Twenty-pitch batting practice sessions to hitters wearing Nos. 98 and 99 aren’t usually a big deal in Spring Training, but you can understandably make an exception when Mariano Rivera is the guy on the mound. Especially when he hasn’t faced a hitter since April 30, 2012.
(The last hitter he faced before throwing to Rob Segedin this morning, by the way, was Baltimore’s Nick Markakis. Rivera induced a 6-4-3 double play and got the save.)
Rivera threw 20 pitches and two pitch-outs to Segedin and Kyle Roller and reported back feeling good about how it went. There’s only so much you can take from a batting practice session, but he was excited — not nervous — to face hitters for the first time since undergoing surgery on his right ACL last year. More than anything, he wanted to see how hitters react and get a better feel for how his command’s coming along.
“I just want to see hitters,” Rivera said. “The one thing that I want to do is go out there in a real game. That’s my goal, to go out there in a real game and see how everything responds.”
How long until that happens remains to be seen. The closer guessed he’d throw a few more batting practice sessions and work in the bullpen to get built up before finally taking the mound in a Spring Training game, but he said he’s not trying to rush at all. He mentioned that he’s got a “long time” — and he tacked on about four or five o’s to that first word.
The real test of the 43-year-old Rivera’s surgically repaired right ACL will come in games, when he might have to cover first or field bunts. He’s been doing that here on the back fields at Yankees camp but said it’s not the same as doing so in a game.
One thing that hasn’t gone anywhere, Rivera said, is his command. He said he wasn’t worried about it disappearing in the time he’s taken off — that’s just not the way he allows himself to think — but he was still pleased with the way he threw the ball Friday morning.
“That’s one thing that, thank God, I never worry about — the command,” he said. “It took no vacation. It’s still there. Hasn’t gone nowhere, guys. Still there. So that’s good.”
In other news…
-Jorge Posada was on the field for Rivera’s bullpen session this morning, as he showed up today to serve as a guest instructor for the Yankees.
-The Yankees posted their travel roster for Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Braves in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Not exactly a star-studded group hopping on board that morning bus to Disney, but as manager Joe Girardi said Thursday, they are sending Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Eduardo Nunez. Right-hander David Phelps will be the starting pitcher.
Melky Mesa is expected to start in center field. Catchers Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine and outfielders Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz will also make the trip, as will infielder Dan Johnson, who’s been getting some work at third base lately.
The “upper back discomfort” Phil Hughes began to feel Monday in a defensive drill turned out to be a bulging disc on the right side of his upper back.
Hughes was optimistic that, best-case scenario, he’d be able to pick up a ball and throw in six or seven days, but Yankees GM Brian Cashman said this morning the injury will likely keep Hughes off the mound for about two weeks.
The 26-year-old right-hander said he “felt something grab” while covering first base in a drill Monday — “nothing I haven’t done a thousand times before,” he said — then got an MRI and saw a doctor Tuesday, confirming it was a bulging disc between the T5 and T6 vertebrae.
He’ll be taking anti-inflammatory medicine for another three or four days before working in a pool if he shows no symptoms. If he feels fine after that, he’ll start throwing. Hughes didn’t feel like the setback was a particularly big deal.
“Especially because I felt like I was kind of ahead of the game with my throwing. Threw a bunch of bullpens before I got here. Thankfully it’s early enough in spring,” Hughes said. “It’s a setback, but I still have a lot of time to get it right and not push it and make sure I’m 100 percent healthy and that when I do pick up a ball in seven days, I won’t be too far behind in my throwing or anything.
“There’s always a concern when I’m just doing a simple thing like covering first base and I feel it and it’s in an area where I’m not really used to having issues and things like that. Like I said, after a couple days of letting it heal, I’m encouraged with where it’s at.”
Cashman was a little less positive, saying “hopefully it’s nothing major,” but he echoed Hughes’ belief that all his offseason throwing and early work this spring will keep this from affecting Hughes’ schedule too much.
“The doctor isn’t aggressively treating it, and that’s obviously a good sign, but there’s no guarantees until we get through the two-week process and see where he’s at and he’s back on the mound and stuff like that,” Cashman said. “We won’t be out of the woods until we see all that stuff. I could stand here and say, ‘Yeah, I’m excited, and thankfully it’s a low-level situation and blah blah blah.’ But I think we need to really get through this stuff to make sure it responds that way. So it’s a question mark until we can all forget that it ever happened.” (more…)
Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli said that he went to the now-shuttered Biogenesis clinic after suffering a foot injury in 2011 and did meet with biochemist Anthony Bosch, but only once and that he left without receiving any drugs.
“When I got my foot injured in 2011, I checked with doctors and somebody
recommended me Biogenesis,” Cervelli said. “I went there for maybe suggestions, and that’s it.
“I walked away without nothing in my hands. I just went there, talked and that’s
Cervelli added that he was not referred to the clinic by any player or agent, and that he has never taken performance-enhancing drugs of any kind. He also said that he plans to cooperate with Major League Baseball’s ongoing investigation and has “never” discussed Biogenesis with Alex Rodriguez.
We’ll have more coverage of Cervelli’s meeting with the media today on yankees.com.
Remember when you were a kid, and you’d hunt through the house for a day or so, looking for something to wrap up for your parents as the holidays approached? “Merry Christmas, Dad, I put a bow on this stapler you already owned.”
Doesn’t it kind of feel that’s how the Yankees’ winter is going?
Brian Cashman’s shopping is continuing to center from within, as the Yankees are engaging the representative for Raul Ibanez, the most clutch bat of their postseason run and another one of their internal free agents.
The New York Post reports that GM Brian Cashman has confirmed the discussions with Ibanez, who would be strictly a DH if he returns — interesting, considering his appeal last year was that unlike candidates like Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui, the Yankees trusted Ibanez to play the outfield (and, it turned out, had to use him there more than expected).
The Yankees have an all left-handed hitting outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki, so they need some right-handed balance. Scott Hairston’s name has been floated for weeks, but he’s rather popular on the open market and might command a two-year deal, something the Yankees have seemed reluctant to extend.
- Elsewhere, Joba Chamberlain told MLB Network yesterday that he and Kevin Youkilis are ready to bury the hatchet from their interesting past. Chamberlain left Youkilis a voice mail as the third baseman’s contract with the Yankees was nearing completion.“I’m glad he’s on our side of things,” Chamberlain said. “We’re both grown men, we both like to play the game. We’ll continue to move on. I’m glad he’s in our uniform and hopefully he can hit a few balls to right field over the fence for us and not against me like he’s done before.”
- Nick Swisher’s “Swishapalooza” tour is continuing. The Indians always seemed like a good dark horse candidate to land him — the Yankees’ trip to Cleveland last season felt almost like a homecoming for Swisher. I’d imagine the Ohio State product must have been impressed by the Tribe’s recruiting video, which featured Urban Meyer, Thad Matta and others begging Swish to sing “Hang On Sloopy” with the fans 81 times per year.
Game 1: Andy Pettitte
Game 2: Hiroki Kuroda, on short rest
Game 3: Phil Hughes
Game 4: CC Sabathia
62 Chamberlain, Joba
65 Hughes, Phil
18 Kuroda, Hiroki
48 Logan, Boone
34 Lowe, Derek
46 Pettitte, Andy
41 Phelps, David
39 Rapada, Clay
30 Robertson, David
52 Sabathia, CC
29 Soriano, Rafael
55 Martin, Russell
19 Stewart, Chris
24 Cano, Robinson
12 Chavez, Eric
2 Jeter, Derek
17 Nix, Jayson
26 Nunez, Eduardo
13 Rodriguez, Alex
25 Teixeira, Mark
11 Gardner, Brett
14 Granderson, Curtis
27 Ibanez, Raul
31 Suzuki, Ichiro
33 Swisher, Nick
“It’s awesome. It’s a big game, and we need these three coming home,” Phelps said. “To know they have faith in me to go out there and give us a chance to win, it’s a big deal.”
Nova said that he is disappointed but knew that the way he was pitching, lacking his command in the last two starts, he knew this was a possibility.
“It’s really disappointing,” Nova said. “I really want to pitch the last one, but it’s not a chance I’m going to have. I think he’s just doing what is best for the team, and he thinks that’s what best.”
The Yankees could ask Nova to help them out of the bullpen; Joe Girardi said that Phil Hughes’ place in the rotation is secure.
“We look at Hughesy as one of the starters for us. That’s our expectation there,” Girardi said.
Mark Teixeira is back in the Yankees lineup for the first time since Sept. 8, batting fifth and playing first base, and isn’t worried about his left calf being an issue going forward.
“It’s a lot better,” Teixeira said. “It was a really good week in Tampa, very productive. We accomplished everything that we wanted to accomplish.”
Teixeira says his calf feels better than when he tried to come back the first time, and that he’d prefer to play the field to keep his calf loose. He also might try to ride a stationary bike between innings, but has no idea what he’ll be able to do against big league pitching tonight.
“I never know what to expect,” Teixeira said. “Middle of the season, you go out there some days when you’ve played 20 straight and you go 0-for-4 and don’t even come close to hitting the ball. Other days you come out, like after the All-Star break, and all of a sudden you get four hits because, I don’t know, it just happens. You really never know what to expect in this game.”
Robinson Cano is in the Yankees lineup today batting cleanup and playing second base after the x-ray on his left hand came back negative. Cano said that he was worried after seeing how Alex Rodriguez broke his hand, but had a good feeling when he felt no discomfort swinging the bat later in the game.