Wearing a new padded wrist guard, Brett Gardner hit inside when he got to Tropicana Field earlier today. That went well enough that he was given permission to take full batting practice with the team during the usual pregame workout.
Doesn’t sound likely that he could hit his way into the lineup, but Gardner said he’s basically ready to play.
“If I don’t get a chance to play today, hopefully tomorrow,” he said. “I hit in the cage and it felt pretty good.”
Even after yesterday’s MRI showed nothing more serious than a bone bruise, the Yankees still decided to give Gardner one more day off. That’s pretty standard around here, where the Yankees seem to favor a cautionary approach to all injuries.
“My inclination is to give him one more day,” Girardi said. “But I want to see BP first. He did take some swings off the tee and said he felt pretty good, but let’s just see what happens after BP.”
The wrist guard Gardner’s wearing is pretty small and it’s designed in a way that doesn’t restrict movement. He said he’ll be wearing it when he finally does get back in the lineup.
• Ivan Nova threw his second live batting practice of the week this morning at the minor league complex. “I’m getting closer,” Nova told The Associated Press. “Feels awesome.” Girardi said Nova’s schedule calls for him to begin pitching in actual minor league rehab games around May 1. Pretty much the schedule that’s been expected for several months now.
• Chris Capuano’s second live batting practice is scheduled for Sunday. He actually has a locker setup in the clubhouse for this series at Tropicana Field.
• When Capuano threw live batting practice earlier this week, Jose Pirela was one of the hitters he faced. Pirela is basically going through every drill and is scheduled to play an extended spring training game on Monday. He’s been working his way back from a concussion since late spring training. When he’s ready, will he go to Triple-A or join the big league bench? “I don’t know,” Girardi said. “Let’s just get him healthy first. Make sure he’s only seeing one of everything.”
• Girardi said Brendan Ryan “might” come down to Tampa next week to start going through some workouts on his way back from that spring calf injury. When Giradri said “might,” I took it to mean Ryan’s definitely coming down barring any sort of setback.
• Given the way Alex Rodriguez has hit — and given the way guys like Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann have hit — why isn’t Alex Rodriguez hitting higher than sixth? “I don’t think you can make too much of nine games,” Girardi said. “If you started moving your hitters according to every nine-game period you play, you’d be doing it all the time. We’re trying to have as much of a set lineup as you can. We don’t have Gardy in there, so I’ve used the same lineup two days in a row. I liked the way the guys swung the bats the other night, so we’ll just keep it the same.”
• The Yankees still don’t have a defined closer, but Girardi’s been using Andrew Miller in those situations, and it certainly sounds like that might be the case again here in Tampa. “We haven’t named it,” Girardi said. “Have I used him as the closer the last couple times? Yeah. We’ll let it play out a little but and see how this works out. Obviously in this situation, you would think about against Tampa — because they have so many right-handed hitters in the lineup — that you’d use Dellin more for four- or five-outs more than you would Miller.”
• Girardi said the Yankees are still actively discussing the idea of a spot starter at some point during this heavy stretch of games without many off days. He specifically mentioned Chase Whitley and Bryan Mitchell as candidates to come up and start at some point to give everyone an extra day off. He said that if/when they do it could depend on weather. If they get rained out in Detroit next week, then the sixth-starter call-up could be pushed back. “It’s something that’s on the back of our minds,” Girardi said. “And we’ve kind of prepared ourselves for it.”
Associated Press photos
Brett Gardner is out of the lineup for the second day in a row, but his right wrist was unwrapped when he sat at his locker this afternoon.
“Much better today,” he said. “Definitely happy that it feels the way it does.”
Hit by a pitch on Monday, Gardner went for X-rays that came back negative and said he’s expecting to be back in the lineup on Friday (the Yankees are off tomorrow). The Yankees are prepared to send him for an MRI when they get to Tampa tomorrow, but for now, it seems that might not be necessary.
“If it didn’t progress in the two days like we thought it should, we would MRI it,” manager Joe Girardi said. “But I’m hoping we won’t have to. He’s feeling a lot better today than he did yesterday, so it would be more precautionary than anything. We kind of wanted to give us that option if he didn’t feel any better.”
Just like last night, Gardner is available to pinch run and play defense. He said he might take some swings inside and didn’t sound like he’d be completely unable to hit, just prefers to rest if he can.
Despite facing a right-handed starter today, the Yankees are playing righty Chris Young and not lefty Garrett Jones in Gardner’s place. Young’s off to a strong start in a parttime role, hitting .333/.400/.778 for the highest OPS on the team.
• Ivan Nova came through yesterday’s live batting practice with no problems and continues to make good progress as he nears one year since Tommy John surgery. Girardi said he’s pretty sure Chris Capuano is throwing live batting practice tomorrow and could be about a month away from becoming a big league option again. Girardi said Capuano should be ready slightly ahead of Nova.
• Signed to a minor league contract this winter, reliever Wilking Rodriguez has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for Furosemide. Rodriguez was in big league camp with the Yankees this spring, and he pitched two games for the Royals last season. Seemed like a solid bit of additional — but probably unnecessary — bullpen depth. “He threw the ball pretty well for us in spring training, and it’s not what you want to see,” Girardi said. “It’s still what we’re still dealing with.”
• Speaking of bullpen depth, now that the major league season is 10-days old, the Yankees are allowed to call up someone from their 40-man roster. Branden Pinder is here to provide a fairly typical bullpen arm, and Joel De La Rosa has been optioned back to Double-A since the Yankees have Esmil Rogers rested and don’t need another long man at the moment. “Our bullpen is pretty much at full strength now,” Girardi said.
• Pinder had five strikeouts, no walks and three hits allowed in three innings for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He last pitched on Monday, when he went two innings.
• Kyle Davies has cleared waivers and been outrighted back to Triple-A. He should basically fall back into the role he played at the beginning of the season, pitching out of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen and providing just-in-case depth if the Yankees need someone who can provide a bunch of innings. Pitched well in his one big league outing this year.
• Girardi said there has been some early talk about Brendan Ryan possibly going to Tampa with the team this weekend so that he can start doing some work at the minor league complex. Not sure it’s going to happen, though.
• In four starts against the Yankees last season, tonight’s Baltimore starter Bud Norris went 4-0 with a 2.74 ERA. He was knocked around in his first start this season — gave up eight runs against Toronto — but the Yankees are well aware that Norris can be tough. Some of the Yankees with N.L. experience (Headley, Drew, Jones, Beltran) have good career numbers against Norris. “I think he’s got outstanding stuff,” Girardi said. “I think he pitches inside effectively. He’s had one start against a real good-hitting team. I’m not making too much of it. But he knows how to pitch. He knows how to compete.”
Associated Press photos
Don’t worry, this hotel desk is made of wood, and I knocked on it before publishing this post…
The Yankees have a roster overloaded with injury concerns, but with a week to go in spring training, they don’t necessarily have a roster overloaded with actual injuries. Their most significant injury of the spring cost them their fifth starter. Otherwise, they’ve dealt mostly with minor bumps and bruises at the major league level.
“There’s nothing major,” Brian Cashman said yesterday. “You’ve got the little stuff. Well, I guess (Jose) Pirela’s concussion, he could be a disabled list situation if it doesn’t resolve. But again, that’s a timing thing. That’s an unpredictable time frame.”
Here’s a quick injury report on where the Yankees stand on the medical front.
Torn elbow ligament
He’s made every scheduled start this spring and reported no problems with his elbow. His offspeed pitches have looked sharp, and there’s little indication he’s holding back. His next start is tomorrow as a final tune-up for Opening Day.
Offseason knee surgery
Just like Tanaka, he’s made every scheduled start. The Yankees kept him on a slow-and-steady schedule early in spring, but now he’s been let loose, and despite rough statistics, his raw stuff has been pretty encouraging. His velocity is up, but consistency remains an issue.
Repeat shoulder issues
After missing much of the past three years with shoulder issues, Pineda has shown no signs of injury or weakness this spring. In fact, he just might be their most reliable high-end starter.
Grade 2 quad strain
The only issue currently expected to impact the Opening Day roster: Capuano came into camp as the heavy favorite for the fifth-starter role, but he’ll likely miss at least a month of the regular season after hurting himself while covering first base.
Tommy John Surgery
A little less than a year removed from surgery, Nova has been throwing full bullpens — including breaking balls — for about two weeks now. He’s still expected back sometime around the first of June.
Got into games later than most pitchers, but he’s pitched well since returning to the field. Bailey missed the past year and a half, but he’s said he feels strong again this spring. Question is whether he has time to go back-to-back and prove he’s capable of breaking camp with the big league team.
Tommy John surgery
On roughly the same schedule as Nova, Campos has also been throwing bullpens and continues his rehab in big league camp until his inevitable reassignment to the minor league complex.
Released and re-signed, Burton came into camp on a minor league deal and got off to a strong start before hurting himself early in camp. The big league veteran began playing catch again this weekend and could become an option during the season.
Hasn’t played since March 15, but after a weekend of batting practice and other drills, Ellsbury is scheduled to get in a minor league game tomorrow. Fully expected to be healthy in time for Opening Day. Could even play in another Grapefruit League game or two.
Hit by a pitch at the minor league complex on Sunday, Teixeira was scheduled to have tomorrow off anyway. He’ll basically rest for two days before being expected back in the lineup on Wednesday.
Offseason elbow surgery
Held back very slightly at the beginning of spring training, Beltran has since been on a fairly normal schedule getting most of his time in right field with only a handful of DH days. No sign the elbow is holding him back at all.
Looked bad when Gregorius landed on his glove hand while trying to make a diving play on Saturday, but X-rays and an MRI came back negative. He’s now had two days off, and he’s scheduled to have another day off on Tuesday. Expected back in the lineup Wednesday.
Arrived in spring training with an injury and didn’t get into a game until March 20. Ryan has since played in seven games, and he’ll play again on Tuesday. He’s seen time at both second and short and is expected to break camp as the Yankees’ backup middle infielder.
Slammed into the outfield wall while playing center field last Sunday. Hasn’t played since, and even regular baseball drills have been put on hold while he tries to move past all symptoms. Was having a great spring, but seemed unlikely to make the team even before the injury.
Repeat knee issues
Had knee surgery yet again last season, but Heathcott arrived in big league camp talking about renewed health and confidence, all of which showed in a strong spring during which he seemed to be running well without pain. Sent to minor league camp yesterday.
Associated Press photos
Austin Romine’s never come to spring training as a favorite. He’s competed for a job many times, had a chance to open plenty of eyes, but there’s always been someone ahead of him on the projected depth chart whether it was Chris Stewart or Francisco Cervelli or — this year — John Ryan Murphy.
How do we know Murphy was ahead of Romine coming into this spring? Because the Yankees left no doubt last season. Romine got a long look in 2013, but it was Murphy who got the extended opportunity in 2014. Romine got a couple cups of coffee last year, that’s it. He didn’t even get a September call-up when the roster first expanded.
“Last year was tough at the beginning,” Romine said. “It was tough to be, I don’t want to say forgotten. Not forgotten. Just, it’s a business. Stuff happens. Moves get made. You can’t blame people for that. It was tough in the beginning, but once I kind of settled in an figured out, I still have to play good baseball wherever I am. That’s basically what I told myself every day. It was rough for a little while, but I kind of got over it. I got my head down and I started working again.”
This spring, Romine came into camp recognizing it for what it is. It’s another opportunity, perhaps his last in this organization. Murphy might be the favorite, but Romine spent his winter at an intense training facility in California. He said he threw up after the first eight workouts. He ultimately lost 10 pounds, came to camp lean and strong.
He showed up to prove himself. He gets the start behind the plate today, which is another opportunity to do that.
“Everybody says they’re in the best shape ever when they come into spring training,” Romine said. “But I literally was. I wanted to be able to go into the office when they call me — if I’m going up or going down — and know that I gave it everything I had, because they deserve it. They’ve given me a lot, and I want to be the backup catcher to give back to them. They’ve put me in a position to be where I am in my life, so I feel like I owe it to them to give it everything I have.”
Neither Romine nor Murphy has had a particularly good spring at the plate. Murphy’s gotten going a little bit lately, but he still has just a .492 OPS. Romine has a .477. Romine is out of options. Murphy is not. Brian Cashman has said that’s a factor that could play into the decision of who wins the job. In a way, that gives Romine an advantage, if he can only show he’s worth another opportunity.
“I came in here with a plan,” Romine said. “And I’ve put myself in a good position to achieve that plan. I just keep my head down, and I keep working, and I get down what I need to get done. Hopefully I make this team. … I have no idea, no idea (what’s going to happen). Murph doesn’t either. No one does. We just keep playing. They’ll figure it out. That’s their job, so we just keep playing.”
• A reminder that CC Sabathia is pitching in a minor league game today while Scott Baker starts the big league game against Baltimore. Bryan Mitchell, who was originally scheduled to start against the Orioles, said he’s also going to pitch at the minor league complex.
• Tomorrow’s travel squad includes Esmil Rogers, who’s clearly making the trip to pitch out of the bullpen. That seems to be yet another sign that Adam Warren has won the fifth-starter job.
• It will be interesting to see how the long relief role plays out. Obviously Rogers is stretched out and could be one long man, but given the rotation concerns, the Yankees surely want another guy who’s capable of multiple innings. Baker and Chase Whitley are — in my opinion — the top candidates for that job ahead of Mitchell, who makes more sense as Triple-A rotation depth. While Baker is getting a chance to start today, Whitley is on the travel squad for tomorrow, obviously scheduled to pitch an inning or two of relief.
• Ivan Nova has now thrown four bullpens that have included breaking balls. He said his arm still feels great. He’s happy and encouraged by the way his Tommy John rehab has gone. All positive so far.
• Masahiro Tanaka and Adam Warren each threw a side today.
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Justin Wilson, Andrew Bailey, Chasen Shreve, Jacob Lindgren, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller (with Nick Rumbelow, Danny Burawa, Diego Moreno and Tyler Webb listed as available just in case)
• Tomorrow’s travel squad to Kissimmee:
Pitchers: Danny Burawa, Nathan Eovaldi, Jacob Lindgren, Jose Ramirez, Esmil Rogers, Nick Rumbelow, Chasen Shreve, Chase Whitley
Catchers: Francisco Arcia, Kyle Higashioka, John Ryan Murphy, Eddy Rodriguez, Austin Romine
Infielders: Stephen Drew, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, Alex Rodriguez, Brendan Ryan
Outfielders: Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott
From minor league camp: RHP Cesar Vargas, RHP Nick Goody, LHP Fred Lewis, INF Dan Fiorito, OF Ben Gamel, OF Aaron Judge, OF Michael O’Neill
Associated Press photos
If it hadn’t become obvious already, Joe Girardi left no doubt this morning.
“We signed (Stephen Drew) to be out second baseman,” Girardi said. “We didn’t sign him to struggle. We signed him to play at a very high level, and we expect that he will.”
Once again, the Yankees are putting Drew and Didi Gregorius together in the middle of the infield. Neither has played an inning in the field without the other this spring. Brendan Ryan has yet to go through full drills, yet the Yankees seem to have no interest in giving either Jose Pirela or Rob Refsnyder a chance to become familiar with Gregorius as a double-play partner.
“Our plan is for it to be Stephen,” Girardi said.
That’s the plan despite two curious factors: 1. Drew’s only previous experience at second base came when he was thrust into the position late last year, and 2. He’s coming off a horrible season in which he was one of the game’s worst offensive performers.
“We feel that he’ll get back to the form he was at (in 2013),” Girardi said. “… We think these guys (Drew and Gregorius) are more than capable of carrying the load offensively.”
In 2013, Drew had a .777 OPS as the Red Sox starting shortstop. Last season, only five teams got an OPS that high out of the second base position (only the Mariners and Astros got an OPS over .800 at second base). If he does return to form, Drew could be a high-end hitter for a player at that position. If he doesn’t, he could be a fool-me-twice mistake blocking the advancement of a younger alternative.
For now, though, the Yankees seem confident Drew is more of a potential bargain than a potential bust, and they trust that spring training — with all of those starts alongside Gregorius — will give him enough time to truly learn the defensive side of second base.
“He got enough reps last year, we felt pretty comfortable,” Girardi said. “… I think he’s too accomplished a player (to not adjust to the position).”
• The Yankees are giving Chase Whitley a spring training start today. As the top starters are beginning to fill the spring rotation, it seems this could be Whitley’s only true start in the Grapefruit League. The fact he’s getting a turn is an indication the Yankees haven’t forgotten about how well he pitched when he first got to the big leagues last season. The Yankees see him as a starter or a long reliever going forward. “I think you could put Chase anywhere,” Girardi said.
• One thing to consider as guys like Whitley pitch in games, the Yankees are still considering the idea of a sixth starter from time to time. That could be a long man who steps into the rotation occasionally, or it could be a Triple-A starter who’s called up when necessary. Girardi said the Yankees are considering each option, though as it gets later in the season, it would be harder to ask a big league reliever to make a start. Early in the year, that would be a consideration.
• Worth noting: Girardi said Whitley came into camp having learned a new curveball that he’s using occasionally early in the count. His go-to strikeout pitch is a changeup, and last year he greatly improved a cutter/slider, but the curveball gives him a fourth option just to mix it up a little more.
• Ivan Nova threw another bullpen this morning and he continues to feel “better every day.” He will begin throwing breaking balls in the bullpen next week, but he said he’s already spun a few off flat ground. Said it felt good.
• Esmil Rogers will only pitch an inning or two out of the bullpen today. He’s scheduled to start on Saturday.
• As expected, Luis Severino is not in camp today. He was held out because of strep throat. Should return tomorrow.
• Garrett Jones was scratched from today’s road trip because of illness. The Yankees think he simply has food poisoning, but it could be some flu-like situation. He was in the clubhouse this morning, just didn’t look great.
• Nick Noonan isn’t making today’s trip because of a stiff neck.
• Plan is still for Brendan Ryan to do some light baseball drills tomorrow. He has yet to do much this spring because of a back injury.
• Today’s second string: C Gary Sanchez, 1B Kyle Roller, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Cole Figueroa, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Jake Cave, CF Mason Williams, RF Slade Heathcott
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Esmil Rogers, Chasen Shreve, Jose Ramirez, Jacob Lindgren, Branden Pinder, Nick Goody (with Nick Rumbelow, James Pazos and Danny Burawa making the trip just in case)
Associated Press photos
When the Yankees signed Stephen Drew, his most obvious fit was at second base. While the Yankees said Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder would still get a chance to make the roster, Drew instantly became the clear favorite at the position. Now that the Yankees have prioritized Drew’s playing time with Didi Gregorius, it’s becoming clear just how thoroughly he has an early hold on the second base job.
Drew’s not just a favorite for the position. It’s clearly his job to lose.
So can there still be room for either Pirela or Refsnyder on the roster? Plans can certainly change, but right now the Yankees seem set on carrying a backup catcher (obviously) along with both Chris Young and Garrett Jones. That leaves one spot, and according to the plan, it belongs to Brendan Ryan.
“He’s a guy that we assume will be our backup shortstop,” Girardi said.
If the Yankees aren’t going to use Drew as their backup shortstop, then it seems the roster has little room for either Pirela or Refsnyder. Pirela is being treated as a guy right on the verge of a roster spot — his at-bats seem to be falling immediately behind the guys who are locked into spots — but for him to make the team, someone might have to get hurt or fall completely flat at the plate.
Girardi said he’s absolutely curious about the idea of using Pirela in a bench role, but there’s clearly not a spot currently waiting for him.
“We’re going to move him around because that flexibility is nice to have,” Girardi said. “In the limited time that he was up last year, he did a really good time for us. And you could put him in the outfield as well. I don’t know how much we’ll put him in the outfield in spring, but I’m comfortable putting him out there anywhere. You never know how things are going to shake out in camp.”
• This winter, the Yankees lost their go-to swing man when they traded David Phelps to Miami. Now it seems Esmil Rogers could fill that role as a long man, spot starter, or possibly even a late-inning reliever if he gets on a roll. “We feel he can do a lot of different things,” Girardi said. “He gives us a lot of flexibility, which is good we like having that on our pitching staff, because you never know when something’s going to pop up.”
• If the Yankees have so much faith in Rogers, why is it he’s never really stuck as a dependable big league pitcher in the past? “We think he’s got good stuff,” Giradri said. “It’s learning how to use it and become more consistent. He’s got velocity. He’s got a breaking ball. He’s got a changeup. He has the ability to pitch. You know he was a position player who turned into a pitcher, and sometimes those guys come a little later. He’s still learning. He has to learn on the job, and that’s not so easy.”
• Chase Whitley is scheduled for two innings out of the bullpen today. He’s also being stretched out this spring and could play a similar swing-man role as a guy who could start or pitch in long relief.
• With a split squad tomorrow, the Yankees are taking only three pitchers from big league camp to Clearwater. The rest of the road pitching staff will be guys from the minor league complex, including former top relief prospect Mark Montgomery and 2014 standout Jaron Long.
• Up from minor league camp for the day, low-level shortstop Tyler Wade is actually scheduled to get into today’s game.
• Three guys coming back from injury — Andrew Bailey, Ivan Nova and Vicente Campos — are each scheduled for early work tomorrow. For Nova, it will be his second bullpen incorporating both fastballs and changeups.
• Carlos Beltran remains on track to make his spring debut tomorrow. Sounds optimistic and happy with the way his workouts have gone so far. Says he knew from his first swing in December that his elbow was significantly better than last season.
• Four home games next week, including two on back-to-back days. Girardi said he wouldn’t rule out the idea of Alex Rodriguez playing all four of those home games.
• Players going through normal drills in Tampa: Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Slade Heathcott, Nick Noonan, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. All nine are listed for regular batting practice.
• Adam Warren and Luis Severino are throwing typical between-outings bullpen sessions.
Group 1 against Kyle Higashioka and Nick Noonan
Michael Pineda (to Gary Sanchez0
Dellin Betances (to Francisco Arcia)
Group 2 against Sanchez and Arcia
Jared Burton (to Kyle Higashioka)
CC Sabathia (to Higashioka)
• Today’s second string: C Austin Romine, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Cole Figueroa, SS Tyler Wade, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ramon Flores, CF Jake Cave, RF Tyler Austin
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Chase Whitley, Nick Rumbelow, Cesar Vargas, Fred Lewis (with Jacob Lindgren, Zach Nuding, Diego Moreno and Taylor Garrison also making the trip just in case)
• Tomorrow’s travel group for the split-squad in Clearwater:
Pitchers: Nick Goody, Bryan Mitchell, James Pazos
Catchers: Trent Garrison, Kyle Higashioka, Gary Sanchez
Infielders: Greg Bird, Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, Kyle Roller, Mark Teixeira
Outfielders: Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott, Aaron Judge, Mason Williams
Minor league pitchers: Jaron Long, Matt Tracy, Mark Montgomery, Taylor Garrison, Caleb Cotham
Minor league position players: C Alvaro Noriega, 3B Eric Jagielo, OF Michael O’Neill, OF Taylor Dugas
Associated Press photos
The Yankees might not have an experienced closer on their roster, but they do have one in camp.
Andrew Bailey is back with the Yankees on a minor league contract. He threw a bullpen this afternoon, and said he no longer thinks of himself as a rehab pitcher just trying to get healthy. He sees himself as a legitimate reliever trying to make the big league roster.
“One hundred percent,” Bailey said. “I came in and spent the offseason training, working as I would if I played last year. The doctor gave me 18, 24 months (to be healthy after surgery), and we’re in that 18th, 19th month. Everyone around here, training staff, coaches and strength and conditioning have all kind of (treated it as if) I’m a normal guy with some needs. Hopefully we get rid of those needs. Everything feels great. I’m with the team and doing everything as I would normally, and if I need a little extra work here or there, that’s fine too. I’m here to compete and earn a spot.”
Bailey has thrown five bullpens since he reported to Tampa after the Super Bowl. In between bullpens, he takes a few more days off than other guys, but the Yankees believe that’s a temporary precaution. Bailey expects to start throwing live batting practice around the time the exhibition schedule begins, which he believes will give him enough time to pitch the innings necessarily to break camp.
“I thought today he looked pretty good, actually,” Joe Girardi said. “I talked to Gil Patterson about it. Compared to where he was last year to where he is (now), there’s significant improvement. I don’t know exactly what we’ll see as far as games, and his bullpens are a little more spread out than maybe some of the other relievers, but that’s on purpose right now, and our hope is that we can catch him up and keep him healthy.”
Bailey’s still just 30 years old. He made two all-star teams as a closer in Oakland, and he could be an option for that wide-open spot in the Yankees bullpen (maybe not as closer, and maybe not by Opening Day, but certainly at some point he could play a significant role). Hard to know what exactly to expect from a guy who hasn’t pitched anything beyond a simulated game in more than a year, but Bailey was awfully good in the past, and he said he feels that way again.
“To feel as good as I do and locate as well as I have been, it’s a pretty awesome feeling,” Bailey said. “I feel fresh and ready to go, and excited for the next step.”
• Bailey is one of the few players who aren’t expected to be ready to play in games the first week of camp. Bailey is just slightly behind the others, but Girardi said he expects Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and CC Sabathia to each be ready for games when the spring schedule starts.
• Over at the minor league complex, Rodriguez was asked about the leadership void in the Yankees clubhouse. “First, no one can replace The Captain,” Rodriguez told reporters. “I know I’m going to miss him tremendously. I’ve been around a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of things. If guys want to ask questions, I love talking baseball, and you guys know that better than anyone. I love the game, and I love to talk it. Whoever needs my help, I’m available.” Clearly Rodriguez isn’t going to be a leader in the way Derek Jeter is a leader, but he really does talk hitting with other players a lot.
• Speaking of which, Didi Gregorius said he got some hitting tips from Rodriguez at the minor league complex this afternoon. Said it was good to meet him. “He’s a good teammate,” Gregorius said. “He introduced himself to everybody when he walked in (at the complex). New player, you don’t know everybody yet, so everybody comes to introduce (themselves) or you go to them.”
• Several other position players began to move stuff into their lockers this afternoon, including outfield prospects Slade Heathcott, Ramon Flores and Tyler Austin, who have three lockers in a row right next to one another on a back wall. Jose Pirela also arrived today. Rodriguez, Gregorius, Chase Headley, Chris Young and Garrett Jones all worked out at the minor league complex.
• Heathcott had yet another knee surgery last season and spent six months recovering at the Andrews Institute. He said he feels a significant difference between now and last spring. “Excellent,” he said. “I’m ready to play in a game right now.” I’ve been talking to Heathcott for many springs at this point, this is the most confident I’ve heard him in years. Finally sounds like he truly believes he’s healthy.
• So far, no significant injuries to report in Yankees camp, though minor league catcher Juan Graterol is still coming back from a broken arm and hasn’t been taking batting practice with the other guys. He’s been catching bullpens, though.
• Speaking of bullpens, there were a lot of them today. I caught most of Michael Pineda’s, and he looked sharp. “I thought his bullpen was excellent,” Girardi said. “I think he ended up throwing 35 pitches. I thought everything was working for him. Arm strength was really good, so that was good.” Remembering that spring of 2012, the arm strength seems to be a key issue.
• Another bullpen that seemed to catch the manager’s eye: “You know, I thought (CC Sabathia’s) bullpen was good today,” Girardi said. “I was pleased, I mean really pleased, with what I saw. Physically, I know the recovery is important, and going out there inning after innings, sitting down and getting back up (will be a different challenge), but I saw a lot of good signs today.”
• Girardi has not yet talked to Rodriguez face-to-face about playing first base, but he said he expects that conversation at some point. “I anticipate that, yeah,” Girardi said. “I’ll talk to him about taking some grounders over there just to be prepared, if I need to give a guy a day off or whoever we chose to do it, but yeah, I’m going to talk to him about it and see how comfortable it is.”
• With Rodriguez set to work at first base, and Headley having some experience there, Girardi left open the decision about who will backup Mark Teixeira. There seems to be one obvious standout candidate, though, and Girardi mentioned him by name. “I think it’s too early to decide who our backup first baseman is,” Giradri said. “Garrett Jones has played over there. That’s something that we’ll work on in spring training.”
• Interesting tidbit from Brendan Kuty: Former Gold Glove third baseman Scott Rolen has been working with third-base prospect Eric Jagielo at the minor league complex. That was at the suggestion of Gary Denbo.
• Final word goes to Girardi, about the way he’ll handle Rodriguez now that position players are set to report in the morning. “The idea for me as a manager is to get the most out of a player,” Girardi said. “I have to do whatever it takes; that’s my job. Will I be any different? I don’t know if the situations will be the same, in a sense. In 2013, he hadn’t served his suspension, a lot of things were still in question and it was different. Now it’s different. He’s served his suspension, a lot of questions have been answered, and now my job is to get to the most out of him again. I’ll do what it takes.”
Associated Press photos
I really thought today was Ivan Nova’s first full bullpen since Tommy John surgery. I was wrong, but it turns out that wasn’t entirely my fault.
“This is my third,” Nova said, laughing. “The first one, I remember I was so excited I forgot to say it was on the full mound so everyone was making fun of me because I said it was on a half mound. That day, I confused a lot of things, even in my house.”
So, now that Nova’s excited has calmed down a little bit, this is what we know. Today was his third post-surgery bullpen. He threw 25 pitches, all fastballs. Nova said he’s supposed to that four times before he adds changeups to the mix. After a few fastball-changeup bullpens, he’ll add breaking balls.
“One good thing, you know you’re not going to be ready in April,” Nova said. “So you prepare yourself to be ready whenever they tell me. I don’t have to be thinking right now that I’ve got to be ready in April, so that’s kind of fortunate. I’m just taking it day by day, and I know that — I believe — a month before they think I’m going to be ready to go to the big leagues, they’re going to tell me. So that’s the time when I’m going to really prepare for that day.”
Nova said he hasn’t looked through the Yankees upcoming schedule trying to figure out when exactly he might return. He’s staying focused on the take at hand — he gets a rehab schedule one week at a time — and he’s just taking each step as it comes. So far, though, he seems to feel as good as could be expected.
“It’s a tough surgery,” Nova said. “We have to take it step by step and hopefully everything can go the way it’s gone so far, and we will be over there (in New York) soon.”
• Another workout at the minor league complex for Alex Rodriguez, and this time he’s actually spending time with third baseman Chase Headley. The Associated Press filed several pictures of those two working together, including one that shows them side-by-side fielding ground balls from their knees at third base.
• Chris Capuano was the first of four pitchers to throw live batting practice this morning. He said he recognizes that his spot in the rotation is far from a lock. “I think they’ve shown that the best five guys are going to start,” he said. “That’s a great feeling to be able to come in and try to earn that spot and be one of those best five coming out of spring.”
• Speaking of the five best guys: I joked with Adam Warren today that — after his name was thrown into the closer mix yesterday — I’m going to start mentioning him as a possibility for every role: closer, setup, fifth starter, long man … and even second base. It was a joke, but it turns out Warren played second base all though high school. So let’s add Warren to the mix with Stephen Drew, Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela.
• Random clubhouse conversation this morning: New reliever Chris Martin said he’s gotten used to his back story — about going from stocking shelves to pitching in the big leagues — getting some attention every time he lands with a new team. He’s used to that and the inevitable Coldplay references (he shares a name with Coldplay’s lead singer). So does Chris Martin the pitcher like Chris Martin the singer? “Some of his songs,” Martin said.
• Young reliever Nick Goody hurt his ankle in a car wreck the last time he was invited to big league camp. Then he had Tommy John surgery. Now Goody sounds incredibly optimistic. He will be two years removed from surgery in April, and he said he feels great. Said having surgery gave him a new appreciation for the game. Oh, and he said he’s not driving much this spring. Playing it safe this time!
• Brian McCann will catch Nathan Eovaldi for the first time this afternoon.
• Carlos Beltran is once again scheduled for a full day of drills and batting practice. He’s allowed to workout here because he’s technically a rehabbing player. If not for the offseason surgery, he’d be at the minor league complex with the other position players.
• Today’s early work (this stuff already happened)
Bullpen sessions: Ivan Nova, Tyler Webb and Jose Campos
Live batting practice: Chris Capuano, David Carpenter, Chase Whitley and Bryan Mitchell
Andrew Bailey (Eddy Rodriguez catching)
Dellin Betances (Gary Sanchez catching)
Scott Baker (Juan Graterol catching)
Nathan Eovaldi (Brian McCann catching)
Michael Pineda (John Ryan Murphy catching)
Danny Burawa (Kyle Higashioka catching)
CC Sabathia (Austin Romine catching)
Adam Warren (Francisco Arcia catching)
Jared Burton (Trent Garrison catching)
• Batting practice:
John Ryan Murphy
Associated Press photos
The Yankees just got started this morning. Chris Capuano just got on the mound for live batting practice. The clubhouse still hasn’t opened to media, but I’m guessing Capuano is one of several who willb e facing hitters today. Tyler Webb, Jose Campos, David Carpenter, Chase Whitley and Bryan Mitchell were also scheduled to report early today.
Ivan Nova was also on the early report list, though it’s hard to imagine that’s a sign that he’s ready to face hitters. A simple bullpen would be a pretty significant step forward for him.
Meanwhile, across the street, Alex Rodriguez has apparently reported for another workout at the minor league complex.
Cell phone photo
Tomorrow is the Yankees’ first spring workout, so tonight we’ll finish our countdown of the most pressing spring training issues by looking at one that could single-handedly determine the success or failure of this season.
Do the Yankees actually have a good starting rotation, or even a viable starting rotation?
Some of this is out of the Yankees’ hands at this point. All they can do is hold their breath and hope Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow doesn’t snap, Michael Pineda’s shoulder doesn’t blow out, and CC Sabathia’s fastball isn’t smacked all over the yard. They can only follow protocol with Ivan Nova’s rehab, work on Nathan Eovaldi’s offspeed pitches, and evaluate their options for the fifth starter spot. For the most part, their major rotation decisions were made weeks ago. Maybe even months ago. In some cases, years ago.
But at some point, the Yankees will have to decide whether they have enough.
Is this a rotation capable of getting the Yankees into the postseason. Should they consider a trade for a guy like Cole Hamels? Have they left themselves too short-handed to make a serious run?
This winter, the Yankees chose to role the rotation dice. They acknowledged in the fall that their rotation was a concern, but they didn’t want to make a Sabathia-like commitment to Jon Lester or Max Scherzer, and they didn’t like the going rate for high-risk secondary options like Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. They chose to sacrifice one starting pitcher to acquire a shortstop, which made their one trade for another starting pitcher more of a replacement than an upgrade.
• Is there any indication Tanaka’s favoring his elbow; has this rehab protocol really worked?
• Does Pineda seem to have his usual arm strength; is this spring 2012 all over again?
• What kind of pitcher is Sabathia at this point; has he successfully transitioned to a new stage in his career?
• Did the Yankees find a young gem in Eovaldi; can he do anything more than light up a radar gun?
• How much does Chris Capuano have left; did the Yankees get his last drop of effectiveness last season?
• Are Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers legitimate options; have the Yankees overly neglected their immediate depth?
• Can Bryan Mitchell or Chase Whitley spot start if necessary; how far away is Luis Severino?
Whatever the answers to those questions, there’s only so much the Yankees can do at this point. Their most important rotation decisions came when they passed on Scherzer and Lester, when they made a pair of rotation-based trades (three trades counting the Manny Banuelos deal), and when they selected Capuano and a handful of minor league free agents to build their back-of-the-rotation depth.
In some ways, their key 2015 rotation decisions came when they traded for Pineda, extended Sabathia, and elected to forgo surgery on Tanaka.
But as pitchers and catchers settle into Steinbrenner Field, it’s still hard to look at this Yankees team and see a more all-or-nothing situation than the state of the rotation. This spring, the Yankees will have to figure out whether this rotation is good enough to make the Yankees contenders or thin enough to keep them out of the playoffs.
And as with any spring training decision, the evaluation will be subject to change once the season gets started.
Associated Press photos