The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Off day notes and links: Teixiera starts strong04.01.11

“Last year was awful. It was embarrassing.”

Those are Mark Teixeira’s words after yesterday’s Opening Day home run. It seemed that Teixeira dismissed his slow start last season, saying he always trusted that he would eventually live up to the numbers on the back of his baseball card. This winter, though, Teixiera put extra time and effort into his swing, taking more hacks than usual.

“Sometimes your swing is the last thing you think about,” he said.

Teixiera thought about his swing this winter, and he went to work keeping it in shape hoping to avoid last year’s slow start. He had a terrific spring training, then hit a massive three run home run in the opener.

Today Joe Posnanski posted his prediction of the top 32 players in baseball this season. He has Teixiera barely on the list, coming in at No. 32. It’s probably about right considering last year’s numbers, but there’s certainly the potential for more this year.

“I have a suspicion that this year he will have a massive season,” Posnanski wrote.

Here’s Teixeira after yesterday’s game.

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FanGraphs put the Yankees at the top of their organizational rankings.

• Cool post over at The Yankee Analysts detailing how and when each member of the Yankees Opening Day roster came to the franchise.

• He didn’t have much impact with the Yankees, and now Randy Winn has decided to retire. One of the most polite players I’ve ever met.

• After he was released from Yankees camp, infielder Ronnie Belliard signed a minor league deal with the Phillies.

Ian Kennedy got the Opening Day start for the Diamondbacks this afternoon.

• Some other familiar faces winning jobs in new places: Mark Melancon made the Astros bullpen, Sergio Mitre will be in the Brewers pen, Lance Berkman really did open as the Cardinals right fielder, Juan Miranda started at first base for the Diamondbacks, Shelley Duncan made the Indians bench, Dustin Moseley is in the Padres rotation, Ross Ohledorf is the No. 3 starter for the Pirates, Jeff Karstens and Jose Veras are both in the Pirates bullpen, and Jose Tabata is the Pirates starting left fielder.

Associated Press photo

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Sunday notes: Key pieces coming together03.20.11

Russell Martin told Joe Girardi that he wanted to catch today. He wanted at least one more spring game with the Yankees ace, and Martin was behind the plate for another strong CC Sabathia start: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

“Me and Russ, we’re pretty much locked in,” Sabathia said. “I didn’t have to shake at all and that’s good. At this point in the season, we’ve had a couple of starts, and for us to be on the same page, communication is pretty good.”

Sabathia said he was happy with everything today. His breaking ball was good, his changeup was good and he was able to locate his fastball. He knee felt good, his arm felt strong and Sabathia felt at ease with the new guy behind the plate.

“(Martin)’s going to be our guy and you want to have that relationship and not have any confusion and be shaking off a bunch,” he said. “I feel like we’re on the same page.”

• Sabathia will get an extra day of rest before making his final spring training start on Saturday. Joe Girardi said Sabathia will slightly dial back the number of pitches next time out.

• Mark Teixeira hit his first home run this afternoon, adding one more element to an already strong spring training. He’s batting .342 with a team-high eight doubles. “I see him in the cage all the time taking a ton of swings,” Girardi said. “I’ll walk by and it’ll be late, or it’ll be early, and you’ll hear bam, bam, bam. And it’s Tex. He’s put his mind to this.”

• Girardi said after the game that he’s still no certain when Joba Chamberlain or Pedro Feliciano will pitch again. Chamberlain seems closer to a game than Feliciano. Both expect to be ready for the regular season.

• Guess Boone Logan’s back and arm are feeling fine. He struck out the side in the ninth inning.

• Speaking of the bullpen, Dave Robertson struck out the only batter he faced and Rafael Soriano pitched a hitless eighth. Robertson, Soriano and Logan combined for this pitching line: 2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K.

• Girardi said he’ll continue to experiment with the top of the order, getting looks at both Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter in the leadoff spot. “We won 8-1,” he said. “It worked pretty good.”

• Gardner wore a shin guard over his right shin but said he felt fine. “Feeling a lot better than I thought it would,” he said. He went 2-for-4 has his batting average back up .286.

• Another hit for Jeter. He’s batting .341. Also, another hit for Eric Chavez, who’s hitting .371 and got his third spring double today, this one off a left-hander.

• It’s been a little overlooked lately, lost in all of the A-Rod home runs and leadoff debate, but Curtis Granderson is still having a terrific spring. He had two more hits today and is batting .385 with three triples and a team-high 11 runs. His 15 hits are one less than Rodriguez.

• Jesus Montero had his second spring double today. In his past six games Montero is 4-for-11 (.364) with two doubles, three runs, one walk and three strikeouts. He was hitless in his 11 previous at-bats.

• Justin Maxwell and Ronnie Belliard also doubled today. It was Belliard’s second spring hit. He’s batting .143. He also made an error today.

• Nick Swisher had a base hit and two RBI today, but he’s bigger moment came when he threw out Ryan Howard at the plate in the sixth inning. Martin was blocking the plate, and when Howard knew he was out, he slowed down to avoid a collision. Teixeira went out of his way to high five Martin after the play.

• You could easily make the case that this was the Yankees best game of the spring: Their starter went deep, their everyday guys hit really well and they won 8-1. “You want to see that,” Girardi said. “You want to see it all start to come together. Today, that’s how you draw it up.”

Associated Press photos of Sabathia, Teixeira and Martin (with Howard)

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Thursday notes: “The CC we’re used to seeing”03.10.11

CC Sabathia was scheduled for four innings this afternoon. He wound up pitching five scoreless and still didn’t reach his pitch count. Going head-to-head against Phillies ace Roy Halladay, Sabathia was back to his old self after a rocky start his last time out against the Nationals.

“That’s pretty much the CC we’re used to seeing,” manager Joe Girardi said.

Sabathia said he was sharp enough to work on some specific things today, throwing changeups when he was down in the count and mixing in some first-pitch two-seamers. His delivery was “cleaner,” he said.

“I have the pause in my delivery,” Sabathia said. “I was kind of floating, drifting through it (last time) instead of just staying there, gathering, and then going. We worked on that in the bullpen, and I was conscious of it in the bullpen here today and trying to translate into the game.”

• Sabathia was hit in the thigh by a comebacker but stayed in the game. He didn’t even let the medical staff check him during the game, though he did have it wrapped afterward. “I’ve got a lot of meat down there,” he said.

• This early in spring training, and the two starting pitchers — Sabathia and Roy Halladay — combined for 11 scoreless, walkless innings. “Look at the two starters we’re looking at,” Girardi said. “You don’t see it a lot (this early), but if it’s going to happen, it’s usually two starters like that.”

• Warner Madrigal was scheduled to pitch today, but he felt some soreness in his arm. “He might be shut down for a few days,” Girardi said. Madrigal is coming back from surgery, but Girardi said today’s soreness was in a different spot.

• Dave Robertson faced one hitter this afternoon, which was the plan. Robertson threw 31 pitches his last time out and Girardi just wanted to get him in the game for one hitter. Of course, that one hitter tripled.

• After Robertson, Rule 5 pick Robert Fish had a rough sixth inning. He got three outs, one of which was a sac fly and one of which was a pickoff. John Mayberry Jr. hit a two-run home run off him, one of three hits against Fish.

• Mark Prior allowed his first runs of the spring. The Phillies scored three runs against him, but two were unearned because of an error by Justin Maxwell. Prior gave up two walks and an RBI double.

• The Yankees had a total of four hits today, on apiece by Brett Gardner, Russell Martin, Ramiro Pena and Jorge Posada. All of those hits were singles.

• In his spring debut, Ronnie Belliard went 0-for-2. Given the way Eric Chavez is hitting — and the way Jorge Vazquez is hitting for that matter — it’s really difficult to imagine Belliard doing enough to make this roster.

• Brett Gardner will get one at-bat as a designated hitter tomorrow, then he’ll make the road trip to play center field on Saturday.

• Girardi said he’s planning to go on the road for tomorrow’s split squad game against the Blue Jays because he wants to see Ivan Nova pitch. He’ll leave someone else to manage the home game and watch Phil Hughes. Why not have Nova pitch at home? Hughes has already made two starts on the road, and he’s locked into a rotation spot. He gets to stay home this time.

Alfredo Aceves was knocked around today, allowing four hits and three earned runs through 2.1 innings for the Red Sox.

Associated Press photos of Sabathia meeting with Russell Martin and Jorge Posada, and of Girardi talking to Tony Pena

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Wednesday notes: Results encouraging, the market is not03.09.11

So far, tonight’s Bartolo Colon start has been the worst outing in this four-man rotation competition, and even Colon wasn’t too bad.

It’s too early to make too much of it, but rotation results have been encouraging this spring, and Brian Cashman said it’s entirely possible the Yankees have all the pieces of their Opening Day rotation already in camp. Cashman said he wouldn’t rule out adding a pitcher before the end of March, but right now an addition doesn’t seem likely.

“I’m not encouraged (by the market),” Cashman said. “I’m only saying there’s a chance because who knows what’s going to happen between now and then? There’s nothing hot. I’ve got nothing going on. Zero. That type of activity doesn’t usually take place right now.”

Colon had a rocky second inning, but that came after he struck out the side in the first inning and before he pitched a scoreless third and fourth. All told, Colon allowed two runs through four innings, striking out seven and walking none.

“I’ve been a little bit more surprised about Colon than (Freddy) Garcia,” Joe Girardi said. “Freddy, I saw Freddy pitch last year so I had a pretty good idea of what he was going to do. Bartolo, the movement on his fastball surprised me a little bit. I’m not surprised with his command and I’m not surprised with the changeup. The breaking ball is a little bit better than it was in the past.”

If the situation changes, could the trade market heat up at the end of March?

“Usually with bad contract guys, out of option guys, that type of stuff,” Cashman said.

• If the Yankees don’t add a starter, they probably won’t add anyone this spring. The lineup is set, the bullpen is deep and Cashman said he’s happy with the bench options. “I don’t think we have to go outside camp unless we have injuries looking for bench help,” he said. “We have the potential of a real good bench going forward to open the season.”

• Colon started his outing by striking out the side in the first inning. “Usually I try to pace myself, but today I went hard right from the very beginning,” he said. “Today I just felt very strong.” Colon allowed two runs in the second inning, but Girardi was impressed that the outing didn’t snowball and Colon pitched a scoreless third and fourth. “You want to see a guy be able to shut it down and get back to making pitches,” Girardi said.

• Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless inning in his spring debut. Girardi said this could be the best bullpen since he came to New York. “Our bullpen in 2009, at the end, was special,” Girardi said. “With Hughesy down there and Marte back and Robertson, the strides that he made. Joba. Ace. That was pretty good. I think this bullpen has a chance to be better.”

• Girardi was impressed by Soriano’s debut. “I didn’t really expect a whole lot different than that,” Girardi said.

• Eduardo Nunez played left field tonight and caught the only ball hit to him. “It was weird, but good,” Nunez said. The Yankees want Nunez and Ramiro Pena to get a little bit of outfield time this spring, preparing themselves to play there in a pinch this season.

• Nunez also had another hit, raising his spring average to .375. He also got his fifth stolen base.

• Russell Martin and Andruw Jones each hit their first Yankees home runs tonight. The Yankees started seven players likely to make the Opening Day roster, and all seven had a hit. The Yankees won 4-2.

• Manny Banuelos made his third scoreless appearance of the spring. Nice work by Andrew Marchand on this piece about Mariano Rivera’s impressions of the young lefty. Safe to say, the Yankees closer is impressed. Girardi said before the game he thought Banuelos would go three innings, but the Yankees changed their mind and gave him two innings. Banuelos would have pitched three innings if Colon had lasted just three innings, Girardi said.

• Gustavo Molina had a root canal today.

• There’s a chance of rain tomorrow. If that happens, Girardi said CC Sabathia will probably throw a simulated game in the indoor cages. If not, Sabathia will matchup against Roy Halladay in Clearwater.

• Speaking of Clearwater, Ronnie Belliard is scheduled to make the trip. He could get in his first game tomorrow.

• Just a random observation: I hadn’t talked to Melky Mesa much this spring, but talked to him a little bit today. The guy’s a ball of energy, laughing and smiling, even when he’s in the game. He’s definitely one of those “I just love to play the game” kind of guys.

• After today’s paintball outing, someone asked Girardi if he’s still hoping to have a players outing in spring training. “I don’t know,” Girardi said. “We’ll see. A lot of times during the beginning of the season we’ll watch the Final Four together as a team. This was a year that was a little bit different (in spring training). I’ve had some ideas in my mind about things that I could do, but it seems like time gets short sometimes.”

• The Yankees finally posted tomorrow’s travel roster for Clearwater, and it includes one regular infielder — Robinson Cano — traveling with the regular outfielders. It also includes every healthy catcher, including Jorge Posada.

Pitchers who will be making the trip: Brian Anderson, Robert Fish, Warner Madrigal, David Phelps, Ryan Pope, Mark Prior, Dave Robertson, CC Sabathia, Romulo Sanchez, Andy Sisco, Daniel Turpen and Eric Wordekemper.

Players who will not be making the trip: Colin Curtis, Greg Golson, Andruw Jones, Eric Chavez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Francisco Cervelli.

Associated Press photos of Colon, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez. Williams threw out the first pitch, Martinez is in camp as a guest instructor.

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Tuesday notes: Brackman finally gets his first spring inning03.08.11

Andrew Brackman said he couldn’t sit still in the Yankees bullpen this afternoon. His professional career already included enough waiting, and this month he had to wait through a minor groin injury before finally making his spring debut. Through today’s first six innings, Brackman couldn’t sit still.

“The blood’s pumping a little bit,” he said. “You go out there and you want to see what you’ve got.”

Brackman wasn’t especially happy with his scoreless inning — he said his stuff wasn’t as good as it’s been in the bullpen — but he’s glad the first one it out of the way. Joe Girardi seemed impressed. He said he saw good fastball command, a good curveball, and he couldn’t tell Brackman was anxious.

“You think about (if) somebody goes down and you need a starter, you want to see how these kids are handling themselves in this atmosphere,” Girardi said before the game. “Are they a guy that gets frustrated easily? Are they a guy that lets innings unravel?”

Brackman’s inning didn’t unravel. It actually got better as it went along. Ultimately, Brackman knows he’s an extreme long shot to break camp in the rotation — although he said, in the back of his mind, he still thinks he could win the job — but Girardi twice today said he wouldn’t rule out the idea of breaking Brackman into the big leagues as a reliever.

“I would be open to anything to get me in a pinstripe uniform,” Brackman said. “I feel the Yankees definitely see me as a starter (long term), and I see myself as a starter, and hopefully it can stay that way.”

• Girardi said the first round of cuts could come this weekend.

• Jorge Posada got only two at-bats today, but Girardi said that was the plan coming into the game. He’s not hurt. “Everyone came out good today,” Girardi said.

• Girardi was asked again about the possibility of putting Brett Gardner in the leadoff spot. “We’re in no rush to (make that decision),” he said. “I don’t have to put up a lineup until March 31.”

• Ronnie Belliard seemed to be something of a long shot when camp opened, but after missing nearly two weeks of games, it’s hard to imagine him winning a spot on the Yankees bench. “He’s competing more against Chavez and Vazquez than Nunez and Pena,” Girardi said. Of course, Chavez and Vazquez have been two of the best hitters in camp so far.

• Utility infield candidates Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena each had two hits today. Nunez also stole three bases, while Pena was caught stealing once. Pena did make a nice play at shortstop, though, going toward third base to get the out on a ball Brandon Laird couldn’t quite reach.

• Another double for Jorge Vazquez.

• Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson each had two hits, with Granderson hitting a two-run triple to center field. Posada also had an RBI base hit.

• Dave Robertson struck out the first three batters he faced, but because the first guy reached on a wild pitch, the inning continued through a walk, another wild pitch and a two-run single. Despite three straight strikeouts to start the inning, Robertson was still saddled with two earned runs.

• Romulo Sanchez got a save despite allowing a run in the ninth. Not that I thought of him as a favorite to make this roster, but I did expect Sanchez to get a little more of a look that he’s gotten so far. He’s out of options, he was a starter through most of last season, and he has a huge fastball. Seemed to me he was a solid backup plan as a long reliever, but he’s pitched just two innings.

Associated Press photos. The top one is of a Brett Gardner at bat. I thought the ball looked cool.

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Tuesday morning notes: Stranded in Sarasota03.08.11

After last night’s game in Sarasota, the Yankees clubhouse was not the most alert or busy place this morning. “I had to ask what day it was,” Joe Girardi said.

The Yankees bus is making it way to Orlando for this afternoon’s game against the Braves. Girardi’s not on the players bus, but we can be sure he won’t be driving himself. Turns out, his keys went missing last night in Sarasota and he had to leave his rental truck at the Orioles ballpark.

Kevin Long is a suspect in the case. He apparently borrowed the keys to get his hat out of Girardi’s truck. Long claims he gave them back. Girardi doesn’t remember getting them.

It’s a very sensitive and delicate situation.

• Still no diagnosis on Colin Curtis, who still has his arm in a sling. He can’t move it up and down too well. “Kind of unlucky,” he said. “Sick catch though.”

• No significant concern about Greg Golson, who felt some stiffness in his rib cage yesterday. Girardi said there are no tests scheduled. Turns out, Golson felt some discomfort when he woke up yesterday, but he thought it was normal soreness and decided to play through it. He had to be taken out of last night’s game. “Hopefully it’s not too long,” Girardi said.

• Ronnie Belliard is doing hitting, fielding and base running drills this morning. He’s expected to get in a game later this week. “He’s actually progressed a little bit quicker than we thought (he would),” Girardi said.

• Jorge Posada could get in a game at first base later this week.

• Andrew Brackman will make his first spring appearance today. The Yankees have been wildly impressed by Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, now it’s Brackman’s turn. He’s been slowed by a groin injury, and Girardi said the only concern is that he’ll try to do too much to make up for lost time. “We have to make sure we watch that,” Girardi said.

• By the way… Any chance Brackman could eventually pitch his way into the bullpen this year? “I think that’s something you could definitely consider,” Girardi said.

• Phil Hughes, David Phelps and Steve Garrison had sides today.

Available in the bullpen: Dellin Betances, Dave Robertson, Andrew Brackman, Robert Fish, Warner Madrigal, Romulo Sanchez, Daniel Turpen, Brian Anderson and Eric Wordekemper.

Off the bench: C Gustavo Molina, 1B Jose Gil, 2B Kevin Russo, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Brad Suttle, LF Austin Krum, CF Melky Mesa, RF Jordan Paraz.

• There is no backup DH listed, suggesting the Yankees are going to let Posada get a full game of at-bats.

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Away from the rain, Jeter does some early work inside03.01.11

Just watched an early batting cage session between Derek Jeter and Kevin Long. Jeter’s look was priceless when he realized a dozen or so reporters were standing in the tunnel watching him swing at a handful of batting practice pitches.

Because of the rain, Long and Jeter can’t do any work on the field, so Long changed gears and will make the trip to Bradenton after all. He just left, and I’m on my way right behind him. It’s pretty wet here in Tampa, but the rain has stopped and the assumption is that the Yankees will play as scheduled.

“We’re going over, so I’m assuming,” Joe Girardi said.

• Phil Hughes will make his first spring start in a stadium that is notoriously hitter friendly because of the strong wind that usually blows out. “The quality of the pitches has to be better,” Girardi said. “To me, it’s a good thing because the focus has to be there.”

• Of course, this is Hughes we’re talking about, so we’ll probably hear quite a bit about his changeup. “I think (the changeup) is important for him to take that next step,” Girardi said.

• According to Girardi, Andrew Brackman will be able to “air it out” today. Assuming that goes well, he’ll take tomorrow off and throw off a mound Thursday.

• Greg Golson will take batting practice today and should play in a game tomorrow.

• Ronnie Belliard is still at least a week away from testing his calf injury.

• The Swish-hawk is no more. Nick Swisher showed up with a shaved head this morning. He said he did it himself.

Scheduled to play off the bench: C Kyle Higashioka, 1B Jorge Vazquez, 2B Kevin Russo, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Bradley Suttle, LF Austin Krum, CF Justin Maxwell, RF Jordan Parraz, DH Gustavo Molina

Available relievers: Dave Robertson, Steve Garrison, Brian Anderson, Andy Sisco, Eric Wordekemper, Ryan Pope, Boone Logan, David Phelps and Hector Noesi

Upcoming rotation:

Wednesday: A.J. Burnett
Thursday: Freddy Garcia
Friday: Bartolo Colon
Saturday: CC Sabathia
Sunday: Phil Hughes
Monday (DH): A.J. Burnett (home), Sergio Mitre (road)
Tuesday: Freddy Garcia

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Wednesday notes: Young pitchers living up to the hype02.23.11

All winter we heard about the Yankees young pitching talent, a series of arms that could help out sooner rather than later. A week and a half into spring training, manager Joe Girardi is sold on both the quantity and the quality.

“I’ve seen a lot of good things this spring, from a lot of the young kids as well,” he said. “I thought Phelps threw pretty well today. Warren. Brackman. All of these kids have thrown the ball extremely well at this point in camp. I’m happy. Very happy… We’ve talked about that we have pitching coming, and I really believe that.”

Today, Girardi was asked specifically quite a bit about Manny Banuelos, largely because Banuelos faced live hitters on the main field, with Girardi watching most of the BP session. Girardi said what he saw “matches up” with what he’d already heard about Banuelos. Right now, Girardi knows what he wants to see out of young pitchers, and Banuelos has shown it.

“Strikes, and good strikes,” Girardi said. “Not just strikes, but good strikes. If they throw a ball where they don’t want to, can they adjust quickly? Say he throws a curveball and leaves it way up, can they adjust and get it where (they want it)? What I’ve seen, he’s pretty good at it.”

That said, the plan remains the same. The Yankees are happy with their pitching depth, but they brought in some rotation options that might buy the kids a little more time to develop.

“You have to be open minded, you have to evaluate,” Girardi said. “But it’s not necessarily what you plan on going in.”

• More evidence that the Yankees take Bartolo Colon seriously as a rotation option: “He’s looked pretty good,” Girardi said. “It’s the Bartolo that I remember: A guy that keeps the ball down, uses his fastball a lot and is able to hit his spots.”

• New lefty Pedro Feliciano is used to pitching 85 to 90 times each year. Last year, no Yankees reliever made more than 73 appearances. Boone Logan, Damaso Marte and Royce Ring combined for fewer appearances than Feliciano made last season. “I talked to him about the way we do things here,” Girardi said. “That I’m not a big proponent of throwing guys three days in a row, so don’t be surprised if I do some things different. He’s important to our bullpen. We have to keep him healthy all year long.”

• Eduardo Nunez and Austin Romine were sent home sick today. “It’s the head cold and the throat,” Girardi said. “We gave them medicine and sent them home. We felt that was the best thing to do.”

• With Andruw Jones, Eric Chavez and Ronnie Belliard, the Yankees have given themselves some options for veteran experience on the bench. And not just experience, but guys who were very good everyday players before settling into supporting roles. “I think it’s great, because you know they know how to play the game,” Girardi said. “You know that situations when they get in that day to play, there’s not going to be an extreme emotional high. They’re going to prepare the way they’ve always prepared. They know the league, they know the ballparks and they know what it takes to be successful.”

• On the other hand, the Yankees have taken notice of Brandon Laird: “He’s obviously proven that he knows how to drive in a run, he knows how to put good at-bats together when guys are on base,” Girardi said. “He’s a guy that you might think about (on the roster).”

• Speaking of which… Charging choppers at third base this morning, Laird might a nice play on a short hop at the edge of the grass. Minor league defensive coordinator Torre Tyson, who was doing the hitting for the defensive drill, said, “You couldn’t get there two years ago.” Laird agreed, said he had no shot at making that play two years ago. He looks pretty good at third these days. Not implying he’s a defensive wizard, but I haven’t seen anything to make me think Laird can’t play the position.

• Didn’t see anything particularly out of the ordinary about defensive positioning during drills today. Ronnie Belliard continued to take some reps at first base, and I did see Brad Suttle go to first base for a while.

• Dave Robertson was the only pitcher I saw throw his batting practice without a protective screen in front of him. Some pitchers just hate having the thing in front of them and feel like it actually causes them to mess with their mechanics (they feel like their arm or the ball is going to hit the screen). Robertson pitched without it, and as soon as he was done, the screen was put back in place for Ivan Nova.

• Didn’t seem serious, but Colin Curtis fouled a ball off his calf and crashed to the dirt. He was hobbling around for a while, and got some ice for it, but he should be fine.

Here’s a must-read Times piece about the relationship between Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry. Four years ago, during my first spring training covering the Yankees organization, Berra was the very first person I saw when I first walked into the Yankees clubhouse.

Associated Press photos: Girardi surrounded by players; Berra with Derek Jeter; Alex Rodriguez laughing during drills

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Monday notes: Brackman impresses against live hitters02.21.11

Andrew Brackman is not new to Yankees camp. He’s a familiar face around here, and almost everyone in the big league clubhouse is long past first impressions of the tall right-hander.

But Justin Maxwell is new. He arrived in Tampa having only heard of Brackman, and today Maxwell faced the highly touted prospect for the first time in live batting practice. Maxwell’s first impression?

“Really good command,” he said.

Never would have heard that two years ago. Today, Brackman opened eyes with an impressive batting practice session that included all of his pitches, and most importantly, included a bunch of strikes.

“He’s much further ahead than he was (at this time last year),” Joe Girardi said. “He had a hard time consistently throwing strikes, where now it appears that’s behind him. You look at what he’s done the second half of last year, what he’s done here in spring training, he’s throwing a lot of strikes. That’s a big part of the battle when you’re pitching.”

As Mark Feinsand detailed this weekend, Brackman has been fighting that battle ever since his 2007 Tommy John surgery, and he finally seems to be winning after a breakout 2010 season in Trenton.

“My first two camps, those BPs would have been awful,” Brackman said. “Nowhere near the plate or anything like that. The further away I get from surgery, the more comfortable I get on the mound.”

• Hank Steinbrenner spoke after the Rodriguez press conference this afternoon, including a comment that seemed to be a shot at Derek Jeter. In fact, I have a hard time coming up with another way to take it: “Sometimes I think maybe they celebrated a little too much last year,” Steinbrenner said. “Some of the players are too busy building mansions and doing other things, not concentrating on winning. I have no problem saying that. I think they’ve come into this spring with a new hunger.” There’s always something unexpected that pops up around here.

• Jorge Posada did the catching portion of team fielding drills this morning. It was the first time he’d gone through catching drills. The Yankees still haven’t had him squatting or throwing to second base, but that will happen soon. He’s supposed to catch a bullpen Wednesday or Thursday. “He’s been great talking to the players and being involved, but we haven’t asked him to do much behind the plate,” Girardi said.

• Mariano Rivera will throw his first bullpen this week, probably Wednesday or Thursday. “It won’t be long now,” Girardi said.

• Girardi said no injury concerns have popped up. Gustavo Molina was dealing with a quad issue, but he caught a bullpen today and is feeling fine.

• Just a personal observation: Eric Chavez still looks awfully good at third base. He made some solid plays going to his right during batting practice.

• Speaking of BP defense: Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Eduardo Nunez were taking turns fielding grounders at shortstop — it’s just a ground ball drill, the position on the field doesn’t really matter — and after Jeter charged a ball kind of awkwardly, Nunez started dancing around in shallow left field, mocking the Captain’s approach. Cano and Jeter were cracking up, and Jeter gave Nunez a little shove.

• I mentioned it earlier today, but Ronnie Belliard got some time at first base after working at second yesterday. Kevin Russo worked at second after working in the outfield yesterday.

• Boone Logan signed autographs for a while after the morning long toss session. One of his throws had sailed way over Buddy Carlyle and hit a little girl in the stands, so Logan tried to make up for it. Head’s up people! Even the pros let one slip every now and then.

• Joe Girardi is still trying to figure out, plan and schedule a team outing, but there aren’t many options, and the dates are limited before this weekend’s first game. Friday might be the best bet. “We’re going to try,” Girardi said.

Associated Press photos. That’s Kyle Higashioka at the top.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 298 Comments →

Sunday notes: Less is more02.20.11

The weight issue won’t quite go away here in Tampa. Alex Rodriguez arrived in camp a little bit lighter. Buster Olney reported it was 10 pounds lighter. Joe Girardi said it wasn’t quite that much. Whatever the exact number, it’s more than a pound or two, but not so much that Rodriguez looks drastically different.

“Sometimes guys just feel like they want to be a little bit lighter,” Girardi said. “It might add to their game. Physically they might bounce back quicker. That’s not uncommon for a player to try to put more energy into their body, and sometimes it is by not having to carry so much mass.”

Girardi said he didn’t know Rodriguez was planning to lose weight until Rodriguez reported to camp. But seeing him, Girardi has no complaints.

“This is just the weight that he showed up,” Girardi said. “He showed up in very good shape, so I’m not going to complain about that.”

• Girardi said it’s too early to learn anything from the bullpen sessions. In fact, he goes out of his way to make sure players don’t feel pressure to perform at this point.

“I’m careful to not try to push players right now or to say a whole lot to pitchers — we need a little bit more, your breaking ball’s not quite as sharp – because I don’t want them trying to overdo it,” Girardi said. “Sometimes there might even be a guy that’s throwing the ball well, and if I come around I see that he missed a couple of spots, I might just move on (if it’s) a young guy. I don’t want them thinking, gosh, the manager’s watching. Just let them go about their business. There will be plenty of time to evaluate.”

• That said, five pitchers threw batting practice to actual hitters early this morning: Joba Chamberlain, Ivan Nova, Dave Robertson, Brian Anderson and Manny Banuelos. “Some guys got an early morning wakeup call at 8:15,” Girardi said.

• Eight more pitchers will throw BP tomorrow. Girardi didn’t say who.

• Because there are fewer workout days, there will be no intrasquad games before the actual spring schedule.

• Girardi said he knows who he wants to start the spring opener, but he wants to wait a few days to make sure that pitcher is still good to go. He promised to make the announcement on Tuesday.

• When he finished hitting, Jorge Posada spent some time at first base. Girardi said it’s possible Posada could see some time at the position this spring, but whether he’s a legitimate option at first during the season depends on who else is on the roster. “Is it a viable option? Is it an emergency option? A lot of it depends on the makeup of your roster,” Girardi said.

• Kevin Russo was listed as an infielder today, but he instead worked as an outfielder during drills. He said he expects to work in the infield tomorrow.

• Random infield assignments: Eric Chavez, Brad Suttle and Brandon Laird did their infield work at third base, and Jorge Vazquez got his time at first. Those four will probably spend time at both infield corners this spring. Ronnie Belliard and Doug Bernier got time at both second base and shortstop, though the time at short was just fielding grounders. I doubt Belliard is being looked at as a shortstop option. Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez both worked at shortstop.

• Tino Martinez has arrived in Yankees camp as a guest instructor.

• Girardi and his staff are still discussing possible team outings. Not sure what it will be this year.

Associated Press photos of Jeter with Rodriguez during stretch; Nova in the bullpen; and Andruw Jones in the outfield

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 444 Comments →

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