Results tagged ‘ Yankees ’
What happened: The morning started with Masahiro Tanaka throwing a 35-pitch bullpen beyond the right-field wall at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Tanaka impressed manager Joe Girardi with his fluid motion, and catcher John Ryan Murphy said that after hearing so much about the Yankees’ $155 million man, it was a thrill to get behind the plate and see his stuff in real time.
“What surprised me was, the effort level looked minimal and it was coming out really good,” Murphy said. “All the hype, obviously, with him coming over here — it was a neat experience. It was fun.”
Tanaka threw all six of his pitches in the session – two-seamer, four-seamer, splitter, cutter, curveball and changeup. Tanaka said that he is still shaking off the last of his international jet lag, and he hasn’t seen much of Tampa other than the ballpark and the hotel. So what has been the most fun part of being a Yankee so far?
“I think that would be pitching in the bullpen, because I love to throw,” Tanaka said.
And then: Tanaka had left the complex by the time Yu Darvish’s news conference made a ripple in Yankees camp. Speaking in Surprise, Ariz., Darvish made a comment about Tanaka’s seven-year contract that he’d quickly backtrack from.
“I don’t know too much about the new posting system, but I think the Yankees gave him too much,” Darvish said, with a smile and a laugh. “I think [Hiroki] Kuroda, [Hisashi] Iwakuma and I really helped him as far how the scouts and teams evaluated him.”
Darvish’s tone got lost in the quote, which quickly popped onto Twitter and other outlets. Darvish later released this statement via the Rangers’ public relations department: “I am sorry if anyone took my comment seriously about Masahiro Tanaka at the press conference today. I assumed by the reaction in the room that everyone knew I was joking.”
Oh, and then: Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long told the New York Daily News on Sunday that he had been frustrated by his inability to get through to Robinson Cano about those slow jogs to first base.
“If somebody told me I was a dog,’’ Long told the newspaper, “I’d have to fix that. When you choose not to, you leave yourself open to taking heat, and that’s your fault. For whatever reason, Robbie chose not to.’’
Those comments made it to Mariners camp, where Cano essentially said that he didn’t care to talk about it. Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon wasn’t shy, telling ESPN.com: “I’m a little surprised that Kevin Long is the spokesman for the New York Yankees. I wonder if he had any problems with Robbie when he wrote that book ["Cage Rat"] proclaiming himself as the guru of hitting.”
Told of that quote, Brian Cashman laughed. “I would expect Lloyd McClendon to step up for his player. That doesn’t surprise me,” he said.
What we learned: Most people probably assumed it already, but Jacoby Ellsbury got the word from Joe Girardi – Ellsbury is the Yankees’ leadoff hitter and center fielder. Girardi had left a little bit of wiggle room when Ellsbury was officially introduced in the Bronx over the winter.
What we learned II: Kelly Johnson brought three gloves to camp. That’s a good idea — he’s not only the Yankees’ tentative starting third baseman, but also their backup second baseman, backup first baseman, and a reserve left fielder.
What we learned III: Brendan Ryan is big on the Los Angeles Clippers, which puts him in a good frame of mind to know what the fans will be thinking when Ryan is playing instead of Derek Jeter this year. Ryan said that he attended three Clippers games this season where Chris Paul was hurt … so, he gets it.
What else: Girardi said that there have been no discussions about keeping Tanaka from facing American League East teams during Spring Training.
What they said: “I was just catching some sun, to be honest. It’s so early; as long as everybody is free and easy, there’s really not much to tell from the bullpen sessions or batting practice. It was just a chance for me to come out try to turn white into red.” – Cashman, on watching Ivan Nova’s live BP session.
What’s next: Position players report to camp on Wednesday, but the big event of the day will happen in the pavilion at 11:30 a.m. ET, as Jeter discusses his decision to retire. The news conference can be seen on MLB.com, as well as the YES Network, MLB Network and ESPN.
What happened: Well, maybe not the full pinstripes, but close enough. Carlos Beltran stopped by the Minor League complex this afternoon, which is as good a sign as any that the report date for position players is right around the corner. Beltran worked out with Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson and Eduardo Nunez across the way and told reporters that he is excited to begin his first season with the Yankees.
“I feel great, man,” Beltran said. “Since we were able to agree on signing the three-year deal, I’m looking forward to the team. I think we have a real good team. We have a lineup that — hopefully everyone is healthy, that’s the main thing. I believe the lineup we have is a pretty good lineup. On paper, it looks pretty good. We have to get to know each other and find a way to play the game the right way.”
Beltran also said that he’s looking forward to being a part of Derek Jeter’s final season.
“Of course. Being able to play with a guy that’s a Hall of Famer – a first-ballot Hall of Famer – is a great feeling,” Beltran said. “I’m just looking forward to playing with him and hopefully helping this team win a championship. I know he has a lot of championships, but I don’t have [any]. Hopefully I can win one.”
What else happened: Michael Pineda threw a 35-pitch bullpen early this morning, and Joe Girardi said that he thinks Pineda looks a whole lot more fluid than he did two springs ago. There’s a long way to go between now and Opening Day, but if Pineda is anything close to the pitcher he was with the Mariners – and he says he is – then the fifth starter battle could be less of a competition than we thought.
“I’m feeling good. Really good,” Pineda said. “I’m throwing the same. Mechanics the same. Everything is the same. All pitches are the same. I’m the same Michael Pineda.”
There was no radar gun on Pineda, but Girardi said that Pineda was hitting 93 and 94 mph last year in the Minors.
“I thought the ball was coming out easier,” Girardi said. “I know he’s had time to clean up a couple things too, mechanically, in this two-year span. He just looked like it came out free and easy to me; didn’t look like he put a ton of effort into it, or that he was overthrowing it.”
What we learned: It’s a conversation that Derek Jeter probably doesn’t remember, but Brian Roberts will never forget it.
“I think it was maybe 2004,” Roberts said. “I was on second or something and he just said, ‘You can hit .300 in this league.’ That was kind of, to hear it from someone like that, it just kind of opens your eyes. I don’t think it’s just me, I think he does it to everybody, but for some reason when he tells it to you, you think you’re the most important person in the world. He’s just kind of got that personality, and he’s so good with people.”
What we learned II: This shouldn’t be a surprise, but Girardi seems to realize that he can’t count on Roberts to play 150-plus games, since he hasn’t it done it since 2009. Girardi listed Kelly Johnson, Brendan Ryan and Eduardo Nunez as players who will see time at second base this spring, and you can toss Dean Anna into that mix as well.
Mark Teixeira said he plans on playing 150-plus games, and surely that would be wonderful for the Yankees. It’s also quite likely we’ll see Girardi shuffle around playing time at every infield position.
“There’s some age in our infield, as there has been in the past,” Girardi said. “I need to give guys days off and spell them. It’s not the infield that we had in 2009, when you knew who you were going to run out there every day. But we believe that there’s a lot of capable players here that can put up offensive and defensive numbers. When you look at those numbers as a whole, they’re going to be pretty good.”
What else: Beltran was messing around taking ground balls at second base this afternoon. If that gets anywhere close to a game situation, something will have gone horribly wrong. … David Phelps, Adam Warren, Jim Miller, Vidal Nuno and Preston Claiborne pitched live batting practice. … Teixeira took about 90 swings in the cage, including those off the tee, from both sides of the plate. He also fielded ground balls at first base.
What they said: “Of course we have to win. I don’t know how far we will go, but at least we have to do something positive, better than what they did last year, no doubt about that. They went out and spent a lot of money on players to try to improve the ballclub.” – Beltran
What’s next: Another day of workouts for pitchers and catchers. Position players report on Wednesday, with the first full-squad workout set for Thursday.
This morning, Yankees left-hander Matt Thornton discussed his decision to sign with the Yankees. Thornton signed a two-year, $7 million deal with the club over the winter after spending time last year with both the White Sox and the Red Sox. He’ll be sliding into the role of left-handed specialist last filled by Boone Logan, who signed with the Rockies.
On why he signed with the Yankees: “A few things. One, the moves they’d already made, and two, the players they already had here. You know they’re going to be a good team. They have some good opportunities for some of the young guys out there in the bullpen, and then just continued to make moves all offseason. When you have a team of this quality, being a championship contender was probably one of my top two reasons to figure out where I wanted to sign, the other one being my family.”
On the importance of the second guaranteed year: “Absolutely. That came into play. There were some other things that came into play. They were aggressive in the two years and made it clear that they wanted me to be here.”
On his injuries from last year: “I feel really good. I’m starting to feel good at the right time; a lot of work in the offseason. I go to my place in Tempe, Arizona, Fischer Sports & Therapy, and do my physical therapy there, my workouts there. I feel like I’ve got everything ironed out. Other things will probably pop up over the year and that’s just the nature of the beast.”
On how long the oblique injury bothered him: “Until about late November. I felt it. I tried to come back in three weeks and pitch and make myself on the playoff roster, but that didn’t work out either. It kind of completely went away, I’d say mid to late November.”
On being left off Boston’s playoff & World Series rosters: “Disappointing. You work your whole career to be a part of something like that. I understood, I was inconsistent at the time and they felt the other guys were doing a better job. They were nothing but respectful to me in the process. It was a great organization and a good team to play for, but at the same time, probably one of the most disappointing points of my sports career.”
On why he picked the Yankees over other opportunities: “For me personally, they were one of the top teams on my radar. I told my agent, the Yankees are right up there. The teams I gave him were all teams that I expected are going to compete this year, and teams that expect themselves to finish at the end with a win. It was just a process that other teams were kind of dragging their feet on the relief market; ‘Oh, yeah, we want to talk,’ and all that stuff. The Yankees came out and [said], ‘Hey, we want him. Here we go.’ I’m not one of those guys that’s going to sit there and start bouncing around and find as much money or years as possible. I have security and stability and a ball club like this, a first-class organization with the division and the roster the Yankees have, I’m going to jump on that real quick.”
On a Yankees bullpen without Mariano Rivera: “I’m excited for David [Robertson] to have the opportunity and see what he does. I’ve watched David five, six years now and he’s one of the best relievers in the game. I have no doubt he’ll transition into that role just fine. Following up in Mariano’s footsteps is not the easiest thing and you guys won’t make it any easier on him, but you know, Mo, he’s the best ever. He’s the best in the playoffs ever, he’s the best in the regular season, he’s the best there is. He’ll be missed, obviously. He’ll be missed in baseball, not just by the Yankees. But we have to focus on moving up, and guys stepping up and stepping into roles and doing the job.”
What happened: This part of camp is usually dominated by the pitchers and catchers, but today’s highlight came from a position player. Mark Teixeira is on this side early since he’s a rehabbing player, and he was pleased by his on-field batting practice session.
Teixeira took 22 swings from the left side of the plate and 21 from the right side. He also hit off a tee, spraying quite a few line drives around the outfield. There were no home runs, but one ball hit the left-field fence on the fly.
“I actually felt better left-handed today. My swing path felt a lot better left-handed,” Teixeira said. “I was coming around it too much right-handed, but it’s just something that the first couple of weeks of Spring Training, I’ll make sure that bat path is good and your bat speed is good. Good first day, though.”
It was interesting to watch Teixeira and hitting coach Kevin Long analyze each swing, particularly while Teixeira was hitting off a tee. They were really going over mechanics and trying to get everything right at the earliest stage. This was Teixeira’s first time hitting on the field; all of his offseason hitting took place indoors.
“Nice to see the sunshine,” he said. “You can kind of trick yourself with how good you’re doing, because off the bat you can hit line drives and it looks good or it feels good. But if the ball is dying and it’s not traveling at all, then you know that you don’t have that power. Getting on the tee and getting outside and seeing the ball travel, seeing some nice line drives, seeing some nice fly balls – it was good to see that.”
What else happened: There were two bullpen groups, and it’s noteworthy – though not necessarily indicative of anything – that Matt Daley was included with Shawn Kelley, David Robertson and Matt Thornton. Daley is a non-roster invitee, but he was up with the Yankees last year and had good numbers at Triple-A. He figures to get a look for a bullpen spot. The other bullpens were thrown by Manny Banuelos, Cesar Cabral, Brian Gordon, Chris Leroux and Mark Montgomery.
What we learned: Masahiro Tanaka laced up his Asics running shoes this morning and said that yesterday’s four lap-event was more of a miscommunication than anything else. Tanaka hadn’t expected to run a mile after throwing a bullpen, but now he’ll know that’s a possibility next time. As for today’s running?
“Today was short distance. No problem at all,” Tanaka said, with a smile.
What we learned II: After missing all of 2013 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, the smart money is that Banuelos will begin the year at Triple-A, but Girardi doesn’t sound ready to completely rule out the idea of Banuelos breaking camp with the team.
“This is a guy who hasn’t pitched a lot in the last couple years, and he’ll probably have some limitations on how many games you can throw him, and that will have to be evaluated,” Girardi said. “But we’re going to look at every arm in camp, and try to put the 12 best together, and we’ll try to go from there. That doesn’t just limit him to being a starter. Who knows? He could be in the bullpen.”
What else: When Girardi writes out the lineups in his head, they always include Derek Jeter and Teixeira.
“They’re back, in my mind,” Girardi said. “But I think you have to get them in games to see exactly where they’re at, to be fair to them, and probably to alleviate any doubt that you might have. But in my mind, going into this year, with the surgeries they’ve had and the winters they’ve had, I’m expecting them to be players for us.”
Just one more thing: Catcher Pete O’Brien puts on a show in batting practice. Standing 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, he’s got a big right-handed bat and hit 22 homers last year for Class-A Charleston and Tampa.
What they said: “I hope to play five more really productive years. I feel healthy, I’m in good shape. If the wrist is healthy, there’s no reason why I can’t be there for a long time. As long as someone will put me in the middle of a lineup, and at first base every day, I’ll keep playing.” – Teixeira
What’s next: Same time, same place tomorrow. Expect to see the guys on the field shortly after 10:15 a.m. ET. Position players report on Wednesday, with the first full-squad workout set for Thursday.
Mark Teixeira has arrived at Yankees camp. The first baseman discussed his recovery from right wrist surgery and expectations for the season this morning. Here’s a partial transcript:
On making it to camp: “I feel good. I’m excited about being here. No setbacks the entire offseason, the summer into the offseason, which is good. My surgeon was very happy and [head athletic trainer] Steve [Donohue] is happy. So I’m happy.”
On if the wrist feels as expected: “Yeah. The only thing is, I’ll just take it a little bit slow. I’m going to be taking normal batting practice, normal everything. It’s just, instead of 150 swings a day, it’s closer to 100 right now. Instead of seven days straight, it might be three days with a day off, or four days with a day off. That’s just being smart about it and not going from 60 miles an hour to 100 miles an hour the first day.”
On if his offseason was affected: “Not too much. I actually got to lift more, which was good. I feel like I’ve put on a couple of pounds of muscle, which is nice for me. My offseason started July 1st, and with the rehab and extra time, concentrating on my body and not worrying about resting, I got plenty of rest which was good. The first month or two of the offseason is just resting from a long season. I didn’t have that this year so I was able to work a little bit more.”
On if Teixeira expects to play a majority of the games: “I absolutely plan on playing 150-plus games this year. That’s my goal. Every now and then I’ll have a day off, of course. That’s just natural. You get beat up a little bit during the season, but I expect to have a healthy, productive season.”
On being an anchor of the lineup: “Yeah, I think the great thing is, look at our lineup. We’re back to being the Yankees again. Last year, we weren’t the Yankees. We had so many injuries and we had so many guys that should have been in there to be lots of anchors. That’s back. There’s not one guy that has to carry this team, but absolutely I expect to hit in the middle of the order, hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs. That’s going to take pressure off everybody and help us win games.”
On the offseason: “We had a great offseason. It was fun to watch. I was texting Cash [GM Brian Cashman] every two weeks, telling him congrats on another signing and a great offseason. I basically told him, you did your job, now it’s time for us to do ours. No excuses this year, we have a team that can compete for a world championship.”
On his plan: “We’ve kind of mapped out my whole spring. I’m going to get my 50-plus at-bats in Spring Training. I’m going to get as many swings as I need. It’ll be a little slow the first couple of weeks just to make sure I’m easing into things, but we’re here for six weeks. It’s not like you have a week to get ready for the season. We’re here for six weeks. It’s just a matter of keeping to the schedule.”
On resuming swinging: “I started swinging the first of January, which is when I normally swing. It was 20 swings from each side. Every week it was building up five or 10 swings. Now I’m to the point where I’m swinging about 45, 50 from each side, which is a little bit less than normal. But plenty of swings.”
On the wrist’s stiffness: “You can definitely tell I had surgery, but I had ankle surgery 13 years ago and I can tell I had ankle surgery after 13 years. It’s just something that I’m going to have to make sure that I loosen up and do all the proper rehab and strengthening exercises during the season to make sure that it’s not an issue.”
On if Teixeira still has any doubts: “Of course. I’d be lying if there wasn’t. I said it this winter, everyone can go out after major surgery and go, ‘I’m fine, I’m going to be good as ever,’ but you don’t really know that until you go out there. For me, it’s just kind of two steps: make sure I’m healthy and that means taking full swings at a 95 mph fastball in a Spring Training game. And we have six weeks to figure that out. If that’s the case and I’m healthy and I can do that for a week straight, then it’s all about production. You don’t worry about the injury anymore. Until I have those first couple of games, live Spring Training games, you don’t know exactly how it’s going to respond.”
If you think about it, today marked the first of the hundreds of press conferences and interviews that Joe Girardi will give during the season — usually two a day during the 40-plus days of Spring Training, two a day for each of the 162 regular season games, and we’re not even counting his appearances on the YES Network and other news outlets.
So it’s safe to say we’ll all be hearing Girardi’s voice quite a bit for the rest of the year, but there’s only one official report day for pitchers and catchers. Girardi’s flight from New York to Florida was delayed by weather, so he went directly from the airport to the podium at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Here are the highlights of his 20-minute session:
What was your reaction to Derek Jeter’s announcement, and did you know it was coming?
“I had not heard before that, so I think we were probably all a little bit taken aback by it. You’re never sure how someone’s going to do it, but I had no inkling that that’s what he was thinking, so I was a little taken aback by it. I listened to some of his comments on the article that he had written about how more difficult to get ready and he said when it becomes more of a job than playing then it’s something you have to think about. I can remember a long time ago, Kevin Tapani telling me that it wasn’t the day he pitched. It was the work the four days prior to pitching that became so much more difficult for him. He’s played a lot of games and played a long time, and obviously he’s been so important to this organization. We’re going to miss him.”
Did you get a sense last year about how difficult it was for him?
“That was really clear. We all know how much he loves to be out there. Even when he was trying to fight through it, he would tell me he felt great. His words that he always uses to me: ‘I feel great.’ But you could see how frustrated he was that it just wasn’t healed completely. I’m looking forward to this year.”
You saw what it was like last year with Mariano Rivera… what will this be like?
“I’m not sure how he’ll do it. I thought Mariano, the way he went through it, was special. Mo was in a different situation because Mo doesn’t start to get ready until the fifth or sixth. As a position player, you can’t necessarily do that. I’m sure it’ll be a little bit different. I think watching Mo, he really enjoyed his final season, and I hope Derek is able to do that as well.”
You’ve had to transition established stars into the later phase of their careers. You don’t have to do that with him now. Is that easier on you?
“I don’t know if it makes it easier. It’s clearer. The picture is clearer. This is a guy that’s going to be hard to replace in your clubhouse and on your club. It’s the nature of the business where people age and they move on and they go and do different things in their life, and in our life it’s a little bit quicker than some of the other working people of this world. It’s not something that we’ll think about all year. ‘Is this going to be it? Is this going to be it?’ Because he said it’s going to be it. From that standpoint, that will be easier.”
Any sense how much he can play this year?
“I’ve said all along that he’ll basically determine that on how he’s doing and how he’s feeling. Obviously as a manager, you would love to be able to run out Derek Jeter out there every day, but we know that’s not the case and you don’t do that with many players today anyway. There will just be constant communication like it has been the last few years.”
‘Taken aback’ means you were surprised. Were you saddened or disappointed?
“Yeah. I was there in 1996 when he broke in as Rookie of the Year. And to be able to play alongside such a great player and be able to coach a great player and manage a great player has been a thrill for me — and what he’s meant to this organization. Yeah, I think about the guys that I played with that have retired while I’ve been the manager, these guys were really important to their club and it saddens you. I remember coming to spring training when Jorge wasn’t in that first group hitting. It was like shocking not to see him there. It’ll be strange next year without Derek. So it does sadden you, and you hate to see players get older, but unfortunately it happens.”
Will you resist the pressure to play Jeter more because it’s his last year?
“I’ve got to do what’s best for our team and best for him, is the bottom line. As I’ve said, he’s going to play as much as he’s capable of playing. That’s the bottom line for me. We want him out there, we want him out there every day. I know it won’t be every day, but I want to run him out there most of the time. I’ve just got to do what is best. I kind of had to deal with it with Mo a little bit, I had to deal with it with Andy a little bit. I’ll just do what’s best for our club.”
Do you know how much you can play Jeter?
“I think you’ll have a pretty good idea. At no point in Spring Training will I run him out five or six days in a row, but I think that you’ll be able to tell running him out there two and three days in a row how he’s responding and how he’s bouncing back. It’ll give you a pretty good inkling.”
What has it been like to manage the final days of the Core Four?
“It’s been a thrill. I think about playing alongside these guys and watching these guys go out on their own terms, it’s been pretty exciting. I feel like I’m really blessed to have that opportunity to manage these guys and watch them end their careers the way they want. You wish you could bring them back, and I joked with Mo when I saw him a couple of times at some events this winter, but I feel like I’ve been able to experience so many great things at the stadium because of these guys and I love it.”
Will Jeter hit second?
“That would be the ideal thing, if you could break up your left-handers, but we’ll just have to see. We’ll play with lineups during spring training.”
Did CC Sabathia’s weight affect his velocity last year?
“I think that could be part of it. I think not having a normal offseason because he was rehabbing his elbow is part of it as well. I can’t tell you exactly where his velocity is going to be, but the bottom line for his success is not his velocity. Obviously it helps a little bit, but it’s his location. I think he got behind the eight-ball a little bit because of the injury last year, but I think he’s had a normal winter. I think his location will be much better and I do think his velocity will be better, I do.”
Without Robinson Cano, do you have a ‘best hitter’ to build your lineup around?
“I think we have a collection of very good hitters this year. I think our lineup is much deeper than it was last year from top to bottom. There’s more balance with some of the switch-hitters; Tex coming back and Beltran. Having Soriano the whole year, bringing Jeet back, I think there’s much more balance in our lineup. But as far as having that one guy that maybe you center the lineup around, I would say no.”
Will Michael Pineda be the fifth starter?
“When we traded for him, we expected him to be in our rotation. He’s had some injury-plagued seasons the last couple years. Obviously you want someone to rise to the top to become the fifth starter. It’s an interesting year as a manager. I’ll say it tomorrow when I speak with the pitchers; don’t try to make the team in the next few days because there are some open spots. There is some really good competition here where you have the competition for the fifth starter, and the guys that aren’t necessarily the fifth starter could be in your bullpen. I want to make sure these guys aren’t pushing too hard, too early where they have a setback. If you have a setback, that could cost you a spot on this club. It’s really important to me that I stress to all these guys – Michael Pineda, Phelps, Warren, Nuno and all these young kids that have a chance to earn a spot in our bullpen – you can’t do too much in the next couple weeks. Get your arm in shape, get strong and then we’ll go from there.”
With changes all over, how is your job different?
“It’s trying to learn your pieces from a mental and a physical standpoint. From a mental standpoint, what gets them going, can you read when they need a day off, are they honest about when they need a day off? Physically, how many days in my mind should I play a guy? What makes me think that they need a day off? Bringing the guys close together as a team. A lot of times, people say, ‘What comes first? The chemistry or the winning?’ Winning can help chemistry a lot. We’ll do some of those things and I’ll pay attention to signs from players, try to listen really carefully and use some of my coaches and other people to find out sometimes what a player is really saying. I think that’s important.”
What are your thoughts on Masahiro Tanaka?
“I did spend some time watching video of him this offseason and watching his ability to turn it up a notch when he needed to. Being able to add velocity; to having a couple of different fastballs; a couple of different sliders, a curveball, a split, a changeup. I even saw him get a hit. I don’t know if that will come into play if he gets to in a National League ballpark. What I like is his competitiveness. I’ve been a guy that is careful about labeling people. Is he your No. 1 starter? Is he your No. 4 starter? Is he No. 5? Two? Three? I believe that every day, the guy that pitches is your No. 1 starter. That’s how I think of it, because that’s your guy. That’s your guy that day, and one of the other guys can’t really sub in for him unless you happen to have some days off. I like his ability. I like his competitiveness. Now it’s just making some adjustments to American baseball. We’ve seen where it’s taken American players a little time to adjust to New York. He seems to really enjoy the stage and the spotlight and being a big part of a club. Let’s give him a little time to adjust.”
Could Pineda begin the year in the bullpen?
“We envision him as a starter, but I think that when we take a look at this, we’ve got to see how he’s doing as a starter. Then, once we pick our starters, we’ve got to pick what we believe is our best bullpen. So the answer to that is, I think anything is possible, but we envision him as a starter.”
Who is your backup first baseman, and what reports have you received on Mark Teixeira?
“I would say right now our backup first baseman would be Kelly Johnson if Tex needed a day off, and he’s going to need some days off. Everything has been positive signs for Tex. At times I talked about, it’s one thing to go through minor league rehab games and your workouts and your BP, because it can be a little bit guarded. But it’s another thing when you get into a big league game and it’s not so guarded. So I think you just have to pay attention to what he’s saying and the signs that he’s giving off. But I feel pretty good about his wrist, and I’m really looking forward to having him back.”
Would you play Brian McCann at first base?
“It’s not something that we’ve talked about. I guess it could be, though.”
Why do you think David Robertson will be ready for the ninth inning?
“I think he has all the ability in the world. You think about closers, and you want pitchers that are strikeout guys, and that’s exactly what he has. I think for Robby, I remember coming in at a much smaller stage and you’re compared to someone (Mike Stanley). And then Tino was compared to Don Mattingly. And it’s important for Robby that he’s just himself, and that if something does go wrong one day, you’re going to be compared to Mo. You know what, I think Mo blew six or seven saves last year. Mo was human too, and you can’t get too caught up in just one game. I would love to say he’s going to go 45-for-45, but even the greatest closers of all time don’t do that. So for us, it’s just if it does become a media buzz or something, we just have to help him control it.”
Former big league pitcher and current YES Network analyst David Cone was one of the honorees at last night’s Thurman Munson awards dinner in Manhattan, and he mentioned that he has been busy studying video of new Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
Cone, who knows a thing or two about splitters, raved that Tanaka’s strikeout pitch will immediately make an impact.
“I don’t know if it’s the best split-fingered fastball in the world, but it’s certainly among the top five right now,” Cone said. “He has that kind of talent, in terms of velocity and movement. When you look at a split-fingered fastball, having thrown it for most of my career, I look at how late it breaks. The late movement and the velocity it retains. He has both of those. He has high velocity and late movement on that splitter, which puts it among the best in the world.”
Cone said that the Yankees will probably want to be creative with how they slot Tanaka on off-days, considering that he will be learning to pitch in a five-man rotation as opposed to once a week in Japan. Cone said that he believes Tanaka is ready to make those adjustments.
“All indications are that he’s a true professional and that he works extremely hard, and he comes prepared to pitch,” Cone said. “He’s really polished for a 25-year-old. When I was 25, I was still learning to throw a split-fingered fastball. He’s 25 and he’s got one of the best in the world. He’s ready for this challenge, in my mind. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch him.”
The YES Network will give fans the opportunity to see for themselves on Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. ET, when they re-air Tanaka’s June 9, 2013 start for the Rakuten Golden Eagles against the Yomiuri Giants. Tanaka threw seven shutout innings in that game, logging the eighth win of his perfect 24-0 season.
YES analysts Ken Singleton, John Flaherty and Al Leiter recently viewed that performance and offered these takes:
“His fastball looks like it has a little more movement than I heard it did. It sinks in a bit on right-handed hitters; not enough to call it a sinker, but enough that the hitter will pay attention. He threw a lot of sliders-cutters in this game. It looks like he has a lot of confidence in it and he threw it for strikes when he was behind in the count. That tells me that this is his off-speed pitch that a catcher can call anytime and have confidence that it will be a strike. Kind of a get-me-back-in-the-count pitch.”
“His curve ball might not be a strikeout pitch, but it could be used for a get-me-over strike on the first pitch of an at-bat. The split looks like the best swing-and-a-miss pitch for him. I thought he would throw it more but he picked his spots in this game. You can see how a catcher will go to that pitch when the game is on the line.”
“His delivery is simple and he loads up on his back leg well. He is quick to the plate out of the stretch, so Brian McCann is going to love that. It also looks like he is a good athlete and fields his position well.”
“I was impressed with his control. He is constantly working the corners with all of his pitches. Tanaka has enough fastball, a good curve, a slider and a top-shelf splitter. He was not afraid to use his curve and slider when behind in the count. All his pitches were quality.”
“I think Masahiro Tanaka’s repertoire and stuff plays very well. His fastball velocity will sit at the 91-93 mph mark and occasional touch 95. He has a very good split that has great late action with good velocity. His split finger is his main secondary pitch and his slider is better than his curveball.”
“I really like his mound presence and disposition. He pitches with a fire in his belly and is emotionally involved.”
“I think Tanaka can be a front-end starter once he gets acclimated to the routine of American baseball.”
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.
The Yankees are saying that they have reached their spending limit for the offseason and consider themselves out on free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said last week that the Masahiro Tanaka signing represented the team’s final big splash of the winter, and thus far the organization has been proceeding as though that is the case. Their stance toward Drew has been chilly at best, as the club does not want to commit to a multi-year deal with the 30-year-old infielder, who also has Draft compensation attached because the Red Sox gave him a qualifying offer.
Drew’s name has popped up in connection to the Yankees because of their uncertainty at multiple infield positions. Shortstop Derek Jeter played in just 17 games last year, second baseman Brian Roberts has missed 445 games over the last four seasons and the Yankees are tentatively planning on a third base platoon that will involve Kelly Johnson and Eduardo Nunez.
The Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes are officially underway. CBS Sports reported that Tanaka has touched down in the Los Angeles area and is preparing to meet with as many as a dozen teams by Friday, a group that is expected to include the Yankees.
The Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, White Sox and Diamondbacks are among the other teams reported to be in the mix for Tanaka, who will likely command a contract in excess of $100 million. Any club signing the 25-year-old right-hander would also be responsible for paying a posting fee, capped at $20 million, to the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Tanaka has been identified as the Yankees’ top priority at this time, continuing an offseason of heavy spending in which they have secured free agents Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Teams may negotiate with Tanaka until Jan. 24.
The Yankees are seeking to upgrade a starting rotation that is currently comprised of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova in the first three spots. A group of candidates including Michael Pineda, David Phelps and Adam Warren would then compete to fill out the final two slots.