Yesterday, Brian Cashman declared Adam Warren the “Secretariat” of the fifth-starter competition. Today, Warren struck out five and allowed one run in 3.1 innings. Are the Yankees really going to bump him back into the bullpen tomorrow? While Joe Girardi said the team still wants to have some discussions, it seems clear Warren has realistically locked up the open rotation job.
“He threw well again,” Girardi said. “Not easy conditions to pitch in today either, so I thought he threw the ball, mixed everything in again, and that’s what he’s done all spring.”
At this point, the bigger question seems to be whether Warren can carry his bullpen success into the rotation. Specifically, just how good can he be as a regular starter? Over on FanGraphs, there’s a post called: Who Might Adam Warren Be? It’s an analysis of his raw stuff — a 94-mph fastball that generates weak popups, an effective changeup that he throws for strikes, a groundball inducing curveball — leading to a series of comparisons in search of just how good Warren might be if given a long look in the rotation.
The name that pops up most often is overwhelmingly optimistic: Dodgers No. 2 starter Zack Greinke.
They’ve both got straight, rising fastballs complemented by good sinkers. Greinke’s slider is better than his change, and Warren’s change is better than his slider, but the ratio between the two pitches is similar. Neither curve is great, but Warren’s gets so many ground balls that it might shorten the distance between their respective abilities to command their arsenals.
That’s a pretty giant comparison to throw out there. Warren pitched well out of the bullpen last season, and he was a pretty highly regarded prospect in the minors. Could he pitch well enough in the first month or so to keep a rotation job even after Chris Capuano is healthy? What about when Ivan Nova is healthy? If the Greinke comparison seems a bit too much, some of the other names mentioned in the FanGraphs piece range from the uninspiring (Erasmo Ramirez, Kevin Correia) to the impressive (Matt Cain, Homer Bailey).
“I feel like pitching is pitching,” Warren said. “I’ve proved I can pitch at this level. I just got to go out there and learn from some of the guys who have started and learned the mindset of being aggressive, attacking always, getting early outs. But I feel like I’ve got the stuff. It’s just going out there and executing pitches.”
John Ryan Murphy said he really doesn’t call a game much differently if Warren’s pitching as a starter vs. as a reliever. In either role Warren’s used all four of his pitches, and Murphy said all four are quality pitches that can be thrown for strikes and used to get outs.
“I think you just try to keep the foot on the pedal as long as possible,” Warren said. “The biggest thing for me — and I didn’t do a very good job today — that I want to focus on is getting outs early in the count, just be efficient with my pitches. My pitch count got a little high today and I didn’t have my best stuff, but being able to attack the zone is the biggest thing. Just try to go out with my best stuff from pitch one and see how far I can go with it.”
For now, it seems that approach has carried him into the starting rotation.
• There was a giant birthday cake in the Yankees clubhouse today (it was actually a bunch of cupcakes arranged to look like one big cake). Ramon Flores, Rob Refsnyder and Brendan Ryan all celebrated their birthdays today.
• Girardi said Jacoby Ellsbury came through today’s light baseball activity with no problem. Assuming he shows up feeling good tomorrow he’ll do more tee and toss and increase to taking a few rounds of batting practice inside. Girardi said he’s expecting Ellsbury to play a minor league game on Tuesday. Whether he gets in another Grapefruit League game will basically depend on how he’s feeling (when he was hurt late last spring, the Yankees kept Ellsbury in minor league games at the end of camp so that they could back-date any possibly DL stint; they seem less concerned this time around).
• Jose Pirela continues to have some concussion symptoms, so he won’t be playing any time soon. “Yesterday he rode the bike and was fine,” Girardi said. “Today he rode the bike and got dizzy. He’ll see a neurologist again. That’s the hardest thing to predict with a concussion; even though he looked great, he got dizzy today. We’ll back off a little bit, talk to the neurologist and try it again fairly soon.”
• The Yankees unconditionally released RHP Jared Burton from his minor league contract. Burton is a big league veteran and he was pitching well before he got hurt. If he wasn’t going to break camp with the big league team, though, the Yankees overwhelming bullpen depth probably didn’t leave much room for him.
• Austin Romine was supposed to catch this game, but he got some sort of stomach bug and had to be scratched. His competition for the backup catcher job, Murphy, played instead and went 1-for-2, raising his spring batting average to .219. “I think it’s going to come down to the last couple days,” Girardi said of the decision between Romine and Murphy.
• Girardi still expects to get Alex Rodriguez in a game at first base. “It’s coming up,” he said. “I didn’t have a chance to talk to him, but I have it on the board.”
• The plan is for Masahiro Tanaka to make Tuesday’s road trip to Fort Myers to pitch against the Twins. That keeps him lined up for Opening Day.
• As for today’s game, after Warren left the game, the Yankees relievers had a tough time. Jose Ramirez gave up two runs, so did Chris Martin, and Danny Burawa allowed one run. Tyler Webb finished the day with a scoreless eighth, but it still wasn’t a great day for the pen. Worth noting, of course, that of those relievers, Martin’s the only one actually still in big league camp. He struck out three but also allowed a home run to Desmond Jennings.
• Here’s Girardi on choosing his final relievers: “I think you’re going to look at the last 10 days. They’ve all had their ups and downs. That’s the interesting part of it. We’re going to make a decision over the next 10 days and it’s probably going to be the guys that we feel are going to give us the best chance to help us, but maybe have pitched the best the last 10 days.”
• While Girardi said he thinks Andrew Bailey has pitched well this spring, he’s still not sure whether Bailey will have a real chance to break camp with the team. “The fact that he hasn’t went back-to-back — and I don’t know if he’ll go back-to-back in spring training — might make it difficult,” Girardi said. “It’s something that we have to talk about next week, where we feel he’s at and how ready he is. But he’s throwing the ball pretty good.”
• Another nice game for Slade Heathcott, who had a double, a walk and pushed his spring batting average to .320. “He’s played great,” Girardi said. “The biggest thing we’ve said about this kid is we’ve got to keep him healthy. There are a lot of tools there offensively, defensively, running the bases. It’s just, he hasn’t had a lot of at-bats, but there’s a lot of talent.”
• Two-hit day for Didi Gregorius. He had a double and pushed his spring batting average up to .308. He’s definitely been a standout this spring. … After his walkoff homer a couple of nights ago, Flores had a two-hit day. He and Refsnyder each doubled on their birthday. Ryan went 0-for-3 with a walk. … One reason Refsnyder seems not ready for the big leagues: he made his fifth error today. … Jake Cave had an RBI single but was also caught stealing in the ninth.
• Girardi said “it’s possible” he’ll be ready to name a fifth starter tomorrow. We basically know who it’s going to be, but it would be nice to have the Yankees waste no time making it official.
• Let’s give the final word to Warren: “I came into the spring and wanted to pitch well. Wherever I ended up, I wanted it to be because I pitched well and not because I didn’t pitch well. I feel like I’ve gone out there and proven myself. It all comes back to, I just want to get ready for the season. I was a little more comfortable this year just being around the guys, early on working on some things and then ramping it up these last two outings and really go out there and compete. It’s been a fun spring for me. ”
Associated Press photos
Really quiet day here in Tampa. The Yankees left early for a bus ride to Port Charlotte, and I’m about to hustled out the door to join them. This should be Adam Warren’s final start before the Yankees name a fifth starter, and he’s clearly the heavy favorite for the job. Have to imagine he’ll lock up the role as long as he pitches a reasonable game against the Rays.
Meanwhile, back in Tampa, Jacoby Ellsbury is scheduled to hit off a tee and hit some flips. He said his strained oblique has felt fine through all of the light stuff he’s been doing, but today will be his first time trying to do something even remotely explosive.
“I’m making good improvement,” he said. “So I’m excited to pick up a bat today. … I’m very optimistic.”
The Yankees are shooting for getting Ellsbury in games by Tuesday. Wouldn’t surprise me if he’s playing minor league games, but the Yankees say Opening Day will be no problem as long as he’s in games by early next week.
• A welcome sight in the clubhouse this morning: big boxes in front of several big leaguer’s lockers. Guys are starting to pack up some stuff for New York. Means we’re almost home and almost through spring training. At this point, I think everyone in that clubhouse is just looking forward to getting home and getting the season started.
• No backup second baseman listed on today’s lineup card, suggesting Brendan Ryan is either going to spend all game at second or possibly split between second and third (no backup third baseman listed either). While obviously Ryan’s primary value comes from his ability to play defense at shortstop, the Yankees are planning to use him as the backup at both second and short, so getting some reps with Didi Gregorius makes sense. Would also make sense to see him at short with Stephen Drew at second tomorrow.
• The healthy big leaguers not going on today’s trip — basically everyone except Ellsbury — are scheduled for normal drills and batting practice back in Tampa.
• Nathan Eovaldi and Esmil Rogers are each throwing bullpens today. Looks like Ivan Nova and Vicente Campos have bullpens tomorrow.
• Michael O’Neill and Ali Castillo are up from minor league camp to serve as extra guys off the bench. Not scheduled to play.
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Chris Martin, Danny Burawa, Jose Ramirez (with Tyler Webb, Nick Rumbelow, Cesar Vargas, Branden Pinder, Nick Goody
• Tomorrow’s travel squad to Clearwater:
Pitchers: Scott Baker, Danny Burawa, Kyle Davies, Jacob Lindgren, Chris Martin, Michael Pineda, Nick Rumbelow, Chasen Shreve
Catchers: Francisco Arcia, Kyle Higashioka, Brian McCann, Eddy Rodriguez
Infielders: Stephen Drew, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Chase Headley, Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, Alex Rodriguez, Brendan Ryan, Mark Teixeira
Outfielders: Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner, Chris Young
Associated Press photos
Today it was a breaking ball hung up the zone, where Juan Lagares crushed it for a two-run home run. Last night it was a leadoff walk and a costly line-drive single. Throughout this spring, it’s constantly been on thing or another — four straight outings with at least one earned run — leading Dellin Betances to a 6.75 ERA with a 1.69 WHIP. Opponents are hitting .318 against him, and he has just four strikeouts in 5.1 innings.
Granted, it’s a tiny sample size, but Betances just hasn’t looked as sharp as he did last season.
“I’m obviously frustrated,” Betances said. “I mean, it’s been four outings where every time out, I’ve given up a run. Today I felt better, but you got to make a better pitch than that to Lagares. It’s frustrating, but I’m sure I got four more outings left and I’ll do whatever I can to be better for the season.”
A scout in attendance said he had Betances at 92-93 mph, and while he said he expected Betances to be “much higher,” he also had little problem imagining Betances getting back to the velocity we’re used to seeing. Joe Girardi insisted Betances is actually throwing at least as hard as he was at this time last spring (I can’t find any reports of exactly how hard Betances was throwing in the next-to-last week of camp a year ago).
“He’s actually throwing harder than he did (at this time) last year,” Girardi said. “It was the last week that it kind of jumped up. … It’s all part of the build-up process. Like I said, if it’s the last week, the last day, you might have a little bit more concern.”
Today’s outing was really all about one bad pitch, the one Lagares hit over the wall in left, but even Betances acknowledges he hasn’t been especially good this spring. Relievers are notoriously inconsistent from year to year, so a guy with a short track record like Betances is perhaps susceptible to extra scrutiny coming off one good year.
“I think he set a pretty high standard last year that’s not always so easy to live up to,” Girardi said. “My only concern is that he’s right at the end of spring training. That’s my concern.”
Last spring, Betances came into camp with very little expectation. This year, he’s basically expected to be an elite reliever and possibly a closer. His production will not be a bonus this season. The Yankees are banking on it.
“A lot of these guys know who I am now,” he said. “Last year, there was a lot of unknown, but right now I need to get those few more velos (added velocity) and maybe attack the zone better. But today, I thought it was good, I just made a mistake to Lagares.”
Said Girardi: “He’s a power pitcher, and we expect there’s going to be more. You’re going to see more at the end of spring training.”
• Before today’s game, Brian Cashman said he’d seen enough production out of Alex Rodriguez to think Rodriguez could be the team’s everyday designated hitter this season. Coming into camp there seemed to be a chance the Yankees might try to platoon him if he wasn’t capable of hitting, but Rodriguez went 1-for-3 to raise his average to .290. He’s been good. Not necessarily great, but he’s been good. “I think I’m getting better,” Rodriguez said. “I’m happy with my strike zone discipline, and for me the goal never changes. Just get a good pitch and put my A-swing. I thought I took some good swings today, fouled them off. But anytime I give myself a chance to do some damage and swing at strikes, that’s a good thing.”
• Cashman also said before today’s game that Adam Warren is the clear favorite for the fifth starter job. Girardi, though, wouldn’t make such a commitment. “I told you, when I make a decision, I talk to the players first,” Girardi said. “That’s how I do it. Before I say anything, I think it’s only fair to do it that way.” Warren is starting tomorrow.
• Jacoby Ellsbury is scheduled for tee and toss tomorrow. That’s usually the last step before getting into some light batting practice. The Yankees remain convinced Ellsbury will get back into the lineup before breaking camp. He’s been out more than a week with a strained oblique.
• Jose Pirela’s neck is still sore, and that’s his biggest problem at the mometn. “Until we get that soreness out, Stevie (Donohue) doesn’t really want to elevate his heart rate a lot to see if the (concussion) symptoms come back,” Girardi said. The Yankees are still optimistic that Pirela will get back in a game this spring.
• Weird to see Chase Whitley used for just an inning today. He was originally supposed to pitch in a minor league game, but the Yankees instead kept him here and gave him one inning. He allowed his first run of the season, but said he felt good on the mound, just made a mistake with a fastball. “We’ll get him stretched out again,” Girardi said. “Tanaka with his 60 pitches went pretty far. We thought he might get more innings, it just didn’t work out.”
• Whitley allowed a run. Betances was charged with a run in one-third of an inning. Andrew Miller gave up one run on two hits in a third of an inning. David Carpenter allowed a run in the ninth. “It wasn’t a very good day for our bullpen today overall,” Girardi said. “You have those days. If it was the last day of spring training, you might worry a little bit more about it, but you’re going to have those days. Obviously we know we have to get these guys right, and they’re very important to us.”
• The two exceptions: Justin Wilson got a double play against his only hitter, and Andrew Bailey pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts.
• Seven hits in the past six games for Didi Gregorius. He had a double today. … Chase Headley remains red hot with a two-hit day including a double. … Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Noonan had the other Yankees hits. … The Mets won, 7-2.
Associated Press photos
The Yankees have announced their rotation through Monday’s off day, and it seems to provide some clarity about the their plans for Opening Day.
Wednesday: Masahiro Tanaka
Thursday: Adam Warren
Friday: Michael Pineda
Saturday: CC Sabathia
Sunday: Nathan Eovaldi
By giving Sabathia an extra day of rest this week, the Yankees have effectively eliminated him from the conversation for Opening Day. To pitch the opener, Sabathia would have to make either his last spring start or his first regular-season start on short rest. Hard to imagine that happening. Instead, Sabathia’s now lined up to pitch Game 2 after one more turn on extra rest.
Meanwhile, Tanaka is lineup perfectly to stay on an every-six-days schedule and pitch Opening Day. Because of scheduled off days, Tanaka could make each of his first three starts on five days of rest even without the Yankees plugging in a sixth starter during that time.
“It is flexible because of these days off,” Girardi said. “It’s flexible what we can do. We’ve done that kind of on purpose. The big thing is that Eovaldi, his pitch counts are good, Pineda’s have been good. We still need to build Tanaka and CC up a little more. As long as we can get through their starts and have no issues, we should be able to iron it out the way we anticipate them.”
With Esmil Rogers starting tonight and Warren scheduled for Thursday, Girardi said he could have a fifth starter decided by the end of the week.
“I think it’s a pretty big start for (Rogers),” Girardi said. “… I would think we’ll probably even meet in the next couple days to try to make some decisions here.”
• During fielding drills today, Alex Rodriguez spent a lot of time at first base working on cut offs and relays. Girardi said he still expects Rodriguez to get at least one turn at first base this spring. “You’re probably going to see him going through some drills at first,” Girardi said. “And my guess is you’re going to see him (at first base) in a spring training game before we leave.”
• Girardi said he’d basically just like to have Rodriguez capable of playing first base just in case someone gets hurt. Garrett Jones is the backup first baseman, but if either Jones or Teixeira were to get hurt, Girardi said he’d rather be able to play Rodriguez at first base instead of either Chase Headley or Brian McCann.
• The more important thing with Rodriguez has been his at-bats, and the Yankees seem happy with those. “I just think his at-bats are more consistent (than at the start of camp),” Girardi said. “His timing is more consistent.”
• Jose Pirela is back with the team, but he’s still going through concussions tests. Girardi said the medical staff plans to let Pirela start working out — very lightly — just to see how he reacts to that. Pirela had a concussion two years ago, but he said the symptoms are not as bad this time.
• Jacoby Ellsbury did some light swings with a broomstick yesterday and will gradually increase baseball activities. Girardi remains unconcerned. Said he expects Ellsbury to start playing again before the end of spring training and be ready for the Opener.
• Nathan Eovaldi went 4.2 innings at the minor league complex. Said he was wild with his offspeed pitch early in the game — he started with a walk to former Yankees prospect Melky Mesa, who’s a notorious free swinger — but Eovaldi was ultimately happy with the outing. “I was just rushing (early in the game),” Eovaldi said. “Slider behind, same with the curveball. Fastball was a little all over the place. Once I stayed back over the mound, it was there.”
• With Tanaka starting tomorrow, Chase Whitley is going to the minor league complex to stay stretched out. He’ll pitch four or five innings across the street.
• Today’s bullpen sessions: Adam Warren, CC Sabathia, Vicente Campos, Ivan Nova, Scott Baker, Chris Martin, Danny Burawa
• Today’s second string: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Ali Castillo, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ramon Flores, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Aaron Judge, DH Kyle Higashioka
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Justin Wilson, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Nick Rumbelow
Associated Press photos
The Yankees have one starting pitcher with a torn elbow ligament, another with a surgically repaired knee, and another who’s dealt with shoulder issues for three years now. Yet it’s the veteran No. 5 starter who hurt himself earlier this spring.
In the lineup, they have a right fielder coming back from elbow surgery, a first baseman who couldn’t stay on the field last season, and a designated hitter who’s approaching 40 and hasn’t played in more than a year. Yet it’s the reliable center fielder who spent the past week in the trainers’ room.
“I guess all I can tell is just how I feel each and every day,” Jacoby Ellsbury said this morning. “But until I swing a bat, until I throw, until I do really explosive stuff, that will be the real test. But it does feel better each and every day.”
Ellsbury has a mildly strained oblique. The injury was supposed to keep him out of the lineup a couple of days, but he’s now gone a week without baseball activities. Ellsbury remains confident he’ll play on Opening Day, and for now it seems to be more bump in the road than significant concern. The Yankees have to hope it stays that way, because Ellsbury might be their most dependable position player.
“If not the most important, one of the most important guys on our team and definitely in our lineup,” Alex Rodriguez said. “He is certainly one of the guys that I’m super excited about coming back. He’s kind of a rock star and he has a lot of skills. He reminds me of a very skilled point guard in baseball. He can do a lot of things very well, and I hated to play against him because he was so dangerous.”
While Ellsbury has a history of injuries, his two most significant were the product of collisions and not some chronic health problem. Just last spring he missed the last two weeks of Grapefruit League games with a calf injury, but he still opened the season with a strong month of April.
“Coming into the season I felt pretty good,” he said. “I got some at-bats across the street and everything. I felt pretty good. I felt like I was seeing the ball, tracking pitches. And I felt pretty good a couple of days ago in the games with that (before getting hurt). Hopefully I should get some at-bats before we break.”
The Yankees know they have some health and age concerns in their lineup, but Ellsbury’s not supposed to be the one having problems.
“He’s such a unique talent,” Rodriguez said. “You don’t see talent like that come around very often. … There’s a lot of things that I admire about his game and I look forward to hopefully driving him in this year.”
• The Yankees lost 7-6 this afternoon, but it’s hard to blame Chris Young. The Yankees fourth outfielder had a pair of home runs in the loss. The Yankees gave him another turn in center field today, though it seems more likely he’ll play some sort of platoon role in the corners. “The entire goal is just to be ready for whatever,” Young told MLB.com. “Be prepared for whatever situation is going to get thrown my way.”
• Young starter Bryan Mitchell was charged with two runs through 3.1 innings. Both runs scored after he left the game, but Mitchell allowed his share of base runners with four hits and three walks. His stuff is impressive, and the Yankees keep saying he’s still in the fifth-starter mix, but Mitchell also has a 7.36 ERA and 2.18 WHIP this spring. It’s only 7.1 innings total — hardly defines Mitchell as a pitcher — but in the short term, it suggests he’ll likely be on the outside looking in. “This is a young man with good stuff,” Joe Girardi said after the game. “It’s learning how to pound the strike zone with that good stuff and learning how to put guys away that is going to be a factor for him. I think this kid’s got a pretty high ceiling, I do. There’s stuff there.”
• Speaking of the fifth starter: Esmil Rogers gets the start tomorrow, and it sounds like Adam Warren might pitch on Thursday. Girardi said today that he’d like to have the fifth starter spot ironed out by the end of the week.
• Four relievers got in today’s game. Chasen Shreve allowed an RBI hit to a pitcher, Jose Ramirez — who’s already been sent down — struck out three but also was charged with a run, and Kyle Davies took the loss after allowing three runs in the seventh. The one pitching standout for the day was young Jacob Lindgren, who’s been terrific all spring. He’s flown remarkably under the radar, but he’s still around and still has terrific numbers.
• Brian McCann hit his second home run of the spring. He also threw out Bryce Harper trying to steal second on a pitch out. … John Ryan Murphy had two hits but is still hitting just .185 this spring. It was also a two-hit day for Rob Refsnyder (including a double). … As planned, Brendan Ryan got another turn at shortstop. He also got some at-bats as a designated hitter yesterday. Despite missing time with that back injury, Ryan still seems fairly secure in his spot on the Opening Day roster.
Associated Press photos
Today’s exhibition game is on the other side of the state, and most of the Yankees who are playing in it actually spent last night on the road. It’ll be a game light on big league regulars — Brett Gardner and Brian McCann are the most notable Yankees involved — and so the bigger story of the day seemed likely to happen here in Tampa.
But then it rained.
Instead of playing in another minor league game, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran will simply take some indoor batting practice and call it a day. I assume this makes it more likely that they’ll play tomorrow, but I really don’t know. The plan was to give them a handful of at-bats, but the weather hasn’t cooperated. There was some thought of playing an intrasquad game, but that idea has fizzled.
Basically, it’s just a quiet, rainy day in Tampa. This was going to be the place to be today, now it’s just a place that’s a little too wet for anything to happen.
• The Yankees announced that all tests on Jose Pirela came back clean. Neck and spine MRI findings were normal and he was discharged from the hospital last night. He’s obviously not scheduled to play today.
• By the way, MLB Network announced that it will be live broadcasting today’s game between the Yankees and Nationals, and it will be available in the New York market, so check that out if you have a random Monday off.
• Jacoby Ellsbury said he’s scheduled for more treatment today, but he still hasn’t hit or played catch since the oblique injury. He’s still confident he’ll be ready for Opening Day.
• Nathan Eovaldi sounds encouraged by his spring. Said he’s successfully improved his split and his slider, and he’s done a better job of working up in the zone with his big fastball. He’ll start in a minor league game tomorrow. That’s an effort to get him stretched out while Esmil Rogers auditions by pitching in the big league game at night.
• Today’s second string: C Austin Romine, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Dan Fiorito, SS Cole Figueroa, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Tyler Austin, CF Ramon Flores, RF Slade Heathcott, DH Eddy Rodriguez
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Kyle Davies, Jose Ramirez, Jacob Lindgren, Nick Rumbelow, Chasen Shreve
Associated Press photos
Before he tripled in his first at-bat on Sunday, Jacoby Ellsbury was warming up at Steinbrenner Field and felt a little something around his abdomen. He didn’t think much of it, had a good game, then woke up feeling sore on Monday. That’s when he spoke up about what’s now diagnosed as a mildly strained oblique.
“We’re in spring training and these games don’t count, so I can give it time to let it get 100 percent,” he said. “I feel very confident that I’ll be there Opening Day ready to play.”
As you might remember, Ellsbury was also hurt late last spring. His last spring training game a year ago was March 14, but he still opened the season with a strong month of April.
“I feel pretty good at the plate now,” Ellsbury said. “Last year, I didn’t think it had an effect on me at all. I felt pretty good at the plate. I felt like I had a pretty good first month. That really didn’t have an effect on me. … The last probably five days of games I played in (this year) I felt really good at the plate. My timing felt good. Everything felt good. Seeing pitches. I felt I had a good strike zone presence. It’s hard to say always in spring, but I did feel good before this, so I wouldn’t think it would take very much if any (to get back on track).”
Ellsbury said he already feels “substantially better” in just four days since the injury first popped up.
Associated Press photo
Masahiro Tanaka was standing in front of maybe a dozen reporters. He’d said very little for about three minutes when someone asked whether anyone — except the group of us — ever asks about his elbow these days.
“No,” Tanaka said, laughing. “Probably just you guys.”
Then his interpreter asked the follow-up question without being prompted.
“It feels good,” Tanaka answered.
Glass half full: There’s still nothing but good stuff to report about Tanaka’s spring training. Tonight’s second start was even better than his first. He faced twice as many batters and got through 3.2 innings with only one hard-hit ball, which was a double against his very last batter. Tanaka struck out three, got a ton of ground balls, and came through with no pain or discomfort in his elbow.
Glass half empty: Tanaka’s dazzling spring is only reminding the Yankees of how much they stand to lose if his ligament finally snaps.
“We felt his arm was pretty good (coming into camp),” Girardi said. “We’ve taken it a little bit different this spring, in a sense. Maybe a little bit slower, trying to give him plenty of time to get ready. Maybe that’s why (he says he feels better than last spring). Maybe he had a better idea of what to expect in spring training, in a sense. He had never been through an American spring training before. Maybe that helped him prepare.”
Tanaka said the slower pace has helped. He feels that he’s built up pretty well, and obviously the elbow had held up so far. Obviously there’s a risk it could blow out, but it’s all good news up to this point.
“Since Day 1 of spring training, we’ve been happy with what we’ve seen,” Girardi said. “I told you, if I’m going to be on the edge of my seat every pitch, it’s going to be a long season. That’s the way it’s going to be. So he appears to be healthy, he’s thrown the ball well, and you just keep running him out there and keep building him up.”
• Despite the fresh diagnosis and the longer time table, Girardi said he’s not at all worried that Jacoby Ellsbury might miss Opening Day. “I’m not really bothered by it,” Girardi said. “I thought he was in a pretty good place as far as being in shape and playing multiple days. There will be plenty of time I think.”
• The new diagnosis is a low-grade oblique strain for Ellsbury. He was originally supposed to be back in the lineup on Friday. He’ll now go basically a week without baseball activities. “It’s his ab,” Girardi said. “He’s got a mild, mild, mild strain. I think we talked about giving him six, seven days off to see where he’s at. I’m not too concerned about it because it’s really mild, but this is the time that we can protect him a little bit and don’t have to rush him back.”
• One other injury update: pitcher Jose De Paula was sent for an MRI after experiencing lingering soreness in his shoulder. De Paula seemed locked in as Triple-A rotation depth and was given a spot on the 40-man roster this offseason.
• Tanaka really didn’t say much of anything about his start other than the fact he thought it was better than his first outing. “He looked great,” Brian McCann said. “Just a typical outing. He located all his pitches again, got ahead, pitched ahead in the count. And with that split, he keeps the hitter on the defensive. He’s able to work all quadrants of the plate.”
• Speaking of McCann, he and Stephen Drew hit their first spring home runs tonight (it was a 12-5 Yankees win, by the way). McCann had a two-hit day and also walked twice. “In the grand scheme of things, you’re trying to work on stuff like contact point,” he said. “That’s what I’m doing right now.”
• The stadium radar gun had Andrew Bailey at 92 mph pretty regularly in tonight’s spring training debut. He would have pitched a 1-2-3 inning but what should have been a third out was ruled an E-4 (bad call: Rob Refsnyder made a nice play to get to a tough ball up the middle, but Francisco Arcia couldn’t scoop the throw to first). Next two batters had hits, leading to an unearned run.
• Bailey on his first outing since July 12, 2013: “I was anxious. I was excited. In the bullpen, normal stuff. It was nice to have that anxious feeling of getting into a game again. I felt good. The ball, I felt, was coming out good. Best run I’ve ever given up, I guess.”
• As for specifics, Bailey said his cutter was a little flat. He wants to work on that between appearances. “We got the first step out of the way,” Bailey said. “Now the next step is to see how it feels, see how it responds and get out there again.”
• Speaking of Bailey’s outing, his inning ended with a really nice diving catch by Mason Williams. In the very next half inning, Williams worked a long and impressive at-bat before missing a grand slam by maybe two feet. He settled for a sac fly. He also had a hit in the game and is now batting .357 for the spring.
• Big three-hit day for Didi Gregorius to bring his spring average up to .273. He came into this game hitting .158. There’s a lesson to be learned here about small sample sizes. Gregorius had a triple, his second of the spring. He also had a stolen base.
• This game lasted far too long at nearly four hours. Even the players hanging in the Yankees clubhouse for the final innings were clearly counting down the outs. Pace of play, indeed.
• Former Yankees infielder Kelly Johnson hit a three-run home run off Jose Ramirez. All three of those runs were unearned. Only one run against the Yankees — charged to Danny Burawa, who also had two strikeouts — were unearned.
• We’ll give the final word to Girardi about Bailey’s debut: “I was happy for him. I thought he threw the ball alright. I mean, he hasn’t been out there in a long time. He came off and there was a smile on his face. It was a definite step in the right direction.”
Associated Press photos
Last night, CC Sabathia said he was surprisingly nervous to pitch in his first real game in 10 months. If that was the case, imagine how Andrew Bailey feels about pitching in his first game since July 12, 2013.
“I’m anxious,” Bailey said. “I’m ready to get out there. You just have to trust the work we’ve put in the past year and a half, almost two, and trust that it will be there. We’ve put all the right pieces together, and this is the next step.”
Tonight will be Bailey’s spring debut with the Yankees. He spent all of last year rehabbing after shoulder surgery, and he signed back on a fresh minor league contract to get a fresh look and a new opportunity. Bailey said he still believes he could have enough time to make the Opening Day roster. Joe Girardi said it’s possible, but he seemed to be setting lower expectations.
“Obviously he has a great chance of making an impression,” Girardi said. “Our big thing with him is getting him through these first (outings), and then when does he feel that he’s able to go back-to-back? That’s the big thing because as a bullpen guy you have to be able to do that unless you’re a long guy. … I think, from what we’ve seen so far, I definitely think it’s a possibility he could be a player in our bullpen (at some point). You’re talking about experience, a guy that’s pitched at a high level, that’s pitched in big markets, knows how to close. He could be another nice arm in our bullpen.”
Bailey was an all-star closer his first two big league seasons with Oakland, but he hasn’t thrown as many as 30 innings in a season since 2011. Now 30 years old, Bailey said his bullpens and simulated outings have been encouraging. He doesn’t know how hard he’s throwing, but he said he’s been noticeably better than he was at this time last year. He said he feels the way he did when he thriving in the majors.
“Going through the process, I never thought I’d actually feel this good again,” he said. “You’re going through that process at that time, and the way the shoulder is, it’s pretty complicated. So you’re like, ‘Oh man, is it ever going to happen?’ The doctor said 18 to 24 months, and we’re at 19, and pretty much right on track. It feels really good, and it’s refreshing to feel this. You’re going through the process throwing on the back fields all last year, you’re questioning, what are you even doing? You put the time in, and you grind through it, and you’re here.”
Does Opening Day feel realistic for Bailey?
“I think everybody’s goal here is to make the team Day 1, and mine obviously still is,” he said. “If I need more time, I totally understand that, or if they feel I need more time, I understand that. But I want to be there Day 1, for sure, just as everyone in this room does. … One of my goals was to pitch in spring training and make the decision hard for them. I think that’s all you can do, in my shoes, just make the decision as hard as I can for them.”
• Brendan Ryan remains on track to also play on Friday. That would be Ryan’s first game of the spring.
• Upcoming rotation:
Thursday: Esmil Rogers
Friday: Adam Warren
Saturday: Michael Pineda
Sunday: CC Sabathia
• Girardi said he thinks the rotation competition truly begins this next turn through, beginning with Rogers’ start tomorrow. Girardi said he plans to give Bryan Mitchell at least one more start, but it sounds like Chase Whitley and Scott Baker are unlikely to start again this spring. I would think those two are stronger bullpen candidates than fifth-starter candidates at this point.
• Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to 45-50 pitches tonight. Girardi said he has no plans of asking Tanaka to throw fewer splits given the elbow issue. “I don’t think you can ask him to stop pitching the way he pitches because I think,” Girardi said. “As a pitcher, you feel like you’re going out there without all your weapons, and that probably is not great for confidence. So I don’t think you can really do that.”
• Jose Pirela gets a start in left field tonight. My own take on his situation: I think Pirela is the odd man out right now, but I think he’s the guy who will make the roster if anyone (aside from a catcher) gets hurt. Infielder, outfielder, doesn’t matter. I think Pirela is the next guy in line, which is why he’s getting some time all over the place. Again, that’s just an opinion, though. “You never know what’s going to happen, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “And he played the outfield last year. There’s a chance that you’ll even see him in center this spring training.”
• Ryan, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez and Austin Romine are all scheduled to stay behind and take batting practice in Tampa today.
• Today’s second string: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Cole Figueroa, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ramon Flores, CF Mason Williams, RF Slade Heathcott
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Jose Ramirez, Andrew Bailey, Jacob Lindgren, Danny Burawa, Nick Rumbelow
Associated Press photos
Luis Severino and Aaron Judge surely spark some optimism for the future, but if you were looking for immediate impact in the present, the big names from today’s Yankees spring opener were Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner.
“I think we can do some damage as long as we both stay healthy and do our jobs,” Gardner said. “Get on base and take some attention from the hitter and (put it) on us from the pitcher and the catcher; get over into scoring position and give those guys in the middle of the lineup some RBI opportunities.”
That’s the idea, and the Yankees might actually be able to put it into action this season. When Ellsbury signed last winter, there was some immediate thought about the impact he and Gardner might have together as speed-oriented hitters and defenders. They played well side-by-side in the outfield, but they rarely hit together in the lineup. It seems inevitable that they’ll do that this year.
They didn’t do much today — a combined 0-for-6 — but last season, Gardner and Ellsbury ranked first and second in OPS among Yankees everyday players. They combined for 60 steals and each hit more home runs than any Yankee other than Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann. They are, perhaps, the most reliable pieces of this season’s projected lineup.
“If I play a full season this year and hit six (home runs), or if I hit 20, it really doesn’t matter to me,” Gardner said. “I still have to get on base. I don’t have to drive myself in. I just have to get on base and put myself into scoring position and those guys in the middle will drive me in if they’re healthy. … Get on base a little more (than last year), run a little more, and just use my speed to my advantage. Just taking things pitch by pitch, try and keep things simple. I kind of felt like I fell off a little bit towards the end of the season, the last month of last year. Right now I feel great. Just stay strong, try to stay healthy all season.”
For Ellsbury, hitting ahead of Gardner means he should have plenty of chances to run. Gardner’s a patient hitter, and Ellsbury can be an aggressive runner.
“I tend to go early in the count just to give a hitter a better opportunity before he’s down in the count or whatnot,” Ellsbury said. “But yeah, if I don’t go early, it just gives me opportunities to take a base. Brett does a good job with the bat and controlling the bat. Maybe he just advances me from second to third with no outs, something like that. … If I feel I can go, I’m going to take off unless they give me the red light and want the guy to hit if they’re so focused on the hitter seeing a pitch. I feel if I get my jump, I’m going to make it more often than not.”
• Pretty solid first outing for Adam Warren, who allowed just one hit — a weak single — through two scoreless innings. “I wanted to get ahead of hitters,” Warren said. “Didn’t really do that great today, but also wanted to establish fastball in to a lot of guys, which I did well today. Just have to keep working and improving. Getting ahead of guys for me is a the name of the game, so I want to do that a little bit better, but overall felt good.”
• Warren said he feels like he’s competing for a rotation spot and not simply serving as rotation insurance in case someone gets hurt. “Who knows where I’ll end up,” he said. “But right now my mind is being a starter and see where that leads.”
• Joe Girardi’s impression of Warren’s start: “A lot of quality strikes today. Good counts.”
• Every prospect reliever seemed to really thrive today except Jacob Lindgren. I was doing interviews in the Yankees clubhouse while Lindgren was pitching, so I actually missed most of his outing. He went two-thirds of an inning, gave up two hits and allowed two runs, which were unearned because of a Rob Refsnyder throwing error. Branden Pinder wound up finishing off that inning with a strikeout.
• Refsnyder wasn’t the only young second baseman with a throwing error. Jose Pirela also threw a ball away trying to make a tough turn on a double play.
• Aaron Judge on seeing his game-tying home run go over the fence. “I thought he robbed it, so I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to turn around or keep going. So I just kept going, and no one stopped me.”
• Luis Severino said he believes he could be pitching in New York at some point this season, but he quickly shot down the idea that he’s trying to make a big impression this spring to make that happen. “No,” he said, flatly. “The same I do last year, I’ve got do this year the same.”
• Some of the pace of play rules were used today. The field had two red clocks counting down two minutes and 25 seconds for a pitcher to get ready at the start of an inning. I honestly didn’t even notice it at first. “It was a little strange,” Warren said. “I didn’t think about it the first inning. I went out there for the second inning, I noticed it at like a minute, 50 (seconds) when I first got out there. I’m like, ‘Crap, that’s not long at all.’ Then all of a sudden I look back after my last pitch, it’s at 50 seconds still, so it only took me a minute. After you’ve already gone out there, and you’re already a little bit loose, it didn’t affect me. I think you just have to get used to knowing the time’s ticking down to kind of know how long it takes you.”
• Garrett Jones singled in his first at-bat with the Yankees. Chris Young also had a single today. Of the guys really fighting for a roster spot, Pirela was the only other one who had a hit. Both Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy went 0-for-2. Jake Cave, Slade Heathcott, Greg Bird, Kyle Roller, Mason Williams, Jonathan Galvez, Nick Noonan, and of course Judge all had at least one hit today.
• Girardi said everyone came through today’s game healthy. No new injuries to report.
• Final word goes to Girardi: “You want to learn as much as you can about these (young) guys because we haven’t seen them a lot. See what their abilities are, what some of their strengths are. I think we’ve said all along, there’s some really good position players that are coming. They’re getting closer and closer, and at some point – you hope that you don’t have injuries, but at some point you know that it usually happens and these kids get a call-up and a chance to do something.”
Associated Press photos