Observations from the first weekend of games

2011 Season Preview: Derek Jeter
The RAB Radio Show: February 28, 2011
We had our first Haley Swindal sighting of 2011 this weekend. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The Yankees played their first two Grapefruit League games this weekend, splitting a home-and-home series with the Phillies. It was great to see baseball, stress-free baseball at that. If it was the middle of the season, I’d be pretty upset over the two-run bloop single that essentially lost them the game on Saturday.

Anyway, we know that Spring Training games, especially the first few (when it’s still February) really don’t mean too much, but that’s not going to stop me from making some small sample size observations. I’ll go alphabetically for no apparent reason…

Dellin Betances

Changeup! (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The highlight of the weekend was easily Betances’ inning of work on Sunday. He faced four batters, striking out three and walking one. The television gun had him up 97 with the fastball, which a) is absurd for this time of year, and b) garnered a few helpless swings-and-misses. Chances are he was a little geeked up for the appearance and hitters just aren’t used to see that kind of velocity this time of year, but yeah, Dellin was electric. He was also wild and in obvious need of some more minor league seasoning. But still, damn was that fun to watch.

Joba Chamberlain

For all the talk about his weight gain, I mean sheesh, it was barely noticeable on television. Some other fans I spoke too said he looked bigger up top, around his chest and shoulders, but it’s not like he had a gut hanging over his belt. Joba changed his delivery somewhat, starting with his hands at his waist as opposed to his chest, something he said he started doing on his own and Larry Rothschild later okay’d. The television gun had him anywhere from 91-95, and he threw a lot more sliders than I expected this early in camp.

Bartolo Colon

Bartolo wasn’t kidding when he said he needed to lose 25 lbs., the guy’s pretty chunky. He still brings the heat though, hitting a few 94’s on the YES gun, and he was throwing some kind of offspeed pitch in the low-80’s. Not sure if it was a changeup or splitter, but it moves down and away from lefties. It was just one outing, but it kinda reinforced the notion that it’s tough to be optimistic about his chances of being a viable starter in the big leagues this year.

Brett Gardner

The gritty one didn’t take the bat off his shoulder until the fifth pitch of his fourth plate appearance of the spring. He drew a five pitch walk in his only trip to the plate on Saturday, then walked on four and five pitches in his first two at-bats on Sunday, respectively. After working a 3-1 count in his third plate appearance yesterday, he finally swung at a pitch, a fastball on the outer half, slapping it down the left field line for a legit double (meaning it would have been a double for anyone, not just a fast guy). That swing also featured a two-hand follow through, not the one-handed helicopter thing he had going on last year. I’m glad Gardner is still showing that mega-patient approach against rusty pitchers, though I will continue to hate seeing him let hittable pitches go by in hitter’s counts.

Cured. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

Curtis Granderson

The Grandy-man went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts on the weekend, but the one was a two-run opposite field homerun. Opposite field homers are far from routine for the Yankees center fielder; he’s hit zero in that direction over the last two seasons, and just three total since the start of the 2008 season. Granderson went from an extreme pull hitter to using left field a little more after working with Kevin Long last year, so it was good to see that oppo homer. One ball in play (in February) means nothing, but I remain cautiously optimistic, just as I have been all winter.

Jesus Montero

The Yankees’ top prospect started behind the plate on Sunday and wasn’t tested defensively in any way. No tough balls in the dirt to block, no stolen base attempts, nothing like that. His first at-bat was his best of the day, when he fouled off four 2-2 pitches from Joe Blanton before ripping a line drive right at Placido Polanco at third. Montero’s other two trips to the plate resulting in first pitch ground balls, one for an out, the other for a broken bat RBI single that bounced through the left side of the infield. He’s definitely a big boy though, very tall and strong (looking).

(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Ivan Nova

Nova looked about as good as a pitcher can look in February, facing six batters and getting four ground balls with a pair of strikeouts. He definitely hung a few fastballs if that’s possible, meaning they were belt high and right out over the plate. The problem we’re going to have with Nova this spring is that we really don’t care too much about how he looks early in the game, the majority of his struggles last year came the third time through the order. I doubt we’ll get to see him turn a lineup over more than once in spring, so it’ll still be an unknown if he improved in that department when the season starts.

Alex Rodriguez

Reports have Alex losing ten pounds and three percentage points of body fat over the winter and damn was it noticeable. He seriously looked like the A-Rod of 2006 and 2007, at least physically. That’s not to say he was big before, but he looks more … streamlined this year. I guess that’s the best way to describe it. Alex hit two balls right on the screws on Saturday, one right at the center fielder and one into the right-center field gap for a double. He looked to be running well on the two-bagger, much lighter on his feet.

And a few miscellaneous notes…

  • Melky Mesa totally looks like Alfonso Soriano in the box. Very closed stance, knees very bent, exaggerated bat waggle. Melky 2.0 definitely bore a resemblance to Fonsy.
  • Jorge Vazquez went way deep on Saturday (over the batter’s eye in center) and then went deep again on Sunday. The first one came off Yankee-for-a-winter Brian Schlitter, the other off Brad Lidge. JoVa’s rapidly becoming the 2011 version of Jon Weber.
  • Maybe it’s my shoddy memory, but I think David Robertson‘s leg kick was a little less exaggerated on Saturday; he didn’t pick his knee up past his waist.
  • Boone Logan was only throwing 87-89 on Sunday after sitting around 93 most of last year. It’s only February and it was the TV gun of course, but when everyone else was in the 90’s, Boone’s missing heat was noticeable.

So that’s all I’ve got the first weekend of baseball in 2011, which for all intents and purposes means nothing. I’m curious to see Joba’s and Nova’s next few outings, as well as Gardner some more. That two-handed follow through is interesting. Oh, and A-Rod. Because he’s good at baseball.

2011 Season Preview: Derek Jeter
The RAB Radio Show: February 28, 2011
  • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

    IMO, Joba certainly looks bigger. They showed a side-by-side with him from last year and it was pretty obvious. That said, no, it’s not like he has a gut hanging over his pants and as long as he pitches well I can’t really care.

    And yeah, D-Rob’s leg kick changed. And it was good to see the way A-Rod looked on Saturday. (Insert obvious joke here.)

    • camilo Gerardo

      his shoulders look alot bigger, and it’s hard to farm the fat up there, no

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    I watched yesterday’s game last night, and I noticed that when Andy Sisco walked the one batter he did, he looked pissed. He looked like he wanted to throw his glove. Kind of made me chuckle.

  • pete

    Pretty much everybody looked pretty good for this early, especially Joba and Nova. Also, Dellin’s ginormous.

  • mko

    I read somewhere (probably LoHud), that Joba used to start with his hands at his waist earlier in his career and he changed it unconsciously. He allegedly said that he changed it back this year and felt a lot more comfortable immediately.

  • Thomas

    For some reason, the Granderson blurb reminds me of the article last year about how he got a single off of Igawa. Thus, he must be improving against lefties.

  • http://myspace.com/bksmalls Smallz

    Tex has gotten off to a nice start so far, I feel like thats worth noting considering his annual April struggles, could come out of camp ready to go jussss sayinnnn

    • The Real JobaWockeeZ

      Teix had a good ST in 2009. Doesn’t mean much.

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

      Tex has had downright amazing STs the past two years.

  • SamVa

    And then Man Ban just faced 3 Major leaguers and got a weak grounder and 2 K’s…

    I know it’s one inning in Spring Training.. but the kid is 19.

    • S

      He struck out Inge, Paralta, and induced Victor Martinez to ground out. Those are three starters of the Tigers that is very impressive (even if inge and Paralta aren’t exactly Miggy with the bat, the fact ManBan was able to do that is very impressive)

      • The Real JobaWockeeZ

        Via Olney.

        I did not see a gun reading, but usually he is at 92-93–and with his command of offspeed stuff, that is plenty.

  • Guest

    From Lohud on ManBan’s inning:

    UPDATE, 2:28 p.m.: Good inning for Banuelos, who faced nothing but big leaguers in a 1-2-3 fourth. Looked like a changeup that Victor Martinez rolled to short, Jhonny Peralta swung through a fastball and Brandon Inge looked at a big curveball. Impressive

    • The Real JobaWockeeZ

      Anyone have gun readings?

      • The Real JobaWockeeZ

        Dang there aren’t any according to Jack Curry. Oh well.

        • Frank O

          7 pitches – 7 strikes. I know they probably wanted to have him leave on a high note, but I would have loved to see him pitch another inning.

          • pat

            Gameday doesn’t have the exact pitch count.

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

            Gameday doesn’t have the exact pitch count, it just shows the bare minimum for each outcome (three for a K, four for a BB, one for a HBP/ball in play, etc.)

            • Frank O

              My Bad

      • Stuckey

        Only tweeted 93 consistently. Hit 95 once.

  • CS Yankee

    So, with a 97 heater…is it “Dealin’ Dellin”?

  • pat

    Bartolo is my dark elephant candidate for the bullpen.

    • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

      He quit on the Sox when they told him he was going to the bullpen

  • Cam

    Just a quick note about Montero, I watched yesterday’s game specifically to watch him catch and see Dellin. I do remember him blocking a curve in the dirt, or I think he scooped an overthrown curve from Dellin that was way outside but he got to it and scooped it quick. Very impressed by that. Honestly, he looked much better back there than I though, and seemed to have a handle on dealing the infield as well, noticing a couple of times that he was pointing and directing some of the fielders.

    • YanksFan in MA

      Agree Cam. Nothing glaring on Montero whatsoever. If he was really unable to handle catching, you should be able to notice it fairly easily. I doubt he would ever be anything more than adequate, but the Yankees have felt all along that he would be ok back there and I have to trust that they know what they’re doing.

    • Monteroisdinero

      He will be fine defensively. i think he frames well, moves well and throws well. How he will be on plays at the plate (at least as good as Jorge!) and pop ups behind the plate remains to be seen. Quickness of release and fielding the increasingly rare bunt are two other things to watch for. Things are encouraging right now.

      • Ted Nelson

        I know you are not entirely rational when it comes to Montero, but it’s hard to question his quickness and say he’ll be fine defensively. I don’t have a strong opinion either way… think he’ll be ok there as long as the bat is good-to-great, but if Martin/Romine/Sanchez/whoever is/are strong at the position that he also might be relatively more valuable to the team at DH. C just involves a lot of quick movements, and if you’re questioning a guy’s quickness behind the plate it’s hard not to question his ability to catch. If you’re saying he’s not quick enough to block balls, throw out baserunners, field pop-ups or bunts… he’s not doing much well. I can crouch behind home and do nothing but catch pitches… it’s not much of a skill.

        • Monteroisdinero

          All in all at 475K a year Monteroisdinero..

    • Ted Nelson

      I generally think he’ll be fine if he stays behind the plate and that a lot of differences are at the margins. In reading opinions that he won’t stick at C long-term it’s easy to assume he looks like a fool or something. Really it’s more on the margin. One out of every 10 baserunners, 1 out of every X balls in the dirt, etc. make up the difference between a good defensive catcher and a bad one (just like 1 of 10 PAs is the difference between a .300 OBP and a .400 OBP… a guy who is out of the league and a guy who is an All-Star).

      This can be used both as an argument that you can get by with a poor defender, and also that Montero will not stick at C… so, who knows?

      • Monteroisdinero

        Ok. If he is as good defensively as Posada (career wise) and a better hitter? Not so bad considering Sado is a borderline HoFer and didn’t play over 100 games for the varsity until he was 26!

      • Cam

        It was just interesting to watch him for the first time because you feel like you’re just gonna see a guy who can’t move at all. But I thought he framed pitches very well, was quick with his feet, and stayed low with his target. Now was he Molina quick, no. Here’s the pitch he scooped that I was talking about. Not the hardest pitch to scoop but he had to move quite a lot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=urxEqjYN4D0#t=329s

        Don’t you just love the internet? Someone actually sat there and recorded the entire appearance, on an old tube TV no less!

        • CS Yankee

          Awesome!, thanks

  • J.Beierle

    Olney just tweeted that they had Banuelos hitting 93 consistently on the gun, and that he hit 95 once.

    • mbonzo

      I’m wondering where Prior was. He had a 1,2,3 inning and 1 strike out.

      Cervelli is 2 for 3 and the Tigers announcers are saying he’s had a nice game behind the plate. Itd be something if he’s really improved his game working with Cano this winter.

      • Monteroisdinero

        So if Frankie is great and Martin is great and Montero is great…..


        • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

          a. Frankie’s not great, it’s ST. Let’s calm our panties, y’all.
          b. it’s a nice problem to have.

      • camilo Gerardo

        I wouldn’t doubt that Cano can coach up catchers, kidding

        *at the plate, eh

  • David

    Very good article. I thought that the best story was Nova. I see no reason at all why he can’t be a good #4 or #5 starter.

    • whozat

      because he has never shown the ability to get through a major league lineup three times? And we have no idea how he will adjust now that the book will be out about him throughout the league?

      This is not to say that he won’t show that ability or be able to adjust with help from the MLB staff, but there are absolutely reasons that he may not be a good #4 or #5 starter.

  • J. Scott

    My personal standard for “This is how bad you can be behind the plate but still have a substantial career as a catcher because you can really hit”, is NOT Jorge Posada, but another former Yankee…Mike Stanley.

    Mother of Mercy was he ever awful. Montero’s already better than Mike was. But Mike hit like an animal, so they let him pretend he could play the position.

    • jsbrendog (returns)

      thats true, mike stanley was pretty bad as a catcher

  • Monteroisdinero

    Jorge Vasquez 2 for 2 today. 4 for 4 with 2HR’s so far in 3 games. Impressive. played 3B today.

  • kurt

    whats monteros atheticism regarding a position change. is he so bad that they stuck him behind the plate?

    • Monteroisdinero

      He could only play 1B (athletically speaking). That position will not be available for 6 years.