The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Postgame notes: Banuelos holds his own03.14.11

Joe Girardi was asked tonight whether he knew many 20-year-olds who would be willing to throw a 3-2 changeup to Kevin Youkilis. When he said no, Girardi was asked if he knew many 30-year-olds who would be willing to throw a 3-2 changeup to Youkilis.

“How old is CC?” he said.

Manny Banuelos wasn’t perfect tonight, but he showed the Yankees — and himself — that he has the stuff to face big league hitters and get them out. He struck out Carl Crawford on a fastball, he got back-to-back ground balls to escape a bases-loaded jam, and he made Youkilis look bad on a 3-2 change that was his last pitch of the game.

“It’s a lot for me because now I know how I can pitch,” Banuelos said. “I have an idea how can I mix the pitches to the major league hitters. It’s a lot different, minor league to the major league hitters. Now I have an idea, how can I throw, what pitch can I use against the big hitters?”

Before the game, Brian Cashman made it clear that there was nothing Banuelos could do to change the Yankees plans. He’s going to open the season in Trenton.

“What we’re looking for, I’m not expecting for him to provide at this time,” Cashman said.

This was never going to be the night that pushed Banuelos into the big league rotation, and this was not the night Banuelos emerged as a front-line prospect. This was simply the night he got his first taste of the big stage. His command was off and he got into a lot of deep counts, but Banuelos more than held his own against a legitimate big league lineup. He showed some flaws, and he showed a lot of promise.

“I feel ready for this,” he said.

The Yankees will wait. They’ll let Banuelos develop a little longer and they’ll try to show some patience, but there is an obvious excitement about this kid. And that excitement is starting to spread.

“Let’s put it this way: Probably most people couldn’t pronounce his name before camp,” Cashman said. “I think everybody pronounces it now, accurately.”

Here’s Banuelos in the clubhouse after his start.

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Here’s Cashman on the field before the game.

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• Cashman wouldn’t give a number, but he said Banuelos will have a innings limit this season. No real surprise, just thought I’d mention it.

• Mark Prior did not make today’s road trip because he’s sick. Doesn’t sound serious.

• Cashman labeled his level of concern about Sergio Mitre as, “low.” Mitre tried to convince the Yankees to let him pitch, but the Yankees didn’t want to risk anything with his oblique. “Girardi had to do a little bit of a wrestling match with him,” Cashman said. “He almost had to get me on the phone.”

• Here’s Mitre’s take on the situation: “It was a little bit sore and tight (Sunday). They don’t want to chance it because I pulled an oblique on the same side last year. We’re trying to figure out if it’s related. If it blows out, they’re talking about six weeks, so hopefully it won’t. I feel pretty good today.”

• Joba Chamberlain’s injury is around his ribs, but Cashman said it’s technically in his oblique. Just like with Mitre, the Yankees don’t seem especially worries. Chamberlain felt something, let the Yankees know, and now they’re playing it safe. “Could it play itself into (taking) a while? That’s what we’re trying to prevent,” Cashman said.

• Dellin Betances hit a batter with his first pitch, walked two batters, threw two wild pitches and allowed both Boston runs. “A little wild,” Girardi said. “But he didn’t cave. To me that’s a sign he’s making progress as well.”

• Nick Swisher went 0-for-3 and his spring average dropped to .188. “I don’t get too caught up in numbers,” Girardi said. “I watch the way he’s swinging the bat, and I’ve been pleased with his at-bats. He’s not a huge concern of mine.”

• Eric Chavez didn’t have a hit today, but he did get another game at first base. “He’s been really good (at first),” Girardi said. “I’ve been really pleased with what he’s done. It seems to be a pretty good adjustment for him. He hasn’t been tested a ton, but every play he’s needed to make, he’s made.”

• Brett Gardner had his fourth spring double. It came immediately after Jesus Montero’s first double and drove in the only Yankees run in a 2-1 loss.

• Another hit for Jorge Vazquez. Of course.

• Ramiro Pena had a hit and stole a base. He said a few days ago that he wanted to use his speed a little more to show the Yankees he could help on the bases, but Eduardo Nunez also had another hit today and continues to be a significantly better offensive option this spring.

• Against his old team, Alfredo Aceves pitched three innings, allowing one run on three hits and a walk. Cashman reiterated that the Yankees did not have enough confidence in his back to offer Aceves a major league deal. “He’s got a back condition and we could not get him healthy, and I’ll leave it at that,” Cashman said.

• CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon will throw 80-85 pitches during tomorrow morning’s sim game.

Associated Press photos of Banuelos, Betances and Swisher

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Thursday notes: “The CC we’re used to seeing”03.10.11

CC Sabathia was scheduled for four innings this afternoon. He wound up pitching five scoreless and still didn’t reach his pitch count. Going head-to-head against Phillies ace Roy Halladay, Sabathia was back to his old self after a rocky start his last time out against the Nationals.

“That’s pretty much the CC we’re used to seeing,” manager Joe Girardi said.

Sabathia said he was sharp enough to work on some specific things today, throwing changeups when he was down in the count and mixing in some first-pitch two-seamers. His delivery was “cleaner,” he said.

“I have the pause in my delivery,” Sabathia said. “I was kind of floating, drifting through it (last time) instead of just staying there, gathering, and then going. We worked on that in the bullpen, and I was conscious of it in the bullpen here today and trying to translate into the game.”

• Sabathia was hit in the thigh by a comebacker but stayed in the game. He didn’t even let the medical staff check him during the game, though he did have it wrapped afterward. “I’ve got a lot of meat down there,” he said.

• This early in spring training, and the two starting pitchers — Sabathia and Roy Halladay — combined for 11 scoreless, walkless innings. “Look at the two starters we’re looking at,” Girardi said. “You don’t see it a lot (this early), but if it’s going to happen, it’s usually two starters like that.”

• Warner Madrigal was scheduled to pitch today, but he felt some soreness in his arm. “He might be shut down for a few days,” Girardi said. Madrigal is coming back from surgery, but Girardi said today’s soreness was in a different spot.

• Dave Robertson faced one hitter this afternoon, which was the plan. Robertson threw 31 pitches his last time out and Girardi just wanted to get him in the game for one hitter. Of course, that one hitter tripled.

• After Robertson, Rule 5 pick Robert Fish had a rough sixth inning. He got three outs, one of which was a sac fly and one of which was a pickoff. John Mayberry Jr. hit a two-run home run off him, one of three hits against Fish.

• Mark Prior allowed his first runs of the spring. The Phillies scored three runs against him, but two were unearned because of an error by Justin Maxwell. Prior gave up two walks and an RBI double.

• The Yankees had a total of four hits today, on apiece by Brett Gardner, Russell Martin, Ramiro Pena and Jorge Posada. All of those hits were singles.

• In his spring debut, Ronnie Belliard went 0-for-2. Given the way Eric Chavez is hitting — and the way Jorge Vazquez is hitting for that matter — it’s really difficult to imagine Belliard doing enough to make this roster.

• Brett Gardner will get one at-bat as a designated hitter tomorrow, then he’ll make the road trip to play center field on Saturday.

• Girardi said he’s planning to go on the road for tomorrow’s split squad game against the Blue Jays because he wants to see Ivan Nova pitch. He’ll leave someone else to manage the home game and watch Phil Hughes. Why not have Nova pitch at home? Hughes has already made two starts on the road, and he’s locked into a rotation spot. He gets to stay home this time.

Alfredo Aceves was knocked around today, allowing four hits and three earned runs through 2.1 innings for the Red Sox.

Associated Press photos of Sabathia meeting with Russell Martin and Jorge Posada, and of Girardi talking to Tony Pena

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Postgame notes: The impact of Cervelli’s broken foot03.04.11

Whatever your opinion of the backup catcher competition — whether you preferred the prospect or the known quantity — Francisco Cervelli’s broken foot is clearly a rough way to lose the job.

“I feel bad, man,” Jorge Posada said. “He worked really hard, and it’s one of those things that’s very unfortunate to see. I feel bad for him.”

The impact of Cervelli’s injury went beyond his own locker, but the impact was not widely spread. Aside from pushing Gustavo Molina vaguely into the mix, it’s impact was more-or-less limited to Austin Romine and Jesus Montero. Two others who might have been affected, Posada and Brian Cashman, are really in no different position today than they were before Cervelli fouled the ball off his foot.

Jesus Montero
You now have to consider him a favorite to make this team. Yesterday Joe Girardi said Cervelli and Montero were the favorites because of their experience, and that would seem to make this Montero’s job to lose. Posada followed a similar path, hitting his way to the big leagues and then learning from a reserve role, and he said that path helped him learn and adjust.

“I’m still learning about everything,” Montero said. “I haven’t played in the big leagues. I want to play there so I can learn quick and help the team to win… I’ve got an opportunity. I’m going to do something good about it.”

Austin Romine
As Girardi said this afternoon, without Cervelli, everyone moves up one spot on the depth chart. That means Romine is one step closer. He might still be behind Montero, but the jump from Double-A isn’t unheard of — Cervelli and Girardi both did it — so Romine could play his way into the mix. I’d still consider him a long shot, but he’s in the conversation.

“I’d like to think I’m not (at a disadvantage),” Romine said. “Triple-A is good baseball up there, but Double-A has made big strides lately. A lot of guys go from Double-A to the big leagues. It’s good ball down there as well. I don’t really see it as a disadvantage.”

Jorge Posada
His situation didn’t change. The Yankees aren’t going to go into a season with their everyday DH being their only backup catcher, and Posada is still the team’s everyday DH.

“I’m not catching. I’m the DH,” Posada said. “They haven’t said anything about me catching, so I’m just getting ready to be the DH… It’s something you can’t control if something happens to the two catchers. I gotta stay catching bullpens, early work during the season. That’s probably going to help me out.”

Brian Cashman
For most teams, losing a backup catcher would require at least a quick glance around the league for alternatives. Instead, Cashman has plenty of in-house options. Obviously, he might have to go shopping if everyone struggles, but for now he can let this thing play out.

“We thankfully, knock on wood, are catching deep,” Cashman said. “With Russell Martin’s addition and the developmental steps that Montero and Romine have taken, we’re covered. That’s one of our positions of strength, unlike most organizations.”

Here’s Montero.

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Here’s Romine.

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Here’s Posada.

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• Cashman said the trade market has been quiet recently. He hasn’t had many calls about his young talent. “Not recently,” Cashman said. “My phone hasn’t been ringing.”

• Bartolo Colon made another strong start with three scoreless innings and five strikeouts. He said his sinker command was much better today than in his first spring start. Frankly, all of the Yankees rotation candidates have pitched well this spring. “I’m not sure anyone is separating themselves from one another,” Cashman said.

• Manny Banuelos won’t pitch his way to New York, but he keeps impressing everyone who sees him. “You forget that he’s 19 years old,” Russell Martin said.

• Random Banuelos/Martin note: Martin put white out on his fingers after Banuelos missed a sign and threw a curveball when Martin called for a changeup. “It was actually good that he did that because now I know he can throw a 2-0 curveball for strikes,” Martin said.

• Speaking of Martin, everything went well in his first game behind the plate. He said he wouldn’t have played if he’d felt anything. The only hang up right now is that he’s still running at about 90 percent. “I guess I’ll wake up tomorrow and see how it feels,” he said. “Right now, it feels good. I think from here on out, I’ll just be catching in the regular rotation.”

• YES Network had Mark Prior’s fastball at 90-91 mph. That fits with what Prior’s been saying about his velocity. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning.

• Alex Rodriguez had two more hits tonight and he’s off to a strong start this spring. He has four doubles already and he’s batting .500. His double tonight probably would have been a home run had the wind not been blowing in so hard.

• Mark Teixeira, who’s also off to a strong start, also doubled in tonight’s game. So did Robinson Cano, who picked up his first hit of the spring. Derek Jeter also singled and drew a walk.

• All four Red Sox runs were charged to the Yankees left-handed relievers, two charged to Pedro Feliciano and three to Boone Logan, who couldn’t pitch through the seventh. Two of Logan’s runs scored off Eric Wordekemper, who came out of the pen to finish off the inning.

• Girardi said Martin will catch again on Sunday. He’s basically on the every-other-day schedule, more or less taking Cervelli’s place in the catching rotation.

• Finally, one week into the spring schedule, there really haven’t been any huge disappointments other than the Cervelli injury. “Everything is as expected or better,” Cashman said. Then again, as Cashman pointed out, “Does it really matter on March 4?”

Associated Press photos of Montero, Colon and Rodriguez

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 328 Comments →

So far, so good for Prior02.28.11

Mark Prior woke up nervous this morning.

“Normal nerves I used to get when I was pitching,” he said.

The nerves subsided during batting practice, and when he came in to pitch the fifth inning — the inning he knew would be his — he went through a 1-2-3 inning with two routine pop ups and a strikeout. The strikeout came on the split finger he’s been working on this spring.

“Breaking ball was terrible, but I guess it’s understandable,” he said. “I haven’t thrown them a lot, I’ve been mostly trying to get comfortable with the split finger. The one that I struck out the second guy with, I thought was pretty good. I had a good feel for that. Breaking ball is something that, for me, always took time and it took me facing hitters to kind of get that release point, before it kind of gets locked in.”

More important right now, Prior said, was his fastball command. He doesn’t know how hard he was throwing — “Either they weren’t seeing it well out of my hands, or it was getting on them,” he said — but he was happy with the way he located.

Kind of like Derek Jeter’s altered mechanics, Prior’s return to pitching is going to take more than one or two innings. It’s a process that will probably include a stop in the minor leagues before he’s ready to return to the Majors for the first time since 2006.

“I understand what I signed up for,” Prior said. “I understand the situation here, my situation. I know I haven’t pitched, I mean, I haven’t really pitched since 2005. Even though I pitched in 2006, it wasn’t really pitching, it was surviving. Or trying to. I understand that just because you go out and throw one inning, that’s not going to make or break what they see and what I feel. I understand that I need to get famliar with the process.

“I think the learning curve, or the re-whatever curve, could be fast. But it’s just a matter of going out there and getting some innings under my belt.”

Here’s Prior after today’s scoreless inning.

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Associated Press photo of Prior throwing live batting practice last week

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Monday notes: Timing and patience for Jeter02.28.11

For any player, one hit on February 28 means almost nothing. When that hit comes from guy who has nearly 3,000 in his career, it means even less, so we’ll have to excuse Derek Jeter for not getting worked up about a leadoff single in the top of the fifth.

“It’ll take a while to get comfortable,” Jeter said. “When was the first game? Two days ago? That was the first time I’ve seen pitching with (the new mechanics). It’s going to take a while to get comfortable. You have more time because there’s no stride. Now you’ve just got to figure out when to swing.”

Figuring out when to swing seems like a pretty basic piece of hitting, but Jeter in eliminating his stride, Jeter has changed his timing at the plate. It’s taking a while to get used to the changes, and Jeter said he still goes to the plate actively thinking about his mechanics, which is a bad thing. But it’s also an unavoidable thing at this point.

Tomorrow, hitting coach Kevin Long will stay behind in Tampa — he won’t make the team’s trip to Bradenton — so he can work one-on-one with Jeter.

“His timing is just a little bit off on the outside pitch,” Long said. “He’s got to wait a little bit longer on those pitches, and the ones in, he’s been a little bit late on. We’ll gain on it and go day by day with it. I’m certainly not, at this point, ready to cash it in and start from scratch with it. It’s going to take a little time.”

When Jeter tried to make this change in September, he still had a little bit of a stride. Now he’s trying to get rid of the stride completely, and that’s left him with more time to wait for pitches. If it’s going to work, it’s going to take repetition and patience. Joe Girardi said this morning that he won’t start truly evaluating Jeter’s swing until “three weeks or so” into spring training.

“You hope that it becomes second nature so you don’t have to think about it,” Jeter said. “The good thing is, my foot hasn’t been moving. That’s a step in the right direction, I guess.”

Here’s Jeter.

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• Russell Martin did more blocking drills this morning and said his knee feels better each day. He’s expected to get one more DH start and catch a game either Thursday or Friday. “A little stiffness when I’m running full out, 100 percent, but nothing else really,” Martin said. “It’s getting better still, even throughout the game today.”

• After taking an A.J. Burnett pitch to the head on Sunday, Greg Golson is expected to workout tomorrow, and he’ll probably get in a game Wednesday.

• Two more hits, including a double for Jorge Vazquez. He’s easily the Grapefruit League MVP through three games. He’s still a long-shot to break camp with the Yankees, but he could certainly make a big impression that keeps him on the radar.

• Mark Prior had a 1-2-3 inning in his first spring appearance, including a strikeout on the splitfinger he’s been working on. “It felt great,” Prior said. “I didn’t really know what to expect, but I felt good. Got some things I need to work on, but I think all and all, I think it went well.”

• Speaking of 1-2-3 innings, add Manny Banuelos to the list of young Yankees starters who have been outstanding in their spring debuts. “He looked really good,” Girardi said. “Three pitches he threw for strikes. Couple of strikeouts on a couple of curveballs. Ability to get back in the count with his changeup. Throwing hard. I mean, he looked really good.”

• Speaking of young starters who looked good, I talked to Nardi Contreras a little bit about Dellin Betances making such a strong first impression yesterday. To my mild surprise, Contreras seemed even more impressed with Ivan Nova’s outing.

• Rule 5 picks Daniel Turpen and Robert Fish each gave up two runs this afternoon. Contreras said Fish was throwing strikes, it was a matter of location in the zone. He had control, but not command. Turpen was given a blown save, and Fish was given the loss.

• Two-hit day with an RBI for Mark Teixeira. Francisco Cervelli also had two hits. Andruw Jones had the other Yankees RBI.

Associated Press photos of Jeter and Alex Rodriguez

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 247 Comments →

In the dark about Mark Prior02.23.11

Absolutely no one in Yankees camp knows what to expect from Mark Prior. The Yankees clearly believe he could help — Prior’s one of the pitchers getting some one-on-one time with Larry Rothschild in the mornings — but it’s been five years since he pitched in the big leagues, and it’s been six years since he pitched especially well in the big leagues. In between, he’s hardly pitched. Even Prior’s not sure what kind of pitcher he is at this point.

“Everybody wants to know,” Prior said. “They’re trying to compare what I am today to maybe what I was in 2005, when I was last throwing the way everybody probably remembers me throwing. I can’t do it. I can’t compare it. I’m not the same person.”

Prior estimated that he’s thrown a total of 12 or 13 official innings since the end of 2006, and only one of those innings came in minor league baseball. The rest came in independent ball. Prior has thrown some bullpens and done a lot of rehab work, but the last time he tore a capsule in his throwing shoulder — back when he was rehabbing with the Padres — the tear couldn’t be surgically repaired, so he’s been pitching through it.

“I haven’t thrown enough to make a determination and say, I’ve changed (in a certain way),” Prior said. “Right now my philosophy is pretty much the same as it’s always been: Locate the fastball and try to pitch off of it. What I don’t know is, what is ultimately my fastball? Is it 88 to 91 that it was last year, or is it going to be a little bit more? If it is 88 to 91, that’s not a big deal. It’s just, you have to execute your location that much better and just learn to kind of pitch off it.”

Prior said he was happy with his first bullpen with Larry Rothschild, and he was happy with the way yesterday’s batting practice went. In between, the bullpens have been “OK.” He feels like he’s been able to spot his fastball pretty well, and that’s the most important thing at this point.

“I definitely think the stuff is capable, and I definitely think it’s there,” he said. “Is it what it used to be? Probably not. It’s kind of like apples and oranges, but I definitely think it’s good enough to get guys out, absolutely.”

Associated Press photo of Prior

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Tuesday notes: Early rotation takes shape02.22.11

Can’t make too much of the Yankees rotation on February 22, but for now it’s the only thing we know about the most uncertain part of the roster. In the competition to fill the final two starting spots, Bartolo Colon will have the first chance to impress.

“I feel ready,” Colon said through a translator. “I pitched a lot in the winter, and I know I pitched very good. I’m ready to demonstrate to the Yankees that I’m ready to pitch.”

It was that winter success that led the Yankees to sign Colon, and it was that winter experience that led Joe Girardi to choose him for the spring opener. Girardi said Colon is “possibly a little more ready” than some of the other starters.

This morning, though, while Colon was pitching on the back field, Girardi was on the main field watching Freddy Garcia.

“He looked pretty good to me,” Girardi said. “As I’ve said all along, Freddy knows how to pitch, and he knows how to compete. He knows what he has to do to get ready. He threw a lot of strikes and he mixed his pitches and he looked OK.”

• Girardi said the current rotation alignment of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes — in that order — is not necessarily indicative of the way the rotation will line up in April. “Things might bounce around a little bit, but right now that’s how we have them lined up,” Girardi said.

• Girardi has previously said Sergio Mitre will start games this spring, but Girardi said he hasn’t mapped out when Mitre might make his first start. “I’m not out that far,” he said. So far we only know the first six starters. Mitre will work out of the bullpen for now.

• Will Mariano Rivera throw a bullpen tomorrow? “I don’t know exactly,” Girardi said. “That’s not a question I ask on a daily basis, when Mo is going to throw. I know he’ll be ready when we leave here.”

• Girardi said it’s too early to know much about Mark Prior, but he liked what he saw out of Prior — and Boone Logan — during today’s early morning live batting practice sessions. “I thought (Prior) threw the ball pretty good,” Girardi said. “To me it’s still early. This is a guy that hasn’t pitched a lot lately, and it’s still early, but I thought he threw the ball OK. So did Booney.”

• Speaking of guys throwing to hitters: “I’ve actually been really happy with the way our guys have thrown BP, collectively as a group,” Girardi said. “I haven’t seen everyone because I’m on one field, but I’ve been pleased.”

• The Yankees did some team fielding drills this morning. There was a player at every position — some taking turns at a position — and the pitcher would pretend to throw a pitch, at which point Tony Pena would shoot a fly ball with a ball machine. He spread the fly balls to different players, including infielders, and everyone reacted accordingly (backing up, hitting the cutoff man, covering bases, etc). Nothing unusual or especially insightful, just the first the Yankees have done that sort of full-squad drill this spring.

• I only saw the team fielding drills on the main field, didn’t see the half of the team that was going through the same drills in the back. If you’re interested, here’s the defensive alignment on the main field: 1B Teixeira, 2B Russo/Pena, SS Pena/Maruszak, 3B Rodriguez/Laird, LF Golson/Curtis, CF Gardner/Mesa, RF Swisher/Maxwell. Not that I think it matters very much, but thought it was kind of interesting that they had Gardner doing his work in center instead of left.

• During batting practice, groups that aren’t hitting take more ground balls and fly balls, just like during BP during the season. Today, Eric Chavez split his BP defensive drills between third base and first base.

• Speaking of Chavez, it occurred to me today that the Yankees have Brandon Laird in a defensive drills group with Rodriguez and in a hitting group with Chavez. That means, any time Laird is on the field, he’s with either Rodriguez or Chavez, two third basemen who can give the kid plenty of advice about big league success. Eduardo Nunez hits and fields with Derek Jeter.

• Speaking of Nunez, he caught my eye during batting practice today. I saw him hit one ball out to left-center and he seemed to be consistently driving the ball to all fields.

• Jeter likes the Carmelo Anthony trade. “The Knicks made a good trade,” he said. “It was a good job. Carmelo is going to help them out. Everyone in New York is excited about it.”

Associated Press photos of Garcia, Sabathia and Jeter

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Saturday notes: Playing around with the lineup02.19.11

I wouldn’t expect anything too drastic, but Joe Girardi said this afternoon that he’s been discussing different lineup ideas, and we might see some different looks this spring.

“We’ll continue to talk about our lineup and how guys fit in,” Girardi said. “Right now we don’t expect a ton of changes. We’ve talked about some things internally that we might try to do. I don’t really want to get into it, but we’re not really sure exactly how our lineup’s going to break… We might play around a little bit in spring training.”

Girardi specifically mentioned Curtis Granderson’s strong finish as something that he’s been considering while thinking about the lineup. Girardi has already said he’s leaning toward keeping Derek Jeter in the leadoff spot. Asked about the 3, 4, 5 hitters, Girardi didn’t commit to anything, but he did say that last season he never considered switching Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano, despite the fact Teixeira was struggling and Cano was thriving.

“No, I didn’t,” Girardi said. “I have to manage people over the long haul. You can’t manage short term, when it’s April and May. You just can’t do it. It’s a lot more than what he does for you today. There’s personality, the feelings, the confidence, how it affects your lineup. It’s a lot. Managing people is different than managing robots.”

• Speaking of his lineup, Girardi said he thinks Alex Rodriguez can still be a guy who hits .300 with 40 home runs. “That’s obviously a monster year, but I don’t think he’s past that point,” Girardi said. He also said Rodriguez might benefit from being more comfortable with his surgically repaired hip this season. “I would expect that this year there will be more of a confidence in that hip, in the way it feels, and that he’s beyond this and he can move freely,” Girardi said.

• At the opposite corner of the infield, Teixeira seems fully healthy, and although Girardi knows he might need someone else to play first occasionally, he said he doesn’t feel the need to give Teixeira significant time off. “It’s something that I’ll watch,” Girardi said. “He’s an everyday guy, but maybe if you get into a real long stretch, maybe you give him a day off.”

• Speaking of first base, last season the Yankees opened with Nick Johnson as a backup at the position. This year Girardi said the team will look at Eric Chavez and Ronnie Belliard as possible backup options at first. If neither makes the team, the Yankees could always give Nick Swisehr — and maybe even Jorge Posada — a little bit of time at first.

• Hector Noesi is expected to be ready to jump right into the Yankees throwing program tomorrow. “Noesi actually will be in uniform tomorrow and ready to throw, which is good to hear,” Girardi said.

• I wasn’t on the field to see batting practice, but Brett Gardner was once again listed in the second hitting group. He wasn’t in camp yesterday, but Gardner has been hitting with the veteran catchers most of the week.

• In the back of the Yankees clubhouse, Nick Swisher has a locker right next to his old Oakland teammate, Eric Chavez. Swisher said he’s expecting a bounce back year from Chavez, and Swisher promised Chavez that he’d love playing in New York.

• Yesterday morning, Phil Hughes walked into the clubhouse completely drenched in sweat. I thought he’d been out throwing a bullpen, and didn’t get a chance to talk to him before the clubhouse closed. He seriously looked like he’d just thrown 100 pitches in a row. Turned out, it was all cardio. His bullpen yesterday was almost exactly like his bullpen on Wednesday, two sets of roughly 20 pitches with a very small break in the middle.

• Mark Prior threw one of the early morning bullpens, which is usually a green light to be one of the first guys out of the complex. Instead, Prior was still here pretty late, including some training work on the back fields.

Associated Press photos: Rodriguez and Eduardo Nunez; Gardner and Kevin Long

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 350 Comments →

Tuesday notes: Posada accepting and adjusting02.15.11

Sitting at his familiar locker in the back corner of the Yankees clubhouse, Jorge Posada seemed to be at ease with his new role. He did not appear agitated or frustrated (and Posada has rarely been one to hide his agitation or frustration).

“I think knowing before spring training started that you’re going to be a DH, I think that helped me a little bit,” he said. “That mentality has changed for me a little bit.”

When he got the news this winter, Posada didn’t want to hear it. In the months since, Posada’s feelings seem to have settled. I’m sure there’s still a part of him that wants to catch everything — and thinks he could catch every day — but at 39 years old, Posada recognizes several truths: It’s been three years since he had 400 at-bats, he’s entering the last year of his contract, and the Yankees have plenty of young catchers on the verge.

“I don’t know (what happens after this season),” he said. “A lot has to do with this year. How I feel this year, how I come out after this season. I would like to stay healthy. I think DHing will help me. After the season, see how my body responded the whole year and how I feel after the season and make the decision then. I’m happy with everything that’s gone on.”

Posada has reached out to Edgar Martinez for advice but hasn’t been able to reach him. He said he’ll try to find a routine this summer — Joe Girardi suggested occasional catching drills in the cage during the game — and he’ll pick the brain of any veteran DH the Yankees play against along the way.

As for the physical and mental toll of catching 130-plus games season after season?

“I wouldn’t have done it any other way,” Posada said.

Here’s audio from Posada. That weird sound at the beginning is Posada taping a bat.

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• Assuming he does come back for another season, Posada said he can’t imagine playing for any other team. “I really can’t,” he said. “After the year it will be really tough to look somewhere else. We’ll see. If I want to play, I would like to stay here.”

• Joe Girardi indicated that he’d like to give Posada a few spring games at catcher, but that’s not a sure thing. “I think anyone would like to have reps if the possibility is going to occur during he course of the season,” Girardi said. “We’ll just see how he’s doing and make some judgment calls as we go.” Clearly Girardi wants Posada to get most of his spring at-bats as a DH so he can adjust to the role.

• Speaking of the catcher position, Girardi and Brian Cashman were both encouraged by what they saw out of Jesus Montero in the bullpen today. “I think he sits more comfortable,” Girardi said. “I think his hands work better. He’s in outstanding shape. We’ll see as spring training goes along, we’ll get a chance to see him do everything, but he just looks more comfortable (than last spring).”

• Larry Rothschild spoke quite a bit about A.J. Burnett this afternoon — more on that later — but he also touched on Joba Chamberlain. “Really, for him, it’s getting the ball downhill, creating the angle so it’s not flattening out going up to the plate,” Rothschild said. “I think that will help the slider. Pretty much, I think it’s that simple.”

• Most of the guys who threw bullpens today were around 25 pitches, all fastballs.

• Although the Yankees still want to take things slowly with Russell Martin, Cashman said the Yankees are not really worried about him. There’s just some stiffness in his surgically repaired knee. Nothing major, just enough for the Yankees to move with caution.

• Brett Gardner was in camp today. He said he’s allowed to be here ahead of the other position players because he’s doing rehab work. The wrist, though, feels good. He’s been able to throw and hit with no problems. “I’m ready to roll,” he said. “I feel good, man.”

• By the way, Gardner had a series of trips planned for this winter, but had to cancel all of them because of the wrist injury. I told him I went skiing this winter. Gardner said he went once in high school but won’t go again until he’s finished playing. The reason? He broke his wrist that day.

• Spent a little bit of time talking to Rule 5 pick Robert Fish today. He said this is his first big league camp — he was never in big league camp with the Angels — and he was surprised at just how hard the Yankees worked on Day 1. This was no light day.

• Speaking of the Rule 5 picks, Fish and Daniel Turpen are pretty big guys, but the biggest new guy in camp is easily Andy Sisco. He looks a little bit like Shelley Duncan, but even bigger. If he decided to attack Manny Banuelos, poor Manny would never have a chance.

Associated Press photos of Posada with Francisco Cervelli; Mark Prior crouched after sprints; and Martin going through catching drills

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 422 Comments →

My own curiosity: Non-roster invites worth seeing02.12.11

Derek Jeter and A.J. Burnett need to bounce back. Phil Hughes and Brett Gardner need to keep moving forward. CC Sabathia needs to stay healthy, Mariano Rivera needs to keep defying father time and the Yankees need to find a couple of starting pitchers from a pile of unknowns.

The spring performance of Daniel Brewer is nowhere near the list of Yankees concerns this spring. I get that.

But I can’t help myself.

I’ve always liked seeing players who were fighting to get themselves on the radar. Even if they’re fighting for nothing more than the last spot on the bench or a role in the September bullpen, the non-roster invites are an interesting lot. You might forget about them completely by this time next year, but right now, you just never know.

Eric Chavez and Mark Prior
Just trying to stay healthy
Of all the veterans invited to big league camp, it’s rotation candidates Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia who have the most important challenge ahead of them. But the most intriguing challenge might belong to Chavez and Prior, once very good big leaguers whose careers were torn apart by injuries. It’s impossible to ignore these two, even if they are fighting for bit roles on the bench and in the bullpen.

Adam Warren
A rising star
Manny Banuelos is generally considered a Top 50 minor league talent. David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell finished last season in Triple-A. It’s natural that those non-roster invites would generate some attention. What’s surprised me this offseason is how often Warren’s name has been mentioned. Not that I doubt his talent — the numbers paint a pretty compelling picture — but Warren has only 10 games of Double-A experience. Is that really enough to put himself in the mix for a big league spot?

Jesus Montero
A hitter who can catch, or a catcher who can hit?
It’s kind of ridiculous to include Montero on this list because everyone is going to be paying attention to him. He had a very real chance to be the Yankees Opening Day catcher until Russell Martin signed this winter. Instead, he’s coming to camp as something of a long shot — Francisco Cervelli probably has a leg up on the backup role — but Montero will have a chance to force the Yankees hand and convince them that another year in Triple-A would be a waste of time. It’s impossible to ignore huge talent that’s knocking on the door, and Montero might knock that door of its hinges.

Brian Anderson
Outfielder turned reliever
What’s not to like about this story? Once considered among the top center field prospects in baseball, Anderson got some time in the big leagues, couldn’t hit, and moved to the mound for the first time since high school. Now he’s trying to establish himself all over again. I have no idea whether it will work, but it will be interesting to see him try. Plus, the guy is one of Shelley Duncan’s good friends. What’s not to like?

Daniel Brewer
A prospect on the verge
Brewer reminds me a little bit of what Colin Curtis was last spring: Not on the 40-man, and not a big-name prospect, but a guy who does enough things well that he couldn’t play himself into a big league role at some point this season. Working against Brewer is the fact the 40-man is loaded with similar outfield options — Curtis, Justin Maxwell and Greg Golson — but if Brewer builds on last season and one of those three takes a step back, the Yankees could have another outfielder to consider if/when a mid-season hole presents itself.

Six more…
Jorge Vazquez — The power is real. Is everything else ready for the big leagues?
Manny Banuelos — Youngest guy in camp, and arguably the best young arm in the system.
Neal Cotts and Andy Sisco — They’ve been to the big leagues before, and lefties always have a chance to open some eyes and get another shot.
Austin Romine — How would you feel if you were one of the 10 best catching prospects in baseball and were still completely overshadowed in your own organization?
Doug Bernier — He hit .181 in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre two years ago and the Yankees still brought him back. Tells you how good he is with the glove.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 338 Comments →

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