Saturday, February 25, 2012

New York Yankees Notes and Arod Speaks

Here are some notes from the Yankees first official full squad workout today.  Chad Jennings and the NY Post have some of the notes, thanks as always.  I also have my own observations mixed in.  I hope you enjoy the spring training coverage and soon the games will be beginning. 

Joe Girardi addressed the team this morning. His message included a Yankees video full of highlights, including footage of the 2009 World Series championship.

“I talked to them about why we’re here, our goals and the importance of keeping your goals in mind when you’re going through your work,” Girardi said. “Spring training, as we know, can get long at times. We ask you to do things, make adjustments sometimes that you’ve never been asked to do. We talk about the importance of communicating between us, what you’re feeling, what you need, maybe something you don’t like. The importance of that.

“The real message is keeping in mind what we’re setting out to do and don’t lose sight of that when you’re doing your work every day. That’s why we do the work.”

Asked whether “what we’re setting out to do” meant playing well or winning a championship, Girardi didn’t hesitate.

“Championship,” he said.  I don't think this is much of a suprise.  This is the Yankees way and Girardi is a no nonsense type of guy.  The Yankees should have high hopes, they are a great team.  They lost in the first round last year but that doesn't mean they couldn't have won.  They just needed to execute a little better. They really needed one hit or even a couple of sac flys in game five and they would of been in the ALCS for the third straight year and who knows what would of happened from there. 

 Six pitchers faced hitters this morning, but Ivan Nova was the only projected big leaguer among them. “We just felt he was ready for it,” Girardi said. “Larry (Rothschild) is trying to give them individual attention.” Basically, the Yankees aren’t forcing every pitcher to stay on the same schedule. Some guys are throwing 25 pitches in their bullpens, some are up to 40.

Girardi said he still doesn’t have a rotation for the first few exhibition games, but it’s no coincidence that guys like David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos faced hitters today. “At some point I think you’ll see those guys in games earlier than maybe our projected starters,” Girardi said “You’re not going to see CC on the 3rd. I’m not sure what CC’s first day is. You’ll see some of those young kids.”

 Mark Teixiera has lost a little bit of weight, but he still looks as powerful as ever. “He’s strong as can be again,” Girardi said. “Tex has always been that, and he’s extremely well conditioned. He watches his diet. He’s a very health-conscious guy and I think it’s just what he thought would be best for him.”  I saw that he did that and also read in the NY Post that he changed his stance slightly when he is hitting left handed.  He said he is trying to move away from pulling the ball so much.  He also mentioned in the off-season about bunting more.  I don't think he will really bunt but the point is he is trying to find a way to get that batting average up and get away from the shift. 

 Raul Ibanez is the only new position player expected to make the big league roster. “Looks good,” Girardi said. “I didn’t see him a whole lot today. I was over with the pitchers today, but he looks healthy, he looks strong, he looks like he’s moving fine.”
 Although his name was listed for batting practice, Austin Romine did not participate. And it might be a few more days before he finally does. “Backs are tricky so I can’t tell you how long Romine is going to be out,” Girardi said. “You won’t see him out there tomorrow, I can tell you that. He could be a little while.”

Phil Hughes is still throwing more bullpen pitches than most guys, but his total has remained at 40. That’s pretty much the maximum that Larry Rothschild wants his pitchers to throw in the bullpen. With only a day between, Rothschild doesn’t want much more. Hughes said he occasionally will go up to 45 pitches in a bullpen session during the season, but it’s usually cutoff around 40.  I think this is important because it means Hughes got an early start on his work and getting back to what he was two years ago.  It is no secret that the Yankees would like him to be in the rotation.  He is just 25 years old and the Yankees would like to have a rotation of CC, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, Michael Pineda and Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, at least one of them for years to come. 

Alex Rodriguez also had his press conferenced today.  I don't think anything real earth shattering came out of it.  He did say he was real excited about the Michael Pineda trade.  He also said he will be playing more then 99 games this year.  He said he feels he can keep playing at a high level and doesn't feel he is coming close to the end.  He said he understands more now that less is more and whatever Girardi wants to do is fine with him.  He said though he is a third baseman and that is how he trains in the offseason.  He thinks he can help the team in the field as well as hitting wise.  I think he will have a good year and be more healthy.  The healthy is the big thing and it is hard to predict, especially since he is getting older.  The Yankees biggest mark against them is the age.  Jeter and Arod mainly.  Teixeira, Martin, Granderson, Cano, Gardner, Swisher are all pretty young.  The Yankees need a big year from Arod.  I would venture to say if he was healthy they would of beat Detroit last year in the playoffs. 

News and Notes from Tampa as the full squad reports

Position players reported today.  Derek Jeter arrived and had a press conference.  Robinson Cano spoke.  Alex Rodriguez will hold his press conference tomorrow.  Here are some of the other notes of what when on today down in Tampa.  Chad Jennings of the Journal News was there as always and provided some notes.

Our day was good today,” Joe Girardi said.
The Yankees day was also short. Pitchers went through their usual conditioning on the back field, but there were no bullpens, only a couple of live batting practice sessions in the morning. Position players checked in, but ultimately, this was the lightest day of the week.

Girardi said he wasn’t expecting any late arrivals this year. In fact, he was pretty sure he saw all of his guys face-to-face today. By the end of the day, Raul Ibanez was the only big leager I hadn’t seen, but his stuff was in his locker, so I’m sure he’s arrived. Perfect attendance. I guess that’s a good place to start.

 Of course, there is one person missing… “The first couple of days as I was watching catchers hit, it was just strange to not see Jorge in that first group,” Girardi said. “You’ve been watching it for so long, not to hear his voice and his mannerisms, it’s kind of strange. It seems like there’s always a player every year who goes to another team or retires. Whether it was Bernie, Paul, Tino, Coney. It just kind of happens, but I don’t think you ever really get used to it.”  It is going to start getting hard and weird but things are changing.  Posada is the first then maybe Mo after this year then Jeter in a couple of years or so.  Pettitte was the first but like Jeter said he did leave for three years in the middle of all those years so they got used to him not being there a little bit. 

Asked how his relationship with Posada will change now that Posada has retired, Derek Jeter turned sarcastic. “I probably won’t talk to him, probably won’t see him anymore,” Jeter said. “That’s about the end of it. No, we’re like brothers, all of us are like brothers, because we’ve had so many experiences together. I keep in touch with him all the time.”

As expected, Austin Romine sat out today. “He felt better today so that’s good,” Girardi said. “If they think he needs another day, he takes another day.”

 Seems early for live batting practice… “We have some guys that are ready for that because they’ve been here for a while and they have been throwing,” Girardi said. “We have some games that are fairly early so we’ve moved up their bullpens to try to prepare those guys for games.”

Robinson Cano on his offseason workouts: “Even harder than last year. Running, fielding, hitting, working out… I’m ready for wherever they put me in the lineup. I would say that I am going to play the game the same way I’ve played it, and not change anything.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

New York Yankees Notes A Day Before Full Sqads Report

Here are some notes on the last day of just the pitchers and catchers.  Tomorrow the rest of the players will report for physicals and Saturday will be the first full squad workout.  It always gets a little crazier and more lively when the rest of the guys report.  The Yankees of course have Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez just to name a couple who draw lots of coverage and stories from just being who they are.  Chad Jennings of the Journal News brings some of these notes down from Tampa where he is with the team. 

Four days of bullpens isn’t nearly enough to make a real impression. Joe Girardi has said he’s happy with the way Phil Hughes is pitching, and he’s comfortable knowing what to expect from Freddy Garcia, and he’s been impressed by new additions Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda. Today he agreed with the premise that Ivan Nova is not fighting for a job, that he has one locked up.

But choosing five starters is the biggest decision facing the Yankees this spring, so you can expect to hear a lot about it in the next few weeks.

“I think your first responsibility is putting out what you feel the five best starters are,” Girardi said. “Then you go from there.”

The Yankees know that Hughes can pitch out of the bullpen because they’ve seen him do it, but Girardi indicated that Hughes relief experience is not necessarily a motivating factor. If Hughes ends up back in the pen, it will be because the Yankees feel he’s not one of their five best starters, not because the Yankees believe he is one of their seven best relievers.

It was Sweeny Murti who pointed out today that Hughes has been in camp with Girardi five straight years — only two other pitchers can say that — but his role is still not clearly defined.  He is still only 25 years old but it seems like he has been around forever. 

“I think it got a little sidetracked in ’08 because he got hurt,” Girardi said. “In ’09 it got sidetracked because we threw him in the bullpen; a guy who started out as a long guy, and then a sixth-inning guy, and then seventh, and he kind of blew us away with what he did. That threw a little confusion into the pot. Then he comes out and wins 18 games in 2010, and you say, well, he’s a starter. Then he has 2011. So, yeah, it’s a little strange, five years in camp and his role is not clearly defined.”

Here’s Girardi’s response when asked whether it helps Nova to know he doesn’t have to fight for a rotation spot this year: “That’s one thing he doesn’t have to worry about, but it’s still not easy,” Girardi said. “I was really pleased when I saw him in camp the first day, where he was at. It was clear to me that he worked very hard this off season to try to improve what he did last season, and that’s outstanding. But I think there’s that knowledge. He knows he can compete at this level, and I think that’s one thing young players go through. Can I really do it here? That shouldn’t be a question in his mind if he makes his pitches.”

Too early to know who’s going to start the first few spring games. “It’s how the guys feel, a little bit, as we move forward,” Girardi said. “I’ll listen to what Larry (Rothschild) says about who’s ready. Traditionally, guys get about six starts, maybe seven. We have a few more games, than what we need, if they’re all going to get six starts.”

Safe to say Hughes and Garcia are the starters most likely to pitch on the same schedule, keeping them lined up for the fifth spot? “Not necessarily,” Girardi said. “We’ll keep the guys on a five-man rotation, and sometimes they’ll have to piggyback each other. But we do have some split doubleheaders, which helps.”

 Speaking of in the clubhouse: David Aardsma isn’t here yet, but his locker and number have been assigned. He’s got the locker right next to Derek Jeter, and he’ll be wearing A.J. Burnett’s No. 34.

 Speaking of Rivera: Apparently Mark Teixeira doesn’t believe the Yankees closer is really going to retire at the end of this season. “I really think he has at least a few seasons left in him,” Teixeira said at an event for a company he’s apparently invested in.  It looks like some of the players are like the fans where they don't believe he will retire.  I think everyone knows it is coming but don't want to believe it.  He has been the most valuable Yankee and no one wants to think of life without him. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New York Yankees notes on a pretty quiet Wednesday

Here are some notes from the beat writers down in Tampa who are covering the team.  I mix in my personal opinion and observation on some of the notes as well.

Rivera is actually planning to go on the road this spring.  I know when I first saw the headline this afternoon I said to myself what, this is a definite sign he is retiring.  It isn't what it seems though, from March 31 through April 3, the Yankees play four consecutive road games, including two exhibitions at the new Marlins stadium in Miami. Rivera said today that he’s actually planning to make that trip. At that point, he’ll need to pitch, and apparently he’s going to do it on the road against big leaguers rather than in Tampa at the minor league complex.  This makes sense and then they return to Tampa to begin the season against the Rays. 

Speaking of things Rivera is saying: The Yankees closer acknowledged today that Derek Jeter is one of the few non-family members who know his plans for next season. Speaking to reporters at the minor league complex this morning, Jeter refused to spill the beans.  Would you think Jeter would say anything against his friend and teammate or anything controversial.  There wasn't a chance that he would ever say anything. 

“You appreciate him while he’s here,” Jeter said after a morning workout. “I think everyone should just focus on that as opposed to if and when he’s going to retire.”  I do like this statement and agree, you have to appreciate every moment that he has and is going to be a Yankee. 

 Except for Rivera, all of the obvious big league pitchers threw bullpens today. Rivera said he’s thinking Sunday might be the day of his first bullpen. That seems a little earlier than usual, and Rivera said that’s because it’s a little warmer than usual. “I know that when it’s time, he’ll be ready,” Girardi said.

Joe Girardi on the David Aardsma signing: “Power arm. Closer. We’re looking at him down the road, maybe being ready in August, possibly. It’s another option you have for your bullpen. You look at our bullpen, last year we went through a lot of arms. We had some injuries to Soriano, Joba, Feliciano, so we kept changing people out. I think the more you have, the more options it gives us, and that’s a good thing.”  I like this signing, he is more for the future then now.  He is like Joba where he is coming off of Tommy John and could be ready in July or maybe August.  He doesn't cost much and could help them even next year, if Mo retires he is another guy who has closer experience.  He did well in Seattle in 2009 and 2010. 

 A few young starters threw live batting practice today, and Girardi said it was in anticipation of early spring training games. “We want to make sure everyone’s ready to go,” Girardi said. Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and D.J. Mitchell threw live BP, and Girardi’s wording suggested at least one of them could get an early start this spring. Lefty Rule 5 pick Cesar Cabral also threw batting practice.

 It was reported earlier this winter, but the YES Network announced today that Lou Piniella has joined the network as a special contributor who will provide game and studio analysis.  It is nice to see Sweet Lou return home.  George Steinbrenner always had a soft spot for him and must be smiling about this.  Lou played on the Bronx Zoo teams of the 70's and managed the Yankees in the 80's before going on to have a long managing career that ended in Chicago with the Cubs. 

 Girardi’s fairly generic comment on today’s workout: “I thought it went great. I thought the guys threw well. You see them throwing more breaking balls, and they increased the amount that they threw. You’re always curious to see how they bounce back, but they seemed to bounce back pretty well.”

The Yankees after signing David Aardsma today also signed Burt Reynolds.  When I read this one I said are they doing this again with an actor.  It isn't that Burt Reynolds and there is no relation but he is a cousin of Robinson Cano.  Reynolds is a utility man who has spent time in the Nationals and Rays systems.  He is 23 years old and played for the Newark Bears last season.  They are in the independant Can Am League.  He hit 232 with 13 home runs last season. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Yankees Spring Training Notes From The First Workout

I wouldn't say that anything really big came out of spring training today.  Mariano Rivera did show up on time though and spoke with the media.  He had an announcement well sort of.  He said he has made up his mind on retiring or not.  He isn't going to say what his decision is right now though.  It sure sounded like this will be his farewell tour.  If it is everyone needs to watch and admire every time you see him pitch especially in person.  Rivera is a living legend and there will never be another like him. 

Joe Girardi also spoke about a few small items which he usually doesn't do.  Girardi basically announced that the first five in his lineup would be Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.  I think that was assumed but it is unlike Girardi to do that so early.  I like the lineup that way and feel it is best that way.  I would expect Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, Russell Martin and Brett Gardner to round out the lineup.  That is a pretty good lineup if you ask me. 

Girardi also said David Robertson would be his eighth inning guy and Rafael Soriano the seventh inning guy.  He also said that Francisco Cervelli is almost certainly going to be the backup catcher.  That was a little bit surprising with Austin Romine also being there.  I think the Yankees like the idea of Romine developing more and being in AAA this season.  I think they also like him working with the pitchers who are on the cusp of coming up and maybe having them all come up together.  Romine appears to be the catcher of the future and with Martin the Yankees can afford to wait on him. 

The notes from Girardi are coming from the beat writers who are down in Tampa covering the team already.  There was also some A.J. Burnett talk as the trade was just finalized.  I am going to paraphrase what was said but Martin basically said that sometimes he would let negative thoughts get in his way.  He said that Burnett was always his own toughest critic.  He said he probably cared more then anybody and he worked extremely hard, he just couldn't get it figured out. 

Sabathia said it is tough because they came into this together.  He also said though he thinks it will be good for him.  He said sometimes a change of scenery is just what is needed.  He said that their families became very close and that will be the tough part.  Joe Girardi said a lot of nice things.  He said from his point of view he did everything that was asked of him.  Girardi said he worked hard and came prepared.  He said he had a good time with him and that A.J. won a lot of important games for the Yankees.  Martin said he text him after the trade and told A.J. he was going to bunt off of him. 

Martin also revealed today the Yankees were talking to him about a possible three year deal.  He said that the talks never progressed though.  He said numbers were discussed but he won't say what they are and he loves being with the Yankees. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Spring Training Officially Kicks Off For the New York Yankees

New York Yankees pitchers and catchers reported to spring training on Sunday.  They will have their first official workout on Monday with the full squad reporting on Friday and their first official workout all together on Saturday. 

Here are some notes courtesy of Chad Jennings of the Journal News and the great Lohud Yankees Blog.

There was no official workout today, but several of the Yankees pitchers went to the outfield at Steinbrenner Field to play catch in the morning. Otherwise, the day was all about settling in and taking the first steps of spring training. Brian Cashman the general manager met the media and talked a lot about his new young starter Michael Pineda, here is some of what he had to say. 

“I’ve seen people write he slots in right behind CC in the rotation,” Cashman said. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s not the case. He is a young, high-end arm that we look forward to growing into someone who we hope can be a consistent winner for the Yankees going forward. But I think expecting stuff like that out of the gate and expecting him to gravitate to the front of our rotation so early, we don’t have those illusions. We think we have some other guys right now who have some more experience and are more worthy of being at the front end.”

He said that Pineda still needs to develop and the Changeup will be a big part of that. 
“It’s a below-average pitch for him right now,” Cashman said. “I don’t think there’s a No. 1 or 2 starter in the big leagues right now with only two pitches. I just don’t think you can maybe pitch like that for an extended period of time. To be a consistent number one or two starter, you need more than two pitches.

“In fairness, to frame it properly, I made the trade for a reason. I’m dreaming on the guy, obviously, and we’re dreaming on the guy but the fact of the matter is there’s work to be done still and we look forward to working with him and watching him work towards that. Time will tell. But its going to take time.”

When Cashman spoke to the media the A.J. Burnett trade wasn't official yet.  The Yankees in the afternoon did make it official with a press release. 
 Cashman also wouldn’t get into specifics about his thoughts on the rotation competition because he knows that too much can change between now and Opening Day. He realizes there are six pitchers for five spots, but he also realizes that someone could fall out of that competition for one reason or another. “I’m not trying to jinx us by even talking about it,” he said. “But I’ve lived through it long enough to know.”

 Speaking of Rivera, he is — of course — going to report late. “He told me at the baseball writers’ dinner,” Cashman said. “He told me ‘Cash, I just wanted to give you the heads up, I might be a little late.’ I just said, ‘Just tell me when you’re coming.’ I mean, what am I going to do? It’s Mariano Rivera. I’ve gotten to the point where every year, he knows what he needs to do. He gets his eight innings in the spring, but he’s just amazing. He really is amazing. You’ll never see anything like that again. But we’re thankful that he’s still with us, that he’s doing what he’s doing, and hopefully he can continue that again this year for us. We will see him at some point but the Mariano Watch, don’t worry about it. It’s with permission. Well…” Cashman cut himself off. Is it really permission when the player clearly dictates the terms and the team clearly doesn’t care? Like Cashman said, it’s Mariano. The man’s earned a little trust.

 Cashman said one reason there are so many veteran DH-types still on the free agent market is that they’re all hoping to be the one chosen for the Yankees opening. “I’ve had enough dialogue, I know they all want to come here and I know they want to be a part of this place,” Cashman said. “I don’t know what the other options are or the other offers are. They might be more significant than what we could be willing to pay, they might be less, they may be none. I don’t know. I do know there’s a vacancy sign sitting here.”  That seems a little arrogant, cocky but I think he is right.  Vlad Guerrero stated he wanted to be the Yankees DH.  Johnny Damon was campaigning for it but the Yankees told him no.  It looks like Ibanez has been talking to them for weeks and Hideki Matsui apparently wants to get back also. 

 Finally, Cashman partially addressed his personal issues, saying the past few weeks have been “difficult” for him. “I can just tell you that it’s not going to affect my job, and I’m going to do my job to the best of my abilities as I always have,” Cashman said.  I didn't think he would really address the personal issues, what is he supposed to say and really what does it matter. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Welcome to Spring Training-Yankees Pitchers and Catchers Report

It is past midnight and that means it is officially spring training.  The Yankees pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Sunday morning.  The other position players will report six days later on Saturday.  Pitchers and catchers are the three words I look forward to all winter.  It hasn't been a bad winter in the New York metropolitan area but still there is something about spring training and the spring that is upon us.  There is something about seeing the plush, green grass, thinking about the sights and sounds of the ball park and the summer ahead.  Happy pitchers and catchers day to all the New York Yankees fans and also the fans of the other nine teams reporting on Sunday and the bunch that reported on Saturday. 

The Yankees will make the A.J. Burnett deal official on Monday or Tuesday and then will quickly sign Raul Ibanez as their lefty hitting DH.  They could also resign Eric Chavez and then they will be ready to go for the 2012 season.  What can you expect from the Yankees??  What are some things to look for?  Let me know your thoughts and opinions on the upcoming season.  I will start having wall to wall coverage here starting tomorrow even though there shouldn't be much going on in Tampa until Monday.  I will have a season preview coming, a look at the different positions and players and a look at some of the young guys in the upcoming weeks.  I want to hear from you, what else do you want to see me cover, let me know what you think is good and what is bad.  I will be working hard all spring and summer long to bring you daily coverage of the New York Yankees first and foremost and also the New York Mets and the rest of baseball. 

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