Photos from Florida: Thursday edition

If you’ve been following along on this blog (or Twitter/Instagram) for the last few seasons, you know that I always pack my digital camera for Spring Training. I’m not a professional by any means, but I enjoy it. Shooting is a fun side project to work on alongside the thousands of words of copy that you can access every day on yankees.com.

With today marking the first official workout for Yankees pitchers and catchers, it’s a good time to share some of what got captured on the memory card this afternoon. I’ve also added some favorite shots from what I’ve been collecting over the previous days of camp, so hopefully you’ll enjoy those too…

Alex Rodriguez issues apology, open letter to fans

Alex Rodriguez issued a handwritten apology and open letter to fans on Tuesday. Below is the typed out statement:

To the Fans,

I take full responsibility for the mistakes that led to my suspension for the 2014 season. I regret that my actions made the situation worse than it needed to be. To Major League Baseball, the Yankees, the Steinbrenner family, the Players Association and you, the fans, I can only say I’m sorry.

I accept the fact that many of you will not believe my apology or anything that I say at this point. I understand why and that’s on me. It was gracious of the Yankees to offer
me the use of Yankee Stadium for this apology but I decided the next time I am in Yankee Stadium, I should be in pinstripes doing my job.

I served the longest suspension in the history of the League for PED use. The Commissioner has said the matter is over. The Players Association has said the same. The Yankees have said the next step is to play baseball.

I’m ready to put this chapter behind me and play some ball.

This game has been my single biggest passion since I was a teenager. When I go to Spring training, I will do everything I can to be the best player and teammate possible, earn a spot on the Yankees and help us win.

Sincerely,

Alex

Alex Rodriguez apologizes in meeting with Yankees

As they prepare for Spring Training, Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees had their meeting this afternoon at Yankee Stadium, and according to the team, Rodriguez apologized to the organization for his actions over the last several years. Here is the press release with some details:

FEBRUARY 10, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JOINT STATEMENT FROM:

Hal Steinbrenner, New York Yankees Managing General Partner / Co-Chairperson

Randy Levine, New York Yankees President

Brian Cashman, New York Yankees Senior Vice President, General Manager

Jean Afterman, New York Yankees Senior Vice President, Assistant General Manager

Alex Rodriguez

Jim Sharp, Legal Counsel to Alex Rodriguez

“Today we held a meeting at Yankee Stadium between Hal Steinbrenner, Randy Levine, Brian Cashman, Jean Afterman, Alex Rodriguez and Jim Sharp. Alex initiated the meeting and apologized to the organization for his actions over the past several years.

“There was an honest and frank discussion on all of the issues. As far as the Yankees are concerned, the next step is to play baseball in spring training.”

Yankees announce Minor League signings, spring invitations

We’re getting close now. The Yankees have officially announced a few Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training, as well as a few hot prospects who will get a look in camp. Here’s the official news release: 

YANKEES SIGN SIX PLAYERS TO MINOR LEAGUE CONTRACTS WITH INVITATIONS TO MAJOR LEAGUE SPRING TRAINING; INVITE A TOTAL OF 26 ADDITIONAL PLAYERS TO 2015 SPRING TRAINING

The New York Yankees today announced that they have signed six players to minor league contracts with an invitation to Major League Spring Training: RHP Scott Baker, INF Cole Figueroa, INF Jonathan Galvez, C Juan Graterol, INF Nick Noonan, and C Eddy Rodriguez.  The club has also invited 20 additional players to 2015 spring training, bringing the total number of invitees to 26 (11 pitchers, five catchers, seven infielders and three outfielders).  The number of players now scheduled to report is 66.

Baker, 33, owns a 66-52 record with a 4.25 ERA (1,053.2IP, 497ER) in 191 games (170 starts) in nine seasons at the Major League level with Minnesota (2005-11), Chicago-NL (2013) and Texas (2014).  He spent the majority of the 2014 season with Texas, going 3-4 with a 5.47 ERA (80.2IP, 49ER) and 55K in 25 games (eight starts).  He also spent time with Triple-A Round Rock, going 4-1 with a 3.32 ERA (38.0IP, 14ER) in six starts. Baker was born in Shreveport, La., and was drafted by the Twins in the second round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft out of Oklahoma State University.

Figueroa, 27, made his Major League debut with Tampa Bay in 2014, batting .233 (10-for-43) with 6RBI in 23 games.  He also played in 71 games with Triple-A Durham, where he hit .282 (74-for-262) with 3HR and 33RBI.  In 674 career minor league games, he has batted .290 (707-for-2,439) with 26HR and 325RBI. The left-handed batter was born in Tallahassee, Fla., and was selected by the Padres in the sixth round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Florida.

Noonan, 25, appeared in 62 career Major League games with San Francisco (all in 2013), batting .219 (23-for-105) with 12R, 2 doubles and 5RBI.  In 793 games over eight minor league seasons, he has hit .262 (787-for-3,008) with 149 doubles, 40HR and 351RBI.  In 2014, he appeared with Single-A San Jose and Triple-A Fresno, combining to bat .234 (93-for-398) with 4HR and 26RBI in 108 games.  Born in Poway, Calif., Noonan was originally selected by the Giants in Compensation Round A of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft (32nd overall).

RHP Andrew Bailey was signed by the Yankees to a minor league contract on March 7, 2014, but spent the season recovering from right shoulder surgery, which was performed on July 24, 2013.  In 206 career Major League relief appearances with Oakland (2009-11) and Boston (2012-13), he has gone 11-12 with 89 saves, a 2.64 ERA (218.0IP, 64ER) and 227K.  Bailey was born in Voorhees, N.J. and graduated from Wagner College (N.Y.).  He was selected by the Athletics in the sixth round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

RHP Luis Severino earned an invitation after combining to go 6-5 with a 2.46 ERA (113.1IP, 31ER) and 127K in 24 starts with Single-A Charleston, Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton in 2014.  Following the season, during which he led all Yankees minor league pitchers in strikeouts, he was named the Yankees’ top prospect by Baseball America.  In 48 career minor league appearances (46 starts), he has gone 14-9 with a 2.23 ERA (221.2IP, 55ER) and 225K.  A native of Sabana de la Mar, D.R., Severino was originally signed by the Yankees as a minor league free agent on July 20, 2012.

Of the Yankees’ 26 non-roster invitees, 14 were originally drafted by the Yankees, including the Yankees second round pick in 2014, LHP Jacob Lindgren.  Lindgren made his professional debut after being drafted, combining to go 2-1 with one save, a 2.16 ERA (25.0IP, 6ER) and 48K in 19 relief appearances with the GCL Yankees, Single-A Charleston, Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton.  Following the season, he was tabbed by Baseball America as the Yankees’ eighth-best prospect.  A native of Mississippi, Lindgren played three seasons for Mississippi State, going 12-6 with a 2.64 ERA (139.2IP, 41ER) and 189K.

Also invited are four players who were selected by the Yankees in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft: OF Aaron Judge (first round, 32nd overall), RHP Nick Rumbelow (seventh), LHP Tyler Webb (10th) and C Trent Garrison (28th).  In 2014, Judge made his professional debut, combining at Single-A Charleston and Single-A Tampa to hit .308 (144-for-467) with 24 doubles, 17HR and 78RBI in 131 games, leading all Yankees minor leaguers in RBI, while ranking fifth in home runs and sixth in batting average.  Following the season, he was ranked by Baseball America as the second-best prospect in the Yankees organization.

The Yankees remaining draft picks attending spring training as non-roster invitees are selections from 2012: INF Rob Refsnyder (fifth round), RHP Nick Goody (sixth), LHP James Pazos (13th); 2011: INF Greg Bird (fifth round) and OF Jake Cave (sixth) and 2010: INF Cito Culver (first round, 32nd overall) and INF Kyle Roller (eighth).  Rounding out the Yankees draft picks in attendance are OF Slade Heathcott (first round, 29th overall in 2009) and C Kyle Higashioka (seventh round in 2008).  Bird, a native of Cordova, Tenn., combined at Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton to bat .271 (100-for-369) with 14HR and 43RBI in 102 games.  Following the season, he played for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League and hit .313 (31-for-99) with 21R, 6HR and 21RBI in 26 games en route to being named the 2014 Joe Black MVP after ranking among league leaders in runs (first), home runs (tied for first), RBI (second) and batting average (sixth). The left-handed batter enters the 2015 season tabbed by Baseball America as the fourth-best prospect in the Yankees organization. Refsnyder, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, combined with Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to bat .318 (164-for-515) with 82R, 14HR and 63RBI in 137 games in 2014, ranking third among Yankees minor leaguers in batting average.  He attended the University of Arizona and finished the season ranked as the Yankees’ seventh-best prospect by Baseball America.

Rounding out the Yankees’ invitees are C Francisco Arcia, RHP Vicente Campos, RHP Diego Moreno and RHP Wilking Rodriguez.

Winter reset: Projecting the Yankees’ Opening Day roster

The countdown to the Feb. 20 official report date for pitchers and catchers is on, and this is as good as time as any to hit the reset button and look ahead. Over the last several weeks, the Yankees have been busy assembling a roster that promises to be younger and more versatile than last year’s 84-win club.

Beginning with the relatively minor Nov. 12 deal with the Pirates, which swapped left-hander Justin Wilson for catcher Francisco Cervelli, general manager Brian Cashman has triggered six trades and pulled two major free agents off the board in Andrew Miller (four years, $36 million) and Chase Headley (four years, $52 million). It seems like just yesterday that Cashman was standing on the curb of a San Diego hotel, explaining why the Yanks were leaving the Winter Meetings empty-handed.

This week, they’ve also moved close to an agreement with infielder Stephen Drew; that deal is done, pending a physical, and will be worth $5 million plus incentives for the 2015 season.

Drew slots as the Yanks’ starting second baseman, forming a combination up the middle with Didi Gregorius. So much for that spring battle between youngsters Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela, though it would serve them both well to come into Spring Training and play well. Depth could be important at both infield positions.

A lot can happen between now and April 6, something the Yankees know all too well, particularly in the starting rotation. Barring something wild like a push to bring in Max Scherzer, here is an early guess at how the Yankees’ 25-man roster could look on Opening Day:

Masahiro TanakaRotation (5): Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Capuano

No real surprises here, assuming they can all get through the spring without health issues. They’ll have to hold their breath on every Tanaka splitter for a while. Adam Warren is set to come into Spring Training as a starter and could also be considered here. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild floated the idea of a six-man rotation last year and it will be interesting to see if the Yanks kick that around, but for now, these are five solid choices they can go forward with. It’s important to note that Ivan Nova is expected to return from Tommy John surgery in May or June.

Bullpen (7): Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, David Carpenter, Adam Warren, Justin Wilson, Esmil Rogers, Chasen Shreve.

The Yanks believe their closer is already on this roster, so Joe Girardi can have some fun in the spring deciding between Betances and Miller. They could even go with co-closers based upon situations if they wanted, but my best guess right now is that Betances will close and Miller sticks in the setup role. Carpenter slides into Shawn Kelley’s old role and would handle the 6th or 7th innings. Rogers is a solid swingman option, while Wilson and Shreve would give the Yanks extra lefties in the pen.

Spring Training is a great time to evaluate bullpen arms, and the Yanks will have plenty of other names to look at. Shreve’s spot is probably the least secure of anyone on that list, and so a brief list of options who could fit here if they don’t begin the year in the Minors include (in no particular order) — Chase Whitley, Dan Burawa, Branden Pinder, Bryan Mitchell, Jose Ramirez, Jacob Lindgren, Nick Rumbelow and Gonzalez Germen. Andrew Bailey was also re-signed to a Minor League deal and is trying to regain his old form. 

Catchers (2): Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy.

Murphy will have to hold off Austin Romine for the backup role; Romine is out of Minor League options and the Yanks would lose him if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, but Murphy has seemed to leapfrog Romine in the organization’s view over the last year or so. Top prospect Gary Sanchez is slated to begin the year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and could make his big league debut this year.

Mark Teixeira, Tony RandazzoInfielders (7): Mark Teixeira, Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Brendan Ryan, Garrett Jones, Alex Rodriguez.

The starting infield seems set, with Teixeira, Drew, Gregorius and Headley going around the horn. In particular, the Yanks expect that Teixeira will be stronger and more productive as he is further removed from surgery. Drew should fit at second base but gives the Yanks an option at shortstop if Gregorius flounders.

Ryan would be the 25th man on the roster. He provides a backup pretty much everywhere, assuming the Yanks keep him and intend to have Refsnyder and Pirela start the year in Triple-A (their 40-man roster is full and Drew hasn’t yet been added). 

Jones would be Teixeira’s backup at first base, has played some right field and could serve as the DH against right-handed pitching. They love the idea of showcasing his big left-handed power in Yankee Stadium. It’s anyone’s guess what the Yankees will have in A-Rod; they’re going in thinking that any production would be a bonus. At the absolute minimum, you’d hope that Rodriguez can be an effective DH against left-handed pitching (the Yanks think his ’13 struggles vs. lefties were a small-sample size aberration), but it’s not impossible to envision Rodriguez being moderately productive as a full-time DH and even playing a little third base.

Jacoby EllsburyOutfielders (4): Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Chris Young.

The outfield is pretty locked in from left to right, assuming that Beltran’s elbow is healed and he can be more like the player he was in 2013 with the Cardinals. If he’s unable to play right field regularly, it will create major headaches with the DH spot. Young is capable of playing all three outfield spots and, as Ichiro Suzuki discovered over the last two seasons, there can be plenty of at-bats to be found in a role like that — even if it doesn’t appear that way early in the spring.

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