Notes from Saturday • 03.20.10
All spring, much of the discussion in Yankees camp has centered on the fifth-starter competition. It’s easily the biggest story in camp, which is pretty amazing considering these are the Yankees and we’re talking about the last spot in the rotation.
“I think people are interested, that’s why,” Joe Girardi said. “Because once that’s set then you iron out your bullpen from there. There’s a lot kind of up in the air because you don’t know who’s in your bullpen because of the fifth-starter spot. I’m not really surprised (by the attention).”
Some of the focus on the back of the rotation might be because the other big competition in camp is for literally the last spot on the roster, and neither leading candidate is playing especially well. Marcus Thames went 0-for-3 today. He struck out twice and saw his average dip to .107. Jamie Hoffmann came off the bench and went 0-for-1, lowing his average to .130.
“We still have time with that,” Girardi said. “That (decision) we’re not in such a big hurry to make.”
Here’s Girardi’s postgame media session. He talks a lot about the fifth-starter situation, but gets into a few other things toward the end.
• The picture up top isn’t of either fifth-outfielder candidate, but it is a cool AP shot of Robinson Cano, who hit his first home run of the spring.
• A.J. Burnett will start on Sunday, with Phil Hughes pitching in relief. Joba Chamberlain will start on Monday, with Andy Pettitte pitching in a minor league game.
• Brett Gardner had a bunt single and a triple, both off Brett Myers, to raise his average to .281. Girardi wasn’t especially bothered by the fact Gardner was picked off first base. “I would rather see him find out what he can get now, and be more aggressive now,” Girardi said. “Then we can tone it back as opposed to being passive.”
• Another base hit for Kevin Russo, another base hit for Jon Weber and another base hit for Greg Golson, all of whom have looked really good this spring and are hitting better than .300. Reid Gorecki is hitting just .143, but he can really run. He tripled today and was flying around the bases.
• Boone Logan pitched a scoreless inning, but he did allow a hit to the only lefty he faced.
• Apparently the Yankees have been asked to speed up their games. Sounds good to me, but I’m kind of with Girardi on this one. Sometimes baseball takes a long time. I wish that weren’t the case, but that’s the way it is.
Five questions with Reid Gorecki • 03.04.10
Ranked among the top prospects in the Cardinals’ system earlier this decade, Reid Gorecki’s career hit a wall in 2005 and he was ready to give it up before the Braves gave him a second chance. Now 29 years old, he made his major league debut with Atlanta last season, and got his first big league hit in New York against the Mets.
You grew up on Long Island, so did you grow up a Yankees fan?
Gorecki: No comment. (laughs) I was a Mets guy until right around Jeter stepped in, and Mariano, and they started crushing people. The Mets kind of fell off there for a while, so I was a fair weather fan. I was always on the fence, I always rooted for both teams, but now it’s a little different. There’s only one team here now.
It must be cool to play with these guys.
Gorecki: Oh, is it ever. Just being around them, you see how hard they work and the kind of work ethic that they put in and the mind frame that they have. It’s something special over here. These guys really know what they’re doing and they have a goal. I’m happy to be a part of that goal… Being a new guy, I really don’t want to go mix it in too early. I like to get to know guys by watching them and how they act and see what kind of things they do. I don’t want to go opening my mouth, being a young guy, too early.
What brought you over here? Did you see some opportunities in the outfield?
Gorecki: To be honest with you, I’ve always wanted to play for the Yankees. Even though I grew up a Mets fan, this is such tradition. There are so many things about the Yankees that bring players in. I had an opportunity. My agent called me and said, ‘The Yankees are interested,’ and I said, ‘Sign the papers.’ I want to be a part of that, that winning atmosphere like these guys are a part of every year.
You were pretty highly touted when you coming up with the Cardinals, then things fell off for you when you were getting close to the major leagues. Did you think the big leagues would never happen?
Gorecki: I broke my hamate bone, and I kept twisting my ankle every day. I thought I was on the outs, to be honest with you. I went home and I got a job after the Cardinals released me, an everyday job with a couple of friends who had started a business. I was ready to give it up, and the Braves called and really gave me a second chance, a second breath of fresh air. Since then it’s been one goal in mind, and it’s been unbelievable. My road back from the Cardinals releasing me has been a real special road.
What was the big league debut like?
Gorecki: Unbelievable. The guys in the clubhouse really welcomed me with open arms. I had known a lot of them from being up and down in spring training every day. They were giving me opportunities. They threw me in the outfield the first day, and my heart was racing. The first fly ball, I pretty much caught it behind my head. I might has well have caught it behind my back. I was pretty nervous out there. And then we went to New York the next day and I was in front of my home fans and family. It was unreal the atmosphere, playing in front of that many people was nothing like anything I had ever done before.
For people who have never seen you, what kind of player are you?
Gorecki: I’m a scrappy dirtball. I like to leave the field the dirtiest guy on the field. I’m going to dive for a ball. I’m going to throw a runner out. I’m going to steal a base. I’m going to occasionally hit with some power. I just love winning. Everywhere I’ve gone I’ve been blessed with good surroundings and we’ve always been a part of a winning team.
Notes from Day 1 • 02.17.10
There wasn’t much breaking news coming out of Steinbrenner Field this morning. The Yankees pitchers and catchers showed up, then some of them talked, then all of them left. For a first day of spring training, it was pretty much exactly what you would expect.
As for some smaller notes from the day, here’s one that is quite literally smaller.
Who’s in shape and who’s not always seems to be an early spring training question, and the only player I saw who was a noticeably different size was Jonathan Albaladejo, who said he lost 30 pounds this winter. “A lot of running,” he said.
For the first time since he turned pro, Albaladejo did not play winter ball in Puerto Rico. He instead focused on getting into shape. “I definitely feel more fresh,” he said. “My arm feels more life.”
• For now, Phil Hughes is only throwing fastballs and changeups in his bullpen sessions, and he expects to throw one more bullpen before he mixes in curveballs and cutters. He compared the development of his changeup to last year’s development of the cutter. “I’ll concentrate on it all spring,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll get it to a point where it’s a solid pitch for me. It just comes with repetition.”
• Along the left wall, the first group of lockers goes in this order: CC Sabathia, Joba Chamberlain, Javier Vazquez, Chad Gaudin, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. That’s a clearly defined section if I’ve ever seen one.
• One random locker assignment comes on the right side of the back wall: Nick Swisher, Marcus Thames, Randy Winn, Curtis Granderson, Reid Gorecki and Mark Teixeira. Poor Gorecki is going to be surrounded by writers every day without being asked a single question. Unless it’s a question about one of the guys sitting near him.
• Congratulations to Mark Melancon, who got married this winter. Also congratulations to Jason Hirsh, who had hardly said hello before he flipped open his phone to show me a picture of his newborn.
• Speaking of Hirsh, I still consider him one of the sleepers of big league camp, and he came up with a great line to explain his offseason conditioning. “Functional training instead of meathead lifting,” he said. Nice.
• Jorge Posada said he watched that World Series highlight DVD this winter. I’m sure a lot of Yankees watched it, but Posada was the first I’ve heard talking about it. “I watched it and you can’t believe it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
• I doubt I’ll have any reason to write more than five words about D.J. Mitchell this winter, but I did get to meet him this morning. Really nice guy. He said he found out on Monday that the Yankees made him a late addition to big league camp. He drove from North Carolina to Tampa on Tuesday, and was in camp this morning. He’s a sinker baller who climbed from Low-A to High-A last season. The Yankees haven’t told him where they expect him to open this season.