The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Simulated notes: One roster cut, a few injury updates03.15.11

CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon each pitched six scoreless “innings” this morning. They faced the same series of four minor league hitters over and over again — two righties and two lefties — with Austin Romine taking occasional at-bats here and there.

“I threw some changeups to lefties, backdoor my cutter,” Sabathia said. “It was good to work on that stuff and not have to worry about really worrying about the result.”

Sabathia said the best part of the day might have been working with Russell Martin, talking about things pitches and strategies while he was still on the mound facing hitters. For Colon, it was a day to continue working on his slider, keeping it in to left-handed hitters.

“Whenever you go out there to pitch, in your mind you’re pitching and you think the stadium is packed,” Colon said, using Tony Pena as his translator.

• Kyle Higashioka has been reassigned to minor league camp.

• Joe Girardi said he expects Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman to each get at least one more outing in big league camp before being sent down.

• The Yankees will probably use all of their regulars in tomorrow’s night game. As for the lineup, Girardi wouldn’t give us an exact order. “We might do some things, we might play around with some things,” Girardi said.

• Sergio Mitre is throwing a bullpen tomorrow, meaning he won’t pitch in Thursday’s game. But Girardi said his level of concern is still very low. “The trainers thought (a bullpen) was the best thing to do,” he said.

• Joba Chamberlain had an MRI yesterday but continues to tell the Yankees that he feels pretty good. “Functionally I think he’s fine,” Girardi said. Even so, it’s going to be a few days before Chamberlain pitches. There is no plan in place for when exactly he’ll pitch next.

• Mark Prior threw today and is feeling better. Girardi said it’s best not to go into detail about Priors symptoms yesterday, and I’ll take his word for it.

• Francisco Cervelli is off crutches. He came in for treatment today.

• Next four Yankees starters: Ivan Nova on Wednesday, followed by Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and Freddy Garcia.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 113 Comments →

Yankees organizational depth: Catcher01.08.11

Let’s start a position-by-position look at the Yankees organization by looking behind the plate. It’s probably the most intriguing spot in the entire system, both because of what’s happening at the big league level and what’s coming up from the minor leagues. This has been Jorge Posada’s position for more than a decade, but that’s about to change.

In the big leagues
The transition is about to begin, and it will start with Russell Martin. Signed this winter to a one-year deal, Martin says he’s healthy and that he’s shifted his workout routine to try to regain the power that made him a coveted young player just three years ago. Martin is a short-term fix, but at 27 years old, he could have some long-term upside if he returns to form. Can’t count him out beyond this season. Francisco Cervelli is, of course, poised to return to his backup role, while Posada is still around for occasional starts behind the plate. If you count Posada, it seems entirely possible that the Yankees will carry three catchers at all times this year.

On the verge
The catching future of the Yankees starts with Jesus Montero. He’s the most highly touted player in the system, and he’s one step away from the big leagues. There are still questions about his ability to catch, but he seems to convince more and more people each year. He might never be great, but his defense might play enough to keep his bat in the lineup without clogging the DH spot. Behind him is Austin Romine. The Yankees expected him to open this season in Triple-A before the Martin signing. Now it’s entirely possible Romine will be bumped back to Double-A, at least to start the year. He was good but didn’t exactly dominate that level last year — .268/.324/.402 and the league’s worst caught stealing percentage — so a return isn’t exactly a waste of time. Gustavo Molina, who has some big league time, was signed as a minor league free agent and could help in a pinch. He’ll likely start the season coming off the bench in Triple-A.

Deep in the system
It’s unusual that a minor league system would have the Yankees combination of talent and depth at the catcher position. Montero is obviously the star of the show, but 18-year-old Gary Sanchez could be a similar talent. He’s considered a better defensive prospect, and although he doesn’t have quite Montero’s power, he does have considerable pop in his bat. He’s an elite prospect himself. JR Murphy’s ultimate position is unclear, but he also has enough bat to be worth following. Kyle Higashioka doesn’t generate nearly the same buzz, but he was the youngest player invited to big league camp last year. He’s on the radar.

Organizational depth chart
My own rough guess. It’s far too early for the Yankees to settle on who will be where next season.
New York: Russell Martin
Scranton/WB: Jesus Montero
Trenton: Austin Romine
Tampa: Kyle Higashioka
Charleston: Gary Sanchez

There are six players who could, given the right circumstances, get some big league time at catcher this season: Martin, Cervelli, Posada, Montero, Molina and Romine. All of those come with different levels of concern, but that’s also a lot of depth at a position that’s often very thin.

Further down in the system, Murphy figures into this depth chart mix somewhere — either Tampa or Charleston — but he’ll also see some time at the infield and outfield corners. He shouldn’t be overlooked, even in this catching-rich system. Tyler Austin was the top catcher selected by the Yankees in last year’s draft (13th round), but it seems uncertain whether he’ll stay behind the plate as a pro. He played only two games last season before an injury. Those two games were at DH and first base.

Associated Press photo of Posada, headshots of Martin, Montero and Murphy

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 128 Comments →

Five questions with Kyle Higashioka03.13.10

Class-A catcher Kyle Higashioka was the youngest guy in camp this spring. He’s less than half Mariano Rivera’s age, and he only got a handful of at-bats before being reassigned to the minor league complex this afternoon. He’s a long way from New York, but how many 19-year-old kids have ever had a locker four feet from Derek Jeter? I did this Q&A several weeks ago but kept holding off on posting it. It might take a few years, but I hope you start hearing more about him down the line. Good guy with a good head on his shoulders, respectful and polite without being overwhelmed or intimidated.

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When did you find out you were coming to big league camp?
Higashioka: I think I got called at the end of January. It was just really exciting. I kind of had a suspicion that I was going because the farm director, the vice president of the team, left a message on my phone rather than (assistant director of baseball operations) Eric Schmitt. When Mark Newman leaves a message on your phone, usually it’s a pretty big deal.

What’s the experience been like?
Higashioka: It’s almost like you’re playing in the big leagues. It’s like you get that taste. Once I go back, I’m just going to have even more hunger to get back here.

Have you been able to pick up anything from Jorge Posada?
Higashioka: The older guys like Posada and Rivera and Cervelli, they always help out, give us tips if we’re screwing up. They’re willing to help us out, which I think is great. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can here, and having them around is definitely great… Sometimes just hanging around practicing with all the big dogs, sometimes makes you better without even knowing it. You want to perform at their level, so you automatically elevate your game so that you can compete with them. I think this is definitely going to make me better.

What’s your background? What led you to this point?
Higashioka: I’m from Huntington Beach, California. I got drafted in the seventh round. This was actually one of the teams I really wanted to play for, and it ended up just working out. I came up and played in the GCL for three weeks or so after I signed. Last year I played in Staten Island. I thought I did alright. I could have put up some better numbers, but for the most part, I did an alright job. Getting the invite to big league camp, that was a big thing.

You’re in an organization that’s very deep at catcher. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Higashioka: I feel that we push each other. It’s not to the point where we’re really worrying about one another. We know that we just need to do our own thing and we can’t really control what happens as far as the organization goes. If one of us is going to get traded or who’s first in line, we can’t control that. We just work on making each of ourselves better every day and try to be the best player we can be.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 140 Comments →

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