Results tagged ‘ Yankees ’

First cup of Joe: Girardi meets the media

Joe GirardiIf 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.”

David Cone: Tanaka’s splitter is world-class

Masahiro TanakaFormer 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:

John Flaherty

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.”

Ken Singleton

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.”

Al Leiter

“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.”

“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. 

 

The Yankees are not chasing Stephen Drew

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.

Yankees expected to meet with Masahiro Tanaka

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. 

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