The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Thoughts and impressions one week before Opening Day03.30.15

First, a reminder that we’re doing a chat today at noon. This is an off day in Yankees camp. For me, that means a day to sit in a hotel room and write a whole lot of season preview stuff for the newspaper. For the Yankees, it means a day to catch their breath before one last burst of exhibition games and decision making. Heading into this final week, here are a few thoughts and impressions from Tampa:

CC Sabathia• I actually think CC Sabathia looks pretty good. His numbers are awful, but I’m buying it when he says he’s encouraged. He’s clearly stronger than he was last year, and I think it’s good that he’s talking about his changeup a lot. He’s going to have to pitch smart and keep hitters off balance, and I think he’s able to do that. Scouts keep telling me what a “pitcher” he is; that Sabathia knows what he’s doing out there even with diminished stuff. The numbers are awful, but this is one of those situations in which I’m not sure spring training numbers mean much. He’s going to give up some home runs now — that’s just the way it goes — but I think he’ll be better than he was the past two seasons. Not a Cy Young candidate, but I think he’ll be a good No. 3 starter as long as he stays healthy.

• The middle of the order does not look very good. At this point, I think that’s a bigger problem than the rotation. Even if the lineup stays healthy, I’m still not sure what the heart of the order can provide. Carlos Beltran hasn’t looked great, Brian McCann has been so-so, and Mark Teixeira hasn’t hit for much power (though I do think Teixeira seems to be in much better shape than last spring, so maybe he can stay on the field and avoid a second-half decline). I just haven’t seen a lot that suggests the lineup is much better than it was last season. Veteran guys like that might be able to turn it on once they’re in real games, I just don’t think they’ve shown it down here.

• Whether Alex Rodriguez has a successful season might depend on your definition of success. If he carries his spring training slash line through the season he’ll be an MVP candidate, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. More likely, I think he’ll get on base at a decent clip, pounce on some bad pitches to hit home runs now and then, and generally provide what you’d expect from a No. 6-7 hitter. That’s honestly better than I was expecting. He’s not running well, but I think he’s running well enough. He’s not a good defender, but he’ll field balls that are hit right to him. He’s better than I thought he would be.

Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira• As a side note to the Rodriguez situation: He’s also handled all of the off-the-field stuff pretty well. Believe it or not, he actually makes some small talk and jokes with reporters in the clubhouse. Teammates seem to like him. Opposing players don’t seem to completely hate him. He’s heard his share of boos, but he’s heard plenty of cheers as well. I’m telling you, from every angle, this situation has been much better and easier than I expected. The Yankees seem to feel the same way. Both Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi said yesterday that they’re happy with the way Rodriguez has settled back into the clubhouse.

• I have no idea what the Yankees are going to do about those final two spots in the bullpen. I think Chase Whitley is a favorite for one of those spots, if only because I think they’ll want another long man other than Esmil Rogers (and all the other long relief candidates have been sent away). What I can’t figure out is who the favorites might be for that last spot in the pen. I do think it’s worth noting that Chris Martin and Chasen Shreve are on the 40-man and have options, and I think that final bullpen spot might be very flexible early in the season. For that reason — because the 12th reliever might have to go up and down to Triple-A a few times — I’m not surprised the Yankees steered away from Jacob Lindgren. He’s looked great, but I imagine that once he’s on the big league roster, the Yankees want him to stay there. Why not carry Martin or Shreve out of camp, send him down for a sixth starter in late April, and then think about adding either Lindgren or Andrew Bailey?

• Backup catcher might be more wide-open than I expected when camp opened. Last season showed the Yankees clearly prefer John Ryan Murphy, but don’t think they’ve completely given up on Austin Romine. Ideally, I think — and this is just a gut feeling — the Yankees would prefer to trade Romine before the season starts, but I think they’d like to get real value for him. If they can’t, maybe he gets one month to prove himself one way or the other in the big leagues. If he can’t do it, Murphy comes up to take his place. That said, if the Yankees choose to DFA Romine in favor of Murphy, that wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. I really think it could go either way. If I had to guess right now, I think I’d still pick Murphy.

Slade Heathcott• Slade Heathcott has looked so good this spring, I wonder if the Yankees might get aggressive and send him straight to Triple-A to play center field every day. That would free Jake Cave, Mason Williams and Aaron Judge to play the outfield every day in Trenton (and Williams had a good enough spring that I think he’s worth everyday at-bats as well). Put Heathcott in the Triple-A outfield with Ramon Flores and Tyler Austin and see what happens. This isn’t a typical development year for Heathcott. The Yankees really need to find out by the end of the season whether he’s a high-end asset again.

• At this point, I’m assuming Jose Pirela will end up in Triple-A, but where does he play regularly? Obviously he’ll have to bounce around a little bit — some time in the outfield corners, some time at second base — but it might make sense to see what he can do as a regular third baseman. If Chase Headley gets hurt, Rodriguez isn’t good enough in the field to play third every day, so the Yankees might want to get Pirela prepared just in case he has to play that role at some point. But he really can’t play any one spot every single day. He’s going to have to maintain some flexibility because the Yankees might want his bat at some point even without an injury at third.

• Sure, Sabathia says his knee feels fine and Masahiro Tanaka is pitching like his elbow is healthy, but the biggest reason to be optimistic about the Yankees’ rotation might be Michael Pineda. That guy looks fantastic. He’s still throwing hard, still throwing a ton of strikes, and his offspeed stuff is more effective than when the Yankees first acquired him. It’s amazing that, after missing much of three years with shoulder problems, Pineda just might be the most reliable piece of the Yankees rotation. I think Nathan Eovaldi could be pretty good, but Pineda could be great.

Adam Warren• Speaking of the rotation, what happens if everyone stays healthy and Adam Warren has a 3.00 ERA at the end of May. Would he move right back into the bullpen to make room for Chris Capuano? What about Ivan Nova? Granted, this is a pretty extreme hypothetical — it involves Warren having an all-star caliber first two months, and involves a rotation full of injury concerns staying healthy — but I really think Warren’s a nice pitcher who could thrive. Maybe not to the tune of 3.00, but what about a 3.20 or a even a 3.50? Would you take that out of the rotation in favor of a guy one year removed from Tommy John?

• Relief pitchers are notoriously inconsistent from year to year. Only a very few are able to truly get the job done season after season. For that reason, I think the Dellin Betances struggles should raise some red flags. Not white flags of surrender, but red flags of concern. He just hasn’t looked great, and it’s not just the fact he’s not throwing 98 mph. Some of that added velocity could very easily come with regular-season adrenalin. Right now, he’s also missing spots and looking fairly hitable. I think that should be a bit of a concern. The Yankees have banked on the idea of having a standout bullpen. What if they don’t?

Associated Press photos

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Refsnyder continues to hit; Cashman calls Drew “the smart play” at second03.29.15

Stephen Drew

Rob Refsnyder had two more hits today, his fourth and fifth doubles of the spring. He also drew a walk, stole a base and raised his spring training slash line to .343/.452/.571.

Refsnyder and Jose Pirela have been two of the best hitters in Yankees camp, but general manager Brian Cashman said today that what he’s seen this spring has only reinforced his decision to bring back Stephen Drew to play second base.

RefsnyderPirela“I know there’s a lot of dialog wrapped around Refsnyder and Pirela,” Cashman said. “But I think also that those guys have shown they still have work to do on the defensive side still. It doesn’t mean if we have to go there we wouldn’t be comfortable doing so. I also think they’ve shown they have some development still to go, despite the bats. The bats are impressive, but you’ve seen the defensive stuff they’ve shown us in short sample sizes as well. So, like anything else, you’d love to pluck a guy from the minor leagues when they’re on a roll in all aspects of the game so they can kind of hit the ground running at the big-league level. So right now I’m pretty comfortable that Drew signing was the smart play for us on the front end.”

Refsnyder’s already made five errors at second base. Pirela has two errors, and while he’s played all over the field, he’s never had a strong defensive reputation anywhere.

Drew, meanwhile, got off to a slow start this spring but has started to hit a little more lately. He had a three-hit game on Friday, a home run on Saturday, and he doubled today. He’s now batting .244/.306/.444.

“He’s looked really good at the plate,” Cashman said. “He’s looked so much better than last year the last week to 10 days. That’s encouraging. I know it’s got to be building his confidence and having memories of what he was prior to last year, because that’s certainly what’s playing around in my head. I feel much better about the situation right now.”

Associated Press photo

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Postgame notes: “Y’all can put stock in whatever you want”03.28.15

CC Sabathia

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.”

SabathiaSabathia 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• 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.”

Dellin Betances, Juan Lagares• 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

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Postgame notes: Just how good can Adam Warren be?03.26.15

Adam Warren

Yesterday, Brian Cashman declared Adam Warren the “Secretariat” of the fifth-starter competition. Today, Warren struck out five and allowed one run in 3.1 innings. Are the Yankees really going to bump him back into the bullpen tomorrow? While Joe Girardi said the team still wants to have some discussions, it seems clear Warren has realistically locked up the open rotation job.

“He threw well again,” Girardi said. “Not easy conditions to pitch in today either, so I thought he threw the ball, mixed everything in again, and that’s what he’s done all spring.”

At this point, the bigger question seems to be whether Warren can carry his bullpen success into the rotation. Specifically, just how good can he be as a regular starter? Over on FanGraphs, there’s a post called: Who Might Adam Warren Be? It’s an analysis of his raw stuff — a 94-mph fastball that generates weak popups, an effective changeup that he throws for strikes, a groundball inducing curveball — leading to a series of comparisons in search of just how good Warren might be if given a long look in the rotation.

The name that pops up most often is overwhelmingly optimistic: Dodgers No. 2 starter Zack Greinke.

WarrenFrom the story written by Eno Sarris:

They’ve both got straight, rising fastballs complemented by good sinkers. Greinke’s slider is better than his change, and Warren’s change is better than his slider, but the ratio between the two pitches is similar. Neither curve is great, but Warren’s gets so many ground balls that it might shorten the distance between their respective abilities to command their arsenals.

That’s a pretty giant comparison to throw out there. Warren pitched well out of the bullpen last season, and he was a pretty highly regarded prospect in the minors. Could he pitch well enough in the first month or so to keep a rotation job even after Chris Capuano is healthy? What about when Ivan Nova is healthy? If the Greinke comparison seems a bit too much, some of the other names mentioned in the FanGraphs piece range from the uninspiring (Erasmo Ramirez, Kevin Correia) to the impressive (Matt Cain, Homer Bailey).

“I feel like pitching is pitching,” Warren said. “I’ve proved I can pitch at this level. I just got to go out there and learn from some of the guys who have started and learned the mindset of being aggressive, attacking always, getting early outs. But I feel like I’ve got the stuff. It’s just going out there and executing pitches.”

John Ryan Murphy said he really doesn’t call a game much differently if Warren’s pitching as a starter vs. as a reliever. In either role Warren’s used all four of his pitches, and Murphy said all four are quality pitches that can be thrown for strikes and used to get outs.

“I think you just try to keep the foot on the pedal as long as possible,” Warren said. “The biggest thing for me — and I didn’t do a very good job today — that I want to focus on is getting outs early in the count, just be efficient with my pitches. My pitch count got a little high today and I didn’t have my best stuff, but being able to attack the zone is the biggest thing. Just try to go out with my best stuff from pitch one and see how far I can go with it.”

For now, it seems that approach has carried him into the starting rotation.

John Ryan Murphy• There was a giant birthday cake in the Yankees clubhouse today (it was actually a bunch of cupcakes arranged to look like one big cake). Ramon Flores, Rob Refsnyder and Brendan Ryan all celebrated their birthdays today.

• Girardi said Jacoby Ellsbury came through today’s light baseball activity with no problem. Assuming he shows up feeling good tomorrow he’ll do more tee and toss and increase to taking a few rounds of batting practice inside. Girardi said he’s expecting Ellsbury to play a minor league game on Tuesday. Whether he gets in another Grapefruit League game will basically depend on how he’s feeling (when he was hurt late last spring, the Yankees kept Ellsbury in minor league games at the end of camp so that they could back-date any possibly DL stint; they seem less concerned this time around).

• Jose Pirela continues to have some concussion symptoms, so he won’t be playing any time soon. “Yesterday he rode the bike and was fine,” Girardi said. “Today he rode the bike and got dizzy. He’ll see a neurologist again. That’s the hardest thing to predict with a concussion; even though he looked great, he got dizzy today. We’ll back off a little bit, talk to the neurologist and try it again fairly soon.”

• The Yankees unconditionally released RHP Jared Burton from his minor league contract. Burton is a big league veteran and he was pitching well before he got hurt. If he wasn’t going to break camp with the big league team, though, the Yankees overwhelming bullpen depth probably didn’t leave much room for him.

• Austin Romine was supposed to catch this game, but he got some sort of stomach bug and had to be scratched. His competition for the backup catcher job, Murphy, played instead and went 1-for-2, raising his spring batting average to .219. “I think it’s going to come down to the last couple days,” Girardi said of the decision between Romine and Murphy.

• Girardi still expects to get Alex Rodriguez in a game at first base. “It’s coming up,” he said. “I didn’t have a chance to talk to him, but I have it on the board.”

• The plan is for Masahiro Tanaka to make Tuesday’s road trip to Fort Myers to pitch against the Twins. That keeps him lined up for Opening Day.

Jose Ramirez• As for today’s game, after Warren left the game, the Yankees relievers had a tough time. Jose Ramirez gave up two runs, so did Chris Martin, and Danny Burawa allowed one run. Tyler Webb finished the day with a scoreless eighth, but it still wasn’t a great day for the pen. Worth noting, of course, that of those relievers, Martin’s the only one actually still in big league camp. He struck out three but also allowed a home run to Desmond Jennings.

• Here’s Girardi on choosing his final relievers: “I think you’re going to look at the last 10 days. They’ve all had their ups and downs. That’s the interesting part of it. We’re going to make a decision over the next 10 days and it’s probably going to be the guys that we feel are going to give us the best chance to help us, but maybe have pitched the best the last 10 days.”

• While Girardi said he thinks Andrew Bailey has pitched well this spring, he’s still not sure whether Bailey will have a real chance to break camp with the team. “The fact that he hasn’t went back-to-back — and I don’t know if he’ll go back-to-back in spring training — might make it difficult,” Girardi said. “It’s something that we have to talk about next week, where we feel he’s at and how ready he is. But he’s throwing the ball pretty good.”

• Another nice game for Slade Heathcott, who had a double, a walk and pushed his spring batting average to .320. “He’s played great,” Girardi said. “The biggest thing we’ve said about this kid is we’ve got to keep him healthy. There are a lot of tools there offensively, defensively, running the bases. It’s just, he hasn’t had a lot of at-bats, but there’s a lot of talent.”

• Two-hit day for Didi Gregorius. He had a double and pushed his spring batting average up to .308. He’s definitely been a standout this spring. … After his walkoff homer a couple of nights ago, Flores had a two-hit day. He and Refsnyder each doubled on their birthday. Ryan went 0-for-3 with a walk. … One reason Refsnyder seems not ready for the big leagues: he made his fifth error today. … Jake Cave had an RBI single but was also caught stealing in the ninth.

• Girardi said “it’s possible” he’ll be ready to name a fifth starter tomorrow. We basically know who it’s going to be, but it would be nice to have the Yankees waste no time making it official.

• Let’s give the final word to Warren: “I came into the spring and wanted to pitch well. Wherever I ended up, I wanted it to be because I pitched well and not because I didn’t pitch well. I feel like I’ve gone out there and proven myself. It all comes back to, I just want to get ready for the season. I was a little more comfortable this year just being around the guys, early on working on some things and then ramping it up these last two outings and really go out there and compete. It’s been a fun spring for me. ”

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Postgame notes: “I’ll do whatever I can to be better for the season”03.25.15

John Ryan Murphy, Dellin Betances

Today it was a breaking ball hung up the zone, where Juan Lagares crushed it for a two-run home run. Last night it was a leadoff walk and a costly line-drive single. Throughout this spring, it’s constantly been on thing or another — four straight outings with at least one earned run — leading Dellin Betances to a 6.75 ERA with a 1.69 WHIP. Opponents are hitting .318 against him, and he has just four strikeouts in 5.1 innings.

Granted, it’s a tiny sample size, but Betances just hasn’t looked as sharp as he did last season.

“I’m obviously frustrated,” Betances said. “I mean, it’s been four outings where every time out, I’ve given up a run. Today I felt better, but you got to make a better pitch than that to Lagares. It’s frustrating, but I’m sure I got four more outings left and I’ll do whatever I can to be better for the season.”

Dellin Betances, Juan LagaresA scout in attendance said he had Betances at 92-93 mph, and while he said he expected Betances to be “much higher,” he also had little problem imagining Betances getting back to the velocity we’re used to seeing. Joe Girardi insisted Betances is actually throwing at least as hard as he was at this time last spring (I can’t find any reports of exactly how hard Betances was throwing in the next-to-last week of camp a year ago).

“He’s actually throwing harder than he did (at this time) last year,” Girardi said. “It was the last week that it kind of jumped up. … It’s all part of the build-up process. Like I said, if it’s the last week, the last day, you might have a little bit more concern.”

Today’s outing was really all about one bad pitch, the one Lagares hit over the wall in left, but even Betances acknowledges he hasn’t been especially good this spring. Relievers are notoriously inconsistent from year to year, so a guy with a short track record like Betances is perhaps susceptible to extra scrutiny coming off one good year.

“I think he set a pretty high standard last year that’s not always so easy to live up to,” Girardi said. “My only concern is that he’s right at the end of spring training. That’s my concern.”

Last spring, Betances came into camp with very little expectation. This year, he’s basically expected to be an elite reliever and possibly a closer. His production will not be a bonus this season. The Yankees are banking on it.

“A lot of these guys know who I am now,” he said. “Last year, there was a lot of unknown, but right now I need to get those few more velos (added velocity) and maybe attack the zone better. But today, I thought it was good, I just made a mistake to Lagares.”

Said Girardi: “He’s a power pitcher, and we expect there’s going to be more. You’re going to see more at the end of spring training.”

Ddid Gregorius, Stephen Drew, Chase Headley, Mark Teixeira, John Ryan Murphy, Larry Rothschild• Before today’s game, Brian Cashman said he’d seen enough production out of Alex Rodriguez to think Rodriguez could be the team’s everyday designated hitter this season. Coming into camp there seemed to be a chance the Yankees might try to platoon him if he wasn’t capable of hitting, but Rodriguez went 1-for-3 to raise his average to .290. He’s been good. Not necessarily great, but he’s been good. “I think I’m getting better,” Rodriguez said. “I’m happy with my strike zone discipline, and for me the goal never changes. Just get a good pitch and put my A-swing. I thought I took some good swings today, fouled them off. But anytime I give myself a chance to do some damage and swing at strikes, that’s a good thing.”

• Cashman also said before today’s game that Adam Warren is the clear favorite for the fifth starter job. Girardi, though, wouldn’t make such a commitment. “I told you, when I make a decision, I talk to the players first,” Girardi said. “That’s how I do it. Before I say anything, I think it’s only fair to do it that way.” Warren is starting tomorrow.

• Jacoby Ellsbury is scheduled for tee and toss tomorrow. That’s usually the last step before getting into some light batting practice. The Yankees remain convinced Ellsbury will get back into the lineup before breaking camp. He’s been out more than a week with a strained oblique.

Travis d'Arnaud, Didi Gregorius• Jose Pirela’s neck is still sore, and that’s his biggest problem at the mometn. “Until we get that soreness out, Stevie (Donohue) doesn’t really want to elevate his heart rate a lot to see if the (concussion) symptoms come back,” Girardi said. The Yankees are still optimistic that Pirela will get back in a game this spring.

• Weird to see Chase Whitley used for just an inning today. He was originally supposed to pitch in a minor league game, but the Yankees instead kept him here and gave him one inning. He allowed his first run of the season, but said he felt good on the mound, just made a mistake with a fastball. “We’ll get him stretched out again,” Girardi said. “Tanaka with his 60 pitches went pretty far. We thought he might get more innings, it just didn’t work out.”

• Whitley allowed a run. Betances was charged with a run in one-third of an inning. Andrew Miller gave up one run on two hits in a third of an inning. David Carpenter allowed a run in the ninth. “It wasn’t a very good day for our bullpen today overall,” Girardi said. “You have those days. If it was the last day of spring training, you might worry a little bit more about it, but you’re going to have those days. Obviously we know we have to get these guys right, and they’re very important to us.”

• The two exceptions: Justin Wilson got a double play against his only hitter, and Andrew Bailey pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts.

• Seven hits in the past six games for Didi Gregorius. He had a double today. … Chase Headley remains red hot with a two-hit day including a double. … Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Noonan had the other Yankees hits. … The Mets won, 7-2.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith Comments Off

Pregames notes: Three years later, Martin apologizes for errant fastball03.25.15

Jose Pirela

Around 9:30 this morning, Chris Martin walked across the Yankees clubhouse, wrapped his long arms around Jose Pirela’s shoulders, and offered an apology that was nearly three years in the making. Pirela smiled and slapped Martin on the arm. All was forgiven a long time ago.

Three days ago, Pirela crashed into an outfield wall, hit his head on the warning track, and suffered the second concussion of his career. His first concussion came on April 11, 2012 when he was playing second base and batting seventh in a Double-A game against Portland. It was the fifth inning when he was hit flush in the head by a fastball. Pirela still remembers that it was registered at 97 mph.

PirelaMartinThere were a total of 26 players involved in that game, 14 of them playing for the Trenton Thunder. Of those 26 players, only two are currently in the Yankees organization.

Pirela, and the pitcher who hit him, Martin.

“I remember it clearly,” Martin said. “As soon as it hit him, he hit the ground. I was just like man, I hope he’s OK. Obviously he got up and walked off. I had no idea he had a concussion. I didn’t know who it was. I thought I actually hit Abe Almonte. I didn’t know it was him.”

Pirela missed a little more than a month recovering from that head injury. He said he experienced constant headaches and he kept vomiting, two symptoms he hasn’t had this time around.

“The only thing I have is a little bit of soreness in my neck and my entire back,” Pirela said.

Martin throws hard — that’s what carried him all the way to the big leagues last season — and he said he’s only ever hit one player in the head. He was surprised to learn this morning that the player he hit, the image he remembers so well, is currently playing with him in Yankees camp.

“Obviously you never want to hit a guy,” Martin said. “Sometimes you hit a guy – hit him in the butt, in the leg – it’s going to sting a little bit and they take first base. You never want to break a bone, never want to put them out. In the head, that could be a career. Obviously it’s a rough thing, but you have to throw in to be successful. You have to do it. I mean, not in the head, but you have to be able to throw in on their hands. That’s their hole. You feel bad when you do it, but it’s only happened once to me, and hopefully that’s the only one. I’m sure they it’s vice versa. If they hit one back at us, I’m sure they feel bad too. It’s just a game and things happen.”

John Ryan Murphy, Jonathan Schoop, Jeff Gosney• This will be the first time John Ryan Murphy has ever caught Masahiro Tanaka in a game. Murphy’s caught him in bullpens, but even though his extended time in the big leagues last season — and through last spring training — Murphy never caught him in a game.

• What does it mean for the backup catcher competition that Murphy is getting a turn with Tanaka? I honestly have no idea. You could make the case that this is a clear indication the Yankees are getting Murphy ready to catch their ace, but you could also make the case that the Yankees will generally keep Brian McCann paired with Tanaka, and it’s more telling that Austin Romine caught Nathan Eovaldi’s minor league game yesterday (Romine’s going on the road to catch Adam Warren tomorrow). It really does seem that the Yankees are keeping each backup catcher possibility on the table.

• Justin Wilson, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances are each scheduled to pitch today. It will be the first time going back-to-back for each of them.

• Yesterday Chase Whitley thought he was going to pitch in a minor league game this afternoon. Today he said he expects to stay here and pitch in today’s big league game. Yesterday, Joe Girardi said he expects guys like Betances and Miller to face only one or two batters, so there might be plenty of innings leftover for Whitley to get stretched out a little bit.

• Just a thought, but I also wonder if keeping Whitley in today’s big league game is a sign the Yankees plan to keep him as a long man. If he’s going to break camp in that role, there’s really no need to have him start a minor league game and get stretched out behind three innings or so. Just a thought, not sure it really means much.

RyanBailey• Andrew Bailey is also scheduled to pitch today. It will be his third spring outing. The Yankees have said they’re not sure when he’ll go back to back, which they want him to do before they really consider him for a spot in the big league bullpen.

• Brendan Ryan is playing shortstop off the bench today. He’s also scheduled to make tomorrow’s road trip. He’s making that trip with Didi Gregorius, but Stephen Drew isn’t going. Makes me wonder if tomorrow’s going to be Ryan’s first chance to play second alongside Gregorius, something he’s likely to do during the season.

• For those asking: While the Yankees have officially optioned Jose Ramirez and Danny Burawa to Triple-A, each has actually remained in big league camp. As far as I know, neither has spent a day at the minor league complex since being sent down. Might be some technical reason the Yankees needed to option them already even if they wanted to keep them around.

Today’s bullpen sessions: Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Bryan Mitchell, Kyle Davies, Chasen Shreve, Jacob Lindgren

Today’s second string: C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Brendan Ryan, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Ben Gamel, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Ramon Flores

Today’s scheduled relievers: Chase Whitley, Justin Wilson, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, David Carpenter, Andrew Bailey (with Nick Rumbelow, Jacob Lindgren, Alex Smith, Chris Smith and Nick Goody available just in case)

• Tomorrow’s travel squad:

Pitchers: Danny Burawa, Chris Martin, Jose Ramirez, Nick Rumbelow, Adam Warren, Tyler Webb (up from minor league camp)
Catchers: Francisco Arcia, Kyle Higashioka, Eddy Rodriguez, Austin Romine
Infielders: Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Didi Gregorius, Garrett Jones, Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, Brendan Ryan
Outfielders: Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott, Chris Young

• For those curious, the rest of the Trenton lineup on the day Pirela was hit in the head: Abe Almonte, Ronnier Mustelier, Dan Brewer, Cody Johnson, Melky Mesa, Gustavo Molina, Addison Maruszak and Walter Ibarra. Shaeffer Hall was the Thunder starting pitcher.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith Comments Off

Pregame notes: Sabathia no longer lined up for Opening Day03.24.15

Masahiro Tanaka

The Yankees have announced their rotation through Monday’s off day, and it seems to provide some clarity about the their plans for Opening Day.

Wednesday: Masahiro Tanaka
Thursday: Adam Warren
Friday: Michael Pineda
Saturday: CC Sabathia
Sunday: Nathan Eovaldi

By giving Sabathia an extra day of rest this week, the Yankees have effectively eliminated him from the conversation for Opening Day. To pitch the opener, Sabathia would have to make either his last spring start or his first regular-season start on short rest. Hard to imagine that happening. Instead, Sabathia’s now lined up to pitch Game 2 after one more turn on extra rest.

Meanwhile, Tanaka is lineup perfectly to stay on an every-six-days schedule and pitch Opening Day. Because of scheduled off days, Tanaka could make each of his first three starts on five days of rest even without the Yankees plugging in a sixth starter during that time.

“It is flexible because of these days off,” Girardi said. “It’s flexible what we can do. We’ve done that kind of on purpose. The big thing is that Eovaldi, his pitch counts are good, Pineda’s have been good. We still need to build Tanaka and CC up a little more. As long as we can get through their starts and have no issues, we should be able to iron it out the way we anticipate them.”

With Esmil Rogers starting tonight and Warren scheduled for Thursday, Girardi said he could have a fifth starter decided by the end of the week.

“I think it’s a pretty big start for (Rogers),” Girardi said. “… I would think we’ll probably even meet in the next couple days to try to make some decisions here.”

Alex Rodriguez• During fielding drills today, Alex Rodriguez spent a lot of time at first base working on cut offs and relays. Girardi said he still expects Rodriguez to get at least one turn at first base this spring. “You’re probably going to see him going through some drills at first,” Girardi said. “And my guess is you’re going to see him (at first base) in a spring training game before we leave.”

• Girardi said he’d basically just like to have Rodriguez capable of playing first base just in case someone gets hurt. Garrett Jones is the backup first baseman, but if either Jones or Teixeira were to get hurt, Girardi said he’d rather be able to play Rodriguez at first base instead of either Chase Headley or Brian McCann.

• The more important thing with Rodriguez has been his at-bats, and the Yankees seem happy with those. “I just think his at-bats are more consistent (than at the start of camp),” Girardi said. “His timing is more consistent.”

• Jose Pirela is back with the team, but he’s still going through concussions tests. Girardi said the medical staff plans to let Pirela start working out — very lightly — just to see how he reacts to that. Pirela had a concussion two years ago, but he said the symptoms are not as bad this time.

• Jacoby Ellsbury did some light swings with a broomstick yesterday and will gradually increase baseball activities. Girardi remains unconcerned. Said he expects Ellsbury to start playing again before the end of spring training and be ready for the Opener.

• Nathan Eovaldi went 4.2 innings at the minor league complex. Said he was wild with his offspeed pitch early in the game — he started with a walk to former Yankees prospect Melky Mesa, who’s a notorious free swinger — but Eovaldi was ultimately happy with the outing. “I was just rushing (early in the game),” Eovaldi said. “Slider behind, same with the curveball. Fastball was a little all over the place. Once I stayed back over the mound, it was there.”

• With Tanaka starting tomorrow, Chase Whitley is going to the minor league complex to stay stretched out. He’ll pitch four or five innings across the street.

Today’s bullpen sessions: Adam Warren, CC Sabathia, Vicente Campos, Ivan Nova, Scott Baker, Chris Martin, Danny Burawa

Today’s second string: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Ali Castillo, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ramon Flores, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Aaron Judge, DH Kyle Higashioka

Today’s scheduled relievers: Justin Wilson, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Nick Rumbelow

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

Monday morning notes: Rain in Tampa forces change of plans03.23.15

Alex Rodriguez

Today’s exhibition game is on the other side of the state, and most of the Yankees who are playing in it actually spent last night on the road. It’ll be a game light on big league regulars — Brett Gardner and Brian McCann are the most notable Yankees involved — and so the bigger story of the day seemed likely to happen here in Tampa.

But then it rained.

Instead of playing in another minor league game, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran will simply take some indoor batting practice and call it a day. I assume this makes it more likely that they’ll play tomorrow, but I really don’t know. The plan was to give them a handful of at-bats, but the weather hasn’t cooperated. There was some thought of playing an intrasquad game, but that idea has fizzled.

Basically, it’s just a quiet, rainy day in Tampa. This was going to be the place to be today, now it’s just a place that’s a little too wet for anything to happen.

Jose Pirela• The Yankees announced that all tests on Jose Pirela came back clean. Neck and spine MRI findings were normal and he was discharged from the hospital last night. He’s obviously not scheduled to play today.

• By the way, MLB Network announced that it will be live broadcasting today’s game between the Yankees and Nationals, and it will be available in the New York market, so check that out if you have a random Monday off.

• Jacoby Ellsbury said he’s scheduled for more treatment today, but he still hasn’t hit or played catch since the oblique injury. He’s still confident he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

• Nathan Eovaldi sounds encouraged by his spring. Said he’s successfully improved his split and his slider, and he’s done a better job of working up in the zone with his big fastball. He’ll start in a minor league game tomorrow. That’s an effort to get him stretched out while Esmil Rogers auditions by pitching in the big league game at night.

Today’s second string: C Austin Romine, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Dan Fiorito, SS Cole Figueroa, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Tyler Austin, CF Ramon Flores, RF Slade Heathcott, DH Eddy Rodriguez

Today’s scheduled relievers: Kyle Davies, Jose Ramirez, Jacob Lindgren, Nick Rumbelow, Chasen Shreve

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

CT scan normal for Pirela, still undergoing additional tests03.22.15

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Jose Pirela’s brain CT scan came back normal, and he’s now undergoing a cervical MRI. The Yankees are still not sure how long he’ll be out, but it seems at least possible he’s finished for the spring.

“You just don’t know,” Joe Girardi said. “Some guys respond quicker than others. You wouldn’t think a second baseman has had a significant number (of concussions) like a catcher, so sometimes the response is quicker. We have to wait and see. I hope not (finished for the spring).”

Girardi said Pirela was able to communicate on the field, admitting that he was dizzy. Girardi said not all players are willing to admit that, and he was glad Pirela was honest. It’s still unclear when Pirela suffered the biggest blow, whether it was when he hit the ground or if he might have hit one of the metal poles that are part of this particular fence.

“Obviously you’re concerned when a player doesn’t get up,” Girardi said. “He’s having some tests run right now. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take for him to get back, but he did not look good. … He hit it pretty hard, so let’s just see what the tests say.”

Pirela has not played a lot of center field in his career, but the Yankees are giving him a chance to prove his flexibility. It’s a good thing for Pirela that he was given a chance in center today, and Girardi said today’s incident doesn’t give him any second thoughts about playing Pirela in center field again.

“No, that’s a freak play,” Girardi said. “You can get hit sliding into second and get a knee to the head.”

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

Jose Pirela has a concussion; sent for CT scan03.22.15

Jose Pirela

Jose Pirela

Jose Pirela

The Yankees announced that Jose Pirela definitely has a concussion. He went with trainer Steve Donohue to Tradition Medical Center for a CT scan. A Yankees official said Pirela was still light-headed when he left the ballpark. Still too early to have any sort of timetable.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

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