The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


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 448 Comments →

Yankees at the break: Second base07.13.11

After making a run at the MVP award last season, Robinson Cano came into this season with sky-high expectations. He’s been very good, but he’s played a tick below last year’s production. If there’s any disappointment in Cano’s performance, it’s only because of the expectation coming into this season.

First half
Through significant chunks of the season’s first half, Cano has reverted to the free-swinging approach that he seemed to keep under control last season. His strikeouts are up slightly, and his walks are down significantly. Otherwise, Cano has been roughly the same player he was last season, on pace for roughly the same power numbers and the same sort of run production. His defense seemed spotty in the first month or so, but that’s been much better lately.

Second half
Cano is never going to be a Nick Swisher or Brett Gardner type of hitter. He swings. That’s what he does. He’s acknowledged a need to be more selective, but he doesn’t want to lose the aggressiveness that makes a dynamic hitter. Last year he found a great balance between selective and aggressive. This year, that balance has come and gone. If he finds it again in the second half, don’t rule him out as the Yankees best hitter down the stretch.

The minors
Kevin Russo got his season turned around in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Corban Joseph has been his typically productive self in Trenton – he’s been especially good against right-handed pitching and seems to hit every year – and Kelvin Castro has been a pleasant surprise in Tampa. The Yankees disappointment at second base has to be that David Adams took longer than expected to get healthy (he’s finally playing again) and that Anderson Feliz has struggled in Charleston (he seemed primed for a breakout season). The name to watch now is Angelo Gumbs, last year’s second-round pick who’s playing second for Staten Island.

One question
Can Cano pick up the slack for the next month?
When Alex Rodriguez went on the disabled list late last season, Cano had 15 RBI in the 14 games without A-Rod. It wasn’t that he necessarily hit better than he had all season – most of his numbers were actually a little worse – but he was productive enough to pick up some of the slack. The Yankees might need him to find a way to do something similar while Rodriguez is out again for the next month or so.

The future
The Yankees have club options for 2012 and 2013, and right now it looks like a no-brainer to exercise them. Of all the young players on the big league roster and all the talented prospects in the minors, no one is better positioned to be a career-long Yankee than Cano.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 275 Comments →

Minor league notes: Whelan setting himself apart in Scranton06.06.11

Kevin Whelan opened this season as a rather forgettable part of a potentially memorable Triple-A pitching staff. Legitimate prospects filled the rotation, and the bullpen was dotted with returned Rule 5 picks and veterans with big league experience.

Then there was Whelan, the last remaining piece of the 2006 Gary Sheffield trade. He was a fallen prospect, a guy who always walked too many batters and finally reached a new low with a 6.02 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A last season.

Whelan’s been a completely different pitcher this year. As Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s closer, he’s cut down on the walks significantly. He has a 1.73 ERA, 17 saves, and he’s allowed just 17 hits and six walks through 26 innings. He’s struck out 28, and his 0.88 WHIP is the lowest on the team.

“It is the command, which translates to confidence,” pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras said in an email.

Contraras was the second person I talked to who mentioned confidence when explaining Whelan’s sudden improvement. He’s always had a good fastball and a big splitfinger — and he’s had some real success from time to time — but it seems that things are just now coming together. If the Yankees find an opening for a one-inning guy, Whelan would surely be the front-runner for the job. It’s worth noting that he’s been especially good against left-handers, holding them to a .178 batting average with 19 strikeouts and only two walks.

It’s also worth noting that Whelan’s not on the 40-man, and the Yankees have found more openings for multi-inning relievers than short relievers this season. Jonathan Albaladejo had even better numbers as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s closer last season — and he actually was on the 40-man — but Albaladejo barely got a look at the Major League level. So Whelan might not be looking for apartments in the city, but he’s surely put himself on the map. It’s impossible to ignore a guy who’s always had the potential and is just now finding the consistent results.

• Gary Sanchez is back on the Charleston active roster. He returned Saturday after being sent to extended spring training for what appears to be some combination of a bad back and a bad attitude, probably more of one than the other. He had a hit and drew a walk in his first game back.

• Greg Golson has been activated from the Triple-A disabled list, a move came one day after Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s most productive outfielder, Justin Maxwell, went on the disabled list with a jammed shoulder. Maxwell actually has a higher slugging percentage than Jorge Vazquez and homered in three games in a row just before the injury. For the season he’s hitting .260/.358/.588 and might have hit his way into a big league role had Andruw Jones not started hitting lately.

• Speaking of banged-up Triple-A players who might or might not be playing their way into a call-up: Carlos Silva was scratched from a start on Sunday because of tightness in his shoulder. Doesn’t seem too serious. Manager Dave Miley told Donnie Collins, “We’re just pushing him back.”

• If there’s no spot for Whelan as a short reliever in New York, the Yankees certainly have options for long relief out of Triple-A. George Kontos and Buddy Carlyle are still pitching well in long relief for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Kontos is holding right-handers to a .143 average with 24 strikeouts and four walks. Out of the rotation, tonight’s starter D.J. Mitchell has a 2.78 ERA and pitched seven scoreless in his most recent outing.

• After hitting .218/.292/.287 in April, Kevin Russo hit .316/.384/.408 in May. Brandon Laird made a similar turnaround, from .184/.213/.289 in April to .307/.343/.406 in May. Jesus Montero went the other way, from .365/.360/.473 to .269/.333/.413.

Strange stuff in Double-A Trenton where hitting coach Julius Matos was ejected last week, then got into some sort of argument with manager Tony Franklin and has since been removed from his role. Popular roving hitting instructor James Rowson has taken over the job for now. It’s unclear whether Matos will return in any capacity.

• Austin Romine is the only Trenton regular hitting better than .277, and he’s missed a few games with a stiff neck and back after a home plate collision. Romine has certainly been the high point of the Double-A lineup. Melky Mesa is back to being an all-or-nothing hitter, Bradley Suttle is hitting for good power but a .233 average and Corban Joseph has been good but not great.

• I talked about him a little bit in today’s chat: Trenton reliever Tim Norton is starting to get some attention. Injuries have always been the biggest knock on the guy. This year he’s healthy and putting up incredible numbers (44 strikeouts in 29 innings, for example). One scout told Bill Madden that Norton is, “better than (Joba) Chamberlain right now.”

• Manny Banuelos has a 2.12 ERA and Dellin Betances has a 1.99, so those two are doing just fine despite higher-than-you’d-like walk totals. Craig Heyer, a guy the Yankees sent to the Fall League this offseason, has been awfully good since stepping into the rotation to fill in for some injuries.

• Tampa third baseman Rob Lyerly made the Florida State League all-star team, but as expected, the High-A roster is lowest of the four affiliates in terms of prospect buzz. Starters Brett Marshall and Jairo Heredia, though, are starting to do some things. In Heredia’s past three starts he’s allowed one earned run through 21 innings. He’s walked two and struck out 22. He’s another of those “if-things-go-right” prospects.

• J.R. Murphy remains the best all-around hitter in Low-A Charleston, but first baseman Kyle Roller leads the team with a .563 slugging percentage and corner outfielder Ramon Flores leads with a .407 on-base percentage.

• Slade Heathcott in April: .370/.453/.630. — Slade Heathcott in May: .216/.283/.289.

• The amateur draft begins tonight. The Yankees don’t have a pick until the supplemental first round — No. 51 overall — but they’ll almost certainly be part of the story with pick No. 1. The Pirates are reportedly planning to take Gerrit Cole, the former Yankees first-round pick who ultimately signed with UCLA rather than join the Yankees minor league system.

Headshots of Whelan, Sanchez, Golson, Romine and Norton

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 275 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

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 331 Comments →

Pregame notes: New look at the top03.17.11

Brett Gardner is not trying to lead all of baseball in pitches per plate appearance. He did it last year but said that was partially because his injured wrist left him reluctant to swing through the second half of the season.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing,” he said. “If you told me I could lead off all year or hit ninth or wherever, see five pitches per plate appearance and still get on 38 percent of the time, I’d sign up for it. I don’t think that’s something that’s easy to do. If I had 500 at-bats last year, probably 400-something of those I hit behind in the count. It’s like you’re always uphill. That’s something I want to try to improve on.”

Tonight, the Yankees will take a look at Gardner in the leadoff spot. Joe Girardi said he’ll probably have his everyday guys in the same lineup another eight or nine times this spring, and he’ll continue to play with different batting orders.

Girardi said he has no plans of dropping Derek Jeter out of the top two spots. He also liked Nick Swisher in the No. 2 spot last season, “and we’re not sure we want to upset that,” Girardi said. Based on last year’s numbers, though, Gardner is a prototypical leadoff man, and the Yankees like the fact that his speed opens some holes on the right side of the infield for Jeter.

“We’re trying it because of what he did last year, and the problems that he causes for other teams,” Girardi said. “He puts pressure on the pitcher, and a lot of times pressure leads to mistakes. You get to the guys in the middle of the order, and those mistakes become bigger mistakes. That’s what we want our hitters to be able to do.”

Gardner led the Yankees in on-base percentage last season, and the ability to draw a walk became his greatest weapon in the second half of last season. In the first half, though, he proved he could both take his walks and get his hits. The Yankees have talked to him about bringing back some of that early aggressiveness.

“That’s something we talk about a lot, something I feel I’ve done a little better job of working on this spring,” Gardner said. “I’ve swung at some 2-0 pitches, some 3-1 pitches, 1-0 pitches. Maybe even an 0-0 pitch. I think I’ve been more aggressive this spring at certain times. I know it’s something I need to improve on and I plan to do that this year.”

• For the record, even hitting in front of the 3-4-5 hitters, Girardi said he wants Gardner to run when he gets on base. “I want him to get a bag any time he can get it,” Girardi said. “I don’t want it to take away from his aggressiveness.”

• Sergio Mitre came through yesterday’s bullpen just fine and will pitch tomorrow, probably around 65 pitches, but Girardi wasn’t sure of the number.

• Rafael Soriano pitched at the minor league complex today and said he walked a guy and gave up a double. He said his command wasn’t great, but he also seemed unconcerned. Girardi said he didn’t find it all that unusual that Soriano didn’t want to face an AL East team yesterday.

• Joba Chamberlain is doing long toss and throwing a flat side today. “We’ll make an evaluation with him after today,” Girardi said.

• Phil Hughes is set for 75 to 80 pitches tonight.

• These are the factors Girardi said he thinks about when deciding which lineup is best: “You look at the consistency of your lineup. You look at how easy it is to bring up situational guys to face your guys, how that’s setup. You look at how hitters work together, if it changes a guy’s approach or not (to have someone else hitting in front or behind).”

• Pat Venditte is up from minor league camp for tonight’s game, but he probably won’t pitch. He’s a backup, and Girardi said he would be more likely to give Ryan Pope or Eric Wordekemper a batter or two. RHP Josh Schmidt also up from minor league camp as a backup.

• Today’s outfield off the bench is made entirely of guys who were optioned down last night: Brandon Laird, Melky Mesa and Kevin Russo.

• Greg Golson is able to run and do defensive drills and could begin swinging a bat again in the next day or two.

Off the bench: C Gustavo Molina, 1B Jorge Vazquez, 2B Ramiro Pena, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Eduardo Nunez, LF Brandon Laird, CF Melky Mesa, RF Kevin Russo, DH Jordan Parraz

Out of the bullpen: Boone Logan, Romulo Sanchez, Luis Ayala, Eric Wordekemper, Steve Garrison, Ryan Pope, Pat Venditte and Josh Schmidt.

Tomorrow’s travelers today: The Yankees regular outfielders are going on the road tomorrow to play the Blue Jays.

Pitchers who will be making the trip: A.J. Burnett, Sergio Mitre, Andrew Brackman, Steve Garrison, Ryan Pope, Eric Wordekemper, Amaury Sanit and Kevin Whelan.

Players who will not be making the trip: Austin Romine, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Greg Golson, Francisco Cervelli and Colin Curtis. Walter Ibarra is scheduled to come up from minor league camp to provide infield depth.

RAYS (8-9-1)
Ben Zobrist 2B
Johnny Damon LF
Evan Longoria 3B
Manny Ramirez DH
Matt Joyce RF
B.J. Upton CF
Dan Johnson 1B
Reid Brignac SS
John Jason C

RHP Chris Bootcheck

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 398 Comments →

Monday notes: Brackman impresses against live hitters02.21.11

Andrew Brackman is not new to Yankees camp. He’s a familiar face around here, and almost everyone in the big league clubhouse is long past first impressions of the tall right-hander.

But Justin Maxwell is new. He arrived in Tampa having only heard of Brackman, and today Maxwell faced the highly touted prospect for the first time in live batting practice. Maxwell’s first impression?

“Really good command,” he said.

Never would have heard that two years ago. Today, Brackman opened eyes with an impressive batting practice session that included all of his pitches, and most importantly, included a bunch of strikes.

“He’s much further ahead than he was (at this time last year),” Joe Girardi said. “He had a hard time consistently throwing strikes, where now it appears that’s behind him. You look at what he’s done the second half of last year, what he’s done here in spring training, he’s throwing a lot of strikes. That’s a big part of the battle when you’re pitching.”

As Mark Feinsand detailed this weekend, Brackman has been fighting that battle ever since his 2007 Tommy John surgery, and he finally seems to be winning after a breakout 2010 season in Trenton.

“My first two camps, those BPs would have been awful,” Brackman said. “Nowhere near the plate or anything like that. The further away I get from surgery, the more comfortable I get on the mound.”

• Hank Steinbrenner spoke after the Rodriguez press conference this afternoon, including a comment that seemed to be a shot at Derek Jeter. In fact, I have a hard time coming up with another way to take it: “Sometimes I think maybe they celebrated a little too much last year,” Steinbrenner said. “Some of the players are too busy building mansions and doing other things, not concentrating on winning. I have no problem saying that. I think they’ve come into this spring with a new hunger.” There’s always something unexpected that pops up around here.

• Jorge Posada did the catching portion of team fielding drills this morning. It was the first time he’d gone through catching drills. The Yankees still haven’t had him squatting or throwing to second base, but that will happen soon. He’s supposed to catch a bullpen Wednesday or Thursday. “He’s been great talking to the players and being involved, but we haven’t asked him to do much behind the plate,” Girardi said.

• Mariano Rivera will throw his first bullpen this week, probably Wednesday or Thursday. “It won’t be long now,” Girardi said.

• Girardi said no injury concerns have popped up. Gustavo Molina was dealing with a quad issue, but he caught a bullpen today and is feeling fine.

• Just a personal observation: Eric Chavez still looks awfully good at third base. He made some solid plays going to his right during batting practice.

• Speaking of BP defense: Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Eduardo Nunez were taking turns fielding grounders at shortstop — it’s just a ground ball drill, the position on the field doesn’t really matter — and after Jeter charged a ball kind of awkwardly, Nunez started dancing around in shallow left field, mocking the Captain’s approach. Cano and Jeter were cracking up, and Jeter gave Nunez a little shove.

• I mentioned it earlier today, but Ronnie Belliard got some time at first base after working at second yesterday. Kevin Russo worked at second after working in the outfield yesterday.

• Boone Logan signed autographs for a while after the morning long toss session. One of his throws had sailed way over Buddy Carlyle and hit a little girl in the stands, so Logan tried to make up for it. Head’s up people! Even the pros let one slip every now and then.

• Joe Girardi is still trying to figure out, plan and schedule a team outing, but there aren’t many options, and the dates are limited before this weekend’s first game. Friday might be the best bet. “We’re going to try,” Girardi said.

Associated Press photos. That’s Kyle Higashioka at the top.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 265 Comments →

Early Monday notes: Big guy on the mound and new guy in camp02.21.11

Exactly one week after the first official workout for pitchers and catchers, Yankees camp opened this morning with Dellin Betances taking the mound on the main field here at Steinbrenner Field. Two hitters, Austin Krum and Greg Golson, took turns against him.

I asked Golson how Betances looked, and Golson gave a classic hitter’s response: He said he refuses to say any pitcher’s stuff was good, even if it’s during a batting practice session in front of no one but a few coaches. If Golson gets out, it’s his own fault. I thought it was pretty funny, but I don’t think Golson meant it as a joke.

Apparently Betances is the only pitcher who faced hitters this morning. There should be more later in the day.

• Infielder Addison Maruszak has been added to big league camp, but he’s here as a catcher. Primarily a shortstop, he was the Yankees 17th-round pick in 2008, and he’s played all over the infield. This fall Maruszak started getting some time at catcher during instructs. The Yankees have always like Maruszak’s arm, and he said they’re grooming as a kind of eight-position utility man. He’s never played the outfield as a pro, but he’s certain he could handle it. Maruszak said he’s already pretty comfortable behind the plate, though he’s still honing his instincts back there.

• Maruszak said he’s not sure how long he’ll be in big league camp. He doesn’t know whether this will be an occasional thing, a one-or-two day stint, or if he’s here until being reassigned just like everyone else. As far as I know he hasn’t been officially added to the spring roster.

• Hector Noesi said this morning that he was throwing bullpens back home, so he’s not really behind the other pitchers in camp. He was never concerned that he wouldn’t be able to get here.

• Random observation: Francisco Cervelli spent the winter working out with Robinson Cano, but it’s funny how much he still follows and constantly talks to Jorge Posada. Once a mentor, always a mentor, I guess.

• On the sheet of paper that lists the hitting and defensive assignments for the day, every player name is typed in black ink with two exceptions: Brandon Laird and Kevin Russo are written in red. I assume that’s because they’re the guys who will shuttle between infield and outfield drills.

• Bullpen assignments:

Andy Sisco (to Francisco Cervelli)
Andrew Brackman (to Kyle Higashioka)
Steve Garrison (to Kyle Higashioka)
Daniel Turpen (to Jesus Montero)
David Phelps (to Austin Romine)
Adam Warren (to Jose Gil)
D.J. Mitchell (to Jose Gil)
Eric Wordekemper (to Addison Maruszak)

• Hitting groups: Most are the same as yesterday, with catchers moving around

Infield Group 1: Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Jorge Posada
Infield Group 2: Ronnie Belliard, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Austin Romine
Infield Group 3: Eric Chavez, Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo, Jose Gil
Infield Group 4: Doug Bernier, Brad Suttle, Jorge Vazquez, Addison Maruszak

Outfield Group 1: Greg Golson, Andruw Jones, Nick Swisher, Russell Martin
Outfield Group 2: Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Justin Maxwell, Francisco Cervelli
Outfield Group 3: Colin Curtis, Jordan Parraz, Melky Mesa, Kyle Higashioka
Outfield Group 4: Daniel Brewer, Austin Krum, Brandon Laird, Gustavo Molina, Jesus Montero

• Fielding groups: The exact same as yesterday’s groups, Maruszak wasn’t listed with a defensive group

Catcher Group 1: Jose Gil, Russell Martin, Gustavo Molina, Russell Martin
Catcher Group 2: Francisco Cervelli, Kyle Higashioka, Jorge Posada, Austin Romine

Infield Group 1: Doug Bernier, Robinson Cano, Eric Chavez, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Brad Suttle, Jorge Vazquez
Infield Group 2: Ronnie Belliard, Brandon Laird, Ramiro Pena, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Russo, Mark Teixeira

Outfield Group 1: Daniel Brewer, Curtis Granderson, Andruw Jones, Austin Krum, Jordan Parraz
Outfield Group 2: Colin Curtis, Brett Gardner, Greg Golson, Justin Maxwell, Melky Mesa, Nick Swisher

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 435 Comments →

Sunday notes: Less is more02.20.11


The weight issue won’t quite go away here in Tampa. Alex Rodriguez arrived in camp a little bit lighter. Buster Olney reported it was 10 pounds lighter. Joe Girardi said it wasn’t quite that much. Whatever the exact number, it’s more than a pound or two, but not so much that Rodriguez looks drastically different.

“Sometimes guys just feel like they want to be a little bit lighter,” Girardi said. “It might add to their game. Physically they might bounce back quicker. That’s not uncommon for a player to try to put more energy into their body, and sometimes it is by not having to carry so much mass.”

Girardi said he didn’t know Rodriguez was planning to lose weight until Rodriguez reported to camp. But seeing him, Girardi has no complaints.

“This is just the weight that he showed up,” Girardi said. “He showed up in very good shape, so I’m not going to complain about that.”

• Girardi said it’s too early to learn anything from the bullpen sessions. In fact, he goes out of his way to make sure players don’t feel pressure to perform at this point.

“I’m careful to not try to push players right now or to say a whole lot to pitchers — we need a little bit more, your breaking ball’s not quite as sharp – because I don’t want them trying to overdo it,” Girardi said. “Sometimes there might even be a guy that’s throwing the ball well, and if I come around I see that he missed a couple of spots, I might just move on (if it’s) a young guy. I don’t want them thinking, gosh, the manager’s watching. Just let them go about their business. There will be plenty of time to evaluate.”

• That said, five pitchers threw batting practice to actual hitters early this morning: Joba Chamberlain, Ivan Nova, Dave Robertson, Brian Anderson and Manny Banuelos. “Some guys got an early morning wakeup call at 8:15,” Girardi said.

• Eight more pitchers will throw BP tomorrow. Girardi didn’t say who.

• Because there are fewer workout days, there will be no intrasquad games before the actual spring schedule.

• Girardi said he knows who he wants to start the spring opener, but he wants to wait a few days to make sure that pitcher is still good to go. He promised to make the announcement on Tuesday.

• When he finished hitting, Jorge Posada spent some time at first base. Girardi said it’s possible Posada could see some time at the position this spring, but whether he’s a legitimate option at first during the season depends on who else is on the roster. “Is it a viable option? Is it an emergency option? A lot of it depends on the makeup of your roster,” Girardi said.

• Kevin Russo was listed as an infielder today, but he instead worked as an outfielder during drills. He said he expects to work in the infield tomorrow.

• Random infield assignments: Eric Chavez, Brad Suttle and Brandon Laird did their infield work at third base, and Jorge Vazquez got his time at first. Those four will probably spend time at both infield corners this spring. Ronnie Belliard and Doug Bernier got time at both second base and shortstop, though the time at short was just fielding grounders. I doubt Belliard is being looked at as a shortstop option. Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez both worked at shortstop.

• Tino Martinez has arrived in Yankees camp as a guest instructor.

• Girardi and his staff are still discussing possible team outings. Not sure what it will be this year.

Associated Press photos of Jeter with Rodriguez during stretch; Nova in the bullpen; and Andruw Jones in the outfield

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 333 Comments →

Sunday morning notes: A day late, Cano arrives in Tampa02.20.11

Robinson Cano has arrived. While he talked to the media about his one-day-late trip to Tampa, Derek Jeter walked into the clubhouse, realized who the pack of reporters was talking to, and stopped on a dime. Jeter stood at the back of the media pack, staring at Cano until Cano finally noticed his shortstop and team captain looking at him. When Cano finally started laughing, Jeter walked away.

Cano said he was in New York yesterday when he got a call from the team. Cano said he would be in Tampa the next day, and that’s when he found out that he had the days mixed up, that the physicals were on Saturday, not Sunday.

“I was a little scared, a little bit,” Cano said. “I don’t like to be late. You guys know, I’m almost on time. I talked to Geno and I apologized.”

I’m sure the guys will continue to give him a hard time, but no one around the Yankees seems too upset by the whole thing.

• Hector Noesi is also in camp today. He’s scheduled to throw a bullpen today.

• Obviously I’ll have much more on the Derek Jeter press conference as soon as I can get it transcribed and get the audio uploaded. A lot of the topics were familiar — he doesn’t think about last year, he’s moved on after contract talks, he just wants to win — but Jeter talked quite a bit about the slight mechanical changes he’s made with his swing. Said he got into some bad habits last year, and at that point it was time to eliminate the stride, something he expected to happen eventually.

• Joe Girardi is going to address the team for the first time this morning. He said the message is simple. “Be the best we can be,” he said. “That’s our goal.”

• Kevin Russo is hitting with the outfielders, but going through fielding drills with the infielders.

• Seems like quite a few guys threw early morning bullpens today. I saw Joba Chamberlain and Ivan Nova throwing this morning, but some more guys were in the bullpen while reporters were doing interviews in the clubhouse. It’s a pretty small set of bullpens today.

• Bullpen assignments:

Phil Hughes (to Gustavo Molina)
Pedro Feliciano (to Francisco Cervelli)
Warner Madrigal (to Austin Romine)
Hector Noesi (to Roman Rodriguez)
Romulo Sanchez (to Jesus Montero)

• Hitting groups:

Infield Group 1: Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Jorge Posada
Infield Group 2: Ronnie Belliard, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Russell Martin
Infield Group 3: Eric Chavez, Brandon Laird, Ramiro Pena, Francisco Cervelli
Infield Group 4: Doug Bernier, Bradley Suttle, Jorge Vazquez, Jesus Montero

Outfield Group 1: Greg Golson, Andruw Jones, Nick Swisher, Gustavo Molina
Outfield Group 2: Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Justin Maxwell, Austin Romine
Outfield Group 3: Colin Curtis, Jordan Parraz, Melky Mesa, Kyle Higashioka
Outfield Group 4: Daniel Brewer, Austin Krum, Kevin Russo, Jose Gil

• Defensive groups

Catcher Group 1: Jose Gil, Russell Martin, Gustavo Molina, Russell Martin
Catcher Group 2: Francisco Cervelli, Kyle Higashioka, Jorge Posada, Austin Romine

Infield Group 1: Doug Bernier, Robinson Cano, Eric Chavez, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Brad Suttle, Jorge Vazquez
Infield Group 2: Ronnie Belliard, Brandon Laird, Ramiro Pena, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Russo, Mark Teixeira

Outfield Group 1: Daniel Brewer, Curtis Granderson, Andruw Jones, Austin Krum, Jordan Parraz
Outfield Group 2: Colin Curtis, Brett Gardner, Greg Golson, Justin Maxwell, Melky Mesa, Nick Swisher

Associated Press photo of Jeter and Cano

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 429 Comments →

Spring decision: Fourth spot on the bench02.12.11

The Yankees know Andruw Jones will be their fourth outfielder. They know their utility infielder will be one of two candidates. They know their backup catcher will be either Francisco Cervelli or one of the young guys. The spot that seems wide open is the fourth man on the bench, a spot that could go to either an infielder or an outfielder, a power bat or a pinch runner, a defensive replacement or a potential pinch hitter.

The possibilities
The Yankees could go almost any direction with this spot. If they want additional outfield depth, Greg Golson and Justin Maxwell are both speedy, right-handed hitters who could be defensive replacements or pinch runners, and Colin Curtis could be a left-handed balance to Jones. In the infield, the Yankees could choose to carry both Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena, or they could carry one of those two as a backup shortstop, with either Eric Chavez or Ron Belliard — or Brandon Laird or Kevin Russo or Jorge Vazquez — available to fill in at the corners.

The easy choice
That’s what the Yankees are hoping for: An easy choice. If anyone steps up in spring training and puts himself clearly above the other candidates, the Yankees choice will be simple. It seems that in an ideal world, Chavez will prove he’s healthy and can still hit for power. He would be a left-handed hitter on a predominantly right-handed bench, and if he can step in as the guy to give Alex Rodriguez an occasional day off at third base, that might be the best use of the fourth bench spot. Any other choice — either a fifth outfielder or a light-hitting second utility man — would have no clear role other than late-inning defense and base-running.

The alternatives
If Chavez is finished, the Yankees could focus on late-inning defense and base-running. Carrying both Pena and Nunez would let the team use either one as a pinch runner without losing defensive flexibility. The same would be true for either Golson or Maxwell, each of whom has enough speed to steal a bag and could slide into right field for the last inning or two.

Normally, the fact Curtis is a left-handed hitter would be a negative in an already left-leaning outfield, but of the favorites for a bench job, Jones, Cervelli and Nunez are all right-handed, and switch-hitter Pena isn’t much of an offensive threat from either side of the plate. If Chavez doesn’t emerge as a legitimate option from the left side, Curtis could bring some left-right balance to the bench.

The Yankees could also prioritize flexibility, opening a spot for either Russo or Brandon Laird as a player capable of filling in at the infield and outfield corners.

A separate but related issue
Eleven players had at least 150 at-bats for the Yankees last season (a group that included Pena and the since-departed Marcus Thames). Of the group that had fewer than 150 ABs, no one had more home runs or RBI than Juan Miranda. Defensive versatility is crucial on the bench, but the Yankees might be on the lookout for a hitter who can bounce back and forth from Scranton and occasionally give the Yankees productive big league at-bats, regardless of defensive ability.

Associated Press photos of Curtis and Chavez

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 137 Comments →

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