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Tanaka’s Tampa arrival overshadowed by Jeter’s announcement

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.”

“Bronx Bombers” brings the Yankees to Broadway

The cast of "Bronx Bombers." (Photo: Joan Marcus)

The cast of “Bronx Bombers.” (Photo: Joan Marcus)

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.

Reggie and Billy are at it again. (Photo: James Leynse)

Reggie and Billy are at it again. (Photo: James Leynse)

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?

Life is a party for The Babe. (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Life is a party for The Babe. (Photo: Joan Marcus)

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. 

 

Yankees retain entire coaching staff for 2014

There’s a little bit of news coming out of the Bronx this afternoon. The Yankees have announced that they have reached agreements with Joe Girardi’s coaching staff, and that all members of the ’13 staff will be returning for 2014.

That’s not a huge surprise; Brian Cashman said in his end-of-season press conference that the Yankees wanted to have the whole staff back if Girardi returned. We’ve been hearing drips here and there that the Yankees had been working on agreements with each of the coaches since Girardi agreed to his contract extension.

Earth-shattering news it may not be, but it’s something they had to check off. Better to get it out of the way now than have it drag on. Here’s the official press release from the Yankees:

NEW YORK YANKEES ANNOUNCE COACHING STAFF; ALL MEMBERS OF 2013 COACHING STAFF TO RETURN IN 2014

The New York Yankees today announced Joe Girardi’s coaching staff for the 2014 season. Mike Harkey (bullpen), Mick Kelleher (first base), Kevin Long (hitting), Tony Pena (bench), Larry Rothschild (pitching) and Rob Thomson (third base) will all return in the roles they served in 2013.

Harkey, 47, will enter his seventh season as the Yankees bullpen coach in 2014. Since joining the Major League coaching staff in 2008, the Yankees have gone 491-17 when leading the game at the end of the eighth inning, the most such wins in the Major Leagues over the stretch. In 2013, Yankees relievers combined for 49 saves, which was fifth-most in the Majors.

Kelleher, 66, will begin his sixth season as Yankees first base coach and 16th year as a member of the Yankees organization. Since joining the Major League staff in 2009, Kelleher has also served as the club’s infield instructor, with the team leading the Majors with a .987 fielding percentage over the five-season span. In 2013, the Yankees made just 69 errors, which was the third-lowest total in the Majors and tied the franchise record for fewest in a season (also 2010). Their .988 fielding percentage set a new franchise record, fractionally better than their .988 mark in 2010.

Long, 46, will embark on his eighth season as Yankees hitting coach in 2014 after assuming the post in 2007. In his seven seasons with the club, the Yankees have led the Major Leagues in runs scored three times (2007, ’09-10) and finished second twice (2011 and ’12). Over the seven-season span, the Yankees lead the Majors in home runs (1,437) and rank second in runs scored (5,852).

Pena, 56, will begin his sixth season as Yankees bench coach and ninth season on the Yankees Major League coaching staff, having served as the club’s first base coach from 2006-08. Additionally, he has been the team’s catching instructor in each of his eight seasons with the Major League club. Over the span, Yankees catchers have caught 279 potential base stealers, matching San Francisco for most in the Majors. Prior to the 2013 regular season, he managed the 2013 World Baseball Classic-champion Dominican Republic team and became the first WBC manager to lead his team to an undefeated record (8-0).

Rothschild, 60, will enter his fourth season as Yankees pitching coach, marking his 40th season in professional baseball as a player, coach or manager. Since joining the Yankees in 2011, the club’s pitching staff has recorded a 2.74 strikeout-to-walk ratio (3,773 strikeouts, 1,375 walks), the third-best mark in the Majors over the three-year span, trailing only the Philadelphia Phillies (2.94) and Detroit Tigers (2.77). Prior to joining the Yankees, Rothschild served as the pitching coach for the Chicago Cubs for nine seasons (2002-10).

Thomson, 50, will start his 25th season as a member of the Yankees organization, seventh on the club’s Major League coaching staff and sixth as third base coach. The Ontario, Canada native oversees the Yankees’ outfielders, who combined for a .993 fielding percentage (1,119TC, 8E) in 2013, the second-best mark in the Majors behind the Baltimore Orioles (.995). Thomson served as Yankees bench coach during the 2008 season.

Going behind the scenes with Mariano Rivera

If the following clips are any indication, you’re going to want to set your DVR right now or make sure that you’re parked in front of the TV this weekend.

MLB Productions’ new film “BEING: Mariano Rivera” is debuting this Sunday at 2:30 pm ET on FOX. Rivera granted MLB Productions cameras significant access throughout the past year, allowing behind the scenes access through every memorable moment in and around his final season.

With hundreds of hours of footage shot for a 90-minute documentary, several fantastic moments were left on the cutting room floor. Here are four clips that DID NOT make the final cut, courtesy MLB Productions:

While visiting San Diego for the final time in early September, Rivera spends time with Trevor Hoffman, the only other man to save 600 games. The cameras and Rivera’s microphone also pick up his reaction along with his teammates to the gift the Padres give him (Robbie Cano makes a funny joke):

During All-Star Week in New York, Rivera takes some time to visit the U.S.S. Intrepid with his family, and talks about looking forward to spending more time with his kids after retirement:

Also during All-Star Week, more than a dozen of Rivera’s AL teammates gather for a photo with him in a private moment together on the field at Citi Field:

During Rivera’s last trip to Texas in July, current Rangers closer Joe Nathan gets a chance to interview Rivera:

Yankees re-sign Joe Girardi to four-year contract

NEW YORK — Joe Girardi has decided to stay with the Yankees, agreeing to terms on a new four-year contract extension Wednesday that will keep him managing the club through the 2017 season.

Financial terms of the deal were not immediately announced. The Yankees had said publicly that they intended to give the 48-year-old Girardi a raise over his expiring three-year, $9 million pact.

The Yankees have scheduled a 4 p.m. ET conference call for Girardi to discuss the new contract.

Girardi has guided the Yankees to a 564-408 record since taking over as manager for the 2008 season, the best record in the Majors over that span.

The Yankees finished 85-77 this year, missing the postseason for the second time in Girardi’s six years as manager.

Despite the disappointing finish, tied with the Orioles for the third-best record in the American League East, Girardi received strong votes of confidence from managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman for the way he handled the club through an unprecedented rash of injuries.

Steinbrenner said in a radio interview on Tuesday that he and Girardi agreed a quick resolution to the contract situation was important since the Yankees are about to begin their offseason planning and wanted to include the manager’s input.

The Cubs and Nationals were reported to have interest in Girardi for their managerial vacancies, but the Yankees did not grant permission for Girardi – who was under contract until Nov. 1 – to speak with other clubs.

 

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