Here is the lineup for today’s Yankees Grapefruit League game against the Braves at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the first of 35 games this spring for the Bombers. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.; there is no TV or radio for this game.
Eduardo Nunez SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Juan Rivera DH
Matt Diaz LF
Francisco Cervelli C
Melky Mesa CF
Zoilo Almonte RF
Corban Joseph 3B
David Phelps RHP
Andrelton Simmons SS
Reed Johnson LF
Freddie Freeman 1B
Dan Uggla 2B
Evan Gattis DH
Chris Johnson 1B
Todd Cunningham RF
Christian Bethancourt C
Jordan Schafer CF
Paul Maholm LHP
Additional Yankees pitchers making the trip: Juan Cedeno, Preston Claiborne, Brett Marshall, Mike O’Brien, Kelvin Perez, Branden Pinder, Ryan Pope, Josh Spence, Nik Turley, Chase Whitley.
Umpires: Home plate Greg Gibson, bases Lance Barksdale & Jeff Nelson.
One other note to pass along from today’s early session back in Tampa: right-hander Nick Goody walked into the clubhouse on crutches. He has a sprained right ankle.
Jorge Posada hasn’t yet arrived in camp for his duties as one of the Yankees’ guest instructors, but we must be getting close, because the five-time World Series champion is starting to talk a little ball.
Posada was a guest on Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio this morning with hosts Jim Memelo and Jeff Nelson. He shared his thoughts on several topics around the 2013 Yankees, including Posada’s prediction that Mariano Rivera will be able to return to the same dominant level for this team.
On Mariano Rivera: “Mariano is going to be 100 percent. Mariano is a freak of nature. One of those things about Mariano, he has great control, that cutter will not go away. I expect Mariano to be the old Mariano.”
On Derek Jeter: “He said it perfectly the other day, he’s going to be sore all over because he hasn’t been able to train like he wanted to, but he’s going to push himself to be ready for Opening Day. I know him, he’s going to probably be doing two-a-days and working really hard off the field to get back to 100 percent when it comes to Opening Day.”
On the Yankees’ catching competition: ”Obviously whoever has the best spring is going to start. That probably changes throughout the year. We’ve got three young catchers and we’re going to hopefully look forward to seeing them compete. This is what baseball is all about. You don’t get the job, you earn the job. I think it’s going to be good.”
On scouting reports for Cervelli and Romine: “Cervelli, very energetic, very athletic, very quick behind the plate. He has a good arm. He’s a lot more mature now so I think it’s perfect timing for him right now. Romine, obviously a little younger, smart kid behind the plate. We like him very much but they don’t want to rush him, so we’ll see. He’s got a shot too. We’ll see what happens in the spring.”
On Kevin Youkilis: “It’s going to be fun. I think it’s going to be great. The guy plays hard, that’s another guy that wants to prove himself. He had a tough year last year and I bet he worked really hard during the offseason to be a Yankee and be a part of this team.”
The Yankees have not officially announced who will be starting their first exhibition games when Grapefruit League play kicks off on Saturday, but David Phelps looks like he’s a safe bet to see some early action.
Phelps was among the group of pitchers pitching simulated games on the mound at George M. Steinbrenner Field this morning, working without the protective L-screen in the way. He had an unexpected test to his reflexes, as Ronnier Mustelier laced one of Phelps’ pitches right back up the middle.
“I heard it. I didn’t see it,” Phelps said. “Robbie [Cano] probably would have had it.”
No shame in that. Phelps had a good scouting report to offer about Mustelier: “He’s a good hitter. He can swing it.”
Phelps threw the equivalent of two innings; 35 to 40 pitches. Adam Warren, Brett Marshall and Nik Turley were also on the mound this morning, pitching to Mustelier, Cito Culver and Corban Joseph.
Pitchers working live batting practice this morning include: Dave Robertson, Jim Miller, Nick Goody, Dellin Betances and Juan Cedeno.
Players will hit the field for stretch at 11 a.m., with defensive drills and batting practice groups to follow.
By my count, there were more than a half-dozen occasions during Robinson Cano’s chat with the media this afternoon in which he referenced a desire to win a World Series championship or to hoist the World Series trophy.
It’s safe to say, then, that the instructions in Cano’s playbook as he enters into a huge free agency year say he should just block out all of that noise and focus on what he can control in 2013. It’s not a bad strategy, and he’s certainly not the first to try it.
“I’m going to be honest with you guys; I’m just focused right now on the season,” Cano said. “Just prepare myself, get ready for the season and help the team win another championship. I’m not thinking about anything. Those kind of things, I’ll just let my agent, Scott [Boras], handle it. I’ll just have fun in the clubhouse and get ready to help the team win another championship.”
We’ve already heard from Hal Steinbrenner that the Yankees had a couple of conversations with Boras about locking Cano up to a long-term extension, but there haven’t been much rumblings on the topic since. The general expectation is that, as long as Cano wraps up 2013 healthy, he’s primed to cash in big time: early estimates peg the Boras camp as searching in the ballpark of an eight to 10 year deal worth around $25 million per season.
It’s going to take a big chunk of change to keep Cano in pinstripes, but the Yankees could dig deep and get it done. The question is, with the $189 million payroll objective looming on the horizon, what would they have left to spend on the other pieces of the club? Cano made his stance pretty clear — as far as he’s concerned, he’d rather think about that down the road.
“I’m not worried about anything right now, like I said,” Cano said. “I still have one year and just got to go out there and just perform. I’ve got another year and my focus now is to help the team, be with my teammates and have fun. At the end of the season, just end it up with the [World Series] trophy.”
- Derek Jeter took ground balls and hit on the field during today’s workout, the first time that he has taken batting practice on the diamond. Jeter did not run the bases and the Yankees have permitted him to skip on-field running and stretching for now. He said that his ankle is holding up fine, but the rest of his body is feeling pretty sore. As he said, it’ll take some time to get in baseball shape, and he’s about two weeks behind where he’d usually be.
- Ichiro Suzuki has a wonderful sense of humor that translates in any language. His first comment right out of the box this spring, asked about his impressions from the first day of camp: “Derek Jeter was not the eater that the media portrayed him to be. It was good to see him that way.” Apparently, Ichiro has the New York Post delivered in Japan during the winter.
- Speaking of Jeter, someone asked him to clear up exactly what he meant by saying he rode around on a scooter this winter. To be honest, I pictured Jeter puttering around his Florida mansion on one of those electric-charged vehicles, but Jeter said that wasn’t the case: “No, man. You put your leg on it, your knee on it, and you roll it with your other leg. It’s not a motorized scooter. I’m not handicapped. It’s just easier than crutches.”
- Jeter tried to bait the media into buying the idea that if everything goes well tomorrow in camp, he could be cleared to play in the World Baseball Classic. No dice, though he did urge the reporters crowded around his locker to ask Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman, just to see what they’d say.
- Pitching prospect Mark Montgomery is sidelined with back spasms, marking the second injury update of camp. Montgomery is one of the club’s touted relievers and there has been speculation he could help the big league club this year. He had to be scratched from a bullpen session yesterday.
- Girardi was asked a few different ways about his early thoughts for the lineup, specifically the spots for Cano and Ichiro, but he said that he doesn’t want to get into it this early because he hasn’t talked to the players involved. Girardi said that he’d like to see where the team is around March 25 before he starts seriously putting anything in ink.
- Finally, one last thing — a few days ago, I saw Girardi pointing to the ceiling outside the workout room. A pair of dangling gymnastic rings materialized in the next few hours, and that’s not something you usually see in the basement of a stadium. Girardi said that they’re actually for his own Crossfit workout. That’s intense. I won’t name names, but a few reporters tried to see if they could pull themselves up and push their body above the rings, the way Girardi said he does. Care to guess how that turned out?
It felt like Penn Station at rush hour in the clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field this morning, as the group of 84 83 players in camp collided with the much-larger-than-usual media group assigned to chronicle the first full squad workout for the 2013 Yankees.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi cleared the room at 9:40 a.m. to take the stage for his introductory speech to the players, and Girardi said that he would probably stick to a basic script as he addressed the roster.
“The message is, let’s get better,” Girardi said. “I mean, that’s the bottom line. Let’s get prepared and let’s get better. That’s what we’re here for.”
With all of the pitchers and position players in camp, and exhibition games quickly approaching, the facility will be busy today. Hiroki Kuroda threw a bullpen this morning, and the main event will be the eight hitting groups will be rotating through the batting cage on the main field. I’m most interested to watch infield Group 1, comprised of Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Travis Hafner and Eduardo Nunez.
Jeter has been hitting in the batting cages across the street at the Minor League complex for a while, but he hasn’t taken many – if any – swings on the field this spring. Today also might be Jeter’s first attempt to run on grass or dirt, advancing from the treadmill, so that bears watching, as does any defensive work he might do.
Later in the day, Robinson Cano and Ichiro Suzuki will also take turns handling the media in the tent outside the stadium, so we should have more updates to share then.
It was about this time two years that Mark Teixeira arrived in camp and, with a straight face, said that he viewed the Yankees as underdogs. The Red Sox were stealing all of the headlines then, trumpeting the big signings of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford (hey, those didn’t work out so well!), and Teixeira thought people were sleeping on the Yanks too much.
Fast forward to today, and suddenly we’re right back in the same conversation. The Yankees didn’t make much noise this past winter and the Blue Jays seem to be the new media darlings, so Teixeira wonders where the fanfare has been for the boys in the Bronx.
“I’m so excited. I really feel good about our team this year,” Teixeira said. “It’s actually fun when everyone else counts you out because it kind of makes guys want it a little bit more. Every year we want it, but this year especially, it’s going to be even more of a challenge. I think that’s going to make it more exciting as the year goes on.”
Teixeira acknowledges that the Yankees are going to have to shuffle the formula a little bit this year, losing power from guys like Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, Russell Martin and Eric Chavez. Then again, as the Yanks anticipate getting full seasons from Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, Teixeira said he thinks the lineup will be much more effective stealing bases and executing hit-and-runs.
That could come in handy in an American League East that, no matter whom you want to pick as the favorite, absolutely no one views as a soft place to play.
“All you hear about is the Blue Jays. That’s good,” Teixeira said. “They had a heck of an offseason and it’s a very good team. We have five quality teams in our division. It used to be that you had to worry about maybe one or two teams and you hoped to win two out of three or sweep the bottom teams. That’s not going to happen this year. Every single game in our division is going to be tough.”
- Lots of live batting practice on the field this morning at George M. Steinbrenner Field as camp continues to move toward game action. Here’s the full list of pitchers who took the mound: Ivan Nova, Joba Chamberlain, Cody Eppley, Bryan Mitchell; Matt Daley, Chase Whitley; Mark Montgomery, Preston Claiborne; Francisco Rondon, Josh Spence; Mike O’Brien, Shane Greene; Corey Black, Kelvin Perez.
- The Yankees had to summon some of their Minor League hitters to work all of those at-bats. Those taking swings were: Slade Heathcott, Luke Murton, Cito Culver, Greg Bird, Kyle Roller, Tyler Austin and Ronnier Mustelier.
- Joe Girardi said that he did not hear anyone had problems with their physicals this morning. The first full squad workout for the Yankees is tomorrow morning.
- The Yankees have their first injury of camp, as infield prospect David Adams will miss a couple of weeks while he deals with a back injury. You may remember Adams as the player that came between the Yankees and the Mariners in the Cliff Lee talks back in July 2010; Adams was said to have a high ankle sprain that the Mariners believed (and was later confirmed) to be an ankle fracture.
- The Yankees may have found a designated hitter against left-handed pitching, at least for early in the season: Derek Jeter. Girardi said that he’d “absolutely” consider giving the captain DH days against southpaws to help rest his ankle, so Eduardo Nunez might want to use this spring to gobble up a few extra reps at shortstop. Travis Hafner will DH against right-handed pitching.
- Speaking of Hafner, it’s part of the notebook on yankees.com, but worth passing along again here. He hasn’t played the field since 2007 with the Indians because of an arthritic throwing elbow, and I asked if he even brings a glove to camp. Hafner said that he gets a shipment of two first basemen’s gloves but usually winds up giving them away. He’s strictly a DH for the Yankees’ purposes, so all he really needs is his bats.
Yankees captain Derek Jeter met the media outside George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday and that he plans to be playing shortstop when the team opens the season on April 1 against the Red Sox in New York.
Jeter said that his surgically repaired left ankle will keep him out of the Yankees’ early exhibition games, but doesn’t believe that he will need all of Spring Training to get into baseball shape. He also revealed that his ankle now contains plates and screws, which he’ll keep, and said that he’s ready to move forward with his running program.
“I broke my ankle in October; it’s been quite some time,” Jeter said. “I’m right where I’m supposed to be. Up until this point, the ankle has healed perfectly, now it’s just a matter of getting everything else in shape.
“You’ve got to wait for the bone to heal before you can do other activities that are even before baseball activities. Now it’s just progressing up until that point. I’m going to have to push myself, but Opening Day has been the goal all along.”
Jeter said that he spent five to six weeks on the couch after shattering his ankle and even had to use a scooter to get around for part of the winter. He acknowledged that he probably shouldn’t have been playing on the ankle, which had a bone bruise that got worse and worse. Jeter said that he expects to get back to being the same player again, even as he heads into a season that will see him turn 39 in June.
“As much as I’d like to be getting younger, I’m not,” Jeter said. “Everybody’s getting older. There’s always going to be questions; there always has been questions. I don’t mind that. But it’s not like I go out saying, ‘I’ve got to prove something.’ I just want to continue to improve. That’s just the approach I’ve always taken.”
CC Sabathia admitted to experiencing some jitters as he entered the bullpen at George M. Steinbrenner Field this morning, with the ace preparing to pitch off a mound for the first time since having surgery on his pitching elbow in October.
Mariano Rivera – in what should be a surprise to no one – felt no such nerves as he worked off the hill, firing about 30 pitches as the Yankees closer continues to hit every checkpoint in his return from last year’s knee injury.
“There’s no peace of mind where I say, ‘OK, I feel good now,’” Rivera said. “No. I knew the [work] that I put in during the whole year. It’s been a hard job. I always tell you guys that I trust myself. I trust God first, then I trust myself. I’m capable to do this. I was expecting this. It feels good. Everything feels good.”
Sabathia joked that he “probably didn’t throw a strike” during his entire 29-pitch session, but a lack of command isn’t out of the ordinary for Sabathia at this point in the spring. He said that it usually takes two or three bullpens to hit spots correctly, but Sabathia came away most encouraged by how it felt to throw without discomfort.
“I got a little nervous when I first got up there, just because it’s the first time doing it,” Sabathia said. “I hadn’t been up there and didn’t know how I was going to feel. I immediately felt good and felt comfortable after the first couple of pitches.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi remains optimistic that both Rivera and Sabathia will be ready and active on the big league roster for Opening Day.
“I’m pretty confident they’re going to be OK, but I always say in the back of my head, I want to see them out there before I make that assumption,” Girardi said. “But I feel pretty good about it just because I know where they are in their rehabs.”
- Can’t make it up: If you had wandered into the Yankees’ clubhouse around 10:30 this morning, you would have seen a Joba Chamberlain cramming his 6-foot-2 frame into a tiny laundry cart and begging Boone Logan to push him around. Chamberlain isn’t a coffee drinker, but if he were, the appropriate advice might be to switch to decaf for a while.
- Here’s the full list of pitchers who threw live batting practice sessions this morning: David Phelps, Nik Turley, Nick Goody, Juan Cedeno, Jim Miller, Adam Warren and Brett Marshall. The list is particularly notable if you’re wondering who might be on the mound for the Yanks’ first few exhibition games, since they’re slightly ahead of the others right now.
- Breakdowns for bullpen work this morning included: Andy Pettitte, Rivera and Sabathia; Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda and David Robertson; David Aardsma, Dellin Betances and Clay Rapada; Tom Kahnle, Ryan Pope and new acquisition Shawn Kelley.
- Francisco Cervelli confirmed that he is not participating in the World Baseball Classic. Cervelli was listed on Italy’s provisional roster but decided to stay in Yankees camp with hopes of winning the starting catching job.
- Yankees position players are due to report in camp tomorrow, with player physicals beginning at 7 a.m. Roster hopeful Juan Rivera stopped by the clubhouse this morning.
There wasn’t all that much happening on a light day at Yankees camp, but the coaching staff was paying a lot of attention to the 25-pitch bullpen sessions tossed by Michael Pineda and Cesar Cabral this morning.
Pineda is important to the Yankees for obvious reasons, but let’s not overlook Cabral, who had a legitimate chance of making the big league roster last March before he fractured his left elbow late in camp. That injury cleared the way for Clay Rapada to make the team, and while Cabral won’t be pitching in games this spring, Joe Girardi said that it’s possible Cabral will work his way into games in May. From there, it might just be a quick jump to helping the Yankees at the big league level.
When they watch rehabbing pitchers work, Girardi said that he and pitching coach Larry Rothschild pay close attention to the arm speed, how the ball looks coming out of the pitcher’s hand, and their mechanics (Pineda said this week that his mechanics look on video about the same as they did during his Seattle days, which is good news for the Yankees). Girardi also watches to see if a pitcher needs too much time between pitches.
“Those are the things that you kind of look for,” Girardi said. “When they start taking a lot of time inbetween pitches you get a little bit concerned but he was, here it is, right to work.”
The Yankees will make up for today’s light workout with a very busy Saturday, kicking off around 8:30 a.m. with live batting practice sessions. Position players are due to report in camp on Sunday and the Yankees’ first full-squad workout will be held on Monday.
- That old saying about not being able to tell the players without a scorecard has never been more true than this spring, and the vendors hawking rosters in the grandstands should be doing brisk business shortly. The Yankees have a staggering 84 players in camp, which Girardi said is by far the largest turnout he can remember for a Spring Training.Girardi said he’s trying to learn names and faces, but he admitted to carrying around a roster sheet just to keep track of who is who. It doesn’t help matters that several players are wearing the same uniform number — everything from No. 87 up is double-issued. I understand why that was done, but it would have been fun to see a triple-digit player in camp.
- There’s no official word on when Jorge Posada will be joining the guest instructors, but he’s on the way. Girardi said he also spoke recently to Yogi Berra, who is disappointed to not be able to hit camp this spring. Guest instructors currently in camp include Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry and David Wells.
- One more tidbit from this morning’s conversation with Kevin Youkilis: he said that his wife and kids are all excited about spending this year living in New York City, as is he. Youkilis’ clarification of his Red Sox comments from yesterday will only help make that transition a little bit more peaceful. He also said that an offseason wedding photo in Hawaii showcased “the most Yankees t-shirts you’ve ever seen in a Youkilis family.”
- Might as well toss it in here — Joba Chamberlain said he gave Kevin Youkilis a handshake and a fist-bump when they greeted each other this morning. Someone (it wasn’t me, I promise) asked Chamberlain why he didn’t hug Youkilis. His response: “It’s kind of awkward. I was changing. I was taking my shirt off, so I didn’t know if that’s the best time for a man-hug in the first time.” The logic is difficult to argue.
Kevin Youkilis was clicking around the Internet on Thursday evening when he realized one of his comments was picking up steam. Youkilis raised some eyebrows by saying that he’d “always be a Red Sock” and thought he should seek out the media on Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field to clarify exactly what he’d meant.
“It hit me hard. I was like, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to watch my mouth here.’” Youkilis said. “I look at what I was saying as more like a baseball card. When you look at it, there are going to be nine seasons (with Boston). That’s why I said that. In the context of what I said, if you read it as just ‘I’m always a Red Sock,’ it looks bad.
“But it’s not that way. I’m a Yankee today, I’m excited, I’m proud to be a Yankee and I’m proud for Opening Day to play against the team that I spent all those seasons with. Trust me, if you know my personality and you know who I am, it doesn’t matter what team it is along the way – I want to beat everyone. I want to beat the Red Sox because I want to start off with a win at Yankee Stadium.”
Youkilis said that the comment was “one of those things you have to take with a grain of salt,” and that he also considers himself a Cincinnati Bearcat and a Chicago White Sock. It’s all part of his history, he said.
“I read a quote in (the clubhouse) that says, ‘There’s no such thing as an ex-Yankee,’” Youkilis said. “I’ll be proud to be a Yankee for life after this year, too.”
- As long as Youkilis was clearing up controversies, he also wanted to issue a progress report on his relationship with Joba Chamberlain. The former rivals shook hands on Friday morning, discussing Chamberlain’s budding new mustache (which has garnered mixed reviews, to put it nicely). Both players said their previous incidents are in the past and Chamberlain said he didn’t feel a need to explain anything to Youkilis.
- On to some actual baseball updates, Michael Pineda threw a bullpen session of 25 fastballs and said he felt good. It’s a light day on the bullpen side here at Yankees camp: Cesar Cabral, Zach Nuding and Matt Tracy also threw sides and Vidal Nuno threw a live batting practice session, but there aren’t too many bold-faced names on the workout list. The catchers in camp will take batting practice and the pitchers will go through fielding drills, but other than that, it could be a quick one for the Yanks.
- Today won’t be the day we get Mariano Rivera’s decision, in case you were wondering.