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.