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.