Saturday, March 3, 2012

The New York Yankees defeat South Florida and some notes

Hare are some notes and then a little recap of the game today against South Florida.  The notes come courtesy of Chad Jennings of the Journal News and Lohud Yankees blog who is down in Tampa, FL.

We already knew Robinson Cano wouldn’t be playing today, but keeping him out of the lineup keeps us from getting a first look at Joe Girardi’s projected middle of the order. I have to think he’s planning to us Cano, Rodriguez, Teixeira — in that order — but it would have been nice to see it.  I don't think there is any doubt of this and you will have to wait until at least Sunday to see it. 

A mild surprise: Raul Ibanez batting ahead of Nick Swisher. The Yankees could flip those two without having two lefties or two righties back-to-back, but based strictly on the lineup posted today, it looks like Ibanez is going to bat ahead of Swisher.

 Rafael Soriano and Dave Robertson threw batting practice today. They pitched to Corban Joseph and Melky Mesa. Otherwise, no big league pitchers are expected to pitch today.

 George Kontos played catch today and gave the session a thumbs up. He’s been saying for several days that his sore oblique felt 100 percent, so I don’t think he was too worried about today’s next step.

 Ivan Nova gets the start in tomorrow’s Grapefruit League opener, but that day will actually start with Phil Hughes throwing a sim game in Tampa. He’ll pitch to Gustavo Molina, facing Colin Curtis and Francisco Cervelli.

 CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda are throwing sides tomorrow.

 Tomorrow’s travel squad:

Pitchers: Ivan Nova, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Cesar Cabral, Juan Cedeno, D.J. Mitchell, Mike O’Connor, David Phelps, Clay Rapada and Chase Whitley
Catchers: Jose Gil, Russell Martin, J.R. Murphy and Gary Sanchez
Infielders: David Adams, Doug Bernier, Eric Chavez, Bill Hall, Corban Joseph, Brandon Laird, Jayson Nix, Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena and Jorge Vazquez
Outfielders: Zoilo Almonte, Chris Dickerson, Brett Gardner, Cole Garner, Curtis Granderson, Raul Ibanez, Justin Maxwell, Melky Mesa, Nick Swisher and Dewayne Wise

Adam Warren got the start and the win today pitching two scoreless innings giving up one hit, no walks and having a pair of strikeouts.  The Yankees used six other pitchers to combine for three hits, no runs, no walks and eight strikeouts. 

The hitting star was minor leaguer Zoile Almonte who had two hits and four RBI.  He, Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez each had a triple.  Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson were the only regulars who got a hit.  Granderson had an RBI single.  Colin Curtis, Pena and Doug Bernier also had two hits in the game. 

The other big news of today was that MLB made the extra playoffs official.  There will be an extra wild card from each league and the two wild cards will meet in a one game playoff.  The higher seed will have the home game.  The winner will advance to the divisional round of the playoffs.  This year only because of scheduling the lower seed will start with the first two games at home followed by a potential three home games for the higher seed.  I like the idea of a premium being put on winning the division and getting an advantage from that.  I don't like the one game playoff though, although it will be good for T.V.  I still overall like the idea though and it will keep more teams in the hunt and give a couple more teams at least a one extra game and to say we were in the playoffs. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

New York Yankees have outing to bond

Today was all about the group outing.  The Yankees got some work in this morning, it was a very light and quick workout so they could get on the bus and head to the comedy club where the Yankees did some improv.  According to all the accounts I have read Mark Teixeira was the star of the show.  They said it was surprising to see since he is so straight edged and business like but the guys really seemed to enjoy it. 

A few notes on tomorrow’s exhibition opener not grapefruit opener though:

Adam Warren gets the start for the Yankees. He’ll be followed out of the bullpen by Brett Marshall, Dan Burawa, Juan Cedeno, Graham Stoneburner, Ryan Pope and Kevin Whelan. Girardi said there are “a few backups” who will be prepared to pitch if necessary.

 Girardi plans to start his regular lineup, but the everyday guys will get only an at-bat or two. The regular infielders (who are also playing in Saturday’s game) will hit only once. The outfielders (who won’t play again until Sunday) will hit twice.

 Robinson Cano is the exception to the rule. He will not play tomorrow or Saturday. Cano missed three days of workouts to attend his great grandmother’s funeral, and Girardi said he won’t play in a game until Sunday.

The Yankees will play the University of South Florida.  They are a team that is 4-4, there isn't much to know and none of these exhibitions count but this one really doesn't.  The grapefruit league games will begin on Saturday afternoon against the Phillies. 

The other big story of the day if you want to call it that was Hal Steinbrenner.  He met with the media and discussed his desire for the first time publicly to be at or under the 189 million luxury tax threshold for 2014.  He stated that is is doable and he is a guy who doesn't want to overspend.  He said he is a finance geek and believes in budgets even for the Yankees.  He said there is no reason that the Yankees can't be great at that number also, he likes to develop through the system especially good young pitchers. 

I am sure the fans are going to react in different ways to this but it isn't much of a surprise.  You can tell pretty much right away when Hal took over that he was more budget cautious and opposite of his father in that way.  I think the Yankees are smart to get under that because it will save them a lot of money and just makes sense. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New York Yankees Wednesday notes/Their final full workout before games

The Yankees went through their final full workout today before the games start.  It was a quiet day.  The Yankees will have a morning workout before boarding the buses and heading to somewhere of Joe Girardi choosing for the team bonding outing.  Here are the notes from Chad Jennings of the Lohud Yankees blog and Journal News.  I as always have my thoughts in here also.

 What a strange day in Yankees camp. The team was going through it’s final full workout before games start, yet all of the conversation — here, and on radio in New York — centered on something that happened more than 10 years ago.  That is Bobby Valentine, he accomplished what he wanted to.  He got everyone talking about what he said and not about chicken and beer. 

The bigger news in baseball came from Ken Rosenthal, who reported today that Major League Baseball is on the verge of finalizing a 10-team playoff format for this season. The collective bargaining agreement called for a second wild card by 2013, but Rosenthal says it will happen immediately.  It isn't official yet but could be by tomorrow.  I think this is a good thing for baseball.  I would of rather had a three game series but at least the division winners are getting an advantage and more teams have a chance.

Mariano Rivera threw 34 pitches in the bullpen today. “He said he felt great,” Joe Girardisaid. Although there’s still no scheduled date for Rivera’s first spring outing, Girardi said he guesses it will happen March 15 or 16.  That sounds about right, Rivera doesn't need much game action to be ready for the season. 

 Russell Branyan has a sore back. He was a long shot to make the team as a left-handed DH anyway, but now he’ll miss some time. “Don’t know how long it will be,” Girardi said. “I think it was tightening and spasms. We’ll have to wait and see.”  That definitely won't help him,it unless something crazy happens. 

 Speaking of back injuries, Girardi said today that he expects Austin Romine to get into some Grapefruit League games, but he didn’t sound overly optimistic that Romine will play a lot this spring. “He’s been doing rehab work on it, and he’ll continue to do it,” Girardi said. “We’re just making sure that area is very stable. We want that to come back very stable and strong before we put him back. Because he had an episode last year, last August. Once he leaves here I don’t want him to have a setback. I don’t want it to come back and that’s what I told him. So we’re going to hit it really hard over spring training to make sure that we nip this.”

 Girardi confirmed that this is the same sort of situation that kept Romine out of some games late last year.

Robinson Cano is still scheduled to be back in the clubhouse tomorrow. He’s been away for his grandmother’s funeral.

Will the regulars play in Thursday’s game against South Florida? “You know, I’ve been going back and forth,” Girardi said. “I think some of them might get one at-bat, some of them might get two at-bats.”  You don't want to play them too much against college kids.  They will play on Saturday against the Phillies. 

 The Yankees will be off the field at 10:45 a.m. tomorrow, an early finish so that the team can catch an 11:15 bus for their bonding event. Girardi still won’t say what exactly they’re doing tomorrow.

 Asked whether any off-the-radar player has jumped out at him this spring, Girardi first came up with an unexpected name: “Burawa, he threw the ball hard the other day,” Girardi said. “You could just see the hitters (reacting), ‘Ooooh’ the first couple pitches they saw. I thought our BPs yesterday were excellent, I was really impressed and their were some young kids in there. Betances has thrown the ball really well. Warren, Phelps, Stonebrunner threw it well. I’ve been really pleased. Really, really pleased.”

The Yankees have been given the green light to use a DH for their NL spring road games at the Phillies, Pirates and Nationals on March 5, 6 and 15.  I always found it amusing when the team wouldn't let another team do this.  They should let the teams do whatever they want, it is only practice.  If one wanted to use the DH and the other not, why not.  The records in spring training are completely meaningless. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New York Yankees Notes as Bobby Valentine jumpstarts the rivalry

Here are the New York Yankees notes from down in Tampa for today.  It is on a day where Bobby Valentine had some things to say about the Yankees igniting the rivalry.  The games are drawing near.  The first exhibition game is on Saturday.  The Yankees will play a college team on Friday in a scrimmage.  Chad Jennings from the Journal News and the Lohud Yankees Blog had some notes.  Here they are with my thoughts.
Curtis Granderson was a legitimate MVP candidate last year. He hit 41 homers and led the league in both RBIs and runs, yet he’s far from the biggest name in the Yankees clubhouse. How does it feel to have a year like that, and still be overshadowed?

“The good thing about this team, I don’t think there’s one guy that has to be the guy,” Granderson said. “If there is, if I’m pointing to him, I’m looking at Cano as that guy. It seems like he’s always the guy coming up with the big hit or big play for the last two seasons that I’ve been here.”  I would agree with that.  Sometimes it is a curse to be a Yankees because of the constant attention but sometimes it is a blessing with so many guys to focus on. 

Robinson Cano seems all but locked into the No. 3 spot in the order, and despite his power last season, Granderson said he still doesn’t consider himself a true middle-of-the-order hitter.  I do understand that and I would assume he will be the two hitter but I could also see him down towards the bottom. 

“I remember being in Little League,” he said. “We had our first game one year, and I remember looking at the lineup. I think I batted first or second. One kid — he was a little bit bigger and just all-around, at the time, better — he batted third. I remember asking someone, how come he’s batting third? Why am I batting first? They said, the best hitter has to bat third. From that day — I was probably 8, 9, 10 years old – I remembered that. It’s not necessarily the guy with the most home runs. It’s your best all-around hitter.”

 Cano’s grandmother’s funeral was today. He’s scheduled to be back with the Yankees, in uniform, on Thursday.

 Speaking of Thursday, the Yankees will have a team outing that afternoon. They’ll have a short workout in the morning, then the team will go to an undisclosed event at an undisclosed location. “We’ve done a real good job of keeping this one hush-hush,” Girardi said.  I always look forward to seeing what it is, as this has become a tradition with Joe Girardi.  We will find out soon enough. 

 Ivan Nova will likely throw one more bullpen before starting Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener. Today he threw batting practice for the second time this spring. “It looks like he has a plan,” Girardi said. “He knows exactly what he wants to do. Sometimes when you’re fighting like he was last year to try to prove himself, that he could pitch at this level — was he going to go with us, was he not going to go with us — I think with the experience that he got last year, I think he understands what it takes. And what he needs to work on. And what his approach is.”  It is hard to do exactly what he did last year but I think he can continue to get better.  He is in the rotation now and doesn't have to worry about earning a job and that should help also. 

Joba Chamberlain said he’s scheduled to throw another 15-20 fastballs off a full mound on Friday. He’s not sure when he’ll be throwing breaking balls, but he’s hopeful it’s not too far in the future.  He has been doing really well but the Yankees have to go slow with him. 

Chamberlain knows that the Yankees don’t expect him back until June, but he’s still hoping to beat that expectation and get back sooner. He has a best-case scenario in mind. “I’m just going to do a Mo,” he said. “I know the answer, but I’m not going to tell you guys. Yeah, I have it in mind. I know the work that I put in. Like I said, three to four months can be realistic. But also on the other hand, it can be realistic on the front side of things. For all the work that I put in, I know there’s more coming up still.”  That was a good line using the MO reference. 

 Speaking of Rivera, here’s David Aardsma when asked whether he’s hoping to take Rivera’s job next season: “Nah, I’m focused on being healthy, and that’s all I’m worried about. Whatever those circumstances are, when we get there we get there. He’s the greatest closer of all time, man. He can ride out on whatever horse he wants to whenever he wants to.”

 Girardi was asked about catching prospect Gary Sanchez, the youngest player in camp: “He’s made some minor adjustments (defensively), and I’ve been pleased with his work ethic. He’s got some thunder in his bat, you can see. He swings the bat with authority. He’s got an outstanding arm. For Gary, he needs to play. This kid needs to play a lot of games so he understands the trade back there.”

 Kyle Higashioka hurt his shoulder during a workout today. “He could be out for a few days,” Girardi said.  He isone of the catchers but overshadowed by Romine, Sanchez, J.R. Murphy. 

 Bill Hall got quite a bit of time at shortstop during drills today. Really, it’s hard to imagine the Yankees are too concerned with his ability to play there, but I guess it’s possible it could come into play if Eduardo Nunez is hurt.  Hall seems to be a backup in case of injury, he will most likely be in AAA if he accepts that. 

As expected, Andy Pettitte did throw batting practice today, but he wasn’t on the main field. Pettitte threw BP in one of the indoor cages. The only hitters I saw him throw to were Jorge Vazquez and Zoilo Almonte.  That is a nice thing, good to see Pettitte back even in a small role. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Yankees Notes on Photo Day as the games draw near

It was a pretty light day around Yankees camp.  It was photo day so not too much going on.  There really wasn't any news and at this point no news is good news.  Andy Pettitte did show up as a special guest instructor for the first time.  He said he will be in town for a few days.  He talked about his life now away from the game.  He said he really is enjoying it and it is crazy with the four kids.  He said he is coaching and probably throwing more now then ever.  He said that if they needed a left handed BP pitcher he could do it.  He also said he would like to do this every year.  The Yankees didn't give him a defined role and he said he is just hanging out.  He said if anyone wants to come up to him and ask him stuff then he will talk to them.  He said otherwise he is enjoying being around the guys again.  Bernie Williams is also scheduled to show up soon but no one knows for sure when.  It is good to see the retired guys coming back.  Once a Yankee always a Yankee.  Here are the days notes courtesy of Chad Jennings of the Journal News. 
Phil Hughes won't make his first spring start until March 6th out of the bullpen.  It is just because they have six starters right now and nothing to look into.  The Yankees have a split doubleheader five days later, so Hughes will be on turn to make a start on Saturday, March 11. Nothing official, but you can bet Sabathia will start at home that day. Hughes will make the road trip to face the Twins.

“(Hughes) is going to pitch just like a starter would,” Joe Girardi said. “And if I have to warm up another reliever in between to get it like it’s a rotation, that’s what I’ll do. It just works out that we have a split-squad coming up, and you can match up the split-squad.”

Counting the days to Opening Day, the current schedule leaves Sabathia lined up to start the opener on one extra day of rest (an extra day that I suppose could come at any point this spring). Hughes is actually lined up to be one regular rest for the fifth game of the season, assuming he pitches some sort of game on the March 5 off day.

  Robinson Cano will be away from camp for a couple of days. His grandmother died yesterday, so Cano has flown home.

 Girardi was on the main field to watch Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances throw batting practice. There’s still no radar gun on these guys, and they’re still knocking off some of the rust. “I actually thought they all threw really well,” Girardi said. “For some of these kids, they’ve thrown a couple times. Betances and Banuelos, very happy with what I saw from them. Very happy with what I saw from Phil and Kuroda as well. Lot of strikes today, which is important.”

Derek Jeter’s take on live batting practice: “I didn’t swing. No, I don’t like it. I get claustrophobic, man. The cage, the screen — everything seems like it’s too close. But it’s always been like that. Everyone seems like they’re throwing 200 mph.”

Jeter took BP against Hughes, so let’s get those headlines ready: Jeter says Hughes throwing 200 mph!

George Kontos has been cleared to resume throwing on Friday. After he plays catch with no problems, the Yankees will schedule a bullpen. Kontos said he feels 100 percent, but the Yankees are obviously giving him some extra time just to be sure.

David Aardsma still hadn’t shown up in the clubhouse by the time it closed to media this afternoon, but he did have a uniform hanging in it. No word of any sort of delay for him, I just haven’t seen him.  Aardsma still wasn't spotted when the clubhouse closed to the media.  We will have to see about that tomorrow to see if there was a problem. 

Still hoping that a bench job will open, Bill Hall worked at third base, second base and the outfield today. He was in the outfield and at third base for popup drills, and he went to second base to take grounders during batting practice. With Cano gone, Eduardo Nunez got some reps at second base today, and I saw Ramiro Pena getting work at both shortstop and third base. Jorge Vazquez also took some grounders at third today.

 Does it make Jeter feel old to have old teammates like Pettitte and Williams in camp as guest instructors? “I feel the same age whether they’re here or not,” Jeter said. “I was always younger than all of them and I’ll always be younger than all of them.”  That is typical Jeter, he is a smart you know what but he has a way about him.  I am sure it is a little strange to him but probably also good to see his old friends come back. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Live Pitching For The First Time/Yankees Notes for Sunday

Here are a few notes from Sunday.  It was the first time that position players faced live pitching but these early batting practice sessions are about seeing as much as swinging. Hitters often take every pitch, working on their timing and pitch recognition as much as anything.  They are behind the pitchers at this point and right now spring training is more for the pitchers.  Chad Jennings has everything covered in Tampa from the Journal News.  The notes are courtesy of him and I add some stuff in there also as usual. 

The first group to take BP this afternoon consisted of every big league outfielder. Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez and Nick Swisher took their hacks against likely Triple-A starter Adam Warren. Gardner had everyone laughing when he said Warren’s fastball looked like it was in the 80s. In reality, for hitters not used to seeing live pitching, it felt much closer to 100.

“I wasn’t throwing too many inside fastballs,” Warren joked.
Last thing a young pitcher wants to do is fling one off the starting center fielder’s head.
“The first time a hitter gets in there, you want them to just to feel comfortable,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s a different look than what they’ve had the last three or four months playing catch or throwing off a mound. They’re not throwing to hitters, so it’s a different look – then there’s the screen in front of them, which a lot of them don’t like. I don’t make too much of it. My biggest concern is that they’re able to throw strikes and that they don’t hit people.”
 Girardi said he’s planning to announce the early spring rotation tomorrow.

Mariano Rivera threw 22 pitches today. Girardi said he also thought this was earlier than usual for Rivera to be on a mound, but he was told that last spring was more of an exception and this is closer to Rivera’s usual routine. Ultimately, he’s not too concerned about the timing. “I’m pretty sure that he knows what he needs to do,” Girardi said. “And when he says he’s ready to go out there, he’s ready to go. I’m not alarmed.”  I don't remember MO ever doing things like this, this early.  At least it has been a long time since he has.  I think this is another sign that he will be retiring at the end of the year but we will see. 

 I realize all the best-shape-of-my-life stories get old, and they quite often mean nothing, but the Yankees really do have a lot of guys in noticeably better shape this spring and it’s hard to ignore that. Mark Teixeira, Phil Hughes and Nick Swisher stand out, but Eduardo Nunez is also noticeably stronger. He’s moving closer to Robinson Cano than Ramiro Pena. Nunez said he put on about 14 pounds of muscle without losing any of his speed. He didn’t play winter ball, and just worked out with Cano instead.
 Notice I said closer to Cano, not close to Cano. To be clear, the Yankees second baseman is still quite a bit bigger than the Yankees utility man.  I do think it is important though to see that so many guys were determined and it could help them into the season and therefore help the team along the way. 

 Apparently there were some sloppy moments with pitchers fielding practice.  “There were a couple throws, making sure guys set their feet,” Girardi said. “…Some guys just don’t throw to the bases as well as they should. That’s why we practice it. It’s a different velocity, a different mindset than they’re used to throwing all the time.”  You practice it now though and get the sloppiness out of the way.  I agree some pitchers just aren't comfortable with it.  It does come up a lot though especially in the postseason.  The Yankees may have lost the 2001 World Series because Mo of all people threw the ball away at second base.  The Tigers had a big problem in the 2006 World Series with pitchers throwing to the bases. 

David Aardsma is expected to report to camp tomorrow. He should be the final arrival for a full house.

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