Yankees pregame: Grandy off center? • 05.05.13
The Yankees had seemed to have passed on moving Curtis Granderson from center to left after he broke his right forearm in his first at-bat of his first exhibition game and missed spring training. But Joe Girardi today opened up the possibility again that Granderson may not be in center when he returns, that Brett Gardner may stay there.
“We’ll decide that as time goes on,” Girardi said. “We’ve talked about Grandy; we just want to get him healthy. People have asked me a lot about, ‘When Grandy comes back, what are you going to do with your outfield if you have three guys who are playing pretty well?’ I said, ‘Well, Grandy is going to play. He’s a big part of our offense.’ But as we’ve seen around here, a lot can happen in a couple of weeks.”
Later, Girardi added, ‘We might toy around with some other things (for Granderson), left, right, other things. He’s getting reps everywhere right now.”
But that isn’t happening with Gardner next to him.
“That’s not my concern,” Girardi said. “My concern is how he reacts in all the different spots.”
Granderson has been playing extended spring games. And, of course, he had to get hit by a pitch Saturday in the arm. But this was in the triceps, according to Girardi.
“From what I understand, he’s OK. He’s kind of picking up where he left off,” Girardi said about him getting hit again.
The minor-league complex in Tampa will be packed with rehabbing major leaguers with several others set to join Granderson, including Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.
“I know there’s a lot of big people there,” Girardi said. “I understand that. But that’s not going to be the focus of my day. The focus of my day is the people in this room right now and winning the game.”
David Robertson played catch for the second straight day. He plans to test that lower left hamstring again Tuesday prior to the game in Colorado, throwing on flat ground and then throwing a few pitches off a mound if that goes well. He said he just has a little tightness now.
“I don’t see why I can’t be ready,” Robertson said.
Andy Pettitte struggled without his signature cutter in his last start, against the Astros. Girardi doesn’t expect that to be a problem today, against the A’s.
“I’ll be completely shocked if it’s not there today,” Girardi said.
Mark Teixeira has been cleared to swing a bat today, albeit not with a ball coming toward him. He plans to take about 20 swings from both sides of the plate. It’s a step. He had swung underwater in a mini-pool here at Yankee Stadium yesterday.
There are several boxes that need to be checked off in this comeback from the partial tendon sheath tear in his right wrist.
“So it’s dry swinging today,” Teixeira said. “And then the next box would be tee. The next box is soft toss. Then it’s indoor batting practice. Then it’s outdoor batting practice. And then after that, you can do outdoor batting practice for a few days, where you go from like 20 swings to 30 to 40. So that’s the natural progression.
“But as long as there’s no issues, I’ll be able to make those next steps. If there’s soreness, I’ll take a step back. That’s where that eight to 10 (weeks) comes in. There’s two weeks wiggle room. I want to be back as soon as possible. But I have to be smart about it.”
Teixeira plans to travel with the team to Toronto after this Arizona series and then on to Tampa for the next one, which begins Monday night. The plan is for him to stay in Tampa and continue the progression if things continue to go well.
Teixeira has been hoping to return the first week of May. He admits there’s a little less pressure on him to try to speed up the process with the team playing well these days.
“If we were 2-10 right now, I think everybody would be saying, ‘Hey, Tex, when are you back? When are you back? When are you back?’ ” he said. “But all of us have stepped up and have done a great job. You look at what the team is doing right now, I can’t be more proud of how we’ve played. So it’s going to allow me to heal, which is what I need to do.”
Andy Pettitte is healing, too. In fact, he seems healed after those back spasms led to him being pushed back twice. The 40-year-old lefty threw a bullpen for the second straight day, this one shorter than yesterday’s. He pronounced his back good to go for the start Friday night in Toronto.
“Everything was good last night,” Pettitte said. “I felt so good, I threw another one today. So we’re ready for Friday.”
Yankees postgame: Seeing triple • 04.12.13
The postgame buzz mostly revolved around the 4-6-5-6-5-3-4 triple play that the Yankees turned in the eighth to help preserve their 5-2 victory over the Orioles.
“You’re not going to see things like that happen in a crucial moment,” Joe Girardi said.
Let’s recap: The Orioles started the inning against CC Sabathia with singles by Alexi Casilla and Nick Markakis, bringing up the potential tying run. Then Manny Machado grounded to Robinson Cano, who threw to Jayson Nix for the force on Markakis at second.
Next came the key moment. Instead of throwing on to first for the double ball, Nix fired to Kevin Youkilis at third.
“It’s better to have the lead runner out,” Nix said.
Casilla was tagged out by Youkilis in a rundown. Then Youkilis threw to Lyle Overbay at first with Machado straying.
“I knew right away we’ve got a triple play,” Youkilis said.
Overbay fired to Cano at second for the tag on Machado. That makes three. The Yankees couldn’t contain their glee, especially Youkilis.
“When stuff like that happens, you feel like you’re back playing Little League again,” Youkilis said.
It was the Yankees’ second triple play since 1969 and first in the Bronx since 1968. They had one three years ago in Oakland, also helping Sabathia out of a jam.
“Any time you get a triple play, you’re fired up,” Sabathia said.
There was another key moment, though. How often are you going to see Adam Jones drop a fly ball? Not too often.
“He’s one of the best center fielders in the game,” Sabathia said.
But he dropped Vernon Wells’ drive to the track with the bases packed and two outs in the seventh. The 2-2 game became a 5-2 game on the error.
“The chances of that happening are slim, slim, slim, but we caught a break,” Girardi said.
“I don’t dwell at all on Adam’s play because he’s spoiled us with such a high level of play in center field,” Buck Showalter said. “That’s why it gets everybody’s attention. He’s special. I’m real glad he’s on our side.”
The Yankees were glad to have Sabathia on their side again — eight innings, two runs, eight hits, nine Ks, no walks.
“I thought he was brilliant,” Girardi said.
Sabathia, in his second straight strong start, threw 102 pitches, only 28 of them balls.
“I know his velocity isn’t what it used to be, 95, but I tell you, he’s really using his changeup and slider to get guys out,” Kevin Youkilis said.
Mark Teixeira had his wrist examined by Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser. It was expected that Teixeira would be cleared to start swinging a fungo bat. He was not.
“He wants me to get a little stronger before I swing,” Teixeira said. “All good news. I’m just not swinging yet.”
Teixeira doesn’t think this changes the timetable for his return too much. He still hopes to be back the first week of May.
Eduardo Nunez is day-to-day after suffering a bruised right wrist when he was drilled by Miguel Gonzalez in the second.
Brian Heyman here joining the season in progress.
So Robinson Cano is batting second in the series finale against the Red Sox, after Brett Gardner and before Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner.
“Just to try to break up some of the left-handers we have,” Joe Girardi said. “We decided to take a look at this … just to try to make it not so easy on the other teams.”
Cano has seen the Red Sox play a shift. Girardi said it’s the first time he has seen it against him.
“Robby’s a guy who can hit the ball the other way,” Girardi said. “We’ll how it works it out.”
Hiroki Kuroda said he wouldn’t do any long-tossing today to test that bruised right middle finger, the one that got hit by the Shane Victorino line drive Tuesday night.
“I spoke to the trainer,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “He suggested I shouldn’t throw today so I can try to throw my bullpen tomorrow.”
Girardi said Kuroda is still scheduled to make his next start, and that’s Kuroda’s intent. But he also said he won’t know until after that bullpen session in Detroit.
“I have to say it doesn’t feel normal,” Kuroda said. “I feel a little discomfort.”
Mark Teixeira is still shooting for a May 1 return.
“I hope it’s a possibility,” Girardi said. “He’ll have to go through some spring training. … I don’t want to rush him.”
Tuesday night, Vernon Wells hit a three-run homer and had his first three-hit game since last Aug. 11 when he was with the Angels.
“He’s swinging the bat well,” Girardi said. “In left field, he looks comfortable. He looks like he’s relishing his time here.”
It’s only the third game, but Girardi thinks this is an important game after the Yankees dropped the first two of the season.
“I don’t think anyone wants it to go too far,” Girardi said.
David Aardsma was released. The reliever had been designated for assignment last Friday.
Tuesday notes: Another opportunity for Nunez • 02.19.13
It’s going to be a while before Derek Jeter is ready to play in games, and that means playing time for someone else. Most notably, it means playing time for Eduardo Nunez.
“I can’t kill him,” Joe Girardi said. “I can’t play him nine innings every day, but he’s going to play a substantial amount.”
Nunez and Jeter went through shortstop drills together again today, and the Yankees plan to keep Nunez at short this spring, and there’s little doubt that the Yankees idea of letting Jeter DH against lefties in the regular season leaves a legitimate opportunity for Nunez to get big league playing time again.
“I want Jeter to be healthy again and play how he plays,” Nunez said. “But for now, it’s my opportunity to show I can play every day and show I can play defense. I can do different things than people think I can do. … I feel great right now. My confidence is (high). I know what I can do. I know what kind of player I can be, and that I can be right now.”
Girardi said the Yankees will look for consistency out of Nunez, and that should come as little surprise. Nunez has shown flashes of being a valuable big leaguer — most recently, he played well during his short time playing in Jeter’s place during the ALCS — but his defensive lapses are well documented.
“He has to earn it,” Girardi said. “We’ve got to toy with some different options, but we liked what he did at the end of last year. We know he provides a lot of excitement. Our plans are probably to keep him at short for the most part — we did talk about that — but he does have to earn it.”
Girardi said there’s a chance the Yankees could carry both Nunez and Jayson Nix, but it would leave the Yankees without a left-handed pinch hitter, which they’d like to have. Ultimately, Girardi repeated his familiar promise to carry the best players to make up the best team. Nunez will have a chance to put himself in that group.
“Jeter’s a Gold Glove,” Nunez said. “Cano’s a Gold Glove. (So are) Teixeira and A-Rod. You don’t see too many errors from these guys. When they come to me, I make an error, it’s a big thing. … It was a little bit in my mind, frustration for that, but I thank Jeter, thank A-Rod (and) thank Cano. They talked to me a lot and teach me how to fix that.”
• Here’s Girardi explaining the Phil Hughes injury: “It’s upper back, up here by his shoulder blades, so we’ll see how he is in a couple of days. The good thing is he was ahead of where he probably would normally be at this time, which helps. … You’re usually more concerned about the lower lingering. But until it’s gone, it’s going to linger. That’s like a Yogi-ism.”
• Despite being ahead of most of the other big league pitchers, Hughes was not in consideration to start Saturday’s spring opener even before the injury.
• Austin Romine said he’s more or less stopped thinking about his back. He doesn’t really notice it any more. Bascially a week into spring training and Romine’s had no problems so far. He’s very optimistic that he’s gotten past the problem.
• Haven’t heard much about Michael Pineda lately. He said today that his shoulder still feels good, but he’s not scheduled for another bullpen until Friday.
• David Phelps gets the opening start on Saturday, and although Girardi didn’t talk about it today, he’s always made it clear in the past that early spring outings don’t carry a lot of weight. I can’t imagine Phelps is going to feel that way. This is what he said earlier in camp: “I pushed myself a little more in the offseason so my arm is ready a little quicker during spring training because I’m trying to make an impression.”
• Speaking of making an impression, I didn’t see it, but there was some buzz today about Ichiro Suzuki’s behind-the-back catch during outfield drills. I asked Brett Gardner to describe it and Gardner started laughing. “That’s my fault,” he said. “I told him to do it.” Gardner said that Ichiro has a variety of behind-the-back catches that he’ll do every once in while when the team is shagging fly balls. Gardner wanted to see a few today, and Ichiro was up to the task. Girardi said he didn’t see Ichiro do it today, but “I’ve seen him do it before,” Girardi said.
• Mark Teixeira’s last day in Yankees camp is March 2. Robinson Cano’s last day is March 3. After that, those two will join their World Baseball Classic teams to prepare for the tournament.
• Random conversation of the day was with new outfielder Thomas Neal. If a handshake is any indication of a man’s strength, Neal just might be a 40-homer guy. I’m not sure how he uses a cell phone without crushing it. Seriously, Neal said he got some interest from the Yankees pretty soon after being designated for assignment, but he took some time making his decision on where to sign. He decided the Yankees were the best fit, with the potential for a real opportunity.
• Matt Diaz tried to convince me to write a story about his son’s tee-ball team. Seriously. He thinks that group has a real shot this year.
Associated Press photos
In his career, Mark Teixeira’s slugging percentage for the month of April is .423. He’s slugged well over .500 in every other month. Teixeira is a notorious slow starter, but as the Yankees prepare for today’s first full-squad working, Teixeira is hoping the World Baseball Classic can rattle that cycle and get him on track earlier in the season.
“When I found out I was going to play in the WBC, I called (hitting coach Kevin Long) and said, ‘Let’s not build up to Opening Day,’” Teixeira said. “‘Let’s build up to the WBC. Let’s build up to the first of March.’ I think that will be good because there’s never really a sense of urgency because spring training is six weeks long. Now I kind of have two weeks to get ready. I’m in great shape, so I have no problem kind of ramping up the baseball activities and really making sure my swing is right, my timing is right. Hopefully it’s going to be great for the WBC.”
That change in approach, Teixeira believes, just might pay off when the regular season begins.
“I spend almost all offseason and all spring training lifting weights very hard, getting my body in shape for 162 (games),” Teixeira said. “Because of that, I think in April I’m a little tight, maybe a little sore. This year, I’ve cut back on that. I’m not really going to get any stronger as I get older. I just want to keep that strength, keep that flexibility, so I’ve cut back a little bit on the weightlifting already to make sure I’m not tight for the beginning of the season.”
Here’s some video of Teixeira speaking yesterday.
Best case, worst case: First base • 01.23.13
The premise is pretty simple. Now that we’ve looked at the Yankees organization, position-by-position, what’s the organization’s best-case and worst-case scenario at each spot? We’ll start at first base, where the upside is significant and could make a huge difference in the way this lineup is viewed going forward.
Party like it’s 2009
It wasn’t all that long ago that Mark Teixeira was an all-star, a Silver Slugger, a Gold Glover and second in the MVP race. Oh, and he was also a World Series champion. Back in 2009, Teixeira’s first year with the Yankees, he was still one of the best all-around hitters in baseball. In addition to his defense, 30-plus home run power and good plate discipline – all of which have remained more or less in place the past three years — Teixeira also hit for a high average and had an OPS above .900 from each side of plate. About to turn 33 years old, Teixeira has not yet aged beyond that sort of offensive potential. His best-case scenario is about as good as it gets. The Yankees haven’t seen it in three years, but it’s still lingering out there as legitimate wishful thinking.
There’s also something to be said here for new addition Russ Canzler proving he can play a powerful, platoon role at the big laegue level. But, although Canzler can play first base, the Yankees best-case scenario certainly doesn’t include him getting more than five or six games at the position. If anything, it involves Teixeira staying healthy enough that Canzler’s only at-bats come at DH and occasionally in the outfield corners.
In the minor leagues, the Yankees would like to see power-hitting first basemen Luke Murton and Kyle Roller continue to hit homers as they advance, but the real prize seems to be Greg Bird, the Yankees 2011 fifth-round pick who’s been moved permanently from catcher to first base. A big year in Charleston could put Bird on the radar as a potential Teixeira replacement in four years.
A sign of things to come
At this point, Teixeira’s production seems fairly steady. Some health problems might have dragged down his numbers a little bit last season, but it ultimately feels safe to expect roughly .250/.330/.480 with 30-35 home runs. If what we’ve seen the past three years is a going to continue, at least there’s still some power and reason to think that — even in a horrible year — he could still hit 25 homers and slug .450 or so. The strength is there … unless last year’s health problems were the beginning of an Alex Rodriguez-type free fall. If we’re talking worst-case scenario, it surely has something to do with a doctor.
Teixeira eventually got his cough figured out last season, and his calf injury has had three-plus months to heal, but he got off to a horrible start last season — hitting just .229/.281/.386 into late May — and he blamed it, at least partially, on bad health. Teixeira actually slugged .518 the rest of the way, but nagging health and injury problems have taken a temporary toll in the past, and an unhealthy Teixeira might leave the Yankees longing for the version who could at least hit a home run every once in a while.
If Teixeira has to miss significant time, the Yankees best first base alternatives might be Canzler (a guy with fewer than 100 big league at-bats), Kevin Youkilis (the guy who’s supposed to be filling in at third) or Murton (a guy who hasn’t played above Double-A and whose batting average has declined year-by-year). Bird is an interesting but remarkably unproven young player, and the first basemen around him in the system — Matt Snyder and Saxon Butler — we just drafted last year and fall into the same boat: Could just as easily fall off the map as climb onto the radar. If a larger sample size against professional pitchers exposes holes in those young prospect’s games, the Yankees won’t really have a standout first baseman to look toward as a short-term or long-term replacement. If the Yankees have to turn to Tyler Austin to help at first, several things will have gone wrong.
Associated Press photos
More from Yankees workout • 10.05.12
Brian Heyman here at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are done with their workout under the lights. As Chad relayed earlier, Joe Girardi wasn’t saying much about the postseason roster or rotation outside of confirming CC Sabathia gets the ball in Game 1 Sunday night. Shocking news, I know.
At least, some faith in Sabathia should be restored after he closed the regular season with three straight strong starts, all with two runs or less allowed, all eight innings.
“The last three starts, it was vintage CC,” Girardi said.
Girardi is also high on the fact that the Yankees have been in playoff mode for a while, trying to nail down the division.
“They’ve had that mentality of playoff baseball for the last month, and I think that’s a good thing,” he said.
Girardi found this whole situation weird, though, being the No. 1 seed and then having to travel Saturday.
“It’s just strange going on the road for the first two games and you’ve got the best record in the American League,” Girardi said. “But it is what it is this year, and you’ve got to find a way to get it done.”
Mark Teixeira took some simulated game at-bats against David Aardsma and Adam Warren. Teixeira went 1 for 12 in his three-game return after the calf strain. He admits he’s still not 100 percent, and he’s still trying to get his timing back.
“It’s one of the challenges that I face,” Teixeira said. “I’ve always been knocked for having slow Aprils. There was a reason. It does take a while to get your timing back as a switch-hitting power-hitter. There are not many of them out there. But once I do, it does feel pretty good. So I’m just hoping to get hot. You want to be hot going into the playoffs.”
His fight to find his swing again and poor postseason history will be the subject of my main Yankees story Saturday on LoHud.com and in The Journal News. I’ll link it here on our morning post and on Twitter @bheyman99.
Girardi said he hasn’t talked to A-Rod about no longer being the dominant force in the lineup “because I still think he can be that guy. That’s the belief I have in him, and I think he still has that belief. … I feel good when he’s up at the plate.”
The first-round roster has to be in by Sunday morning at 10. Girardi said he hadn’t talked to everyone yet, presumably the ones who aren’t making it. Girardi wasn’t guaranteeing any announcements Saturday, either. Andruw Jones, of course, has been one of those listed as questionable to make it after his dreadful second half.
“I don’t really want to get too much into our roster, but we’ve all seen Andruw change the complexion of a game in one at-bat,” Girardi said. “That’s the one thing we know he’s capable of doing. But we’re not going to announce our roster until we really have to.”
Yankees pregame: Ichiro No. 2 again • 09.23.12
Brian Heyman back again for Chad today, rookie hazing day at the Stadium. The rookies are supposed to dress up in costumes left for them after the game for the trip to Minnesota. I do have a sense of humor, but never really cared for the whole hazing concept, even for NFL rookies having to sing their school fight songs for a room full of veterans. Anyway we’ll see what it’s in store after the game.
Nick Swisher has hit anywhere from second to seventh. He has batted second 51 times, but he’s in the five hole today. Ichiro Suzuki is batting second for the second straight game. He’s batting .700 over his last five games.
“He’s just swinging the bat so well, and it gives you a real speed element up there,” Joe Girardi said. “Swish has been really good in moving him around this year, because he’s one of our wild cards in breaking up all the lefties. So I’ve had to move him around a little bit without (Mark Teixeira) being here. We’ve been missing one of those right-handed bats or a switch-hitter for the last two and a half months basically with Al (Rodriguez) being out. So it’s just the way Ichi has been swinging and getting on base and can run, the speed that he has — it’s helped.”
The last six games against the A’s have been decided by one run.
“We were on the wrong end of four in a row at their place,” Girardi said. “We’ve been fortunate to win these last two. They’ve been very good ballgames. Who knows what’s going to happen today?”
Teixeira is set to fly to Tampa this afternoon to continue the rehab process. Brett Gardner still hasn’t been activated, but Girardi said he will travel with the team for this final road trip of the regular season.
Brian Heyman here for Chad today. So Mark Teixeira fielded grounders, did light jogging and took outdoor batting practice for the first time since aggravating his calf strain in Baltimore.
“Everything felt fine,” Teixeira said. “I obviously wasn’t pushing it really out there. But it was a good workout.”
Tomorrow he plans to ramp up the activity a bit more and then head for Tampa in the afternoon. He still has no timetable for a return.
“I’m just going to take it day by day,” Teixeira said. “That’s the plan this time around.”
If he’s still having problems when the first game of the playoffs gets here — the Yankees’ magic number for at least drawing a wild card is down to seven — Teixeira isn’t sure if he will be in there anyway.
“I have no idea,” Teixeira said. “It’s a decision we’ll all have to make together.”
He has concerns, like having to make a quick move to dive for a ball, having to have quick acceleration out of the box and having to push it on the basepaths.
“I want to be comfortable that I can do those things and not blow out again, because then we’re right back to square one,” Teixeira said. “The first game of the playoffs, we’re down one run and I need to beat out a double or beat out an infield hit and I blow out and I’m out for the rest of the playoffs, we’ve accomplished nothing. I just need to be able to play.”
But he says he’s improving.
“Sometimes walking up or down stairs, where I’m not being careful, it still feels a little tight, a little sore,” Teixeira said. “But overall it’s getting better. It’s progressing a little bit better each day.”
Curtis Granders0n, whose strikeout total is up to 182 and whose average is down to .232 (albeit with 39 homers and 94 RBI), is out of the lineup. “Just a day (off),” Joe Girardi said.
Girardi said he probably won’t have Rafael Soriano available for this game after he saves both ends of Wednesday’s doubleheader and blew the save last night. Soriano was experiencing what he felt was normal soreness last night. “I’m pretty sure that would go away,” Girardi said.
Girardi said he wasn’t sure if David Robertson will be available, either, after having appeared three straight days.
Ivan Nova will start today, coming off a good outing in his return to the rotation.
“We want to get him on a roll,” Girardi said.
Brett Gardner still hasn’t been activated.
The Yankees bring a one-game lead into this game.
“It’s playoff baseball in the month of September,” Girardi said. “… I think the guys are handling it very well and having fun.”