just think it’s unfair to do that. The last thing I want is someone thinking is that I want to see more in a bullpen, because then they’re going to try to do too much and end up getting hurt.”

Camp will finally get a little more lively tomorrow when position players report for their physicals, and we’ll be in the full swing of things with the first full-squad workout on Sunday.

“It’s hard to believe we start games in a week,” Girardi said.

• Rafael Soriano has not yet thrown a bullpen. Girardi said Soriano will probably get on a mound for the first time next week. The Yankees don’t need Soriano to get stretched out beyond one inning, and they aren’t expecting a heavy workload when the spring schedule starts. “We’re not going to ask him to make 13 or 14 appearances,” Girardi said.

• Soriano will wait until next week to get off a mound, Mariano Rivera will wait “maybe a little longer” according to Girardi. Whenever Rivera needs to pitch off a mound, he’ll pitch off a mound. This is a pretty polished process.

• A lot of the pitchers who are already pitching off a mound are slightly ahead of last year’s schedule. “We’ve had a lot of kids who have been down here for a while throwing in Tampa,” Girardi said. “Maybe they are a little bit ahead.”

• Hector Noesi is still dealing with visa issues, but Girardi said there’s a chance he’ll be in camp — in uniform and ready to pitch — on Sunday. “I’m hoping it doesn’t have much of an impact,” Girardi said. “I hope he’s been doing his throwing, and I’m sure he has been doing his throwing.”

• Speaking of guys showing up, Girardi said he expects every position player to be in camp on time this weekend. As far as he knows, no one is going to be late.

• I went to the minor league complex very briefly this morning to see which position players were going through one last day of hitting. There were only minor league guys at the complex when I was there. One of the guards said Ramiro Pena was the only big leaguer he saw taking BP today.

• Gustavo Molina didn’t catch today. He felt some pain in his leg, but Girardi said it’s very minor. “Nothing alarming,” he said.

• Greg Golson got an early start moving into his locker. He showed up this afternoon wearing street clothes and carrying a big box full of stuff.

• Some people had asked about Alan Horne, who’s been battling injuries since being name Eastern League Pitcher of the Year in 2007. Now coming back from a shoulder injury, Horne is throwing in Tampa and scheduled to pitch off a half mound some time around March 1.

• If you’re ever in a spring training press box with a good set of headphones, and you need to write a newspaper story about Freddy Garcia, Alexi Murdoch makes rock solid writing music.

Associated Press photos of Francisco Cervelli and Soriano

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Thursday notes: Girardi staying involved behind the plate02.17.11

Yesterday, just as the bullpens and catching drills were breaking up, Joe Girardi and Tony Pena stayed behind with Jesus Montero, slightly tweaking the way he squats. They seemed to be working on Montero’s base, getting his feet just slightly farther apart.

When someone told Girardi it was time for Montero’s group to taking batting practice, Girardi responded instantly.

“I know he can hit,” Girardi said.

A little defensive work was, for the moment, a priority.

During the day, Girardi bounces around a little bit. He spends time watching pitchers in the bullpen, but he’s also been involved in a few of Pena’s infamous — and occasionally brutal — catching drills. Today, Girardi specifically did some work with Russell Martin.

“Tony told me he was going to do some things with him today that I wanted to see,” Girardi said. “It’s just the importance of that relationship, getting to know him better, understanding what he’s all about and what makes him tick. Just trying to get a better grasp on the player.

“You think about the responsibility the catcher has, he’s responsible for a lot of guys. He’s responsible for 12 pitchers and himself, and you kind of want him to be an extension of what we’re trying to do here. That relationship is important.”

• Speaking of Martin, although he’s not quite 100 percent right now, the Yankees are expecting no restrictions when the season starts. “He hasn’t shown me anything physically right now that won’t allow us to play him every day,” Girardi said.

• As of right now, no plan is in place for when Mariano Rivera will finally get in a game. “I don’t have an exact date,” Girardi said. “Larry (Rothschild) is going to sit down and give us an exact date of when he’ll throw. He usually gets in a game sometime around the 15th, maybe a little before.”

• Speaking of Rivera: “He picked a good day to come,” Girardi said. “Today is our first off-day from running.”

• In theory, having Rafael Soriano could ease Rivera’s workload, but Girardi said he’s planning to treat his closer the same as ever. Three days in a row is not out of the question with Rivera, not like it is with most other relievers. “I’ll continue to treat Mo the same,” Girardi said.

• With room for only one long reliever, the Yankees might try to stretch out some of their one-inning relievers this spring. “That’s something you might see guys do a little in spring training, where we ask them to get more than three outs and we stretch them out a little bit,” Girardi said. “You’d like to have a couple guys who can give you multiple innings, so that’s something we’ll have to look at and see how they respond to it.”

• According to Girardi, Phil Hughes’ increased workload might have contributed to his shaky second half. “I don’t realty have a whole lot of concern about that,” Girardi said. “I think part was maybe the increased innings, but I saw what he did the last few starts, which were pretty good. The start against Boston, the start against Minnesota, those were pretty good starts. He seemed to bounce back. That’s one of the reasons we do put limitations on them, because you worry about fatigue.”

• Once a highly touted pitching prospect in the Yankees system, right-hander Christian Garcia was released last season after a series of injuries derailed his promising career. The Yankees are aware that Garcia, 25, has been working out and plans to throw for scouts, but I was told today that the Yankees have no plans of bringing Garcia back to the organization.

• For those of you interested in such things, Brandon Laird’s locker has been moved to the middle of the clubhouse, filling the spot that was supposed to go to Reegie Corona. He was assigned a wall locker near the door. This “news” has no impact on anything, just thought I’d share.

• Yogi Berra will be in camp at some point next week.

Associated Press photos: Girardi with Martin, Rivera stretching, Curtis Granderson and Greg Golson at the minor league complex

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 507 Comments →

Spring decision: Fourth spot on the bench02.12.11

The Yankees know Andruw Jones will be their fourth outfielder. They know their utility infielder will be one of two candidates. They know their backup catcher will be either Francisco Cervelli or one of the young guys. The spot that seems wide open is the fourth man on the bench, a spot that could go to either an infielder or an outfielder, a power bat or a pinch runner, a defensive replacement or a potential pinch hitter.

The possibilities
The Yankees could go almost any direction with this spot. If they want additional outfield depth, Greg Golson and Justin Maxwell are both speedy, right-handed hitters who could be defensive replacements or pinch runners, and Colin Curtis could be a left-handed balance to Jones. In the infield, the Yankees could choose to carry both Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena, or they could carry one of those two as a backup shortstop, with either Eric Chavez or Ron Belliard — or Brandon Laird or Kevin Russo or Jorge Vazquez — available to fill in at the corners.

The easy choice
That’s what the Yankees are hoping for: An easy choice. If anyone steps up in spring training and puts himself clearly above the other candidates, the Yankees choice will be simple. It seems that in an ideal world, Chavez will prove he’s healthy and can still hit for power. He would be a left-handed hitter on a predominantly right-handed bench, and if he can step in as the guy to give Alex Rodriguez an occasional day off at third base, that might be the best use of the fourth bench spot. Any other choice — either a fifth outfielder or a light-hitting second utility man — would have no clear role other than late-inning defense and base-running.

The alternatives
If Chavez is finished, the Yankees could focus on late-inning defense and base-running. Carrying both Pena and Nunez would let the team use either one as a pinch runner without losing defensive flexibility. The same would be true for either Golson or Maxwell, each of whom has enough speed to steal a bag and could slide into right field for the last inning or two.

Normally, the fact Curtis is a left-handed hitter would be a negative in an already left-leaning outfield, but of the favorites for a bench job, Jones, Cervelli and Nunez are all right-handed, and switch-hitter Pena isn’t much of an offensive threat from either side of the plate. If Chavez doesn’t emerge as a legitimate option from the left side, Curtis could bring some left-right balance to the bench.

The Yankees could also prioritize flexibility, opening a spot for either Russo or Brandon Laird as a player capable of filling in at the infield and outfield corners.

A separate but related issue
Eleven players had at least 150 at-bats for the Yankees last season (a group that included Pena and the since-departed Marcus Thames). Of the group that had fewer than 150 ABs, no one had more home runs or RBI than Juan Miranda. Defensive versatility is crucial on the bench, but the Yankees might be on the lookout for a hitter who can bounce back and forth from Scranton and occasionally give the Yankees productive big league at-bats, regardless of defensive ability.

Associated Press photos of Curtis and Chavez

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 137 Comments →

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