Adam Warren officially named fifth starter, finally

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As expected, Joe Girardi officially named Adam Warren the fifth starter this afternoon, according to all the reporters in Tampa. Warren out-pitched the competition in Spring Training and it was especially obvious he had won the job after Esmil Rogers was moved to the bullpen last week.

Warren, 27, has made just three starts in his big league career, one of which was his disastrous six-runs, 2.1-inning MLB debut in 2012. He also started two games on limited pitch counts in 2013. Those three starts don’t really tell us a whole lot about what Warren can do as a starter in 2015, however.

Interestingly enough, Warren’s career path is rather old school. Teams used to break young pitchers in as a relievers before moving them into the rotation all the time back in the day. Warren has gained a lot of experience while in the bullpen the last two years and hopefully it helps him now that he’s in the rotation.

Masahiro Tanaka has already been named the Opening Day starter. He’ll be followed in order by Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, and Warren. Chris Capuano will still be out several weeks with his quad injury, and if Warren pitches well in April, Capuano could wind up in the bullpen once healthy.

Update: Brendan Ryan leaves game with right calf strain

3:32pm: It’s a right calf strain for Ryan, the Yankees announced. He is heading for an MRI to determine the severity of the injury.

3:03pm: Another infielder has gone down with injury. Brendan Ryan suffered an apparent right calf injury while ranging behind the second base bag from shortstop to field a chopper this afternoon. There was no awkward step or anything like that. Ryan just came up holding his calf and eventually walked off the field very gingerly with assistance from the training staff. He had to be carried down the dugout steps.

Ryan, 33, missed the first few weeks of Spring Training with a mid-back sprain. He doesn’t have any sort of history of leg injuries, so this seems like a freak occurrence, just a pulled muscle while going after the ball. The Yankees haven’t released any information about the injury but we’ll pass it along when they do. Having to get carried off the field suggests Ryan was in a lot of discomfort.

The Yankees are also currently without infielders Didi Gregorius and Jose Pirela. Gregorius is nursing a wrist sprain after landing awkwardly diving for a ball and is day-to-day. Pirela suffered a concussion when he crashed into the outfield wall and there’s no timetable for his return. Joe Girardi has said Stephen Drew won’t play shortstop, so if either Gregorius or Ryan is not healthy come Opening Day, I guess Nick Noonan next in line.

Same Skipper, Familiar Faces Headline New-Look Coaching Staff [2015 Season Preview]

For the first time in several years, the Yankees made sweeping changes to their coaching staff this past offseason. Joe Girardi returned despite a second straight postseason-less year, but hitting coach Kevin Long did not. The base coaches were also shuffled around. It all adds up to a new-look coaching staff that still features some familiar faces. Let’s look at the coaching staff heading into the new season.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Joe Girardi: More Responsibility Than Ever Before

It goes without saying that being a big league manager comes with a ton of responsibility. Managers don’t just bring in relievers or wait for the thumbs up to ask for instant replay. We see a very small part of what managers actually do. Most of their work happens behind the scenes, in the clubhouse or on the field hours before or after first pitch. They have 25 players and 25 egos to manage. More than that when you include support staff.

Girardi is about to enter his eighth season as Yankees manager and over these last seven years we’ve learned a lot about him as an on-field strategist. He’s very good at ensuring his hitters get the platoon advantage — the Yankees had the platoon advantage in 62.9% of their plate appearances the last three years, sixth best in baseball. Girardi is also very meticulous with his bullpen and making sure his relievers are rested.

This season, the Yankees heaped more even more responsibility on Girardi’s shoulders by building what amounts to a pitching and defense team. They built up a ton of bullpen depth and are counting on Girardi not only deploying his relievers in the best way possible, but also ensuring they are rested for the long season. That’s the formula. Scratch out a few runs, then turn it over to Girardi and the bullpen. He won’t have many opportunities to platoon his hitters this season though, with only Chris Young and Garrett Jones on the bench as usable platoon bats.

Girardi is also going to have to manage the Alex Rodriguez circus. That hasn’t been too crazy in Spring Training, but it will be once the regular season starts, at least at first. Trips to visiting parks will be headaches. Girardi and the Yankees dealt with this when A-Rod returned in 2013 and that went about as well as everyone could have hoped, so hopefully the chaos will be kept to a minimum. Either way, Joe’s got his work cut out for him in 2015, on and off the field.

Larry Rothschild: The Fixer

The Yankees hired Rothschild during the 2010-11 offseason and since then they’ve handed him several project pitchers. He’s been able to fix some (Brandon McCarthy) but not all (A.J. Burnett). This year, Rothschild will be tasked with not only helping Nathan Eovaldi take a step forward in his development, but also implementing a plan to keep Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia healthy. Right now, that plan seems to be extra rest whenever possible early in the season. And, of course, the Yankees will look to acquire McCarthy-esque pitchers at a discount price during the season and hope Rothschild turns them into top shelf producers. The Yankees seem to have had two or three pitchers kinda come out of nowhere to contribute each year under Rothschild. They’ll need him to do it again in 2015.

Jeff Pentland & Alan Cockrell: It Was Him, Not Us

Pentland. (Presswire)
Pentland. (Presswire)

When the Yankees missed the postseason for the second straight year in 2014, someone was going to take the fall. And once Brian Cashman signed his new contract, Long was the obvious scapegoat. He was fired in October and eventually replaced by not just one hitting coach, but two. Pentland is the hitting coach and Cockrell is the assistant hitting coach. It’s a two-man job these days.

Simply put, Pentland and Cockrell will be asked to show Long was the problem with the offense the last two years, not the team’s collection of aging, past-prime hitters. The hitting coach duo has to get Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann to overcome the shift, coax a productive year out of soon-to-be 38-year-old Carlos Beltran, convince Stephen Drew he isn’t a true talent .162 hitter, get Brett Gardner to repeat last year’s power output, and help Didi Gregorius take a step forward. Nice and easy, right? Good luck, fellas.

Gary Tuck: Catching Instructor Extraordinaire

Tuck, the Yankees’ bullpen coach, has long been regarded as an excellent catching instructor. The Yankees value defense behind the plate very much, so while Tuck is the bullpen coach first and foremost, part of his job this year will be developing the glovework of either Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy, whoever wins the backup catcher’s job. The pitchers are Rothschild’s responsibility. Tuck is in charge of the catchers.

Tony Pena & Joe Espada: Base Coaches

In addition to firing Long, the Yankees also fired first base coach Mick Kelleher and shuffled around their coaching staff. Rob Thomson moves from third base coach to bench coach, Pena moves from bench coach to first base coach, and Espada moves from the front office to third base coach. Thomson had a knack for bad sends — I blame some of that on the offense, Thomson had the push the envelope on occasion to score runs — and hopefully Espada is an upgrade there. We really don’t know what to expect from him though. Evaluating base coaches is pretty tough, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. They’re important enough that the Yankees remade the staff to get new ones this winter.

Spring Training Game Thread: Ellsbury’s Return

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

After spending two weeks sidelined by a minor oblique injury, Jacoby Ellsbury returns to Grapefruit League play this afternoon. He played went through the usual rehab progression — dry swings, hit off a tee and soft toss, hit in the batting cage, full batting practice on the field — before playing in a minor league game yesterday, which he came through just fine. Ellsbury has four spring games remaining to get tuned up for the season.

Today’s reason to watch: Ellsbury’s return, first and foremost. Missing two weeks isn’t a huge deal, but it is Spring Training, so he does have some catching up to do. Also, Chase Whitley and Chasen Shreve will make either their last or second to last appearances before the final two bullpen spots are decided. This might be their last chance to make a statement.

The Rays are up from Port Charlotte for this afternoon’s game. Here is Tampa Bay’s lineup and here is Joe Girardi‘s starting lineup:

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

Available Position Players: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Garrett Jones, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Taylor Dugas, CF Jake Cave, and RF Ramon Flores will be the second string off the bench. C Austin Romine and C Eddy Rodriguez are the extra players.

Available Pitchers: RHP Esmil Rogers, LHP Chasen Shreve, RHP Andrew Bailey, RHP Nick Rumbelow, RHP Jose Ramirez, and LHP Tyler Webb are all scheduled to pitch. LHP Jacob Lindgren, RHP Diego Moreno, and LHP Fred Lewis are the extra arms.

It’s a little cloudy in Tampa but there’s no rain in the forecast and the temperature is in the low-80s. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch live on YES and MLB.tv. The game won’t be blacked out on MLB.tv in either team’s home market. Enjoy.

Thoughts five days before Opening Day

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Just five more days. Five more days of this Spring Training nonsense before the start of the 2015 regular season. To say I’m antsy would be an understatement. Win or lose, I feel like this year’s Yankees will be more enjoyable to watch than the last two years. Lots of power arms and way more athleticism. Hopefully it translates to wins. Here are some miscellaneous thoughts heading into the season.

1. Let’s start with the elephant in the room: what if Dellin Betances stinks now? Even just temporarily. Say his rough spring carries over into the regular season and he’s still struggling with his command and mechanics at the end of the April. Betances has a minor league option left, so the Yankees could send him to Triple-A, but my guess is they would give him lots of time to iron things out unless he was just awful. If that does happen, I guess Andrew Miller would step in as closer with David Carpenter serving as his primary eighth inning guy and Justin Wilson handling the tough lefties, sorta like Boone Logan back in the day. That would leave Betances and I guess Chasen Shreve for the middle innings with Chase Whitley and Esmil Rogers as multi-inning guys. (Assuming Chase and Chasen get those last bullpen spots.) The Yankees have bullpen depth, but Betances is close to irreplaceable. Having him turn back into the old version of Dellin would really throw a wrench into things.

2. Isn’t it amazing how important Didi Gregorius has already become? He landed awkwardly on his wrist last week and everyone immediately held their breath when the trainer came out. That typically isn’t the kind of reaction a potential injury to the ninth place hitter generates. Gregorius has shown this spring his defense is as good as advertised and his bat has maybe more potential than we realized at the time of the trade. Sure, it’s only March, but we’ve seen nothing but positives from Didi. The possibility of replacing him with Brendan Ryan — or even sliding Stephen Drew to short and letting Rob Refsnyder play second — is something no one wants to see. Gregorius has very quickly emerged as not just an important player for the Yankees, but arguably their most entertaining position player. I’m not the only one who thinks that, right?

3. Random observation: Michael Fishman is now listed as an assistant GM on the team’s masthead. Fishman has been the head of New York’s statistical analysis department for years — his old title was “director of quantitative analysis” — but apparently he was recently promoted. Very recently too. Fishman wasn’t listed on the team’s masthead at all as recently as March 16th. For years and years Brian Cashman had just one assistant (Jean Afterman), but he’s now added two in the last three years: Billy Eppler in February 2012 and Fishman. I have no idea who handles what or how their relationships work, so who knows if this is a good arrangement, though I am a fan in general of having many different voices in the front office. With Cashman, Eppler, Afterman, Fishman, and special assistants like Jim Hendry and Gene Michael, the Yankees have a nice blend of old school and new school in the front office.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

4. I am honestly not at all concerned about CC Sabathia‘s spring performance. I guess that’s partly because I don’t have particularly high hopes for him in the regular season, so it’s not like this spring is a shock to the system, but it’s also because he’s coming off a ten-month layoff and knee surgery. And veteran guys in general seem to take it easy in Spring Training and focus on preparing for the season, not necessarily competing. Sabathia’s been doing this a long time and he knows what he needs to do to get ready. Why would he deviate from that? I’m encouraged his velocity is up into the 90-92 mph range, which still isn’t great but it’s way better than the 88-90 mph heat he was taking out to the mound early last year. Hopefully Sabathia can be a league average innings eater this summer. That would be a big help.

5. Our predictions at CBS will be posted Friday, but I’m going to give you a sneak preview of mine now. I have the Orioles, Indians, Angels, Nationals, Cardinals, and Dodgers winning the division with the Mariners, Tigers, Marlins, and Padres as the wildcard teams. Dodgers over Indians in the World Series. I have the Yankees finishing third in the AL East behind the O’s and Red Sox and Sabathia winning the AL Comeback Player of the Year award, because why not? Robinson Cano and Matt Kemp are my MVP picks — MVP is not the most WAR award, I’m banking on the voters picking Kemp after he hits the snot out of the ball and leads San Diego to the postseason — and I have Clayton Kershaw and David Price as my Cy Young picks. I’m going to be wrong. With everything. Except Matt Harvey winning NL Comeback Player of the Year. That’s a slam dunk. Otherwise predictions are nothing more than harmless fun. Feel free to call me out when Cano’s hitting .265 on June 1st or when the Yankees win the World Series.

Open Thread: March 31st Camp Notes

The Yankees lost 3-1 to the Twins this afternoon. Masahiro Tanaka started and was shaky, allowing three runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings before reaching his pitch count (75). He struck out one and walked zero. His next start will be Opening Day. Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and Nathan Eovaldi have combined for 44 strikeouts and two walks in 44 innings this spring, by the way. Bullpen candidate Chris Martin retired all six Twins he faced, including five via strikeout.

Brett Gardner, the only everyday player in the lineup, went 1-for-2 with a walk. Brendan Ryan and Garrett Jones both went hitless in three at-bats while Chris Young went 1-for-3. Ramon Flores went 2-for-4 and singled in the team’s only run. Rob Refsnyder went 1-for-3 with a walk and committed his sixth error in 78 defensive innings this spring. Yeesh. Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here’s the rest from Spring Training:

This is your open thread for the evening. MLB Network is showing the Padres and Royals live later tonight, plus the (hockey) Rangers, Devils, and Nets are all in action. Talk about whatever. Have at it.

Yankees discussing minor league coaching position with Tino Martinez

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are currently discussing a minor league coaching position with former first baseman Tino Martinez, reports George King. The Associated Press says it’s a done deal, though some comments Martinez made to King yesterday make it seem like nothing is final just yet.

“We are talking about it. Seeing minor league teams a couple of times a month,” said Tino to King. “(Farm system head Gary Denbo) asked me to help out, and I have been doing a little bit of everything. These kids are so willing to learn, they want to move up.’’

Martinez, 47, has been at Spring Training as a guest instructor. He spent 2008-09 in the team’s front office as a special assistant, and he spent half of 2013 as the Marlins hitting coach. Tino resigned that July amid allegations he verbally and physically abused players, which, uh, isn’t cool.

I have no idea what kind of instructor Martinez is, so I couldn’t tell you if he would be a good hire or a bad hire. I’m sure the Yankees did their homework. That said, my guess is if this was someone other than Tino Martinez, the abuse allegations wouldn’t be overlooked so easily.