A first-inning decision to intentionally load the bases had backfired, but the Yankees offense had rallied. CC Sabathia’s fastball command had been erratic, but he’d settled down. Dave Robertson had put the tying run at third base, but he’d struck out three in a row.
The Yankees had been in trouble all night, but it was only when they seemed to be in safe hands — arguably the safest hands in the history of the game — that Opening Day unraveled into a stunning one-run loss.
“(Mariano Rivera) is not going to be perfect the whole year,” Joe Girardi said. “But I believe he’s going to be really, really, really good. … We’re pretty used to seeing him do it. We’ve seen it over 600 times, so when it doesn’t happen, you’re a little shocked.”
The pitch Rivera wanted back was a 1-2 cutter to Desmond Jennings. It was a leadoff single, the least damaging hit of the inning, but it was a legitimate mistake. Rivera wanted the pitch down, he left it up, and everything soon spiraled. Both Rivera and Russell Martin seemed to think the Zobrist triple was a good pitch, Zobrist just did a good job with it. Loading the bases was an obvious decision, and the Sean Rodriguez might have been pivotal if not for Carlos Pena’s three-hit, five-RBI day.
“After we got that strikeout, I thought we had a chance,” Martin said. “It’s a tough spot. You try to get out of those situations, but it’s easier said than done.”
Even for the greatest of all time.
“It’s my fault,” Rivera said. “I felt good. I’m not going to make excuses for what happened. I just left the ball over the plate. It’s bad. You don’t want to start a season that way, but thank God it’s only one game.”
• What a strange night of managerial decisions. The Yankees twice intentionally loaded the bases, the Rays put on a suicide squeeze with two strikes, and at the end the Yankees had five infielders playing on the edge of the grass while two outfielders played extremely shallow.
• Girardi said intentionally loading the bases in the first inning was because of the matchup and because of the opposing starter. CC Sabathia had great numbers against Carlos Pena, and Girardi expected a low-scoring game against James Shields. “Sean Rodriguez has hit (Sabathia) hard,” Girardi explained. “And it’s not something I’ll do a lot in the first inning with CC, but as I said, Shields has been pretty tough on us. … I felt good about CC getting him out, but it didn’t work.”
• Sabathia on the decision to load the bases: “I knew I had some success off him, but like I said, it’s a lefty so I knew if I make the right pitches then we get out of it. … It was a lefty, so I felt like it was the right move.”
• Pena on his reaction to walking Rodriguez in the first inning: “I was like, ‘Woah, they are walking Sean to get to me.’ After you get past the first, initial shock, it’s time to get to business.”
• Although the grand slam came on a 3-2 pitch, Sabathia was behind 2-0 and 3-1 in the Pena at-bat. Fastball command was an early problem for the Yankees ace. The third-inning Longoria home run came on a 1-0 pitch. “Early in the game, he wasn’t really where he wanted to be,” Russell Martin said. “But as the game went along, it looked like he started to get that comfort level back.” Sabathia pitched his final 3.2 innings scoreless.
• I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d ever actually seen a true five-man infield. I’ve seen some shifts where an outfielder plays extremely shallow, almost in the infield, but in the ninth inning the Yankees had five true infielders, all playing on the edge of the infield grass. Eduardo Nunez was playing up the middle. “Man, it has been a while,” Teixeira said. “They never ask me to go to the middle. But that was the right call there.”
• Raul Ibanez had never hit an Opening Day home run until today. It was his 14th time on an Opening Day roster and his 11th start. In the final two weeks of spring training he hit .304 with three homers, and had a fourth home run opportunity robbed by an over-the-wall catch. “Spring training’s over now and everything that happened before today is really irrelevant,” Ibanez said.
• Shields had gone at least seven innings in 11 straight starts. Tonight he lasted five innings and gave up all six Yankees runs. “I don’t ever remember scoring that many runs off him,” Teixeira said. “He’s been really tough off us. We did get a lot of guys on base, but it’d be nice to get a couple more.” The Yankees were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
• The Rays have now won five straight against the Yankees for the first time in franchise history.
• Pena was 0-for-11 with three strikeouts in his career against Rivera. He was 4-for-35 against Sabathia, including an 0-for-14 slump with 11 strikeouts.
• Alex Rodriguez has hit safely in all eight Opening Day games he has played with the Yankees, the longest streak for the franchise since Lou Gehrig hit safely in 12 straight Opening Day games from 1926 to 1937.
• I don’t think anyone expects Rivera to blow a save or for Sabathia and Shields to be knocked around on the same night, but there was something very familiar about the Yankees opener. “It was a good four-hour game,” Girardi said. “We’re back. Nothing’s changed.”
Associated Press photos
Sunday notes: “Work on what you need” • 03.25.12
Whether you’re happy with Michael Pineda’s spring training probably depends on whether you believe his fastball velocity will truly spike with added arm strength and regular-season adrenalin.
“Nobody throws hard in spring training, because it’s spring training,” Pineda said. “You think a little more, and work on what you need. Now I’m focused a little more on making good pitches. I learned from last year. That’s what I need.”
Pineda’s fastball generally sat at 90-92 mph today. He reached 93-94, but for the most part, the velocity wasn’t significantly different than we’ve seen in his previous starts. That said, there were times when his changeup seemed to be a legitimate go-to pitch, and Pineda talked about the fact he likes to add and subtract from his slider. It’s not just a power breaking ball, it’s a more nuanced pitch than that, and Pineda hasn’t been strictly a power pitcher, he’s been a little more nuanced as well.
“It’s a little surprising that he does have an idea what he wants to do,” Joe Girardi said. “He can make his slider bigger when he wants to and he can make it different for right-handers and left-handers if he wants to. It is surprising for a kid his age.”
From the moment they traded for him, the Yankees have talked about Pineda’s need to improve his changeup and add consistency. This spring he’s clearly made the changeup a focus, and it’s been a good pitch. He’s not lighting up the radar gun, but he does have a 3.31 ERA through five spring starts.
“Everybody knows last year I threw harder,” Pineda said. “So (they ask), ‘Hey, what happened to Pineda right now?’ But nothing (happened). I feel good. I can pitch. Everybody sees me. I pitch every five days. … I know last year I threw hard, so I have more power. But this is spring training, so the power is coming back.”
• Girardi on Pineda’s changeup: “I think it’s come a long ways. If you look at his tapes last year, he didn’t throw a lot of them for strikes, but you see a lot more of them for strikes and some swings and misses. That’s a good thing.”
• Forgot to mention earlier that Alex Rodriguez was actually checked out by a doctor after he was hit by a pitch today and it was determined that no tests are necessary. Sounds like he’s perfectly fine.
• Derek Jeter didn’t seem to make too much of his 2-for-3 afternoon. His second game back from a calf injury included a home run that let the Yankees get away with a 1-1 tie. “I’m just coming back,” he said. This last week and a half of spring training will be key to getting his timing ready for the season, Jeter said. So far, it looks pretty good. He’s hitting .348 this spring and really seemed to drive the ball this afternoon.
• Dave Robertson wasn’t happy with his command the last time he threw batting practice, but he said it was much better today. He went to the bullpen to throw a few more pitches after his one inning and made a “minor adjustment” to improve his curveball command. His curve was a little short during the game.
• Girardi revealed that he might have been a little more worried about Robertson than he was letting on. “He looked fine to me,” Girardi said. “That’s kind of a sigh of relief. In the back of me there’s still that little bit of concern, but he hasn’t had any issues for a week or so, so I hope we’re through it.”
• Another scoreless inning for Mariano Rivera. That’s 27 straight spring innings without an earned run. The guy’s good in the regular season, the postseason and the preseason.
• None of the players sent out of big league camp this afternoon came as surprises, but there’s something to be said for Jose Gil’s spring. Largely unheralded in the Yankees system, he hit .529/.500/.706 this spring. Probably doesn’t mean much, but he was very good.
• If you knew two months ago that this spring would include injuries to both Jeter and Eduardo Nunez, would you expect that Doug Bernier would outlast Ramiro Pena in big league camp? Bernier’s also had a tremendous spring and seems to have caught Girardi’s attention. There’s little chance he’ll actually make the team, but Girardi seems to like him.
• Other than Jeter, only Nunez, Mark Teixeira and Andruw Jones had hits for the Yankees today. Teixeira and Nunez doubled. … Brett Gardner, Jayson Nix and Dewayne Wise each had outfield assists this afternoon. … Robertson, Rivera, Rafael Soriano, Manny Delcarmen and Clay Rapada each pitched a scoreless inning out of the bullpen.
• Girardi said he won’t be at the minor league complex to watch Phil Hughes tomorrow. Girardi is going to use the off day to go to Illinois to visit his father, who’s been sick for quite some time.
• Former Yankees outfielder Greg Golson has been traded to the White Sox. He was in camp with the Royals.
Associated Press photos
At his best, Ivan Nova was unhitable today, and that’s what he and the Yankees seemed to take out of this outing.
“The command that I had — my fastball, my curveball, slider, especially the changeup today — was unbelievable,” Nova said. “Every time, here in spring training, when you’re trying to work on something, and you have a good day like today – everything was working – you’ve got to take it. You’ve got to be positive on that.”
Nova retired the first 12 batters he faced, then he closed his outing with a 1-2-3 seventh inning. He needed just 76 pitches, 58 strikes, to get through seven. In the middle, there was a two-run home run in the fifth inning and a two-run single in the sixth, but the Yankees came away yet again impressed by an outing that was better than the final pitching line might suggest. Nova’s had a couple of those this spring.
“Seven innings, five of them were really, really excellent,” Joe Girardi said. “He had the two that he struggled a little bit, but I was happy with what he did.”
• Not too far away in Clearwater, Hiroki Kuroda also finished with a pretty good game. He went 5.2 innings allowing one run on six hits. Kuroda got all the way up to 89 pitches in only his fourth start. Nova was making his fifth start and said he expects to start two more before breaking camp.
• The Yankees starters have performed well since Andy Pettitte signed, but Nova said that’s more about time than timing. “I think right now, everybody is in better shape than two weeks ago,” he said. “You’re going to see a lot of good results. Everybody is going to pitch good because everybody is feeling better. Everybody has more command, and I know for sure that pitches are working better than two weeks ago. For me, I expect the guys to pitch well too. I know it’s a competition, but you need not one man, I need my teammates to pitch good and have a good spring.”
• Derek Jeter went 1-for-2 in his return to the lineup. He had a first-inning single and grounded into a double play in the third inning. “I said, ‘You were actually pretty smart today,’” Joe Girardi said. “He didn’t try to kill himself running to first, which was smart.”
• Girardi said there were no other injury updates. He said after the game that he still had not heard any results from MRI and CT scan on Joba Chamberlain’s dislocated ankle.
• Jeter on Chamberlain’s injury: “You feel extremely bad for him. He’s worked hard to get his arm back in shape. It seemed as though he was ahead of schedule on that, and that’s because he worked extremely hard at it. Then to have something like this, a fluke accident, you feel extremely bad for him.”
• Mariano Rivera pitched another hitless inning and has yet to allow a hit in five outings this spring. Rafael Soriano also pitched a scoreless inning out of the bullpen today.
• New father David Phelps pitched in relief of Kuroda in Clearwater and 3.1 innings allowing two runs on three hits and a walk.
• Eduardo Nunez had three hits agianst the Twins today, and Robinson Cano had three hits against the Phillies. … Francisco Cervelli had two hits to raise his average to .214. … Ramiro Pena was 1-for-1 with a solo homer today. … Russell Martin, Brett Gardner, Eric Chavez, Brandon Laird, Chris Dickersona and Dewayne Wise had one hit appiece. … Mason Williams also singled today. He’s 2-for-2 in his pair of appearances in big league camp.
• Doug Bernier had another two-hit game in another start at shortstop. It’s still hard to imagine him making this team, but he’s really had a terrific spring. His batting average is up to .385.
• Speaking of good springs with no obvious roster spot: Justin Maxwell was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. His average is up to .444 this spring.
• Despite Bobby Valentine’s criticism, Girardi offered no apologies for not going into extra innings yesterday. “I’m going to worry about our guys,” Girardi said. Apparently much of Valentine’s criticism was based on the fact he had a pitcher — Clayton Mortensen — who he wanted to get in the game. Girardi said he would have been fine with playing just the top of the 10th if Valentine had asked. “That would have been acceptable to me,” Girardi said. “But there was no communication, and usually there is. And it’s not like this is something new. There’s a lot of tied ballgames in spring training that end in the ninth inning.”
• Mortensen, by the way, was optioned out of big league camp today.
Associated Press photos
Hiroki Kuroda never looked particularly bad this spring, but he never looked overwhelmingly sharp either. Today he looked sharp. Kuroda allowed one run through four innings. Of his 59 pitches, 49 were strikes.
“Very happy with this outing compared to the last one,” Kuroda said. “My command was better. I was able to throw all my pitches where I wanted. … I’m not a power pitcher. I don’t strike out a lot of hitters. The less pitches the better.”
This was more the kind of outing the Yankees expected when they gave Kuroda $10 million this offseason.
“I thought he was really good,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought his fastball command was good. I thought his sinker was really good, (so was) his split. He threw some curveballs. Good outing for him. I thought he threw the ball well and it’s kind of what you’re going to see. He’s going to locate.”
• Robinson Cano’s first spring homer was positively crushed to right field. “I hit that one pretty good,” Cano said. “I don’t think I could any one any harder than that.” Cano said he never saw where it landed, and someone joked that it still hadn’t. “That’s good,” Cano said. “I might see it when I go out then.”
• Mariano Rivera needed eight pitches — seven strikes — to get through his scoreless fifth inning. “I feel good, thank you very much,” he said. “I felt good out there. Got a little sweat. It was good.”
• Rivera has gone 24 consecutive spring training innings without allowing an earned run. That dates back to 2008.
• Girardi’s take on Rivera’s inning: “It was the inning that I was on TV so it was a good inning to bring Mo in.”
• Dellin Betances pitched just one scoreless inning today, and that was according to plan. Betances will pitch again mid-to-late next week, and the Yankees didn’t want him to go too many days between appearances. He’s still getting stretched out, just needed to face a few hitters today. “His last two outings have been really good,” Girardi said. “He has had command of his three pitches. I’ve been very pleased. His first one, it was like a guy who hadn’t thrown since October. Since then, I’ve been very pleased with what he has done.”
• Eduardo Nunez played only four innings today, but that’s strictly because he hasn’t played in almost two weeks. His bruised right hand actually felt good the whole time, and he got an infield single to show for it. “I’ll take it,” Nunez said.
• Russell Martin has been scratched from tomorrow’s trip strictly because Girardi decided to let Martin, Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher all rest until Tuesday. “During the season I probably could have played all three of them today,” Girardi said. “But we might as well be safe.”
• The plan is for Dave Robertson to throw a bullpen tomorrow. He played catch and did more running today.
• Another hitless day for Raul Ibanez. He went 0-for-2 with a walk and is hitting .071 this spring. “I’m not worried about it,” Girardi said. “I thought his at-bats were better today. This is a guy that hasn’t played every day this spring, it’s not like he’s in a groove. We’ll get him going.”
• Freddy Garcia said this morning that he expects to miss only one start because of his swollen right hand. Girardi agreed, saying Garcia was scheduled to pitch on Monday but that outing will be pushed back. Doesn’t sound like a long-term problem.
• The plan is for Andy Pettitte to be in Tampa in time for Tuesday’s workout. He’s scheduled to throw a bullpen that day. Wonder what I’ll be writing about that day.
• Pettitte’s old locker has been assigned to Kuroda, and word is that the clubhouse guys are going to choose a new spot for Pettitte rather than move Kuroda. What woudl Kuroda do if Pettitte asked for his old spot? “Of course I’m going to move out somewhere (if he asks),” Kuroda said. Someone jokingly asked what would have if Pettitte, for some reason, wanted Kuroda’s number too. Kuroda laughed. “I would be honored to give him my number,” he said. I doubt that’s going to be an issue.
Associated Press photos
Ivan Nova never seemed especially worried, but after two sloppy starts this spring, the time was right for him to finally have a good one. Tonight he finally found the strike zone and delivered four scoreless innings. He struck out the final two big league hitters he faced, getting Jacoby Ellsbury on an inside fastball and getting Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a slider.
“I just want to have good stuff,” Nova said. “Not only the good stuff, but when you don’t have the best stuff, you’ve got to pitch. That’s something I did today compared to what I did in Toronto the other day. I had the good stuff but I didn’t pitch. I think in Toronto I had (better) stuff than I had today … but I pitched, and that’s the difference.”
Nova has shown good fastball velocity and pretty good offspeed pitches all spring, the problem has been fastball command. Today, he had the command as well. He threw 55 pitches, 35 for strikes, and he consistently worked ahead in the count.
“I was more aggressive, let the hitters hit the ball,” Nova said. “I’ve got eight people behind me. You’ve got to pitch to contact, you’ve got to throw strikes. … I’m a really confident guy. It doesn’t matter if I pitch good or not, you’ve got to keep your head up (and) you’ve got to keep working. I knew that I would pitch good one day. You’ve got to look forward to the next start, and today I’m going to enjoy it, and get it behind me and wait for the next start.”
• Mariano Rivera laughed when asked if he’s ready for the season to begin. “Tomorrow,” he said. Essentially Rivera got four outs today, pitching around an error for a scoreless fifth inning. “You have to work, you know?” he said. “It’s not just go in there and do whatever you want, you have to work on your pitches and work that strike zone.”
• Rivera’s next outing will likely come either Friday or Saturday. At this point, it seems like he might pitch a little more than his usually eight or nine spring innings. “That’s alright as long as we get eight, nine,” Rivera said. “It will be enough.”
• Dave Robertson ran on an eliptical machine today and could do some light jogging on a treadmill tomorrow. Joe Girardi said there’s a chance Robertson could be on a mound by the weekend.
• The plan is for Eduardo Nunez to take the next three days off. Girardi said Nunez should need only a week to 10 days to be ready for the regular season. He wouldn’t need nearly as much time as Dave Robertson. “You would think that you could get him enough playing time,” Girardi said. “The great thing about minor-league games is you can get him 10 at-bats in one day if you wanted to. You can’t have a pitcher throw 10 innings in one day if they’re a one-inning guy. It’s different.”
• George Kontos came through today’s batting practice just fine, in fact, he was happy with his stuff and doesn’t feel like he lost much during his time off. He’s scheduled to get in a game on Friday.
• Asked which bullpen candidates have made a strong impression, Girardi seemed to be thinking along an obvious theme. “Our lefties have thrown the ball pretty decent,” he said. “(Clay) Rapada has thrown the ball pretty well, Juan (Cedeno) has thrown the ball pretty well, Cesar (Cabral) has thrown the ball pretty well. We think we’ve got some options if we decide to take another lefty. Time will tell.”
• Speaking of which: Another hitless inning for Boone Logan who’s looked really sharp this spring. He pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning against Aviles, Pedroia and Ellsbury. The only lefty he faced was Ellsbury, who struck out.
• Another nice outing for David Phelps, who took the loss despite five strikeouts in 2.2 innings. The only run of the game came on a single to right field, where Zoilo Almonte misplayed the ball, after which David Adams made a bad relay throw turning the single into an unearned run. It was a 1-0 Red Sox win because of that play.
• Rapada came in to face one batter, a lefty, and got him to ground out.
• Four hits for the Yankees: Russell Martin, Alex Rodriguez, Corban Joseph and Andruw Jones. All of them were singles.
• Girardi wouldn’t give a specific timetable for Dan Burawa’s return from a torn oblique, but it’s going to be much more than a couple of days. “It could be a while,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure. He hurt his side. I haven’t gotten a timetable. A lot of times ribcage injuries can be tough.”
• Suzyn Waldman was profiled on the Baseball Hall of Fame website. The HOF is celebrating Women’s History Month.
• I’m sure I’ll do a full post on this tomorrow, but the Yankees announced today that individual game tickets will first be made available to the public through a MasterCard pre-on-sale online at yankees.com and yankeesbeisbol.com, and via Ticketmaster phone from March 22 at 10:00 a.m. until March 25 at 10:00 p.m. For those using other accepted methods of payment, the general public on-sale will begin on Tuesday, March 27 at 10:00 a.m. at yankees.com and yankeesbeisbol.com, and via Ticketmaster.
Associated Press photos
Hiroki Kuroda said he usually gets off to slow starts in spring training. He leans on an assortment of pitches, and it makes sense that it might take him a while to get comfortable with all of them. Despite pitching three scoreless innings tonight, the new Yankees starter wasn’t happy.
“I don’t think I had all my stuff today,” he said. “Nothing was really consistent. Two-seamer wasn’t there. Cutter wasn’t cutting.”
Joe Girardi said the problem was consistency in the strike zone. Kuroda wasn’t throwing as many quality strikes, and so he had a few more runners on base. He didn’t throw many splitfingers tonight — arguably his best pitch — but he used to to strikeout No. 3 hitter Brian Bogusevic with the bases loaded in the third inning.
“I think probably most of the nights he’s going to have the split and he’s going to have his cutter and he’s going to have his sinker and four-seamer and his slider,” Girardi said. “But early in spring training, it’s hard to get them all going because you’re not out there long enough.”
• Typical for a night game in spring training, the clubhouse was pretty empty after the game. Pretty much everyone expect the guys who were still playing had already gone home, so notes are pretty night tonight.
• One guy who stood out was Dellin Betances. The big right-hander threw two scoreless innings with two strikeouts and one harmless single. “Good curveball. Good changeup. Good fastball,” Girardi said. “Throwing a lot of strikes.”
• No significant injury updates tonight. Girardi said, as far as he knows, everyone came through tonight’s game with no problems and he’s encouraged by the fact Dave Robertson was able to play catch. “He definitely feels better, so that’s a good sign,” Girardi said.
• Girardi was disappointed because the Yankees didn’t turn a double play — leading to two runs in the ninth — and they failed to catch a popup in foul territory which led to a run in the fourth. Ultimately, the Yankees lost 4-3 and had just five hits. They gave up 12 hits.
• Nick Swisher had an RBI triple in the sixth and J.R. Murphy had an RBI single in the ninth. The other Yankees run scored on a ground out. Robinson Cano, Dewayne Wise and Jose Gil — who’s have a nice spring — had the other Yankees hits.
• Girardi said he though Rafael Soriano threw the ball “alright” and should have pitched a scoreless inning had the Yankees caught that popup. It looked like Francisco Cervelli’s ball, but he seemed to not see it until it was too late.
• Nice work by my friend Jon Paul Morosi who took a look back at the day Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera were optioned to Triple-A on the same day. It’s a nice read on the pair of iconic teammates.
• Also, head over to Yankees Fans Unite to read a Q&A with shortstop prospect Cito Culver.
Associated Press photo
Spread across two different spring training sites, separated by a little more than two hours worth of highway, a little less than half of the Yankees projected big league pitching staff got on the mound this afternoon. Phil Hughes faced the Twins in Fort Myers. CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, Boone Logan and Cory Wade faced the Phillies in Tampa.
Their combined line: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K.
Most of the attention was naturally on Rivera, and that’s probably the way it’s going to be throughout the season. If the expectation is that he’ll retire at the end of the season, then every one of his outings carries a little extra significance. There’s a little added appreciation to every step along the way. Rivera, Logan and Wade each pitched a hitless inning today, but the bulk of the innings belongs to the starting pitchers.
Before the game, Sabathia told Russell Martin that he wanted to work on his two-seamer and his changeup, and those pitches were the focus of the afternoon. Sabathia wasn’t happy with his fastball command last time out, but he was much better this time, and he got better in the second and third innings.
Sabathia: “Felt good. The fastball command was pretty good, the secondary pitches were working. I still got a little ways to go, you know. I still want to work on my two-seamer. But I feel good today… Fastball command (improved). Getting it in on righties, and Russ did a good job making sure we got a lot of those. He called a lot of two-seamers which is something that we’ve been working on all spring. He did a good job of working in things we were trying to do.”
Martin: “He was great. What I liked about him was he had some good velocity. I don’t know how hard he was throwing, but it felt like the ball was jumping out of his hand. And he threw some good changeups. He threw his curveball for strikes. We talked before the game, he wanted to work on his two-seamer a lot and his changeup, I think we did a good job of that today. We threw some two-seamers in for lefties, made them uncomfortable. Locked a guy up with a slider for a puncy. Threw some good changeups down in the zone off his fastball. He was good today.”
3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
Joe Girardi went on the road to see Hughes make his second spring appearance. Last time out, Hughes’ arm strength was much better than at this time last season, and his fastball remained in the low 90s this afternoon. I wasn’t there to see it, but it seems to be another solid step forward.
Hughes: “The cutter wasn’t as good as it was last time, but the curveball was much better. Fastball location was much better, as well. Command-wise, it was a lot better, especially in the second and third innings… It seemed like my fastball was good. It was jumping on hitters a little bit based on the swings I was getting. That was a positive thing. Being able to work out of some trouble with guys on, they put together some good at-bats in the first and I was able to get around those.”
Girardi: “I thought he had everything today. Fastball location was much better, he threw some good changeups, curveballs and cutters. I was very pleased. I thought it was a nice step in a positive direction for him. A lot of times at this point in the first couple starts, I’m focusing on the good things. Knowing that they are rusty, you don’t expect them to have their A stuff a lot of times. You want to see what they’ve got the first couple starts. I was pleased.”
• Dave Robertson is supposed to get his walking boot off tomorrow, but that’s subject to change depending on how he feels. “If he comes in and he’s walking okay and it’s not too painful, he’ll come out of the boot,” Girardi said. “If it’s still pretty painful, we’ll put him back in the boot.” For whatever it’s worth, Robertson seemed to be walking much more easily today.
• Eduardo Nunez could be in a game as early as Tuesday. “We’ll have him take BP Tuesday, and if he has no problem, I’ll put him in the game,” Girardi said.
• Really nice game by Chris Dickerson here in Tampa. He made a nice running play in center field, had the two-run single that gave the Yankees the lead, and he stayed in a rundown long enough to let runners advance to second and third. I’m still surprised no team thought they could carry him as a fourth outfielder this year. He’s a nice player.
• Russell Martin stole another base today. That’s four steals in five games for the Yankees catcher. “I’m putting a little pressure on Gardy,” Martin said. “That’s all I’m doing.” Might be working because Gardner also had a stolen base today. It was Gardner’s second.
• Derek Jeter went 2-for-3 — and had another hit taken away by a nice catch in center field — in the Yankees 3-1 win against the Phillies. Dickerson, Robinson Cano, Gustavo Molina, Bill Hall, Justin Maxwell and call-up-for-the-day Austin Krum also had hits in the win. … Francisco Cervelli went 3-for-3 in the 5-1 loss to the Twins. Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Gary Sanchez, Jayson Nix and Corban Joseph also had hits in that game, as did call-up-for-the-day Walter Ibarra.
• Clay Rapada, Chase Whitley and Kevin Whelan were able to keep the shutout intact in Tampa. … In Fort Myers, Adam Warren allowed one run through three innigns, but the game unraveled when Graham Stoneburner allowed a solo homer in the seventh inning and Adam Miller gave up a three-run homer in the eighth. All five Twins runs came on home runs.
• Add Dan Burawa to the injured list. Girardi said today that Burawa hurt his ribcage yesterday. “He’s probably down for a little bit,” Girardi said. Burawa seemed to be making a pretty good impression this spring but was still just here to get his feet wet. He’s not realistically in the big league picture this season.
• Once again Girardi said Austin Romine is making steady progress from his sore back, but the Yankees are staying extra cautious. There’s no rush to get Romine into regular duty in spring training. “If he’s a backup here, he’s not going to play every day,” Girardi said. “And if he’s in the minor leagues, he’s going to play every day, so you can work him up to three and four days in a row down there. That’s not a problem. I want to see him playing healthy before we leave; that’s the most important thing.”
• A lot of guys up from minor league camp today, but center field standout Mason Williams wasn’t among them. Girardi said today that he expects Williams to come up for a big league game at some point this spring. Girardi’s never seen him play, but “I’m interested,” he said.
• After fracturing the bone around his eye earlier this spring, A.J. Burnett has returned to Pirates camp. He’s still expected to miss two to three months.
• During a surprise Facetime conversation, Alex Rodriguez, Dave Robertson and Tino Martinez spoke with Stephanie Decker, the mother that lost both legs while protecting her two children from a tornado in Indiana last week.
• Want further proof that Mariano Rivera pretty much sets his own schedule in spring training? Here’s Girardi’s I-have-no-idea answer to a question about what’s next for Rivera after today’s debut appearance: “He’ll probably have some days where he has a couple days off. He might throw an inning, do a bullpen the next time, then throw an inning again. He usually gets his seven or eight appearances in, so he’s got plenty of time to do that. There’s no rush.”
Associated Press photos
Dave Robertson was moving boxes at his Tampa-area home last night when he stumbled down some stairs. Joe Girardi said it was more like he missed one step, not necessarily went tumbling down an entire flight. His right foot felt fine initially but it eventually became sore and Robertson went for x-rays, which were negative. He’s getting an MRI this morning and is currently wearing a walking boot as a precaution and for comfort.
“They were empty boxes,” Girardi said. “They weren’t even heavy boxes. I told to just kick them down the steps next time.”
There is some concern, obviously. Girardi said Robertson wasn’t walking very well this morning, and the official diagnosis so far is a mid-foot sprain. Girardi said there was no swelling, which he’s taking to be a good sign. Because he’s a reliever, Robertson could miss several days and not be at serious risk of missing the start of the season.
Until the MRI comes back, it’s really too early to know how much time Robertson will miss and whether Opening Day is at risk.
• Joba Chamberlain will throw another bullpen tomorrow, and he’ll throw breaking balls for the first time on Sunday. Those breaking balls won’t come off a mound. He’ll throw them off flat ground. He said things are still going well with his rehab from Tommy John.
• Raul Ibanez has seen most of his time in left field, but he played a lot of right field when he was younger and the Yankees want him to be able to play both outfield corners. That’s why he’s in right field today, to get a few reps out there before the season. “I’m pretty confident that he’s going to play it fine,” Girardi said.
• Eduardo Nunez will take batting practice today, but Girardi still not sure he’ll be ready to play tomorrow. There doesn’t seem to be any significant concern about him, just taking things slowly and making sure he’s ready.
• George Kontos will throw a bullpen tomorrow. If that goes well, hell fall back into a regular spring routine and could face hitters within a few days.
• Cole Garner, who’s been shutdown with a sore hamstring, is making today’s trip to Dunedin but he’s not scheduled to play.
• Today’s sides: Graham Stoneburner, Brett Marshall, Phil Hughes and CC Sabathia.
• Tomorrow’s sides: Brad Meyers, Adam Warren, Joba Chamberlain, Cory Wade, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada and Hiroki Kuroda.
• Today’s available pitchers: Ivan Nova, Michael O’Connor, Dellin Betances, David Phelps, Cesar Cabral, Dan Burawa, Adam Miller, Ryan Pope, Chase Whitley and Juan Cedeno.
• Today’s second string: C J.R. Murphy, 1B Brandon Laird, 2B David Adams, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Jorge Vazquez, LF Zoilo Almonte, CF Melky Mesa, RF Chris Dickerson, DH Colin Curtis
Associated Press photo
Pregame notes: Rivera ready to face hitters • 03.04.12
All of the days tend to blend together down here, and progress is marked only by minor landmarks along the way. The first full-squad workout is an early one. The first time pitchers face live hitters is another. The first Grapefruit League game is a big one.
Of course, you can also use Mariano Rivera to mark the passing of time.
There’s the day he shows up (only one day late this year). The day he finally decides to throw a bullpen. The day he begins speculating about when he’ll actually get in a game. And you know you’re well into the spring schedule when Rivera is actually scheduled to pitch.
The Rivera calendar takes another step forward tomorrow, when the Yankees closer faces live hitters for the first time. Rivera will throw early batting practice tomorrow morning with Rafael Soriano. Chris Dickerson and Francisco Cervelli will have the pleasure of trying to hit against them.
Early spring training is officially over.
• On their usual starter’s schedule after pitching Friday, Adam Warren, Graham Stoneburner and Brett Marshall are throwing sides today. Warren said yesterday that he expects the starting pitchers to stay on a usual five-day schedule the rest of the way.
• Tomorrow’s sides: Ivan Nova, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, David Phelps and Brad Meyers. This will be the first side for Meyers, the Rule 5 pick who’s been dealing with a sore shoulder since the start of spring training.
• George Kontos has played catch the past two days. He’ll go throw regular workouts with no throwing today, then he’ll play long toss tomorrow. He’s progressing as expected from a sore oblique.
• Today’s available pitchers: Freddy Garcia gets the start followed by D.J. Mitchell, Boone Logan, Cory Wade, Clay Rapada, Kevin Whelan, Chase Whitley, Juan Cedeno, Adam Miller, Ryan Pope and Dan Burawa. My guess is that the guys after Whitley are backups today.
• Today’s second string: C J.R. Murphy, 1B Jose Gil, 2B David Adams, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Corban Joseph, LF Colin Curtis, CF Melky Mesa, RF Zoilo Almonte. There’s no backup DH listed.
• Tomorrow’s traveling players (including starter Michael Pineda and reliever Dave Robertson, scheduled to make their first appearances):
Pitchers: Dan Burawa, Cesar Cabral, Juan Cedeno, Brett Marshall, Adam Miller, Michael O’Connor, Michael Pineda, Ryan Pope, Dave Robertson, Graham Stoneburner.
Catchers: Jose Gil, Russell Martin, Gustavo Molina, J.R. Murphy, Gary Sanchez
Infielders: David Adams, Doug Bernier, Eric Chavez, Bill Hall, Corban Joseph, Brandon Laird, Jayson Nix, Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena, Jorge Vazquez
Outfielders: Zoilo Almonte, Colin Curtis, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Raul Ibanez, Justin Maxwell, Melky Mesa, Nick Swisher
UPDATE, 9:44 a.m.: How many Phillies starters have you heard of?
Tyson Gililes CF
Scott Podsednik DH
Ty Wigginton 3B
Hunter Pence RF
Domonic Brown LF
John Mayberry Jr. 1B
Michael Martinez 2B
Freddy Galvis SS
Tuffy Gosewisch C
RHP Roy Halladay
Associated Press photo
This has nothing to do with Mariano Rivera’s arm. Anthony McCarron of the Daily News and Barbara Barker of Newsday both reported on Twitter that the Yankees’ closer said at a charity function today that his vocal cords have been issue for a month, that the problem is making it difficult for him to talk and that he could need surgery.
Rivera plans to consult with a specialist early next week.
In other Yankees news, the team announced its plan for 2012 ticket costs today. The price of watching a game from the bleachers, for those of you who want an unobscured view, will be rising $5. But overall the cost of more than 70 percent of the tickets will be remaining the same or are going to be cut. Field level outfield seats along fair territory will be reduced from $10 to $35. The Yankees say almost a third of the seats in the house for next season will run $30 or less. And the rest …
Anyway here’s a link to a yankees.com story that reviews the specifics, including info on their new nine- and 12-game ticket plans: http://atmlb.com/vqc6CY