Open Thread: March 27th Camp Notes

The Yankees walloped the Phillies 10-0 in five innings and change this afternoon. The game was called early due to rain. Stephen Drew (3-for-3 with a double) and Brendan Ryan (2-for-3 with two doubles) led the offensive attack. Yup. Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira, and Brian McCann all went 1-for-3 while both Carlos Beltran and Alex Rodriguez each went 1-for-2 with a walk. Chase Headley went 1-for-4 and Tyler Austin ended the day with a bases-clearing double.

Michael Pineda started and was pretty sharp, scattering five singles in five innings. Two of the singles were ground balls with eyes and two others were bloops. Only one was hit moderately hard. Big Mike struck out five and didn’t walk anyone. He was the team’s only pitcher of the afternoon thanks to the rain. Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here’s the rest of the day’s notes from Spring Training:

  • In case you missed it earlier, Masahiro Tanaka was officially named the Opening Day starter. The rest of the rotation order was also announced, though the team still hasn’t named Adam Warren the fifth starter. That should happen soon. Ivan Nova, Andrew Miller, Chase Whitley, and Vicente Campos all threw bullpen sessions while Tanaka did some flat ground work. [Chad Jennings]
  • A-Rod is scheduled to play five innings at first base Sunday, his first game action at the position. Jacoby Ellsbury (oblique) did more tee and soft toss hitting today. Garrett Jones went over to minor league camp this morning for some extra hitting work. He’s had a crummy spring. [Bryan Hoch, Donnie Collins, Jennings]
  • Jared Burton, who was released yesterday, still has a locker in the clubhouse and has agreed to a deal to remain with the team. My guess is he will sign a new minor league contract soon after Opening Day so the Yankees don’t have to pay him the $100,000 retention bonus. Burton is sidelined with a lat strain. [Brendan Kuty]
  • And finally, CC Sabathia will not be starting tomorrow as scheduled. He’s instead going to pitch in a minor league game while Scott Baker starts against the Orioles. The Yankees don’t want Sabathia facing a division rival so close to the regular season. [Hoch]

This is your open thread for the evening. This afternoon’s game against the Phillies will be replayed on MLB Network, but not until 6am ET tomorrow. MLB Network is showing the Mariners and Royals live tonight, both the Knicks and Nets are playing, and there’s lots of college basketball on too. Talk about anything and everything right here.

2015 Draft: Brady Aiken undergoes Tommy John surgery

(San Diego Union Tribune)
(San Diego Union Tribune)

Less than a week after leaving his start for IMG Academy with what the umpire said was “tightness in his arm,” top 2015 draft prospect Brady Aiken underwent Tommy John surgery on Wednesday. Aiken made the announcement himself on The Players’ Tribune, Derek Jeter‘s site. What a world. (Jeter and Aiken have the same agent, Casey Close.)

Aiken, 18, was the first overall pick in the 2014 draft. He agreed to a $6.5M bonus with the Astros, but Houston backed out of the deal after they looked at his elbow during the physical and got scared. Aiken opted to do a post-graduate year at IMG so he could enter the 2015 draft rather than go to college and wait until the 2017 draft. Here’s a snippet of Aiken’s post at Jeter’s site:

Since last summer, a lot of people have wondered how I could have turned down a multi-million-dollar signing bonus after being picked first in the Draft. Now, I know they’ll probably be wondering about it again. I can honestly say I don’t regret not signing. It was a very difficult decision, but it also was an informed decision based on circumstances only a few people know the truth about. My family and I planned for all the possible outcomes. We weighed the pros and cons, talked with friends and mentors and doctors whose opinions we value and discussed it over a number of family dinners. This wasn’t a decision we made lightly.

Gosh, how bad does that make the Astros look? This 18-year-old kid just had his arm cut open and the first thing he did was type out an article saying he doesn’t regret passing on their multimillion dollar offer.

Anyway, there is plenty of recent precedent for teams drafting a player with an injured elbow in the first round. Just last season, both ECU RHP Jeff Hoffman and UNLV RHP Erick Fedde had Tommy John surgery in May, then still went 9th and 18th overall in June’s draft, respectively. The Nationals took California HS RHP Lucas Giolito with the 16th pick in 2012 knowing he would likely need Tommy John surgery, which he did two innings into his pro career.

The Yankees selected NC State RHP Andrew Brackman with the 30th overall pick in the 2007 draft knowing he would need Tommy John surgery, so they’ve rolled the dice on an injured player before. They also selected Florida JuCo RHP Shane Greene in the 2009 draft while he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, though he was a 15th round pick, not a first rounder. Point is, teams are willing to roll the dice of top pitching prospects with bad elbows. Hoffman, Fedde, Giolito, and Brackman were all considered top 10-15 prospects in their draft classes before getting hurt, like Aiken.

Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer said last summer the Yankees tend to lean towards college players, but Aiken seems right in New York’s wheelhouse as a big (6-foot-4, 205 lbs.) lefty with command of a mid-90s fastball, a power curveball, and an excellent changeup. I was thinking that sounds a lot like young Andy Pettitte, then I remembered Keith Law (subs. req’d) called Aiken a”pretty good version of the Kershaw Starter Kit.” So yeah, Aiken’s a great pitching prospect. When healthy, anyway.

Thanks to the compensation pick for David Robertson, the Yankees have a $7.885M bonus pool for this year’s draft, the sixth largest in baseball. If Aiken indicates a willingness to sign and the Yankees are willing to roll the dice, they have the money to make it work. They’d have to go cheap with other picks to compensate, but it’s doable. The real question is whether the Rangers (fourth overall) or Cubs (ninth) will bite and take Aiken before New York’s first pick (16th overall). Those two clubs appear most likely to gamble on Aiken given their bonus pools and draft tendencies.

For what it’s worth, both Keith Law and Jim Callis say they still expect Aiken to be a first round pick this year.

Depth Arms: Miscellaneous Non-40-Man Roster Pitchers [2015 Season Preview]

Yesterday afternoon we took at look at the Yankees’ pitching depth heading into the 2015 season, specifically the 40-man roster players expected to start the season in the minors with a chance to get called up at some point. Today we’re going to focus on non-40-man roster pitchers in the same position. Guys expected to report to the minors come Opening Day with a chance to see the Bronx at some point during the summer. Some are more likely to be called up than others, of course.

Bailey. (Bryan Hoch)
Bailey. (Bryan Hoch)

Andrew Bailey: The Ex-All Star

The Yankees signed Bailey last offseason knowing he was unlikely to pitch in 2014. Like Jon Lieber in 2003 or David Aardsma in 2011, the Yankees signed an injured established big leaguer with an eye on the following season. Lieber paid dividends in 2004, Aardsma didn’t in 2012. Such is life. Bailey rehabbed last year and instead of picking up his $2.5M club option for 2015, the Yankees signed him to a new minor league contract this offseason.

Bailey, 30, has finally returned to the mound this spring after needing close to 20 months to rehab from surgery to repair a torn shoulder capsule, a potential career-ender. He’s looked okay in camp — “rusty” is the word I would use — striking out four and allowing one unearned run on two hits and a walk in three innings. His fastball has been mostly 90-92 mph, which is encouraging, and his curveball is still a little loopy. All things considered, Bailey’s looked alright given the nature of his injury, though it’s clear he still needs some time to get ready for MLB action.

There’s only a week to go in Spring Training and it’s hard to see the Yankees taking Bailey north on Opening Day. He has yet to pitch with fewer than two days of rest between appearances and there simply isn’t enough time left in camp to get him to where he needs to be to be considered for the big league bullpen. That’s okay, that’s why he’s on a minor league contract. Bailey can go to the minors for a few weeks — I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts with High-A Tampa to stay close to the home base (and also avoid the cold weather) — and continue to work his way back.

It’s unfair to expect Bailey to return to his 2009-11 form, when he was the 2009 Rookie of the Year and a deserving two-time All-Star, but there’s at least now some hope he can help the big league bullpen. He’s fully rehabbed from his surgery and pitching in actual games, and he says he feels great too, which is important. Hopefully Bailey is able to come up at some point this summer and help the Yankees, even if he’s only a sixth or seventh inning middle reliever type. Getting that much out of him would be a win.

Baker. (Presswire)
Baker. (Presswire)

Scott Baker: Here For Use & Abuse

Baker is a good example of what Tommy John surgery can do to marginal big leaguers with okay stuff who rely on precise location to succeed. The 33-year-old returned from surgery with stuff and command that was down a grade or two across the board, hence his 5.47 ERA (4.78 FIP) in 80.2 innings for the Rangers last year. Baker is now three full years removed from Tommy John surgery, so perhaps his stuff will tick up a bit this year, but otherwise there’s very little reason to think he can contribute to the Yankees in a meaningful way in 2015. If he is on the big league roster at some point, he’ll probably be stuck working in a mop-up role until something better comes along. It’s harsh, though at this point of his career Baker’s the kind of guy the Yankees can run into the ground then designate for assignment when someone better comes along.

Nick Goody: 2015 Possible, 2016 More Likely

Goody is the first actual prospect/non-veteran retread in this post, though that’s only because I listed the players alphabetically. The 23-year-old Goody returned from Tommy John surgery at midseason last year and had a 4.60 ERA (3.63 FIP) with a 32.9 K% in 31.1 innings split between High-A and Double-A, though his walk rate (10.7%) was a bit high, which isn’t surprising for a guy coming off elbow reconstruction.

Goody was invited to big league camp and had a nice but brief Grapefruit League season before being sent to minor league camp (4.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K). He’s a classic low-90s fastball/mid-80s slider righty reliever and I think the team’s bullpen depth will push him back to Double-A to start 2015. Goody could get called up this year, but with so many bodies ahead of him, a 2016 debut seems more likely.

Jacob Lindgren: The Strikeout (& Ground Ball) Factory

Lindgren. (Presswire)
Lindgren. (Presswire)

We know all about Lindgren’s strikeout exploits by now, but I think my favorite fact is that he had a 79% ground ball rate in college and an 81% ground ball rate in pro ball last year. He’s an extreme strikeout pitcher and there’s reason to believe he’s an extreme ground ball pitcher too. His slider is that good.

As I said earlier this week, I believe the 22-year-old Lindgren is big league ready and belongs on the Opening Day roster. If the Yankees don’t agree, he’ll go to Triple-A Scranton for a few weeks before inevitably being called up. It would be a major upset if Lindgren does not make him MLB debut in 2015. He is by far the team’s best bullpen prospect and one of the very best in the game period.

James Pazos: Lefty With Velocity

When the Yankees let Matt Thornton go on trade waivers last August, Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman both mentioned Pazos by name when discussing the team’s lefty relief depth. The 23-year-old had a 2.42 ERA (2.38 FIP) with a very good strikeout rate (27.4%) and an okay walk rate (9.1%) in 67 innings between High-A and Double-A in 2014. Pazos has had a nice big league camp (4.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) but he really stands out for his stuff, specifically his mid-90s fastball and low-80s slider. He could start the season at Triple-A Scranton, but with so many lefties on the depth chart ahead of him, Pazos may end up waiting for 2016 like Goody.

Nick Rumbelow: Unconventional Dominance

Fun fact: Rumbelow leads all Yankees pitchers with 12 strikeouts this spring. (Well, he’s tied with Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka, but they’ve thrown more innings.) The 23-year-old shot up the minor league ladder last summer, posting a 2.62 ERA (2.05 FIP) with outstanding strikeout (34.0%) and walk (7.4%) rates in 58.1 innings while climbing from Low-A Charleston to Triple-A Scranton. He was lights out.

Rumbelow is a relatively little guy at 6-foot-0 and 190 lbs., and he racked up all those strikeouts with a mid-90s fastball and big overhand curveball coming from an extremely high arm slot. It’s straight over the top and unconventional:

Nick Rumbelow

You don’t see many big leaguers with that arm angle — Josh Collmenter of the Diamondbacks comes to mind, but that’s it — so it’s an uncomfortable look for hitters. The Yankees seem to like Rumbelow a lot — he still has not been reassigned to minor league camp and he was invited to Captain’s Camp in January — and I can’t blame them. He’s got good stuff and has put up remarkable numbers since being a seventh round pick in 2013.

It would surprise me if Rumbelow made the Opening Day bullpen but I guess it’s not impossible. More than likely though he’ll return to Triple-A and wait for a call-up. Rumbelow is more like Lindgren than Goody or Pazos in that I expect him to make his MLB debut this season, probably in the second half. Once he gets there, he has the potential to stick around for a while.

Luis Severino: The Top Prospect

I decided to include Severino in this post rather than next week’s farm system preview because it sure seems like the Yankees have him on the fast track, which sets him up to make his MLB debut this summer. The just turned 21-year-old right-hander climbed three levels last year, going from Low-A to High-A to Double-A on the strength of a 2.46 ERA (2.40 FIP) with great strikeout (27.8%) and walk (5.9%) rates. In fact, Severino had the lowest FIP among the 551 minor league pitchers to throw at least 100 innings in 2014. That’s pretty awesome.

As good as the numbers are, Severino is not a finished product. Most 21-year-olds aren’t. His fastball is electric, sitting in the mid-90s and regularly bumping up into the high-90s, and his changeup is very advanced for a kid his age. Severino’s slider is still a work in progress though, and there are concerns about his delivery as well. They were easy to see during his brief Grapefruit League cameo; he doesn’t use his legs much and his arm does a lot of the work:

The slider and delivery are things Severino needs to work on before becoming a regular big league pitcher. The only question is whether the Yankees will give him the opportunity to work on those things in Double-A and/or Triple-A this year, or if they’ll continue to rush him up the ladder and call him up at some point. It’s easy to understand why they like him. It’s also easy to see he could benefit from some more development time in a place where results don’t matter. Severino is a big league option this year because the Yankees are treating him that way, not necessarily because he’s ready for it.

Tyler Webb: Lefty Without Velocity

Webb, 24, is another quick riser, pitching to a 3.80 ERA (2.71 FIP) with very good strikeout (32.2%) and walk (7.5%) rates in 68.2 innings last year while climbing from High-A Tampa to Triple-A Scranton. Unlike the other young guys in this post, Webb doesn’t have standout stuff, sitting mostly in the upper-80s and occasionally touching the low-90s with his fastball. He also throws a curveball and a changeup. Webb is a stats before scouting report guy, but when a southpaw puts up numbers like this, he’s tough to ignore. He’ll return to Triple-A to start the season, though the Yankees have a lot of lefties ahead of him on the depth chart. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pazos gets the call before Webb either.

Spring Training Game Thread: Big Mike vs. the Phillies

BIG MIKE IS HERE

The rotation is set. Michael Pineda, this afternoon’s starter, will also start Game Two of the regular season in less than two weeks. Joe Girardi made it all official this afternoon. There was never any doubt Pineda would be in the rotation, it was just a question where he would slot in, which is meaningless about two weeks into the season anyway. The rotation order always gets jumbled around. Pineda just needs to get his pitch count up and prepare to face the Blue Jays on April 8th. That’s all.

Today’s reason to watch: Big Mike! His starts are always a treat. Jacob Lindgren is scheduled to pitch too. I want him in the Opening Day bullpen but who knows which way the Yankees are leaning. He’s pitched well in camp and this afternoon will be another chance for him to make his case. Also, the Phillies are starting righty Aaron Nola this afternoon.  He was the seventh overall pick in last year’s draft, though he is more of a high probability Mike Leake type than a big stuff Stephen Strasburg type.

The Yankees made the short trip over to Clearwater to play the Phillies this afternoon. Here is the Phillies’ lineup and here is Girardi’s starting lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. DH Alex Rodriguez
  7. 2B Stephen Drew
  8. CF Chris Young
  9. SS Brendan Ryan
    RHP Michael Pineda

Available Position Players: C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Jonathan Galvez, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Tyler Austin, CF Jake Cave, and RF Aaron Judge will be the second string off the bench. C Kyle Higashioka, C/1B Francisco Arcia, and C/1B Alvaro Noriega are the extra players.

Available Pitchers: RHP Scott Baker, LHP Jacob Lindgren, LHP Chasen Shreve, RHP Chris Martin, and RHP Nick Rumbelow are all scheduled to pitch after Pineda. RHP Danny Burawa, RHP Kyle Davies, and RHP Diego Moreno are the extra arms.

Bad news: It’s going to rain. It’s not raining in Clearwater right now but it’s scheduled to start very soon, within an hour or so, and continue right through until tonight. I can’t help but wonder if the Yankees will scratch Pineda and make him throw a simulated game inside or something. He needs to get his pitch count up and getting rained out after two innings won’t help. We’ll see.

Anyway, this afternoon’s game is supposed to start a bit after 1pm ET. There is no YES broadcast and MLB Network will replay the game later, so you’re stuck with MLB.tv if you want to watch live. Either than or Comcast SportsNet if you live in the Philadelphia area. MLB.tv will not be blacked out in the Yankees’ home market. Enjoy the game. Before it rains, anyway.

Masahiro Tanaka named Opening Day starter, rotation order announced

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As expected, Masahiro Tanaka was officially named the Opening Day starter by Joe Girardi this morning, according to the many reporters in Tampa. He will be followed in order by Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, and the fifth starter to open the season. Girardi declined to name the fifth starter but all signs point to it being Adam Warren.

Sabathia has started the last six Opening Days for the Yankees. The team’s last Opening Day starter before him was Chien-Ming Wang in 2008. Yeah, it’s been a while. It was clear Sabathia would not get the Opening Day nod when it was announced he is scheduled to start tomorrow’s game. The schedule doesn’t line up. Sabathia has played in 14 MLB seasons and has started Opening Day in eleven of them. That’s kinda nuts.

As for Tanaka, he is not only the team’s best pitcher, but starting Opening Day allows him to get an extra day of rest prior to his second and third starts of the season thanks to scheduled off-days on April 7th and 16th. The Yankees have said they would like to get him extra rest whenever possible, especially early in the season thanks to the whole elbow issue. The club won’t need to use a sixth starter to make that happen for at least a few weeks.

Believe it or not, Tanaka only started one Opening Day with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan, so this will be his second career Opening Day start and first in pinstripes. Hideo Nomo (2000 Tigers, 2003-04 Dodgers), Daisuke Matsuzaka (2008 Red Sox), and Hiroki Kuroda (2009 Dodgers) are the only other Japanese pitchers to start Opening Day in MLB history. Yu Darvish was slated to start Opening Day for the Rangers this year before blowing out his elbow.

The Yankees open the regular season at home against the Blue Jays on April 6th. Toronto has not yet announced their rotation but apparently Drew Hutchison is lined up for Opening Day. I’m guessing R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle will follow in some order. The Yankees play three games against the Jays then three games against the Red Sox at home before going out on a ten-game road trip through Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and Detroit to start 2015.

Mailbag: Betances, Pineda, Eovaldi, Sanchez, 26th Spot

I’ve got eleven questions for you in this week’s mailbag. Use the “For The Mailbag” form in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Dan asks: With all the talk about Dellin Betances‘ poor spring results, do you think it has anything to do with the fact that they’ve essentially put him on the Mariano Rivera spring routine, as if he’s a veteran who’s been doing this for years and only needs 6-7 appearances to get ready for the season, as opposed to a young pitcher with only one real year of experience?

I think that is very possible. Betances moved to the bullpen full-time in May 2013, so last year was his first Spring Training as a reliever, and he was trying to make the team. It wasn’t a normal “just get ready for the season” spring for him. The Yankees scaled back his in-game workload considerably this year — he’s thrown 5.1 innings with a week to go this spring after throwing 12.1 innings last spring, including four outings of multiple innings. Dellin had the same number of Grapefruit League innings on March 5th last year that he has on March 27th this year. He’s used to being a starter in Spring Training and getting a lot of work. That hasn’t happened this year and it could explain his velocity and command issues. We can’t say that for certain, but I do think it is potentially a factor.

P.J. asks: If Michael Pineda remains healthy all season and pitches even something close to the way he did in 2014 after he came back from the injury do you think the Yankees will talk early extension for him? Also is Nathan Eovaldi a candidate for an early extension at the end of the 2015 season?

I think teams are starting to go overboard with long-term contract extensions, specifically by locking up non-core players based on the concept of “protecting against a breakout.” (Looking at you, Adam Eaton. Gotta lock up those injury prone singles hitters who are under team control through 2018 as soon as possible!) Both Pineda and Eovaldi are scheduled to become free agents after the 2017 season, so the Yankees have some time to evaluate them, especially Pineda given his shoulder issues. I liked the idea of signing both to short bridge deals this past offseason, though I think I would hold off on a longer term deal until after 2016, with Pineda in particular. If he makes it through 2015 in one piece, great. Let’s see how that workload affects his shoulder in 2016 before committing. The Yankees can afford to pay these guys whatever they’re worth in a few years. They have the luxury of sitting back and waiting another year to minimize risk.

Vinny asks: Other than the gregarious Nick Swisher, what Yankees of recent vintage do you think we’ll see as analysts on the YES Network someday?

Swisher might be able to pull it off in Eric Byrnes way, but he did some television work during the postseason last year (I think it was TBS?) and was pretty bad. The first name that jumped to my mind was Curtis Granderson because he’s so charismatic and well-spoken, though Andrew Marchand disagrees and thinks he would be boring. Mark Teixeira showed his comedic side with Foul Territory last year and I think he’d be a good candidate for a more serious analyst role too. Brandon McCarthy comes off as smart on Twitter and that’s what I want in an analyst, but I have no idea how he is in front of a camera.

I crowdsourced this question on Twitter yesterday and a lot of people said Alex Rodriguez. (Mike Mussina was also mentioned.) I think A-Rod would be able to talk about the game and break it down at an incredibly high level — he gave Ken Rosenthal a must read scouting report on Didi Gregorius recently, for example — but he seems completely incapable of normal human interaction, which probably won’t work well on television. If you stuck a microphone in front of his face in a studio and asked him to break down tape, he’d be great. Ask him to sit in a booth and talk to a play-by-play guy about the game? Probably not going to go as well.

Sanchez. (Presswire)
Sanchez. (Presswire)

Carl asks: Chad Jennings brought up an interesting thing the other day regarding Gary Sanchez. He noted that Sanchez had been optioned to Double-A, and was legitimately playing with them, and also that Trenton added Michel Hernandez and P.J. Pilittere to the coaching staff, two former catchers. If Sanchez opens the season in Double-A, do you think this could mean that John Ryan Murphy opens in Triple-A, and the Yankees keep Austin Romine as the backup? Whatever the outcome regarding Murphy/Romine, do you see Sanchez opening the season in Trenton?

Matt Kardos says he’s heard Sanchez is likely to start the season back in Double-A as well for what it’s worth, and Brian Cashman told George King that Romine being out of options “will be a factor” in the backup catcher decision. I thought that was typical GM speak at first, Cashman not wanting to show his cards to teams looking to trade for Romine, though it’s starting to seem like there’s a chance Sanchez will remain in Double-A, Murphy will go back to Triple-A, and Romine will be Brian McCann‘s backup, at least to start the year.

If it’s a short-term thing, fine. But I wouldn’t like that to be a long-term situation this year. I’m not sure what Sanchez and Murphy stand to gain by spending even more time at Double-A and Triple-A, respectively — the Yankees could have easily brought in some catching coaches for Triple-A rather than leaving Sanchez in Double-A to work with Hernandez and Pilittere — and Romine hasn’t done anything to earn the backup catcher’s job. I understand wanting to keep catching depth, but not at the expense of holding back the development of two good prospects. Romine is far from irreplaceable.

Jerome asks: If the Yankees could somehow trade their owners and/or GM for anyone else in the league, who would you trade for?

This is tough to answer because how do we judge a good owner? Willingness to spend? How can we gauge that with small market owners like, say, Lew Wolff of the A’s? I’m sure he’d love to spend more money but simply can’t. Anyway, I think being a GM in a huge market is way more difficult than people realize, so the list is surprisingly short. Assuming I can’t mix and match owners and GMs from different teams, I think the only combos I would take over Hal Steinbrenner/Brian Cashman are Ted Lerner/Mike Rizzo (Nationals), Mike Ilitch/Dave Dombrowski (Tigers), and Bill DeWitt/John Mozeliak (Cardinals). I’d prefer the Dodgers and Red Sox owners to Hal but not the GMs. That’s about it.

Luke asks: In past years, at some point during the spring Joe Girardi has had a “fun day” of sorts (billiards, bowling, etc). Have I missed that this spring or has it just not happened yet?

No, it hasn’t happened this year and hasn’t in a while. Girardi surprised the team and took them to a pool hall in 2009 and then to an arcade in 2010, but as best I can tell the Yankees haven’t done anything like that since. I’m sure there’s a reason, I just don’t know what it is.

Joe asks: Why do you think the Yankees were not more involve with Hector Olivero? Seems he would be a valuable 2nd baseman.

Passing on Olivera at that price (six years, $62.5M) seems like a pretty easy call to me, especially since he has a small tear in the elbow ligament and will need eventually Tommy John surgery at some point. (If he has surgery, the Dodgers get a seventh year added on to his contract for only $1M, but it’s his age 37 season.) He could be a valuable second baseman, but what if he can’t hack it there? The Yankees couldn’t play him over Chase Headley at third base, meaning they’d have yet another DH on their hands. If the Yankees were going to give a six-year contract to a 30-year-old, they would have just signed Jon Lester. The annual salary doesn’t scare them, it’s the years.

Paul asks: Is this the first time the Yankee rotation (assuming Chris Capuano is healthy) last names all end in a vowel?

Nope! They not only had an “all last names end in a vowel” rotation just last season, they had an “all last names end in the same vowel” rotation last season with CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Masahiro Tanaka, and Pineda. Last year Diane at VORG did some research on rotations with pitchers whose names end in the same letter, vowel or otherwise, if you’re interested.

The good Upton. (Presswire)
The good Upton. (Presswire)

Adam asks: There are several elite free agents after this season (Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Johnny Cueto). If you could only pick one, who would it be and why?

Obligatory I’d be happy with any of those guys comment. But if you’re making me pick just one, I’d go Upton because the Yankees need a big bat more than they need another starter or defense first outfielder. I reserve the right to change my answer to Heyward if he has a monster 2015 season, though Upton is the superior hitter right now — it helps that he’s a righty too — and as bad as his defense is, he’d be an upgrade in right over Carlos Beltran. How do you fit Upton on the roster with Beltran and A-Rod still under contract? Beats me, though chances are one of them will get hurt before long. Upton is who I’d pick today, ten days before Opening Day 2015.

Mike asks: Do you think with the spring Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams have had that the Yankees can look at them as legit prospects again?

No, it’s only Spring Training. They’ve performed well, yes, but they’ve had something like 50 plate appearances combined. I do buy Heathcott being healthier right now that he has been at any point in the last two or three years, and that sort of raises his prospect stock, but the spring performance is meaningless. Let’s see Heathcott get a full healthy season under his belt and Williams not mope his way through another summer before we consider their prospect status repaired. Three weeks in Spring Training don’t erase those problems.

Ethan asks: If the 25 man roster were expanded to 26, how do you think most teams would use the extra spot?

I think most teams, including the Yankees, would use it for an extra reliever. I could see a team like the Athletics, who have a deep pitching staff and love platoons, using it on an extra position player though. The Red Sox might do that too since they have a million outfielders. I think the 26th roster spot would help usher in the age of six-man rotations over a period of several years. Some teams could swing a six-man rotation this year, the Nationals most notably and possibly the Yankees too if Adam Warren pitches well and Capuano gets healthy, though I think it’ll take a few years for all 30 clubs to buy in. Baseball has been gradually progressing towards using pitchers less and less for decades now. I think the 26th roster spot would make it even easier for teams to do that.

Open Thread: March 26th Camp Notes

The Yankees lost 6-5 to the Rays this afternoon. Adam Warren started and was good but inefficient — he needed 74 pitches to allow one run on four hits and a walk in only 3.2 innings. He struck out five. Despite the high pitch count, Warren all but locked up the fifth starter’s job with his start. Jose Ramirez (1.1 innings) and Chris Martin (one inning) both allowed two runs in the middle innings and Danny Burawa (one inning) allowed one run of his own.

Didi Gregorius went 2-for-4 with a double and John Ryan Murphy with 1-for-2. Brendan Ryan (three at-bats), Chris Young (four at-bats), and Garrett Jones (three at-bats) all went hitless. Rob Refsnyder, Slade Heathcott, and Ramon Flores all doubled. Flores also had a single, and Refsnyder committed his fifth error in 73 defensive Grapefruit League innings. Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here’s the rest of the day’s notes from Spring Training:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury (oblique) hit off a tee and soft toss and said everything “went great.” He plans to get back into games by Tuesday. Chris Capuano (quad) hopes to throw off a mound next week. He said he’ll need four weeks of “Spring Training” to get ready once healthy. Jose Pirela (concussion) feels better but is still experiencing dizziness. He’s scheduled for more tests tomorrow. Austin Romine was scratched from today’s trip with some kind of stomach bug. [Pete Caldera, Bryan Hoch, Marly Rivera, Brendan Kuty]
  • David Carpenter threw an inning in a minor league game after pitching yesterday, so this was his first set of back-to-back games. Nathan Eovaldi and Esmil Rogers both threw bullpen sessions. [Donnie Collins, Kuty]
  • Transaction! The Yankees announced they have released Jared Burton. He was on a minor league contract and suffered a lat strain a week or two ago. The Yankees released him rather than pay the $100,000 retention bonus before Opening Day.
  • And finally, Joe Girardi said he does plan to get Alex Rodriguez into a game at first base this spring. “It’s coming up. I didn’t have a chance to talk to him, but I have it on the board,” he said. [Chad Jennings]

Here is your open thread for the night. This afternoon’s game against the Rays will be replayed on MLB Network, but not until 9am ET tomorrow morning. MLB Network is showing the Athletics and Giants live later tonight. All three local hockey teams are in action and March Madness resumes tonight as well. Talk about those games or anything else right here.

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