Monday notes from the minor league complex • 03.26.12
I doubt the Yankees would ever frame it this way, but essentially they have to decide whether Phil Hughes will be more like the 2010 version of himself or the 2011 version. So far, he’s very clearly looked more like 2010, and he’s been able to maintain that level of performance throughout the spring.
“The beginning of that year, you come in and that real-season adrenalin starts to kick in,” Hughes said. “Everything is a little bit better, a little bit crisper. I don’t think I’m pitching that well at this point, but that’s not to say that it can’t be there when April rolls around and we get things going. I feel like I’m close.”
Hughes’ fastball velocity has been fairly consistent this spring, and I talked to one scout today who said he wouldn’t be surprised to see it topping out a little higher a month or two into the season. He’s started throwing a harder, tigher curveball, and his changeup seems to be even better than it was in 2010. He’s walked two hitters all spring.
“I think he’s very close (to 2010) right now,” Francisco Cervelli said. “He’s got to keep working, because the season is long. He has to keep getting stronger.”
He looks strong right now, and if he keeps pitching at his 2010 level, I’ll be surprised if Hughes isn’t in the rotation come Opening Day.
• Hughes was pitching for the High-A team. The Low-A group was also in Tampa today. Triple-A and Double-A were on the road in Clearwater. The Low-A Charleston lineup is really, really impressive. Check it out at the bottom of this post.
• Andy Pettitte will throw his second batting practice tomorrow, but Larry Rothschild said he’s not sure what comes after that. He’s also not sure whether Pettitte will get in a game this spring, but he doesn’t seem to be ruling out the possibility.
• Joe Girardi was home visiting his ill father this morning but Rothschild, Rob Thomson, Billy Eppler and Brian Cashman were among the Yankees decision makers watching Hughes pitch.
• Center field prospect Mason Williams and catching prospect Gary Sanchez have been moved from the Tampa group to the Charleston group (which was expected). J.R. Murphy has been moved from Trenton to Tampa. Those assignments are more in keeping with where they’ll almost certainly open the regular season.
• Speaking of Sanchez, he and Tyler Austin hit back-to-back homers in the Low-A game today.
• I didn’t see it, but apparently Ravel Santana made his spring debut today. He’s back from a ankle injury.
• George King reported yesterday that the Phillies might be interested in Ramiro Pena to help them fill their sudden hole in the infield. Today I heard it’s true that the Phillies might have some interest, but only at a cheap price. They’re not willing to give up much. Today the Phillies signed Chin-lung Hu to give them some utility depth.
• Very good to see P.J. Pilittere this afternoon. The former Yankees minor league catcher is now a coach in the Yankees system. Very good guy. Could be a natural manager some day.
• Here are today’s lineups for Tampa and Charleston. This might be the actual Opening Day lineup for Charleston, and it’s loaded with legitimate prospects. Pretty impressive, actually.
Eduardo Sosa CF
Kelvin Castro 2B
Ramon Flores LF
Rob Segedin RF
Kyle Roller 1B
J.R. Murphy DH (went to catcher in the seventh)
Zach Wilson 3B (made a nice play in the field today)
Carmen Angelini SS
Francisco Cervelli C
Mason Williams CF
Ben Gamel LF
Dante Bichette 3B
Gary Sanchez C
Tyler Austin RF
Cito Culver SS
Angelo Gumbs 2B
Reymond Nunez 1B
Anderson Feliz DH
• Finally, I’ll be hosting a chat here on the blog at noon on Wednesday. Stop by if you can. I’m sure we’ll jump into the rotation decision and some of the guys who have made noise this spring.
Associated Press photos
Scranton’s version of Jorge Posada • 04.26.11
It was Maxwell’s fifth home run of the season, and all of those homers have come in his past nine games. Five of his past six hits have been home runs, including each of his past four hits. The last time Maxwell had a hit that wasn’t a home run was April 17 when he singled in the fifth inning, having already homered in the second.
Maxwell split last season between Triple-A and the big leagues, and in 66 Triple-A games he hit six homers. Seventeen games into this season, he’s one away from that total.
A few other upper-level minor league notes while we’re waiting for tonight’s game.
• Keep an eye on David Phelps. In his past two starts Phelps has gone 13.1 innings with three earned runs, nine hits and 12 strikeouts. He allowed one run through seven innings last night.
• The Triple-A Yankees are activating catcher P.J. Pilittere after sending Dan Brewer down to Double-A. Brewer was hitting, but he wasn’t getting many at-bats. Pilittere gives the Yankees an extra catcher, and they might need it for a few days. Jesus Montero was hit by a foul ball … below the below … and might need a few days off. He skipped last night’s game.
• Reliever Ryan Pope opened the season on the Triple-A disabled list, but he made an appearance for High-A Tampa over the weekend, a sign that he could be on his way to finally joining Scranton’s bullpen. Of course, the Yankees are going to have to find a spot for him, and right now that Triple-A bullpen is pitching pretty well. They already have to open one spot for Mark Prior when he comes back from his mild groin injury.
Notes from Thursday • 04.01.10
No one seemed surprised by Thursday’s announcement that Curtis Granderson would be the Yankees opening day center fielder.
“They traded for Curtis and I kind of figured he would be the center fielder,” Brett Gardner said. “You get a guy like that, that’s where he’s most comfortable, and that’s where he needs to play.”
The Yankees expect Granderson to play every day, even against left-handers. He had two hits off a lefty on Thursday and, after a slow start this spring, he’s 10-for-22 in his past eight games.
“To come here and get a chance to play center, I’m definitely excited,” Granderson said. “But if the move happens to come, or (the decision) would have been different for me to go to left, or a week from now I’m playing left, I’m not going to be mad by any means.”
Here’s the Granderson audio.
As for Gardner, he knows he has to get on base to keep an everyday spot in the lineup. Marcus Thames could be a platoon partner and Randy Winn is used to being a regular, so Gardner has to perform.
“I’m just pretty hard on myself and I obviously haven’t had a very good spring at the plate,” Gardner said. “We’re going to be starting the season here pretty soon and I need to figure things out and get started. Last year I had a really good spring and got off to a slow start in the season, so hopefully this year it will be the exact opposite.”
Here’s the Gardner audio. He said some of his mechanical adjustments have made his bat a little faster than he’s used to and he’s been making contact too far out front. He has to get used to seeing the ball deeper and letting his new mechanics take over.
• Joe Girardi said this outfield alignment isn’t set in stone, but it’s clearly he way he’d prefer to keep it. “I think it’s something that we can always revisit,” he said. “I don’t think everything is always etched in stone, but my plan is to play Curtis in center.”
• If Francisco Cervelli can’t open the season, the decision of who would take is place is “a decision we would have to talk about,” Girardi said. Mike Rivera and P.J. Pilittere are in camp, but Rivera hasn’t played in almost two weeks since hurting his right hamstring. “We obviously need to get him back out there to see how he feels too,” Girardi said.
• Joba Chamberlain, Chan Ho Park, Dave Robertson and Royce Ring each pitched today, making it back-to-back games for each of them. Boone Logan went back-to-back yesterday. None of them allowed a run in their second appearance.
• Speaking of not allowing a run, minor leaguer Lance Pendleton picked up a save today with a scoreless ninth.
• Robinson Cano went 2-for-2 and raised his batting average to .380. He’s been terrific this spring. Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher also had two hits. All of those guys have really hit this spring.
• The plan is for Alfredo Aceves, Mariano Rivera and Damaso Marte to each pitch out of the bullpen tomorrow. Aceves needs to pitch come out clean on the other side to break camp with the team.
• Speaking of plans, Girardi said his regulars will start Saturday’s game against the Yankees minor leaguers, but, “You’re not going to see them play seven innings,” he said. “If a guy wants another at-bat or two at-bats, I’ll talk to each of our guys.” Javier Vazquez is starting that game.
That’s an Associated Press photo at the top. Those pictures look a lot better in this blog format.
Looking for a surprise • 03.23.10
Aside from the 25 players who seem to be favorites for the Opening Day roster, there are still 14 others in big league camp with the Yankees. Could any of these play their way onto the roster?
Two straight seasons on the opening day roster, but that trend will probably come to an end this spring. He’s really struggled with a sinker that hasn’t sunk. On the roster? On his way to Scranton to get things worked out. He was pitching very well at the end of last season.
Might be on waivers, but he’s still in camp. Pitched well for the Yankees last season, but he seems to have been passed by Sergio Mitre. On the roster? It obviously doesn’t look good.
He’s on the 40-man and he’s had a nice spring — .300/.364/.550 with plus speed and defense — but he has yet to prove himself as a consistent hitter in the minor leagues. On the roster? More likely in Scranton trying to prove himself with the bat.
Joe Girardi seems to view a second lefty as a luxury, not a necessity. Logan has an option remaining, so he can be sent to Triple-A. That’s probably not good news for him. He has pitched well, though. On the roster? Not if the Yankees plan to keep the four remaining fifth-starter candidates.
One rocky outing, but otherwise he’s been solid this spring. The Chan Ho Park signing probably crowded out any chances he had of breaking camp with the big league club. On the roster? Not now. Check back in June.
Remember when the Yankees signed Nick Johnson? That was the day Miranda was bumped out of the big league mix. He’s insurance at this point. On the roster? Not as long as Johnson is healthy.
In camp to help handle the extra pitchers but has almost no chance of breaking camp with the team. Needs a chance to play regularly at Triple-A, but obviously Jesus Montero stands in the way. On the roster? A simple, no.
Veteran depth behind the plate, Rivera is around as insurance. He’s clearly behind Francisco Cervelli, and his .125 spring average probably hasn’t helped. On the roster? Not unless someone gets hurt.
Another pitcher who has done well this spring but seems crowded out of the bullpen. Even if the Yankees were to carry a second left, Logan might be the better bet. On the roster? Probably battling Logan for a call-up from Scranton.
He’s a polished hitter, and he’s proven that this spring, but his limited experience at shortstop and in the outfield leaves him as a tough fit for the Yankees. On the roster? Probably not on Opening Day, but keep an eye on his Scranton numbers.
I’ll be perfectly honest: I was surprised Sanit even got a big league invite, but the Yankees clearly saw some things and he’s proven worth the spot with a terrific spring. He won’t break camp with New York, but if he keeps this up he could push for a call-up. On the roster? No, but made a more compelling case than expected.
Minor league veteran was signed to a minor league deal this winter. He’s been solid this spring, but he’s pretty far down on the depth chart. On the roster? It’s a bit difficult to even find a spot for him in Scranton.
Not at all flashy, but the guy knows how to hit and he’s shown it time and again this spring. Being left-handed takes his slim chances and makes them almost nil. On the roster? No. But he might have opened some eyes.
One of the more interesting minor league free agent signings, Winfree is still just 24 and has shown good power. The Yankees say he’s competing for a bench role, but it’s hard to see that happening with Thames in the mix. On the roster? Might be the only guy who could give Thames a challenge, but it still seems unlikely. Mid-season replacement? Very possible.
Catcher’s row • 02.17.10
On the left side of the Yankees spring training clubhouse, all the way at the back, the lockers line up like this: Jorge Posada in the corner, followed by Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and Mike Rivera. Jesus Montero, Kyle Higashioka and P.J. Pilittere are at the ends of the middle rows, the other spots reserved for catchers.
The catching job still belongs to Posada, but he’s surrounded by the future.
“For me it’s easy because these kids, they want to be taught,” Posada said. “Montero comes up to me and says, what are we going to do today?”
Posada’s not ready to give up the job just yet, though. He wouldn’t speculate how many games he’ll spend behind plate, but he said he’s come to spring training, “prepared to catch.”
“I want to play,” Posada said. “I like playing, I enjoy playing. If I’m not hurting the team, I want to be out there.”