The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Minor league notes: Severino, Williams, Heathcott, Lindgren, Judge, Kaprielian07.20.15

Luis Severino, Austin Romine

Luis Severino was supposed to make his 10th Triple-A start tonight, but someone finally found a way to slow his rise through the Yankees’ minor league system.

Severino’s away from the team for the birth of his child.

“Ecstatic about who he is and what he is and the level he’s at at the age he’s at,” Brian Cashman said. “It’s ridiculous.”

At 21 years old, Severino is roughly six years younger than the average Triple-A player. He’s a kid, and he has a 1.79 ERA and 0.95 WHIP since joining Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His strikeouts are down and his walks are slightly up compared to his Double-A performance, but the Yankees are clearly happy with Severino’s progress to the highest level of the minor leagues. At 88.1 innings, he’s only 25 innings away from last year’s total, but Cashman said there’s no concern about Severino’s workload at this point.

“We’ve got a strong comfort level on how he’s been managed,” Cashman said. “I have no worries about his innings.”

While Cashman didn’t rule out the idea of using Severino in the big leagues this season, it seems he doesn’t feel the need to make that move at the moment.

“Even if I did,” Cashman said. “I’ve got (Adam) Warren who’s done great for us in that rotation, and I’ve got (Bryan) Mitchell who’s got more experience.”

Mason WilliamsMason Williams is playing catch again, and this time he feels solid progress in his sore right shoulder. He played catch on Thursday, then again on Saturday and Sunday.

“Same thing I’ve been doing,” he said. “My throwing problem, arm exercises, just trying to strengthen the arm and shoulder.”

Williams hurt himself while sliding back into first base during a big league game in mid-June. He’d previously survived a serious collision with the outfield wall in Baltimore, but got hurt making a fairly routine play on a pickoff. This is not the same shoulder that required surgery back in 2012. It was the left shoulder last time; it’s the right shoulder this time.

Recovery has already taken longer than expected, but Williams spent the All-Star break getting treatment at Yankee Stadium, and he said he’s felt a little more encouraged lately.

“I’d like to be playing, that’s basically it,” he said. “But I feel like I’m getting better.”

Slade Heathcott• Williams isn’t the only young center fielder on the disabled list. Slade Heathcott has been out since late May with a Grade 2 quadriceps strain. Heathcott is currently rehabbing in Tampa, and although the Yankees say he’s close to playing in games again, Cashman said he didn’t have an exact date for Heathcott’s return to a minor league lineup. “I know he’s doing well,” Cashman said. “But I don’t have a date I could tell you.” I assume Heathcott will ultimately be optioned back to Triple-A once he’s healthy. There’s not a lot of big league playing time currently available.

• Left-handed reliever Jacob Lindgren is also in Tampa rehabbing his way back from surgery to clear up an elbow bone spur. Cashman said he expects Lindgren to pitch again this season, but Lindgren hasn’t even started a throwing program just yet. “It’s going really well,” Cashman said. “I think the throwing program is probably going to come soon.”

• After playing in the Futures Game last weekend, Aaron Judge returned to Triple-A to hit a home run on Thursday and go 2-for-4 on Friday. Since then, though, he’s missed two straight games. “Just dealing with some minor stuff,” Cashman said. “So it’s a day to day thing.”

• Top draft pick James Kaprielian has reported to the team complex in Tampa, but Cashman said his opening assignment is entirely up to new farm director Gary Denbo. “I haven’t asked Gary if he’s going to knock some rust out at the Gulf Coast League,” Cashman said. ‘

• With Severino unable to make tonight’s start, Double-A standout Eric Ruth has been promoted to start tonight’s game for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Cashman said he’s legitimately impressed and intrigued by Ruth’s breakout season — 1.89 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in Trenton — but this call up is more about “shuffling the deck” to fill Severino’s spot. Probably only a spot start before Ruth returns to Double-A.

• Still pitching out of the Double-A bullpen, veteran Andrew Bailey continues to put up good numbers while trying to work his way back from 2013 shoulder surgery. He’s allowed just two hits and four walks through 8.1 Double-A innings. He’s struck out eight and held opponents to a .074 average. He went 1.1 hitless innings last time out. Could he pitch his way into the big league mix? “Absolutely,” Cashman said. “We’ve got a lot of (bullpen) guys now.”

• Speaking of that upper-level bullpen depth, the Yankees have already seen a bunch of guys shuttled up and down to the big leagues, and Nick Goody was recently promoted from Double-A to Triple-A. Cashman, though, specifically mentioned two other relievers who should be on the radar. Wilking Rodriguez, Cashman said, belongs in that mix with some of the familiar names for a potential call-up. The 25-year-old was suspended to start the season, but he’s pitched well in four appearances since being activated. Cashman also mentioned Johnny Barbato, the Double-A reliever acquired for Shawn Kelley this offseason. He’s been excellent his past five outings.

Associated Press photos

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The Yankees’ rookie class: Chasen Shreve a bunch of other guys07.15.15

Chasen Shreve

The Yankees have used 17 rookies this season. They’ve called up an additional pair of rookies who never got in a game. They’ve had 11 players make their big league debut, which is the second-most in the Majors.

There has been a movement of youth in the Bronx, but there hasn’t necessarily been a youth movement.

Of those 17 rookies, only one could be considered a significant impact player this season, so choosing the Yankees first-half Rookie of the Year is easy. It’s Chasen Shreve and it’s not even close. Two and a half months from now, that might not be the case. If Rob Refsnyder is going to stick around and play regularly, he could ultimately have a bigger impact in a half season than a middle reliever has in a full season.

For now, the Yankees’ rookie class seems to fit into these categories.

Rob Refsnyder, Hanley RamirezBEST OF THE BUNCH
Chasen Shreve

No longer trying to be perfect with every pitch, Shreve began throwing at max effort last season and got himself to the big leagues. This year, he’s had staying power with a 0.98 WHIP and more than a strikeout per inning. Shreve seemed to the third piece of an offseason trade that involved David Carpenter and Manny Banuelos, but it’s Shreve who’s had the biggest impact this season. He’s been excellent as both a long man and a go-to, late-inning reliever.

Rob Refsnyder, Bryan Mitchell, Nick Rumbelow, Branden Pinder

Clearly Refsnyder’s ultimate impact is still a mystery. He looked good over the weekend, and word is he’s going to stick around beyond the break, but prospect status doesn’t make him a definite impact player. Like Refsnyder, Mitchell is also on the active roster for the time being. He’s finally getting a look in the bullpen, but he’s not getting many opportunities to prove himself one way or the other. I’ve included Rumbelow and Pinder in this group because each one pitched pretty well and lasted more than a game or two, but neither was trusted with a key role. They’re each back in Triple-A at the moment.

Mason Williams, Didi GregoriusCUT SHORT
Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams

Take away an at-bats requirement, and the Yankees OPS leaderboard looks like this: Refsnyder, Heathcott, Rodriguez, Williams. That’s one through four, the only guys on the team with an OPS higher than all-star Mark Teixeira. Of course, the problem is that three of the four lasted fewer than 10 games. Heathcott was the first to get a call-up after the Jacoby Ellsbury injury, but he went down with a knee issue after six hits in six games. He’s now on the 60-day disabled list. Williams eventually filled that same replacement role, had four extra-base hits in eight games, and also landed on the 60-day.

Chris Martin, Jose Pirela, Jacob Lindgren, Ramon Flores, Jose Ramirez

To some extent, each of these guys had a real chance to stick and play a role. Martin broke camp with the team and initially pitched his way into some high leverage situations, but his performance dropped and he was replaced. Pirela seemed to be the favored right-handed platoon infielder, but he never hit in a part-time role and now seems to be on the outside looking in. The Yankees clearly wanted to give Lindgren a real look as a potential impact reliever, but he was too inconsistent and wound up optioned (and then hurt). Flores made a strong first impression, but he ultimately had a sub-.500 OPS and wasn’t even used when Carlos Beltren went on the disabled list. Ramirez is a harder one to figure out. He spent about a month on the roster last year, but the Yankees haven’t been especially keen on using him this season, and he hasn’t pitched well when given a chance.

Cole Figueroa, Jose De Paula, Diego Moreno, Danny Burawa, Matt Tracy

Upon arrival, no one on this list had the look of a long-term solution. Each one was called up to fill a specific need — Figueroa to play third base against a few right-handed pitchers; everyone else to provide fresh arms when the bullpen was depleted — and each was fairly quickly sent back to Triple-A. None of these five got into more than two games. They didn’t necessarily do a bad job, they just weren’t brought up with the intention of keeping them around. I suppose you could put reliever Joel De La Cruz and outfielder Taylor Dugas into this category as well. They were each called up but never actually played. Each one has since been taken off the 40-man roster.

Associated Press photo

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Postgame notes: “Didn’t really have much of a chance in his last at-bat”06.19.15

Alex Rodriguez

Hard to remember the last time Yankee Stadium got as loud as it did tonight. But there was no walk-off, no monumental home run. There was no milestone, and that was kind of the point. Those weren’t cheers that filled this stadium. They were chants and boos directed at a 27-year-old pitcher who seemed far more willing to hit Alex Rodriguez than give up a hit to him.

Alex Rodriguez“I was just trying to get him out,” Marlins reliever Sam Dyson said. “… If he was going to beat me, he was going to have to get the head out. I ended up throwing four balls kind of at his belt off the plate.”

Four straight pitches inside with Rodriguez one hit away from 3,000. The crowd was not happy about it. Never mind that the walk was part of a four-run inning that removed any doubt about who would win this game. The fans wanted to see history. They wanted to see A-Rod swing the bat. They were supporting Rodriguez as much as they were dismissing Dyson.

“I don’t even know how to describe it,” Rodriguez said. “It feels great. Every time moments like that happen, I can just reflect on a year ago today, (and) how great the fans have been to me. I think their support has actually helped me play a lot better.”

No one seemed to think Dyson was trying to hit Rodriguez (though at least a few of those pitches might have done it had Rodriguez not backed out of the box).

“He didn’t really have much of a chance in his last at-bat,” Joe Girardi said. “I think the crowd wanted to see it, I think that’s the bottom line, and I understand that. I’m sure the young man was trying to get him out, he just threw a bunch of sinkers that were too far inside, and Alex couldn’t even swing at them.”

So history will have to wait. Tomorrow the Yankees get Justin Verlander and the Tigers.

“I’ll think about it some,” Rodriguez said. “But I’m in a good place. Our team is playing well, we like playing at home, having the fans behind us was phenomenal today. My daughters are in town, Father’s Day is around the corner, I’m just really excited and having fun.”

C. C. Sabathia• Not a bad start by Sabathia, but not a great one either. It just kind of felt like a lot of Sabathia’s starts these days. Three runs across six innings is a 4.50 ERA, and if Sabathia could pitch like this every time out, I think the Yankees might take that. It was a winable start, and at times Sabathia looked great with seven strikeouts and no walks. “It’s difficult not, I guess, being the guy I used to be who went deep into games,” Sabathia said. “Just kind of is what it is. I go out there hard as I can until I’m done.”

• When did Sabathia come to grips with being that type of pitcher? “That’s something I came to grips with a couple of months ago; a couple of years ago,” he said. “It just kind of is what it is. Go out there and use my pitches and try to pitch deep into the game. … It really doesn’t change the way I pitch. It’s just frustrating for me that I can only give them six innings at a time.”

• After putting the side down in order the first three innings, Sabathia allowed one run apiece in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Just falling behind, he said. He got into bad counts, and the Marlins were able to chip away and take the lead for a while. “He did a good job,” Girardi said. “To limit them to three runs, a team that has really hit left-handers this season, I thought he did a really good job.”

• Chasen Shreve extended his scoreless streak to 11 innings over his past 10 games. He got his fourth win of the season. Each of his past 17 strikeouts have been swinging third strikes.

• Even though this had become a lopsided game, Girardi had Dellin Betances warming in the ninth. Girardi said he felt the Marlins were too close to being back in it to not have Betances at least getting ready just in case. “If I don’t bring him in and we lose the game, how’s that wear and tear? Girardi said. “Not too good. I’ll be crucified.”

Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran• Carlos Beltran’s game winner was the 30th home run of his career to tie a game or give his team a lead in the seventh inning or later. It was his second such home run with the Yankees. After a few good games in a row, Beltran is hitting .286/.348/.405 in the month of June. That’s after a good month of May. “The past couple of months I’ve been putting good at bats,” Beltran said. “It’s a long season, man. I know that it sounds cliché for me to say that, but I just have to approach each at-bat and every game as an individual.”

• After tonight’s game-tying shot, Brett Gardner’s hit 46 career homers, and 22 of those have tied a game or given the Yankees a lead. The Yankees have gone 34-11 in games when Gardner’s gone deep. “He’s been coming up huge for us the whole time,” Sabathia said.

• Mason Williams had two doubles tonight. Of his five big league hits, four have gone for extra bases. “I think he’s done a good job of making adjustments,” Girardi said. “It’s not easy being a young player, really hasn’t spent a lot of time in Triple-A. Not really knowing any of the pitchers that he’s facing. He’s made some nice little adjustments.”

• The Yankees are 9-1 in their past 10 home games. This was technically their sixth series sweep of the year, one away from their total from last year. … This was the fifth time Sabathia made a start without walking anyone this year. … Brian McCann has 20 RBI in his past 22 games. He had three hits tonight and I didn’t even notice until I saw the box score postgame.

• Still really weird to watch Carter Capps pitch with that little hop off the rubber. He must deliver the ball an extra foot closer to home plate, plus he’s able to reach 100 mph (which he did tonight). “When I saw Capps warming up,” Rodriguez said. “I told a bunch of my teammates in the dugout, ‘three-thousand is going to have to wait for another day.’ The chances of me even putting the ball in play are very little. Once I saw him walk out of the game, I was pretty excited.”

• Final word goes to Rodriguez about chasing No. 3,000: “It’s a lot easier to deal with these at-bats because we’re in the middle of a game and we need to win badly. It’s all about wins for us. The game was 5-3 and we’re doing everything in our power to keep the big guy out of the game. The focus is always winning.”

Associated Press photos

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Mason Williams: “I trusted the things that I was good at”06.13.15

Mason Williams

Mason Williams talked about failure when he arrived in big league camp this spring, and he talked about failure when he got to the major leagues on Friday. He talked about falling down and getting back up. He didn’t necessarily talk about making massive changes or fixing something that was broken. It was as if failure had been a lesson of its own.

“Like a lot of players, I went through it,” he said. “… Last year, I came and had a bad year. I still stuck to my game plan. I trusted the things that I was good at, and it paid off for me.”

WilliamsPaid off in a spring training that made a good impression, in a return to Double-A that showed how far he’d come, and a first stint in Triple-A that suggested he was ready to help in the big leagues.

“I wouldn’t say I changed my stance or anything like that,” Williams said. “It’s just understanding the game more, having more reps and going through it. … I just wanted to keep playing, keep getting at-bats. Keep playing defense and having an opportunity to get better and learn and hopefully win games.”

With speed, defense and a bat that put up good numbers in the low minors, Williams was picked by many as the Yankees’ top prospect heading into 2013. He hit just .245/.304/.337 that year, but that wasn’t failure as Williams came to know it. Sent to Double-A last year, his slash line dropped to .223/.290/.304, and guys like Ramon Flores and Jake Cave jumped to leap ahead of him in the organizational pecking order.

Williams went home to Florida and went to work. The Yankees showed faith by putting him on the 40-man roster. He arrived in big league camp looking strong and playing well.

“I just thought he had matured a lot as a player,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I thought his at-bats were good. He had some good at-bats against left-handers, that probably stood out to me as much as anything. I think, watching him play center field, he does it pretty easily. He made some really good plays. I remember him doubling up a guy when he came in on a catch and made an outstanding throw. There’s a lot of tools.”

Some of those tools were on display in his brief debut last night. He struck out in his first at-bat, then clobbered a fastball for a two-run home run. He made a bad read on a should-have-been-caught double in the fourth, then robbed a double with a running catch at the wall later in the inning.

In each case — at the plate and in the field — there was failure before success.

“I’m a player that’s learning every day still,” Williams said. “A player that’s learning and developing every day. Hopefully only good things to come. I believe in my game, I trust my craft and I work hard at what I do.”

Associated Press photo

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Pregame notes: Williams’ defense a deciding factor in big league call-up06.12.15

Mason Williams

Almost exactly five years after he was drafted, three years after he emerged as arguably the best prospect in the entire farm system, and one year after he fell flat in Double-A, Mason Williams found out he was being called to the big leagues and had one overwhelming reaction.

“I started sweating a lot,” he said.

After a miserable .593 OPS in Trenton last season, the Yankees maintained enough faith and hope to put Williams on the 40-man roster this offseason. After he hit .317/.407/.375 in a 35-game return to Double-A early this season, the Yankees pushed Williams to Triple-A. And after he hit .321/.382/.432 in a 20-game Triple-A debut, the Yankees brought their speedy young center fielder to the big leagues.

WilliamsThey could have recalled Ramon Flores, who played well in a roughly two-week audition, but they liked the way Williams fit the roster for an upcoming 20-game stretch.

“Thinking about moving forward, 20 days in a row, with Mason being a pure center feielder, a true center fielder, at some point going to have to give Gardy a day or two off,” Joe Girardi said. “We could have put Chris (Young) out there as well, but we just liked the way Mason was playing.”

As an added bonus, this means the Yankees will have used the Jacoby Ellsbury injury as a window to get a first-hand look at Williams, Flores and Slade Heathcott — three of several left-handed, speed-first, on-the-verge outfielders in the system.

“Mason has really pushed himself into the mix,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “As Heathcott did before him, and Flo did. So we certainly encourage our guys down there, when we have to make a phone call and have a need, you want the manager to be able to say, this is the guy you want. And a lot of the guys have come up and helped us. And hopefully, Mason will do the same.”

Just six months ago, Williams wound have seemed a long shot to be a part of that mix. Even when the Yankees put Williams on the 40-man, it was with an acknowledgment that he hadn’t hit well enough to be on the big league radar (there was mostly a fear that his defense, speed and left-handed bat could stick as a fifth outfielder; too great a possibility to risk losing out on his upside if/when things came together). So what exactly clicked for a player who’s always shown talent, and showed results earlier in his career?

“Last year, failing the whole year, I would say (was a learning experience),” Williams said. “Last year for me, that’s what clicked. I learned a lot. Just understood how to not put myself back in the same situation. It really helped me.”

Jacoby Ellsbury• Jacoby Ellsbury ran on the field at roughly 60-percent effort this afternoon. Just the next step in his steady progress from the sprained knee that’s had him on the disabled list since May 20. “The good thing is he felt good again today,” Girardi said. “Our plan is to leave him in Florida after we go to Miami. He’ll go to Tampa and hopefully shortly after being in Tampa and working out some days, he’ll be back in some rehab games.”

• Cashman wouldn’t give a definite timetable on it, but he said he expects Ellsbury back before the All-Star break.

• Dellin Betances is the Yankees’ new closer, and Justin Wilson will be the primary setup man. Sounds like newly recalled Chris Martin could fit into the seventh-inning mix with Chasen Shreve. “He will help us probably in the later innings,” Girardi said. “If we feel it’s a matchup for a right-hander. As we’ve said all along, our lefties get lefties and righties out, and we’ll use that, but at some point he’ll be in the back end like he was before.”

• Sounds like Brett Gardner will go back to being the everyday left fielder, letting Williams and Young platoon in center kind of like when Heathcott was up here. “I think it’s probably most important that (Williams is) as comfortable as we can make him as a young player,” Girardi said. “… And it might tax Gardy a little less moving back to left than being in center.”

• The Yankees will have CC Sabathia start tomorrow and Adam Warren start on Sunday. If the rotation were to stay on turn, it would Warren on Saturday, but Girardi said the Yankees liked the idea of giving him an extra day of rest. “We’re getting in an area where Warren hasn’t been at this level either, the amount of innings he’s getting to,” Girardi said. “I thought if we could give him the extra rest, it would be good.”

• It’s a few days away, but Girardi said he doesn’t expect Alex Rodriguez to play the field in Miami. He might in a late-inning, double-switch situation, but there are no plans to have Rodriguez start either of those two games.

• Few minor league moves: As expected, new second baseman Tony Renda is currently listed on the online Trenton roster (after being acquired in yesterday’s David Carpenter trade). In Triple-A, Jonathan Galvez has been released and utility man Ali Castillo — who had a great winter and was off to a strong start in Double-A — has been promoted from Double-A to Triple-A.

Associated Press photos

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A few random thoughts on the way home06.04.15

Mark Teixeira

I doubt there are very many baseball writers who list Oakland as their favorite road city, but I love it out there. My sister moved just outside of Oakland in my second year on the beat, and so last weekend will be one of my favorites of the year. Got to read a bunch of books to my nephew, and for the first time got to hold my little niece. For me, Oakland was the best part of the road trip, even if it was one of the low points of the season for the Yankees.

That dismal Athletics series gave way to a terrific Mariners series, though, and now the Yankees are starting this off day having won seven of their past 10 games overall. They looked pretty good again in Seattle. They pitched well, made some huge plays in the field and got huge hits — huge home runs, even — when they needed them.

Here are a few relatively random thoughts roughly a third of the way through the season.

Masahiro Tanaka• Masahiro Tanaka was incredible yesterday. At some point, he was making it look so easy that I think I failed to appreciate it until I looked at the box score at the end of the sixth inning. The guy is really, really good, torn elbow and all. With Michael Pineda outpitching King Felix on Monday, and Tanaka delivering his gem on Wednesday, the bookends of the Seattle series provided plenty of evidence that the Yankees need only make the playoffs to have some shot of making a run at a title. At their very best, Tanaka and Pineda are about as good as any 1-2 combination in the game. With no dominant team in the bullpen, why couldn’t a healthy Yankees roster get to the World Series? The trick, of course, is actually being healthy come October.

• As a whole, the Yankees have been wildly unpredictable this season, and that trend has carried over to several individual players. But there do seem to be five exceptions to that rule: Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller have been healthy and steady pretty much all season. There have been a few hiccups here and there — those are inevitable — but for the most part, the Yankees have been able to count on those five. And those five might explain why there have been more good moments than bad. Three of the top four hitters in the lineup, and the last two-plus innings of a close game. Those five guys help the Yankees win a lot of games.

• In the past few weeks, Girardi really seemed to be giving David Carpenter every opportunity to get his season turned around. He was pitching a little more often than he did back in April, got into a couple of tied games. In retrospect, it seems like a kind of sink-or-swim test, and when Carpenter gave up that RBI double on Tuesday night, he’d officially sunk. If Carpenter had gotten that out, I wonder if he might have stuck around a little longer.

• Along those same lines, I wonder if Girardi is doing something similar with Stephen Drew. After a couple of days off to clear his head and tweak some things, I wonder if Drew gets another week or so of everyday at-bats to see if he can right the ship before Brendan Ryan is ready. If Drew can get something going, then he’ll stick around and Jose Pirela will be optioned. If Drew continues to fall flat, then maybe Pirela gets a real opportunity, Ryan becomes the backup middle infielder, and Drew follows Carpenter into DFA limbo. Right now, I’d say the smart money is on Drew staying and Pirela going, but then again, I didn’t expect the Yankees to actually DFA Carpenter, so what do I know?

• When the Yankees finally add a right-handed reliever to their bullpen — which has to be inevitable, right? — my guess would be Jose Ramirez. That’s as much a gut feeling as it is an educated guess. Ramirez just seems to have the right combination of big league experience, raw stuff and Triple-A numbers. He’s pitched well lately, could go two or three innings if necessary, and Girardi’s familiar with him. If I had to guess which reliever could be called up in the next couple of weeks, I’d pick Ramirez. Who goes down or gets DFA to make room for him, I don’t know.

Stephen Drew, Brett Gardner, Garrett Jones• Unless someone gets hurt, Garrett Jones is never going to play a huge role on this team. But he does have a role to play, and it really seems that he’s learning how to play it. The Yankees absolutely have to keep Rodriguez and Teixeira healthy and productive, so it will be helpful to pick and choose some opportunities to rest them. Jones should factor heavily into making that happen. If he can hit for power while getting only occasional at-bats — like he did the past two days in Seattle — he’ll help this team even in a limited role.

• When the Yankees were protecting players from the Rule 5 draft, I wasn’t sure Mason Williams was necessary (and if I’d known Slade Heathcott was going to play the way he did in March and April, I certainly would have thought Wililams was unnecessary). But beginning with a strong showing in big league camp, Williams has proven me wrong. I’ve always really liked the guy personally, and now he’s putting up numbers that make it a lot easier to believe in him professionally. Speed and defense have never been a question, but after finally putting up big Double-A numbers, Williams has jumped to Triple-A, taken over the leadoff spot and hit .315/.373/.444 with two stolen bases, six extra-base hits and more walks than strikeouts. It’s only a 13-game sample at the highest level of the minors, but it’s a tremendous sign for a guy who’s always had a world of talent and athleticism, just hadn’t put it all together against advanced competition.

• Am I crazy for starting to believe in Didi Gregorius? Sure, he fell down on Tuesday night, and he continues to occasionally make some bad choices in the field, but he’s also made some spectacular plays in the past week or so (that play up the middle yesterday was incredible). He’s also started to hit a little bit, with a few more line drives and eight hits in his past six games. He’s always going to be a bottom-of-the-order hitter, but he doesn’t have to always be a .220 hitter. And some of those overly aggressive mistakes might fade away with time. I always thought he was worth a shot, and lately he’s actually showing signs of earning his playing time.

• Speaking of which, Ryan’s first two Triple-A rehab games were played at second base and third base. I’m sure he’ll get a turn at shortstop eventually, but the Yankees seem to be prioritizing him as a backup at other positions. To me that suggests Gregorius is going to keep getting most of the shortstop at-bats without falling into a straight platoon when Ryan returns. If that were the plan, surely Ryan would be playing mostly shortstop in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. If Ryan is moving around, then Gregorius isn’t going to be losing a ton of playing time at short. Or maybe I’m reading way too much into two games of a rehab assignment.

• Teixeira is certainly putting up all-star numbers, but I’m not sure he’s going to be an all-star player. He deserves it, but first base is always a crowded position, and right now the American League has Miguel Cabrera, Eric Hosmer, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Abreu. Not that all of those guys are putting up Teixeira-level numbers, but they’ve been good and productive. Either Cabrera or Hosmer will be the starter, and both Pujols and Fielder will surely get support on the players’ ballots. I think Teixeira would be a fine all-star pick, but I won’t be at all surprised if he doesn’t make it. As good as Teixeira’s been in his career, he’s only been an all-star twice.

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: “I’m not going to be disappointed either way”03.20.15

Adam Warren

Today it’s Adam Warren’s turn. Last night it was Esmil Rogers, and at some point it will be Bryan Mitchell again, but today’s it’s Warren trying to make an impression in the fifth-starter competition.

“I always wanted to just come in and get ready for the season,” Warren said. “And those last couple of weeks, get ready to compete a little bit. I think they know what I’m capable of. Maybe not as a starter (though), so just try to go out there and try to prove myself a little bit, and just go from there. I don’t know if I’ve really ramped it up any or anything like that. I just want to go out there and compete. That just says the same no matter what.”

WarrenRogers is relatively new to the organization, and Mitchell has very limited big league experience. The other two vaguely in the mix are Scott Baker and Chase Whitley, another guy who’s new to the organization and another guy with limited big league experience.

Then there’s Warren, who came up through the Yankees organization and has solidified himself as a big league pitcher the past two years. He’s made some spot starts, but his real breakout came as a late-inning reliever last season.

“I was always (thinking), I’m a starter, I’m a starter, I’m a starter,” Warren said. “But then I kind of liked the bullpen the last couple of years. I see myself being more versatile now as opposed to just a starter. I still want to hold onto being a starter because I love doing that. I don’t have a preference. It’s not going to matter to me where I end up. I still want to be labeled as a starter and be a starter because that’s what I’ve always done. … I’m not going to be disappointed either way, but I would love to be a starter so I can kind of hold onto that.”

Joe Girardi has stressed that the Yankees are looking to build a 12-man pitching staff, not just a five-man rotation. They have to take the entire group into account. For a decision like this, it’s not necessarily a matter of picking the best pitcher, putting him in the rotation, and letting the second-best fall into the bullpen. Some guys are better suited for the pen. Some are better suited for the rotation.

Does the fact the Yankees have seen Warren thrive in the bullpen make them lean toward keeping him in the relief role?

“The thing about Adam, I think he’s extremely equipped to do both because he is a four-pitch guy,” Girardi said. “Adam is one of the few guys that uses four pitches out of the bullpen. I think he’s grown up a lot in the last couple years. It’s just trying to figure out how we’re the best.”

CC Sabathia• Speaking of the rotation, Girardi said the current rotation order — in which CC Sabathia is on an every-five-days routine that leads toward Opening Day, while Masahiro Tanaka lines up after him — is not necessarily the order the Yankees will take into the season. The Yankees have built in some wiggle room to make adjustments along the way. “We still have plenty of time to iron it out,” Girardi said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. A lot of it depends on Tanaka and CC and where they’re at, where we think they’re at. That’s the bottom line. The fact we haven’t announced anything is because we haven’t got them built up enough to feel comfortable that they’re ready to go.”

• Alex Rodriguez is back at designated hitter today while Garrett Jones gets another turn at first base. Girardi said he still thinks there’s a chance Rodriguez will play first base a game or two this spring, but for now, it’s more important that Jones gets time at the position because he’ll be the go-to backup. “I said I did want to put (Rodriguez) out there one time, two times,” Girardi said. “So it might be something that we mess around with the last couple of weeks. And it may not be.”

• Plan is for Brendan Ryan to play four or five innings at shortstop today. He’s basically on a schedule similar to most guys getting into spring training games for the first time. Girardi wants to make sure he gets a couple of at-bats, but there’s no sense of pushing him to play seven or eight innings right out of the gate.

• Carlos Beltran is skipping the upcoming long road trip to the east side of the state and will instead get at-bats at the minor league complex (Rodriguez is doing the same thing). Girardi said that’s not because Beltran is considered to be behind and in need of extra at-bats, it’s more to let him avoid two long bus rides.

• The Yankees made another round of cuts late last night. Girardi said he didn’t have the full list, but Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, Jose De Paula and Nick Rumbelow had their lockers cleared out this morning. Apparently a full, official list of cuts will be sent out later today.

• Dellin Betances is throwing a simulated game today, pitching to John Ryan Murphy while facing Francisco Arcia and Eddy Rodriguez.

• Jose Ramirez, Ivan Nova and Vicente Campos have bullpens today.

• A few guys are back from minor league camp to add extra depth today: RHP Branden Pinder, RHP Cesar Vargas, LHP Fred Lewis, RHP Chris Smith, INF Ali Castillo, OF Ben Gamel, OF Aaron Judge, OF Jake Cave.

Today’s second string: C Austin Romine, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Cole Figueroa, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ben Gamel, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Aaron Judge, DH Eddy Rodriguez

Today’s scheduled relievers: Chase Whitley, Chris Martin, Nick Rumbelow, Jacob Lindgren

Associated Press photos

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Wednesday morning notes: Mason Williams playing with something to prove03.04.15

Mason Williams

There are three distinct groups in today’s Yankees lineup.

1. The big league infielders. Familiar names all around the diamond, each with well-established story lines, from bounce back seasons, to lingering health issues, to a young shortstop trying to make a strong first impression.

2. The designated hitter. A thoroughly unique situation, and the one that will most certainly generate the most attention this afternoon. Is there any chance Alex Rodriguez won’t be the focus today? Nope.

3. The young outfielders. Three guys on the 40-man roster but with no time in the big leagues. All three have a chance to play a big league role this season (and a chance to be overshadowed and forgotten by September).

Of the nine players in today’s batting order, the one most easy to dismiss just might be the guy who, only two years ago, was considered by many to be the top prospect in the entire Yankees system. Mason Williams gets the start in center field today, one year after he hit just .223/.290/.304 in Double-A.

“Obviously everyone knows this is a game of failure,” Williams said. “And for me, honestly, that’s the first time I’ve ever really failed (at baseball). For me, honestly, last year was probably the biggest year of my career so far. I feel like I learned the most I could have by going through that failure and seeing my struggles. Now I feel like I’m knowing what I do when I go wrong and how to not put myself back into that situation.”

There is no doubt Williams has a lot to prove this season, especially when he can look around the Yankees clubhouse and see Ramon Flores sitting right next to him, Slade Heathcott two lockers away, Jake Cave wandering through the middle lockers, and Aaron Judge generating as much attention as anyone other than A-Rod. Williams used to be a standout. Now he’s a guy with big tools and disappointing numbers in a system heavy on upper-level outfield prospects.

But it says quite a bit that the Yankees protected him from the Rule 5 draft this winter. His speed and defense are already seen as big league ready. It’s the bat that has to make some strides.

“For me, I learned that I’ve got to give myself chances,” Williams said. “Last year, I struggled, and I feel like I gave a lot of at-bats away. And that’s something I want to clean up this year. … I want to be a better player in general. I want to be a better teammate. I want to be better on the field, in the dugout. Even in my house. I just want to be a better person. I feel like if I try to be that, other things will be OK.”

Williams arrived in camp in good shape. He said he began really focusing on the nuances of the game last season, and he feels like a smarter player because of it. He spent his offseason training at home in Orlando, driving the hour or so to the minor league complex every once in a while to check in. With that new spot on the 40-man, Williams isn’t simply setting his sights on finally conquering Double-A. Players on the 40-man are one opportunity and one phone call away from the big leagues.

“It definitely shows they still believe in me,” Williams said. “I obviously still have a lot of faith in myself, and I believe in myself. Knowing that they still believe in me, come out here and try to help New York this year and try to win a championship.”

Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira• The clubhouse opened to media pretty early this morning, and there was no sign of Rodriguez, who’s return to the lineup will obviously be the biggest story of the day. I assume he’s hitting second to make it a little easier to give him extra at-bats. It’s worth noting that no one is listed as the backup DH for today. Someone might replace him at some point, but the Yankees seem to be leaving Rodriguez’s playing time pretty open-ended.

• Ramon Flores is starting in left field today. Long overshadowed by guys like Williams, Flores has become an organizational standout. A severe ankle injury probably robbed him of a big league call-up last season, but he put up a .347/.435/.505 slash line in winter ball. Flores said his ankle was never 100 percent even after he came off the disabled list late last season, and he was still nervous about it when he started playing this winter. Eventually, though, he became convinced that he was completely healthy, and the results were pretty overwhelming.

• In the other outfield corner is Tyler Austin, who finally recovered from a lingering wrist injury last season and hit .336/.397/.557 in the second half. While Austin acknowledged heath might have played a part in that, he said that strong second half had more to do with physical adjustments he’d been working on with hitting coach Marcus Thames. They simply began to click in the second half, and the numbers took off. Count Austin among many, many people in the organization who love Thames has a hitting guru.

• Vicente Campos threw a 25-pitch bullpen yesterday. It was all fastballs, and Campos said he’ll start incorporating changeups next week. Working his way back from Tommy John surgery, Campos said he’s targeting May for his return to game action.

• Today is the two-year anniversary of Brian Cashman breaking his ankle while skydiving. Cashman said he was invited to try it again but turned down the invitation.

• Jose De Paula is throwing a simulated game today. He’ll pitch to Kyle Higashioka and face Greg Bird and Cito Culver.

Capuano (2)TanakaThree bullpen sessions today:

Chris Capuano (to John Ryan Murphy)
Masahiro Tanaka (to Eddy Rodriguez)
Domingo German (to Juan Graterol)

Today’s second string: C Gary Sanchez, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Nick Noonan, SS Cito Culver, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Jake Cave, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Aaron Judge

Today’s scheduled relievers: Andrew Miller, Kyle Davies, Danny Burawa, Wilking Rodriguez, James Pazos, Tyler Webb (with Nick Rumbelow, Scott Baker and Jose Ramirez listed as just-in-case options)

Tomorrow’s travel squad to Bradenton:

Pitchers: Jacob Lindgren, Diego Moreno, Esmil Rogers, Nick Rumbelow, Chasen Shreve, Chase Whitley
Catchers: Trent Garrison, John Ryan Murphy, Eddy Rodriguez, Austin Romine
Infielders: Greg Bird, Cito Culver, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Garrett Jones, Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder, Kyle Roller
Outfielders: Tyler Austin, Jake Cave, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ramon Flores, Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Mason Williams, Chris Young
Up from minor league camp: SS Tyler Wade, RHP Cesar Vargas, LHP Fred Lewis, RHP Zach Nuding, RHP Taylor Garrison

Associated Press photos

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Spring roster notes: Rotation depth, health updates, spring snubs02.06.15

Adam Warren

Just got off the phone with assistant general manager Billy Eppler, who answered a few questions about the non-roster guys invited to Yankees camp this spring.

Eppler confirmed that both Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers have been told to prepare as starting pitchers. They will essentially show up in Tampa as sixth-starter options — guys who could fill a rotation spot if someone else gets hurt — but Eppler didn’t rule out the idea of either Warren or Rogers pitching well enough to win a rotation job even if everyone else is healthy.

“I don’t know,” Eppler said. “I think you just walk into it with an open mind and just see. I think you just let it all play out. You usually don’t have to end up making the call. Situations and the players will make the call for you.”

Rogers pitched well as a starter in winter ball this offseason, and Warren was a legitimate rotation prospect throughout his minor league career (he made his big league debut as a starter back in 2012). For now, the Yankees seem to be looking at a five-man rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Capuano, while they wait for Ivan Nova to come back from Tommy John.

The Yankees expect reliever Andrew Bailey to be an active pitcher in camp. After missing basically all of last season while recovering from a shoulder injury, Bailey should be back on the mound this spring, presumably with a real chance to win a spot in the Yankees bullpen.

“He’s in a throwing program, and there’s been nothing adverse reported from him,” Eppler said.

Slade Heathcott is also expected to report to camp fully healthy. He had surgery yet again last season and played in just nine Double-A games, but the Yankees signed him to a new minor league contract this offseason.

“His progressions are moving forward really positively,” Eppler said. “The last checkup we had, he’s able to do full baseball activities, it’s just (a question of) how regular and how long of a duration.”

New reliever Johnny Barbato — acquired in the Shawn Kelley trade — is also healthy. Barbato didn’t get an invitation to big league camp, but Eppler said that’s not because of the elbow injury that kept him off the mound the second half of last season. Eppler said Barbato actually finished 2014 healthy and pitched in the Padres’ instructional league this offseason before the Yankees acquired him. They’re considering him a healthy and available pitcher, one that will continue to work as a reliever.

“He was cleared and good to go,” Eppler said.


While he wouldn’t give an exact date, Eppler said that veteran pitcher Scott Baker does have an opt-out in his contract (pretty common for a veteran guy on a minor league deal). He’ll come to camp to provide rotation depth, but that could be a short-term thing. If he goes to Triple-A at all — and that might be a big, if — Baker might not be there very long before looking for an opportunity elsewhere.

As for Heathcott and Mason Williams — two prospects whose assignment, Double-A or Triple-A, seems pretty far up in the air — Eppler said their assignments will, in fact, be determined in spring training. This spring could be pretty important for each of those two.

“Any young player wants to make an impression,” Eppler said. “… But you want them to do so in a very cautious manner. (Joe Girardi) tells them, no one is making the team in the first week of spring training.”

Eppler said the Yankees signed Nick Noonan expecting him to be the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre shortstop if he doesn’t make the major league roster.

Along those same lines, Eppler said the Yankees entered the offseason with strong interest in minor league infielders Noonan, Jonathan Galvez and Cole Figueroa — Galvez, in particular, was signed very quickly — and the team sees all three as potential Yangervis Solarte-types who could really capitalize on a fresh opportunity. Galvez is  24, Noonan is 25, and Figueroa is 27.

And for whatever it’s worth, Eppler said not to dismiss Cito Culver, the former first-round pick who’s hit just .233/.316/.321 in the minor leagues but still got an invitation to big league camp.

“When people look at Cito or whoever, when you look at a player, you’re throwing his offensive numbers in your face,” Eppler said. “We do feel that Cito Culver is a very high, high-end defender. Very high-end defender.”

Because of that defensive ability at such an important defensive position, Eppler said the Yankees still believe Culver could become a consideration should the Yankees have a need at shortstop in the big leagues. In the past, I’ve compared Culver to Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma, also a first-round defensive standout who didn’t hit much in the minors but has seen quite a bit of big league time on pretty good teams.

Some of the more notable names left off the Yankees’ list of spring invites were, as expected, simply the victims of a numbers crunch. Taylor Dugas and Adonis Garcia each played well in Triple-A last season, but the Yankees have 10 other outfielders coming to camp, and Eppler pointed out that infielders Garrett Jones and Jose Pirela will also get some outfield time. As it is, that’s 12 outfielders for three spots.

A similar glut of third basemen kept Eric Jagielo and Dante Bichette Jr. from getting invitations, and Eppler confirmed that reliever Mark Montgomery is healthy, he was simply kept out of big league camp by the recent influx of bullpen talent.

“There’s a limited number of at-bats and innings to hand out in spring training,” Eppler said. “You don’t want to water it down.”

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

On the 40-man: Mason Williams02.05.15

Mason Williams

Up next in our look at every player on the Yankees 40-man roster is a young center fielder once considered the top prospect in the system. Despite back-to-back disappointing seasons, the Yankees still chose to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He’ll be in spring training, trying to stay ahead of some non-roster invitees in terms of call-up potential. 


Age on Opening Day: 23
Acquired: Fourth-round draft pick in 2010
Added to the 40-man: Protected from the Rule 5 this winter

In the past: Considered a Top 100 overall prospect by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and, Williams was at the top of Baseball America’s Yankees’ list following the 2012 season. He was labeled a “more athletic version” of Austin Jackson. The past two seasons, though, Williams struggled mightily at the plate, including a .223/.290/.304 slash line in Double-A last season. Speed, defense and potential were enough to get him added to the 40-man, but his stock has fallen considerably.

Role in 2015: With Jake Cave on the rise, Slade Heathcott back in the organization and Ramon Flores creeping out of the shadows, Williams needs a good year to stay on the radar. A return to Double-A seems most likely, but Williams no longer has a lock on any center field job. He might have to move around between left field and center, trying to hit enough to at least get to Triple-A this season. His level and his playing time all depend on his performance.

Best case scenario: At the peak of his value, Williams hit .298/.346/.474 between Low-A and High-A. That was only two years ago, in 2012, when his speed and defense came with a sense that he might have some pop in his bat. The best-case scenario is absolutely a return to that level of production, and if he gets there, Williams will surely get to Triple-A this year and become a strong candidate for a call-up. The best-case scenario has Williams in New York — in one role or another — in the month of September.

Worst case scenario: More of the same. We already know Williams can run, and we know he can play the field, but the worst case scenario is a repeat of last season. If that happens, Williams could very easily be on his way out of the organization. There’s too much left-handed, center field talent to keep a guy who simply can’t hit well enough to get out of Trenton.

What the future holds: In some organizations, Williams’ speed and defense alone might be enough to keep him around for a while, at least to serve as center field depth in Triple-A. In this organization, though — with Cave and Heathcott in the minors; Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in the majors — Williams could play his way out with another bad season. The fact the Yankees put him on the 40-man is a pretty clear indication that they still see potential, and that means he’ll get a chance, but he’s going to have to take advantage of the opportunity if he’s going to stick around.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

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