The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Postgame notes: Garcia’s role uncertain after another bad start04.28.12

The benefit of the doubt has been the only thing working in Freddy Garcia’s favor this season, but even that might have ended after today’s debacle. Manager Joe Girardi said he wanted to “sleep on things” before making a decision, but it’s clear that Garcia’s spot in the rotation is in doubt.

“I can’t tell you exactly what we’re going to do,” Girardi said. “I’m not going to come to any rash decisions. Obviously we’re trying to evaluate what’s going on here. It’s frustrating for the player and it’s frustrating for us, but we all know Freddy is better than what he has shown. We saw all last year how he competed, we saw it in spring training. For some reason it’s not coming out (of his hand).”

Although Garca said he physically feels fine, Girardi said it’s entirely possible that the Yankees will send him for medical tests. Garcia’s fastball velocity has dipped, and his split — an effective put-away pitch last season — has been cutting. It was an 0-2 split that Andy Dirks hit for a three-run home run in the first inning.

“I don’t see the crispness in his pitches,” Girardi said. “If we didn’t see it in spring training I’d say, well, maybe it’s not going to be there. But it was there. He threw great in spring training. He threw harder than he did last year. For whatever reason it’s not there right now.”

Garcia seemed baffled, frustrated and uncertain following the loss. He said he’d like to make his next start, but acknowledged that he’s not sure the Yankees will send him back out there.

“I’m just struggling, man,” he said. “For me, it’s really hard. I like to compete and I’m not competing right now. It’s frustrating. … My velocity is down. We work hard last week on a couple of things and things are not going in the right way right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

• For the first time, Girardi called David Phelps a candidate to move into the rotation. “Any time you have a long man, he’s a candidate to be a starter,” Girardi said. “Your long man is someone who is a sixth starter all the time in the bullpen.”

• After three hitless innings today, Phelps ERA is down to 3.57. After two rocky outings, today looked much more like what the Yankees saw out of Phelps in the first two weeks of the season. “My last two outings I was just trying to do a little bit too much instead of staying within myself,” he said. “I kind of got back to that today.”

• The bullpen allowed one run through 7.1 innings. Cody Eppley gave up a solo homer to Miguel Cabrera, but that was the extent of the damage. Despite Garcia’s awful start, the Yankees had a chance because of the pen. “It just speaks volumes to the quality of arms we have in our bullpen, the job that we’ve done all year,” Phelps said. “You saw tonight, we were 10 or 15 feet away from having a tie ballgame. It’s what we’re supposed to do, go in and give our team a chance to win. We’ve been doing a great job of it so far.”

• Those 10 or 15 feet came on Eric Chavez’s fly ball to end the game. A three-run ninth got Chavez to the plate as the tying run with two outs in the ninth. He gave the ball quite a ride, but it was caught short of the wall.

• Nick Swisher homered from both sides of the plate for the 11th time in his career, tying Eddie Murray and Chili Davis for the second-most such games all time behind Mark Teixeira. This was the first time Swisher had homered at home this season. He has six home runs.

• Curtis Granderson hit his seventh homer of the season. It was his first home run off a left-hander this season.

• Garcia has allowed nine first-inning runs this season.

• This is the first time in Garcia’s career that he’s gone back-to-back starts without pitching out of the second inning. Last time it happened to a Yankees starter was Chien-Ming Wang in 2009. That’s not exactly the comparision he wants right now.

• That Dirks home run was the first time Garcia had allowed a homer on an 0-2 pitch since Cabrera did it against him in 2009.

• Girardi said the team might call up a reliever before tomorrow’s game. “We’ll figure that out,” Girardi said. “Obviously we could make some adjustments.”

• It’s worth noting that D.J. Mitchell last started on Tuesday, making Sunday his regular day to pitch.

• Speaking of minor league starters: The Yankees confirmed that Andy Pettitte’s next start will be with High-A Tampa, not Double-A Trenton. They don’t want him pitching in the cold.

• Finally, here’s Girardi on whether Garcia is hurt: “It’s something I’ve thought. You see it one start and you don’t think much of it. You see it a couple starts and you start seeing it three starts, you really start to wonder.”

Associated Press photos (the Garcia shot was taken through the mesh at the front of the dugout)

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Yankees postgame: A-Rod catches Griffey Jr.; Kuroda impresses04.13.12

There are just four men standing ahead of Alex Rodriguez now on the all-time home-run list — Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714) and Willie Mays (660). A-Rod tied Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth by hitting No. 630 in this 5-0 home-opening win over the Angels.

“It definitely means I’m getting old,” said Rodriguez, who has sent up 69 of the homers against the Angels, his top total against any team. “Obviously Griff is special to me because we came up together. It was kind of like the same relationship that Melky (Cabrera) and (Robinson) Cano have with me, kind of flip it a little bit. He was a teammate, he was a brother and a mentor all in one. So it was a special day today.

“You never dream of anything like this. I remember being in a cab when we were about 18 years old. We were in a cab, Derek (Jeter) and I. And we were just thinking if we could ever just get five years in the major leagues, or if we can ever make a million dollars, that would be like the biggest day of our life. So you dream of just being in the major leagues. You never dream of winning world championships or reaching milestones.”

Joe Girardi said the chase for the next milestone will be an “interesting sidebar” this season. …

Hiroki Kuroda scattered five hits, fanned six and walked two over eight-plus in his Bronx debut, a marked improvement from his first start at Tampa Bay. The 37-year-old righty showed why he can be an upgrade as the No. 2 man in the rotation.

“His splitter was good today,” Girardi said. “… Today it appeared to be a strike and then dipped down.”

He became the first Yankees starter to go at least eight scoreless in his first start at Yankee Stadium, this version or the previous one, since Bob Shirley in 1983, and the first to do that in a home season opener since Rick Rhoden in 1988. Kuroda walked off to a standing ovation.

“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Kuroda said through interpreter Kenji Nimura. “I’d like to repeat it as much as I can this season.” …

Nick Swisher delivered a two-out three-run double in the first. That means eight of his nine RBI have come with two outs. He’s at .417 (5 for 12) with two homers in those situations, and he has hit safely in six of the first seven games after this 2-for-4 day took him to .250 overall. …

The Yankees won their fourth straight game after losing the first three. They took their 14th home opener in the last 15 tries. And they dropped the Angels to 2-5 in the process. After managing only a single in four at-bats, Albert Pujols is sitting at just .222 with no homers and two RBI. Manager Mike Scioscia knows Pujols will get going.

“Obviously sooner is better than later, but this isn’t about Albert,” Scioscia said. “This about our team doing some things better on the mound and playing a little more fundamentally sound baseball. Albert is going to be there, but we have to be more than Albert and we are.” …

The teams have a Fox game scheduled for Saturday at 1:05. The pitching matchup will be Phil Hughes vs. C.J. Wilson.

 

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Wednesday notes: Kuroda happy with spring adjustments03.28.12

It was the first four innings that Hiroki Kuroda held the Braves scoreless. It was in his last three innings that he gave up a couple of runs. In spring training, though, results are only part of the story, and Kuroda was much happier with the way he finished today’s next-to-last spring start.

“In the beginning I didn’t feel right, but I was able to make adjustments,” he said. “… Every game that I start I have to make some kind of adjustment, and I was able to do that the last few games that I pitched in spring training. I think I’m ready for that. I just hope I don’t get hurt.”

As long as he remains injury free, the Yankees seem happy with their offseason free agent signing. Pitching outside of the National League West for the first time, Kuroda has been exactly what the Yankees were expecting. He doesn’t overwhelm hitters, but he mixes pitches and throws strikes. Today he struck out six and walked none.

“I was pleased with what I saw, really pleased,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s the guy that I thought we were getting.”

The Yankees have planned all year to slot Kuroda into the No. 2 spot in the rotation, and that’s exactly where Kuroda will open the season, as the game-two starter against Tampa Bay. That leaves him lined up to start next month’s home opener.

“I try not to think that far ahead,” Kuroda said. “I’m just focused on this next start that I have to do.”

• The Yankees got good news on Curtis Granderson’s right elbow. An MRI showed no problems, and Girardi didn’t rule out the idea of Granderson playing as early as tomorrow.

• More good news on Nick Swisher who managed to get 10 at-bats at the minor league complex today. He’ll go back to the complex tomorrow, and Girardi said he might play the outfield depending on how he feels. Girardi doesn’t expect him to take so many at-bats this time.

• In case you missed it, the Yankees announced today that they’ve claimed catcher Craig Tatum off waivers from the Diamondbacks. The signing seems to make sense given the Austin Romine setback, but a Yankees source also confirmed that Tatum is out of options, meaning he can’t be sent to the minor leagues. Hard to imagine him getting the backup catcher job ahead of Francisco Cervelli. Kind of a head scratcher.

• Speaking of minor moves, Sweeny Murti reported this afternoon that the Yankees have signed Jack Cust to a minor league deal. That would seem to be clear insurance just in case Raul Ibanez can’t shake off his rocky spring. Cust is also a left-handed hitting designated hitter.

• Speaking of Ibanez, he went 1-for-3 today and very nearly had his second spring home run. He was robbed by Jason Heyward’s leaping catch over the wall in right field.

• Speaking of struggles, Cory Wade gave up another run this afternoon. The big hit was a double by Eric Hinske, and Girardi said he felt that was the only truly bad pitch Wade threw (he left it up). Wade has a 7.27 ERA this spring and hasn’t looked sharp, but Girardi made it clear that he’s planning to have Wade in his Opening Day bullpen.

• One more Wade note: Just a few days ago he threw a three-inning simulated game. The Yankees want him to be a little bit stretched out so that he could give multiple innings if necessary. The loser of the rotation competition will likely be the regular long reliever. “You’d like to have two guys down there that could really give you some multiple innings,” Girardi said.

• The Yankees settle for a 5-5 tie after George Kontos gave up a two-run homer in the ninth inning. Kontos stayed in to pitch a scoreless 10th. … Eric Chavez went 3-for-4 including a double and an RBI single. He brought his average up to .235. … Eduardo Nunez’s strong spring continued with two more hits for a .393 average. … Justin Maxwell took an 0-for-2.

Associated Press photo

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Yankees injury report03.19.12

A quick rundown of the injuries suffered in Yankees camp this spring…

Robinson Cano
Bruised hand
Hit by a pitch last night, Cano was pulled from the game, then he went for x-rays that came back negative. He’s going to be reevaluated on Tuesday, but the Yankees don’t seem overly concerned.

Derek Jeter
Sore left calf
Jeter felt some soreness in his calf during Wednesday’s game in Dunedin. He finished the game but hasn’t played since. Today he’s scheduled to get treatment at the stadium. He hasn’t done baseball activities since Thursday. He’s expected to play Tuesday.

Russell Martin
Tight groin/hamstring
Martin was scratched from yesterday’s road trip because of some stiffness that he says is between his groin and hamstring. He felt something similar a few years ago and decided to be cautious about it this year. He’s expected to play Tuesday.

Nick Swisher
Sore groin
An MRI came back negative, but Swisher hasn’t played since feeling something “tug” running out of the box on Wednesday. He’s been going through regular baseball drills and is expected to play on Tuesday. Like Martin, Swisher said he wouldn’t have come out of the lineup if this were the regular season.

Dave Robertson
Bruised right foot
The most infamous Yankees injury of the spring seems to have resolved itself. Robertson stumbled down a step while carrying a box at his house and he hasn’t played in two weeks, but he threw a bullpen yesterday and is scheduled to throw another one tomorrow. He could be in a game within a week or so and the expectation is that he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

Freddy Garcia
Swollen right hand
Hit by a comebacker on Wednesday, Garcia has been shutdown for a few days. He’s skipping a scheduled minor league start this afternoon but could be back in a game as early as Friday. X-rays showed no broken bones, and Garcia’s simply been waiting for the swelling to go down.

Eduardo Nunez
Bruised right hand
Although he still had the hand wrapped after the game, Nunez played last night and said everything felt fine. He’s now played in back-to-back games after missing nearly two weeks because of soreness than lingered longer than expected. He suffered the injury when he was hit by a pitch in Clearwater.

Ramiro Pena
Sprained right ankle
Pena is scheduled to take batting practice off Brad Meyers on Tuesday, which seems to indicate that he’s pretty close to returning from a sprained ankle suffered while sliding into second base on Thursday. He’s been walking around the clubhouse with no noticeable limp.

Austin Romine
Sore back
Romine missed time with a sore back last season as well, so the Yankees decided to be extra cautious when his back began feeling sore this spring. Romine has not played in a game and just started taking swings two days ago. He might be able to get in a game late in spring training, but he’s spent most of his time just trying to make sure the back doesn’t become a lingering issue.

George Kontos
Sore oblique
Injured in his first bullpen of the spring, Kontos waited longer than expected before getting back on a mound, but he finally made his spring debut last night with a 1-2-3 eighth inning.

Russell Branyan
Sore back
Something of a wild card for the Yankees platoon DH job, Branyan hasn’t had a chance to plead his case because he’s been shutdown with a sore back. He received epidurals last week, but it’s still not clear when he’ll be ready to play.

Manny Delcarmen
Strained lat
The former Red Sox reliever hasn’t pitched in a game this season, but he threw a bullpen yesterday. Based on the timing of other pitchers he seems to be on track to get in a game in about a week.

Dan Burawa
Torn oblique
The biggest long-term injury of the camp could force Burawa to miss significant time. The young relief pitcher seemed to make a fast impression — both Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman mentioned him at different points — but he had to shut it down at

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Saturday notes: Kuroda locates through four strong innings03.17.12

Hiroki Kuroda never looked particularly bad this spring, but he never looked overwhelmingly sharp either. Today he looked sharp. Kuroda allowed one run through four innings. Of his 59 pitches, 49 were strikes.

“Very happy with this outing compared to the last one,” Kuroda said. “My command was better. I was able to throw all my pitches where I wanted. … I’m not a power pitcher. I don’t strike out a lot of hitters. The less pitches the better.”

This was more the kind of outing the Yankees expected when they gave Kuroda $10 million this offseason.

“I thought he was really good,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought his fastball command was good. I thought his sinker was really good, (so was) his split. He threw some curveballs. Good outing for him. I thought he threw the ball well and it’s kind of what you’re going to see. He’s going to locate.”

• Robinson Cano’s first spring homer was positively crushed to right field. “I hit that one pretty good,” Cano said. “I don’t think I could any one any harder than that.” Cano said he never saw where it landed, and someone joked that it still hadn’t. “That’s good,” Cano said. “I might see it when I go out then.”

• Mariano Rivera needed eight pitches — seven strikes — to get through his scoreless fifth inning. “I feel good, thank you very much,” he said. “I felt good out there. Got a little sweat. It was good.”

• Rivera has gone 24 consecutive spring training innings without allowing an earned run. That dates back to 2008.

• Girardi’s take on Rivera’s inning: “It was the inning that I was on TV so it was a good inning to bring Mo in.”

• Dellin Betances pitched just one scoreless inning today, and that was according to plan. Betances will pitch again mid-to-late next week, and the Yankees didn’t want him to go too many days between appearances. He’s still getting stretched out, just needed to face a few hitters today. “His last two outings have been really good,” Girardi said. “He has had command of his three pitches. I’ve been very pleased. His first one, it was like a guy who hadn’t thrown since October. Since then, I’ve been very pleased with what he has done.”

• Eduardo Nunez played only four innings today, but that’s strictly because he hasn’t played in almost two weeks. His bruised right hand actually felt good the whole time, and he got an infield single to show for it. “I’ll take it,” Nunez said.

• Russell Martin has been scratched from tomorrow’s trip strictly because Girardi decided to let Martin, Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher all rest until Tuesday. “During the season I probably could have played all three of them today,” Girardi said. “But we might as well be safe.”

• The plan is for Dave Robertson to throw a bullpen tomorrow. He played catch and did more running today.

• Another hitless day for Raul Ibanez. He went 0-for-2 with a walk and is hitting .071 this spring. “I’m not worried about it,” Girardi said. “I thought his at-bats were better today. This is a guy that hasn’t played every day this spring, it’s not like he’s in a groove. We’ll get him going.”

• Freddy Garcia said this morning that he expects to miss only one start because of his swollen right hand. Girardi agreed, saying Garcia was scheduled to pitch on Monday but that outing will be pushed back. Doesn’t sound like a long-term problem.

• The plan is for Andy Pettitte to be in Tampa in time for Tuesday’s workout. He’s scheduled to throw a bullpen that day. Wonder what I’ll be writing about that day.

• Pettitte’s old locker has been assigned to Kuroda, and word is that the clubhouse guys are going to choose a new spot for Pettitte rather than move Kuroda. What woudl Kuroda do if Pettitte asked for his old spot? “Of course I’m going to move out somewhere (if he asks),” Kuroda said. Someone jokingly asked what would have if Pettitte, for some reason, wanted Kuroda’s number too. Kuroda laughed. “I would be honored to give him my number,” he said. I doubt that’s going to be an issue.

Associated Press photos

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Jeter, Martin and Swisher scratched03.16.12

Derek Jeter was pulled from todays lineup because of a tender left calf. Joe Girardi said hes decided Jeter wont play again until Tuesday, but he labeled this as more precautionary than anything. He hasnt forgotten what happened to Jeters other calf last year.

Also, Russell Martin was scratched because of soreness in his left groin. Its unclear whether it happened on yesterdays play at first base.

Nick Swisher has told Girardi that his tight groin feels better, but Girardi decided not to play him today either.

UPDATE, 10:14 a.m.: Here’s the basic injury update…

Derek Jeter
Went through normal drills in Tampa yesterday, but while the Yankees were on the bus home from Viera, Girardi got a call saying Jeter’s left calf was “tender.” That’s not the same calf that Jeter hurt last year, but Girardi considered last season’s injury to be a cautionary tale.

“My alarm was he hurt his calf last year,” Girardi said. “I said, even though it’s the other calf, I said we’re going to be smart about this. I told him, ‘Don’t even go out today.’ I think he could hit today and take BP, but just let it calm down.”

Russell Martin
Girardi planned to have Martin catch seven or eight innings today, but instead Martin showed up and said his left groin was “stiff.” Girardi’s not sure whether it’s connected to yesterday’s awkward play at first base. For whatever it’s worth, Martin said yesterday that he was fine on that play, banged his shoulder into the ground but nothing else.

“He will not catch today and I’m not sure when he’ll play again,” Girardi said. “… I don’t think Russell will be out but a couple of days, but you never know. You don’t know how guys respond.”

Nick Swisher
Pulled from Wednesday’s game because of a sore groin, Swisher went through drills yesterday and told Girardi that he’s feeling better, but Girardi is being extra cautious — hard to blame him given the current state of nagging injuries — and so he won’t play this afternoon. Girardi said it’s possible Swisher will play tomorrow.

Freddy Garcia
Was scheduled to pitch on Monday’s off day, but Girardi said he doesn’t expect that to happen. However, there seems to be a chance that Monday will be the only start Garcia actually skips. Too early to know for sure, but Girardi didn’t seem to be ruling out any other start.

“His hand looks better,” Girardi said. “(But) he still has some swelling in there.”

Eduardo Nunez
As scheduled, Nunez will not hit again today. It will be his third day off in a row. He’s scheduled to try to hit again tomorrow. He still hasn’t played since being hit by a pitch in the right hand last Monday.

Ramiro Pena
Out with a sprained right ankle suffered in yesterday’s game. Although Pena said yesterday that he thinks he’ll be out only a day or two, Girardi still thinks it might be longer. Girardi mentioned Tuesday as a possible return for Pena.

“I imagine he’s going to be a couple of days,” Girardi said. “The way I saw him walk off the field yesterday, I wasn’t extremely encouraged.”

Russell Branyan
Has yet to play in a spring training game and had multiple epidurals this morning to try to help his sore back.

Austin Romine
Still not doing anything baseball related because of his sore back.

“He’s doing better,” Girardi said. “He’s probably pretty close to getting on the field to do some baseball activities. He feels much better, he feels much stronger, and that was the feeling we wanted him to have.”

Dave Robertson
Said this morning that he’s going to play catch today, but he’s still not sure when he’ll be on a mound. Robertson said he’s “doing well” but Girardi had too many other players on his mind today and forgot to check on his setup man.

“I forgot to ask about him,” Girardi said. “I had so many other guys to talk about.”

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Thursday notes: “I don’t expect miracles”03.15.12

Both Joe Girardi and Freddy Garcia said pretty much the same thing today: It’s just too early to know anything for certain. Garcia had his right hand heavily wrapped this morning, but he’s still not sure how much time he’ll have to miss after being hit by a comebacker on Wednesday.

“Right now I don’t think about it,” Garcia said, “because I went to the hospital yesterday, they took x-rays and everything is fine. So, I just have to wait. I move my fingers good, so I don’t think I have to have any problems.”

Girardi said he’s expecting at least one more day of treatment. The injury seems to be close to the same spot where Eduardo Nunez has experienced soreness for a week and a half now.

“I don’t expect miracles,” Girardi said. “When you’ve got swelling in your hand, it’s going to take time to get rid of it. I’m not going to scratch him, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t make his next start on his day. Maybe a couple of days later or something.”

• The entire Yankees rotation is supposed to get an extra day of rest next time through.

• Two more notes about Michael Pineda’s fastball: 1) Girardi said he hasn’t seen any signs of Pineda trying to overthrow just to reach 95, and 2) Pineda said he’s much more focused on hitting his spots than hitting the mid-90s.

• Russell Martin on Pineda’s fastball: “I think he was like 88-90 in Clearwater, so it’s coming along. I’m not worried about it. I just want to see the guy pitch. He’s a pitcher like anybody else out there. I just wanted to see him execute pitches. His velocity, he has it in him, it’s just a matter of time. As soon as you put on your uniform, you’re in New York and you get the juices flowing, the velocity is going to pick up no matter what.”

• And if you’re looking for more fastball specifics: “(Pineda) was a little inconsistent trying to throw his fastball away to right-handers. It looked like he was pulling off a little bit.” Martin said it’s an easy thing to correct and could be fixed in a single bullpen.

• Ramiro Pena was trying to steal second base, and just as he went into his slide, his spike stuck in the dirt. That’s when he sprained his right ankle, not when he actually made contact with the bag. He estimated that he’ll miss only two or three days, but Girardi said that might be optimistic. “We’ll see about that,” Girardi said. “I imagine it’s going to be pretty sore tomorrow. Sometimes adrenaline helps you out in a situation like that.”

• Nick Swisher told Girardi that his tight groin didn’t get any worse last night, and he was fine when he came to the stadium this morning. Girardi hopes to have Swisher in the lineup tomorrow.

Other injury updates:

Dave Robertson was scheduled to play catch today and on track to throw a bullpen this weekend.
Russell Branyan still hasn’t played this spring and is getting an epidural for his sore back.
George Kontos threw another batting practice.
Manny Delcarmen is throwing off a half mound.

• The Nationals announced a strained hamstring for Chien-Ming Wang, who stumbled trying to cover first base. It’s obviously a tough break for a guy who finally seemed to be healthy and effective again.

• Martin was knocked down on the play that left Wang injured. “It happened in slow motion,” Martin said. “It was weird. I tucked pretty good. If I had fell differently, it could have been worse. I kind of just rolled with it. It’s the ninja coming out right there.”

• Apparently the Yankees saved all of their excitement for after the media was down in the clubhouse. They won the game 8-5, having rallied with four runs in the seventh and two runs in the eighth. Jose Gil is hitting .750 this spring and had a two-run single. Melky Mesa and Bill Hall both doubled in the game. Hall and Justin Maxwell each had two hits, continuing a nice spring for Maxwell (he’s hitting .375 with two stolen bases). Maxwell, Jayson Nix and Andruw Jones each stole a bag today.

• Clay Rapada pitched into and out of some trouble, but finished with 1.1 scoreless innings. Mike O’Connor and Adam Warren combined for a scoreless ninth. In between, Brett Marshall allowed two runs in 2.1 innings and Juan Cedeno was charged with a run in his two-thirds of an inning.

Associated Press photos

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Wednesday notes: No change for a change03.07.12

Finally, a pitcher who’s not working on a changeup.

Hiroki Kuroda throws fastballs and cutters, curveballs and sliders, but he doesn’t throw a change. And the Yankees don’t want him to. Kuroda’s out pitch is a splitfinger, which some pitchers use much the same way as a changeup.

“He doesn’t necessarily need to throw one because of that,” Joe Girardi said. “… His split is different from what some of our other guys have. I know he’ll throw his share of cutters as well. He starts with the location of his fastball, but I really like the split. I think if you look at the couple of strikeouts today, they were both very good splits. That’s a different look.”

Freddy Garcia has been effective with a splitfinger, but it’s not an especially common pitch these days. It’s been effective for Kuroda, and Russell Martin — who caught Kuroda in Los Angeles — has been talking about the effectiveness of that pitch since camp opened. Kuroda said he was happy with it today, and happy that he was able to mix all of his pitches in his first spring outing.

“Usually it takes the full spring training before everything is to the level I need it to be in the regular season,” he said. “… The most important thing that I wanted to accomplish was a feeling for the real game, and I think I was able to do that, so I’m happy.”

• On a day the team was visited by a pregame motivational speaker, the Yankees were held to four hits in a 4-0 loss. Nick Swisher and Jose Gil doubled in the loss. Russell Martin and Dewayne Wise singled.

• Before today’s game, Rafael Soriano told the coaching staff that he felt ready to pitch in a game. In the past, Soriano has been opposed to pitching against division opponents in spring training. “For whatever reason he wanted to pitch today, so I didn’t ask any questions,” Girardi said. “I think it’s good for him to get out there, and I was pleased with what I saw.”

• Soriano struck out two batters in a scoreless inning. Boone Logan also had two strikeouts in an inning, and Cory Wade threw a scoreless frame with one hit and no strikeouts.

• Martin is the Yankees early spring leader in stolen bases. He’s swiped two bags. Chris Dickerson is the only other Yankees player with one.

• Derek Jeter bobbled a ground ball for his first spring training error. Jayson Nix threw a ball away for his second. … Colin Curtis had an outfield assist, throwing to Nick Swisher who relayed to third base for an out that ended the sixth inning. … Clay Rapada pitched a scoreless eighth inning and stayed in to face a lefty to open the ninth. He struck out the lefty before giving way to Kevin Whelan for the final two outs. Rapada is trying to make the team as a left-handed specialist.

• Eduardo Nunez hit with a tee and soft toss today, and he’ll take light batting practice tomorrow, but he’s still not ready to get in a game and won’t play tomorrow. Nunez said his bruised right hand is still “a little bit” sore, but he’s been able to do full fielding drills with no problem. Today he was working out at third base, making the throw across the diamond from foul territory.

• Mark Teixeira had a regularly scheduled day off. His thumb — which he jammed making a tag yesterday — is fine.

• According to Baseball America, the Yankees have signed a Cuban lefty Rigoberto Arrebato to a minor league deal and released minor league first baseman Jamie Mallard. Mallard was signed in the middle of last season and never actually played in an official game.

• Girardi on Yogi Berra’s arrival in camp: “I felt like camp started today. Yogi’s here. It’s great to see… Just kind of puts a smile on everybody’s face. Things pick up around here a little bit. Really good to see.”

• It was announced today that the Yankees Triple-A affiliate officially will be called the Empire State Yankees this season. There’s even a slightly modified logo. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre stadium is being rebuilt, forcing the team to play all of it’s games on the road, including multiple “home” games in Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo and Batavia. The team is expected to return to its home stadium — and it’s original name — next year.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 187 Comments →

Monday notes: A strong first impression03.05.12

 

The first time Michael Pineda was approached by a massive group of Yankees reporters, he’d just thrown batting practice in Tampa, and as soon as the crowd began to surround his locker, Pineda looked like a deer in the headlights. It had been quite a while since he’d pitched — he wasn’t mobbed as soon as he got to the clubhouse — but he seemed overwhelmed by the attention. You couldn’t help but wonder if it would be a bit much for him.

Today, he stood up in the corner of the clubhouse and gave an easy, light-hearted interview. Asked whether he was nervous to pitch today, he said “Hell no!” and started laughing. He didn’t come across as arrogant, just young and confident and perfectly at ease.

“I feel very good now,” he said. “I feel (a part of) the Yankee team right now.”

Freddy Garcia said yesterday that Pineda has been asking a lot of questions about what it’s like to pitch in New York. Larry Rothschild said he’s been more than willing to try new things that might make him better. Russell Martin was impressed with his willingness to use his developing changeup his first time out.

“In the meeting we had before the game, he was like, ‘I really want to work on my changeup today,’” Martin said. “And I told him, we’re going to use it, and use it the way you would use it during the season. I like him because he wants to work on stuff that he hasn’t mastered yet. He has a really good feel for his slider, his fastball. The velocity wasn’t where it’s going to be during the season but he has good fastball command and that was key.”

What I’ve seen of him, Pineda seems mostly quiet but confident. After today’s start, he was engaging. A language barrier sometimes limited him to one-word answers, but he seemed happy to talk and willing to consider his answers. He said he hadn’t been surrounded by so many reports since last year’s all-star game. As far as first impressions go, this was a good one.

“He seems to have that attitude that nothing really seems to bother him,” Joe Girardi said. “I’m curious to see as we move along how he carries himself on an everyday basis because I don’t know him. You try to learn a guy as soon as you can but you want to see, as they go through things, how they carry themselves.” 

• No radar display at the stadium, but I was told Pineda’s fastball was roughly 89-91 mph and reached 92 once. That’s quite a bit lower than he’s expected to be in the season, but Larry Rothschild seemed unfazed. “Not what it’s going to be later in spring,” he said. “A little bit below, which you expect. Guys that are power pitchers usually take a little bit longer.”

• Pineda said earlier this spring that he showed up weighing about 10 pounds more than last season. He said today that he’s already lost seven to eight pounds and would like to drop two to four more.

• Nick Swisher fouled a ball off his shin but should be fine. No real concerns there.

• Dave Robertson struggled with his command in his spring debut. He allowed a run on a hit and a walk. “Sloppy, very sloppy,” Robertson said. “I just felt like my timing was off… Usually I feel like if you can throw it pretty close to the strike zone, the guys are going to swing (because) they’re not used to seeing it. I wasn’t able to get it in that zone today. I just couldn’t quite find it.”

• Jimmy Rollins stole two bases in that third inning, and Robertson said neither one was Russell Martin’s fault. “Nothing Russ could do about it,” Robertson said. “Because I was so slow to the plate.”

• The thing you really care about: Robertson said he’s thinking about sticking with the stirups this season. He wore them in college and for a while in the minor leagues – I can’t remember whether he had them in Scranton – and he’s taking them on something of a test drive this spring. “Have a bunch more outings like that and I won’t,” he said.

• I was down in the clubhouse and didn’t see much of Ryan Pope’s 1.2 hitless innings, but things were out of hand before that because Adam Miller and Juan Cedeno really struggled. They combined for four walks, five hits and eight earned runs. Miller also hit a guy. Cesar Cabral threw a scoreless fourth inning, but he was hit pretty hard. “You want them to get some outings under their belt before you really start analyzing what they’re doing,” Girardi said.

• Zoilo Almonte. 1-for-1. RBI. Still the late-inning star of these first few games.

• The only Yankee with more than one hit was Gustavo Molina who went 2-for-2. Brett Gardner had a triple, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez, Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena, Jayson Nix and Colin Curtis each singled.

• As planned, George Kontos threw long toss today. That’s his next step back from a sore oblique.

• After failing his physical with the Yankees, Hideki Okajima has signed a deal to return to Japan.

• Newly acquired reliever David Aardsma did a Q&A with the blog Yankees Fans Unite. Check it out.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 530 Comments →

Swisher’s new home field11.04.11

Good stuff for Nick Swisher, who donated $500,000 to the Ohio State baseball program and had the baseball field named in his honor. The dedication was yesterday.

“The word honor comes to mind,” Swisher said. “I never would have thought I would have been at Ohio State. When I came here, I experienced that passion, pride and tradition that Ohio State has. I think everyone on the team experiences that every single day. It’s been an amazing thing.”

You’ve probably noticed that Swisher’s a pretty passionate guy. He talks up Ohio State quite a bit in the clubhouse, and one can only imagine how excited he was to see that Nick Swisher Field sign for the first time.

Photo from Swisher’s Twitter feed

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 449 Comments →

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