Didn’t really expect to run a Mariano Rivera post as part of this year’s Pinch Hitters series, but I actually thought Mark’s post this morning carried some weight this winter.
Mark wrote about Rivera’s longevity, and as the Yankees look ahead to the 2015 season, longevity just might be their biggest issue. Their major investments this offseason were four-year deals with Andrew Miller and Chase Headley, but their most significant investments remain the multi-year contracts signed during past offseasons.
The longevity of Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia — their ability to remain productive, or become productive again, late in their careers — will be key to the Yankees season.
Andy Pettitte found a way to do it. Derek Jeter did it until the very end. Rivera, as Mark noted, did it consistently from start to finish.
A post about Mariano Rivera might not have seemed like a strong fit for this offseason, but a post about longevity and late-career consistency absolutely fits with the Yankees current roster.
As for the major Yankees events of the past week…
• The big news of the week was the signing of Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210-million deal with the Nationals. The agreement officially ends any speculation that the Yankees might get into the Scherzer sweepstakes. It’s also a massive contract that will actually be paid out over the course of 14 years instead of seven. Scherzer’s signing leaves James Shields as the only real standout left on the free agent market.
• Bringing back the kind of eye-rolling attention he’s mostly avoided during the past year, it was reported this week that Alex Rodriguez has worked out with Barry Bonds this offseason. Rodriguez has also reportedly worked with Edgar Martinez as he tries to regain his form after a year-long suspension. Rodriguez is hardly the first big league hitter to get tips from Bonds, but obviously it generates some attention when two of the game’s most notorious PED users are working together.
• The Yankees have held a private workout for Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada, who could get the largest signing bonus ever given to an international amateur. The 19-year-old infielder will likely become on of baseball’s top 25 prospects upon signing, but he still has to be cleared by the government to become truly available. The Yankees are believed to be one of the favorites to get him.
• Reliever Gonzalez Germen was designated for assignment after the Yankees acquired Chris Martin. This week, the Yankees sold his rights to Texas, which promptly designated him for assignment after acquiring a new catcher. Quite a winter for Gonzalez, who entered this offseason as a member of the Mets.
• YES Network officially announced that it’s reached an agreement to switch over-the-air broadcasts from MY9 to WPIX, which is Channel 11. PIX11 will televise approximately 20 games this season, and its broadcast schedule will be announced at a later date.
• Speaking of broadcasts, Yankees radio play-by-play man John Sterling’s apartment building was hit by a massive fire on Wednesday night. Sterling was not hurt and was just returning home as the fire began to engulf the building.
Associated Press photos
Pinch hitting: Mark Braff • 01.24.15
Today’s Pinch Hitter is Mark Braff, who describes himself as “a loyal Yankees fan since 1965.” Mark wrote that, as he watched Steve Whitaker, Horace Clarke, Roger Repoz and Co. in those early days, he could hardly imagine the pennants and championships to come in the next few decades. True story, in a follow-up email sent just yesterday, Mark wrote the following: “One thing that can be added to my bio (if it’s not too late) is that my favorite Yankee of all-time is Mel Stottlemyre. I sponsor his page on Baseball Reference. I’m always looking to give Stott a shout-out since his very noteworthy pitching accomplishments have been largely lost in the haze of the ‘down years’ from ’65-75.” So there ya go, Mark’s a big Stott fan.
Truth be told, Mark’s post was supposed to run next week, but I liked it as a follow-up to yesterday’s post about the Yankees year-by-year WAR leaders. For his post, Mark wrote about one of the players featured prominently on yesterday’s graphic, and he attempted to answer this question: What made Mariano Rivera so exceptional?
There are few baseball fans and insiders who would argue against the statement that Mariano Rivera was the greatest relief pitcher of all-time. And yet in 2012 and again in 2014, we saw that Rivera was more or less replaceable as Rafael Soriano and then David Robertson admirably filled the closer’s role for the Yankees.
So how could someone who is the consensus choice as “best ever” be so seamlessly replaced?
The answer lies in Rivera’s longevity and postseason greatness; his ability to remain at the top of his craft for such a prolonged period of time and to take his game to an other-worldly level in the playoffs.
In any given regular season during Rivera’s remarkable run as the Yankees’ closer from 1997 through 2013, there were other closers around baseball who were just as good, and in some cases even better. But with one exception (more on that in a moment) Rivera was unique in standing among the very best closers in the game for the full 16-year period.
To illustrate the point I thought it would be interesting to look at the top five saves leaders for each of those 16 years (actually 15 since Rivera was injured for almost all of 2012). Saves are not the be-all-and-end-all yardstick to determine a relief pitcher’s value, but for this exercise it serves as a useful metric to get a snapshot of baseball’s premier closers at any given time.
So let’s take a look:
1997 - Randy Myers (45), Rivera (44), Jeff Shaw (42), Trevor Hoffman (37), Rod Beck (37).
1998 - Hoffman (53), Beck (51), Shaw (48), Tom Gordon (46), Troy Percival (42), John Wetteland (42). Rivera had 36.
1999 - Rivera (45), Wetteland (43), Roberto Hernandez (43), Ugueth Urbina (4), Hoffman (40).
2000 - Antonio Alfonseca (45), Hoffman (43), Todd Jones (42), Derek Lowe (42), Robb Nen (41), Armando Benitez (41). Rivera had 36.
2001 - Rivera (50), Kazuhiro Sasaki (45), Nen (45), Benitez (43), Hoffman (43), Shaw (43).
2002 - John Smoltz (55), Eric Gagne (52), Mike Williams (46), Jose Mesa (45), Eddie Guardado (45). Rivera had 28.
2003 - Gagne (55), Smoltz (45), Billy Wagner (44), Keith Foulke (43), Guardado (41). Rivera had 40.
2004 - Rivera (53), Francisco Cordero (49), Jason Isringhausen (47), Benitez (47), Gagne (45).
2005 - Cordero (47), Francisco Rodriguez (45), Bob Wickman (45), Rivera (43), Hoffman (43), Joe Nathan (43).
2006 - Rodriguez (47), Hoffman (46), Bobby Jenks (41), Wagner (40), B.J. Ryan (38). Rivera had 34.
2007 - Jose Valverde (47), Joe Borowski (45), Cordero (44), Hoffman (42), Rodriguez (40), Jenks (40), J.J. Putz (40). Rivera had 30.
2008 - Rodriguez (62), Valverde (44), Joakim Soria (42), Jonathan Papelbon (41), Brian Wilson (41), Brad Lidge (41). Rivera had 39.
2009 - Brian Fuentes (48), Nathan (47), Rivera (44), Heath Bell (42), Cordero (39).
2010 - Wilson (48), Bell (47), Soriano (45), Soria (43), Matt Capps (42). Rivera had 33.
2011 - Valverde (49), Craig Kimbrel (46), John Axford (46), Putz (45), Rivera (44).
2012 - Rivera injured in May.
2013 - Kimbrel (50), Jim Johnson (50), Greg Holland (47), Rivera (44), Soriano (43), Nathan (43).
Some of these names read like a list of ghosts from closers past. Ugueth Urbina? Todd Jones? Keith Foulke? Even former Yankee great — note: I refer to all former Yankees as “former Yankee great” — Bob Wickman!
In fairness, the one exception mentioned earlier — Trevor Hoffman — had a long and distinguished career as San Diego’s closer from 1994-2009; a great run.
But here’s where I’ll throw in the tiebreaker which tilts in Rivera’s favor: Hoffman was very pedestrian in his four years appearing in the postseason, while Rivera pitched to an astounding 0.70 ERA in October across 96 games and 141 innings with 42 saves. Postseason opposing lineups, by definition, are generally among the best and deepest in the game, and of course the late innings of these games are pressure-cookers. And yet Rivera somehow elevated his performance.
And, so, while it’s true that Mariano Rivera has proven to be replaceable for any given regular season, I think it’s also safe to say that his longevity as a premiere closer, combined with his astonishing postseason performance, make him the greatest shut-down reliever we are ever likely to see.
Associated Press photos
As details of the Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval deals filtered through the internet yesterday, a friend sent this text message: “Remember when the Red Sox went (overboard) in the winter 2010? Traded for Adrian Gonzalez? Got (Carl) Crawford? Yankees responded with…”
The ellipsis was his own, essentially a stand-in for a question mark. His point was this: What exactly did the Yankees do the last time the Red Sox got incredibly aggressive during an offseason?
So lets flash back to the winter of 2010-11…
What the Red Sox did: Most notably, they traded young talent for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford to a seven-year deal. Those two additions were in place before the end of the Winter Meetings (kind of like the Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval deals this offseason). The Red Sox also signed Jason Varitek to one last contract, and they brought in Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler to add bullpen depth (in a relatively minor move at the time, they also signed Andrew Miller).
What others thought: At the time, the Red Sox seemed to have built a powerhouse. They seemed deep in the lineup, in the rotation and in the bullpen. Sports Illustrated picked them to win the World Series. Of course, we now know that the end result was a total mess, but at the time, it looked like the Red Sox were building a juggernaut and the Yankees would have to keep up.
What the Yankees did: It was actually a pretty busy winter for the Yankees. Trading Juan Miranda to the Diamondbacks was only the beginning! The biggest moves, though, weren’t necessarily additions and it’s hard to classify any of these moves as direct reactions to the Red Sox (except maybe one unexpected splash for a player who seemed completely off the radar until he was suddenly on the roster).
These were the Yankees major moves in the winter of 2010-11, the last time the Red Sox went on an offseason spending spree:
1. Re-sign Derek Jeter — This was essentially The Captain’s final contract. It was a three-year deal with an option for a fourth year (rather than exercise that option, Jeter technically signed a new deal for 2014, but it comes down to the same thing). Coming off a bad 2010, Jeter was given four more seasons. He gave the Yankees a solid 2011, a very good 2012, an injured 2013 and a disappointing but memorable 2014.
2. Re-sign Mariano Rivera — This was supposed to be Rivera’s final contract. He signed a two-year deal that would take him through his age-42 season (which seemed perfect for the game’s final No. 42), but after injuring his knee in 2012, Rivera decided to come back for a farewell season. Without the injury, the two-year deal signed in December of 2010 would have been a success. Rivera was as good as ever in 2011 and was off to a strong start in 2012.
3. Sign Russell Martin — This was the initial one-year deal, with the Yankees having Martin under team control for a second year because of arbitration eligibility. Martin had an OK season. He was an all-star and hit for power, but his batting average was down. The Yankees brought him back for one more season, his average dipped even more, and Martin left for Pittsburgh.
4. Sign Pedro Feliciano — This was a total mess. Coming off three straight seasons in which he led the league in games pitched, Feliciano landed a two-year deal with the Yankees, who needed left-handed help in the bullpen. Feliciano was, of course, injured by the time the Yankees broke camp and he never pitched a single inning for the team. Boone Logan, instead, emerged as the go-to lefty.
5. Sign Rafael Soriano — I remember this one quite well because I’m the one who happened to be on the phone with Brian Cashman when he finally seemed to lose his patience with all of the questions about possibly signing Soriano. “I will not lose our No. 1 draft pick,” Cashman told me. “I would have for Cliff Lee. I won’t lose our No. 1 draft pick for anyone else.” Within a few days, Cashman was overruled, a draft pick was gone, and Soriano was in the Yankees bullpen.
6. Sign Bartolo Colon/Freddy Garcia — Two separate signings based on the same idea. The Yankees knew they needed additional rotation depth, and they went looking for it in unlikely places. Colon hadn’t pitched in the big leagues in more than a year, and Garcia had been extremely limited in three of the previous four seasons. Of course, both wound up pitching well that year, with Colon in particular launching a stunning career resurgence.
7. Sign Eric Chavez — Once a star player in Oakland, Chavez had been hurt so often that there were questions about whether he could even handle a part-time role at this point. The Yankees took a shot and got a decent but predictably injury shortened year off the bench. It was the next year that Chavez returned to the Yankees and delivered a truly impressive bounce-back season.
8. Sign Andruw Jones — His second year with the Yankees was kind of a mess, which makes it easy to forget that Jones was actually really good in his first year. The Yankees didn’t finalize their deal with Jones until spring training — he had a locker before he officially had a spot on the roster — and he delivered a .286/.384/.540 slash line against lefties.
Nine fairly significant signings — even if one of them never actually got on the field — but it’s hard to label any one of them a direct reaction to the Red Sox maneuvering. Certainly re-signing Jeter and Rivera had nothing to do with Boston, signing Martin had more to do with internal concerns about Jorge Posada, the Soriano signing didn’t happen until more than a month after the Red Sox big additions, and the other deals were basically attempts at bargain hunting. Seems likely we’ll see more of the same this offseason as the Yankees seem poised to stick with their original plan rather than spend recklessly based on the Red Sox signing two players the Yankees were never really after in the first place.
Associated Press and USA Today photos
Yankees postgame: So Alex, your thoughts? • 08.10.13
We were all waiting around A-Rod’s locker for a comment about the reception he got here tonight during the 4-3 win in 10 over the Tigers. But we were finally told by media relations director Jason Zillo that Rodriguez had left.
Joe Girardi did speak about the boos and the cheers for his lightning rod at third.
“It was probably 50-50, maybe a little more cheers,” Girardi said. “It’s something he has to be able to put out of his mind and be a player for us.”
Rodriguez wasn’t a very effective player for them in this game. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He’s now 3 for 15 since his return.
Mariano Rivera hasn’t been effective the last two games, blowing back-to-back saves for the first time since April 2011. Miguel Cabrera got him for a two-run homer to tie it at 3-3 in the ninth.
“You’re talking about one of the great hitters,” Rivera said.
The Yankees won it on Brett Gardner’s two-out walk-off single. That stopped their four-game losing streak and the Tigers’ 12-game winning streak. It also saved the Yankees from falling to .500. They’re up to 58-56.
“We haven’t been playing good baseball for a couple of months,” Gardner said. “Sometime you have to keep winning or you’ll be out of it.”
Robinson Cano had two RBI on a double. He had driven in two runs in his previous 15 games combined.
The pitching matchup later today will be Phil Hughes and Anibal Sanchez.
Associated Press photo.
Support for A-Rod • 06.06.13
“We haven’t had him the last two months,” Brett Gardner said. “It won’t change anything.”
You would think Rodriguez would appeal if there’s a penalty. But if a ban is announced, as Tuesday’s ESPN report indicated it would be for Rodriguez and about a total of 20 players over alleged ties to PEDs, the attitude in the clubhouse will be forgiving. That’s what CC Sabathia indicated.
“I think it’ll be support,” Sabathia said. “Everybody makes mistakes. We’ll just have to wait and see. But I think there will be nothing but love and support in here.”
Gardner said Rodriguez is like a brother to the players. Mariano Rivera said he doesn’t think he will bring up the current situation with Rodriguez, but he’s open to listening if A-Rod wants to share his thoughts.
Asked if he has sympathy for Rodriguez, who always seems to be in the middle of some controversy, the closer said, “He’s my friend. Besides that, he’s my teammate also. Definitely it’s not easy. It’s not easy to be on the cameras or in the papers, always being chased. But at the same time, all I have to do is support.”
Here’s a link to my full story today on this matter, complete with Terry Francona’s thoughts on who’s to blame, plus an attached video at the top that I shot of Joe Girardi talking about the situation. Also, here’s a link to my story today about Sabathia feeling encouraged after his last two starts, including yesterday’s complete game. I also shot a video of Girardi talking about Sabathia with that one. Thanks for reading the last three days. Chad will be back later to take you through the West Coast trip.
Yankees bullpen throws zeroes • 05.15.13
After Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over the Mariners (my story on their 11th comeback win and surviving a King Felix start), the relievers hadn’t given up a run over their last nine games, covering 23 2/3 innings. Their combined ERA for May is 0.77 (three earned runs in 35 innings). The group has 36 strikeouts and seven walks to show for this stretch.
“It’s unbelievable,” CC Sabathia said. “We knew coming into the season that would be one of the strong points on the team. They haven’t disappointed.”
Shawn Kelley came in for Sabathia Tuesday night with runners at the corners and one gone in the seventh. Strikeout. Line out. Inning over. The righty has fanned seven of the last nine batters he has faced. He owns 25 Ks in 15 1/3 innings this season.
Mariano Rivera came on for the ninth. Fly ball. Fly ball. K. Game over. The 43-year-old greatest-of-all-time closer is off to a 16-for-16 start on saves after 39 games. It’s the fewest number of team games he has needed to reach 16 saves. The latest save made him 35 for his last 35 at home and 17 for 17 at home against Seattle in his career.
Overall, the Yankees are now 8-2 in one-run games.
“I think winning those games are extremely important,” Joe Girardi said. “Those games can have a real effect when you start losing them.
“Our bullpen has done a great job for us this year. We’ve had a lot of close games. Mo has 16 saves already. That’s quite a pace that he’s on. We haven’t had to use him in games where we’re not winning because he’s got so many opportunities. The ones that you’re ahead, you need to win. If you want to play in the month of October, you have to win those games.”
Photo by The Associated Press.
Hiroki Kuroda somehow managed to last seven innings and 108 pitches after throwing 67 in the first three. He has great survival skills.
The 38-year-old righty stranded seven Astros in the first three innings.
“Today, like my last outing, my balance was off mechanically,” Kuroda said. “My release point was off, too.”
But Larry Rothschild made a suggestion — work from the stretch all the time. Kuroda doesn’t like doing that, but he followed what he was told. And he retired 14 of his last 15 batters. He ended up allowing no runs, four hits and four walks, and he fanned eight. So after this 7-4 win, his April looked like this: six starts, 4-1, 2.25 ERA.
Travis Hafner’s April looked like this: .318, six homers, 17 RBI, 21 hits. The RBI and hit totals were his best in a calendar month since September 2007.
“I think swing-wise, it’s gotten a little more consistent as the season has gone on,” Hafner said. “It’s been great playing here. I’m really enjoying it.”
Joe Girardi is enjoying the view of his new 35-year-old DH: “You just see that his approach is good. He has been great in that four-hole for us. With all the people that we have out, he’s really done a good job in our lineup.”
Ichiro Suzuki is helping out in the lineup again. He went 3 for 5 and is batting .407 (11 for 27) in his last seven games. This run has boosted his average 68 points, from .200 to .268.
Eduardo Nunez started the night at .169, but he had three hits to move to .203. It marked his first multihit game since April 4. He had two doubles, one more than his extra-base hit total for the season coming in.
Mariano Rivera had his best April ever for saves, going 10 for 10 after getting the final out in this game. Does he really have to retire?
The Yankees were a bit relieved to get out of town without getting swept by the Red Sox in this opening series.
“I thought it was pretty important or I probably wouldn’t have said it in the pregame,” Joe Girardi said after the 4-2 win. “You don’t hear me say that very often. We’re going to Detroit and Cleveland. We have a seven-day road trip, seven games. Detroit is a good team and Cleveland is much improved. You don’t want to leave your home park going 0-3. That’s for sure.”
This was like old times, Andy Pettitte starting and Mariano Rivera saving it for him. It was the 69th time in the regular season, extending the record for the tandem, but the first time since July 8, 2010, thanks to Pettitte’s one-season retirement in 2011 and Rivera’s knee injury in 2012. It was win No. 246 for Pettitte and save No. 609 for Rivera.
“These two have been doing it a long time together,” Girardi said. “As a fan, I appreciate what these two have done together, the amount of saves that Mo has for Andy’s wins, the amount of wins that Andy has, his postseason wins.”
Rivera was a bit shaky in his first real game in almost a year. He started his final season by allowing a leadoff walk, a one-out double and a run-scoring groundout, but he ultimately protected the lead.
“That’s a lot of emotions there, but at the same time, you have to control that,” Rivera said of his return. “I have to be able to do that because we still have to finish the game. But … it was wonderful.”
Rivera broke a tie with Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra for most seasons playing with the Yankees. This is season No. 19 for Rivera. The closer also tied John Franco’s major-league record for most consecutive seasons with at least one save. This is season No. 18 for that.
“There were times where because of the therapy and the pain and all that stuff, I was thinking if it would be worth it come back,” Rivera said. “But at the same time, the love and the drive you have for the game motivated me to keep going.”
Mariano Rivera faced hitters for the second time since last year’s torn ACL. The video above is of Rivera throwing to outfielder Adonis Garcia (the video might have been better, but I wasn’t allowed any closer).
“The swings didn’t tell me much,” Rivera said. “I was telling them what I was throwing, but I felt good.”
As he’s said all along, Rivera insisted that live batting practice and bullpens aren’t a significant test. He’s been able to throw for a while now, and he’s just looking forward to getting into games to practice fielding bunts and covering first base.
“I don’t feel nothing (in the knee),” Rivera said. “The big thing is going to be game situations. That’s it. I don’t think about it at all. I don’t know if you guys have seen me run, I’m not even thinking about it. I’m running normal, like nothing ever happened.”
• Before Curtis Granderson’s injury, it was easy to dismiss guys like Melky Mesa and Zoilo Almonte as all but certain to open in Triple-A. Now they’re in the mix for a big league spot, and Girardi said he’ll be paying close attention as he tries to decide whether a young guy might be a better short-term option than either Matt Diaz or Juan Rivera. “I want someone who can do everything,” Girardi said. “Is that too much to ask? I don’t know.”
• Girardi made it clear that top prospects Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin are not really candidates for the big league opening. Neither has significant playing time above High-A. Didn’t specifically ask, but I’m assuming Ramon Flores is in the same boat.
• CC Sabathia faced hitters this morning. He’ll take two days off then face hitters again. He’s throwing sliders these days and said his elbow has been fine. “No problem,” Sabathia said. “Felt normal.”
• Phil Hughes said he walked and did some side-to-side work in the pool yesterday. He also did some shoulder exercises. Everything went well, and he’s been told that he’ll probably see the doctor on Wednesday to assess his progress. “Obviously I want to get back as soon as I can,” Hughes said. “But I’m not going ot rush it.”
• Girardi announced more upcoming starters.
Tuesday: Jose Ramirez
Wednesday: Nik Turley
Thursday: David Phelps (home), Brett Marshall (road)
• Worth watching tomorrow in Tampa: Andy Pettitte will throw live batting practice to Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin. Also tomorrow, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Hiroki Kuroda and Boone Logan will throw bullpens.
• Today’s second string: C Austin Romine, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Jose Pirela, SS Walter Ibarra, 3B Corban Joseph, LF Ramon Flores, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Tyler Austin, DH Zoilo Almonte
• Today’s listed pitchers: Vidal Nuno, Bryan Mitchell, Corey Black, Shane Greene, Ryan Pope, Kelvin Perez, Josh Spence, Chase Whitley
• David Phelps, Brett Marshall, Nik Turley, Mike O’Brien and Matt Tracy each threw bullpens today.
• Live batting practice
Facing Francisco Arcia, Rob Segedin, Thomas Neal and Adonis Garcia
Ivan Nova (throwing to Bobby Wilson)
CC Sabathia (Wilson)
Mariano Rivera (Chris Stewart)
David Aardsma (Stewart)
Clay Rapada (J.R. Murphy)
Shawn Kelley (Murphy)
Tom Kahnle (Arcia)
• Players staying behind for a workout in Tampa have been divided into these batting practice groups:
Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Eduardo Nunez, Ichiro Suzuki
Travis Hafner, Luke Murton, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis
J.R. Murphy, Chris Stewart, Bobby Wilson
• Tomorrow’s travel roster
Pitchers: Juan Cedeno, Joba Chamberlain, Preston Claiborne, Matt Daley, Jim Miller, Zach Nuding, Mike O’Brien, Kelvin Perez, Branden Pinder, Jose Ramirez, Dave Robertson, Francisco Rondon
Catchers: Francisco Arcia, J.R. Murphy, Gary Sanchez, Bobby Wilson
Infielders: Greg Bird, Robinson Cano, Cito Culver, Travis Hafner, Addison Maruszak, Luke Murton, Eduardo Nunez, Jose Pirela, Rob Segedin, Mark Teixeira, Gil Velazquez, Kevin Youkilis
Outfielders: Matt Diaz, Ramon Flores, Adonis Garcia, Melky Mesa, Ronnier Mustelier, Thomas Neal, Ichiro Suzuki
Associated Press photo
Andy Pettitte loved the idea of pitching in the World Baseball Classic. The Yankees did not.
“They weren’t crazy about it, and I understand it,” Pettitte said. “I mean, it’s understandable. I spoke with Cash and I spoke with Joe. (They said), ‘If you decide to do this, we’re going to support you,’ but obviously they were hoping it was something that I wouldn’t do, and like I said, I understand it. And at the time that I was considering it, I was just hoping they would understand, which I knew they probably couldn’t. I’ve done a lot of things in this game, but I’ve never had a chance to play for my country. I don’t know if that sounds corny, but it was a big deal for me.”
Doesn’t sound corny to me, but it also doesn’t sound unreasonable for the Yankees to have some hesitation about a 40-year-old playing in an unnecessary exhibition.
“This needed to be the focus,” Pettitte said. “I guess it just came down to not really wanting to take quite that chance of having something go wrong and then kicking yourself all year long.”
• The spring’s first workout went smoothly, but it’s always a little more boring when it’s just the pitchers and catchers. The position players really bring the place to life. Two interesting pitch counts: Phil Hughes threw 40 pitches and Clay Rapada threw 35. Rapada joked that he’s going to be a long man. Hughes explained that he’d already thrown six bullpens before today.
• Hughes isn’t alone. Quite a few of the pitchers seem more advanced than usual (including Mariano Rivera, who actually threw a bullpen today rather than waiting another week). Some of the younger guys in camp — including guys like David Phelps, Adam Warren and Chase Whitley who could be in the big league mix — have already faced hitters. Phelps, Warren and Whitley threw batting practice at the minor league complex on Monday. Whitley said he expects to face hitters when he throws his first spring bullpen tomorrow.
• Because he’s coming back from an injury, Derek Jeter is allowed to report to spring training immediately (you may remember that David Adams and Justin Maxwell came to camp with the pitchers and catchers last year), but Girardi said he doesn’t expect Jeter to report early. “I don’t think so,” Girardi said. “I think he’s doing most of his stuff down at the minor league facility, doing his drills and all his work.”
• Girardi said all of the pitchers and catchers reported to camp on time. No one was late this year. “Not that I know of,” Girardi said.
• Pettitte said he’s well aware that the Yankees might try to protect him, but he wants — even expects — to make 30 starts this season. “I know Joe is going to protect me as best he can as far as keeping my innings limited,” Pettitte said. “But I want to throw 200 innings, make all my starts. Heck, I want to win 20 games, that’s what I want to do.”
• Is this Pettitte’s last year? He said he honestly hasn’t made up his mind. “I can tell you right now, as I sit right here, I hope this is it,” he said. “But having gone through this and done this, I’m not going to shut it down again unless I know for a fact that I’m done with this.”
Associated Press photos