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.
Notes from Wednesday • 03.31.10
We ran into some technical issues here at the LoHud Yankees Blog. No one could login to update a post or add a new one, and since that’s a pretty important part of what we do around here, we’ve gone back to the original format. Still hoping to have all the bugs worked out soon.
Speaking of technical issues, Francisco Cervelli has run into some, but it doesn’t seem serious. He felt a little something in his left hamstring yesterday, and so the Yankees sent him for a precautionary MRI this afternoon.
“Let’s be safe instead of sorry because if he had a Grade 1 you’d hate to run him out there,” Joe Girardi said. “He called it a little pinch, but it didn’t bother him. We just decided, let’s go get an MRI just to be sure.”
The plan is for Cervelli to go through the normal drills the next two days — batting practice, catching bullpens — and for him to play on Saturday. The Yankees are only worried about him running the bases, and they aren’t even especially worried about that, just want to play it safe.
• Turns out CC Sabathia met with some high school players while at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex for yesterday’s game against the Braves. The AP had this picture.
• Phil Hughes pitched pretty well today, but the first inning got a little bit out of hand when four straight batters reached base with two outs. He said the problem was his curveball, which he wasn’t able to bury in the dirt when he needed to. Otherwise, he was pretty happy with the outing. He threw 88 pitches, 61 for strikes.
• Is it possible Hughes’ curveball suffered a setback because of his focus on the changeup? “I don’t think so,” Hughes said. “I didn’t command it all that well today, but I feel like the spin’s been fine on it. I kind of know I can find the feel for my breaking ball as the game goes on, so I really focused on other things. Cutter. Changeup. Fastball command. The curveball is kind of one of those things, it kind of comes and goes for me, but when it’s on it seems to snowball and will be on for a while. The biggest thing for me is being able to throw all four pitches for strikes.”
• The latest on Mark Teixeira: “Tex will play tomorrow,” Girardi said. “I saw him after he did his cage work. He said he felt OK.”
• The latest on Alfredo Aceves: “He’s on target for Friday,” Girardi said. “We’re obviously going to check on how he is tomorrow after today’s activity.” That activity included pitching off a mound.
• Girardi will announce his center fielder tomorrow. Asked if today’s lineup — Granderson in center and Gardner in left — was an indication, Girardi said, “You can make an assumption.”
• Although Girardi indicated yesterday that Joba Chamberlain was unlikely to pitch back-to-back days, Chamberlain, Chan Ho Park, Dave Robertson and Royce Ring will all make the trip tomorrow with the chance of pitching a second day in a row. “If the situation arises, I will definitely do it,” Girardi said. “I’d like to see it.”
• Mariano Rivera and Damaso Marte will pitch Friday.
• Girardi’s quick take on Chamberlain: “Throwing a lot of strikes. His slider has been better.”
• The Yankees want to make sure Aceves is healthy before settling on their Opening Day bullpen. Boone Logan pitched for a second day in a row this afternoon and struck out Jason Kubel. Royce Ring pitched a hitless inning. “We’re still going to watch a couple of more days, just to see,” Girardi said. “Obviously we’re leaning one way, but in fairness to the guys, they’ve pitched very well and you want to see everything.”
• Position players not making the trip tomorrow: Mike Rivera, Francisco Cervelli, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. The rest of the big league regulars will be there.
Rounding out the bullpen • 03.29.10
The Yankees have a night game in Sarasota, so there’s not much going on this morning. To kill some time before we get lineups, I’ll ask this question.
Do the Yankees need a second lefty?
They went through most of last season with only Phil Coke, and they’ve established that Damaso Marte is going to be used more as a matchup lefty than as a setup reliever. It’s hard to carry a second left-hander unless he can also pitch in long relief or in late-inning situations against both lefties and righties.
Boone Logan and Royce Ring have each pitched well this spring, but both can also be sent to Triple-A without passing through waivers. If it comes down to a second lefty or a traditional long man, who would you rather carry? There are basically two spots* for Logan, Ring, Sergio Mitre and Alfredo Aceves. Mitre is the only one who can’t be sent to the minors.
* Granted, the Yankees could open with an eight-man bullpen until their fifth starter is needed, but eventually there will be only seven.
One alternative that’s left • 03.25.10
With Phil Hughes locked into the fifth starter spot and Chad Gaudin released into free agency, the Yankees have only one pitching decision to make: Whether to carry a second lefty.
If the Yankees carry all three of their leftover starters, then the seven-man bullpen will have no room for either Boone Logan or Royce Ring. But Joe Girardi wouldn’t rule out the idea of sending Hughes to Triple-A for the first few games of the season and carrying eight relievers until the Yankees actually need a fifth starter.
“Those are things we still have to talk about,” Girardi said.
The Yankees could keep their top four starters on normal rest — or even extra rest — and still not need a fifth starter until April 17, their 11th game of the season. Girardi cautioned about skipping his fifth starter too often because it leaves his top four starters with more innings than he’d like at the end of the year, but it does seem to be a possibility.
“The only danger in skipping a guy a lot is you give the other guys too many starts,” Girardi said. “You can do it some. That is the next thing that we will iron out. We will probably try to do that in the next few days, how exactly we attack (Hughes innings limit). Try to take what we learned from last year, in a sense.”
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.
Notes from Saturday • 03.13.10
It remains difficult for me to believe that the Yankees fifth starter won’t be either Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, but Alfredo Aceves is making a strong case early in spring training.
Through 10 innings he’s allowed one run, and that came on today’s solo homer. He has otherwise allowed just two hits — one of them an infield single — while walking none and striking out five. We’re talking about 10 innings, so the sample size is very small and a lot can change between now and April 1, but Aceves has been terrific.
“It’s been impressive,” Joe Girardi said. “It has been because of the different things he’s able to do with the baseball. Change speeds. Movement. Late movement. Pitch up, down. Change eye level. Change in and out. He can do all of those things.”
Aceves said he’s not paying attention to what the other rotation candidates are doing and he quickly pointed out that there are still 20 games to play. It’s very, very early to start thinking about April 4, but give credit where it’s due.
Here’s Girardi, giving a lot of that due credit.
• Sounds very much like Girardi is leaning toward Nick Johnson as the No. 2 hitter. “Nick really fits that bill being the on-base percentage guy,” Girardi said. “But we have to look at how the whole lineup works. When you look at what Nick does, he really fits that area.”
• I believe Curtis Granderson had to make three plays in left field today. One of them was a pretty tough running catch near the stands. “It was a tough wind and sun day,” Girardi said. “It wasn’t an easy day to play left field so I thought he looked good.”
• Boone Logan pitched another hitless inning that included two lefties. Royce Ring also pitched a scoreless inning of relief and Dave Robertson struck out the side in his inning.
• Good day for the big league regulars: Jorge Posada had three hits, Nick Johnson, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira had two each, and Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner each had one.
• Francisco Cervelli went 2-for-3 in his return from a concussion. He had a hit in his first at-bat since getting hit in the head a week ago.
• Aside from pitchers and catchers, it’s pretty rare that young guys get to stay home for a spring training road trip, so Ramiro Pena was pretty excited to look at the list for tomorrow and find his name did not have a circle around it. Other position players not going on tomorrow’s trip: P.J. Pilittere, Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Jamie Hoffmann. Originally, Teixeira was making the trip and Juan Miranda was getting the day off, but that has since swapped with Miranda going and Teixeira staying.
• Pitchers making the trip: CC Sabathia, Jonathan Albaladejo, Zach McAllister, Mark Melancon, Dustin Moseley and Ivan Nova.
• The Pirates starter tomorrow is right-hander Charlie Morton.
Today in The Journal News • 03.05.10
Nick Johnson was scratched from the lineup yesterday because of stiffness in his lower back. This is the risk-reward nature of bringing Johnson back to New York. When he’s healthy, he gets on base as well as anyone in baseball, but his career has been marked by a series of trips to the disabled list.
Without Johnson, the Yankees faced the Phillies in a premier matchup between CC Sabathia and Roy Halladay. The notebook also has item on Joba Chamblerlain and Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, Kevin Russo and Royce Ring.
Today in The Journal News • 03.03.10
One day before opening the spring schedule, the Yankees got away from George M. Steinbrenner Field for a day of games at a local arcade. Andrew Brackman, A.J. Burnett and Royce Ring were the big winners, while Mariano Rivera didn’t fare nearly as well as he did a year ago.
Joba Chamberlain skipped the trip because of flu-like symptoms. He’ll try to throw a bullpen today, which would keep him on schedule to pitch on Friday. The notebook also has items on Chad Gaudin, the developing lineup, the left-field situation, the upcoming pitching schedule and Andy Pettitte.
Five questions with Royce Ring • 03.01.10
The Yankees traded for left-handed reliever Boone Logan this winter, but they also quietly signed 29-year-old lefty Royce Ring to a minor league contract. A first-round draft pick in 2002, Ring has pitched in 94 major league games, holding lefties to a .229 batting average. He uses a side-arm delivery and had a 3.04 ERA with Triple-A Memphis last season.
When did you develop the low arm angle?
Ring: I had a velocity drop in 2004 and came into spring training with the Mets in 2005… I threw really well, but (pitching coach Rick Peterson) just came over and said, I think you should drop down. You’d be more effective. I was still with them, had another three or four years before I could get out of there, so I figured I might as well try it while I’m here. It wasn’t a real unnatural thing for me to do. I messed around with it growing up, played positions growing up, so it’s not like I was just an over-the-top guy my whole life.
Did you change what you threw when you dropped down?
Ring: Not too much. Still kept the same kind of pitches, and actually dropping down, the velocity was just as good as it was. Not (as good as) coming out of college, but I was still throwing the ball well, it was just a matter of throwing strikes. That was the hardest thing my first year. Two weeks of learning how to do it in the spring, then three weeks in Triple-A and I was called up. I didn’t really know what I was doing. Just aim down the middle and throw as hard as I could. There was a learning experience, and I feel like from there I’ve gotten more controlled and my mechanics have become more sound and being able to reproduce it every time.”
What caused the drop in velocity?
Ring: I think, just going from college to the pros, you don’t understand that you’re going to be throwing every day… In college I threw twice a week. If I didn’t feel good, I didn’t pick up a baseball. When I got to professional baseball, my velocity dropped a couple of miles per hour. The year I lost my velocity, I think I created some bad habits in my mechanics. I kind of got pushed through spring training. Nobody really worked with me too much. I kind of fell into bad habits and just couldn’t find it. Then I got into the season and I couldn’t be in the bullpen every day working on my mechanics or I’d be tired for the game. It turned into a tough year for me, but I still threw pretty well considering.
What do you throw?
Ring: Fastball. Curveball. Slider. Change. And then I’m actually working on a knuckleball right now. It’s good some days, and bad some days. It’s something I’m working on. The changeup is really hard for me to throw sidearm, so it’s good some days. It’s an on and off pitch for me.
Would you use it like a changeup?
Ring: Exactly. It’s not like I’m going to go out there and throw 40 knuckleballs. It’s just a pitch for me to change speeds and keep down in the zone and keep hitters off balance.
Did you see a good opportunity with the Yankees after they traded Phil Coke and Mike Dunn?
Ring: Two real good lefties, young guys who could throw. Coke proved himself pretty well, and when he was gone, it just seemed like this was a place where I could come and show what I have and hopefully be a part of one of the best teams in baseball, or maybe the best. I’m not expecting to be handed a job or anything like that, it’s just an opportunity to go out and throw and show them what I can do. If they like it, they like it. If they don’t, they don’t. All you can control is what you do out there.