Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow is firmly planted in “no news is good news” territory. And today there seems to be no news. As long as he’s throwing pretty typical bullpens and facing hitters with no issues, he’ll be moving in the right direction, so today’s bullpen seems to be one of those small, positive steps. Tanaka showed no signs of pain or discomfort. Here’s some video.
I’ll try to have video from today’s intrasquad game posted to the blog soon. For now, a few quick notes from today:
1. Alex Rodriguez will make his spring training debut at home on Wednesday. He will start at designated hitter. Joe Girardi said he expects to give him two or three at-bats.
2. Carlos Beltran is scheduled to make his spring debut on Friday. No setback in camp, just moving intentionally a little slower with him.
3. Yankees sound happy with Masahiro Tanaka’s first live batting practice of the spring. “He’s right where we want him to be,” Joe Girardi said. CC Sabathia will face hitters for the first time later this week.
4. After Adam Warren on Tuesday, Nathan Eovaldi on Wednesday and Esmil Rogers on Thursday, the Yankees will have Bryan Mitchell and Chris Capuano start Friday’s split-squad doubleheader. Capuano will start the home game.
5. Catching prospect Luis Torrens has a shoulder injury. Assistant general manager Billy Eppler says the team is still evaluating the situation but should know more in the next 24 hours or so about the severity and the next step.
Associated Press photo
Today’s main event might be the afternoon intrasquad game, but the most important development is surely Masahiro Tanaka’s first live batting practice session.
Tanaka faced hitters earlier this morning and once again showed no signs of struggle or discomfort. He was scheduled to face a handful of minor league hitters, but Brett Gardner and Chris Young also got involved (they seemed to tracking pitches more than trying to actually hit).
Although Tanaka didn’t speak to media immediately after the session, he seemed to go straight to a normal workout, which is surely a good sign that he came through it healthy. Another step forward for a guy who claims to feel nothing unusual in his elbow. Tanaka sounds incredibly optimistic, and he’s passed every test so far.
Long way to go, but so far, so good.
There’s some video of the batting practice session at the top of this post.
• Alex Rodriguez will DH and hit cleanup in today’s intrasquad game, but he will not make tomorrow’s road trip to Clearwater. It seems his spring debut will be Wednesday at home, a game that happens to be televised on YES Network. Looks like Rodriguez and the bulk of the Yankees projected infield will be playing on Wednesday, while the outfielders will make the road trip tomorrow.
• Carlos Beltran is not playing in today’s intrasquad game, and he’s not making tomorrow’s road trip. Beltran, though, said he feels fine and deferred to Joe Girardi regarding the decision about not playing today or tomorrow. Beltran has been going through pretty normal drills, and was clearly on his way to the cage when he said he felt fine this morning. Seems like the Yankees are simply being cautious with him.
• Top pitching prospect Luis Severino is making tomorrow’s road trip and said he’s definitely scheduled to pitch. Severino’s been in Tampa since January 18, so he’s been throwing for a while and is clearly ready for games.
• You know who was pretty psyched to see his name on tomorrow’s travel roster: Slade Heathcott. I was talking to him at his locker before he’d seen the travel squad, and even then he said he was hoping to make the trip because it’s been so long since he played in a game. I’ve written before that Heathcott sounds as confident and optimistic as he’s been in a long time. Last spring, he seemed to be hoping his knee would stay healthy. This spring, he seems to fully expect it.
• Every catcher now has a drop in the Yankees spring “drop contest.” The last catcher without a drop was John Ryan Murphy, but he apparently dropped one yesterday.
• CC Sabathia threw a bullpen today. He was the only true bullpen listed on the schedule. He threw to Brian McCann.
With Cole Figueroa, Slade Heathcott and Aaron Judge hitting
Chris Capuano (to Eddy Rodriguez)
Jose Ramirez (to Trent Garrison)
James Pazos (to Gary Sanchez)
Nick Rumbelow (to Kyle Higashioka)
With Ramon Flores, Tyler Austin and Jonathan Galvez hitting (Gardner and Young joined them)
Masahiro Tanaka (to John Ryan Murphy)
Dellin Betances (to Austin Romine)
Scott Baker (to Francisco Arcia)
Team Gator: Cito Culver (SS), Cole Figueroa (3B), Kyle Roller (1B) and Rob Refsnyder (2B) are scheduled to play off the bench as straight-up replacements for Gregorius, Headley, Teixeira and Drew.
Team Goose: Slade Heathcott (CF), Jake Cave (LF), Aaron Judge (RF), Eddy Rodriguez (C) and Francisco Arcia (1B) are scheduled to play off the bench as straight-up replacements for Ellsbury, Gardner, Young, Romine and Bird.
• Tomorrow’s travel squad:
Pitchers: Danny Burawa, Kyle Davies, Nick Goody, Jacob Lindgren, Diego Moreno, Branden Pinder, Luis Severino, Chasen Shreve, Adam Warren, Tyler Webb
Catchers: Francisco Arcia, Kyle Higashioka, John Ryan Murphy, Austin Romine
Infielders: Greg Bird, Cito Culver, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Garrett Jones, Nick Noonan, Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder, Kyle Roller
Outfielders: Tyler Austin, Jake Cave, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Slade Heathcott, Aaron Judge, Mason Williams, Chris Young
• Tomorrow’s early work:
Chris Martin, Ivan Nova, Vicente Campos, Michael Pineda, Jared Burton, Esmil Rogers, Bryan Mitchell, Chase Whitley, Justin Wilson, Andrew Bailey and David Carpenter are each scheduled to do early pitching work tomorrow morning.
Associated Press photo
Predictably, unavoidably, today’s first full-squad workout in Yankees camp was dominated by Alex Rodriguez. He was the center of attention, the one player who drew the most cameras and eyes from the media, and the one who drew the most reaction from the crowd. That reaction, by the way, was all positive as far as I could tell. A lot of cheering when he had a good round of batting practice. I honestly didn’t hear a single boo.
The topic of Rodriguez will fade a little bit over time, but he’s a fascinating figure in this camp, and one of the teammates who knows him best is Mark Teixeira. After today’s workout, I actually thought Teixeira did a great job talking about the A-Rod situation. He talked about some tough issues, and managed to walk the line between supporting his teammate and condemning steroid use. He also provided some insight into Rodriguez’s challenges going forward.
Asked whether Rodriguez has changed, Teixeira offered a reminder that we’ve been here before
“That is a tough question to answer. I don’t know. He’s the same guy that I’ve known a long time. We came here in ’09 under very similar circumstances, if you guys remember, and we had a great year. He did a great job of putting it behind him and playing baseball. The entire team did a great job of putting it behind us, so that’s what I’m expecting this year.”
Missing a lot of time and trying to be a great hitter again; Teixeira went through it last year
“I think the difference is he’s well past his surgery, so I think that’s great for Alex that he’s well past his surgery. He’s not in a rehab mode that I know of. I think he feels pretty good, and that’s the difference probably.”
What’s the last thing to come as a power hitter?
“The carry is the last thing that comes back; the ball carrying. There’s a lot of cage work in the offseason. You want to hit line drives and you want to hear the ball off the bat, but you really don’t know how it’s carrying. At least for me, I’m working on my hands more in the offseason, and then slowly in spring training – I won’t hit many home runs early in spring training in batting practice –as we get closer to the season, I want to see that ball backspinning, carrying out of the ballpark because that’s what I need to do at the plate.”
What’s the state of the game with performance enhancing drugs?
“I think it’s better than it’s ever been. I came up in ’03 when we had some weird testing where there was testing but you could still do it and there were no penalties or whatever. And there were still a lot of guys doing it. There were. I think the middle 2000s, late 2000s, baseball did a great job of putting things in place. You’re always going to have cheaters. You’re always going to have guys who are trying to beat the system no matter what it is – taxes, breaking the speed limit, whatever. So for us to think no one is going to try to bend the rules is a little naïve, but I give the commissioner’s office a lot of credit (and) I give the players association a lot of credit for working together to try the best we can.”
How does Teixeira view PED users?
“I’ve been outspoken. I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all, but if you’re willing to take that chance, then that’s something you have to look in the mirror. I’m not going to stay anything that’s going to change anyone’s mind. It’s one of those situaitons. It is what it is. We all had kids in school who cheated on their tests, and we all worked hard and maybe got a B and they got an A. That’s life.”
So how does he reconcile that opinion with his friendship with A-Rod?
“There’s a lot of people that make bad decisions. Alex is not a bad person. I’ll be the first one to tell you that. I’ve known Alex for a long time, but Alex has made bad decisions, and he’s owned up to them. Hopefully now we can kind of get past it. That’s something that, if he was still denying it and still coming in here and put on a different face (it might be a different story). He told everyone he was sorry for what he did.”
• It was quickly overshadowed by A-Rod, but today really started with Larry Rothschild once again bringing up the idea of a sixth starter. How realistic is that? “We’ll see,” Brian Cashman said. “In a perfect world, it’s something that’s a great concept. I think more realistic, what we’ll see, is someone taking a sixth spot and pushing guys back (for one start) or skipping a starter a turn in the rotation. I think that’s probably more realistic than finding six quality arms to run through out there every six days on a consistent basis. But you hear many a times, the interest level in having a six-man rotation, and there’s a lot of positives from that. But it’s hard to pull off.”
• Cashman made it clear that the Yankees have to find five starters before they start to figure out a sixth starter. “If we’re ever in a position to be fortunate enough to have six quality arms that can compete for a win on a daily basis in the rotation, then I think we’ll be in a position to implement that,” Cashman said. “But first things first.”
• Speaking of which, here’s Joe Girardi on Tanaka’s morning bullpen: “Very good. Forty pitches, threw all his pitches, arm strength looked really good. We’ll continue to move him along, we’ll get him ready for a game, I don’t know when we’ll get him in a game, but that was good.”
• As the Yankees started taking ground balls, the first thing I noticed was Girardi standing directly behind Rob Refsnyder at second base. Girardi, though, said not to read into his positioning. “I was next to the first baseman, then I was next to the second baseman, then I stood next to the shortstop, and then I proceeded to third base,” Girardi said. “So I stood next to everybody today. … For me, it’s conversation; talking to some of the players I didn’t know. I have not had a chance to be around Galvez, Noonan, Refsnyder. I thought it was important. Cole Figueroa. I thought it was important I talk with everyone today.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury said he’s willing to hit anywhere in the order — he had to hit third last year — but Girardi wouldn’t give us any real indication about his plans for the lineup. “I think you have to see the makeup of our lineup, and who we decide is going to be in the lineup on a fairly regular, everyday basis,” Girardi said. “We’ve thrown around some ideas, but I think it’s too early to put an order together. The good thing is I’ve got 39 more days or something like that.”
• The Yankees had a lengthy team meeting before today’s workout. Teixeira said Rodriguez did not speak during the meeting. As far as I could tell, all interaction with Rodriguez was positive today. He stretched with Carlos Beltran, and took batting practice with Teixeira, Greg Bird and Jose Pirela. “Obviously, if he does well, it only helps the team,” Jacoby Ellsbury said. “From that standpoint, I think we all hope he has a good season.”
• Rodriguez got his first-baseman’s glove today, but he hasn’t started breaking it in. He did all of today’s defensive drills on the left side of the infield. “We’ll have him do early work (at first base),” Girardi said. “When we do some of the team defenses, (he will be) running through it in both places so you have some idea. As far as (having him play first in) a game, I don’t know yet, but you do want to get him comfortable before you send him out there.”
• First full-squad workout, and no Derek Jeter. First time that’s happened in two decades. “It was a little strange not seeing Derek out there today,” Girardi said. “We were doing the mass infield (drills), and he wasn’t there. It was kind of strange to me.”
• Or maybe, it wasn’t strange at all. “He retired,” Cashman said. “It never crossed my mind.”
• Final word goes to Girardi: “When I look at things today, I think the pitchers are a lot further along. I was very pleased with what I saw from Tanaka. I’ve been very pleased as far as what I’ve seen from our pitchers as a whole. One thing that sometimes stands out but you don’t always realize is how big these guys are. I know I’m shrinking at a slow rate, but God, they seem to be getting bigger.”
Associated Press photos
Another bullpen in the books for Masahiro Tanaka, and still the Yankees are speaking with confidence about his elbow and his health. Tanaka threw 40 pitches today, which is a pretty substantial side session.
“He threw great,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “Everything is progressing the way we like, so we’ll just keep going. … No (restrictions). We’re just bringing him along at a pace that he’s more accustomed to. A little different schedule as far as not trying to put a lot of pitches on him in a three- or four-day period, but still get him built up and get the stamina built up. That’s pretty much what we’re doing.”
Tanaka said he felt more arm strength than in previous bullpens, and he felt that he was throwing the ball harder. That’s not because he’s trusting the elbow any more, he said he’s simply building natural strength.
“I think I was throwing with more force than the last bullpen,” Tanaka said. “As far as hitting the spots, the location goes, I think it was better than the last bullpen as well. … I feel that I’m on the right track. Going through the workouts and going through the bullpen today also, it does give me confidence that I’m moving in the right direction.”
Don’t dismiss Rothschild’s previous comment about keeping Tanaka on a lighter schedule so far this spring. It’s something that’s likely to continue, and it’s an idea that extends beyond Tanaka. Rothschild indicated that the Yankees might stick with basically a six-man rotation during spring training just to see how guys react to having an extra day off between appearances. They’re clearly hoping to make this sixth spot-starter idea work.
“They’re all going to need it,” Rothschild said. “We’ve looked at schedules and scenarios, and we’ll continue to look at it as we go through spring, see how guys react. They’ll probably pitch on the fifth and sixth day in spring, see how they react to that and give them the extra time. We’ll see toward the end how we exactly want to do it. We do have the opportunity that if we need a sixth starter at times, we’ll probably run him out there. We’re looking at 30 games in 31 days at the end of April through May, so we’ll probably look at a lot of different scenarios. If they can handle it, and we’re comfortable with it, we may go with it. Otherwise, we’ll try to figure out how to get them through the first two months. It’s not just Masahiro; there are three or four guys in that group.”
• Alex Rodriguez was in and out of the Yankees clubhouse just like everyone else this morning. He didn’t talk to media, and it really didn’t seem to be a big deal. Not the overwhelming distraction that you might expect. The fact he talked the past three days probably helped make that possible. “I’m looking forward to playing with him,” Jacoby Ellsbury said. “Obviously, if he does well, it only helps the team. From that standpoint, I think we all hope he has a good season.”
• Hideki Matsui is in Yankees camp today. He stopped by Tanaka’s locker this morning, and Tanaka sprang to his feet for a handshake and a brief conversation. “Not all the Yankee players, former Yankee players, come here and get to be in that position (as a spring instructor),” Tanaka said. “It says about how he was as a player, here as a Yankee. I have very much a lot of respect toward Hideki.”
• Speaking of guest instructors, Mariano Rivera said this morning that he hasn’t been throwing at all lately. Doesn’t even really play catch with his son, who’s been pitching really well at Iona. Asked, though, how many warmup pitches he would need before throwing a cutter that could get a hitter out, Rivera just laughed. “Every pitch,” he said. I honestly believe him.
• Little surprise that Rodriguez has been assigned both a hitting group and an infield group with Mark Teixeira. Those two seem to always work together in spring training. In the past, the Yankees have specifically listed positions for individual players during infield drills, but there were no positions listed today. Based on Rodriguez’s group — with Teixeira and Kyle Roller — I’m guessing most or all of Rodriguez’s reps this morning will come at third base. Probably not going to have three guys at first base (the Yankee usually only have two guys at each position during infield drills).
• Did not see anyone in the Yankees clubhouse who seemed to show up in bad shape. Mason Williams seems to be in great shape. Aaron Judge looks like a monster. Jonathan Galvez looks like a strong dude. But the guy who stands out is Kyle Roller. Good grief. That guy’s arms are massive. Just looks like a guy who should be able to mash a baseball (and based on last year’s Triple-A numbers, that’s exactly what he can do).
• A group of pitchers are scheduled for early work tomorrow, as are a group of hitters. I’m guessing that means early morning live batting practice before the full workout begins. These are the guys scheduled for early work tomorrow (I can’t imagine all of these guys will face hitters tomorrow, but some might):
Pitchers: Andrew Bailey, Esmil Rogers, CC Sabathia, Chris Capuano, Scott Baker, David Carpenter, Dellin Betances, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino, Jacob Lindgren, Branden Pinder
Hitters: Greg Bird, Cito Culver, Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder, Jake Cave, Kyle Roller, Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge
• Heading to the minor league complex for live batting practice: Adam Warren, Nick Goody, Diego Moreno, James Pazos, Nick Rumbelow, Jose Ramirez, Andrew Miller, Danny Burawa and catcher Austin Romine.
• Early morning bullpens (these already happened):
Masahiro Tanaka (with Gary Sanchez catching)
Bryan Mitchell (with Francisco Arcia)
Chase Whitley (with Kyle Higashioka)
Jared Burton (with Juan Graterol)
Domingo German (with Trent Garrison)
Tyler Webb (with Eddy Rodriguez)
• Infield drills (specific positions not listed this morning):
Cito Culver, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, Alex Rodriguez, Kyle Roller, Mark Teixeira
Greg Bird, Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Garrett Jones, Jose Pirela, Brendan Ryan
Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, Brian McCann, Eddy Rodriguez
Jose Pirela, Alex Rodriguez, Brendan Ryan, Mark Teixeira
Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Garrett Jones
Greg Bird, Cito Culver, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Kyle Roller
Tyler Austin, Carlos Beltran, Jake Cave, Chris Young
Ramon Flores, Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Jacoby Ellsbury
Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, John Ryan Murphy, Austin Romine
Francisco Arcia, Trent Garrison, Kyle Higashioka, Gary Sanchez
Associated Press photos
Late in this morning’s live batting practice session, pitching coach Larry Rothschild gave specific instruction to catcher Gary Sanchez. Up in the zone. That was the target. New starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi was on the mound, and this session was about a clear checklist of goals.
“We worked on some different things, (including) elevating certain pitches,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Larry does a great job of giving them a plan of what each guy is supposed to work on that day whether it’s pitching inside or bouncing a breaking ball on top of home plate. That’s good, because it’s not just going out there throwing pitches. You have a plan, and I think that’s important for pitchers.”
While some guys are trying to build up arm strength right now, the Yankees have little reason to worry about Eovaldi’s ability to generate velocity. He can throw a four-seam fastball with the best of them, but his low strikeout numbers show plenty of room for improvement. So, among other things, Eovaldi was working this morning on getting his fastball up in the zone. He was also working with a slightly tweaked grip on his split-finger, a pitch he just started using last season, and one he’s planning to use a little more often this year.
Even though he’s no longer a prospect — not with three-plus years in the big leagues; not with a rotation job locked up — Eovaldi is barely a week removed from his 25th birthday, so he’s still a work in progress.
“You’re not talking about a guy that’s 30,” Girardi said. “He’s learning on the job and developing as time goes on. I think it’s just part of his game. I think learning how to pitch with his fastball, moving it around more, is still something he’s capable of doing that will help him. I don’t necessarily think one pitch is going to change everything, but obviously (the split) can help.”
Eovaldi talked this morning about recognizing his past limitations. He knows he needs to improve his offspeed stuff. He knows the split could be a key pitch. He wants to improve his strikeout numbers, without necessarily over-extending his pitch count. He needs to be more consistent, and he thinks his workload and health were the most significant positives from last season.
The fact he’s already facing hitters seems to be a pretty clear indication that the Yankees have already put in a lot of time working with him.
“He looked good,” Girardi said. “He threw a batting practice session, worked on some things, worked on some different ideas with his split. I was very encouraged by it. Arm strength is good. It’s still very early in camp, but it was positive.”
• Today was Masahiro Tanaka’s second bullpen since he arrived in Tampa. He threw 35 pitches and said his elbow felt “absolutely good.” He felt like he was throwing harder, and he added more breaking balls into the mix. Up next is at least one more bullpen — maybe more — before he faces live hitters.
• Girardi on Tanaka’s bullpen: “I thought he was good. He threw 35 pitches, threw everything and had no issues. That was encouraging.”
• This morning’s live batting practice was the first time Girardi had ever seen Eovaldi pitch in person.
• Apparently Carlos Beltran has been able to work quite a bit recently, so he was given today off. “He’ll be back tomorrow,” Girardi said. “He’s worked pretty hard the last few days.”
• The only non-catching position player I saw in the clubhouse today was Didi Gregorius, who was around for the second day in a row getting his locker situated. “I’m anxious to see him in games and to get him going just to learn more and more about him,” Girardi said. “It’s one thing to see him on tape, but you want to see him in person. That’s always important for me because I think you get a much better feel for how a guy is doing.”
• Smaller group of bullpens today than yesterday, but among those who got on the mound were two new lefties, Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson. “We’ve got a couple of lefties we can go to, when you start thinking about it,” Girardi said. “There’s some quality left handers here. I think it really gives you options as a manager. And I like that.”
• Among those lefties getting a look will be last year’s top draft pick, Jacob Lindgren. “I’m curious to see him,” Girardi said. “Because a lot of times you don’t see those guys a whole lot. There’s a bunch of young players that, you know, strike your curiosity here.”
• For the first time, I’ll take today’s final word, offering a huge congratulations to Chase Whitley on the birth of his son, Clete Coleman. It’s the first child for Whitley and his wife, who’s with him down here in Tampa and gave birth earlier today. You might remember the spring of 2012 when David Phelps’ wife had their first child, and Phelps soon made his first Opening Day roster as a long man. Wonder if the same could happen for Whitley, especially given the Yankees consideration of a sixth starter from time to time (maybe Whitley as a long man who can get a start here and there).
Associated Press photo
Here’s some video and some very quick notes from Yankees camp today. Masahiro Tanaka threw a bullpen, as did new left-handed relievers Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve, as well as potential long man Esmil Rogers. We’ll have more in-depth stuff later this afternoon. For now:
• Carlos Beltran had a healthy day off. Joe Giradri said Beltran’s been able to work hard the past few days, but this would be “his last Sunday off for a while.”
• Andrew Miller is the only pitcher listed for early work tomorrow. Based on what happened today — when the early guys all threw live batting practice — I’m guessing Miller will be facing hitters tomorrow morning.
• While Girardi said he has not seen any of Yoan Moncada’s private workouts, Girardi did say he’s heard good things about the young Cuban infielder. “They’re good reports,” he said. “They’re positive reports on a 19-year-old player.”
Above is video of new Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi throwing live batting practice this morning. There was no radar on the field, but velocity really isn’t much of an issue with Eovaldi. The Yankees are well aware that he can throw hard. They’re also well aware that his strikeout numbers aren’t what you’d expect from a guy with such a big fastball.
“I want to be a swing-and-miss guy,” Eovaldi said. “But contact (isn’t bad). If you locate the pitch, you should get quick outs. That’s really the main goal; limit the pitches and try to get guys out as fast as possible.”
The Yankees have said they want Eovaldi to get more comfortable with his secondary pitches. They want him to feel confident mixing pitches in various counts. In short, they want him to be more than a guy who throws hard. To that end, Eovaldi began working on a split-finger last year, and he’s planning to carry that into this season.
“The curveball was just kind of (used for) a first-pitch strike,” Eovaldi said. “I needed another strikeout pitch other than the slider and the fastball. We just started messing around with it, and it just happened to feel real good. … I took it in the bullpen and it’s just a comfort pitch. It felt good for me, so I felt comfortable throwing it out there. This year I’m going to mix it in there a lot more.”
• Kind of an under-the-radar candidate for the Yankees bullpen, former Athletics’ closer Andrew Bailey said he feels “night and day difference” since last spring training, which was his first after shoulder surgery. Bailey’s thrown four bullpens — last threw one on Friday, has another on Tuesday — and said he feels like he did during those all-star years in Oakland. He’s already throwing all of his pitches. Sounds incredibly optimistic and confident.
• While Bailey is throwing bullpens, he’s still on a slightly different program than the other guys in camp. Instead of throwing another bullpen today or tomorrow, he’ll simply long toss and throw off flat ground before his next bullpen on Tuesday. He’s basically getting a little extra rest between pens at this point, but Bailey said he feels healthy and feels on track. “It’s all geared toward Opening Day,” he said.
• As expected, Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to throw another bullpen today. He threw one on Thursday at the minor league complex.
• Once again, Brian McCann is assigned to catch one of the Yankees new relievers. He’s matched with Justin Wilson for today’s bullpen. John Ryan Murphy will handle new lefty Chasen Shreve.
• Branden Pinder was initially assigned to the Arizona Fall League this offseason, but he said that after coming back from a mid-season groin injury, he felt some elbow soreness — nothing serious — and the Yankees decided to not to put the extra innings on his arm. Feels good now.
• Carlos Beltran is not listed for batting practice today.
• Adam Warren and Danny Burawa also threw live batting practice this morning. Eovaldi pitched to Gary Sanchez; Warren to Kyle Higashioka; Burawa to Trent Garrison. Eddy Rodriguez and Francisco Arcia hit against all three pitchers. Sanchez hit against Warren and Burawa.
John Ryan Murphy
Kyle Davies (to Francisco Arcia)
Chris Martin (to Juan Graterol)
Masahiro Tanaka (to Austin Romine)
Esmil Rogers (to Eddy Rodriguez)
Chasen Shreve (to John Ryan Murphy)
Justin Wilson (to Brian McCann)
Jose De Paula (to Gary Sanchez)
Wilking Rodriguez (to Trent Garrison)
Associated Press photos
Associated Press photos
Tomorrow is the Yankees’ first spring workout, so tonight we’ll finish our countdown of the most pressing spring training issues by looking at one that could single-handedly determine the success or failure of this season.
Do the Yankees actually have a good starting rotation, or even a viable starting rotation?
Some of this is out of the Yankees’ hands at this point. All they can do is hold their breath and hope Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow doesn’t snap, Michael Pineda’s shoulder doesn’t blow out, and CC Sabathia’s fastball isn’t smacked all over the yard. They can only follow protocol with Ivan Nova’s rehab, work on Nathan Eovaldi’s offspeed pitches, and evaluate their options for the fifth starter spot. For the most part, their major rotation decisions were made weeks ago. Maybe even months ago. In some cases, years ago.
But at some point, the Yankees will have to decide whether they have enough.
Is this a rotation capable of getting the Yankees into the postseason. Should they consider a trade for a guy like Cole Hamels? Have they left themselves too short-handed to make a serious run?
This winter, the Yankees chose to role the rotation dice. They acknowledged in the fall that their rotation was a concern, but they didn’t want to make a Sabathia-like commitment to Jon Lester or Max Scherzer, and they didn’t like the going rate for high-risk secondary options like Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. They chose to sacrifice one starting pitcher to acquire a shortstop, which made their one trade for another starting pitcher more of a replacement than an upgrade.
• Is there any indication Tanaka’s favoring his elbow; has this rehab protocol really worked?
• Does Pineda seem to have his usual arm strength; is this spring 2012 all over again?
• What kind of pitcher is Sabathia at this point; has he successfully transitioned to a new stage in his career?
• Did the Yankees find a young gem in Eovaldi; can he do anything more than light up a radar gun?
• How much does Chris Capuano have left; did the Yankees get his last drop of effectiveness last season?
• Are Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers legitimate options; have the Yankees overly neglected their immediate depth?
• Can Bryan Mitchell or Chase Whitley spot start if necessary; how far away is Luis Severino?
Whatever the answers to those questions, there’s only so much the Yankees can do at this point. Their most important rotation decisions came when they passed on Scherzer and Lester, when they made a pair of rotation-based trades (three trades counting the Manny Banuelos deal), and when they selected Capuano and a handful of minor league free agents to build their back-of-the-rotation depth.
In some ways, their key 2015 rotation decisions came when they traded for Pineda, extended Sabathia, and elected to forgo surgery on Tanaka.
But as pitchers and catchers settle into Steinbrenner Field, it’s still hard to look at this Yankees team and see a more all-or-nothing situation than the state of the rotation. This spring, the Yankees will have to figure out whether this rotation is good enough to make the Yankees contenders or thin enough to keep them out of the playoffs.
And as with any spring training decision, the evaluation will be subject to change once the season gets started.
Associated Press photos