Pregame notes: Cervelli feels “new again” • 04.29.11
A baseball clubhouse is a much happier place with Francisco Cervelli is in it. Gustavo Molina seems like a perfectly nice guy, and he did a nice job in his limited role this month, but Cervelli showed up with hugs for every player and clubhouse attendant in sight.
“I’m new again,” he said. “Just, I’m excited to be here, that’s it. When you get here you don’t feel anything.”
Joe Girardi said he plans to have Cervelli behind the plate on Sunday. That’s a day game after a late-afternoon game, and that matches Cervelli with Ivan Nova instead of A.J. Burnett, who pitches tomorrow. Cervelli and Burnett have worked together in the past, and Girardi said he wouldn’t be opposed to putting those two together again if the schedule begins to fall that way.
“You wait and see how days fall,” Girardi said “But they’ve worked well together and it’s something that I might keep.”
As for Cervelli, he worked extra hard this offseason in anticipation of a fight for the backup catcher role. He wound up winning it with only five spring at-bats, the same number as Kyle Higashioka. Clearly the Yankees are comforted by Cervelli’s experience and familiarity.
Cervelli said the worst part of these past few weeks — nearly two months, really — has been all the time spent on his couch. “I think I’m too hyper,” he said. The sitting around drove him crazy, but he said he used that time to watch video. He watched some catching videos, but he mostly watched video of his pitchers, and he tried to watch every Yankees game.
“When I get to spring training I never feel comfortable, like I’ve got my spot on the team or something like that,” he said. “I always want to play like a rookie, and my whole career I have to fight for everything. I don’t think there’s a time to be comfortable and sit on the couch and think you’ve got something. Right now, it’s the same thing. I’m going to be ready because a lot of things can happen.”
• Brett Gardner is a career .444/.545/.889 against Ricky Romero, and Girardi said Gardner’s success against the Blue Jays starter was the most significant factor in the decision to keep Jorge Posada on the bench today. “Gardy’s had some success off of Ricky Romero and swung the bat well last night,” Girardi said. “We want to keep him going.”
• Girardi didn’t mention it, but Posada is a career .200/.200/.267 hitter against Romero. Then again, Jones has just one hit in nine at-bats against Romero.
• The Yankees are in a stretch of 32 games in 33 days, and Girardi indicated that this won’t be the last time Posada is replaced at designated hitter. He specifically mentioned Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher as players who might get a DH day to stay fresh.
• Mark Teixeira said his shoulder is still a little sore, but nothing like it was yesterday or the day before. “I think I strained the front part of it,” he said. “When you strain something like that, the whole shoulder just locks down. That’s why it was so stiff and tough to swing at all. It’s feeling a lot better.” Teixeira said he never had any tests. “No reason to,” he said.
• If there’s a ball that requires him to dive tonight, Teixeira said he won’t hesitate. “I throw my body around a lot,” he said. “I weigh 225 pounds. Sometimes when you land on hard dirt or on bases or run into walls or whatever it may be, sometimes you get bruised up. But I’m not going to change the way I play.”
• I still haven’t seen Phil Hughes since the announcement that he’s going to see a vascular specialist in St. Louis, but Girardi said Hughes is the same as ever. “He’s good,” Girardi said. “He’s basically going to go to St. Louis on Monday and he’s just waiting to have his test. I’m sure he’s wondering what’s exactly going on. As I said, Phil is a pretty calm guy and his personality to me doesn’t seem to be a lot different.”
• The usual stuff about tonight’s starter Freddy Garcia: “I’ve said all along, Freddy just knows how to compete and that’s what he goes out and does,” Girardi said. “He finds a way to get it done. He’s clever. He’s able to read swings and has an idea of exactly what he wants to do.”
• By the way, it’s stunning just how much stuff a catcher brings with him to the ballpark. While Cervelli was moving into his locker, people just kept carrying in bags and boxes full of bats and gear and equipment. There was stuff everywhere.
Rajai Davis CF
Yunel Escobar SS
Jose Bautista RF
Adam Lind 1B
Juan Rivera LF
Edwin Encarnacion 3B
David Cooper DH
J.P. Arencibia C
John McDonald 2B
Associated Press photos
There seemed to be an agreement between the manager and the right fielder that Nick Swisher began really pressing in the last week or so. Joe Girardi said the weekend games in Baltimore triggered some frustration because Swisher had hit the ball well but had nothing to show for it. Swisher pointed to the Baltimore series as well, but for a different reason.
“I think they really started eating at me, especially when Gardy started going deep,” Swisher said.
Swisher and Brett Gardner have one of those friendships. They’re constantly joking with one another, and when they can, they give one another a hard time. Even with Swisher frustrated by his numbers, Gardner wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to gain the upper hand. Gardner went deep once this weekend in Baltimore. Then he hit another home run at home. He hit his third home run of the season tonight, jump starting that six-run fifth inning.
“Nothing in particular,” Gardner said. “Just maybe a little thing like asking him how many home runs he has this year… By no means is me giving him a hard time going to put him down in the dumps, you guys know him well enough to know that.”
Tonight, Swisher told Gardner that he’s starting to catch up.
Said Swisher: “I think that home run’s always in the back of my mind. Tonight, just to get a couple of knocks, that little 16-hopper through the left side, that definitely makes me smile a little bit. Just trying to get something to keep rolling, and hopefully it just keeps rolling through the rest of the season.”
Said Gardner: “(Home runs are) not really my game, so I’m not really worrying about it too much. If that happens, then I’m happy. For me, my swing, I’m much more comfortable with the ball I hit in the seventh inning, the double to left-center. That’s my game and that’s where I need to stay.”
And here’s Gardner.
• CC Sabathia became the fifth straight Yankees starter to allow one earned run or less. He pitched seven innings without an earned run. All three White Sox runs came after an error in the seventh. After going winless in four starts, Sabathia has now won his past two.
• With some help from Alex Rodriguez — who made a nice throw to the plate — Sabathia stranded four runners in the first two inning. “You can look at that and possibly say that’s the difference in the ballgame,” Joe Girardi said. “Those first two innings, he strands a lot of runners, they have second and third with nobody out and the heart of their order coming up. I think he’s able to do that because he doesn’t think about what happened in the past. He’s able to focus on what he needs to do to the next hitter; he’s able to relax on the mound. He doesn’t get flustered and just makes pitches.”
• The bottom of the fifth took 32 minutes. “I was just pretty much down in the cage,” Sabathia said. “I got a little bit of extra heat put on my shoulder and elbow. Just make sure I keep a sweat. Whether that’s throwing balls in the cage or hoping on the bike, whatever you’ve got to do to just keep sweating.”
• The first nine Yankees reached base without making an out in the fifth inning. It was the first time the Yankees did that since 2002, according to Elias.
• Gardner and Swisher combined for five hits, six runs and two walks. “It’s just great to be making contact,” Gardner said. “For a little while I wasn’t even really making contact. I felt good at the plate today. That’s the best I’ve felt maybe even since the start of spring training. It’s all about maintaining consistency.”
• The Yankees actually had a 2-0 lead before they had a hit. Edwin Jackson walked four straight batters and allowed a sacrifice fly in the third inning to put the Yankees in front. “They just put some good at-bats on Jackson,” Girardi said. “Made him work and saw a lot of pitches.”
• Alex Rodriguez had his 859th RBI as a Yankee, passing Paul O’Neill for sole possession of 13th place on the franchise list.
• Two more hits for Robinson Cano. He has a hit in 16 of his past 17 game and 19 of 22 this season.
• In what might have been his final rehab start, Francisco Cervelli played all of tonight’s Triple-A game at catcher. He went 0-for-4 with a walk. On a related note, Gustavo Molina had his first hit as a Yankee.
• Eduardo Nunez had his first two hits of the season. He also made two errors, which could have a lot to do with a lot of time on the bench this first month. “I have confidence in myself,” Nunez said. “And I have to work on my defense.”
• Not a good minor league start for Kevin Millwood, who allowed six runs through two innings. He can opt out of his minor league contract on Sunday.
Associated Press photos
Phil Hughes spent four hours at the doctor’s office today. He had an MRI on his shoulder, an MRI on his elbow and a few vascular tests. He’s scheduled to go back for a second round of tests tomorrow.
“If they find something, they find something,” Hughes said. “I’m just anxious to figure out what’s going on. I talked to the doctor this morning and (they) basically want to get as many tests done as possible so we can paint a clear picture of exactly what’s going on. As much information as we can gather, basically. The more the better.”
Hughes said his arm does not bother him in his day-to-day life. It doesn’t bother him when he’s loading groceries or anything like that, and he’s able to life weights like normal. Then again, he said the weight lifting could be testing only the larger muscles and “masking” an issue with a smaller muscle. It’s possible, and that’s why he’s doing so many tests. He said all of his symptoms are things he’s felt in the past, they’ve just lingered longer than ever before.
Joe Girardi said he never saw anything last season to suggest Hughes’ workload was having a negative impact, but certainly it’s possible that it’s affecting him now. Based on what Hughes has experienced and said, the Yankees have done all the things they know to do. Now they’re looking for medical issues.
“I think you just don’t want to give guys MRIs just to give them MRIs,” Girardi said. “They say you should only have so many MRIs per year. I don’t want him walking around like Spiderman, every time you feel something you go get an MRI. I think you have to be careful… Because he had no pain, we didn’t feel the need.”
Hughes kept answering questions in waves, but here’s early chunk of his pregame interview(s).
• Girardi said he came into this home stand having decided to give Alex Rodriguez a DH day either yesterday or today. It happened to be today. “We had a long day Sunday, night game last night, so I thought I would just DH him and get Chavy in there for a day,” Girardi said. “Russell caught three days in a row, so I thought I’d get Molina in there.”
• Girardi said he’s not considering this a make-or-break start for Ivan Nova. Kevin Millwood is looming in Triple-A, but Girardi said Nova is not pitching for his job. He did acknowledge, though, that Nova might be thinking that way. “It’s not how I’m thinking, but I’ve been a young player, and I know that feeling,” Girardi said. “Sometimes it’s tough, but you have to fight that, and you have to be able to put that aside when you go out.”
• Francisco Cervelli was rained out last night and he’s scheduled to catch for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tonight. The Yankees still want him to catch back-to-back games before they activate him from the disabled list.
• Girardi on Jorge Posada’s struggles: “It just seems like he’s kind of in between. At times he’s late on the fastball and he’s early on the offspeed, and it seems like when he makes contact, he’s made some pretty good contact.”
• Colin Curtis was back in the clubhouse today. He has the most elaborate sling/brace I’ve ever seen wrapped around his right arm and shoulder. He said he has to wear it when he sleeps. Doctors discovered a significant labrum tear. That’s what was repaired during surgery. He won’t be able to do anything for a few months, but he said he should be ready well in time for spring training next year. Still, bad break for a good guy. He’s staying in New York doing some rehab work.
• Good news and bad news in Trenton: Dellin Betances is about to come off the disabled list and start later this week, but Graham Stoneburner is going on the disabled list with a neck issue.
Juan Pierre LF
Alexei Ramirez SS
Carlos Quentin RF
Paul Konerko 1B
Adam Dunn DH
Alex Rios CF
A.J. Pierzynski C
Gordon Beckham 2B
Brent Morel 3B
Associated Press photo of Rodriguez
Turning back the clock at Yankee Stadium • 04.18.11
I’ve written this more times than I care to count: The moment Cliff Lee signed with Philadelphia, the Yankees offseason went down the tubes. There was one player on the market who perfectly fit the Yankees greatest offseason need, and when he went somewhere else, there was no perfect replacement. The biggest names still on the board didn’t really fit this roster, and Brian Cashman didn’t find a trade he liked.
Cashman signed Russell Martin, Pedro Feliciano and Andruw Jones to fill immediate needs, and ownership dumped closer money on Rafael Soriano. The rest of the Yankees offseason was spent on minor league deals with players well past their prime. It was a strategy that was mocked — to put it nicely — but it’s worked out so far.
“One thing to remember is that all of these players were stars,” Billy Eppler told Joel Sherman. “If you are going to do a reclamation project then do it with these types of players because if there is still something there and it comes out, you are getting all or a big part of a star.”
Eric Chavez, Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have been immediate contributors. It remains to be seen whether they can stay healthy and productive, but they’ve shown enough to suggest there’s still something left in the tank. For low-risk signings, they’ve been better than expected.
Luis Ayala was a surprise addition to the Opening Day roster, and he pitched well as a mopup man. Gustavo Molina went from a zero-chance veteran catcher to a emergency option after injury and disappointment. Mark Prior didn’t make the big league roster, but he’s been promoted to Triple-A and looks shockingly like he might be a legitimate big league option at some point.
Neal Cotts was released after his physical sent up some red flags, Ronnie Belliard was released after it became clear he didn’t have a place with the team, and it remains to be seen whether Kevin Millwood or Carlos Silva can provide anything. At this point, though, Cashman’s low-risk moves have been worthwhile, not worth mocking.
Associated Press photo
Time to make a decision • 03.28.11
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).
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.
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
Saturday notes: Final decisions coming soon • 03.26.11
After announcing his final rotation decisions this morning, Joe Girardi said this afternoon that he plans to announce his final roster on Monday. He might do it tomorrow, but Monday is probably the day he’ll fill in the blanks.* Monday just so happens to be the deadline to add Eric Chavez to the roster.
“I don’t think he can look any better than he looks,” Brian Cashman said. “He’s done everything he needs to do.”
Chavez is in camp on a minor league deal, and as Cashman explained the technical language, Chavez can request that he be added to the roster on Sunday. The Yankees then have 24 hours to agree, or Chavez can opt out and go elsewhere. It won’t be an issue.
“You never know until it happens,” Chavez said.
Fact is, Chavez is hitting .410 this spring. He’s hit one home run, four doubles and played solid defense at first and third. Joe Girardi has said more than once that Chavez is showing no signs of injury, and Chavez keeps saying he feels great. He had that minor calf injury, but even Chavez — a guy who has reason to be worried about the slightest nagging pain — was never concerned. The Yankees won’t make it official until they have to, but it’s clear that Chavez is making this team.
“He’s looked really, really good,” Girardi said.
Truth be told, most of today’s notes came in the morning. Scroll down a little bit or click here to read those.
• Russell Martin was supposed to catch CC Sabathia this morning, but he sat out because of a tight left hamstring. The fact it has nothing to do with his surgically repaired knee seems to be a good sign, and Girardi said he’s not concerned. Martin is scheduled to catch again on Monday. “We feel that he’s going to be fine,” Girardi said.
• Speaking of Sabathia: 3 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K. He threw 37 pitches, 24 for strikes. No surprise, but Gustavo Molina said he looked great.
• As for Molina, he caught Sabathia’s minor league start, then hustled back to Steinbrenner Field in time to catch all of the major league pitchers who threw the late innings. Molina caught a total of nine innings today, and Girardi said he won’t catch tomorrow. Molina got to the big league park in the third inning, just in time to catch Mariano Rivera in the fourth.
• Rafael Soriano pitched two-thirds of an inning and said this was his last spring outing. Girardi wasn’t so sure Soriano was finished until Opening Day, but Soriano said he would not be pitching again until the regular season. “I’m ready to go,” he said.
• Today was almost certainly the final appearance of Manny Banuelos, who allowed one run on two hits and three walks through three innings. He struck out three and will leave big league camp with a 2.13 ERA. “I’ve been pleased,” Girardi said. “For the most part, I think he’s handled his surroundings very well for a 19- and 20-year-old. He has been able to throw strikes for the most part, quality strikes.”
• Alex Rodriguez’s insane spring continued with his sixth home run this afternoon. He has 14 RBI and a .422 batting average.
• On March 14, Nick Swisher was hitting .188 with two RBI this spring. After a 2-for-3 game today he’s up to .250 with eight RBI. He’s not exactly on fire, but he’s starting to get something going offensively.
• I mentioned it earlier, but I’ll mention it here as well: Girardi was encouraged by the fact Curtis Granderson swung a bat today. He wasn’t supposed to do that until tomorrow, but he came through his other drills so well that the training staff let him take about 30 swings, 15 soft toss and 15 off a tee. Girardi said he feels a little more encouraged that Granderson might have a shot at Opening Day.
• The Yankees still don’t know who’s starting tomorrow. Only three 40-man pitchers are scheduled to make the trip: Steve Garrison, Romulo Sanchez and Ryan Pope.
Additional minor league pitchers added to the travel roster: Buddy Carlyle, Eric Wordekemper, Francisco Gil, Josh Schmidt, Pat Venditte, Andy Sisco, Kevin Whelan, Amaury Sanit, Wilkins Arias and Tim Norton.
Position players not making the trip to Fort Myers: Russell Martin, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Chris Dickerson. Gustavo Molina is still listed, but he probably won’t actually go after catching nine innings today.
Minor league position players who will be making the trip to Fort Myers: Luke Murton, Luis Nunez, Yadil Mujica, Ray Kruml, Austin Krum, Abe Almonte and J.R. Murphy.
Associated Press photos, that’s Chavez being low-fived by Nick Swisher in the top picture
Nothing is settled, but Jesus Montero’s chances of making Yankees roster certainly seem to have diminished in the past week. Montero hasn’t hit especially well this spring, and Joe Girardi has admitted that the 21-year-old seems to be pressing. Francisco Cervelli’s injury opened a door, and it’s only natural that Montero would try to force his way through it.
Would he be upset if someone is gets the job?
“No, I would be fine,” Montero said. “I’ll be working hard. My moment is going to be there.”
In a lot of ways, Gustavo Molina’s moment came in early December. The Yankees were the first team to make an offer, and Molina jumped at the chance after having to sign late last year.
“If you get here, it’s for a reason, to show what I can do on the field,” Molina said. “They know what I can do on paper. Whatever is coming through is my best. I give my best every day. Make a tough decision for anybody, even in the big leagues… You never know. I learned that in ’07 with the White Sox, you never know what can happen in spring training. Sometimes people get hurt and opportunites are coming up, and sometimes you play good and you open eyes for somebody to give you a chance.”
Molina made the White Sox Opening Day roster in 2007. It was his first time in the big leagues. He’s since played for the Orioles, Mets and Red Sox.
“After you make it to the big leagues, you know what you have to do to get there, so that’s what you bring to spring training,” he said. “… I want to be part of this team. You see a lot of good people around, good players, and you want to be a part of that, so I hope I get a chance.”
Montero hopes to get a chance too. He said he’s still trying to prove he belongs, still trying to win that spot on the Yankees bench.
“They decide everything,” Montero said. “I’m doing my best here. I’m doing my job. I’m doing whatever they want me to do. I feel comfortable right now. I don’t know what decisions they’re going to make, but I feel happy.”
• Joe Girardi said he plans to announce his pitching assignments tomorrow. Decisions were made tonight, and Girardi is going to talk to his players first, then make the decisions public. When asked whether Ivan Nova has earned a rotation spot, Girardi said “I need to talk to my players first,” but also nodded his head.
• Speaking of Nova, he didn’t have his good stuff tonight, but still got through six solid innings, allowing two runs on three hits. “His stuff was not extremely sharp tonight, but that’s actually maturing and that’s a good thing,” Girardi said. “You’re not always going to have your A stuff and be sharp, and you have to find a way to do it.
• Nova found out about the Mitre trade when he got to the stadium today. He can count to three. “When he got traded, I know there’s more space now,” Nova said. “That makes me feel good. I don’t want him to leave, but now there’s three spots.”
• Girardi said he occasionally does “different things” with his backup players. Today, Molina was scheduled to be the backup, but Montero instead played the final few innings. Girardi wouldn’t say what should be read into that, but I wonder if it was an effort to give Montero one last big league inning before sending him to minor league camp. Just a guess.
• In his first at-bat back from a minor calf injury, Eric Chavez hit his first spring home run. He singled in his second at-bat and doubled in his third (after nearly hitting a home run that went just foul). He’s now batting .421 this spring.
• Curtis Granderson came through his pregame running feeling good enough that he was cleared to do some light throwing as well. “I think the intensity will be more tomorrow,” Girardi said.
• Joba Chamberalin, Dave Robertson, Boone Logan and Rafael Soriano are all scheduled to pitch back-to-back games, so they should all be back in tomorrow’s game.
• Nick Swisher’s foot came through tonight’s game just fine.
• Russell Martin said he was definitely safe when he was called out tagging up on a fly ball to left. He also said he loved it that Girardi went out to argue on his behalf. Arguing in a spring training game? “I figure you’ve got to practice,” Girardi said.
• New outfielder Chris Dickerson is flying into Tampa tonight. I have to assume he’ll be at the complex for tomorrow’s game against the Pirates.
• Brian Cashman said he’s not sure when Kevin Millwood will actually arrive in Tampa.
• After completing one trade and agreeing to one minor league deal, Cashman said he’s not finished shopping this spring. Doesn’t mean he’ll make another move, but he’ll keep looking around. “I feel that we have some quality choices in house, but my job is always to find people who are better than what we have,” Cashman said.
Top picture was taken by Paul Dean and emailed to me. From left, that’s Montero, Molina, Tony Pena, Russell Martin and Jose Gil. That’s an AP photo of Girardi with Astros first-base coach Bobby Meacham, and an AP photo of Jeter, Swisher and Kevin Long in front of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
A few Tuesday night notes and links • 02.22.11
Over the weekend, The Associated Press moved a cool story about a 106-year-old Yankees fan living in Florida. Mark Didtler — our trusted AP man covering the team with the beat writers down here in Tampa — went with Billy Connors to meet her, and he wrote the piece.
New York vice president Billy Connors heard about Graham through a friend. On Friday night, he brought her a number of Yankees’ items, including an autographed photo of a favorite player, shortstop Derek Jeter. She was invited to watch a spring training game from a suite at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Her high regard for Jeter is shared with that of another Yankees great, Lou Gehrig, whose farewell speech on July 4, 1939 she witnessed in person.
“He was a nice fellow,” Graham said.
Check out the full story here. And here are a few more links at the end of this unusual day in Tampa.
• If you haven’t seen it, make sure you check out the Bob Klapisch story about Jorge Posada’s health, and the impact of a career behind the plate.
• I also really liked Ken Davidoff’s take on Alex Rodriguez, and the opportunity for him to develop into a true leader during this time of Yankees transition.
• Ben Shpigel did a nice job profiling Gustavo Molina, a veteran minor league catcher in a clubhouse full of catching prospects.
• Here’s a rather interesting story about Zack Greinke. Seems he doesn’t like to talk to anyone, media or teammates. I can only imagine how this interview would have played in New York.
• Former Yankees prospect Zach McAllister is looking for a new opportunity with the Indians, and he’s sharing a clubhouse with Austin Kearns, for whom he was traded last season.
• Another former Yankees pitcher Brett Tomko has landed with the Rangers, looking to get himself back in the big league mix.
Associated Press photo of Robinson Cano because, random notes deserve a random picture
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
Yankees organizational depth: Catcher • 01.08.11
Let’s start a position-by-position look at the Yankees organization by looking behind the plate. It’s probably the most intriguing spot in the entire system, both because of what’s happening at the big league level and what’s coming up from the minor leagues. This has been Jorge Posada’s position for more than a decade, but that’s about to change.
In the big leagues
The transition is about to begin, and it will start with Russell Martin. Signed this winter to a one-year deal, Martin says he’s healthy and that he’s shifted his workout routine to try to regain the power that made him a coveted young player just three years ago. Martin is a short-term fix, but at 27 years old, he could have some long-term upside if he returns to form. Can’t count him out beyond this season. Francisco Cervelli is, of course, poised to return to his backup role, while Posada is still around for occasional starts behind the plate. If you count Posada, it seems entirely possible that the Yankees will carry three catchers at all times this year.
On the verge
The catching future of the Yankees starts with Jesus Montero. He’s the most highly touted player in the system, and he’s one step away from the big leagues. There are still questions about his ability to catch, but he seems to convince more and more people each year. He might never be great, but his defense might play enough to keep his bat in the lineup without clogging the DH spot. Behind him is Austin Romine. The Yankees expected him to open this season in Triple-A before the Martin signing. Now it’s entirely possible Romine will be bumped back to Double-A, at least to start the year. He was good but didn’t exactly dominate that level last year — .268/.324/.402 and the league’s worst caught stealing percentage — so a return isn’t exactly a waste of time. Gustavo Molina, who has some big league time, was signed as a minor league free agent and could help in a pinch. He’ll likely start the season coming off the bench in Triple-A.
Deep in the system
It’s unusual that a minor league system would have the Yankees combination of talent and depth at the catcher position. Montero is obviously the star of the show, but 18-year-old Gary Sanchez could be a similar talent. He’s considered a better defensive prospect, and although he doesn’t have quite Montero’s power, he does have considerable pop in his bat. He’s an elite prospect himself. JR Murphy’s ultimate position is unclear, but he also has enough bat to be worth following. Kyle Higashioka doesn’t generate nearly the same buzz, but he was the youngest player invited to big league camp last year. He’s on the radar.
Organizational depth chart
My own rough guess. It’s far too early for the Yankees to settle on who will be where next season.
New York: Russell Martin
Scranton/WB: Jesus Montero
Trenton: Austin Romine
Tampa: Kyle Higashioka
Charleston: Gary Sanchez
There are six players who could, given the right circumstances, get some big league time at catcher this season: Martin, Cervelli, Posada, Montero, Molina and Romine. All of those come with different levels of concern, but that’s also a lot of depth at a position that’s often very thin.
Further down in the system, Murphy figures into this depth chart mix somewhere — either Tampa or Charleston — but he’ll also see some time at the infield and outfield corners. He shouldn’t be overlooked, even in this catching-rich system. Tyler Austin was the top catcher selected by the Yankees in last year’s draft (13th round), but it seems uncertain whether he’ll stay behind the plate as a pro. He played only two games last season before an injury. Those two games were at DH and first base.
Associated Press photo of Posada, headshots of Martin, Montero and Murphy