Day 9, Part 2: Gardner, Jeter, starters and much more
It turned out to be quite an eventful day at George M. Steinbrenner Field, starting with Michael Pineda’s live BP session at 9 a.m. and ending late in the afternoon, after the news that Brett Gardner was on the verge of signing a four-year, $52 million extension with a club option for the 2019 season.
GARDY TIME: You can read all about Gardner’s extension here, but here’s an interesting answer from GM Brian Cashman that didn’t make the story, when a reporter asked about whether this extension — and Jacoby Ellsbury’s seven-year, $153 million deal — represents a new focus on defense for the Bronx Bombers.
“It’s hard to ignore what that combination can bring to the table with their speed and defense and their offensive capabilities. It creates an exciting dynamic,” Cashman said. “If you’re on the offensive side, they’re going to put pressure on the defense and get on base a lot. It’s a good move for us. It’s a move we’re very comfortable making and we’re excited he feels the same way. His character and makeup are really good, really strong.
“He’s made himself into something very special. I know Derek talked about in his press conference about how people doubted him along the way, and he has physical attributes that stand out a lot easier than a littler guy like Brett. The history of where he was, he wasn’t a perennial high school All-American or a No. 1 pick out of high school; this is a guy that had to fight and claw for everything and prove himself every step of the way. He’s continued to do it at the pro ranks and climb the ladder.
“I remember Gary Denbo in the Florida State League was like, ‘This guy is going to play center field for the Yankees one day.’ I also remember hearing scouts outside the organization say, ‘That guy will never play center field in New York.’ To some degree, because of other signings, he hasn’t had a chance to play center as much as he would have, but he’s made himself into a tremendous Major League player, and he’s got a mental toughness that we love. He’s been a great teammate, and we look forward to him performing and being all that he’s been the last few years for us going forward.”
JETER RUNS: You can read more about the Captain in today’s Yankees notebook, which should be up on Yankees.com soon, but the plan is to have Derek Jeter make his final Spring Training debut on Thursday against the Pirates at GMS Field. Jeter ran the bases during Sunday’s drills, and I shot this short Instagram video to prove it. I’m not going to win any awards for cinematography.
TANAKA SIGNS: No, no, not another extension. He’s all set on that front. But Masahiro Tanaka did sign autographs for a large number of fans who lined up from next to the Yankees’ dugout all the way up around the concourse. Here’s a photo of him signing for one young fan.
WAIT AND SEE: There’s an updated version of this morning’s story on Andrew Bailey here. The short version: The Yankees aren’t really expecting much, if anything, out of the former A’s and Red Sox closer this year. If he can pitch, it won’t be until August or September. If he can’t, it wasn’t a huge investment.
STARTERS SET: Manager Joe Girardi named his first four Spring Training starters on Sunday. Vidal Nuno will take the ball for the Yankees’ Spring Training opener against Florida State University on Tuesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Ivan Nova will get the start Wednesday against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla. David Phelps is scheduled to start Thursday’s game against the Pirates at Steinbrenner Field, and Adam Warren will take the mound Friday against the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla.
REPLAY: Girardi took part in a 2 1/2-hour meeting in Clearwater, Fla., on Saturday to discuss the expanded replay system and its rules, joining representatives from the Phillies, Blue Jays and Major League Baseball. There’s a lot more on that meeting, and Girardi’s thoughts on the new system, in today’s notebook, but here’s the manager’s initial take.
“Let me go through it a couple times to see how I feel about it. The thing is, unless you’re really 100 percent sure, you don’t really want to waste it. Some plays are so close and people are going to have opinions on plays that are so close and you really can’t tell,” Girardi said. “It opens [managers] up to more that we’re going to have to answer for. But I think it gives our game the opportunity to have more things decided on the field, which I think is a good thing. It’ll make it more interesting.”