It’s understandable if you might have missed a story or two coming out of Yankees camp last week. There are only so many panels and headline slots on the main Yankees.com page, and the Bombers were providing more than enough to keep the store fully stocked. Here’s a look back at the content we sent out to the ‘net:
- Masahiro Tanaka is getting adjusted to life in Yankees camp. He seems to be the real deal, according to Brian McCann.
- Derek Jeter held a press conference and said that 2014 was the right time to retire. Hal Steinbrenner missed Jeter’s first call. Jeter explained why he used Facebook to make his announcement. The captain was the star of the team’s first workout.
- Mark Teixeira said that he expects to play 150-plus games. Brian Roberts didn’t go quite that far, but he expects to be on the field more than he was with Baltimore. The pinstripes are feeling right so far for Jacoby Ellsbury & Carlos Beltran.
- Entering an uncertain spring, Ichiro Suzuki still thinks he’ll be able to find a niche with this team. Brett Gardner does too. David Phelps would like to figure out a role.
- Hideki Matsui is in camp; so is Jorge Posada. Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera indirectly convinced Hiroki Kuroda to pitch another season.
- CC Sabathia checked out his mechanics over the winter in Birmingham, Ala. Andrew Bailey is coming to town on a Minor League contract.
- Yankees president Randy Levine joined MLB.com for a Q&A. He expects a special season ahead.
- MLB.com’s Barry Bloom dropped by to compare the Yanks’ Joes: Girardi vs. Torre. Anthony Castrovince wondered if we’ll ever get to know the real Jeter. Alfonso Soriano has the flu.
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If you’re just counting from the official date for pitchers and catchers, the first week of camp is in the books for the Yankees, and so here are the photos to prove it. Today’s main attraction took place early in the morning, as Masahiro Tanaka faced live hitters for the first time since he closed out the Japan Series for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles last Nov. 3rd.
There’s plenty of the big stars in today’s gallery of snapshots — and a few that wound up on the cutting room floor, too. Here’s the best ones I gathered. I think we’ve gone a little light on the pitchers so far this spring, photo-wise. Now that we’re getting in the swing of things, that’ll be something to look for in the near future.
As for our stories, I’m be handing the game ball over to MLB.com’s Adam Berry (@adamdberry) for the next few days. Stay tuned to his feed — and, of course to Yankees.com — more updates from camp. Enjoy the weekend!
All photos credit: Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Spring Training is a great time to break out the old camera and play photographer for an hour or so. Here’s an assortment of shots I was able to snap this afternoon while the Yankees held their first full-squad workout of the spring. Today’s photos were only on the main diamond at George M. Steinbrenner Field, but we’ll aim to have more posts like this one periodically between now and Opening Day.
All photographs credit: Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
What happened: Regardless of what you might have heard, read and seen, Derek Jeter wants to make one thing clear — Wednesday’s gathering in the pavilion beyond left field at George M. Steinbrenner Field was not a retirement press conference. We’ll get to that in September or – if he has his way – October.
For now, Jeter has Spring Training to get through and a whole season left to play, but yes, this will be the final Major League season for the Yankees captain.
“I felt as though this was the right time,” Jeter said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time; this will be parts of 20 seasons that I’ve been playing here in New York and parts of 23 if you count the Minor Leagues. I just think I’ve done it long enough and I look forward to doing some other things in my life. But I can’t reiterate enough that we still have a season to play.”
Jeter said that his decision had nothing to do with his ankle or any other part of health; in fact, he told Hal Steinbrenner that this is the best he’s felt — ever. Jeter said that this offseason was the hardest that he’s ever worked, and he expects to be the Yankees’ everyday shortstop.
“It’s all about the time. You can’t do this forever,” Jeter said. “I’d like to, but you can’t do it forever. I feel as though the time is right after this year. There’s other things I want to do.”
“I want to have a family – that’s important to me,” Jeter said. “I have the utmost respect for all these guys that have kids and families. Being away, I have a young nephew, and you miss so many things. I don’t know how you guys do it, really. So I look forward to that. So there are some things I look forward to doing.”
What we learned: Mark Teixeira said this week that he thought Jeter could play until age 44 or 45. Jeter agreed that he probably has more than one year in him, but it’s the time commitment that is keeping him from signing up for that. As he said: “It’s not a sixth-month season, this is 12 months.”
What we learned II: Jeter reached out to Hal Steinbrenner on the evening of Feb. 11 to tell him about his decision, but Steinbrenner let the call go to voice mail. He didn’t hear it until after Jeter texted him the next morning, with the Facebook post locked and loaded to go.
“I didn’t recognize the area code,” Steinbrenner said. “I didn’t check the voicemail until the next day. It said Florida, but it was some crazy area code. My bad.”
What we learned III: Even though the Yankees do not plan to give out any more big league contracts this spring, Steinbrenner has seen the same things you’ve been talking about. It’s kind of odd that the Yankees could spend more than $500 million and have so many questions coming into the season, but Steinbrenner believes the Yankees will be able to handle any issues on the fly.
“There are areas of concerns and we’re going to keep plugging away, but we’ve got to see how big of a concern they are,” Steinbrenner said. “They’re not problems yet because we haven’t even started playing. They’re areas of concern; I get it. Every team has them and every team works through them. We’re going to do the same thing. We got pretty good at it last year, I thought.”
What we learned IV: Here’s a glimpse of what it used to be like behind the scenes in the Yankees clubhouse, during the Joe Torre administration –
“I remember [Jeter] always yelling at Mr. Torre when he wanted to take him out of games,” Joe Girardi said, “and how was he ever going to break Cal [Ripken Jr.]‘s record if he kept pulling him out of games?”
What else: Jeter said that he can’t picture himself coming to Spring Training as a guest instructor. We’ll see about that. Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte seem to have enjoyed it in years past, as well as plenty of Jeter’s other former teammates. … Ichiro Suzuki said that after the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, his reaction was: “Oops!” … Ichiro and Masahiro Tanaka were teammates in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, but Ichiro said that the pitchers and position players tend to run in different circles, so he didn’t get to know him much.
What they said: “I was really shocked, as I think were a lot of people. I didn’t want to believe it. But I was actually shocked that he was doing Facebook. That’s something that I was really shocked about.” – Ichiro Suzuki, on Derek Jeter’s announcement.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) February 19, 2014
What’s next: The first full-squad workout is scheduled for Thursday morning. Players must dress by 9:45 a.m. and should be on the field shortly after.
What happened: The morning started with Masahiro Tanaka throwing a 35-pitch bullpen beyond the right-field wall at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Tanaka impressed manager Joe Girardi with his fluid motion, and catcher John Ryan Murphy said that after hearing so much about the Yankees’ $155 million man, it was a thrill to get behind the plate and see his stuff in real time.
“What surprised me was, the effort level looked minimal and it was coming out really good,” Murphy said. “All the hype, obviously, with him coming over here — it was a neat experience. It was fun.”
Tanaka threw all six of his pitches in the session – two-seamer, four-seamer, splitter, cutter, curveball and changeup. Tanaka said that he is still shaking off the last of his international jet lag, and he hasn’t seen much of Tampa other than the ballpark and the hotel. So what has been the most fun part of being a Yankee so far?
“I think that would be pitching in the bullpen, because I love to throw,” Tanaka said.
And then: Tanaka had left the complex by the time Yu Darvish’s news conference made a ripple in Yankees camp. Speaking in Surprise, Ariz., Darvish made a comment about Tanaka’s seven-year contract that he’d quickly backtrack from.
“I don’t know too much about the new posting system, but I think the Yankees gave him too much,” Darvish said, with a smile and a laugh. “I think [Hiroki] Kuroda, [Hisashi] Iwakuma and I really helped him as far how the scouts and teams evaluated him.”
Darvish’s tone got lost in the quote, which quickly popped onto Twitter and other outlets. Darvish later released this statement via the Rangers’ public relations department: “I am sorry if anyone took my comment seriously about Masahiro Tanaka at the press conference today. I assumed by the reaction in the room that everyone knew I was joking.”
Oh, and then: Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long told the New York Daily News on Sunday that he had been frustrated by his inability to get through to Robinson Cano about those slow jogs to first base.
“If somebody told me I was a dog,’’ Long told the newspaper, “I’d have to fix that. When you choose not to, you leave yourself open to taking heat, and that’s your fault. For whatever reason, Robbie chose not to.’’
Those comments made it to Mariners camp, where Cano essentially said that he didn’t care to talk about it. Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon wasn’t shy, telling ESPN.com: “I’m a little surprised that Kevin Long is the spokesman for the New York Yankees. I wonder if he had any problems with Robbie when he wrote that book ["Cage Rat"] proclaiming himself as the guru of hitting.”
Told of that quote, Brian Cashman laughed. “I would expect Lloyd McClendon to step up for his player. That doesn’t surprise me,” he said.
What we learned: Most people probably assumed it already, but Jacoby Ellsbury got the word from Joe Girardi – Ellsbury is the Yankees’ leadoff hitter and center fielder. Girardi had left a little bit of wiggle room when Ellsbury was officially introduced in the Bronx over the winter.
What we learned II: Kelly Johnson brought three gloves to camp. That’s a good idea — he’s not only the Yankees’ tentative starting third baseman, but also their backup second baseman, backup first baseman, and a reserve left fielder.
What we learned III: Brendan Ryan is big on the Los Angeles Clippers, which puts him in a good frame of mind to know what the fans will be thinking when Ryan is playing instead of Derek Jeter this year. Ryan said that he attended three Clippers games this season where Chris Paul was hurt … so, he gets it.
What else: Girardi said that there have been no discussions about keeping Tanaka from facing American League East teams during Spring Training.
What they said: “I was just catching some sun, to be honest. It’s so early; as long as everybody is free and easy, there’s really not much to tell from the bullpen sessions or batting practice. It was just a chance for me to come out try to turn white into red.” – Cashman, on watching Ivan Nova’s live BP session.
What’s next: Position players report to camp on Wednesday, but the big event of the day will happen in the pavilion at 11:30 a.m. ET, as Jeter discusses his decision to retire. The news conference can be seen on MLB.com, as well as the YES Network, MLB Network and ESPN.
What happened: Well, maybe not the full pinstripes, but close enough. Carlos Beltran stopped by the Minor League complex this afternoon, which is as good a sign as any that the report date for position players is right around the corner. Beltran worked out with Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson and Eduardo Nunez across the way and told reporters that he is excited to begin his first season with the Yankees.
“I feel great, man,” Beltran said. “Since we were able to agree on signing the three-year deal, I’m looking forward to the team. I think we have a real good team. We have a lineup that — hopefully everyone is healthy, that’s the main thing. I believe the lineup we have is a pretty good lineup. On paper, it looks pretty good. We have to get to know each other and find a way to play the game the right way.”
Beltran also said that he’s looking forward to being a part of Derek Jeter’s final season.
“Of course. Being able to play with a guy that’s a Hall of Famer – a first-ballot Hall of Famer – is a great feeling,” Beltran said. “I’m just looking forward to playing with him and hopefully helping this team win a championship. I know he has a lot of championships, but I don’t have [any]. Hopefully I can win one.”
What else happened: Michael Pineda threw a 35-pitch bullpen early this morning, and Joe Girardi said that he thinks Pineda looks a whole lot more fluid than he did two springs ago. There’s a long way to go between now and Opening Day, but if Pineda is anything close to the pitcher he was with the Mariners – and he says he is – then the fifth starter battle could be less of a competition than we thought.
“I’m feeling good. Really good,” Pineda said. “I’m throwing the same. Mechanics the same. Everything is the same. All pitches are the same. I’m the same Michael Pineda.”
There was no radar gun on Pineda, but Girardi said that Pineda was hitting 93 and 94 mph last year in the Minors.
“I thought the ball was coming out easier,” Girardi said. “I know he’s had time to clean up a couple things too, mechanically, in this two-year span. He just looked like it came out free and easy to me; didn’t look like he put a ton of effort into it, or that he was overthrowing it.”
What we learned: It’s a conversation that Derek Jeter probably doesn’t remember, but Brian Roberts will never forget it.
“I think it was maybe 2004,” Roberts said. “I was on second or something and he just said, ‘You can hit .300 in this league.’ That was kind of, to hear it from someone like that, it just kind of opens your eyes. I don’t think it’s just me, I think he does it to everybody, but for some reason when he tells it to you, you think you’re the most important person in the world. He’s just kind of got that personality, and he’s so good with people.”
What we learned II: This shouldn’t be a surprise, but Girardi seems to realize that he can’t count on Roberts to play 150-plus games, since he hasn’t it done it since 2009. Girardi listed Kelly Johnson, Brendan Ryan and Eduardo Nunez as players who will see time at second base this spring, and you can toss Dean Anna into that mix as well.
Mark Teixeira said he plans on playing 150-plus games, and surely that would be wonderful for the Yankees. It’s also quite likely we’ll see Girardi shuffle around playing time at every infield position.
“There’s some age in our infield, as there has been in the past,” Girardi said. “I need to give guys days off and spell them. It’s not the infield that we had in 2009, when you knew who you were going to run out there every day. But we believe that there’s a lot of capable players here that can put up offensive and defensive numbers. When you look at those numbers as a whole, they’re going to be pretty good.”
What else: Beltran was messing around taking ground balls at second base this afternoon. If that gets anywhere close to a game situation, something will have gone horribly wrong. … David Phelps, Adam Warren, Jim Miller, Vidal Nuno and Preston Claiborne pitched live batting practice. … Teixeira took about 90 swings in the cage, including those off the tee, from both sides of the plate. He also fielded ground balls at first base.
What they said: “Of course we have to win. I don’t know how far we will go, but at least we have to do something positive, better than what they did last year, no doubt about that. They went out and spent a lot of money on players to try to improve the ballclub.” – Beltran
What’s next: Another day of workouts for pitchers and catchers. Position players report on Wednesday, with the first full-squad workout set for Thursday.
This morning, Yankees left-hander Matt Thornton discussed his decision to sign with the Yankees. Thornton signed a two-year, $7 million deal with the club over the winter after spending time last year with both the White Sox and the Red Sox. He’ll be sliding into the role of left-handed specialist last filled by Boone Logan, who signed with the Rockies.
On why he signed with the Yankees: “A few things. One, the moves they’d already made, and two, the players they already had here. You know they’re going to be a good team. They have some good opportunities for some of the young guys out there in the bullpen, and then just continued to make moves all offseason. When you have a team of this quality, being a championship contender was probably one of my top two reasons to figure out where I wanted to sign, the other one being my family.”
On the importance of the second guaranteed year: “Absolutely. That came into play. There were some other things that came into play. They were aggressive in the two years and made it clear that they wanted me to be here.”
On his injuries from last year: “I feel really good. I’m starting to feel good at the right time; a lot of work in the offseason. I go to my place in Tempe, Arizona, Fischer Sports & Therapy, and do my physical therapy there, my workouts there. I feel like I’ve got everything ironed out. Other things will probably pop up over the year and that’s just the nature of the beast.”
On how long the oblique injury bothered him: “Until about late November. I felt it. I tried to come back in three weeks and pitch and make myself on the playoff roster, but that didn’t work out either. It kind of completely went away, I’d say mid to late November.”
On being left off Boston’s playoff & World Series rosters: “Disappointing. You work your whole career to be a part of something like that. I understood, I was inconsistent at the time and they felt the other guys were doing a better job. They were nothing but respectful to me in the process. It was a great organization and a good team to play for, but at the same time, probably one of the most disappointing points of my sports career.”
On why he picked the Yankees over other opportunities: “For me personally, they were one of the top teams on my radar. I told my agent, the Yankees are right up there. The teams I gave him were all teams that I expected are going to compete this year, and teams that expect themselves to finish at the end with a win. It was just a process that other teams were kind of dragging their feet on the relief market; ‘Oh, yeah, we want to talk,’ and all that stuff. The Yankees came out and [said], ‘Hey, we want him. Here we go.’ I’m not one of those guys that’s going to sit there and start bouncing around and find as much money or years as possible. I have security and stability and a ball club like this, a first-class organization with the division and the roster the Yankees have, I’m going to jump on that real quick.”
On a Yankees bullpen without Mariano Rivera: “I’m excited for David [Robertson] to have the opportunity and see what he does. I’ve watched David five, six years now and he’s one of the best relievers in the game. I have no doubt he’ll transition into that role just fine. Following up in Mariano’s footsteps is not the easiest thing and you guys won’t make it any easier on him, but you know, Mo, he’s the best ever. He’s the best in the playoffs ever, he’s the best in the regular season, he’s the best there is. He’ll be missed, obviously. He’ll be missed in baseball, not just by the Yankees. But we have to focus on moving up, and guys stepping up and stepping into roles and doing the job.”
What happened: This part of camp is usually dominated by the pitchers and catchers, but today’s highlight came from a position player. Mark Teixeira is on this side early since he’s a rehabbing player, and he was pleased by his on-field batting practice session.
Teixeira took 22 swings from the left side of the plate and 21 from the right side. He also hit off a tee, spraying quite a few line drives around the outfield. There were no home runs, but one ball hit the left-field fence on the fly.
“I actually felt better left-handed today. My swing path felt a lot better left-handed,” Teixeira said. “I was coming around it too much right-handed, but it’s just something that the first couple of weeks of Spring Training, I’ll make sure that bat path is good and your bat speed is good. Good first day, though.”
It was interesting to watch Teixeira and hitting coach Kevin Long analyze each swing, particularly while Teixeira was hitting off a tee. They were really going over mechanics and trying to get everything right at the earliest stage. This was Teixeira’s first time hitting on the field; all of his offseason hitting took place indoors.
“Nice to see the sunshine,” he said. “You can kind of trick yourself with how good you’re doing, because off the bat you can hit line drives and it looks good or it feels good. But if the ball is dying and it’s not traveling at all, then you know that you don’t have that power. Getting on the tee and getting outside and seeing the ball travel, seeing some nice line drives, seeing some nice fly balls – it was good to see that.”
What else happened: There were two bullpen groups, and it’s noteworthy – though not necessarily indicative of anything – that Matt Daley was included with Shawn Kelley, David Robertson and Matt Thornton. Daley is a non-roster invitee, but he was up with the Yankees last year and had good numbers at Triple-A. He figures to get a look for a bullpen spot. The other bullpens were thrown by Manny Banuelos, Cesar Cabral, Brian Gordon, Chris Leroux and Mark Montgomery.
What we learned: Masahiro Tanaka laced up his Asics running shoes this morning and said that yesterday’s four lap-event was more of a miscommunication than anything else. Tanaka hadn’t expected to run a mile after throwing a bullpen, but now he’ll know that’s a possibility next time. As for today’s running?
“Today was short distance. No problem at all,” Tanaka said, with a smile.
What we learned II: After missing all of 2013 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, the smart money is that Banuelos will begin the year at Triple-A, but Girardi doesn’t sound ready to completely rule out the idea of Banuelos breaking camp with the team.
“This is a guy who hasn’t pitched a lot in the last couple years, and he’ll probably have some limitations on how many games you can throw him, and that will have to be evaluated,” Girardi said. “But we’re going to look at every arm in camp, and try to put the 12 best together, and we’ll try to go from there. That doesn’t just limit him to being a starter. Who knows? He could be in the bullpen.”
What else: When Girardi writes out the lineups in his head, they always include Derek Jeter and Teixeira.
“They’re back, in my mind,” Girardi said. “But I think you have to get them in games to see exactly where they’re at, to be fair to them, and probably to alleviate any doubt that you might have. But in my mind, going into this year, with the surgeries they’ve had and the winters they’ve had, I’m expecting them to be players for us.”
Just one more thing: Catcher Pete O’Brien puts on a show in batting practice. Standing 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, he’s got a big right-handed bat and hit 22 homers last year for Class-A Charleston and Tampa.
What they said: “I hope to play five more really productive years. I feel healthy, I’m in good shape. If the wrist is healthy, there’s no reason why I can’t be there for a long time. As long as someone will put me in the middle of a lineup, and at first base every day, I’ll keep playing.” – Teixeira
What’s next: Same time, same place tomorrow. Expect to see the guys on the field shortly after 10:15 a.m. ET. Position players report on Wednesday, with the first full-squad workout set for Thursday.
By popular request, here is the list of this year’s Yankees guest instructors for the spring:
Billy Connors (36)
Goose Gossage (54)
Ron Guidry (49)
Reggie Jackson (44)
Hideki Matsui (55)
Lee Mazzilli (24)
Stump Merrill (22)
Jorge Posada (20)
Willie Randolph (30)
David Wells (33)
Mark Teixeira has arrived at Yankees camp. The first baseman discussed his recovery from right wrist surgery and expectations for the season this morning. Here’s a partial transcript:
On making it to camp: “I feel good. I’m excited about being here. No setbacks the entire offseason, the summer into the offseason, which is good. My surgeon was very happy and [head athletic trainer] Steve [Donohue] is happy. So I’m happy.”
On if the wrist feels as expected: “Yeah. The only thing is, I’ll just take it a little bit slow. I’m going to be taking normal batting practice, normal everything. It’s just, instead of 150 swings a day, it’s closer to 100 right now. Instead of seven days straight, it might be three days with a day off, or four days with a day off. That’s just being smart about it and not going from 60 miles an hour to 100 miles an hour the first day.”
On if his offseason was affected: “Not too much. I actually got to lift more, which was good. I feel like I’ve put on a couple of pounds of muscle, which is nice for me. My offseason started July 1st, and with the rehab and extra time, concentrating on my body and not worrying about resting, I got plenty of rest which was good. The first month or two of the offseason is just resting from a long season. I didn’t have that this year so I was able to work a little bit more.”
On if Teixeira expects to play a majority of the games: “I absolutely plan on playing 150-plus games this year. That’s my goal. Every now and then I’ll have a day off, of course. That’s just natural. You get beat up a little bit during the season, but I expect to have a healthy, productive season.”
On being an anchor of the lineup: “Yeah, I think the great thing is, look at our lineup. We’re back to being the Yankees again. Last year, we weren’t the Yankees. We had so many injuries and we had so many guys that should have been in there to be lots of anchors. That’s back. There’s not one guy that has to carry this team, but absolutely I expect to hit in the middle of the order, hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs. That’s going to take pressure off everybody and help us win games.”
On the offseason: “We had a great offseason. It was fun to watch. I was texting Cash [GM Brian Cashman] every two weeks, telling him congrats on another signing and a great offseason. I basically told him, you did your job, now it’s time for us to do ours. No excuses this year, we have a team that can compete for a world championship.”
On his plan: “We’ve kind of mapped out my whole spring. I’m going to get my 50-plus at-bats in Spring Training. I’m going to get as many swings as I need. It’ll be a little slow the first couple of weeks just to make sure I’m easing into things, but we’re here for six weeks. It’s not like you have a week to get ready for the season. We’re here for six weeks. It’s just a matter of keeping to the schedule.”
On resuming swinging: “I started swinging the first of January, which is when I normally swing. It was 20 swings from each side. Every week it was building up five or 10 swings. Now I’m to the point where I’m swinging about 45, 50 from each side, which is a little bit less than normal. But plenty of swings.”
On the wrist’s stiffness: “You can definitely tell I had surgery, but I had ankle surgery 13 years ago and I can tell I had ankle surgery after 13 years. It’s just something that I’m going to have to make sure that I loosen up and do all the proper rehab and strengthening exercises during the season to make sure that it’s not an issue.”
On if Teixeira still has any doubts: “Of course. I’d be lying if there wasn’t. I said it this winter, everyone can go out after major surgery and go, ‘I’m fine, I’m going to be good as ever,’ but you don’t really know that until you go out there. For me, it’s just kind of two steps: make sure I’m healthy and that means taking full swings at a 95 mph fastball in a Spring Training game. And we have six weeks to figure that out. If that’s the case and I’m healthy and I can do that for a week straight, then it’s all about production. You don’t worry about the injury anymore. Until I have those first couple of games, live Spring Training games, you don’t know exactly how it’s going to respond.”