This morning, Baseball America released its annual list of minor league free agents. These are the players whose contracts expired at the end of the season either because they were on one-year minor league deals or because their original contracts ran out (essentially, players drafted or signed in 2008 became free agents this year if they weren’t added to the 40-man roster).
Andrew Bailey is listed here because the Yankees declined their 2015 option on the veteran right-hander, but two sources say he’s been re-signed to a new minor league contract, which means he’ll be back in the Yankees system next year.
The Yankees originally signed Bailey back in spring training, and he spent all year rehabbing a shoulder injury. He never actually got into a game this season, but he’s been a very good big league reliever in the past. Very low-risk move bringing him back. Could be helpful if he gets healthy.
Here’s the list of Yankees minor league free agents:
RHP: Andrew Bailey (AAA), Jairo Heredia (AA), David Herndon (AAA)
RHP/LHP: Pat Venditte (AAA)
LHP: Ramon Benjamin (Hi A), Jeremy Bleich (AA), Francisco Rondon (AA), Nik Turley (AAA)
C: Jose Gil (AAA)
1B: Reymond Nunez (Hi A)
2B: Jose Toussen (AA)
3B: Scott Sizemore (AAA)
SS: Carmen Angelini (AAA)
OF: Zoilo Almonte (AAA)
A few things worth pointing out:
• Rondon, Turley and Almonte are all organizational prospects who were previously on the 40-man roster at some point. Almonte got some big league time the past two years, but he was designated for assignment, cleared waivers and became eligible for free agency. He clearly needs a fresh start with a team that might give him a real chance to get big league at-bats. Turley was released and re-signed earlier this year (he’d been hurt in spring training, and the Yankees needed to open a 40-man spot). I tend to think of him as being similar to a Rule 5 candidate: The Yankees either had to put him back on the 40-man or risk losing him. As long as he’s throwing strikes, Turley’s a solid prospect. Wouldn’t be stunned to see the Yankees try to re-sign him. Also wouldn’t be stunned to see him try his luck elsewhere.
• There was a time this season when I thought Venditte might have a real chance for a call-up. The Yankees were basically out of upper-level left-handed relievers — Rondon, Fred Lewis and Cesar Cabral had each stumbled in Triple-A — and Venditte was once again putting up pretty solid numbers. If the Yankees had suddenly needed a lefty, I wonder if Venditte might have gotten a chance (which would have been really cool to see). Instead, Rich Hill and Josh Outman were brought onboard and Venditte never got a look. Often labeled a novelty act because he throws with both hands, Venditte has a career 2.46 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in the minors.
• Bleich was a supplemental-round pick in 2008, but he had some early injury problems that derailed his development for a while. Heredia was also once considered a pretty good prospect, but he too had some health problems. Despite being a starter through most of his career, he’s only once thrown more than 100 innings in a season, and that came way back in 2008 when he threw 102.1 innings in Low-A. Similar story with Angelini, who at one point might have been the top shortstop prospect in the system, but he missed a lot of time and never hit much.
• Many others Yankees minor leaguers were either released midseason or elected free agency previously this offseason. Among those most recognizable names: RHP Jim Miller, RHP Bruce Billings, RHP Chris Leroux, LHP Cesar Cabral, LHP Josh Outman, 1B Russ Canzler, 2B Corban Joseph, OF Antoan Richardson.
Associated Press photos of Almonte and Turley; headshot of Bailey
Trying to build on a solid but injury shortened Triple-A season, David Phelps first three Arizona Fall League starts were uninspiring. He allowed three earned runs each time, never throwing more than 3.1 innings. His past two outings have been more what the Yankees were hoping to see.
In his past two starts, Phelps has pitched nine innings, allowing two runs on six hits and one walk while striking out seven. And that’s without throwing more than 67 pitches.
Phelps is one of those guys who was brought in to observe late in the season. The Yankees clearly believe he can play a role next season, and his Fall League stint is about building a few more innings before shutting things down for the winter.
• Speaking of young starters: Hector Noesi keeps getting better in the Dominican. After two not-so-great outings, Noesi pitched six innings without an earned run in his most recent start. He struck out five, walked one and dropped his winter ERA to 3.38 through three starts.
• Ronnier Mustelier, the utility man from Cuba, continues to hit in the Fall League. He’s batting .390/.405/.610 while playing third base (played mostly outfield and second base in Tampa this season). He’s new to the Yankees farm system, and a little old for a low-level prospect, but so far he’s been a steady hitter.
• Jorge Vazquez, the Yankees slugging Triple-A first baseman, is hitting .320/.400/.587 through 75 at-bats in Mexico. He has 21 RBI and 23 strikeouts. That’s pretty much the kind of hitter he is.
• Outside of the Arizona Fall League, there are only four Yankees with more than 20 winter at-bats. One of them is Vazquez. The other three are Jose Gil (an organizational catcher), Luis Nunez (an organizational infielder) and Jose Pirela (a borderline shortstop prospect). Pirela didn’t do much in Double-A this season, but he’s hitting .389/.421/.500 in Venezuela.
• Corban Joseph has a modest four-game hitting streak in the Fall League. He’s been kind of up-and-down in Arizona.
• Ramiro Pena has played in one game in Mexico. He went 1-for-4.
• Reliever Chase Whitley is a fast riser in the Yankees system, and he has nine strikeouts with one walk in his past seven Fall League outings. That’s a total of 9.1 innings in those appearances. Opponents are hitting .178 against him, and that’s usually an offensive league.
• Class-A reliever Dan Burawa is getting knocked around in Arizona. He was charged with five earned runs today and has a 9.00 ERA through 10 appearances. He’s been charged with multiple runs in each of his past three outings.
• Nine of Pat Venditte‘s 12 appearances in Mexico have been scoreless, but he’s twice allowed multiple runs, pushing his ERA to 4.15. More telling is the fact hitters are batting .238 with 11 strikeouts and just one walk against him.
Sunday notes: No lineup until Opening Day • 03.27.11
Joe Girardi said he plans to announce most of his final roster decisions tomorrow. The Yankees might have to wait a day or two to determine Curtis Granderson’s status, and they might not immediately name a replacement for Pedro Feliciano, but Girardi said he expects to announce his backup catcher, utility infielder and reserve corner infielder.
He will not announce an Opening Day lineup.
“I’m still thinking about it,” Girardi said. “I haven’t turned my brain off to it by saying, okay, this is what I’m doing. I’m still thinking about it. We’ll still have one long conversation about it.”
Based on recent lineups, my best guess is that the Yankees are going to use the two-lineup approach: They’ll have Brett Gardner leadoff against right-handers and Derek Jeter leadoff against lefties. It’s a pretty solid plan, actually. Girardi said he probably won’t announce an Opening Day lineup until Opening Day itself.
Otherwise: Eduardo Nunez seems to be the favorite for the utility job, Gustavo Molina seems to be the favorite for the backup catcher position and Eric Chavez is all but official as the reserve corner infielder.
“We just haven’t announced it yet,” Girardi said. “I’ll talk to Cash one more time, but we’ll announce it probably tomorrow. Like he said, we’ve got to make sure people are healthy.”
• Pedro Feliciano had an MRI this morning. It showed some sort of muscle problem — Girardi wasn’t sure of the exact diagnosis — but the bottom line is this: “It’s pretty hard to think that he would start with us,” Girardi said. “I’m hoping it’ll be shorter (term), but you can never predict.”
• As possible replacements for Feliciano, Girardi once again mentioned Luis Ayala and Mark Prior, but neither of those two is on the 40-man roster, and today’s conversation certainly made it seem like the Yankees are leaning toward Steve Garrison. “He’s done a good job for us against left-handers, and he’s a viable option for us,” Girardi said. “We’ll probably see him throw one more time before we leave and then we’ll make a decision.”
• Here’s Girardi’s cryptic comment about why Romulo Sanchez was scratched from this road trip: “That got cancelled for reasons I can’t give to you at this point.” Someone mentioned a trade and Girardi gave a weird look that suggested a trade is in the works (or certainly some kind of move).
• Girardi on how quickly he knew Chavez could make the team: “Right when he got to camp, we saw the bat speed in Chavez. We said, ‘Wow, if he’s healthy, he can help us.’ Because, you’re not going to really forget how to hit, it’s just if you’re physically capable, and he looked great.”
• Pat Venditte faced two hitters today. He pitched right-handed to one and left-handed to the other. Turns out, the decision to bring in Venditte had a lot to do with the new pitching coach. “Larry (Rothschild) wanted to see it,” Girardi said. “The kid has done well in the minor leagues wherever he’s been.”
• Speaking of Venditte, those paying attention in the crowd seemed to enjoy it: “You heard a little ‘Ohhh’ when he switched,” Girardi said.
• A nice early version of HOPE Week today with the little girl who saved the even littler girl’s life. The families were hanging around the Yankees dugout throughout batting practice. It was pretty neat to see.
• The Yankees lost 7-6 today, but they had 13 hits, including three by Austin Krum and two by Mark Teixeira. Krum is, by most accounts, a pretty good fielder but he had a rough time today with two errors and a missed attempt at a diving catch. Austin Romine and Robinson Cano homered today.
• Garrison faced two big-time lefties today. He got Justin Morneau to pop up, but Jim Thome took him deep.
• Buddy Carlyle was knocked around a little bit in his start, but for the most part, the other guys brought up from minor league camp pitched well today. Wilkin Arias had a rough third of an inning — hit a batter and walked a guy — but Francisco Gil, Josh Schmidt, Andy Sisco, Eric Wordekemper and Venditte combined for 4.2 scoreless.
• Today the Yankees faced Carl Pavano. Girardi said there was a time this winter when there really seemed to be a chance that Pavano would return to the Yankees. “It was a possibility that he was going to be with us,” Girardi said. “We talked about it. His name was thrown around. It never came to a fruition, but he’s resurrected his career. He’s pitched well for the Twins and he’s given them innings. When we’ve faced him in the playoffs, he’s pitched well. The guy knows how to pitch. The big thing is for Carl that he’s been healthy.”
Associated Press photos of Krum, Carlyle and Girardi with 12-year-old Julianne Ramirez
Triple-A and Double-A playoffs begin tonight • 09.08.10
The postseason in minor league baseball is kind of a strange thing. The best teams lose their best players to call-ups, and the rosters that earned spots in the postseason take on a completely different look for the most important games of the year.
To be honest, I liked that about covering Triple-A. Things change, often suddenly, and that’s part of the experience. Everyone understands and accepts what’s going on. I don’t like the phrase “it is what it is,” but it is what it is.
The Yankees top three affiliates all advanced to the postseason this year. High-A Tampa got started with a win last night. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Trenton get started tonight.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre opens the International League playoffs against Columbus. The first two pitchers they’ll face should be familiar: David Huff was hit in the head by an Alex Rodriguez line drive earlier this season, and Zach McAllister was traded by the Yankees to complete the Austin Kearns deal.
Even after September call-ups, the Triple-A Yankees still have some familiar names on the roster. Kevin Russo and Chad Huffman are both there after spending some time in the big leagues this season, George Kontos is there in his first year back from Tommy John surgery and Justin Christian is with Scranton after making his big league debut with the Yankees a few years ago. Of course, the roster also includes top position prospect Jesus Montero and third baseman Brandon Laird, who had a real breakout year down in Double-A.
Tonight: Columbus LHP David Huff (8-2., 4.36) vs. Yankees RHP D.J. Mitchell (2-0, 3.57)
Thursday: Columbus RHP Zach McAllister (9-12, 5.29) vs. Yankees RHP David Phelps (4-2, 3.07)
Friday: Columbus RHP Yohan Pino (10-9, 5.75) vs. Yankees LHP Kei Igawa (3-4, 4.32)
Saturday: Columbus RHP Paolo Espino (3-3, 5.62) vs. Yankees RHP Hector Noesi (1-1, 4.82)
Sunday: Columbus RHP Corey Kluber (1-1, 3.27) vs. Yankees RHP Lance Pendleton (2-1, 4.24)
Down in Trenton, the Double-A Thunder are opening against New Hampshire and facing top Blue Jays pitching prospect Kyle Drabek in Game 1. Of course, all eyes will be on Game 2, when Andy Pettitte makes a rehab start for Trenton.
Trenton has lost some key players to injuries and call-ups this season — most recently, Corban Joseph went on the DL – but the roster still has Austin Romine, Dan Brewer, recently promoted Pat Venditte and an impressive rotation that includes three of the top arms in the organization in Betances, Banuelos and Brackman.
Tonight: Trenton RHP Dellin Betances (0-0, 3.37) vs. New Hampshire RHP Kyle Drabek (14-9, 2.94)
Thursday: Trenton LHP Andy Pettitte (rehab) vs New Hampshire LHP Zach Stewart (8-3, 3.63)
Friday: Trenton LHP Manny Banuelos (0-1, 3.52) vs. New Hampshire RHP Randy Boone (5-10, 3.98)
Saturday: Trenton RHP Andrew Brackman (5-7, 3.01) vs. New Hampshire RHP B.J. LaMura (5-6, 3.73
Sunday: Trenton RHP Cory Arbiso (5-5, 4.38) vs. New Hampshire TBA
Those are headshots of Montero and Romine
Today in The Journal News • 03.31.10
Joe Girardi had been excited all spring to see Pat Venditte, and on Tuesday he got his chance. The only switch pitcher in baseball was called up for the day and created quite a stir in the Yankees clubhouse when he faced the Braves.
CC Sabathia got the start against Atlanta. It was his last spring start before Opening Day, and although he struggled in Florida, the Yankees seem unconcerned about their ace. The notebook also has items on Mark Teixeira, Alfredo Aceves and the latest cuts from big league camp.
You can always check out pictures in our daily Yankees gallery.
Notes from Tuesday • 03.30.10
The Yankees reassigned outfielders David Winfree and Jon Weber to minor camp after tonight’s game. Those were the last non-roster outfielders — other than Marcus Thames — who were left in camp, but Joe Girardi said the moves don’t necessarily mean Thames has made the team.
“We haven’t made any final cuts yet,” Girardi said. “But Marcus swung the bat against the lefties today, and we have to make some decisions. We’re going to meet pretty soon.”
Weber hit .483 this spring, and he’s tied for the team lead with four doubles. Problem is he’s a left-handed hitter trying to make a team that needs a right-handed hitter.
“He did everything he could do,” Girardi said. “He’s definitely opened some eyes, for sure.”
Weber had become one of the feel-good stories of the spring. He’s a 32-year-old without a single day in the big leagues, but he made a big impression this spring. Chris Coste was 33 years old without a single day in the big leagues when he made a big impression with the Phillies in the spring of 2007, and he got a call-up later that year.
“It was the best time in my life, in my career, that I’ve ever had,” Weber said. “I made it to the final week with the New York Yankees.”
Here’s the Weber audio. If you want to root for a guy, give this a listen.
• Sergio Mitre allowed a two-run home run in the fourth inning but rebounded to finish with two runs on three hits and no walks through six innings. “That one inning that they scored, my pitches were just up a little bit,” Mitre said. His strong spring continues.
• When Joe Girardi got to this afternoon’s game, he only knew Mark Teixeira was sore after being hit by a pitch yesterday. By the time the night game started, Girardi had learned that Teixeira actually reported to camp with no swelling. The situation actually seems better than might have been expected.
• “Ace was better too,” Girardi said. There’s even a chance Alfredo Aceves will play catch tomorrow.
• CC Sabathia hasn’t had the best spring — his 7.23 ERA doesn’t include his ugly outing in minor league camp — but absolutely no one in Yankees camp seems concerned. “CC needs the adrenalin, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to get it in Boston,” Jorge Posada said.
• Joba Chamberlain “probably won’t” pitch in back-to-back games this spring.
• A decision on whether Phil Hughes will open on the big league roster or be optioned to the minor leagues until the Yankees need a fifth starter may be coming soon. “I think we’re about done with that,” Girardi said. “We should have that for you shortly.”
• Speaking of that decision, Boone Logan pitched another scoreless inning. He has made a strong case to be a second left-handed reliever, and it would be very easy to carry him if Hughes opens in the minors.
• It was an ex-Yankees massacre today in Pirates camp. Jeff Karstens, Steven Jackson and Anthony Claggett were among seven pitchers sent down.
• After today’s day-night double header, the Yankees are reporting to camp late tomorrow morning. They’ll take batting practice on a back field. “We’ve seen enough baseball the last 24 hours,” Girardi said.
• The Associated Press paired two shots of Pat Venditte throwing from each side this afternoon. That’s also an AP photo of Sergio Mitre
Venditte steals the show • 03.30.10
CC Sabathia struggled with his fastball command and left a few changeups up in the zone. Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada hit their first spring home runs. Robinson Cano stayed hot with a 2-for-4 afternoon. Zack Segovia took the loss by allowing three runs in the eighth.
But it was switch pitcher Pat Venditte who stole the show.
Swisher said he and the other outfielders were talking to one another when Venditte was on the mound in the sixth.
“We were like, he’s about to switch, he’s about to switch right now!” Swisher said.
Sabathia had no idea Venditte could pitch with both hands. When he came out of he game, Sabathia saw a left-handed pitcher coming in from the bullpen. Then he saw a right-handed pitcher on the mound.
“I was like, maybe that guy got hurt,” Sabathia said.
Venditte allowed one run on two hits and a walk through an inning and a third. Jorge Posada said Venditte promised him he usually has better command. Afterward, Venditte seemed humbled by the experience and said it’s up to him to make himself more than a sideshow. Here’s the audio. I’m out the door on my way back to Tampa for tonight’s game against Toronto.
Disabled list not ruled out for Aceves • 03.30.10
Joe Girardi remains optimistic that Alfredo Aceves will pitch in a spring training game this week, but if that doesn’t happen, it’s entirely possible he could open the season on the disabled list.
“I think we have to have him throw one more time before we leave or he’s probably a candidate,” Girardi said.
Because of the nature of back injuries — it will either hurt or it won’t — Girardi said he doesn’t expect this to affect Aceves ability to pitch multiple innings. If his back feels good one day, he’ll be used the same as always. If it hurts the next day, he probably won’t be able to pitch at all.
• Mark Teixeira is “sore” today, but Girardi said it’s no different from what the Yankees expected yesterday. He’ll go through treatment this afternoon and the Yankees still believe he’ll be able to play on Thursday.
• The Braves did not let the Yankees use a designated hitter today, which is why CC Sabathia is in the lineup. Sabathia can hit, but he’s under order to not swing today. “He’ll get his chances,” Girardi said. “Just not to today.” At one point, Sabathia asked Girardi if he could at least drag bunt. Pretty sure that was a joke.
• Girardi remains incredibly excited about using Pat Venditte. He’s never even seen him warm up and was wondering how Venditte uses his eight warm up pitches. Is it four with each hand? “We’re going to find out,” Girardi said.
• The Yankees lineups for the last 11 games of spring were set before the last off day last week. Girardi said there’s no significance to the fact Curtis Granderson is in center today. In fact, Girardi wasn’t even sure who was starting in center today.
• No list of who’s playing which position, but these are the Yankees bench players for the game: C P.J. Pilittere, C Jeff Farnham, INF Walter Ibarra, INF Justin Snyder, OF Austin Krum, OF David Winfree and OF Ray Kruml.
• Pitchers in the bullpen: RHP Zack Segovia, RHP Ryan Flannery, RHP Cory Arbiso, RHP Ryan Zink and SP Pat Venditte.
• Got to see Jason Heyward up close this morning. I will now be shocked if he doesn’t hit 97 home runs this season. He’s tall and lean and huge. “He look like a little bigger version of Fred McGriff,” Girardi said. A little bigger version of a guy who hit 493 home runs. Impressive.
Aceves day-to-day with sore back • 03.29.10
Alfredo Aceves will skip tomorrow’s scheduled relief appearance because of a sore back. Joe Girardi said Aceves has been tight and “a little out of line” for a few days and the Yankees decided today to give him a few days off.
It’s possible the problem could keep Aceves off the Opening Day roster, but Girardi said right now he believes Aceves will pitch later this week and be ready for the opener.
The problem started in September and Aceves saw a doctor in January. Girardi said Aceves is better today than he was over the weekend.
“It’s something we’re going to have to manage,” he said.
• Girardi said the team will likely wait until Thursday or Friday before finalizing their roster. “I imagine we’ll go pretty far,” Girardi said.
• The idea of starting Phil Hughes in the minor leagues and calling him up when the Yankees need a fifth starter remains a possibility. “I have not had a chance to talk to Cash about it yet, (to finalize) how we’re going to do it.”
• Who starts in center field? “I’m not quite read to make that decision,” Girardi said. “But I’m definitely leaning one way.” If I had to guess, I’d say it’s Curtis Granderson. Joel Sherman has reported that a source told him the organization is leaning that way.
• On the travel roster for tomorrow’s split-squad game against the Braves is switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, and Girardi is pumped. “I’ve wanted to see it all spring,” he said. “I’d like to put him in against a left, right, left.”
• Available to pitch today: Javier Vazquez, Joba Chamberlain, Dave Robertson, Grant Duff and Royce Ring.
• Available off the bench: C P.J. Pilittere, C Ryan Baker, INF Ramiro Pena, INF Jose Pirela, INF Justin Snyder, INF Marcos Vechionacci, OF Jon Weber, OF David Winfree, OF Edwar Gonzalez and OF Ray Kruml.
• I’ll have more on it later tonight, but former Eastern League Pitcher of the Year Alan Horne is scheduled for rotator cuff surgery on April 9. He has more than an 80 percent tear. It’s a brutal blow for a very good pitcher who’s had trouble staying healthy the past two years.
With that, I’m getting in a car with Erik Boland and making the drive to Sarasota. I’ll be back with more from down there.