The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Notes from winter ball: Phelps heating up in Arizona11.03.11

Trying to build on a solid but injury shortened Triple-A season, David Phelps first three Arizona Fall League starts were uninspiring. He allowed three earned runs each time, never throwing more than 3.1 innings. His past two outings have been more what the Yankees were hoping to see.

In his past two starts, Phelps has pitched nine innings, allowing two runs on six hits and one walk while striking out seven. And that’s without throwing more than 67 pitches.

Phelps is one of those guys who was brought in to observe late in the season. The Yankees clearly believe he can play a role next season, and his Fall League stint is about building a few more innings before shutting things down for the winter.

• Speaking of young starters: Hector Noesi keeps getting better in the Dominican. After two not-so-great outings, Noesi pitched six innings without an earned run in his most recent start. He struck out five, walked one and dropped his winter ERA to 3.38 through three starts.

Ronnier Mustelier, the utility man from Cuba, continues to hit in the Fall League. He’s batting .390/.405/.610 while playing third base (played mostly outfield and second base in Tampa this season). He’s new to the Yankees farm system, and a little old for a low-level prospect, but so far he’s been a steady hitter.

Jorge Vazquez, the Yankees slugging Triple-A first baseman, is hitting .320/.400/.587 through 75 at-bats in Mexico. He has 21 RBI and 23 strikeouts. That’s pretty much the kind of hitter he is.

• Outside of the Arizona Fall League, there are only four Yankees with more than 20 winter at-bats. One of them is Vazquez. The other three are Jose Gil (an organizational catcher), Luis Nunez (an organizational infielder) and Jose Pirela (a borderline shortstop prospect). Pirela didn’t do much in Double-A this season, but he’s hitting .389/.421/.500 in Venezuela.

Corban Joseph has a modest four-game hitting streak in the Fall League. He’s been kind of up-and-down in Arizona.

Ramiro Pena has played in one game in Mexico. He went 1-for-4.

• Reliever Chase Whitley is a fast riser in the Yankees system, and he has nine strikeouts with one walk in his past seven Fall League outings. That’s a total of 9.1 innings in those appearances. Opponents are hitting .178 against him, and that’s usually an offensive league.

• Class-A reliever Dan Burawa is getting knocked around in Arizona. He was charged with five earned runs today and has a 9.00 ERA through 10 appearances. He’s been charged with multiple runs in each of his past three outings.

• Nine of Pat Venditte‘s 12 appearances in Mexico have been scoreless, but he’s twice allowed multiple runs, pushing his ERA to 4.15. More telling is the fact hitters are batting .238 with 11 strikeouts and just one walk against him.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 56 Comments →

Random thoughts on the way back home07.22.11

Last time the Yankees played at home, they were still feeling warm and fuzzy in the glow of Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit. Seems like that was three months ago. This eight-day road trip was a long one.

“Obviously you’d like to have done better,” Joe Girardi said. “But after how we started losing the first two, we finished up pretty good and it will be nice to get off the turf and get home for a while. I think we have 10 games in 10 days, and I think our guys are looking forward to that.”

Just a few thoughts before I get back to New York.

• Phil Hughes gets the ball tonight. It will be his first start at home since the start that convinced the Yankees he needed to go on the disabled list. It’ll be interesting to see if that curveball is as good as it was in Toronto.

• Be careful what you wish for at the top of the order. I can’t see Derek Jeter being dropped to the bottom, so moving Brett Gardner to the top only pushes Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher down a spot. As always, I’m of the belief that lineup construction doesn’t matter all that much.

• Also worth considering (as Sweeny Murti pointed out a couple of days ago): In the eight games since the all-star break, Gardner is hitting .517 with a .576 on-base percentage. In the eight games before the break, he was hitting .207 with a .281 on-base percentage. I think he’s the right choice at the top, but you have to accept that he’s a streaky hitter.

• Big spot in the seventh inning, who would you trust more: Luis Ayala, Hector Noesi or Cory Wade? Who do you think Girardi would most trust? I’m honestly not sure the right answer to either of those questions.

• Gardner, Jeter, Andruw Jones and Jorge Posada have each taken turns as the most anger-inducing Yankees hitter this season. Now it seems to be Mark Teixeira’s turn. He’s also a streaky hitter, and he always talks about waiting for that next hot streak that will turn his batting average around.

• Girardi when asked if he’ll have to eventually take Teixeira out of the No. 3 hole if the batting average doesn’t improve: “He has taken his fair share of walks and gotten on base. That’s the one thing Tex does. Sometimes people look at average a lot. We’re going ot look at on-base percentage too because he does take his fair share. You hit .250 and you’ve got a .370 on-base percentage or .360, you’re doing OK.” It’s a fair point — and Teixeira does have a higher OBP than Cano — but Girardi overestimated the numbers a little bit. Teixeira has a .240 average with a .341 on-base.

• If the Yankees are going to trade for a starter, they really only have a spot for a legitimately elite pitcher. They have plenty of No. 3 types. To find someone obviously better than what they have is going to cost a lot in terms of young players. Maybe it’s worth it, maybe it’s not, but it would be costly.

• I’ve always liked but never loved U2, but I absolutely loved this performance on Letterman. I’m surprised I haven’t broken the internet watching it over and over again the past few days. Say what you will about Bono, but the guy has a terrific voice and knows how to deliver a song.

• Kind of surprised that Eric Chavez was able to get in the field this quickly. Not much to lose there, I guess. The Yankees need to find out before July 31 whether he can help them in the second half.

• Dave Robertson just keeps doing it. Rafael Soriano has a longer track record, and there’s a lot to be said for that, but it’s hard to imagine him coming back and throwing any better than Robertson.

• George Kontos has to get to New York eventually, right? The Yankees could actually use a long man now, and Kontos has 64 strikeouts and a .210 opponents batting average in Triple-A. Also worth mentioning that D.J. Mitchell and Lance Pendleton just put together terrific back-to-back starts.

• Speaking of Triple-A guys: Jorge Vazquez’s numbers have fallen off quite a bit, but Kevin Russo is really hitting again. And if you were waiting for Jordan Parraz to fall off, it doesn’t seem to be happening.

• If Russell Martin really is a Gold Glove caliber catcher, and he keeps hitting exactly like this — low batting average with occasional pop — is he worth bringing back next season? All things considered, isn’t he still one of the better everyday catchers in the league?

• Don’t let the fact that you gave up on Boone Logan in the first half — or that he misplayed a ball three nights ago — keep you from seeing the fact he’s pitching much better. I know I’m usually a glass-half-full kind of guy, but since May 28 opponents are hitting .196 with four walks and 17 strikeouts against Logan.

• There’s still something very fun about talking to a guy who just got his first big league call-up. It was fun when I was covering the minor leagues, and it’s just as fun now that I’m covering the big leagues.

• Martin made the right choice. He put in a good effort and did everything the right way, but the mustache had to go. It was time. It really was, “ugly as (crap).”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 197 Comments →

Yankees at the break: First base07.13.11

A little more than two years ago, the Yankees set their course at first base by giving an eight-year deal to Mark Teixeira. He is the Yankees recent past, their obvious present and their distant future at the position.

First half
It was kind of an unusual first half for Teixeira. He’s on pace for a career-high in home runs, but a career-low in batting average. He’s been plenty productive with the team-high in RBI, but he’s also been streaky. Teixeira has homered in three straight games four different times this year, including the first three games of the season. He has all-star type numbers, but at a position with Adrian Gonzalez, Paul Konerko and Miguel Cabrera, Teixeira was crowded out.

Second half
He’s not having the same sort of all-around season that he had in his Yankees debut, but if Teixeira keeps up this pace, he’ll probably get some of those back-of-the-ballot MVP votes. Eighth, ninth and tenth-place votes, that sort of thing. He hasn’t done much this July, but Teixeira is typically a better second-half hitter, with his best month-by-month numbers coming in August and September. Teixeira’s not going anywhere, but the Yankees have discovered that they can play Jorge Posada at first base occasionally to give him a few days off.

The minors
Jorge Vazquez is nowhere near the top prospect in the system, but he might be the most immediately intriguing. Plucked out of Mexico, Vazquez was a spring training standout, and he’s now a Triple-A all-star with the organization’s minor league lead in home runs. At 29 years old, he is what he is, and that might be enough to be productive should the Yankees find a spot for him. Lower in the minors, Charleston first baseman Kyle Roller hit enough to earn a mid-season call-up to Tampa, and the way down in the Gulf Coast League, last year’s 13th-round pick Tyler Austin is off to a strong start while playing both infield corners.

One question
Should Teixeira fall into the cleanup spot now that Rodriguez is out?
The Yankees could bump Robinson Cano up a spot to fill the cleanup void, or they could move Brett Gardner into the leadoff spot, move Curtis Granderson into the No. 3 hole and give the switch-hitting Teixeira the No. 4 spot between lefties Granderson and Cano.

The future
Nothing has happened this season to change the Yankees long-term plans at first base. Teixeira is still a middle-of-the-order hitter in his prime, and his power numbers have helped make up for Alex Rodriguez’s relative lack of power in the cleanup spot. First base still belong to Teixeira for the foreseeable future.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 138 Comments →

Off day minor league notes: Risks behind the plate05.26.11

I didn’t see or hear about last night’s Buster Posey injury until I was several thousand feet above the fly-over states of middle America. After sleeping for a little while and reading for a little while, I turned on the little satellite TV screen in front of me to catch up on the news of the day. Then I flipped briefly to SportsCenter.

Posey is probably out for the year with a broken bone and possibly some ligament damage. It’s a bad situation, and an unfortunate situation, but we can’t pretend it’s a new situation. The Posey injury doesn’t necessarily change anything for Jesus Montero or the other elite catching prospects in the Yankees organization.

It’s not as if the Yankees turned on a television at the same time I did and suddenly realized that being a catcher is dangerous.

If injury concerns lead the Yankees to eventually move Montero or Austin Romine or Gary Sanchez to a different position, it would be perfectly justifiable, but it would not be a move to be taken lightly and with a sigh of relief. Part of what makes these catching prospects so valuable is their ability to play behind the plate, lending a premium bat to a position that often has minimal offensive impact.

Risk comes with the position, but so does reward. That was true before and after Posey was rocked at home plate last night.

• Speaking of catching prospects, Gary Sanchez is playing in extended spring training after opening the year in Low-A Charleston. Mark Newman told Josh Norris that Sanchez is down there because of a back injury. He seemed to be getting things turned around before landing on the Charleston disabled list. Sanchez was hitting .314/.455/.657 in his last 10 games before going on the DL.

• Speaking of behind the plate in Charleston, J.R. Murphy’s breakout season continues with the Low-A affiliate. He’s played some third base and designated hitter, but Murphy continues to get most of his time behind the plate and he just keeps hitting. He’s up to .318/.358/.497, a huge leap from last season.

• While we’re behind the plate: Jesus Montero is hitting .260/.337/.377 this month. I know a lot of the fan base is anxious to get this kid into the big league lineup — and I understand why — but player development is a very real thing, and Montero’s still just 21 years old. Consistency might be the next — and final — part of his development.

• Jorge Vazquez is still hitting home runs at a stunning rate, but the thing that catches my attention is that he has seven walks in his past 10 games (he had four in all of April). Either he’s becoming a little more selective, or teams are completely pitching around him. By the way, his home run total is up to 17. That’s insane, especially in a pitchers’ league.

• Vazquez’s teammate, Justin Maxwell, is second in the International League with 13 home runs.

• Speaking of Triple-A hitters, a few guys who struggled early have started to hit in the past month: Brandon Laird (.293/.341/.373 in May), Kevin Russo (.288/.367/.404 in May), Ramiro Pena (.310/.356/.310 in May).

• D.J. Mitchell, Adam Warren and David Phelps are still pitching well out of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre rotation — well enough that they’d have to be involved in any call-up conversation — but if the Yankees want a new long man, they might also need to look at George Kontos. Lost in the Rule 5 draft this winter — just like Lance Pendleton — Kontos has a 2.22 ERA and a .209 opponents batting average this season, and he’s been better this month than last month. If the Yankees are looking for a one-inning option, Kevin Whelan keeps getting it done in that Triple-A closer’s role.

• Veteran left-hander Randy Flores has yet to allow a hit in four appearances since joining the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen.

• Two Double-A starters you might have heard about: Dellin Betances has a 1.30 ERA with 39 strikeouts through seven starts, and Manny Banuelos has a 1.96 ERA with 34 strikeouts through eight starts. Both have had some walk issues from time to time, but my gut reaction is to blame their youth. On the whole, their numbers are awfully impressive.

• No overwhelming home runs numbers or anything like that, but the Yankees regular Class-A third basemen in are both playing pretty well. In High-A Tampa, Rob Lyerly is hitting .326/.368/.481, and in Low-A Charleston, Rob Segedin is hitting .288/.384/.445. Each has three homers, and between them they have 21 doubles and six triples.

• Talked to Alan Horne earlier today. He’s pitched in extended spring training twice in the past week and he’s pretty encouraged. His fastball’s been good, but he’s still looking to build some arm strength.

• Surprise numbers of the month: Utility man Kelvin Castro who’s hitting .462 with five triples and more walks than strikeouts in 12 games since joining the Tampa infield. Last season he hit .224 with five triples all year. He also struck out more than three times as often as he walked.

• A blast from the recent past: Zach McAllister is starting for Triple-A Columbus tonight, attempting to become the minor league’s first eight-game winner. Traded away in last year’s Austin Kearns deal, McAllister is thriving in his second attempt at Triple-A. He has a 2.48 ERA and seems to be getting better as the season progresses. He had a 5.09 ERA with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before last year’s trade.

Associated Press photo of Posey, headshots of Sanchez, Murphy, Kontos and Whelan

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Off day notes and links: Cashman speaks, doesn’t say much05.09.11

While I was flying all across the country today, Brian Cashman was in New Jersey for a Pinstripe Bowl charity golf tournament. He told reporters that Derek Jeter’s offensive saga, “has given other aspects of the offense some cover.”

As Joe Girardi said roughly 700 times last week, Jeter actually has one of the highest batting averages in the Yankees lineup.

A few other small notes to take from Cashman today:

On Luis Ayala: The GM said the Yankees are “ready to do something” with Ayala after a strong two-inning relief appearance for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last night. Cashman indicated the Yankees have to decide whether to activate Ayala in New York or option him to Triple-A.

On Boone Logan: Obviously the Yankees lone left-handed reliever is struggling, but Cashman has said many times that he doesn’t expect to be able to acquire anything significant before the June draft. “There’s no aspect of the club I’m worried about making changes on,” he said. “We’re still trying to decipher what is real, what isn’t real.”

On the lineup: Cashman indicated the Yankees are at least considering changes to the batting order. “I think we’re currently trying to determine and decipher where one through nine we need to be offensively,” he said.

Some other notes and links from today.

• While I was writing my previous post about the minor leagues, Jorge Vazquez ended his home run drought by hitting one in Buffalo. And just a few minutes after the post was finished, Vazquez hit another one.

• Good story from a good man: Pete Caldera wrote this weekend about Yankees traveling secretary Ben Tuliebitz and all that his job requires: Everything from player ticket requests to making sure a truck is ready to haul equipment.

• George Steinbrenner’s FBI file reveals that he cooperated with two investigations and blamed his illegal campaign contribution on bad legal advice. The Associated Press has the story.

• Heading to a Tampa Yankees game this season, or planning a trip to major league spring training next year? Check out this review of George M. Steinbrenner Field.

• Houston’s closer of the present is none other than the Yankees former closer of the future. Mark Melancon stepped into the closer role after Brandon Lyon went on the disabled list, and he’s converted his first big league save.

• I don’t have an account with the Sports Business Journal, but it’s reporting that Alex Rodriguez has signed with agent Dan Lozano, according to MLBTradeRumers.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 126 Comments →

The Yankees 1-2 punch in Triple-A04.18.11

Of all the young hitters in big league camp this spring, Jorge Vazquez was the greatest surprise. Jesus Montero was the greatest disappointment.

Nine games into the Triple-A season, Vazquez is still hitting, and Montero has finally started.

This afternoon, Vazquez was named the International League Player of the Week. All he did was hit .423 with five home runs and 11 RBI through six games. For the season he’s hitting .325/.333/.775 with a team-high 15 RBI (more than twice as many as any one of his teammates). Vazquez is always going to strike out a bunch, and he’s not going to walk much, but that’s a big bat to have in reserve behind Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Eric Chavez.

Montero has played in eight games this season, and he has three hits in half of them. He has one home run and three doubles, and my line earlier about him finally hitting was kind of a lie. Reports were positive about Montero from the moment he was assigned to minor league camp. He showed this spring that there might still be room to grow, but he’s shown this season that his bat is still one of the elite tools in minor league baseball.

Some other off day notes from the minor leagues:

• The early standout from the deep Triple-A outfield has been Jordan Parraz, the guy who was claimed this winter and designated for assignment just before spring training. Parraz has two homers, two triples and a .395 average. Ramiro Pena and Justin Maxwell are also off to strong starts in Triple-A. Off to surprisingly slow starts: Brandon Laird, Kevin Russo and Chris Dickerson.

Kevin Millwood was mostly 86-87 mph in his Double-A start on Sunday. Freddy Garcia showed on Saturday that a veteran pitcher can have success at that velocity, but it’s still hard to see a place for Millwood in New York. He’s going to have to prove he’s not only worth a call-up, but worth taking someone off the 40-man roster. For what it’s worth, Millwood’s line on Sunday was impressive: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB and 3 K.

• Ten games into the Eastern League season, Trenton has two home runs as a team, one by Cody Johnson and one by Melky Mesa. Only Johnson and Ray Kruml are hitting better than .265.

• Stats from a name you might not know: Tampa starter Josh Romanski is 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA through two stats. He’s allowed five hits and two walks through 11 innings. The only run he’s allowed came on a homer.

• Speaking of Tampa, the High-A corner infielders are off to strong starts. Third baseman Rob Lyerly is hitting .364 with two doubles, two triples, two homers and 14 RBI. First baseman Luke Murton is hitting .341 with two homers, a triple and four doubles.

• Ten games into the Low-A season, former first-round pick Slade Heathcott is hitting .364/.396/.705, though he has struck out 15 times. Another name to keep in mind on that Charleston roster is corner outfielder/first baseman Ramon Flores. He popped onto the radar with an impressive turn in the Gulf Coast League last year, and now he’s hitting .353/.522/.471 in Low-A. He’s played in 10 games and drawn 10 walks with seven strikeouts.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 199 Comments →

Vazquez, Banuelos and Nunez early Dawson favorites03.15.11

First, an announcement: We’ll be hosting a live chat here at the LoHud Yankees Blog tomorrow afternoon at 2:30. Not sure whether Sam is going to be around, but I’ll be back from the clubhouse in time to do a little chatting about the Yankees at roughly the mid-way point of their spring schedule. Stop by.

Second, a remarkably minor detail: For those of you who care about the lowest levels of the minor league system, it turns out the four minor leaguers brought over to face CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon this morning were Kelvin DeLeon, Jose Toussen, Damon Sublett and Neil Medchill. It was DeLeon who doubled off Sabathia’s first pitch of the day. DeLeon also had two of the four hits off Colon, and Sublett later smoked a double to center off Sabathia.

Third, an actual blog post:

Last year Jon Weber won the Dawson Award as the best rookie in Yankees camp. He was out of the organization by the middle of the season. The year before last, it was Brett Gardner who won the Dawson Award. Now he’s the everyday left fielder. Basically, the Dawson Award is about as reliable as a spring training batting average for predicting long-term success.

But, let’s face it, part of the fun of spring training is seeing the new guys.

If I had to vote today, I would pick Jorge Vazquez for this year’s Dawson Award. There’s much more hype around Manny Banuelos, and Eduardo Nunez is much more likely to play his way onto the team, but Vazquez has been the Yankees best hitter. And that’s in a camp with a red-hot Alex Rodriguez.

Look at it this way: Imagine Vazquez were a Top 10 Yankees prospect. Imagine he came into camp with the same sort of hype as Banuelos, then hit .463/.483/.893 with three home runs through 28 at-bats. Imagine these were Jesus Montero’s numbers.

If Vazquez had any sort of prospect hype, the entire Yankee Universe would be exploding. He doesn’t generate the same attention as Banuelos or Montero or Andrew Brackman — and he might not have the same long-term impact — but that doesn’t mean he’s not having a better spring.

Banuelos has been terrific, and if he tosses three more scoreless innings against a major league lineup, I could easily change my tune.

Nunez has been all-around impressive, and if he does play his way onto the team, that might be worth rewarding.

But right now I’ll take Vazquez’s production.

Associated Press photo of Vazquez with Montero

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Saturday notes: Vazquez keeps hitting03.12.11

It’s impossible to ignore Jorge Vazquez this spring. The guy made a career out of smashing baseballs in Mexico, he’s hit through his first two seasons in the minor leagues, and this spring he’s leading the team in RBI, tied for the team lead in home runs and batting .480.

“He’s played really well for us in spring training. He continues to swing the bat and continues to do what he needs to do,” Joe Girardi said. “This kid has shown that he can hit, and he’s hit at every level that he’s been at.”

Girardi has more than once called Vazquez “more of a first baseman,” but he can play third. If Eric Chavez weren’t also hitting this spring, Vazquez might be playing his way into a strong chance of landing a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Instead, he’s making an impression. The Yankees seem to be heading toward carrying Chavez on the bench, but it’s hard to ignore what Vazquez is doing right now, and it will be hard to forget if/when the Yankees need an extra bat in the middle of the summer.

“We know what he can do, and he’s shown us what he can do,” Girardi said.

• Burnett was most encouraged by his curveball today, but he continued his spring training tradition by working in a few changeups that he said were pretty effective. He threw one to right-handed hitter Ryan Zimmerman, who lined out on the pitch.

• Speaking of the changeup, here’s Burnett talking about pitching to Russell Martin: “He has an idea what I want to do. I faced him a couple of times a long time ago. He’s got an idea what my strengths are, but he wants me to use my changeup. He’s a big believer in that. It’s all confidence with him.”

• One more Burnett note: He has yet to walk anyone, and he seemed realize talking about it probably jinxed it this afternoon. “I haven’t walked anybody yet, have I?” Burnett said. “Well, there goes that.”

• In his first action in center field, Brett Gardner played there through the seventh inning. Eduardo Nunez stayed at shortstop throughout.

• Rule 5 pick Daniel Turpen gave up a walk-off single in the ninth inning, sending the Nationals to a 6-5 win. Not sure how much longer the Yankees will look at Turpen and Robert Fish, but it’s a crowded bullpen as it is, and neither Rule 5 pick has strong numbers this spring.

• Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano are both scheduled to pitch tomorrow.

• The Yankees remain excited about what they’ve seen from Chavez, but they decided to play it safe when it came to today’s road trip. “Extremely encouraged,” Girardi said. “I just thought it was silly to put him on a bus for two hours after he played yesterday.”

• When Ramiro Pena popped out in the eighth, he turned and flung his bat back toward the Yankees dugout, a rare show of emotion for the Yankees utility man. Hard not to notice that he’s hitting .154 this spring while Eduardo Nunez has thrived. I still think there’s a chance Pena will be the pick — the utility job is going to be an incredibly minor role, and the Yankees love Pena’s glove at short — but Nunez is clearly outplaying him this spring.

Alfredo Aceves is likely to start against the Yankees on Monday.

• Speaking of former Yankees: Talked to Chien-Ming Wang a little bit before today’s game. He said he’s thrown a sim game this spring and he’s hoping to be game ready early this season. His fastball has been 86-87 mph, and he thinks that will go up as he gains arm strength. “It’s been a long time, but I’ve been patient,” he said.

• I couldn’t see it from the press box, but Gardner said a stealth bomber flew by in the middle of the game. It happened before the bottom of an inning, while he was warming up with Melky Mesa. Gardner told Mesa to turn around and look at it, and Gardner said Mesa’s reaction was priceless. Gardner told him it was a UFO. Mesa’s reaction? “Maybe.”

Associated Press photos of Vazquez with Montero; Burnett’s arm; and Cano laughing after a called strikeout

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 62 Comments →

Tuesday notes: Brackman finally gets his first spring inning03.08.11

Andrew Brackman said he couldn’t sit still in the Yankees bullpen this afternoon. His professional career already included enough waiting, and this month he had to wait through a minor groin injury before finally making his spring debut. Through today’s first six innings, Brackman couldn’t sit still.

“The blood’s pumping a little bit,” he said. “You go out there and you want to see what you’ve got.”

Brackman wasn’t especially happy with his scoreless inning — he said his stuff wasn’t as good as it’s been in the bullpen — but he’s glad the first one it out of the way. Joe Girardi seemed impressed. He said he saw good fastball command, a good curveball, and he couldn’t tell Brackman was anxious.

“You think about (if) somebody goes down and you need a starter, you want to see how these kids are handling themselves in this atmosphere,” Girardi said before the game. “Are they a guy that gets frustrated easily? Are they a guy that lets innings unravel?”

Brackman’s inning didn’t unravel. It actually got better as it went along. Ultimately, Brackman knows he’s an extreme long shot to break camp in the rotation — although he said, in the back of his mind, he still thinks he could win the job — but Girardi twice today said he wouldn’t rule out the idea of breaking Brackman into the big leagues as a reliever.

“I would be open to anything to get me in a pinstripe uniform,” Brackman said. “I feel the Yankees definitely see me as a starter (long term), and I see myself as a starter, and hopefully it can stay that way.”

• Girardi said the first round of cuts could come this weekend.

• Jorge Posada got only two at-bats today, but Girardi said that was the plan coming into the game. He’s not hurt. “Everyone came out good today,” Girardi said.

• Girardi was asked again about the possibility of putting Brett Gardner in the leadoff spot. “We’re in no rush to (make that decision),” he said. “I don’t have to put up a lineup until March 31.”

• Ronnie Belliard seemed to be something of a long shot when camp opened, but after missing nearly two weeks of games, it’s hard to imagine him winning a spot on the Yankees bench. “He’s competing more against Chavez and Vazquez than Nunez and Pena,” Girardi said. Of course, Chavez and Vazquez have been two of the best hitters in camp so far.

• Utility infield candidates Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena each had two hits today. Nunez also stole three bases, while Pena was caught stealing once. Pena did make a nice play at shortstop, though, going toward third base to get the out on a ball Brandon Laird couldn’t quite reach.

• Another double for Jorge Vazquez.

• Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson each had two hits, with Granderson hitting a two-run triple to center field. Posada also had an RBI base hit.

• Dave Robertson struck out the first three batters he faced, but because the first guy reached on a wild pitch, the inning continued through a walk, another wild pitch and a two-run single. Despite three straight strikeouts to start the inning, Robertson was still saddled with two earned runs.

• Romulo Sanchez got a save despite allowing a run in the ninth. Not that I thought of him as a favorite to make this roster, but I did expect Sanchez to get a little more of a look that he’s gotten so far. He’s out of options, he was a starter through most of last season, and he has a huge fastball. Seemed to me he was a solid backup plan as a long reliever, but he’s pitched just two innings.

Associated Press photos. The top one is of a Brett Gardner at bat. I thought the ball looked cool.

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Saturday notes: Sabathia, Soriano, Brackman and Vazquez03.05.11

Let’s just jump straight into the notes this time.

• CC Sabathia allowed five earned runs through 2.2 innings this afternoon. The Yankees other starters — including all four back-of-the-rotation candidates — have combined to allow one earned run through 18 innings.

• To line him up properly, Sabathia will get an extra day of rest at some point this spring, but it won’t come on the scheduled off day March 15. That will be Sabathia’s day to pitch, and rather than have him take a day off to pitch the 16th, Sabathia will throw a simulated game that morning. Joe Girardi actually apologized to the beat writers for making us come to the stadium that day.

• One last Sabathia note: Just in case you were concerned, Sabathia had reached his pitch limit, which is why he came out of the game in the third. He’s not hurt. Probably goes without saying, but had to make sure.

• Rafael Soriano will throw another simulated game on Monday. He could be in a game a few days after.

• Still no set-in-stone plan for Mariano Rivera. “He’s still a little ways away,” Girardi said. “He’s further away than Soriano.”

• Next time Andrew Brackman pitches, it will likely come in an actual game. “We were really pleased with his BP slash simulated game (this morning),” Girardi said. “He threw like 10 pitches of BP, then got three outs pretty quickly.”

• Nice game from Brett Gardner who had a double and a triple as part of that eight-run fourth inning. Both hits were legitimately driven into the corners, one to left field and the other to right. Gardner has three hits this spring, all for extra bases.

• Two more hits, two more RBI and one more double for Jorge Vazquez. It would be an upset if he made the roster — Eric Chavez’s left-handed bat is a better fit on the bench — but he’s forcing the Yankees coaching staff to take notice. “He’s definitely opening eyes,” Girardi said.

• Speaking of which, Chavez had his fourth hit of the spring and is hitting .364. “He’s swung the bat really well,” Girardi said.

• Dave Robertson and Robert Fish were the only Yankees starters to not give up a hit today — Fish went two innings without a hit — and Ryan Pope closed the game with one of the few scoreless innings. “When we made a mistake in the middle of the plate, they hammered it,” Girardi said. “We didn’t get away with anything today.”

• Those pitching problems started with Sabathia, but Joba Chamberlain didn’t do much to help. After cleaning up Sabathia’s mess in the third, Chamberlain was charged with two runs of his own in the fourth. “He threw the ball OK, and then it looked like he made a couple of mistakes with his fastball,” Girardi said. As far as I know, Chamberlain didn’t speak to anyone after the game. It’s not unusual for the big league guys — all but the starting pitcher — to get out of the park quickly as soon as they’re finished.

• The Nationals top overall draft pick Bryce Harper had two at-bats in the game. He grounded to first against Daniel Turpen, then single to right against Romulo Sanchez. “It’s pretty amazing to be 18 years old and be doing what he’s doing,” Girardi said.

• Looking back through Cervelli’s history of spring injuries I found this post from almost exactly one year ago. Funny that, at this time last year, Cervelli was hurt and Girardi immediately dismissed the idea of Jesus Montero making the team. Veteran Mike Rivera was next in line. This year, Montero has become the favorite, and the veteran Gustavo Molina is strictly emergency insurance.

Associated Press photos of Sabathia, Gardner and Montero with Girardi

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 201 Comments →

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