The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Postgame notes: “Go out there and do my job”07.26.11

The trade deadline is less than a week away. There’s plenty of speculation and conversation about whether the Yankees need to, have to, or even want to add a starting pitcher. A lot of that trade talk centers on whether Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon will remain reliable through the postseason.

That was the big-picture backdrop of tonight’s game, and Garcia delivered his longest outing of the season. As usual, he wasn’t perfect, but he walked just one batter and did his usual off-balance act of mixing speeds and pitches.

“(It tells me) that he knows how to concentrate,” Joe Girardi said. “He knows how not to get caught up in what’s going on around him. It also tells you he knows how to pitch. This guy has been real effective for us.”

Garcia was as understated as ever, both during the game and after. He joked about not wanting to be the pitcher who finally lost to the Mariners. He said the nearly-two-hour rain delay was a non-issue. He said a standing ovation always makes him feel good, “especially here.”

“(The trade deadline) is not in my hands,” Garcia said. “I’m a player. That’s all the front office. I have to worry about when I’m pitching. Whatever they have to do, they’re doing it. That’s not my business. I always try to go out there and do my job.”

He’s done that all season, with the same underwhelming stuff and the same been-there, done-that demeanor. This was the Yankees 100th game, so it’s clearly too late in the season to consider this a strange fluke. But is Garcia the kind of pitcher who can keep doing this beyond the regular season?

“Pitching is pitching, to me, whether it’s in the postseason or during the course of the season,” Girardi said. “There have been a lot of guys that have won a lot of games in the postseason that haven’t lit up the radar gun. The bottom line is if you make your pitches, you’re going to be successful.”

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It was kind of a late decision to get Steve Garrison into this game. Garrison didn’t start warming up until Boone Logan was almost ready to face the leadoff man in the ninth inning, but Garrison said there was so much adrenalin running through his body that he felt ready after one toss in the bullpen.

“It was definitely a cool feeling,” he said. “It’s something I’ll gladly do again if they want me to… After I got out there and threw my first pitch I felt much more comfortable. It’s where I want to be. I want to be on the mound. It’s where I feel most comfortable.”

Girardi said he felt comfortable bringing Garrison into the middle of an inning because he’d done it in spring training, and Girardi liked the idea because Garrison might have to pitch in those situation if he develops a role later in the season.

By the way, Garrison’s mother took the hour train ride up from Trenton for the past three games. Of course she decided to skip this game.

Here’s Garrison.

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• Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless inning tonight for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He said afterward that he felt good and was leaving immediately for New York. “I’m not sure where he would go if he’s not coming to see us,” Girardi said.

• Because he’s thrown on back-to-back days, the earliest the Yankees would activate Soriano would be Wednesday. Girardi said they’ll wait until then to make a decision on him. They might give him two full days off — three, actually, with the off day — after throwing back-to-back.

• Girardi said everything went well with Eric Chavez’s test this afternoon. Girardi wouldn’t say for certain that he’ll be activated tomorrow, but he certainly indicated that the Yankees are planning to activate Chavez tomorrow.

• This was Garcia’s longest start since September 20, 2009 with the White Sox against the Royals. He pitched eight innings that day… Garcia’s now gone 53.2 innings without allowing a home run, which is his career-long streak… He’s won four of his past five starts at Yankee Stadium.

• Derek Jeter homered for the first time since career hit No. 3,000. He also tripled later in the game, driving both extra-base hits to right field. He’s hitting .324 with nine extra-base hits since coming off the DL. “We have seen that (Jeter driving the ball that way),” Girardi said. “I thought it started in Texas, but since he’s come back, we’ve even seen it more… He’s hitting like the Derek we’re used to seeing.”

• For whatever it’s worth, Jeter said it’s not so much driving the ball to right field that tells him he’s hitting better lately, it’s more the pitches that he’s choosing to take and the pitches he’s choosing to attack. “I can tell if I’m staying back, taking pitches and swinging at good pitches,” he said. “I feel as though I’ve been doing that for the last few weeks so I’m happy with where I am right now.”

• This was the fifth time Jeter had ever homered and tripled in the same game. He last did it April 30 of last season against the White Sox.

• Mark Teixeira leads the Majors with 12 games with at least three RBI this season. He’s back in a tie for the team lead with 27 home runs.

Donnie Collins reports that Ivan Nova came through a simulated game with no problems today. He seems to be in line to start Saturday’s double header.

• For the first time this season, the Yankees have improved to 20 games over .500. “It kept escaping us, trying to get to 20,” Girardi said. “Go back to the Saturday after we played the Mets, we were 19 games over. It’s been a while since we could get to 20. We’ve had some tough losses in there and our guys have responded pretty well.”

Associated Press photo of Garcia and a Scranton Times-Tribune photo of Soriano. For whatever reason, the AP service I use still hasn’t moved any pictures of tonight’s game, so that’s a shot of Garcia in Tampa.

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A few short minor league notes05.04.11

A few quick minor league notes this late morning. Don’t forget, we’re doing a chat at 2:30 this afternoon.

• Two injuries to players on the 40-man roster: Greg Golson is on the Triple-A disabled list with a hamstring injury, and Steve Garrison could be headed for the Double-A disabled list after groin pull.

Two other Triple-A injuries that seem fairly minor: Chris Dickerson has missed three straight games with a neck injury. He would have missed a fourth if not for a rain out last night. Ramiro Pena was out of last night’s lineup with a sore foot.

• Three non-40-man pitchers to keep an eye on: George Kontos (two runs in his past 15.1 innings as Scranton’s long man), Kevin Whelan (much improved control to go with only two hits allowed in past 10.2 innings as Scranton’s closer) and Andy Sisco (still no earned runs with four hits allowed through 10.1 innings as Scranton’s bullpen lefty).

• The Associated Press reports that the Yankees have signed Brad Halsey to a minor league deal and sent him to extended spring.

• He’s still a long, long way from the big leagues, but Slade Heathcott is hitting .351/.436/.574 through 94 at-bats in Charleston. Have to think he’ll be in Tampa around mid-season or so, maybe sooner if he keeps this up. JR Murphy is also really hitting in Charleston (.316/.340/.490) but Gary Sanchez is not (.200/.238/.293).

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Pregame notes: Bullpen gets a true long man04.13.11

Hector Noesi said his first phone call was to his mother. Informed last night that he had been called to New York, Noesi phoned home to pass on the good news.

“She can’t talk on the phone really, she was so excited,” Noesi said.

Noesi will be a long man in the Yankees bullpen. It’s a role Luis Ayala sort of filled, though he was never a natural fit. Ayala had always been a short reliever in his career. Noesi has been a minor league starter.

In theory, adding a true long man adds some flexibility in the way the Yankees use Bartolo Colon. When Colon made the roster, Joe Girardi talked a lot about his ability to be an Alfredo Aceves-type reliever, capable of multiple innings or key one-inning bursts. It’s easy to imagine Colon’s fastball playing up in that sort of three-out situation.

“I think it’s something he could definitely do and it’s something, if the opportunity presents itself, I will not be afraid to use him in that type of situation,” Girardi said. “Maybe one inning, two innings. You could shorten his stints a little bit and maybe use him a little bit different just because we’ve got another true long guy… No matter how you use (Colon), I think he’s going to throw the ball well, but the thing you have to be careful about is a couple of days in a row, especially early on here.”

• Speaking of the bullpen, Freddy Garcia is once again listed as an available reliever. The entire rotation has been pushed back one day, so Garcia will make his first start on Saturday.

Tonight: A.J. Burnett
Thursday: Phil Hughes
Friday: Ivan Nova
Saturday: Freddy Garcia
Sunday: CC Sabathia

• Girardi said there is so far nothing new on Pedro Feliciano.

• Girardi said the other pitcher discussed for a call-up was Steve Garrison, but the fact Garrison pitched on Tuesday knocked him out of the running. “We felt that Noesi was more on turn and could give us some distance,” Girardi said. “We’ve been using our right-handers against left-handers anyway and we’d stay with that.”

• To be fair, it’s never out of the question for a minor league starter to be suddenly pulled from a start so that he can be called up. Trenton has Kei Igawa and Cory Arbiso with rotation experience, so they probably could have made a change if they really wanted to call-up Garrison. I’d say the fact he’s in Double-A also played a role here, but that’s just my own speculation.

• Noesi will wear No. 45.

• Given the Josh Hamilton injury — he’s on the disabled list after hurting himself on a head-first slide into home — Girardi said he talked specifically to Brett Gardner about it this afternoon. Players are always taught not to slide head first into first base or home plate, but there are times when they seem unable to help themselves. “You’re taught not to slide head-first, but your instinct sometimes takes over with your aggressiveness and you do it,” Girardi said.

• Girardi acknowledged that Derek Jeter is hitting a lot of balls on the ground, but he hedged with the fact that Jeter’s never really been a fly ball hitter. As I’ve written, I’m actually onboard with Girardi’s stance that it’s far too early to make any sort of definite judgment. “It’s probably a little bit of timing is all it is,” Girardi said.

Brian Roberts 2B
Nick Markakis RF
Derrek Lee 1B
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Luke Scott LF
Adam Jones CF
Mark Reynolds 3B
Matt Wieters C
Robert Andino SS

Associated Press photos

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Rainout notes: Feliciano still “not there yet”04.12.11

Pedro Feliciano said he never felt pain during today’s throwing session, but he did feel a slight “pinch,” and that made him feel like something might not be quite right. Feliciano said his arm is usually very loose, and that pinch made him feel like “it wasn’t my arm.”

When he met with the doctor later — after he initially talked to the media — Feliciano spoke up about the pinch. The doctor then prodded near his shoulder, and Feliciano felt the same problem as before.

“I was so happy, jumping all over to play catch,” he said. “And then I came back, not sad, but I just came back with not the result that I want.”

This will be a more thorough MRI, and Feliciano is obviously disappointed. He’d never been on the disabled list before this season, and obviously you have to wonder if his workload with the Mets is finally catching up to him. But that’s an issue for another day. For now, the Yankees have to figure out how much longer they might be without him.

“It’s a concern because we were hoping after these two weeks that he would be able to take the next step, then the next step,” Joe Girardi said. “We’re just not there yet.”

Here’s Feliciano.

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• Luis Ayala has a strained lat. He felt it after Saturday’s game, and it was still tight on Sunday so he was tested today. He’ll go on the disabled list tomorrow. “Instead of saying that he might be back in 4-5 days, we’re just going to be smart and make sure we have enough pitching,” Girardi said.

• Is it possible the Yankees will use that roster spot to call-up a second lefty? “It’s a consideration,” Girardi said. “But we’ll probably take who we feel will help us the most right now.” Steve Garrison’s name obviously jumps to mind, but otherwise there’s not really an obvious candidate.

• Tomorrow’s game will not be a doubleheader. The Yankees have not announced a makeup date for tonight’s rainout. They will play single games Wednesday and Thursday.

• Speaking of which, A.J. Burnett will be bumped back to start tomorrow and Phil Hughes will pitch on Thursday. The Yankees haven’t set a rotation beyond Thursday. It’s possible Freddy Garcia could be skipped again on Friday to let Ivan Nova make that start, but it’s not certain.

• The Yankees have games the next five days, so Garcia should get a start during this home stand at some point.

• No problems with Alex Rodriguez, who had to skip Sunday’s game because he was sick. He was in the lineup, and he was still scheduled to play up until the moment the game was rained out. “He was good,” Girardi said. “He was smiling today; it was good to see him smiling, because he wasn’t smiling Sunday.”

• If you’re looking for good news on Feliciano, he said the two weeks off weren’t a complete waste. The doctor said his arm was legitimately stronger than when he left spring training. “It’s stronger from the bands and the weights and the treatment,” Feliciano said. “But he wants to see more deeper what’s in there with the MRI.”

• From the meaningless information department: Dave Robertson has moved lockers, moving just a few feet to the corner of the clubhouse. He was on Boone Logan’s right, now he’s on Boone Logan’s left. Said he just felt like taking that locker instead. Fair enough.

Associated Press photo of the rainy stadium

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Pregame notes: Not a perfect day, but good enough03.31.11

It’s cold and the tarp is still on the field, but right now, the consensus seems to be that the Yankees will be able to play this afternoon. The rain has stopped, and this window should stay open long enough to get started. Given tomorrow’s forecast, Joe Girardi said “you have to do everything you can do to play today.”

Not a perfect day for baseball, but it’s probably good enough.

Welcome to Opening Day. Curtis Granderson arrived last night, the Yankees have A-lineup taking the field and they have their ace on the mound.

“It’s just a new beginning,” Derek Jeter said. “It’s like that every season. All of us as players get butterflies and get a little nervous going into Opening Day. It’s something we all look forward to. Then again, it’s something we want to get behind us and get into the swing of the season. A lot of excitement. You think back to when you were a kid in Little League, you look forward to Opening Day. I’ve said it time and time again, Opening Day here seems like it’s a little more special.”

For the Yankees, there is comfort in handing the ball to CC Sabathia. He has yet to win on Opening Day in pinstripes, but there are few better to matchup against Justin Verlander.

“He understands what he was brought here to do,” Girardi said. “And he relishes in his role of being the ace, the No. 1 guy.”

• Granderson said he got six or seven at-bats yesterday. He also played the field for about six innings and ran the bases after he was done. “Everything’s feeling good,” he said. The outfield might be a little wet today, but Granderson said the only way he won’t play will be if the Yankees don’t play.

• A.J. Burnett is still a little sick, but the Yankees still expect him to start on Saturday. “He’s still sick, but we’ll let nature take its course,” Girardi said.

• The decision to carry Luis Ayala over Steve Garrison had to do with experience. Garrison is a lefty with a spot on the 40-man, but he’s rarely pitched out of the bullpen and he has five games of experience above Double-A. Ayala look good this spring, and he has 377 games of big league experience.

• Jorge Posada will begin trying to find his designated hitter routine — which will surely be much different now that he has all that a major league stadium can provide — but Girardi said Posada was “relaxed” this spring and seems ready for the new role.

• Speaking of Posada, once again, Girardi was asked about the possibility of using Posada as a third catcher: “I guess if it was an emergency situation you’d probably put him in there ahead of Nunez,” Girardi said. Basically, don’t hold your breath waiting for Posada to catch this season.

• Sabathia could go 110-115 pitches if necessary.

• How good is Verlander? “I’d rate his stuff as good as anyone’s,” Girardi said. “You have to make this guy work.”

• It’s legitimately cold at Yankee Stadium, and Jeter did his part to keep expectations low. “The pitchers have a huge advantage,” he said, before immediately laughing.

Austin Jackson CF
Will Rhymes 2B
Magglio Ordonez RF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Ryan Raburn LF
Jhonny Peralta SS
Brandon Inge 3B
Alex Avila C

Associated Press photos of Jeter during yesterday’s workout and Sabathia from his appearance on Letterman

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Girardi’s take on today’s decisions03.28.11

A few comments from Joe Girardi about today’s decisions.

Sending Jesus Montero and Austin Romine to the minors

“We thought it was more beneficial for them to play every day instead of maybe just getting a couple starts in the month of April. When you look at those two young guys, we consider them front-line catchers in the big leagues some day. These are two guys that worked extremely hard, and I believe they’ll go down with the correct attitude. There’s got to be disappointment, that’s the bottom line, because you want to be here so bad. They seem to understand and will go down with the right attitude.”

Different decision if they had played better this spring?

“I can’t tell you. I saw improvement out of both of them; a lot of improvement since last year. Montero got more at-bats than Romine. I think Montero is a much better player than what he showed, offensivey. I think he pressed. I told him, ‘When you do come up one day, try to learn from this experience.’ It’s easy to say and it’s hard to do, not to press. You can only do what you can do.

“It’s possible we would have taken one of them, but we want them to play every day. We want when they come up, not to have to go back. These are guys we believe are everyday players.”

Choosing Eric Chavez as the backup corner infielder

“That one’s pretty evident. With the spring that he had, we feel that he’s healthy and we feel that it’s a good bat on a day that we rest Alex or Tex. You’ve got a pretty big bat there. We’re really pleased with what he did.”

Picking Eduardo Nunez over Ramiro Pena as the utility infielder

“We thought (Nunez) had a better spring. He played pretty well in the month of September last year, he’s probably a little bit better of a base stealer, he’s hit more in his career in the minor leagues. He swung the bat pretty good here last year. As I told Nino, this is a decision we’re making now. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way June 1 or May 1.”

Leaving Mark Prior in Tampa

“We’re going to leave him in Tampa just because of the weather. It’s the first time he’s ever relieved. Eventually, you want him to get to where he can give you more than one inning and go back-to-back. The weather is much more predictable here. It’s warmer for a guy that has never had to be on somewhat of a time limit when he warms up, so we thought it was beneficial for him to be here. It took him a little bit by surprise, but he understood the reasoning. I don’t think he thought he was going to A-ball. We told him the reasons why and as soon as the weather gets better – at least reasonable – we’ll move him.”

Finding a replacement for Pedro Feliciano

“That decision may not be made until Wednesday night because you wait to see what shakes out. You have (Luis) Ayala, and (Steve) Garrison as well, so if it’s one of those two, they’ll probably fly up on Wednesday.”

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Time to make a decision03.28.11

The Yankees have announced their rotation, they’ve made it clear that Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez are on the Opening Day roster, and they’ve picked Bartolo Colon as their long man. Joe Girardi is expected to announce the rest of his Opening Day roster this afternoon (except perhaps a pair of injury replacements).

Backup catcher
Favorite: Gustavo Molina
After Francisco Cervelli broke his foot, and the prospects showed they still have a few things to learn, Molina has emerged as the clear front-runner for this role. If you weren’t convinced already, the fact he caught CC Sabathia and a series of big league relievers on Saturday should have sold it. Probably a short-term place holder.

Utility infielder
Favorite: Eduardo Nunez
Nunez and Ramiro Pena seemed pretty even when camp opened, but Nunez has been dynamic enough that I have to think he’s the favorite for the spot. It wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world to carry Pena — mostly because this is going to be such a minimal role — but Nunez is the one who keeps getting regular time in left field and the most at-bats.

Pedro Feliciano replacement
Favorite: Steve Garrison
Probably won’t get this announcement today, but Garrison does seem to be the front-runner. He’s a lefty — which makes him a natural replacement — but he’s also on the 40-man, which makes him an easier addition than Luis Ayala or Mark Prior. Indications are that Romulo Sanchez will be out of the organization soon, and Garrison would give the Yankees a second lefty who could also pitch three or four innings if necessary.

Curtis Granderson replacement
Favorite: Chris Dickerson
The Yankees have seen more of Greg Golson and Justin Maxwell, but those two are right-handed hitters. Their roles would be minimal with Andruw Jones on the roster. Dickerson is a lefty who’s hit right-handed pitching in his career. He’s the best fit, but he has to get past his hamstring injury. It’s doubtful the Yankees will announce anything about this situation until Tuesday or Wednesday (or maybe even Thursday). There’s still a chance Granderson will break camp.

Associated Press photo of Nunez

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Sunday notes: No lineup until Opening Day03.27.11

Joe Girardi said he plans to announce most of his final roster decisions tomorrow. The Yankees might have to wait a day or two to determine Curtis Granderson’s status, and they might not immediately name a replacement for Pedro Feliciano, but Girardi said he expects to announce his backup catcher, utility infielder and reserve corner infielder.

He will not announce an Opening Day lineup.

“I’m still thinking about it,” Girardi said. “I haven’t turned my brain off to it by saying, okay, this is what I’m doing. I’m still thinking about it. We’ll still have one long conversation about it.”

Based on recent lineups, my best guess is that the Yankees are going to use the two-lineup approach: They’ll have Brett Gardner leadoff against right-handers and Derek Jeter leadoff against lefties. It’s a pretty solid plan, actually. Girardi said he probably won’t announce an Opening Day lineup until Opening Day itself.

Otherwise: Eduardo Nunez seems to be the favorite for the utility job, Gustavo Molina seems to be the favorite for the backup catcher position and Eric Chavez is all but official as the reserve corner infielder.

“We just haven’t announced it yet,” Girardi said. “I’ll talk to Cash one more time, but we’ll announce it probably tomorrow. Like he said, we’ve got to make sure people are healthy.”

• Pedro Feliciano had an MRI this morning. It showed some sort of muscle problem — Girardi wasn’t sure of the exact diagnosis — but the bottom line is this: “It’s pretty hard to think that he would start with us,” Girardi said. “I’m hoping it’ll be shorter (term), but you can never predict.”

• As possible replacements for Feliciano, Girardi once again mentioned Luis Ayala and Mark Prior, but neither of those two is on the 40-man roster, and today’s conversation certainly made it seem like the Yankees are leaning toward Steve Garrison. “He’s done a good job for us against left-handers, and he’s a viable option for us,” Girardi said. “We’ll probably see him throw one more time before we leave and then we’ll make a decision.”

• Here’s Girardi’s cryptic comment about why Romulo Sanchez was scratched from this road trip: “That got cancelled for reasons I can’t give to you at this point.” Someone mentioned a trade and Girardi gave a weird look that suggested a trade is in the works (or certainly some kind of move).

• Girardi on how quickly he knew Chavez could make the team: “Right when he got to camp, we saw the bat speed in Chavez. We said, ‘Wow, if he’s healthy, he can help us.’ Because, you’re not going to really forget how to hit, it’s just if you’re physically capable, and he looked great.”

• Pat Venditte faced two hitters today. He pitched right-handed to one and left-handed to the other. Turns out, the decision to bring in Venditte had a lot to do with the new pitching coach. “Larry (Rothschild) wanted to see it,” Girardi said. “The kid has done well in the minor leagues wherever he’s been.”

• Speaking of Venditte, those paying attention in the crowd seemed to enjoy it: “You heard a little ‘Ohhh’ when he switched,” Girardi said.

• A nice early version of HOPE Week today with the little girl who saved the even littler girl’s life. The families were hanging around the Yankees dugout throughout batting practice. It was pretty neat to see.

• The Yankees lost 7-6 today, but they had 13 hits, including three by Austin Krum and two by Mark Teixeira. Krum is, by most accounts, a pretty good fielder but he had a rough time today with two errors and a missed attempt at a diving catch. Austin Romine and Robinson Cano homered today.

• Garrison faced two big-time lefties today. He got Justin Morneau to pop up, but Jim Thome took him deep.

• Buddy Carlyle was knocked around a little bit in his start, but for the most part, the other guys brought up from minor league camp pitched well today. Wilkin Arias had a rough third of an inning — hit a batter and walked a guy — but Francisco Gil, Josh Schmidt, Andy Sisco, Eric Wordekemper and Venditte combined for 4.2 scoreless.

• Today the Yankees faced Carl Pavano. Girardi said there was a time this winter when there really seemed to be a chance that Pavano would return to the Yankees. “It was a possibility that he was going to be with us,” Girardi said. “We talked about it. His name was thrown around. It never came to a fruition, but he’s resurrected his career. He’s pitched well for the Twins and he’s given them innings. When we’ve faced him in the playoffs, he’s pitched well. The guy knows how to pitch. The big thing is for Carl that he’s been healthy.”

Associated Press photos of Krum, Carlyle and Girardi with 12-year-old Julianne Ramirez

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Thursday notes: Hughes committed to the change03.17.11

Phil Hughes said this start was a lot like his previous start. The home run he allowed was on a flat cutter, his fastball command took another step forward and his changeup was inconsistent but effective. He called the outing a step in the right direction.

“The changeup was not great tonight,” he said. “But I threw a couple of quality ones and I just have to be sure that I continue to use it and not fall into that pattern that I did last year.”

For Hughes, the changeup is old news, but it’s also an ongoing situation. Hughes was happy with the changeup when he left camp last spring, then he neglected to use it through the first half of the regular season. This spring he hasn’t been quite as thrilled with the pitch, but he said he’s more committed to using it. He’s seen enough results to know it can be effective.

“I’m going to (throw it) just because I’m going to force myself to,” Hughes said. “Last year I didn’t do that. It might not have been outstanding today, but I’ll have days when it’s good. I saw some results tonight on it. The few I did throw to neutralize those bats that really got to me last year, Joyce and Johnson stand out, those are two guys that really hurt me because they were sitting on fastballs.”

Oddly enough, Joe Girardi singled out the changeup as one of the things he liked about Hughes outing.

“I know people harp on that changeup a lot,” Girardi said. “But he had it at the end of last year and it’s just a continuation.”

• Joe Torre said his return to Steinbrenner Field was a trip he’d been looking forward to making, and it was made more comfortable by the fact he returned to Yankee Stadium last season. “I don’t think the emotion will ever go out of it because of what these 12 years meant to me that I spent here,” he said. “But it’s not sad by any stretch of the imagination; it was a great run. You cant appreciate the good times unless there were some bumps along the way. I wouldn’t change a thing. The last three years were stressful, but that’s all part of it.”

• Torre has been invited to Old Timers’ Day and he plans to attend, which means he’ll be back in pinstripes this year. “Whatever (uniform) they give me,” he said. “As long as they don’t ask me to play, it’s okay. I never did that in a Yankee uniform.”

• I didn’t see it, but the word around the stadium was that Yogi Berra tripped again today, only this time he was caught by Rays manager Joe Maddon. Berra is fine.

• Alex Rodriguez has a home run in three straight games, and he has a hit in each of his 11 games this spring. He’s batting .406.

• Nick Swisher’s go-ahead home run in the seventh inning was only his second extra-base hit of the spring. He’s had more at-bats than anyone else in Yankees camp. The Yankees got the win, 3-2.

• Hughes said he wasn’t too down on himself for the first-inning run. He jammed Johnny Damon, who fought off a single, then Hughes thought he struck out Evan Longoria on a 2-2 fastball but he didn’t get the call. “That run I can get out of my head a little easier than a cutter that was flat and just a bad pitch 0-2,” he said.

• Appearing in a game for the first time since March 4, left-handed reliever Boone Logan allowed two hits but ultimately pitched a scoreless seventh inning. The Yankees had his velocity up to 92-93 mph, a nice step forward from his earlier spring outings. “Sometimes that little extra rest in this period is good for guys,” Girardi said.

• Speaking of Logan: He faced four lefties, striking out Matt Joyce and John Jaso, getting Dan Johnson to fly out and getting Reid Brignac to hit a ground ball to second that went for an infield single.

• The Yankees had only three hits tonight, but two were home runs. The third was a triple by Curtis Granderson, who was left stranded. Of the Yankees five base runners — Robinson Cano walked twice — three scored.

• Joba Chamberlain came through this morning’s throwing just fine and will likely throw a bullpen this weekend. That’s the plan right now, anyway. “See how he feels tomorrow, but today was good,” Girardi said.

• Everything is still on track for Sergio Mitre to pitch tomorrow. He felt fine after yesterday’s bullpen. “It feels like it’s been a long time,” Mitre said.

• Romulo Sanchez has hard-to-hit stuff, but his command is erratic. Tonight he walked three in two-thirds of an inning, but Steve Garrison bailed him out with the final out of the eighth. Luis Ayala pitched the ninth for the save.

Associated Press photos, the one in the middle is of Berra and Girardi with Don Zimmer, at the top is Swisher signing autographs. That’s Hughes at the bottom. And I have no idea why I labeled them in that order, but I’m sticking with it.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 385 Comments →

Yankees organizational depth: Relief pitchers01.16.11

Unable to address their rotation needs, the Yankees have instead built what should be one of the better bullpens in baseball. Of their three major league additions this offseason, two have been relievers. They’ve also locked up two more years with the game’s greatest closer.

In the big leagues
Whether you like the Rafael Soriano deal or not, it clearly gives the Yankees one of the deepest bullpens in baseball. They have two legitimate closers, the Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera, and the new guy Soriano, who could step in should Rivera actually begin to show his age. Joba Chamberlain and Dave Robertson give the Yankees two young right-handers, while Pedro Feliciano and Boone Logan give them two legitimate lefties. As long as everyone stays healthy, the last spot in the bullpen will likely go to a long reliever, probably Sergio Mitre as long as he’s not needed in the rotation. The wild card here is Mark Prior, the former elite young starter trying to make his way back to the big leagues after a series of injuries.

On the verge
The Yankees have proven that a pitcher on the verge of helping the big league bullpen doesn’t necessarily have to pitch out of a minor league bullpen. There’s a solid chance at least one of the minor league starters will play some sort of bullpen role this season. Just last year, Ivan Nova made his first big league appearance out of the pen. There has always been some outside-the-organization talk of Andrew Brackman’s potential as a reliever. The same could be said for Graham Stoneburner and Shaeffer Hall, each of whom is expected to be in the Double-A rotation this year. For now, though, all of those pitchers will continue to develop as starters. The Yankees will keep them there until development or need forces a change.

Of the young pitchers actually expected to pitch as minor league relievers this season, right-hander Ryan Pope, lefty Steve Garrison and newly acquired Brian Schlitter are the only ones on the 40-man. Early call-ups will be wide open now that Mark Melancon and Jonathan Albaladejo are out of the organization, and those three would certainly be the easiest to move to New York. Assuming they open the season in Scranton, minor league signees Prior and Neal Cotts could also be in the call-up mix. It might be a long shot, but if Brian Anderson, a converted outfielder, can continue to make strides as a pitcher, he could build some level of prospect buzz as a potential major league reliever. He throws pretty hard and had some short-term success last season despite having not pitched in years.

Deep in the system
The top low-level pitching prospects usually develop as starters — regardless of long-term plans — but the Yankees actually have some notable young pitchers already working as relievers in the lowest levels. The stats that stand out come from three college kids taken in last year’s draft.

Tommy Kahnle was the Yankees fifth-round pick — the highest pitcher they took in the draft — and he allowed just three hits while striking out 25 through 16 innings in Staten Island. Chris Whitley (15th round) allowed a .157 opponents batting average and had 44 strikeouts in Staten Island before finishing the season with High-A Tampa. Preston Claiborne (17th round) also skipped straight to Tampa after a 1.18 WHIP with 30 strikeouts in Staten Island. All three could skip Charleston completely to open in Tampa this season, probably depending on how they do in spring training. The wild card here might be Conor Mullee, a 2010 draftee who moved from shortstop to the mound and put up good numbers in the Gulf Coast League.

Organizational depth chart
My own rough guess. It’s far too early for the Yankees to settle on who will be where next season.
New York: Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, Dave Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Pedro Feliciano, Boone Logan, Sergio Mitre
Scranton/WB: Ryan Pope, Brian Schlitter, Mark Prior, Brian Anderson, Eric Wordekemper, Neal Cotts, Andy Sisco
Trenton: Craig Heyer, Pat Venditte, Adam Olbrychowski, Josh Schmidt, Noel Castillo, Steve Garrison, Wilkins Arias
Tampa: Tommy Kahnle, Scottie Allen, Benjamin Watkins, Ryan Flannery, Francisco Gil, Ronny Marte, Ryan Acosta
Charleston: Preston Claiborne, Chris Whitley, Conor Mullee, Danny Burawa, Kramer Sneed, Manny Barreda, Juan Marcado, Brett Gerritse

If things go to plan, the Yankees seem to have no room for either of their Rule 5 draft picks, Daniel Turpen or Robert Fish. Things also don’t look good for Romulo Sanchez, the hard-throwing right-hander who’s out of options but could make a run at beating Mitre for the long-reliever spot.

In the minor leagues, George Kontos will surely fit somewhere — probably in Scranton — if he doesn’t stick as a Rule 5 pick with the Padres. There are always more relievers than there are spots heading into spring training, and guys like Buddy Carlyle, Kevin Whelan, J.B. Cox and Phil Bartleski should also be in the running for relief spots in Double-A and Triple-A.

Figuring out lower-level bullpens is tricky to say the least. A lot of my predictions are only mildly educated guesses. Some of those assignments will ultimately be determined by spring training performance. Right now, it’s hard to know which of the 2010 college draftees will skip Charleston to open in Tampa and which of the high school draftees will be ready for a full-season assignment instead of a trip to extended spring training. It’s also hard to know what the plans are for new addition Scottie Allen — who came over in the Juan Miranda trade and has worked as both a starter and a reliever — and it’s hard to know what the Yankees will do with young guys coming back from injuries (Manny Barreda, Caleb Cotham, Gavin Brooks, Brandon Braboy, etc.).

Associated Press photo of Rivera, headshots of Robertson, Pope and Claiborne

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 191 Comments →

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