Today in The Journal News • 05.02.10
Another rocky start from Javier Vazquez ended with a loss for the Yankees on Saturday, but it wasn’t Vazquez who got the decision, and the final result might not have been the biggest blow. The bullpen blew a lead and Curtis Granderson went on the disabled list. Josh Thomson has the story.
A.J. Burnett played no role in the game, but Joe Girardi has joked more than once that his No. 2 starter could be an emergency catcher if need be. Turns out, Burnett hardly pitched in high school and seemed about as likely to catch as pitch when he turned pro. He’s one of several Yankees who have seen the game as both a hitter and a pitcher.
Looking for a surprise • 03.23.10
Aside from the 25 players who seem to be favorites for the Opening Day roster, there are still 14 others in big league camp with the Yankees. Could any of these play their way onto the roster?
Two straight seasons on the opening day roster, but that trend will probably come to an end this spring. He’s really struggled with a sinker that hasn’t sunk. On the roster? On his way to Scranton to get things worked out. He was pitching very well at the end of last season.
Might be on waivers, but he’s still in camp. Pitched well for the Yankees last season, but he seems to have been passed by Sergio Mitre. On the roster? It obviously doesn’t look good.
He’s on the 40-man and he’s had a nice spring — .300/.364/.550 with plus speed and defense — but he has yet to prove himself as a consistent hitter in the minor leagues. On the roster? More likely in Scranton trying to prove himself with the bat.
Joe Girardi seems to view a second lefty as a luxury, not a necessity. Logan has an option remaining, so he can be sent to Triple-A. That’s probably not good news for him. He has pitched well, though. On the roster? Not if the Yankees plan to keep the four remaining fifth-starter candidates.
One rocky outing, but otherwise he’s been solid this spring. The Chan Ho Park signing probably crowded out any chances he had of breaking camp with the big league club. On the roster? Not now. Check back in June.
Remember when the Yankees signed Nick Johnson? That was the day Miranda was bumped out of the big league mix. He’s insurance at this point. On the roster? Not as long as Johnson is healthy.
In camp to help handle the extra pitchers but has almost no chance of breaking camp with the team. Needs a chance to play regularly at Triple-A, but obviously Jesus Montero stands in the way. On the roster? A simple, no.
Veteran depth behind the plate, Rivera is around as insurance. He’s clearly behind Francisco Cervelli, and his .125 spring average probably hasn’t helped. On the roster? Not unless someone gets hurt.
Another pitcher who has done well this spring but seems crowded out of the bullpen. Even if the Yankees were to carry a second left, Logan might be the better bet. On the roster? Probably battling Logan for a call-up from Scranton.
He’s a polished hitter, and he’s proven that this spring, but his limited experience at shortstop and in the outfield leaves him as a tough fit for the Yankees. On the roster? Probably not on Opening Day, but keep an eye on his Scranton numbers.
I’ll be perfectly honest: I was surprised Sanit even got a big league invite, but the Yankees clearly saw some things and he’s proven worth the spot with a terrific spring. He won’t break camp with New York, but if he keeps this up he could push for a call-up. On the roster? No, but made a more compelling case than expected.
Minor league veteran was signed to a minor league deal this winter. He’s been solid this spring, but he’s pretty far down on the depth chart. On the roster? It’s a bit difficult to even find a spot for him in Scranton.
Not at all flashy, but the guy knows how to hit and he’s shown it time and again this spring. Being left-handed takes his slim chances and makes them almost nil. On the roster? No. But he might have opened some eyes.
One of the more interesting minor league free agent signings, Winfree is still just 24 and has shown good power. The Yankees say he’s competing for a bench role, but it’s hard to see that happening with Thames in the mix. On the roster? Might be the only guy who could give Thames a challenge, but it still seems unlikely. Mid-season replacement? Very possible.
Four weeks ago, camp opened with the Yankees needing to answer a series of questions before Opening Day in Boston. With three weeks left on the spring training schedule, the Yankees are getting closer to some of those answers.
1. Who is the No. 5 starter? Of the five candidates, Alfredo Aceves has been the best and Joba Chamberlain has been the worst, but it’s hard to know how much any of that matters. General thinking seems to be that Phil Hughes is the favorite for the job, and he’s probably pitched well enough to hold onto that label.
2. Where does the rotation’s odd man out open the season? When spring training opened, this seemed to be question strictly about Hughes and Chamberlain. Was it possible one of them could open in Triple-A rather than the bullpen? Now that long reliever Chan-Ho Park is in the mix, though, the Yankees might need to find some alternative destinations for some of their other spot-starter/long-relief type pitchers. We’re still a pretty long way from those decisions, though.
3. Is Brett Gardner an everyday outfielder? Gardner is hitting just .158 this spring, but thats better than Marcus Thames, Randy Winn or Jamie Hoffmann. The numbers that might matter most for Gardner at the plate are 2 and 4: Two strikeouts and four walks. He and Nick Johnson are tied for the team lead in walks.
4. Who is the starting center fielder? Still very much up in the air, but it is interesting that Gardner has started in left field three times while Curtis Granderson has started there only once while playing center field six times.
5. Who bats second? This seems to be an answered question: Nick Johnson.
6. Is it worth keeping a Rule 5 pick on the roster? Jamie Hoffmann isn’t exactly off to a blazing start this spring, but neither is Marcus Thames, his primary competition for an outfield job off the bench. David Winfree, Colin Curtis and Greg Golson are each playing pretty well, but the Yankees can send those three to Triple-A. If they don’t keep one of Hoffmann and Thames, the Yankees will lose both of them.
7. Does the team need a second lefty? Need one? Probably not. Want one? Maybe. Every lefty has been reassigned except Damaso Marte, Boone Logan and Royce Ring. Both Logan and Ring have looked awfully good this spring. They’re making a good case for themselves.
8. If not a second lefty, who rounds out the bullpen? Some of the dark horse bullpen candidates (Ivan Nova, Kevin Whelan, Grant Duff) have already been reassigned, another (Edwar Ramirez) has been traded and another (Jonathan Albaladejo) has been awful. The Park signing made it significantly harder for someone to sneak into the bullpen, but Mark Melancon has been outstanding this spring. Jason Hirsh might also have put his name on that list of pitchers to keep an eye on.
9. Who is the utility infielder? Ramiro Pena still seems like the favorite — that glove is really, really impressive — but Kevin Russo has really played well. He has more walks than strikeouts, he’s made some nice plays at second base and he seems good for a hit a game, even with limited at-bats.
10. Have any bullpen roles shifted? Just as a hypothetical… What if Chamberlain struggles like this all spring? Would you put Hughes in the rotation and Dave Robertson in the eighth inning? Basically, we won’t know whether bullpen roles have shifted until the team breaks camp. It’s way too early to say one way or another.
Notes from Saturday • 03.06.10
Francisco Cervelli will be checked out again on Sunday, and he’ll see a neurologist on Monday. Depending on how those two appointments go, Cervelli could be back in the lineup by the middle of next week.
“Maybe Tuesday or Wednesday, but I’m not going to rush it,” Joe Girardi said.
This is Cervelli’s second concussion in the past four months. He also had one in November when he was hit in the head by a bat during winter ball. He was catching and the batter got him on the left side of his head, right where today’s pitch from Zech Zinicola landed.
Here’s Cervelli talking about his noggin.
That’s Jesus Montero in the picture, but Girardi said this afternoon that his No. 3 catcher is Mike Rivera. If this Cervelli situation proves worse than expected, it’s Rivera who would likely open the season on the Yankees bench.
“He has big league experience,” Girardi said. “He knows what the job entails. That’s why we went out and got him.”
Rivera has been in the big leagues each of the past four years, and he was in the big leagues for parts of three seasons before that. He has a higher career batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage than Jose Molina.
Here’s the Girardi audio.
• Jorge Posada on A.J. Burnett’s changeup: “He’s starting it down, that’s the big thing. He’s finishing it well. There was one of them that was up, hit off the end of the bat, but I thought he did a great job.”
• Change of plans for tomorrow’s travel squad. Cervelli (obviously) will not go. Instead, Rivera will go to catch Gaudin and Mitre. Amaury Sanit will also not travel after getting in today’s game.
• Another nice outing from Boone Logan, who pitched two hitless innings and retired three lefties: Lyle Overbay, Jeremy Reed and Travis Snider. After his four-up, four-down debut — also retiring three lefties — he’s making a strong case (but a very early case) for a spot in New York.
• Mark Melancon also looked awfully good again today, so did Jason Hirsh. Both finished off strikeouts with good curveballs. Oh, and don’t sleep on Kevin Russo, who had another hit and made a nice diving play at second.
• Dave Eiland confirmed that Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte and Chan Ho Park will each throw a batting practice session on Monday. They are the only pitchers in camp who have not faced live hitters.
• Andy Pettitte has a two-inning simulated game tomorrow morning and will move forward as if he pitched in a real game. “It will count as his first start,” Eiland said.
• If you missed it in the game post, Nick Johnson took batting practice this morning and felt good after. “I took a few swings in the cage,” he said. “Felt loose.”
• I don’t want to make a big deal of it, but Kei Igawa did pitch well yesterday and this afternoon Girardi said he couldn’t rule out the idea of Igawa creating a place for himself as a left-handed reliever. Just throwing it out there.
Notes from Thursday • 03.04.10
Nick Johnson said he could have played today. He “for sure” would have played if this were a regular-season game, but he felt something in his lower back and the Yankees decided to play it safe.
“You’re cautious in spring training because it’s a time when you can give guys a couple of days,” Joe Girardi said. “And as a DH you can make up at-bats pretty easy.”
Girardi said he didn’t treat Johnson any differently because of his injury history, and Johnson said his injury history didn’t cause him to overreact to today’s relatively mild situation. To be on the safe side, Girardi said Johnson will likely sit out tomorrow as well.
“It won’t be too long,” Johnson said. “I’m not really worried about that.”
• Joba Chamberlain should be good to go tomorrow. Girardi had no update on him this morning, but said this afternoon that he expects Chamberlain to be healthy enough to pitch. “He’ll be OK tomorrow unless something comes back,” Girardi said.
• Nice work by Boone Logan today. He retired all four batters he faced, and three of them were lefties.
• Speaking of relievers pitching well, Mark Melancon looked sharp today. He struck out two in his one inning of work, and made Jayson Werth look pretty bad on a curveball.
• Zack Segovia, Zach McAllister and Ivan Nova each pitched a hitless inning… Jose Gil and David Winfree each had ninth-inning RBIs… Colin Curtis had another hit… Greg Golson pinch ran, stole a base and scored a run.
• Jesus Montero singled in his first spring at-bat. I was in the clubhouse at the time, but I assume it circled the globe before dropping into right field.
• I know it’s spring training and it’s too early to be especially impressed or disappointed by a pitcher, but Roy Halladay looked awfully good this afternoon. He threw 24 pitches, 21 for strikes. “He hasn’t changed much, that’s for sure,” Girardi said. “That’s who he is, he’s a strike-throwing machine who knows how to locate with movement.”
• Turns out, Melancon grew up near Halladay and watched him pitch in high school. When Melancon was younger, Halladay actually called to give him some advice about the draft.
Notes from Day 1 • 02.17.10
There wasn’t much breaking news coming out of Steinbrenner Field this morning. The Yankees pitchers and catchers showed up, then some of them talked, then all of them left. For a first day of spring training, it was pretty much exactly what you would expect.
As for some smaller notes from the day, here’s one that is quite literally smaller.
Who’s in shape and who’s not always seems to be an early spring training question, and the only player I saw who was a noticeably different size was Jonathan Albaladejo, who said he lost 30 pounds this winter. “A lot of running,” he said.
For the first time since he turned pro, Albaladejo did not play winter ball in Puerto Rico. He instead focused on getting into shape. “I definitely feel more fresh,” he said. “My arm feels more life.”
• For now, Phil Hughes is only throwing fastballs and changeups in his bullpen sessions, and he expects to throw one more bullpen before he mixes in curveballs and cutters. He compared the development of his changeup to last year’s development of the cutter. “I’ll concentrate on it all spring,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll get it to a point where it’s a solid pitch for me. It just comes with repetition.”
• Along the left wall, the first group of lockers goes in this order: CC Sabathia, Joba Chamberlain, Javier Vazquez, Chad Gaudin, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. That’s a clearly defined section if I’ve ever seen one.
• One random locker assignment comes on the right side of the back wall: Nick Swisher, Marcus Thames, Randy Winn, Curtis Granderson, Reid Gorecki and Mark Teixeira. Poor Gorecki is going to be surrounded by writers every day without being asked a single question. Unless it’s a question about one of the guys sitting near him.
• Congratulations to Mark Melancon, who got married this winter. Also congratulations to Jason Hirsh, who had hardly said hello before he flipped open his phone to show me a picture of his newborn.
• Speaking of Hirsh, I still consider him one of the sleepers of big league camp, and he came up with a great line to explain his offseason conditioning. “Functional training instead of meathead lifting,” he said. Nice.
• Jorge Posada said he watched that World Series highlight DVD this winter. I’m sure a lot of Yankees watched it, but Posada was the first I’ve heard talking about it. “I watched it and you can’t believe it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
• I doubt I’ll have any reason to write more than five words about D.J. Mitchell this winter, but I did get to meet him this morning. Really nice guy. He said he found out on Monday that the Yankees made him a late addition to big league camp. He drove from North Carolina to Tampa on Tuesday, and was in camp this morning. He’s a sinker baller who climbed from Low-A to High-A last season. The Yankees haven’t told him where they expect him to open this season.
“Next in line” for the bullpen • 02.12.10
Interesting list over at USA Today, ranking 100 Names You Need to Know for the upcoming baseball season. It’s not a ranking of prospect talent, but rather a ranking of which young players could have the biggest impact this season. To be included, a player had to have more innings or at-bats in the minor leagues last season than during all of his major league career.
Phil Hughes doesn’t fit that standard, neither does Brett Gardner. The highest Yankee on USA Today’s list is Mark Melancon at No. 52.
“Next in line to continue the run of success the Yankees had last season with young pitchers setting up in front of closer Mariano Rivera, Melancon, 24, should fill one of the openings. He’s a hard thrower with a sharp-breaking curve. Groomed as a reliever since turning pro in 2006, he has bounced back well from missing 2007 after Tommy John elbow surgery.”
I’ve written before that it wouldn’t surprise me to see Melancon open the season in Triple-A but finish it in a key spot in the big league bullpen. That’s the path Dave Robertson followed last year, and I could see the same happening with Melancon. There’s a lot of talent there, and those two could really solidify the seventh and eighth innings.
Other Yankees on the list:
• No. 56, Zach McAllister: “Among the first to be considered if there’s a need for a major league starter.”
• No. 58, Jamie Hoffmann: “Has plenty of speed and is a consistent contact hitter.”
• No. 66, Jesus Montero: “Barring an emergency, his initial stay won’t be long because he has had only a half-season at Class AA and needs to continue developing his defensive game.”
For whatever it’s worth, I actually think Montero might be ranked a bit too high, only because I don’t see him having a significant impact this season. Hoffmann is also probably too high now that Marcus Thames is in the mix. If I could add a name to the list, it would probably be Ivan Nova. He looked good enough at the end of last season to suggest he could play a role either as an emergency starter or as a reliever.
Other familiar names on the USA Today list: Austin Jackson at No. 19, Dan McCutchen at No. 84 and Jose Tabata at No. 86.
The whole list is pretty interesting. Thanks to mlbtraderumors for linking to it. That’s where I first saw it.