The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Pregame notes: New look at the top03.17.11

Brett Gardner is not trying to lead all of baseball in pitches per plate appearance. He did it last year but said that was partially because his injured wrist left him reluctant to swing through the second half of the season.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing,” he said. “If you told me I could lead off all year or hit ninth or wherever, see five pitches per plate appearance and still get on 38 percent of the time, I’d sign up for it. I don’t think that’s something that’s easy to do. If I had 500 at-bats last year, probably 400-something of those I hit behind in the count. It’s like you’re always uphill. That’s something I want to try to improve on.”

Tonight, the Yankees will take a look at Gardner in the leadoff spot. Joe Girardi said he’ll probably have his everyday guys in the same lineup another eight or nine times this spring, and he’ll continue to play with different batting orders.

Girardi said he has no plans of dropping Derek Jeter out of the top two spots. He also liked Nick Swisher in the No. 2 spot last season, “and we’re not sure we want to upset that,” Girardi said. Based on last year’s numbers, though, Gardner is a prototypical leadoff man, and the Yankees like the fact that his speed opens some holes on the right side of the infield for Jeter.

“We’re trying it because of what he did last year, and the problems that he causes for other teams,” Girardi said. “He puts pressure on the pitcher, and a lot of times pressure leads to mistakes. You get to the guys in the middle of the order, and those mistakes become bigger mistakes. That’s what we want our hitters to be able to do.”

Gardner led the Yankees in on-base percentage last season, and the ability to draw a walk became his greatest weapon in the second half of last season. In the first half, though, he proved he could both take his walks and get his hits. The Yankees have talked to him about bringing back some of that early aggressiveness.

“That’s something we talk about a lot, something I feel I’ve done a little better job of working on this spring,” Gardner said. “I’ve swung at some 2-0 pitches, some 3-1 pitches, 1-0 pitches. Maybe even an 0-0 pitch. I think I’ve been more aggressive this spring at certain times. I know it’s something I need to improve on and I plan to do that this year.”

• For the record, even hitting in front of the 3-4-5 hitters, Girardi said he wants Gardner to run when he gets on base. “I want him to get a bag any time he can get it,” Girardi said. “I don’t want it to take away from his aggressiveness.”

• Sergio Mitre came through yesterday’s bullpen just fine and will pitch tomorrow, probably around 65 pitches, but Girardi wasn’t sure of the number.

• Rafael Soriano pitched at the minor league complex today and said he walked a guy and gave up a double. He said his command wasn’t great, but he also seemed unconcerned. Girardi said he didn’t find it all that unusual that Soriano didn’t want to face an AL East team yesterday.

• Joba Chamberlain is doing long toss and throwing a flat side today. “We’ll make an evaluation with him after today,” Girardi said.

• Phil Hughes is set for 75 to 80 pitches tonight.

• These are the factors Girardi said he thinks about when deciding which lineup is best: “You look at the consistency of your lineup. You look at how easy it is to bring up situational guys to face your guys, how that’s setup. You look at how hitters work together, if it changes a guy’s approach or not (to have someone else hitting in front or behind).”

• Pat Venditte is up from minor league camp for tonight’s game, but he probably won’t pitch. He’s a backup, and Girardi said he would be more likely to give Ryan Pope or Eric Wordekemper a batter or two. RHP Josh Schmidt also up from minor league camp as a backup.

• Today’s outfield off the bench is made entirely of guys who were optioned down last night: Brandon Laird, Melky Mesa and Kevin Russo.

• Greg Golson is able to run and do defensive drills and could begin swinging a bat again in the next day or two.

Off the bench: C Gustavo Molina, 1B Jorge Vazquez, 2B Ramiro Pena, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Eduardo Nunez, LF Brandon Laird, CF Melky Mesa, RF Kevin Russo, DH Jordan Parraz

Out of the bullpen: Boone Logan, Romulo Sanchez, Luis Ayala, Eric Wordekemper, Steve Garrison, Ryan Pope, Pat Venditte and Josh Schmidt.

Tomorrow’s travelers today: The Yankees regular outfielders are going on the road tomorrow to play the Blue Jays.

Pitchers who will be making the trip: A.J. Burnett, Sergio Mitre, Andrew Brackman, Steve Garrison, Ryan Pope, Eric Wordekemper, Amaury Sanit and Kevin Whelan.

Players who will not be making the trip: Austin Romine, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Greg Golson, Francisco Cervelli and Colin Curtis. Walter Ibarra is scheduled to come up from minor league camp to provide infield depth.

RAYS (8-9-1)
Ben Zobrist 2B
Johnny Damon LF
Evan Longoria 3B
Manny Ramirez DH
Matt Joyce RF
B.J. Upton CF
Dan Johnson 1B
Reid Brignac SS
John Jason C

RHP Chris Bootcheck

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 522 Comments →

Pregame notes: Opening Day lineup? “We’ll see”03.16.11

At this point, we all know how Joe Girardi rules out nothing and guarantees even less. It’s who he is as a manager in the spotlight.

Today, he’s using a lineup that might very well be his Opening Day lineup. His nine regulars are at their expected positions, and the order is pretty much the same as late last season.

“There are just some different ideas we’ve talked about,” Girardi said. “Most of (the lineup spots) are pretty set, they are. We might just do some different things here in the next two weeks as they start to play together a little bit, just to see how it looks.”

But ultimately, won’t this be the lineup on March 31?

“I anticipate seeing Verlander, and I anticipate seeing those nine guys in the lineup,” Girardi said.

But will they be in that order?

“We’ll see.”

If I had to guess, I’d say this is the exact lineup you’ll see at Yankee Stadium for the opener.

• As much as he commits to anything, Girardi committed to keeping his 3, 4, 5 hitters the same. “I don’t have any changes that I plan on making (to that part of the lineup),” Girardi said. “Three, four, five has been pretty consistent for us.”

• Girardi said he expects his lineup to be different against lefties, but he already has Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner at the bottom of this vsRHP lineup. The change, it seems, will involved Andruw Jones. “We signed him to play him against lefties, but obviously you have to see how guys are doing,” Girardi siad. “If someone is swinging a great stick, you might not take him out.”

• Joba Chamberlain’s MRI showed an oblique strain, but Chamberlain said he feels no pain and can move just fine. “He feels good, so he’ll play catch tomorrow and we’ll go from there,” Girardi said.

• If this were the regular season, Chamberlain would probably land on the disabled list only because the Yankees wouldn’t be able to carry a short-handed bullpen for five to seven days. It doesn’t sound like an injury that should take 15 days.

• Girardi said he might have a rotation order for Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett by today, but he said he’s not ready to make his second-game starter public yet.

• Ivan Nova needs to bounce back from a short start his last time out. “He threw a lot of pitches in three innings,” Girardi said. “It think he threw 62, and he needs to be more efficient than that. He was up in the zone, he needs to be down in the zone.”

• Nova is cleared for 75 to 80 pitches, probably about five innings if things go well.

• Sergio Mitre has a side today. If that goes well, he could be cleared to pitch in a game soon.

• A.J. Burnett, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, Andrew Brackman, Freddy Garcia and Pedro Feliciano also threw sides today.

Out of the bullpen: Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, Mark Prior, Dave Robertson, Ryan Pope, Eric Wordekemper, Steve Garrison and Romulo Sanchez. Everyone after Robertson is probably a backup.

Off the bench: C Jesus Montero, 1B Eric Chavez, 2B Doug Bernier, SS Ramiro Pena, 3B Ronnie Belliard, LF Eduardo Nunez, CF Justin Maxwell, RF Jordan Parraz and DH Andruw Jones.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 138 Comments →

The surprise of the spring03.15.11

On the day pitchers and catchers reported to Yankees spring training, no one would have been surprised to learn that Bartolo Colon would be pitching a simulated game on March 15. Probably would have been hurt by then, or auditioning for another team.

The surprise is that, Colon pitched six simulated innings this morning, and the Yankees coaching staff intently watched every pitch.

“I had an opinion on Bartolo, but it was from years ago,” Joe Girardi said. “You kind of wanted to see what was there, because we hadn’t seen him pitch in a while. I don’t remember the last time we saw him pitch in a big-league game. I’ve been pleasantly surprised.”

By no means has Colon won a spot in the Yankees rotation, but he’s shown far more than expected (more than I expected, anyway). His fastball has lost some velocity but gained some movement, and his changeup is still a legitimate pitch. Today he was working on a slider that Girardi said looked pretty good.

Right now, all of the Yankees back-of-the-rotation options are performing pretty well. Freddy Garcia had a rocky start and Ivan Nova had a rocky inning, but otherwise they’ve been good. With two and a half weeks to go, pretty much every possibility is on the table.

As expected a month ago
Nova and Garcia in the rotation, Mitre in the bullpen
Colon pitched in winter ball, and it could be that he’s still ahead of the hitters. If that’s the case, the hitters could catch up in the final two and a half weeks, and the Yankees could decide they’ve been seeing nothing but an illusion.

Garcia falters
Nova and Colon in the rotation, Mitre in the bullpen
The worst outing of the four rotation candidates belongs to Garcia, who was pretty bad his last time out. It could be that he’ll continue to slip, Colon will continue to thrive and the Yankees will decide Colon is their best bet of the two veterans.

Mitre released
Veterans and the young guy make the team, Mitre is odd man out
Joel Sherman introduced this possibility today, saying there are some scouts who believe the Yankees will ultimately release Mitre. I’d be surprised if that happened because, 1: Mitre’s pitched pretty well and 2: Girardi seems to like him. That said, Mitre is out of options, so if the Yankees believe both veterans still have something left and want to keep Nova, they won’t have much choice but to get rid of Mitre one way or another.

Nova to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
The only candidate with options is sent to Triple-A
Not saying this is a likely scenario, but it seems more likely today than it seemed a month ago. The only way to keep all four candidates is to ship Nova to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It would let the Yankees get whatever they can get out of Garcia and Colon, and if/when one of those two gets hurt, Nova would naturally slide into the rotation. Every other decision eliminates a candidate. This one doesn’t.

Associated Press photo of Colon from earlier this spring

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 330 Comments →

Simulated notes: One roster cut, a few injury updates03.15.11

CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon each pitched six scoreless “innings” this morning. They faced the same series of four minor league hitters over and over again — two righties and two lefties — with Austin Romine taking occasional at-bats here and there.

“I threw some changeups to lefties, backdoor my cutter,” Sabathia said. “It was good to work on that stuff and not have to worry about really worrying about the result.”

Sabathia said the best part of the day might have been working with Russell Martin, talking about things pitches and strategies while he was still on the mound facing hitters. For Colon, it was a day to continue working on his slider, keeping it in to left-handed hitters.

“Whenever you go out there to pitch, in your mind you’re pitching and you think the stadium is packed,” Colon said, using Tony Pena as his translator.

• Kyle Higashioka has been reassigned to minor league camp.

• Joe Girardi said he expects Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman to each get at least one more outing in big league camp before being sent down.

• The Yankees will probably use all of their regulars in tomorrow’s night game. As for the lineup, Girardi wouldn’t give us an exact order. “We might do some things, we might play around with some things,” Girardi said.

• Sergio Mitre is throwing a bullpen tomorrow, meaning he won’t pitch in Thursday’s game. But Girardi said his level of concern is still very low. “The trainers thought (a bullpen) was the best thing to do,” he said.

• Joba Chamberlain had an MRI yesterday but continues to tell the Yankees that he feels pretty good. “Functionally I think he’s fine,” Girardi said. Even so, it’s going to be a few days before Chamberlain pitches. There is no plan in place for when exactly he’ll pitch next.

• Mark Prior threw today and is feeling better. Girardi said it’s best not to go into detail about Priors symptoms yesterday, and I’ll take his word for it.

• Francisco Cervelli is off crutches. He came in for treatment today.

• Next four Yankees starters: Ivan Nova on Wednesday, followed by Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and Freddy Garcia.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 113 Comments →

Late Monday notes: Nunez making his case03.07.11

Given the state of the Yankees rotation, the flurry of swing changes in camp, the emergence of Jesus Montero as a roster favorite and possible resurgence of Eric Chavez, the position battle that’s gone completely overlooked this spring is between Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena for the utility job. The importance of a utility man will be diminished if a big hitter is available to backup at third, but clearly Derek Jeter isn’t going to play 162 games at short. One of these two is going to get fairly regular at-bats.

“I think I have a good chance,” Nunez said. “I’m working hard.”

Nunez and Pena are friends. They seem to be around one another constantly at the Yankees spring training complex, and their lockers are only a few feet apart, but they seem to be jockeying for one spot. The Yankees know what they have in Pena — terrific glove, big league experience, very little offense — but Nunez is something of an unknown with only 50 big league at-bats, and limited experience away from shortstop.

“I am getting more comfortable with Nuney at second,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s an exciting player. The young man has a lot of talent. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.”

This offseason, Nunez spent seven weeks working with Robinson Cano in the Dominican Republic. He said they worked on hitting and general fitness, but Cano also worked with him at second base, including some work on turning a double play. He’s looked pretty good there this spring, and today he hit a three-run homer that brought his spring average up to .286. Pena just picked up his first hit.

• Turns out Greg Golson hurt his rib cage during tonight’s game. “I’m not exactly sure what he did,” Girardi said. “He came in and said it was bothering him.” Doesn’t sound too bad, but the Yankees should know more tomorrow.

• With three more hits this afternoon, Eric Chavez is continuing to make a strong impression on the Yankees. “You could see it right away that he had life, that the ball was jumping off his bat when we first started,” Girardi said. “He looks good to me. I watched him run the bases. There’s nothing that I’m seeing from him that would tell me he’s been hurt the last couple of years. Let’s keep it that way.”

• Andrew Brackman is scheduled to make his spring debut tomorrow.

• Here’s Girardi explaining the Colin Curtis situation: “He’s going to be out a while. I don’t have the exact diagnosis for you yet. He took the MRI today and Dr. Ahmad is going to look at it. My sense is he’s going to be out a while.”

• Rafael Soriano’s spring debut will be either Wednesday or Thursday. He pitched a simulated inning this morning but had to face one extra hitter because he got three outs too quickly.

• Girardi said we could start to see all of the Yankees regulars in the same lineup as soon as Sunday. “We’re getting closer to playing with some different things (with the lineup),” he said. This morning, the Daily News reported that there’s a strong push for Brett Gardner to slide into the leadoff spot.

• When asked about A.J. Burnett’s outing, Girardi cited the exact same at-bat that Burnett talked about this afternoon. “The way he finished getting (Wilson) Valdez,” Girardi said. “Strike after strike after strike, in a 2-2 count, down and away. I was really happy.”

• Four pitchers likely to make the big league roster pitched today (Burnett, Chamberlain, Feliciano and Mitre). They combined for eight scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks. Burnett, Chamberlain and Feliciano carried a perfect game through the fifth inning of this afternoon’s game.

• Mark Prior pitched another scoreless inning in the afternoon game. He’s still an extreme long shot to make the team, but he’s allowed just one hit through three innings. There might still be something left in that arm.

• Sergio Mitre made his first start after two relief outings. He went three innings, having not thrown more than two in either of his previous appearances. Mitre said he felt no fatigue and got better as the game progressed. “I’m trying to make their (rotation) decision as hard as possible,” Mitre said.

• Mitre’s three scoreless innings were also thanks to a terrific throw by Golson, who threw out Mark Reynolds at the plate, making an on-the-fly throw from mid center field. “We saw (his arm) last year,” Mitre said. “It’s a cannon. Saves runs.”

• Curtis Granderson hit his second spring homer, part of a two-hit day. Jorge Posada also had two hits. Of course, those came in today’s first game. The second game was a scoreless tie with four Yankees hits: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Melky Mesa and Damon Sublett. Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell each pitched two scoreless innings in the nightcap, Andy Sisco and Ryan Pope pitched a scoreless inning apiece.

Associated Press photos of Nunez, Granderson and Posada

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 648 Comments →

Spring Training Game 11: Yankees at Orioles03.07.11

YANKEES (4-5-1)
Derek Jeter SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Andruw Jones DH
Justin Maxwell LF
Greg Golson CF
Melky Mesa RF
Austin Romine C

RHP Sergio Mitre (0-0, 0.00)
Mitre vs. Orioles

ORIOLES (4-2-1)
Brian Roberts 2B
Nick Markakis RF
Luke Scott 1B
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Mark Reynolds 3B
Adam Jones CF
Felix Pie LF
Matt Wieters C
J.J. Hardy SS

LHP Zach Britton (0-0, 0.00)
Britton vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., not on television

WEATHER: Sunny skies right now. Shouldn’t be a any sort of weather issues when night falls.


ON THE LINE: This is Mitre’s first spring start after pitching twice out of the bullpen. He’s being looked at as a possible back-of-the-rotation starter, though he could just as easily slide back into his long-relief role… The Yankees are not bringing any relievers who are expected to break camp on the major league roster.

OUT OF THE BULLPEN FOR THE YANKEES: Likely Triple-A starters Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell will be the first two out of the pen for the Yankees. Andy Sisco and Ryan Pope are also available.

BULLPEN FOR THE ORIOLES: RHP Kevin Gregg, RHP Jeremy Accardo, RHP David Riske and LHP Clay Rapada

UPDATE, 7:39 p.m.: Another monster throw from Greg Golson, this time on the fly from center field to home plate to get Mark Reynolds trying to score from second on a single. Hard to beat last year’s throw against Tampa Bay, but this one was pretty impressive. Melky Mesa started bowing to him from right field.

UPDATE, 8:06 p.m.: Mitre went three scoreless, allowing three hits and striking out three. He threw 47 pitches, 32 for strikes.

UPDATE, 9:08 p.m.: Hard to say much about a scoreless spring training game. Just finished talking to Sergio Mitre who thought he was better in his previous outing. He said he felt like he was pushing the ball through his early innings, but he settled in at the end and started pitching much better.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Gameday Threadwith 560 Comments →

Wednesday notes: Chamberlain, Jeter and the catchers03.02.11

Joe Girardi didn’t have the numbers in front of him — and he met with the media literally a minute or two after the game had ended — so he wasn’t sure what Joba Chamberlain’s velocity was this afternoon, but he said that this spring the Yankees have clocked Chamberlain throwing harder than at this time the past two years.

“I think it has to do with how he’s breaking his hands,” Girardi said. “He can speed up his arm.”

Chamberlain has reverted back to old mechanics, moving his hands lower. It’s a small tweak, but it’s also something that worked in the past. Chamberlain credited the increased velocity, at least partially, to a different set of old habits.

“I felt like my first year when my velocity was good and everything like that, it was because I really never stopped playing catch,” he said. “I wanted to take that and use that to see if it helped. As far as velocity-wise and feel on the mound, I think it’s a night-and-day difference to the previous two or three years I think.”

Chamberlain started throwing a lot earlier this offseason, and he tried to throw quite a bit more.

“I think I’m doing everything I can to get back to where I was,” he said.

• Derek Jeter went 1-for-3 and made solid contact today. “I didn’t get so many questions about it,” Girardi said. “He hit two line drives, so everyone’s not concerned today.”

• Russell Martin will DH again tomorrow, and he’s scheduled to catch on Friday. He’ll be wearing a very light knee brace that he labeled a precaution. He wore it today and said it’s light and doesn’t bother him. “Until it’s completely 100 percent, it will be like a safety net for me,” Martin said.

• Jesus Montero will be the starting catcher tomorrow.

• One more catching note, Girardi said it will be at least two days before Cervelli plays in another game, no matter what the final results of the MRI indicate. For whatever it’s worth, Cervelli was optimistic when he left the stadium. “I think it’s nothing bad,” he said. “A couple of days and that’s it.”

• Mariano Rivera will throw batting practice next week. Rafael Soriano is a few days ahead of Rivera, but he has also not thrown to hitters yet.

• Greg Golson will play tomorrow. He went through batting practice with no problems, but Girardi decided to give him on more day. “He could have played today,” Girardi said.

• Sergio Mitre pitched only one inning, but that was planned. He’s had lest rest between appearances than the other rotation candidates, so he’s had two shorter outings. He’ll go deeper into the game when he starts on Monday.

• During batting practice, Jorge Posada went through more defensive drills at first base, fielding throws from shortstop.

• The Yankees reserves had an eventful top of the seventh: Jordan Parraz made an error in right field, Brandon Laird threw a ball away at third base and Melky Mesa made a strong but offline throw home where catcher Austin Romine got a glove on the ball but didn’t catch it. All of that led to four unearned runs off David Phelps, who had pitched a scoreless sixth.

• The Yankees won on Martin’s bases-loaded walk off Lance Pendleton, the former Yankees minor leaguer in Astros camp as a Rule 5 pick. Pendleton wasn’t supposed to pitch today, but was summoned after Douglas Arguello allowed four hits and two walks and couldn’t pitch around Houston’s own defensive mistakes. It was a 6-5 Yankees win, their second of the spring.

• Hector Noesi got the win with two scoreless innings. Boone Logan allowed the first Houston run in the fifth inning.

• Jordan Maxwell was 1-for-1 with a walk and a stolen base. During that ninth-inning rally, Dan Brewer, Austin Romine, Melky Mesa and Eduardo Nunez each had base hits, Kevin Russo and Martin drew walks, and Jordan Parraz reached on an error. Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira had hits earlier in the game.

Associated Press photos of Chamberlain, Jeter and Cervelli. The Chamberlain photo is from earlier this spring. Didn’t see one from today’s game.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 445 Comments →

Four leading candidates for two rotation spots02.17.11

Joe Girardi made it clear today that most of the young starters in camp are here to be seen by the Major League staff, not necessarily carried on the Major League roster. One of them could make a surprising run at the big league rotation, but for the most part this appears to be an open competition between four guys.

“My expectations are pretty much the same for all these guys,” Girardi said. “They know how to do it, and you know they know how to do it. It’s just a matter of getting it done.”

Bartolo Colon

The great unknown of this group, Colon has not pitched in the Major Leagues since July of 2009. He hasn’t thrown more than 100 big league innings since he won the Cy Young award in 2005.

Girardi: “The Bartolo Colon that I knew, that I saw pitch, had outstanding command. He knew how to move the baseball around and pitched a lot off his fastball. In the little bit that I’ve seen here at spring training, he still has that command. Not pitching in 18 months, how many innings could you expect from him? I’m not quite sure.”

Freddy Garcia

The most recent addition, Garcia signed a minor league deal late this winter. He went 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA with the White Sox last season. He allowed more than four earned runs in five of his 28 starts.

Girardi: “I’ve seen Freddy pitch against us a couple times and have a pretty good understanding of what he likes to do to us. Watching Freddy, Freddy competes. That’s the best way I can describe Freddy Garcia. He finds a way to get it done.”

Sergio Mitre

Technically a rotation candidate last spring, he had a 3.27 ERA in spring training — which kept his name in the discussion — before landing in the bullpen as a long reliever and spot starter. He had a 3.33 ERA last season.

Girardi: “He’s going to start some games. He was very good when he started last year in the competition (in spring training). He threw the ball extremely well. He threw the ball pretty decent for us, so he’s going to have some starts.”

Ivan Nova

Generally considered a favorite for one spot, Nova made seven starts late last season and finished with a 4.50 ERA. He was generally dominant in the early innings, but struggled past the fourth. He had a 2.86 ERA in Triple-A.

Girardi: “Go back to his first start against Toronto: He had the bases loaded and nobody out, and he ended up giving up one run. To me, I saw a lot of poise there. I saw a guy that didn’t panic when he was in the midst of something. That showed me a lot… We just have to see him take it over from what he learned last year and make steps.”

Associated Press photos of Colon and Nova

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Monday notes: Cashman is “ready to rock and roll”02.14.11

The Yankees spring training clubhouse is pretty full as it is, but Brian Cashman said he wouldn’t mind finding room for one more. He’s still on the lookout for a starting pitcher, either through free agency or the trade market.

“If it makes sense, I’m ready to rock and roll,” Cashman said.

As it is, the left side of the Yankees clubhouse is full of fourth and fifth starter candidates. Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and Ivan Nova have lockers right next to one another. Five lockers away, in his same spot as last year, is Sergio Mitre.

The younger candidates — D.J. Mitchell, David Phelps and the rest of the young guys — are in the middle-of-the-room lockers usually assigned to minor leaguers and the more borderline big-league candidates. The fact Nova is with the veterans, in the same row as CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett, is a pretty clear indication that he’s a step ahead of the other guys who were in the minor league system last year.

“The chances that the fourth and fifth starter role will be answered sooner than later are not very good,” Joe Girardi said. “I think we’ll spend all spring evaluating everybody in our camp. You’re going to look at Nova, and Garcia (and) Colon and Sergio, and some of the young kids that are coming up… You want to see, as they develop in spring training and they get strong, who we feel has the best chance of helping us during the course of the season. So, basically, we have an open competition until March 30.”

• I doubt there’s anything to read into this, but Girardi mentioned three young starters by name: David Phelps, Adam Warren and Dellin Betances. Again, I’m sure those are just the first three names that jumped into his head, but they were specifically mentioned.

• Speaking of Betances, he said he’s been in Tampa since January. And I’ll say this again, he’s a bigger guy than I ever expected. I knew he was tall, but he’s no scrawny kid. There’s some strength to that guy.

• The Yankees expect Russell Martin’s hip and knee to be just fine, but they won’t push him in spring training. “You’ll see him catching tomorrow,” Girardi said. “It’s not like he’s not going to catch at all, but we’ll take it a little bit slow.”

• Girardi acknowledged that Brett Gardner was playing through fairly steady wrist problems in the second half of last season. “I know it bothered him a lot last year,” Girardi said. “We would talk about it every day, ‘How are you feeling?'”

• I didn’t see Jorge Posada this morning, but Girardi said Posada will do work as a catcher this spring. “We’re going to see Jorge go through some of this catching in spring training,” Girardi said. “I can’t tell you if he’s going to catch in games right now. I’m physically going to watch him and evaluate how he feels. But as you know, we asked him to prepare as if he was going to catch.”

• Girardi on how Rafael Soriano might react to becoming a setup man after a great season as a closer. “I know Rafael looks up to Mariano, and he talks about how he watches what he does, so I’m sure that will be a joy a little bit,” Girardi said. “A lot of times that depends on your ego, how easy it is to go from being a closer to not being a closer and being the setup. He seems that he’s excited about being here. He’s excited about doing his job, and he wants to do whatever it takes to win a championship.”

• No innings limits for either Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova. “Right now I don’t have any innings limitations for anyone,” Girardi said. “It’s kind of nice.”

• Speaking of pitching limits, Girardi said CC Sabathia’s offseason surgery shouldn’t impact his workload this season. “I’m pretty much going to manage CC the same,” Girardi said.

• Sabathia said he expects to be one of the guys who throws 20 to 25 pitches in the bullpen tomorrow.

• For the first time, David Wells is in camp as a spring training instructor. “Sometimes camp can get long,” Cashman said. “I think Boomer will keep it lively for us.”

• As you can tell by the picture, the Yankees did a few light drills today. That’s an AP shot of Jesus Montero. Brett Gardner was also in and out of the clubhouse briefly, and he did some light throwing in the outfield with a player I didn’t recognize from far away. Sergio Mitre threw a little bit off flat ground. Curtis Granderson was there at one point.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 133 Comments →

Spring decision: Opening Day roster02.13.11

It’s one thing to list the Yankees decisions heading into spring training. It’s another to predict which decisions might present themselves in the next month and a half. Someone could be injured. Someone could become available on the trade market. Someone could emerge as a surprising candidate who forces new decisions and hard choices.

We go into spring training with expectations. And we accept that unexpected situations might change everything.

Ultimately, the Yankees most significant task this spring is to prepare itself for the regular season. That means keeping players healthy, getting everyone in game shape and putting together an Opening Day roster.

One day before camp opens, here’s my guess at the 25 players who will break camp heading for New York.

Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada DH
Curtis Granderson CF
Russell Martin C
Brett Gardner LF

No surprises among the names listed. The most significant lineup decision is whether to keep Jeter in the leadoff spot, and I’ll guess that The Captain will show enough in spring training to earn the benefit of the doubt and the chance to prove last season was a fluke. Not certain it will stay this way — a leadoff platoon between Jeter and Gardner wouldn’t surprise me — but I think the Yankees will open this way.

Francisco Cervelli C
Andruw Jones OF
Eric Chavez 3B/1B
Ramiro Pena SS/2B

If he shows anything in camp, I think Chavez — because he’s a left-handed hitter and because he’s insurance at third base — will be given a chance to open the season with the team. It could be a Morgan Ensberg situation that doesn’t last, but a healthy and productive Chavez fits very well on this roster.

If Chavez is backing up at third base, the Yankees might as well carry the defensive-minded Pena instead of the prospect Eduardo Nunez to get very occasional starts at shortstop. My guess is that player development will be a determining factor in the backup catcher competition. The Yankees will prefer to have Jesus Montero and Austin Romine playing everyday in the minors rather than coming off the bench in New York.

CC Sabathia
A.J. Burnett
Phil Hughes
Freddy Garcia
Ivan Nova

I really wanted to shake up the system here and predict either Hector Noesi making the rotation or the Yankees pulling off a late-spring trade for a fourth starter.

In the end, I decided to go with conventional thinking. I do think Noesi could make a serious run at a rotation spot, and I don’t think a trade is out of the question, but these five are the most logical choices given the current situation. At best, I’m 20 percent confident that this will actually be the Yankees rotation on March 30.

Mariano Rivera
Rafael Soriano
Dave Robertson
Joba Chamberlain
Pedro Feliciano
Boone Logan
Sergio Mitre
— Romulo Sanchez —

Assuming they’re all healthy, I can’t think of a logical reason any of the first seven pitchers listed would be left out of the Opening Day bullpen. The top six are natural choices, and Mitre is the best fit as the long man (assuming the rotation that I’ve predicted). But I also think a nagging injury could present itself, and given this bullpen depth, the Yankees could convince themselves to be extra cautious. No sense risking anything when there are this many good arms ready to fill a short-term void. That’s why I think Sanchez might sneak into the Opening Day mix if any of the above is even slightly less than 100 percent.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 368 Comments →

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