Even the best bullpens have games like this one. One inning spirals out of control, and a night is ruined a group of guys whose only job is to keep a narrow lead intact.
Tonight, the problems started with David Carpenter, who went with a first-pitch fastball down and away for strike one, but when he tried to follow it with a slider in roughly the same spot, Jonathan Schoop hit a game-tying home run.
“Hindsight’s always 20-20,” Carpenter said. “Maybe I should have busted him in.”
It got worse with Justin Wilson, who let the go-ahead run score on a single by lefty-killer Delmon Young before allowing the big blow on a two-run double by left-handed hitter Chris Davis. It was a two-strike cutter that Davis jumped on.
“Not the tightest breaking cutter I’ve ever thrown,” Wilson said. “Tad bit up, and that guy’s a good hitter. You’re going to get beat sometimes. Get back to 2-2 and hope to put the guy away right there, but just didn’t make the exact pitch I wanted. Made a decent pitch, and he did a good job of hitting.”
It happens. We all know that. Problem is, for the Yankees, a blown lead by their supposed-to-be-a-strength bullpen meant another series lost to a division rival. And perhaps the bigger issue was going to the bullpen in the sixth inning to begin with. Nathan Eovaldi had pitched well, racked up plenty of strikeouts, and gotten out of trouble in both the fourth and fifth innings.
But he was at 101 innings after five, so the Yankees needed to bring in some fresh arms.
Given the abundance of health issues looming over their top three starters, the Yankees would like to think of Eovaldi as a guy who can give them some distance, but so far he’s gone five innings and 5.1 innings in his two starts.
“In the first inning and the fourth inning I threw a lot of pitches,” Eovaldi said. “I have to do a better job of getting deep into games. It’s early in the season, but still. When I get the quick outs, I need to bounce back from that and keep attacking the zone. I know a lot of times when I did get quick outs, I fell behind 2-0, then it’s 2-1 and they’re battling back and fouling off more pitches.”
Nine strikeouts was encouraging for Eovaldi — he had that many only once in 33 starts for the Marlins last season — but strikeouts sometimes cost pitches, and Eovaldi simply wasn’t able to work deep tonight. The Yankees needed four good innings from their bullpen. Instead, one bad inning made all the difference.
“We just couldn’t seem to get through that sixth inning, and it’s unfortunate,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought Nate battled pretty much all night. Threw a lot of pitches in the five innings. That’s why I took him out. But we struggled in the sixth.”
• Alex Rodriguez’s second home run of the season was a monster blast to left field. Easily the hardest ball he’s hit since 2013. “That one felt amazing off the bat,” Rodriguez said. He now leads the team in RBI and he’s third behind Chris Young and Mark Teixeira in slugging percentage.
• Beyond Rodriguez, it really wasn’t an awful day for the Yankees offense. They had five runs on eight hits including four doubles and the Rodriguez homer. Of course, they also went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and struck out 12 times with home plate umpire Sean Barber’s generous strike zone.
• Carlos Beltran drove in two runs with his go-ahead double in the third inning. Of his six hits this season, four have gone for two bases. He and Stephen Drew are each hitting below .200 but are still tied for second on the team in RBI. “He just missed a three-run homer too,” Girardi said. “I thought Carlos swung the bat better tonight has well. I thought he centered a lot of balls.”
• Beltran on whether he thought he had a home run on that second-inning double: “I hit it good,” he said. “It was a pitch middle away. I hit it OK. I didn’t hit it on the sweet spot. I hit it a little bit off the end. I thought it had a chance but it just hit the top of the wall. Double. I’ll take a double.” That double was Beltran’s 999th American League hit.
• With his home run, Rodriguez scored his 1,923rd career run, tying Derek Jeter for ninth place on baseball’s all-time runs scored list. Stan Musial is eighth on the list with 1,949.
• Eovaldi’s career-high in strikeouts is 10 set May 5, 2014 against the Mets. He came one shy of that tonight. That 10-strikeout game was the only time he struck out more than eight in a game last season. “I think just the slider, it had a lot more depth to it as opposed to my last outing,” Eovaldi said. “I was getting behind it. It was more of a cutter. Then I worked my fastball up in the zone a lot better today, too. I didn’t get the swing and misses I wanted, but it was a lot more effective.”
• Big outs for Eovaldi to strand the bases loaded in the fourth inning and to leave two on with a strikeout in the fifth. But in each of those innings, he had earlier opportunities to end the inning and couldn’t do it. “It was a lot better outing than my last (start),” he said. “But there’s still things I’ve got to do. I’ve got to relax a little more with two outs. I tend to try to do too much and get us back to the dugout quick, and I end up staying out there longer.”
• Encouraging appearance by Betances who allowed one hit but also got two strikeouts in the eighth. He said he was happy with his ability to throw his breaking ball for strikes because “that helps everything.” Girardi said he thought Betances looked sharper. “I thought he had better break on his curveball,” Girardi said. “I thought it had a better shape tonight than it’s had, so that was encouraging too.”
• Weird big league debut for Branden Pinder. He threw a total of four pitches in a scoreless seventh. He allowed a triple, but got out of the inning with a popped up bunt, which Pinder caught and tossed to third for a double play. He literally flipped the ball to Chase Headley as he walked off the field. Headley handed the ball back, and Pinder kept it.
• Jacoby Ellsbury’s hitting streak extended to seven games. He’s hitting .323 during the streak, and tonight’s double was his first extra-base hit of the year. Mark Teixeira also extended his hitting streak to seven games. He’s hitting .269 with a .731 slugging percentage during the streak.
• Girardi said he was well aware the Orioles would go to Delmon Young if he brought Wilson into the game in the sixth inning, but he chose to intentionally walk Adam Jones anyway. “Jones is swinging as well as anyone in the game is the bottom line,” Girardi said. “I felt good about bringing Willy in. He’s thrown the ball good for us, but tonight it didn’t work.”
• Final word goes to Beltran: “We need to get going. There’s no doubt about that. We’ve been close to winning some games and unfortunately the other team has been able to play better than us. It’s been only nine games so we just need to find a way to turn the page and concentrate in Tampa.”
Associated Press photos
Four runs on seven hits, but after tonight’s disappointment, CC Sabathia kept coming back to one particular pitch. It was the four-seam fastball he threw to Caleb Joseph in the seventh inning. It was a 3-1 game at the time, and Sabathia wanted the ball down and away. The pitch was middle, and it was hit to center for a triple.
Never mind that Jacoby Ellsbury very nearly caught it, Sabathia knew he made a mistake with that pitch and it was hit hard. He might have run into some rough luck in other moments, but in that situation, the blame fell on his shoulders. That triple led to a late insurance run, and that run made all the difference.
The other Baltimore runs came on a home run (first extra-base hit Sabathia allowed this season), after a leadoff walk (Sabathia’s only walk of the season), and after an infield single (one of many soft hits Sabathia has allowed). Aside from the home run and the triple, this was another case of relatively soft contact leading to a bunch of runs. They didn’t all come in one inning like last time out, but Sabathia still wound up with a lot of runs on his pitching line.
“I think his luck’s going to change,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I’m going to take my chances if he’s throwing the ball the way he’s throwing that the results are going to be better.”
Of course Girardi has a reputation of backing his players no matter what, but it’s also pretty easy to see what the Yankees and Sabathia are talking about. He really is throwing a lot of strikes and getting quite a few swings and misses. He’s walked one guy, pitched more innings than either Michael Pineda or Masahiro Tanaka, and allowed one home run.
Through two starts in 2013, Sabathia had already walked seven guys. Through two starts last year, he’d already allowed three homers and three doubles.
“I’m just seeing better movement on his fastball,” Girardi said. “I’m seeing consistency in his changeup; it’s not cutting. His slider is better. I just think he’s locating a lot better. I think it’s because he’s healthy. It’s hard when you’re dealing with nagging injuries to go out there and perform at a high level.”
• Didn’t help the Yankees that tonight they went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, continuing that early trend of not taking advantage of opportunities on offense. Some of that was clearly because Miguel Gonzalez was awfully sharp, but still, it’s hard to place all the blame on Sabathia when the offense didn’t do much of anything until the eighth inning. “(Gonzalez) deserves a lot of credit,” Mark Teixeira said. “He pitched really well. When he needed to make big pitches, he did. It’s not like he needed to get out of too many jams, but he did when he needed to.”
• This was the first time in his career that Gonzalez struck out 10 batters in a game. He retired 10 in a row from the second inning through the fifth.
• Sabathia not covering first base on a potential double play and failing to get an out on a slow roller up the first-base side didn’t ultimately cost him any runs, but his ability to move around defensively is clearly an issue. It’s just an issue the Yankees are willing to accept. Sabathia said the knee feels fine, but… “It’s the product of a big man, too,” Girardi said. “It’s not Gonzalez trying to get over there. He’s falling the opposite way. He’s falling toward third base. It’s just, it’s a big man.”
• Sabathia on trying to make a play on the slow roller, when he was ultimately charged with an error for flipping the ball into the runner: “It’s wet out there. I made the best play I could. I didn’t want to go down and slide, and I just threw it into the runner. … I mean, it’s just being 34 years old. Four years ago, I probably could have made that play.”
• Sabathia completely dismissed questions about whether his knee is bothering him either pitching or fielding. “I’m fine,” he said.
• Adam Jones is 11-for-17 with four home runs and nine RBI in his past five games. He homered in his first at-bat tonight, then had a sacrifice fly. “He’s one of the best hitters in the game,” Sabathia said. “He got a two-seamer and put a good swing on it (in the first inning). I felt like we pitched him a little better after that. But he’s hot, and there’s nothing you can really do.”
• Plan was for Brett Gardner to pinch run for Alex Rodriguez if Rodriguez got on base in the ninth inning. Gardner would have stayed in to play defense, but it’s still doubtful he’ll start tomorrow. Said he did only ice treatment today. “Maybe a little bit (better),” he said. “Pretty similar. Just pretty sore. Inflammation is limited. I haven’t tried to swing a bat. All I did today was ice. I didn’t try and heat it up or anything. Maybe I’ll be able to do that tomorrow.”
• Girardi chose to pinch hit Gregorio Petit to lead off the ninth because he wanted to save Rodriguez for the at-bat when Stephen Drew’s turn came up (there was a lefty on the mound). If Garrett Jones’ turn in the lineup had come up with runners on base in the eighth, Rodriguez would have pinch hit then. Basically, Girardi was trying to maximize the impact of the Rodriguez at-bat whenever it came. If there had been two on with no outs for the Drew at-bat, Drew might have stayed in to bunt them over, letting Rodriguez come up with the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at second with one out. “If the first two guys get on, or the first guy gets on, I want a guy with power behind him,” Girardi said. “The first two guys get on, you can think about doing something else.”
• Ellsbury on running after the triple in the seventh inning, when he made a diving attempt but couldn’t make the catch: “I knew it would be close,” Ellsbury said. “You always hope to catch the ball. It couldn’t have been much. I haven’t seen the replay, but within inches, I would imagine.”
• Another good outing by Chris Martin who struck out two — including Jones — during a 1-2-3 eighth.
• Final word goes to Girardi on Sabathia: “I thought he was good again. It’s unfortunate. He gave up a few hard-hit balls and you look at some of the hits he gave up, you know, I know that’s part of it but I like the way he’s throwing. … I thought he pitched well. It’s unfortunate that he gave up four runs. I thought he pitched better than that.”
Associated Press photos
Postgame notes: “It’s something to build on” • 04.09.15
All through spring training, CC Sabathia insisted he felt great despite the fact he was pitching his way to an 8.10 ERA and a loss in each of his three starts.
Tonight’s regular-season debut felt similar.
There were plenty of obvious good things — eight strikeouts, no walks, no extra-base hits — but Sabathia still allowed five runs, four earned, through 5.2 innings. For now, that’s enough for a 6.35 ERA and an 0-1 record. Sabathia is usually hard on himself after a loss, but he seemed mostly encouraged after this one, despite the ugly result.
The real problem was the second inning when Sabathia allowed four runs on five singles and a couple of run-scoring ground outs. A comebacker off Sabathia’s own glove might have been a double play had he not touched it, but Sabathia’s deflection loaded the bases with no outs, and the Blue Jays chipped away from there.
“If he’s going to be hit that hard every time he starts, I’ll take it because he’s not going to give up that many runs in most games,” Joe Girardi said. “But it was just one of those nights. … We’ll take our chances when you’re getting ground balls because you’re going to get some double plays there. It looked like we may have had the one if he doesn’t touch it, and that could have changed the whole complexion of that inning. I thought he threw the ball pretty good.”
Sabathia said he got away from pitching inside in that second inning, and that was his biggest problem. He need to keep pounding fastballs inside to get hitters off his offspeed pitches. He didn’t do that in the second inning, and the Blue Jays pounced; not with home runs and doubles, but with a lot of contact and a lot of effective base hits.
Aside from the second inning, and before he allowed a pair of two-out hits in the sixth, Sabathia actually faced the minimum. The only other hit he allowed was quickly wiped out by a double play. There were some positives, and on some nights he might have finished with better results, but one big inning is nothing new for Sabathia. It’s also nothing new for the Yankees, who were undone by a similar inning by Masahiro Tanaka on Monday.
“He kept the ball in the ballpark,” Girardi said. “He kept the ball on the ground. He did what he was supposed to do, in a sense.”
In a sense, that’s true. In another sense, a loss is a loss, and four earned runs are four earned runs.
“A bad inning got away from us,” Sabathia said. “I wish I could have stopped the bleeding right there.”
• Alex Rodriguez hit his first home run since September 20, 2013. “I felt like I needed Google Maps or something to round the bases,” he said. “It’s been a long, long time. It certainly felt good to get some cheers in front of the home fans and get us going a little bit.”
• Moved into the second spot in the order, Rodriguez also drew a walk. He struck out in his other two at-bats. “We talked about it in spring training, anything that I do this year is going to be kind of a surprise to everyone – sometimes even myself,” Rodriguez said. “That one felt good to get us on the board and start a little momentum.”
• The home run, by the way, was No. 655 in Rodriguez’s career. His last homer came off former Yankees prospect George Kontos.
• Continuing a familiar issue, the Yankees went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. They had similar problems last night. Their only RISP hit tonight was an RBI single by Didi Gregorius, who was promptly thrown out rounding too far around first base. “To win games, you have to hit with runners on,” Girardi said.
• Speaking of Gregorius, that’s his second base-running blunder in three games. “I slipped a little bit trying to go back to first and I got stuck there,” he said. “That’s what happened. … For me, I just want to be aggressive on the bases. I slipped on that one, and I can’t take it back. It happened and just go forward from there.”
• Girardi on the Gregorius mistake: “He takes too wide of a turn, he slips and then he’s out. You’ve got to read the throw, and if the throw is low enough, you can’t take that wide of a turn.”
• Two fielding mistakes by Sabathia tonight. The first was the comebacker that he couldn’t snag in the second inning. If he’d let it go through, it probably would have been a double play. “I asked Didi, he was standing right behind me,” Sabathia said. “So I just gotta trust that he’s going to be there and he would’ve made the play.”
• The second fielding mistake came when Sabathia didn’t back up at third base in the sixth inning. When a throw from right field hit the runner, the ball got away and let a run score. “He went toward first (on contact), and it’s hard for him to get over there (to third),” Girardi said. “With his knee issues, we might have to live with that from time to time. I’m not so sure he’s even going to make it over there.”
• For whatever it’s worth, Sabathia said he felt great despite the cold weather.
• This was the 21st time in Sabathia’s career that he struck out at least eight without allowing a single walk. Last time he did it was May 31, 2013. … Sabathia has now lost each of his past four starts at Yankee Stadium, his longest home losing streak since joining the Yankees in 2009.
• Mark Teixeira homered to score the 1,000th run of his career. It was also his 500th RBI with the Yankees.
• Two doubles for John Ryan Murphy, who was making his first start of the season. Murphy got off to a slow start in spring training, but he started to hit a little toward the end. The Yankees chose to keep him over Austin Romine as the backup catcher.
• Jacoby Ellsbury was caught trying to steal in the third inning snapping a streak of 16 consecutive stolen bases without being caught. That streak dated back to July 18 of last season.
• We’ll give the final word to Rodriguez: “It’s three games. Today, I was more encouraged. We hit some of the hardest balls; some were outs. Tex hit a rocket that easily could have been a couple ribbies. Ellsbury had some great at-bats, Didi hit the ball well. Sometimes a run with this type of weather can count for two or three.”
Associated Press photos
Think back to the beginning of March.
Despite a lot of offseason talk about Rob Refsnyder getting a real opportunity this spring, he was getting no significant time with the big league regulars, and it seemed clear the Yankees weren’t considering him an go-to option for the major-league roster. As recently as today’s fifth inning, Refsnyder still seemed to have no realistic chance of opening in the big leagues.
By the end of the sixth inning, he was perhaps a favorite break camp with the team.
Utility infielder Brendan Ryan strained his right calf muscle during an awkward play in the sixth inning, leaving the Yankees searching for a last-minute replacement only five days before Opening Day. One week removed from his 24th birthday, Refsnyder has been one of the Yankees’ best hitters this spring, and just enough dominoes might have fallen to land him a spot in New York.
“The young man, I think, has continually improved,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s a name that I’m sure is going to fly around a lot today.”
It was less than two weeks ago that Ryan returned from a back injury, and the Yankees made it clear they fully expected him to be on their roster despite the shortened spring training. The Yankees liked his defense, liked the fact he hits right-handed, and liked the fact he could play both shortstop and second base. He was going to make the team.
If not Ryan, the best alternative would have been Jose Pirela, another right-handed utility man who had the highest batting average in camp before suffering a concussion last Sunday. Now Pirela’s gone more than a week without baseball activities and Girardi called him a “long shot” to be ready for Opening Day.
That means the only Refsnyder alternative in big league camp is Nick Noonan, who has some big league time but also hits left-handed, making him a less-than-ideal backup to lefties Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew. Even if the Yankees were to bring someone up from minor league camp, Cole Figueroa — the other Triple-A middle infielder — also hits lefty.
“Things can happen quick,” Girardi said. “I think a lot of clubs hold their breath this time of year that you leave camp the way you are. Sometimes it doesn’t happen and you’ve got to deal with it. … Didi and Drew are healthy, so we’re going to have to look at probably more of a second baseman in a sense. You could look at a second baseman more than a shortstop because you have two shortstops.”
Assuming Drew can slide back to shortstop without any problem — he has yet to take a single ground ball there this spring — the Yankees don’t need someone who has Ryan’s versatility. Instead, hitting from Ryan’s side of the plate might be more important. Refsnyder has impressed with a .333/.447/.538 slash line and the most doubles in camp, but he’s also shown room to grow with his team-high six errors. That’s twice as many as anyone else in camp.
“I think that my game reps haven’t reflected how well I’ve fielded in practice,” Refsnyder said. “Some of the errors I’ve made have been tempo plays, getting into the rhythm of the game again. … I wish I could have played better on all sides of the ball. But I’m happy with where my work is right now. Hopefully it translates in the game a little bit more, in the season, to be honest.”
It’s a curious situation. Refsnyder fits the profile of what the Yankees want and need, but they clearly want him to improve defensively, and it’s worth wondering whether they would be OK with one of their top prospects getting sporadic playing time off the big league bench. Carrying Refsnyder is certainly not what the Yankees had in mind, but it might be what they decide to do.
“Shoot, coming into camp, I was 23,” Refsnyder said. “I’m 24 now, and I’m playing with some of the best players in the entire world. Some of the best guys. It’s definitely not discouraging. Every day you can learn and get better from all these guys. They’ve been awesome to younger guys like myself who started this camp. I’ve learned a lot. Some things I can really continue on for the rest of my career hopefully. This has been a great opportunity for me.”
• Really strong outing by Chase Whitley today. He allowed a run on three hits in the second innings, but that was the extent of the damage. He finished with four innings, one run, no walks and six strikeouts. That might have locked up a spot in the Yankees bullpen. “I wanted to have a good spring and I was able to accomplish that,” Whitley said. “The results matched up today with how I felt, so that was pretty good.”
• If the Yankees carry Whitley, it would be as a second long man. Girardi said today that he considers Esmil Rogers locked into a roster spot. Rogers pitched 1.1 innings with an unearned run today. He struck out three and walked one.
• Another bullpen candidate, Chasen Shreve, allowed one hit and one unearned run in two-thirds of an inning. He struck out one. Most damaging to his case might be the fact he allowed a hard double to left-handed hitter James Loney. Presumably, Shreve would have to handle lefties to play much of a role in New York.
• Andrew Bailey delivered another scoreless inning with one hit and one walk. He has yet to allow an earned run this spring, but he’s also thrown just five innings.
• Why Adam Warren as fifth starter? “Consistency,” Girardi said. “Four-pitch mix. He throws strikes. His ability to get lefthanders and righthanders out, holds runners, does the little things, fields his position. He just does a lot of things right.”
• Gregorius is definitely playing tomorrow. “Unless something happens overnight,” Girardi said. “He felt good in BP. He’s scheduled and circled in on the trip. He’s going.” Gregorius said he’s perfectly unconcerned about the wrist after taking BP and going through fielding drills today. He’s fine.
• Alex Rodriguez is playing first base again tomorrow. He’ll play in the home game.
• Both Jacoby Ellsbury and Mark Teixeira came through today’s game with no problems.
• Here’s Girardi on Refsnyder’s defense: “It’s a guy that was a right fielder. I think it’s improved over the spring. I’ve seen him on the back field every day and it’s improved. I think he’ll continue to get better. There’s no shortage of work ethic in this young man. He’s young. That’s the bottom line, he’s young. But depending on what we do, do I think we have a number of candidates that can handle it? Yes, I do. It’s just picking which one we think is the right one.”
• Would Pirela have been the favorite had he stayed healthy? “Yeah, I think he would’ve had a good shot at it,” Girardi said. Amazing how that weird decision to play Pirela in center field in Port St. Lucie — under what circumstances would Pirela play center this season? — might have impacted things.
• No surprise, but Girardi said he plans to stay on rotation at least through the early part of the season. Even after off days, the Yankees won’t skip Warren or any other starter. They’ll use off days for extra rest and occasionally insert sixth starters for even more rest when necessary.
• Chris Capuano is playing catch — not in a chair, standing up — but there’s still no time table for his return. “That’s hard to say,” Girardi said. “Obviously he’s playing catch, but it’s not the freedom you would have if you didn’t have a leg injury.”
• Final word goes to Girardi: “Those guys (Gregorius, Ellsbury, Teixeira), in my mind, I was pretty convinced we’d have them back. Now, it’s different now with Brendan. I think it’s a long shot. What happens, your depth is tested. We’ve got to talk about it. You understand going in that these things can happen and you’ve got to deal with it. I think that’s why they try to go out and acquire as many good players as they can.”
Associated Press photos
No one in the Yankees clubhouse — not the manager, not the catcher, not the pitcher himself — had particularly good things to say about Masahiro Tanaka’s final spring training start on Tuesday, yet everyone involved seemed to think it an overwhelming success.
Never mind the seven hits, the three runs or the consistent hard contract. On the final day of March, Tanaka threw 76 pitches and finished his spring on track to start Opening Day.
“He got through all the hurdles,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I didn’t really ever feel we needed to give him an extra day or be cautious. He never reported any trouble with his arm or feeling stiff after a start more than normal. So I felt that was all good stuff.”
Even after today’s rough start, Tanaka finished his spring with a 3.07 ERA. He walked one batter in 14.2 innings. Today he yet again focused on two-seamers, threw only a few four-seam fastballs — “Enough to know there were four-seams involved,” Austin Romine said — and got some good results with his slider, which helped make up for an inconsistent splitter. It wasn’t a good way to end the spring, but there was no indication that Tanaka was hurt or worried.
“I feel good that I was able to come through camp healthy right now,” he said. “I think I’m a bit relieved. … As far as going into the season, I’m pretty confident of where I am, how strong I am. Yeah, I feel good going into the season.”
From electing not to undergo Tommy John surgery last season to progressing slowly this spring, Tanaka has taken a conservative approach to managing his elbow. He threw fewer innings than he did last spring, and he’ll be limited to roughly 90 pitches on Opening Day, but he’s made every start, completed every bullpen, and complained of no pain or discomfort.
Under the circumstances, Tanaka’s spring has gone about as well as the Yankees could have hoped.
“I felt pretty decent about him going into the offseason,” Girardi said. “But I think you feel a little bit better now just watching him go through his starts and getting built up. But you never know about pitchers today. … There’s a lot of guys that have slight (tears) and they pitch for a while. For whatever reason, some guys go right away and some guys pitch.”
The Yankees are banking on Tanaka being one of the guys who pitch.
• Jacoby Ellsbury told reporters in Tampa that the came through today’s minor league game just fine. He had two hits, also apparently made a decent play in left center. “It’s not a controlled environment,” Ellsbury said. “It’s not like you’re hitting off a tee. You’re seeing different things, swings and misses, check swings, stuff like that. This is the best test for it, game action. Until you get out there and actually do some explosive stuff, you really don’t know, but it was great.”
• Not such a strong day for Adam Warren. I don’t have his pitching line, but he acknowledged that the results weren’t great in his minor league outing. “The results weren’t the best,” he said. “Just trying to get ready for the season. It’s tough out here to get the adrenaline going, so you try to lock it in, work on some things. That’s really what I try to focus on, getting ready for the season. … Throwing changeups for strikes is one thing I was working on. The more I kept throwing it, the better it got, so I felt like I improved there.”
• Warren said he still hasn’t been told whether he’s the fifth starter, but today he was stretched out to more than 80 pitches. He’s also on scheduled to start the fifth game of the season on an extra day of rest. That rotation spot seems like a done deal.
• Girardi indicated that he’s still confident Didi Gregorius will be ready for Opening Day, but when he said “obviously we’d like him to play before we leave,” Girardi seemed to be acknowledging that Gregorius might not play in another game before breaking camp. If that’s the case, have to wonder if the Yankees might retroactive a DL stint and consider carrying either Nick Noonan or Rob Refsnyder to start the season.
• Austin Romine went 0-for-3 and cut his batting average down to .143. He’s still in the mix for the backup catcher job, but at this point, John Ryan Murphy is hitting 73 points higher. “I’m just playing,” Romine said. “I’m playing to make this team. I’m also playing for other teams out there. I would like nothing more than to make it on this team, that’s my goal. It’s out of my hands. I just play. I try not to worry about that stuff. It’s hard sometimes, but I try not to worry about it.”
• It’s worth noting that the Yankees constantly stress to young players that they should remember other teams are watching, so Romine bringing up “playing for other teams out there” is not unusual, and not even against what the Yankees preach to their young guys. It’s just the reality of the situation. Romine knows he’s out of options and knows his best opportunity might come elsewhere. “I’m kind of eager to see what happens,” he said. “… I haven’t packed at all. I’ve cleaned some stuff. I knew the situation this year, so I came a little light, but I’m ready to go wherever.”
• Still in the mix for a spot in the bullpen, big right-hander Chris Martin was terrific this afternoon. He retired all six batters he faced, striking out three of them. “Threw good today,” Girardi said. “Really good. Good downhill angle, good breaking ball. Really good.”
• Sent to minor league camp on Sunday, Ramon Flores forgot his jersey for this trip and had to wear someone else’s. No matter, he made a nice catch in right field and went 2-for-4 with the Yankees’ only RBI in a 3-1 loss. … Brett Gardner was also on base twice with a single and a walk (he was also picked off at first). … Danny Burawa pitched a scoreless inning immediately after Branden Pinder retired the only two batters he faced.
• Pretty typical spring training day for Rob Refsnyder. He singled, walked and committed a throwing error. It was his sixth error of the spring, and it came after he made a nice diving play. He made the stop, then botched the throw. The guy has definitely hit though. He has a .342 average this spring.
• Final word goes to Girardi, one more time talking about Tanaka: “I think he’s ready to go. The fact of him being the first starter gives him more days (off), six days, than any of the other starters. We wanted to make sure that he was ready, and the fact that he can only go 90 instead of 100 is not a big deal.”
Associated Press photos
Just a few quick health updates from spring training:
• Didi Gregorius might not play in tomorrow’s game after all. This was his third day resting a sprained left wrist, but he still has some swelling. “I feel like he’s ready to go,” Joe Girardi said. “And obviously we’d like him to play before we leave, but he still had a little bit so I don’t know if he’ll be a player tomorrow yet.”
• Mark Teixeira is expected to be in the big league lineup tomorrow. He was hit by a pitch in the knee on Sunday, but he suffered only a bruise and is expected to play as scheduled. He was supposed to have Monday and Tuesday off anyway.
• Jacoby Ellsbury is also penciled into tomorrow’s big league lineup. Ellsbury got five at-bats in a minor league game this afternoon, playing for the first time since straining his oblique. Girardi said he’s planning to have Ellsbury in the lineup tomorrow.
• Not exactly an injury update, but after getting to 76 pitches today, Masahiro Tanaka will be limited to 90 pitches on Opening Day. Tanaka said he feels some sense of relief having gotten through this spring healthy.
Got to Fort Myers just in time to talk to Joe Girardi and get some quick pregame notes posted. No huge news coming out of batting practice today but there was a slight change of plans.
John Ryan Murphy was supposed to make this trip, but he’s staying behind at the minor league complex to catch Adam Warren, who’s starting a minor league game.
Speaking of which, Girardi said he’s still not ready to name a fifth starter. He said there’s one guy he still needs to talk to before making anything public.
That said, I imagine you should feel free to read into the fact Warren’s getting a start today. That puts him on schedule — in theory — to make another start on Sunday on four-days rest and then pitch the fifth game of the regular season on five-days rest.
• Carlos Beltran is also playing at the minor league complex today. Girardi wasn’t sure if he was DHing or playing right field. Said they wanted Beltran to get at-bats without having to make the long road trip.
• Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled for 75 pitches.
• Girardi seemed to downplay the possibility of Andrew Bailey making the team out of spring training. He said there’s no way the Yankees could carry him if he hasn’t pitch back-to-back days, and the team is not going to rush him to make that happen. Of the four guys vying for the final two bullpen spots, Bailey seems like the long shot. Chase Whitley, Chris Martin and Chasen Shreve are also in the mix, and each is on the 40-man.
• Speaking of which, Whitley is starting tomorrow’s game against the Rays. Clearly keeping him stretched out in case they decide to carry him as a second long man.
• Brendan Ryan is getting a turn at third base today. Girardi said he just wants to see it and give Ryan a chance to play the position down here. Girardi said that, for now, he’s leaning toward playing Alex Rodriguez — not Ryan — at third base on days Chase Headley needs a break. Obviously Ryan could be a defensive replacement at the position, though.
• Mark Teixeira remains on track to play tomorrow. He was hit by a pitch in the knee on Sunday. Seems fine.
• Didi Gregorius had some swelling in his sprained wrist on Monday. He still might play tomorrow, but Girardi said they want to make sure the swelling is gone before they get him back in a game. Still seems to be a very low level of concern.
• Today’s second string: C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Greg Bird, 2B none, SS none, 3B Eric Jagielo, LF Taylor Dugas, CF Mason Williams, RF none
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Chris Martin, Danny Burawa, Branden Pinder, Cesar Vargas, Nick Goody
• Today’s starting lineup:
Brett Gardner LF
Brendan Ryan 3B
Chris Young CF
Garrett Jones 1B
Austin Romine C
Rob Refsnyder 2B
Ramon Flores RF
Nick Noonan SS
Eric Jagielo DH
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
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
Given the option of facing a divisional opponent or pitching in a minor league game, CC Sabathia chose the minor leagues. Then he went to the complex, gave up a long home run on his first pitch, and allowed a three-run home run two innings later.
While Sabathia insists he feels better than he’s felt in years, he’s already allowed five home runs in three spring outings and his official 11.57 ERA — which doesn’t count today’s four runs in five innings — is the highest on the team.
“I don’t give a (darn) what stock they put in it,” Sabathia said, using a word far more racy than darn. “It is what it is. I’ve had spring trainings where I’ve given up a lot of runs and went out and had a good season. I’ve had spring trainings like last year where I didn’t give up no runs, and I gave up five in the first game. Y’all can put stock in whatever you want. I’m not really worried about it.”
Sabathia is defiant that this spring has left him feeling confident. He’s said his surgically repaired right knee feels strong, and his velocity has been legitimately higher than in recent springs. He’s consistently reaching 92-93 mph with his fastball, and his offspeed pitches have been good if not consistent.
“You look at his stuff,” Joe Girardi said. “You try to evaluate his stuff and how you feel about that. What we’ve seen this year is much more positive than what we’ve seen the last (few years), you know, in velocity, the discrepancy between that and the change up and slider, so now to me it’s just ironing out and being more consistent.”
It’s not particularly unusual for a pitcher to not want to face a division team in spring training, but by passing on a start against the Orioles, Sabathia was left open to obvious questions about a five-inning, four-run start against minor leaguers. He walked two and struck out seven.
“Today was a day when we were trying to work on the changeup,” Sabathia said. “I get runners on first and second or whatever it was (and threw) a couple of changeups. Me and (catcher Brian McCann) wanted to work on it so I threw it again. The guy hits a homer. I probably won’t throw it like that in a game.”
McCann noted that he’s seen Sabathia get stronger from start to start. He said he really sees that added strength late in games. McCann said Sabathia’s stuff was basically the same in today’s fifth inning as it was in the first inning.
“The ball was coming out great,” McCann said. “I thought he threw the ball great. Two-seamer was running really good. Ambushed a couple of hits, but all in all, I thought the ball was coming out fantastic. … When you go over there, you’re not pitching to scouting reports. You get guys set up, and then you think you can get something in there, and they hit it. But all in all, I thought changeup was really good, fastball to both sides of the plate, and the slider was great today.”
Sabathia has one more spring start before he pitches the third game of the regular season.
“I was able to go out there five times and pitch five innings and feel great,” he said. “Like I said, I haven’t had any problems. I’m just looking forward to getting into the season and trying to help this team.”
• Alex Rodriguez raised his slash line to .306/.405/.583 and hit his team-leading third home run in a 10-2 loss to Baltimore. “Numbers mean nothing,” Rodriguez said. “But you definitely want to pass the eye test. That means moving around better, putting balls in play, and hitting balls in the mid-90s. Those are things I haven’t done in over a year and a half, so everything for me this year – this spring, at least – is a test.”
• While the numbers might not mean much in the grand scheme of things, they do seem to provide some hope that Rodriguez might have something left. It was one thing when he was drawing walks and getting into good counts early in spring training, but now he seems to be putting together good and productive at-bats even in the final week of exhibition games. “Overall, it’s just repetition,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve said it all along. Any time you can keep adding up at-bats, it’s a good thing.”
• While his first two spring home runs left plenty of doubt off the bat, today’s was clearly gone from the moment Rodriguez made contact. “That one felt good,” he said. “I was excited about that one.”
• Plan is still to have Rodriguez start at first base tomorrow.
• More good news on Jacoby Ellsbury, who came through today’s batting practice with no problems. He’s scheduled for more BP tomorrow and remains on track to play a minor league game on Tuesday.
• No real update on Jose Pirela. “I don’t know what he did today,” Giradi said. “He said he felt better. I didn’t ask him what he did today.”
• Sabathia is certainly not the only Yankees pitcher putting up numbers that aren’t exactly encouraging. Dellin Betances has now allowed a run in five straight outings. He had one walk, one strikeout and allowed a single today. “I’ve been leaving the ball up,” Betances said. “When I get ahead, I leave the ball up. Today, the contact wasn’t as hard. Obviously the first guy I fell behind 3-1 and he had a good swing, but after that, I felt like I threw some good pitches. I’ll be ready.”
• Betances said he’s been working on his leg kick with Larry Rothschild. Concerning that, after being so good last year, he’s having some mechanical issues this spring? “It’s not like I’m missing as bad as I once was (in the minor leagues),” He said. “I’m around the zone. I felt way better even before I came in. I felt like my direction was better, something I’ll try to work on more. As that gets better, I think I’ll be able to throw more strikes and put guys away.”
• Giradri said he was encouraged because Betances had a better breaking ball today. “It’s not what you want,” Girardi said. “But one thing you always talk about a lot is don’t judge people on spring training, right? Sometimes a different beast comes out Opening Day. If this was happening the first month, you’d say, OK, what’s going on? But, I thought he was better today, and I think when the season starts, he’ll be right.”
• Speaking of bullpen guys, Andrew Bailey had another scoreless inning today. Chasen Shreve also pitched a scoreless inning. Those were the pitching bright spots for sure. Otherwise, it was kind of a mess today. Jacob Lindgren allowed his first earned run of the spring. Chris Martin struck out two but let two inherited runners score on a double. Justin Wilson got three strikeouts, but those were hit runners that scored on Martin’s watch.
• Worst pitching line of the day belonged to Scott Baker, who seemed to pitch himself into the roster conversation with a strong outing against the Mets last weekend. This time he had a clean first inning before allowing five runs on five hits including a homer in the second inning. “Physically, I felt great,” Baker said. “First inning, I made some good pitches. Then in the second inning, they found a couple holes and then they got the big hit. Maybe out of the stretch a little bit I was kind of feeling for it, but overall, I felt good. The results don’t necessarily show how I felt.”
• Over at the miner league complex, Bryan Mitchell was hit by a Gary Sanchez throw to second base. He finished the outing and is apparently fine.
• Despite the fact Esmil Rogers is making tomorrow’s road trip to pitch out of the bullpen, Girardi still wouldn’t name a fifth starter today. “Actually we’re going to sit down and talk today about what we’re going to do,” Girardi said.
• Here’s Sabathia talking about Masahiro Tanaka being chosen for Opening Day: “I’m excited for him. I think it’ll be a good deal. I know he’s excited to get a chance to do that. I’m excited to get a chance to be able to enjoy Opening Day. It should be fun.”
• Final word goes to McCann, who’s predictably staying optimistic about underperforming pitchers: “Spring training is not (the regular season),” McCann said. “Adrenaline plays a huge factor in results. You run out of the bullpen with 50,000 people in the stands, if you’re throwing 94 (in spring training), you’re going to throw 97, 98. Adrenaline plays a huge factor in both sides, hitting and pitching. When the lights turn on, it’s a whole other ball game.”
Associated Press photos
This is what Joe Girardi said this morning about the way Alex Rodriguez has been running and moving in spring training:
“I think he’s run harder (lately). I think we’ve all seen that, and that that’s definitely improved. I still want to see him go from second to home and from first to third, we have not seen that, but that’s not his fault, that’s just what’s happened behind him.”
Fast forward a few hours, and we’ve now seen Rodriguez do each of those things.
After a first-inning single, Rodriguez went first to third on a Stephen Drew double. He wasn’t exactly flying around the bases, but I did turn to George Kind sitting next to me and say something about Rodriguez running better than I expected. He’s definitely not fast, but it didn’t look like a challenge for him.
After a fifth-inning walk, Rodriguez took second on a single and then scored on a Chris Young double. Again, nothing flashy or fast about it, but he was capable of scoring on a ball he’s supposed to score on. If Rodriguez can be a capable runner at this stage, I think that’s all the Yankees can ask.
“If I can just keep making small strides every day, I’ll take that,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez revealed that earlier this spring, Girardi specifically told him he needed to be running better. Rodriguez said he’d been working on it, and he does seem smoother and less lumbering. Again, he’s not fast, but at least he’s not a total wreck. Today he also had to slam on the breaks after a late stop sign at third base, and Rodriguez said that too was no problem.
“Probably more (running) than he wanted to see,” Girardi said. “But I thought he was moving pretty good. I really did.”
• Five scoreless innings from Michael Pineda today, and it’s not remotely a point of focus. That’s a sign of just how good he’s been this spring. Pineda allowed five hits, walked none and struck out five. He pitched every inning before the game was called because of rain. “I don’t want nothing to change because everything is working good,” Pineda said. “… I have everything I want, so just compete on the mound.”
• Girardi said Pineda didn’t have time to get quite as stretched out as the Yankees would have liked, but they think he got stretched out enough. He has one more start before the regular season. “We were trying to get him to 75 (pitches), but we just felt with the long delay, 68 was pretty good,” Girardi said. “I thought he looked really good.”
• No problems for Jacoby Ellsbury in today’s light hitting drills. Girardi said he expects Ellsbury to take full batting practice tomorrow. He remains on track to play in a minor league game on Tuesday.
• Big day for Stephen Drew. The Yankees second baseman went 3-for-3 and raised his spring batting average from .167 to .231. “He’s swung the bat better the last two weeks,” Girardi said. “And the one thing you want is you want a lineup that there’s pressure on the pitcher of the opposing team the entire time, and I feel that we have that type of lineup that we can do that where so much pressure doesn’t fall on a couple of guys. It’s nice to see everyone swinging.”
• It’s worth noting that Didi Gregorius has also hit pretty well lately, including some hits against lefties. Girardi wouldn’t give his exact lineup plan, but he said it’s entirely possible he’ll go with four straight lefties (Drew and Gregorius stacked at the bottom of the order; Ellsbury and Brett Gardner at the top). “It’s not out of the question because I don’t worry about our top two guys against lefties,” Girardi said. “Didi and Drew, Drew hit a tough lefty today, a guy throwing 96. And Didi’s been swinging the bat good. We’ll talk about it, but it very possibly could be that.”
• After going first to third in the first inning, Rodriguez tried to score on a fly ball to right field and was thrown out easily. He banged into the catcher but clearly didn’t try to knock the ball loose. He also didn’t try to slide. Jeff Francoeur made a really nice throw on the play. “I would have had the short end of that stick (if there had been a real collision),” Rodriguez said. Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp is listed at 6-2, 260 lbs.
• Girardi said he was glad Rodriguez didn’t try to slide on the play at the plate. He also liked the aggressive send by new third-base coach Joe Espada. “It was a pretty good throw,” Girardi said. “You’re going to take that chance with that being the second out. Maybe if it’s the first out, you don’t take it. But you’re going to take that chance, and Franceour’s always been a good thrower.”
• The Yankees saw Phillies prospect Aaron Nola this afternoon. He was the seventh overall pick in last year’s draft and struck out four through three scoreless innings. His changeup was absolutely filthy. “The one I almost choked on?” Rodriguez said. “Yeah. That was a pretty good changeup.”
• Getting his first start alongside Drew, Brendan Ryan was part of two double plays — one he took himself, one he took a feed from Drew — and also went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles.
• The Yankees didn’t score in their first four innings, then they scored seven times in the fifth and three times in the sixth. They finished with 15 hits, including one apiece for Gardner, Rodriguez, Chase Headley, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and Chris Young. Every big leaguer in the starting lineup had at least one hit (Drew and Ryan combined for five). The other three hits came from Eddy Rodriguez, Kyle Higashioka and Tyler Austin. Austin doubled and had three RBI.
• We’ll give the final word to Girardi, talking about his plans for the lineup: “We know that we’re going to have a lot of lefthanders in our lineup. You try to break some of it up with the DH, or the switch-hitters. If I had to make out a lineup today, without talking to all my coaches and everyone, I have an idea what it would be, but that’s something we’ll try to iron out the last week. The one thing is, I feel pretty good about where most of our hitters are at right now, the thing is you want to keep that, keep that feeling of having good at bats.”
Associated Press photos