There wasn’t much activity to be seen Monday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, but it was still a busy day for the Yankees. CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka threw simulated games on a back field starting at 8:30 a.m., the players held their meeting with representatives from the Major League Baseball Players Association and manager Joe Girardi looked forward to Tuesday’s unofficial Spring Training opener.
Look for much more coming on Yankees.com later today, but here’s a quick rundown on Day 10 at GMS Field.
TANAKA IMPRESSES: Tanaka once again drew a huge crowd when he got on the mound to pitch his simulated game, and he left everyone — from Girardi and catcher Francisco Cervelli to hitters Dean Anna, Scott Sizemore and Zelous Wheeler — singing his praises. Girardi was particularly impressed with Tanaka’s slider on Monday, while Cervelli spoke about the number of offerings Tanaka brings to the table. Tanaka, meanwhile, said he’s “pretty much ready to throw in a game.”
MLBPA MEETING: Representatives from the MLBPA held their annual meeting with the Yankees in the home clubhouse Monday morning, and executive director Tony Clark spoke with the media for about 20 minutes afterward. Alex Rodriguez was a popular topic of conversation during the media scrum, as you can imagine, but Clark said A-Rod is once again a member in good standing with the Players Association now that he’s dropped his lawsuit. “The page has been turned,” Clark said. “… He will serve the penalty that he’s been given by the arbitrator. He will come back in Spring Training ready to go, wherever that happens to be. He’s under contract to the Yankees. I would expect him to be in camp with the Yankees. Am I concerned about anything beyond that? No.”
BAILEY ARRIVES: Reliever Andrew Bailey showed up in the Yankees clubhouse Monday morning. He said he’s throwing from 120 feet and is seven months into a 12-month rehab process following shoulder surgery. As for signing with the Yankees, Bailey said, “I think it’s a good opportunity for me, and obviously if I get back to being myself, helping this team win another championship is what it’s about.”
GARDNER DEAL OFFICIAL: Brett Gardner and general manager Brian Cashman spent plenty of time discussing Gardner’s four-year, $52 million extension on Sunday, but the Yankees officially announced the deal Monday afternoon. Like Cashman, Girardi said he was excited to lock up the dynamic outfielder. “I like what he brings to the table, offensively, defensively and just his clubhouse presence,” Girardi said. “I like it. The way he plays the game, he’s a grinder.”
FSU PREVIEW: The Yankees took a bus Monday morning to their yearly team-bonding experience, a pool tournament. Before that, though, Girardi looked forward to Tuesday’s game against the Florida State Seminoles. Vidal Nuno will start, as Girardi said Sunday, but he couldn’t say off the top of his head who will pitch after that. As for the position players, expect to see Gardner, Cervelli and Kelly Johnson.
Girardi’s also looking forward to seeing one opposing player Tuesday afternoon: Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback/outfielder/reliever Jameis Winston. “Obviously he’s extremely athletic. When you watch him play the game of football, he’s got a great arm,” Girardi said. “He’s pretty mature for his age, as an athlete and what he had to go through and handle, and I’m excited to see him.”
That’s it for now, but stay tuned to Yankees.com today for more on each of those items. Bryan Hoch will be back in the driver’s seat tomorrow for all your Yankees news and updates.
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.”
In case you missed it last night, the Yankees have agreed to sign former A’s and Red Sox reliever Andrew Bailey to a Minor League deal. Bailey isn’t expected to be ready until midseason or so after undergoing shoulder surgery, but if he can stay healthy and pitch like he did for Oakland from 2009-11, he could provide another useful late-inning option for the Yankees.
“It would mean a lot; he’s a great arm. He has a lot of experience, had some good years with Oakland and some good years with Boston until he got injured,” David Robertson said. “He has a lot of experience, so any help in the bullpen is welcome.”
Robertson said he wasn’t threatened by the Yankees signing another reliever with experience closing out games. He also noted how relief roles tend to change and evolve over the course of the season, so it’s hard to tell what Bailey’s job will be by the time he’s healthy enough to pitch in the Majors.
“I look at it as helping the bullpen as a whole. Technically, I haven’t been given the closer job, so I’m just a reliever,” Robertson said. “Whatever is going to make our team stronger and help us get back to the playoffs, that works for me. I’m not going to be mad or annoyed or anything about it right now.”
Elsewhere at George M. Steinbrenner Field this morning, right-hander Michael Pineda threw his first live batting practice session of the spring. Pineda threw to catcher John Ryan Murphy and said he’s feeling “great” and that he’s just trying to get ready to pitch in games.
Murphy said Pineda had “really good” command this morning but added, “I don’t think he’s where he thinks he should be yet, but overall he was pretty good.” Murphy also said Pineda’s been focusing a lot more on his changeup, a third pitch to complement his fastball and breaking ball, and it looked pretty good today as well.
It seemed like Pineda was working a little faster than usual, at least compared to when I saw him rehabbing down here in Tampa, and he may have been a little jumpy. Murphy said pitching coach Larry Rothschild mentioned the same thing and guessed it’s just because Pineda was excited or anxious for his first live BP session.
Still, Murphy said, even now you can see Pineda’s front-line ability every time he throws a pitch.
“He’s got the electric stuff. He’s got a chance to be a high-end guy,” Murphy said. “You can see his potential every pitch.”
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)
What happened: The Yankees held their first official workout of the spring for pitchers and catchers on Saturday morning in Tampa, highlighted by a bullpen group that was comprised of Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova. The bullpens went fine, with Tanaka throwing 32 pitches, but Tanaka said that he had trouble with the four lap run (approximately one mile) that concluded the workout.
“I actually didn’t know that I was going to run this much,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “I’m a little bit of a slow runner, but that part I really can’t help.”
Tanaka said that his first workouts of the spring in Japan were typically longer, so he was expecting to throw more and he did fine with fielding practice. Chalk it up to one of those cultural adjustments that we’ve been talking about. Joe Girardi and the Yankees crafted the camp that way; Girardi stressed that he only wants his pitchers to build arm strength this week, and that no one is making the roster based upon the first bullpen.
What we learned: To give a rough estimate, the media crowd for Day 1 of Yankees camp seems to have doubled from last year, and obviously that’s due to Tanaka’s presence. Tanaka is used to having a lot of attention, but even he was a bit caught off guard by the crowds waiting on the practice field.
“Honestly, when I stepped out on the field today, I was very, very surprised how many media there were out there,” Tanaka said.
That group typically thins out as camp goes on, but that actually may not be the case this year. One Yankees staffer said it was the largest crowd of media members that he could remember since Hideki Matsui’s first spring.
What we learned II: Kuroda asked Tanaka if he’d like to be his throwing partner for the day, something that Tanaka said he hopes will continue whenever possible. Tanaka said at his Yankee Stadium press conference that he grew up tracking Kuroda’s career, so it must be something of an honor for Tanaka to hear that request.
(Hearing that Tanaka watched Kuroda as a boy also probably serves as a reminder for Kuroda that he’s entering his age 39 season.)
“I think it’s advantageous for Tanaka to have Kuroda here and making those adjustments,” Girardi said. “Because you’re looking at someone you probably watched pitch over there, in the big leagues there, and here. You saw him make the adjustment and how he did it, and that’s advantageous. There’s probably a natural bond there because of where they’re from, and that’s good for us.”
What else: Yankees catcher John Ryan Murphy is now going by his full given name, which is printed on his clubhouse locker. Murphy explained that his father’s name is also John, so their family and friends have always used middle names to differentiate between the two.
It was only when Murphy entered professional baseball that J.R. began to be used. Teammates of the 22-year-old, who played in 16 games for the Yankees last season, are just calling him “Murph.”
What they said: “He’s going to get used to that. When the whole team comes here, it’s going to be the same for everybody. He’s not the only guy who makes $100 million here.” – Francisco Cervelli, on the attention paid to Tanaka.
What’s next: The second day of workouts for pitchers and catchers will get underway Sunday morning. Expect to see the guys on the field shortly after 10 a.m. ET.
Yankees pitchers and catchers are in the house, and Spring Training is officially underway. Here’s our first installment of report-day quick hits from the clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field:
No pressure: Masahiro Tanaka arrived in camp to find that he had been assigned a corner locker on the pitchers’ wall, the closest stall to the dining area. That’s prime real estate in Yankee-land. For the past several years, it’s the same place where Mariano Rivera stashed his belongings.
“One of the staff members actually told me,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “I was like, ‘I’m not really sure if I should be here.’”
Tanaka played catch on the field today and said that he had a chance to chat with Hiroki Kuroda.
“He told me, ‘Just be yourself. Try not to do too much, do your own pace and you should be OK,’” Tanaka said.
Captain’s call: Both CC Sabathia and David Robertson said they weren’t surprised that 2014 will be Derek Jeter’s final season, but they were caught off guard that Jeter decided to announce his decision so early.
“It didn’t surprise me,” Robertson said. “I just didn’t think he was going to announce it, but I’m really glad he’s going to make sure to give the fans a chance to come out this year and see him in his final season.”
“Not really surprised,” Sabathia said. “You want to think a guy like that is going to play forever. I’m saddened, I guess, because he’s not going to be around.”
CC slims: Sabathia said that he weighed in at 275 pounds this morning, which he guessed was his lightest report-day weight since he was with the Indians. Sabathia said he was closer to 285-290 last spring at this time.
“I really lost a lot of weight last year,” Sabathia said. “I went from about 315 to like 280. I just did no carbs and then really worked out. This offseason I watched my diet and worked really hard and I lost five pounds.”
iCatch: Brian McCann said that he received a special package in the mail from the Yankees in November, and it helped give him a head start in learning a new pitching staff this spring.
“I got an iPad in the mail two days later with everybody’s two good games, two bad games, all the hitters in the AL East,” McCann said. “As soon as we signed Tanaka, I got all his starts, so I’ve seen it. Now I want to get to know everybody and what their mindset is.”
New core? Not so fast: McCann shrugged off a reporter’s suggestion that he might be part of the equation in replacing Jeter as the face of the Yankees.
“I haven’t even played a game. It’s not the case,” McCann said. “I haven’t even put the uniform on yet. I think that word gets thrown around a little bit too much for me. No one is going to replace that guy.
“I got to see it first-hand with Chipper. No one is going to come in and replace Chipper Jones. It’s not happening.”
Mo’s stamp of approval: Robertson said that it was important to him that Rivera gave him a vote of confidence as the Yankees’ new closer.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time with Mariano and I think he knows what I’m capable of and he’s always told me what I’m capable of. I think I have the abilities to be the closer. It’s not proven yet. But I know in my heart I can do it, I just have to go out there and prove it to myself.”
What’s in a number?: The Yankees wasted no time re-assigning uniform No. 24, with Robinson Cano now a member of the Mariners. That number will be worn this spring by non-roster invitee Scott Sizemore.
Absent: The locker normally occupied by Alex Rodriguez is empty with no name plate. Rodriguez will be serving a 162-game suspension this season and does not plan to attend Spring Training.
You can’t tell the players without … a print-out of this 2014 Yankees numerical Spring Training roster, highlighted by the fact that the Yankees quickly re-issued Robinson Cano’s No. 24 to non-roster invitee Scott Sizemore.
2 – Derek Jeter
11 – Brett Gardner
12 – Alfonso Soriano
14 – Brian Roberts
18 – Hiroki Kuroda
19 – Masahiro Tanaka
22 – Jacoby Ellsbury
24 – Scott Sizemore
25 – Mark Teixeira
26 – Eduardo Nunez
27 – Shawn Kelley
28 – Joe Girardi (manager)
29 – Francisco Cervelli
30 – David Robertson
31 – Ichiro Suzuki
33 – Kelly Johnson
34 – Brian McCann
35 – Michael Pineda
36 – Carlos Beltran
38 – Preston Claiborne
39 – Brendan Ryan
40 – Matt Daley
41 – David Phelps
43 – Adam Warren
47 – Ivan Nova
48 – Matt Thornton
50 – Mick Kelleher (coach)
52 – CC Sabathia
53 – Austin Romine
54 – Kevin Long (coach)
55 – David Herndon
56 – Tony Pena (coach)
57 – Chris Leroux
58 – Larry Rothschild (coach)
59 – Rob Thomson (coach)
60 – Gary Tuck (coach)
61 – Jim Miller
62 – Robert Coello
63 – Yoshinori Tateyama
64 – Cesar Cabral
65 – Zoilo Almonte
66 – John Ryan Murphy
67 – Vidal Nuno
68 – Dellin Betances
70 – Russ Canzler
71 – Brian Gordon
72 – Corban Joseph
73 – Antoan Richardson
74 – Bruce Billings
75 – Manny Banuelos
76 – Jose Ramirez
77 – Francisco Rondon
78 – Slade Heathcott
79 – Nik Turley
80 – Jose Gil
81 – Ramon Flores
82 – Gary Sanchez
83 – Chase Whitley
84 – Mark Montgomery
85 – Bryan Mitchell
86 – Jose Pirela
87 – Francisco Arcia
88 – Danny Burawa
89 – Yangervis Solarte
90 – Shane Greene
91 – Tyler Austin
92 – Fred Lewis
93 – Dean Anna
94 – Jose Campos
95 – Adonis Garcia
96 – Pete O’Brien
97 – Mason Williams
98 – Zealous Wheeler
These statements were released via the Yankees:
Bernie Williams: “I’m so happy that Derek will get to go out on his terms — and his way. He was as special a teammate as any player could ever have. I’m blessed to have played with him. Yankees fans and baseball fans all over the world will have a lot to celebrate this season.”
Jorge Posada: “It was an honor and privilege to have Derek next to me for all those years. He made me a better player and a better person. I’m so proud of our friendship and I love him like a brother. Derek was a true champion and the greatest teammate I ever had.”
MLB.com’s Adam Berry was at the Yankees’ Minor League complex on Wednesday and thought Wednesday’s story of the day would be Masahiro Tanaka. He was wrong. Here’s a report.
TAMPA, Fla. — Before Derek Jeter announced his plans to retire after the 2014 season, Masahiro Tanaka was set to be the story of the day at the Yankees’ Minor League complex on Himes Avenue.
About 25 members of the Japanese media joined the usual crew of reporters outside the complex, awaiting the highly anticipated arrival of the Yankees’ new $155 million man.
As it turns out, Tanaka actually dropped by across the street at George M. Steinbrenner Field, the Yankees’ Spring Training home, where he played catch and spoke with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
As he was leaving Steinbrenner Field, Rothschild told a small group of reporters that Tanaka worked out then played catch and long toss and looked good doing so. Asked how Tanaka is handling everything so far, Rothschild quickly responded, “Excellent.
“I don’t know how many people can go through the week that he’s had,” he added. “It’s been great, but it’s got to be tiring to deal with everything.”
Rothschild said the Yankees hope to have the right-hander throw off a mound in the next couple days. New York’s pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report Friday and have their first workout Saturday.
Rothschild added that Tanaka’s schedule will be determined “just according to what he’s used to, more than anything else. I don’t want to change a lot, but still try to ease him into the adjustments that he’s going to make.
“We talked for a long time today and went through a lot, which was the most important thing,” Rothschild added. “Just schedules, what he’s done in the past to get ready, the expectations as far as spring training and how the schedules look and things like that.”
Over the weekend, while the rest of New York was gearing up for a Super Bowl that didn’t quite live up to the hype, I had the pleasure of catching a matinee performance of the new “Bronx Bombers” play at the Circle in the Square theatre. I’m happy to say that I enjoyed the performance very much; moving the Bronx to Broadway is no easy task, but they’ve succeeded.
The play opens in Yogi Berra’s (Peter Scolari) suite at the Boston Sheraton in June 1977, the day after Billy Martin (Keith Nobbs) pulled Reggie Jackson (Francois Battiste) from a nationally televised game against the Red Sox. All of Boston seems to be talking about what happened in the Yankees’ dugout yesterday afternoon, and Yogi is nervously pacing, rattling off the greatest hits from the catalogue of Yogi-isms. He’s hoping he can broker peace between Reggie and Billy before George Steinbrenner gets involved; good luck with that.
Thurman Munson (Bill Dawes) is the first player to arrive in the suite, and he’s terrific – the captain is instantly recognizable, cracking wise about his aching knees and sour about his own issues with Reggie. Martin soon enters the room, rage flooding the room in a southern drawl. He’s shading his eyes with dark sunglasses and a cowboy hat, sneaking the occasional airline bottle into his coffee cup. Finally there’s Reggie, dressed head to toe in red polyester swiped from the ’70s. His strut instantly owns the room, fully in the heart of his “magnitude of me” years, months away from hitting the three homers that will cement his legacy in pinstripes.
You’ve become a fly on the wall in the history books. They’ve clearly done a lot of research to incorporate realistic portrayals of the players’ personalities, and if you’re familiar with those back stories, you’ll appreciate many little easter eggs.
The Yankees are falling apart and Yogi is terrified that Steinbrenner will fire Martin, he tells his wife, Carmen (Tracy Shayne). That soon leads Yogi – and us – into a wonderful dream sequence that is a highlight of the play. Forget time and space: imagine if you could have put all of the greatest Yankees legends in the same room. What would they say to each other? How would they interact?
Your imagination runs wild at that possibility, and clearly the writers had a lot of fun with it too.
An all-time lineup joins Yogi and Carmen for dinner — Babe Ruth (C.J. Wilson, playing the fur-coat clad Bambino larger than life), Lou Gehrig (John Wernke, channeling the Iron Horse’s strength and pain), Joe DiMaggio (an aloof, impeccably dressed Chris Henry Coffey), Mickey Mantle (Dawes, spot-on as the muscled-up, hard-living Mick), Elston Howard (Battiste) and even Derek Jeter (Christopher Jackson).
It’s great fun. I won’t spoil the rest for you. If those names mean anything to you, you’ll want to see it for yourself!
“Bronx Bombers” is now in previews at the Circle in the Square Theatre (West 50th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue). For ticket information, visit bronxbombersplay.com or call 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250.