Let’s go quick-hit style for today’s notes:
• Russell Martin did some “dry” blocking drills today in the bullpen (i.e. he was simulating the movements without actually blocking balls) and said he was “surprised how good it felt.” He still isn’t sure when he’ll be ready to play in a game. Joe Girardi said Francisco Cervelli will probably be the starting catcher for Saturday’s spring opener.
• There was lots of talk with both Girardi and Martin about what challenges a catcher on a new team faces, particularly when it comes to getting to know his new pitchers. I’ll have more on all of that later (and in tomorrow’s paper) but the best line of the day came from Martin when he was talking about how every pitcher has their own idiosyncrasies. “Pitchers are different, man,” he said. “They are strange birds.”
• FYI, Girardi has “no plans” to use any particular catcher with A.J. Burnett this season, though he did say he likes having his backup catcher frequently work with one pitcher. Which pitcher that is could also depend on who wins the last two spots in the rotation.
• Don’t count on seeing the full lineup on Saturday against the Phillies. Girardi said he may break up the regulars since he is required to bring a certain number of starters to every road spring training game and the Yankees are in Clearwater on Sunday.
• Austin Romine? Still sick. He was hacking badly outside the bullpen area before going in for drills.
• The best part of the drill where Tony Pena crushes line drives at the catchers over and over is that, afterward, when the catcher has just spent five minutes throwing his body in front of missiles, he then has to get up and pick up the balls to put them back in the bucket.
• Steinbrenner Field is closed to fans tomorrow so the Yankees can get it ready for Saturday, but Girardi said there are no plans for any kind of team outing like last year’s trip to the arcade. “We can’t really take away a day from practice right now,” he said.
Some sad news, the Yankees passed along word that bench coach Tony Pena’s mother, Rosalia Padilla Pena, passed away in the Dominican Republic. She was 79 years old, and the funeral will be tomorrow in the town of Altamira.
Some other notes and links from today.
• Justin Duchscherer shot down the idea that his past issues with depression might cause him problems in New York. “I find it funny that people say I can’t pitch in that environment, but I’ve pitched in New York before,” he told Brittany Ghiroli. “As far as my mind, I have no problem being anywhere. Physically it’s a matter of what’s the best situation for me.” Duchscherer also said he much prefers to start and wants to sign with a team that will give him that chance. The Yankees can certainly offer that opportunity.
• Linked to the Yankees strictly through speculation as a possible trade target, Wandy Rodriguez has signed a three-year deal with the Astros.
• The Yankees did reportedly sign one pitcher today, agreeing to a minor league deal with Warner Madrigal.
• The Blue Jays makeover continued today when they shipped nearly acquired Mike Napoli to the Rangers for reliever Frank Francisco. Speaking of the Blue Jays changes, Vernon Wells bid an emotional goodbye to the franchise.
• Interesting stuff over at The Hardball Times, where Chris Jaffe looked at the worst playoff game endings, including two Yankees games.
• Remember when Chris Ray was a promising young closer? Today he signed a minor league deal with the Mariners.
• The International League announced the 2011 inductees into its Hall of Fame: Steve Balboni, Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken Jr. Balboni and Boggs are both former Yankees. For the purposes of the IL, Balboni is most closely connected to the organization, having hit 92 home runs in three years with the Columbus Clippers. Balboni is the only player in IL history to homer twice in one inning in two different games.
• I had to stop listening long enough to hear Michael Kay’s interview with Brian Cashman, but I’ve spent most of the day listening to the new Decemberists and Iron & Wine albums. Good stuff, especially from the Decemberists, who didn’t do much for me with their previous album.
Ever since he addressed the issue last month, talk of Joe Girardi taking over as Cubs manager next season has more or less gone away. But he’s not the only member of the Yankees staff connected to managerial openings.
• The Palm Beach Post is reporting that Tony Pena is a “serious candidate” for the Marlins opening. That job has been open since June 23 when Fredi Gonzalez was fired. The Palm Beach paper also lists former Yankees coach Larry Bowa as one of “a dozen” candidates.
• Jon Heyman is also hearing that Pena will be considered for the Marlins job, and he reports that third-base coach Rob Thomson is “expected to receive consideration” for the Blue Jays job after Cito Gaston retires. Thomson managed the Yankees for three games in 2008, becoming the first Canadian to manage in the big leagues since 1934.
• Speaking of managers, Dylan Heranandez out at the L.A. Times says former Yankees manager Joe Torre has told his wife and GM Ned Colletti what he plans to do next season but will not yet announce it publicly. Torre is in the last year of his contract as Dodgers manager.