Spring Training Game Thread: Star and Scrubs

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the second time in three days, the Yankees are playing the Red Sox in a Spring Training game that more than a few people will try to pass off as meaningful. Gotta shove the rivalry down everyone’s throat. David Phelps is making his fifth start of the spring as he looks to edge out Michael Pineda for the final rotation spot, though that might be a lost cause at this point. Boston is playing most of their regulars, so it’ll be a good tune-up for Phelps, who is probably scheduled for something like six innings or 90 pitches.

Because it’s a night game and the Yankees had to travel two hours south to Fort Myers, they sent a skeleton crew roster. Whoever drew the short straw, basically. The biggest name to make the trip is Mark Teixeira, who still needs a lot of at-bats after missing all but 15 games last season due to his wrist injury. Otherwise it’s a bunch of bench players and non-roster invitees. Star and scrubs as the title says, only the star really isn’t a star anymore. Here’s the starting nine:

  1. CF Ichiro Suzuki
  2. SS Brendan Ryan SS Dean Anna – Ryan was a late scratch with upper back spasms unrelated to his previous oblique problem
  3. 3B Eduardo Nunez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Frankie Cervelli
  6. 2B Scott Sizemore
  7. LF Yangervis Solarte
  8. RF Zoilo Almonte
  9. DH Zelous Wheeler
    SP David Phelps

Available Pitchers: RHP Matt Daley, RHP Chris Leroux, RHP Yoshinori Tateyama, and LHP Fred Lewis are all scheduled to pitch. RHP Branden Pinder, LHP James Pazos, RHP Manny Barreda, and RHP Caleb Cotham are the extra arms.

Available Position Players: C Austin Romine, 1B Jose Gil, 2B Jose Pirela, SS Carmen Angelini, 3B Dean Anna, LF Ben Gamel, CF Antoan Richardson, RF Adonis Garcia, and DH John Ryan Murphy will be the second string off the bench. C/1B Tyson Blaser and UTIL Ali Castillo are also available.

The weather in Fort Myers is quite lovely this evening, with no clouds and temperatures in the upper-60s/low-70s. Not bad. Not bad at all. You can watch the game live on YES locally and both ESPN and MLB.tv nationally. Enjoy.

Scouting The Trade Market: Pittsburgh Pirates

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

The Yankees have swung a trade late in Spring Training in each of the last three seasons, and if they’re going to do the same this spring, they’ll have to do it soon. Opening Day in Houston is only 12 days away. Infield help figures to be the top priority at this point but adding another arm, specifically for the bullpen, wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s not like you can have too many relievers.

This time of year, most trades involve players who are out of options and can’t go to the minors without passing through waivers. Teams don’t want to lose them for nothing, so they’re traded if don’t make the roster. That’s how the Yankees wound up with Chris Stewart in Spring Training 2012 and why they traded away Sergio Mitre in Spring Training 2011. MLBTR has this year’s list of out of options players and one of the most well-stocked teams is the Pirates, who have four out of options pitchers for three bullpen spots. Both Travis Sawchik and Tim Williams expect a trade before Opening Day, not someone to be placed on waivers. Is there a trade match with the Yankees? Let’s look.

Jeanmar Gomez
If the name rings a bell, it’s probably because Gomez threw a perfect game against Double-A Trenton back in May 2009. The 26-year-old right-hander was the Pirates swingman last summer, pitching to a 3.35 ERA (3.85 FIP) in 80.2 innings across eight starts and 26 relief appearances. Gomez is a classic low-90s sinker, low-80s slider, low-80s changeup guy who gets grounders (55.4%) but doesn’t miss bats (15.9 K%) or really limit walks (8.4 BB%). On the bright side, he did not have much of a platoon split last year, holding righties to a .269 wOBA and lefties to a .278 wOBA. Not the sexiest pitcher in the world, but for a swingman, you could do worse.

Vin Mazzaro
Mazzaro, 27, is local guy from Hackensack who really blossomed after moving in the bullpen full time last year, posting a 2.81 ERA (3.31 FIP) in 73.2 innings. He’s a low strikeout (15.1 K%), low walk (6.9 BB%), high ground ball (52.2%) pitcher despite a mid-90s two-seamer and upper-80s slider. Mazzaro had a small reverse platoon split in 2013, holding righties to .286 wOBA and lefties to a .269 wOBA. Given his two power pitches, there’s a chance the Yankees and pitching coach Larry Rothschild would be able to really unlock his strikeout potential, something they’ve done with guys like Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan in recent years.

Bryan Morris
Morris came over from the Dodgers in the Jason Bay/Manny Ramirez trade way back in the day, but it wasn’t until last season that he got extended time in the big leagues. The 26-year-old had a 3.46 ERA (4.89 FIP) in 65 innings, getting … wait for it … lots of grounders (57.5%) but few strikeouts (13.7 K%). His walk rate (10.4 BB%) was really high and lefties gave him a bit of a hard time (.320 wOBA) as well (.295 for RHB).

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
Morris. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

The numbers aren’t anything special but what makes Morris interesting is that he’s shown increased velocity and a new pitch in camp. Sawchik says scouts have clocked Morris’ four-seamer at 97 mph and his cutter at 91 mph this spring, both up 2-3 from last season. He’s also added a two-seamer in the mid-90s. A hard low-90s slider is his breaking ball. Morris has battled elbow and shoulder problems over the years and once upon a time Baseball America (subs. req’d) said he had “a 92-94 mph fastball that has hit 96 mph” and “the stuff of a frontline starter.” It could simply be that his old velocity has just started to fully return now that he’s a few years away from his last arm injury.

Stolmy Pimentel
Pimentel, 24, was part of last winter’s Mark Melancon-Joel Hanrahan trade. He made his big league debut last September (1.93 ERA and 1.76 FIP in 9.1 innings) after pitching to a 3.35 ERA (~3.96 FIP) in 169.1 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A. His minor league strikeout (17.3 K%) and walk (7.9 BB%) weren’t anything to write home about. In their 2014 Prospect Handbook, Baseball America said Pimentel “sits at 92-94 mph … topping out at 95″ and has an “excellent, mid-80s split-changeup,” though they caution “he’s probably not quite ready for prime time” and will “have to earn his stripes in low-leverage work.”

* * *

The Yankees have several guys just like Gomez in David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Vidal Nuno, and as interesting as his two-pitch mix may be, Pimentel wouldn’t really move the bullpen needle all that much this year. Mazzaro and Morris are decent middle relievers with the type of power stuff the Yankees love, though the strikeout numbers don’t back it up. It’s obvious New York values having strikeout pitchers in their bullpen for what I think are obvious reasons. For what it’s worth, Rob Biertempfel and Ken Davidoff say everyone but Pimentel is available.

What would the Pirates want in exchange for Mazzaro or Morris? How do you value an out of options middle reliever? Stewart had knee surgery and will likely miss 4-6 weeks according to Sawchik, but would the Yankees really deal a spare catcher for a middle reliever who might not last the season? Maybe Austin Romine, but even then that feels like a stretch. Remember, the Yankees have a full 40-man roster, so they’d not only have to give up something in a trade for these guys, but they’d have to clear a 40-man spot as well (which they could do in the trade, obviously). Pittsburgh has some extra interesting arms, but I have a hard time seeing a trade fit here. Then again, the Yankees and Pirates get together for a trade every other week it seems, so who knows what’s cooking now.

Open Thread: 3/19 Camp Notes

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

In a rare non-televised Spring Training game, the Yankees beat the Braves by the score of 7-0 this afternoon. Ivan Nova was dynamite, allowing just two hits and no walks in 6.1 innings. He struck out five and got seven outs on the ground compared to three in the air. That’s Nova at his best. Danny Burawa, Shane Greene, Cesar Cabral, and Dellin Betances got two outs apiece to close out the game.

Carlos Beltran was the star at the plate, going 3-for-4 and driving in a pair of runs. Brett Gardner went 0-for-1 with three walks and both Alfonso Soriano and Brian Roberts had a single. Derek Jeter‘s rough spring continued with an 0-for-4. He surely came to camp rusty after missing just about all of last season, and he has another eleven days to get ready for Opening Day. The Yankees drew eleven walks as a team while striking out only eight times. No television means no video highlights, but here’s the box score and the rest from camp.

  • Jeter said his twice-fractured ankle feels great and has been a non-factor in camp. He has been moving well all spring. “I haven’t worried about that for a while. I haven’t worried since I got here,” he said. “If you’re comparing the two years, it’s completely different. Just walking around last year was a struggle. This year, I haven’t thought about it at all.” [Dan Martin]
  • Jacoby Ellsbury (calf) feels “substantially better” and did some running and outfield work today. He still is unlikely to play before Friday. Brendan Ryan (oblique) and Scott Sizemore (calf) are both expected to play tomorrow. Russ Canzler, who recently missed time with a hip problem, now has a back issue and was scratched from today’s lineup. [Andrew Marchand, Jose Castillo]
  • Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren will pitch in relief Friday and Saturday, respectively. Sure seems like they’ve been ruled out as fifth starter candidates. Warren and Hiroki Kuroda threw their scheduled bullpen sessions when Preston Claiborne pitched in a minor league game. [Chad Jennings]
  • Also from Jennings: Alfonso Soriano is not longer taking ground balls at first base. They tried it and will now they’ll focus on more important stuff.

This is your open thread for the evening. MLB Network will show the Cubs and Rockies live later tonight, plus both the Knicks and Nets are playing. Talk about Nova, the games, or anything else right here.

Second lefty seems unlikely despite Thornton’s rough spring

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Even though he caught an awful lot of crap, the Yankees had a pretty reliable lefty reliever in Boone Logan over the last few years. They wisely walked away when the Rockies offered Logan a total of $16.5M across three years this winter, instead opting to sign the veteran Matt Thornton to a more sensible two-year, $7M pact. Lefty reliever is a hardly a position worth big free agent bucks.

Logan is recovering from offseason elbow surgery and has yet to appear in a Spring Training game for Colorado while the 37-year-old Thornton has made four Grapefruit League appearances so far this spring. They’ve been four pretty terrible appearances: 14 batters faced, seven hits, one strikeout, three runs charged. He has only faced four left-handed hitters but three have hits. The other grounded out. Not ideal, but it is only spring.

“I know where I need to make improvements,” said Thornton to Brendan Kuty earlier this week. “The off-speed is coming along. I can use it in any situation. I was talking to Brian McCann after [my last] outing. He feels confident with any pitch we’re throwing out there, whether it’s the four-seamer, two-seamer slider or split, but you still have to get ahead. The next few outings I’m going for strike one, no matter what it is. You can’t fall behind guys.”

Thornton was once one of the top relievers in the game regardless of handedness, but, as I detailed in the season preview, his performance has slipped with age and he’s strictly a lefty specialist at this point. The Yankees know this and Joe Girardi is usually very good with platoon situations, so I don’t expect it to be much of an issue. He’ll be a glorified Clay Rapada rather than someone who is asked to get righties out with any sort of regularity.

As it stands right now, it seems unlikely the Yankees will carry a second lefty in the bullpen come Opening Day. Cesar Cabral continues to pitch unimportant late innings in spring games and appears to have been passed by Fred Lewis on the depth chart. Lewis has been impressive in camp but doesn’t have a promising minor league track record. Vidal Nuno is the most likely candidate for a potential second lefty spot, and he could wind up in Triple-A stretched out as the sixth starter.

Michael Pineda looked fantastic yesterday and solidified his hold on the fifth starter’s spot, meaning David Phelps and Adam Warren moved one step closer to the bullpen. That leaves only two open bullpen spots, one of which will go to Dellin Betances based on his performance this spring. Nuno could grab that last spot, it wouldn’t be that surprising, but Cabral and Lewis are a bit more off the radar. The Yankees could take a second lefty north if they’re concerned with Thornton, but I think they’ll go with him as the only southpaw until he shows he’s not up to the task in the regular season.

Rotation lined up as Spring Training winds down

Number four in the rotation, number one in our hearts. (Mike Carlson/Getty)
Number four in the rotation, number one in our hearts. (Mike Carlson/Getty)

One thing I’ve come to understand over the years is the order of the starting rotation at the beginning of the season means very little. It’s all symbolism. The Opening Day start usually goes to a veteran who has been with the team a while, not necessarily the best pitcher. Being designated as the staff ace and actually pitching like an ace are two different things. Scheduled off-days and rain-outs throw a wrench into the rotation after a few weeks and the order gets all mixed up anyway. It’s fun to talk about, but the importance is small.

Spring Training ends in less than two weeks — the final Grapefruit League game is next Saturday — and the Yankees have started to line up their rotation for Opening Day and the start of the regular season. I’m sure it has actually been plotted out and planned for a few weeks now, but now that we can see the light at the end of the Spring Training tunnel, the plan is a little more concrete. Courtesy of Chad Jennings, here is the rotation through the weekend according to Joe Girardi:

Wednesday: Ivan Nova
Thursday: David Phelps
Friday: CC Sabathia
Saturday: Masahiro Tanaka
Hiroki Kuroda in a minor league game
Sunday: Michael Pineda

With Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren nowhere to be found, it’s likely both have already made their final starts of the spring. That makes sense, they always seemed to be the distant third and fourth contenders for the final rotation spot. Girardi confirmed Warren will make the team in some capacity a few weeks ago, so he’s headed to the bullpen. Nuno could very well wind up in Triple-A as the sixth starter.

Michael Pineda has been fantastic this spring with the obvious caveats: he’s coming off major shoulder surgery, it’s mid-March, he isn’t stretched out all the way, he hasn’t faced the greatest lineups, etc. Everything we’ve seen so far is encouraging and even though Girardi stopped short of anointing him the fifth starter — “The other guys are throwing pretty well too. We’ve got to figure out what’s best for our team as a whole,” he said to Bryan Hoch yesterday — it sure seems like Pineda is the favorite to start the season in the rotation, relegating David Phelps to the bullpen. So, with that in mind, here’s how next week’s rotation lines up:

  • Monday, March 24th: OFF DAY (Nova throws a simulated or minor league game)
  • Tuesday, March 25th vs. Phillies: Phelps on regular rest
  • Wednesday, March 26th @ Blue Jays: Sabathia on regular rest
  • Thursday, March 27th @ Pirates: Kuroda on regular rest
  • Friday, March 28th vs. Marlins: Tanaka with one extra day of rest
  • Saturday, March 29th vs. Marlins: Nova on regular rest, Pineda???
  • Sunday, March 30th: OFF DAY

According to Jennings, Girardi “hinted that someone will pitch at the complex” during the Monday’s scheduled off-day. Nova lines up perfectly for that day, so he seems to be the guy. Phelps, Sabathia, and Kuroda follow with their final Grapefruit League starts on regular rest, then Tanaka goes with one extra day. The team has said they are planning to give him the extra day here and there. It’s also worth noting that regardless of whether he starts Thursday or Friday (or Saturday or Sunday for that matter), Tanaka will have faced only one AL club this winter (the Twins this coming Saturday). I doubt this was a coincidence. The Yankees kept him hidden from the direct competition while still getting him innings against MLB caliber hitters. Clever.

Anyway, following Tanaka’s start, Nova closes out the Grapefruit League schedule on regular rest next Saturday. What happens with Pineda at that point is anyone’s guess. He could come out of the bullpen to replace Nova, he could throw a simulated game, or he could start a minor league game. The Yankees have options. Pineda will be working on one extra day of rest Saturday and it’s good to give him that little break following his surgery and long rehab. They have to take it easy on him and not work him too hard, too soon.

With that all laid out, here’s how the rotation lines up the following week:

  • Monday, March 31st: OFF DAY
  • Tuesday, April 1st @ Astros: Sabathia with one extra day of rest
  • Wednesday, April 2nd @ Astros: Kuroda with one extra day of rest
  • Thursday, April 3rd @ Astros: Nova on regular rest
  • Friday, April 4th @ Blue Jays: Tanaka with two extra days of rest
  • Saturday, April 5th @ Blue Jays: Pineda with two extra days of rest

Nova’s the only guy who wouldn’t make his first start of the season with extra rest and since he’s young and healthy (and not coming over from Japan), he probably needs the extra rest the least. Pineda could throw a simulated game or pitch in a minor league game on Sunday the 30th instead of Saturday the 29th, allowing him to make that first regular season start on one extra day of rest rather than two. There is such a thing as too much rest, remember. He can get out of rhythm or something like that. Tanaka is used to starting with six days of rest, so the two extra days should be no big deal to him.

The Yankees have indicated Tanaka will start the fourth game of the season rather than the third for two specific reasons. One, they want to split him and Kuroda up since they have very similar styles as fastball/splitter/slider pitchers. (It’s not just a racial thing, you know.) Two, they want to give Tanaka extra rest when they can, and by starting him in the fourth game, he’ll be able to make his third start of the season with an extra day of rest. If he starts the third game of the season, he’d have to make both his second and third starts with normal rest. Anything to help the transition.

Sabathia was pretty terrible last season but he’s getting the nod on Opening Day for past performance. The guy was pretty awesome from 2009-12. Like I said before, the Opening Day start is a novelty more than anything. It doesn’t have any kind of real value to the team. The Game One starter for a postseason series, now that actually matters. Opening Day? Nah, not worth getting upset over. The rotation is all lined up for the start of the season and everyone who needs an extra day or two of rest will get it, and that’s it the most important thing.

Open Thread: 3/18 Camp Notes

The Yankees walloped the Red Sox 8-1 this afternoon in a game that included a seven-minute bee delay in the third inning. A swarm of bees took over left field. Joe Girardi made a Tommy Boy joke during an on-air interview and everyone had a nice laugh at Mark Teixeira‘s expense. It was pretty great. Here’s the video.

Anyway, Michael Pineda was clearly the story the day, holding an admittedly weak Red Sox lineup to four hits in 4.1 scoreless innings before reaching his pitch limit. He struck out five and walked no one, giving him 14 strikeouts and one walk in nine Grapefruit League innings. Forty-five of his 60 pitches were strikes and he was anywhere from 88-94 mph on the YES gun with a filthy slider. Most importantly, everything was free and easy. Pineda wasn’t laboring or overthrowing. Looked very natural, unlike two springs ago.

Brett Gardner (3-for-4), Alfonso Soriano (2-for-4 with a monster homer), Frankie Cervelli (2-for-3 with a triple), and Brian Roberts (2-for-3 with a stolen base) all had pretty great days at the plate. Teixeira went 1-for-2 with two walks while Derek Jeter and Carlos Beltran both went 1-for-4. Beltran doubled. David Robertson struck out two of three batters faced and Shawn Kelley chucked a perfect inning. Pretty solid game all around. Here is the box score, here are the video highlights, and here is the rest from Tampa.

  • The Yankees announced their largest round of roster cuts so far: C/1B Francisco Arcia, OF Tyler Austin, RHP Bruce Billings, RHP Robert Coello, RHP Brian Gordon, IF Corban Joseph, RHP Mark Montgomery, C Peter O’Brien, UTIL Jose Pirela, RHP Chase Whitley, and OF Mason Williams were reassigned to minor league camp while OF Ramon Flores was optioned to Triple-A Scranton. Whitley will be stretched out as a starter, which makes sense given Scranton’s rotation needs following the Nik Turley and Jose Ramirez injuries. There are still 46 players in big league camp by my unofficial count. [Chad Jennings]
  • Jacoby Ellsbury went through a fairly normal workout today but still felt “something” in his calf. He will not play until Friday at the earliest. Austin (wrist), Brendan Ryan (oblique), and Scott Sizemore (calf) all took batting practice and figure to return to game action in the coming days. David Phelps, CC Sabathia, and Masahiro Tanaka threw their usual between-starts bullpen sessions. [Jack Curry, Jennings]
  • Andrew Bailey, who is working his way back from surgery to repair a tore shoulder capsule, is currently making 50 throws from 90 feet on flat ground as part of his rehab. He hopes to stretch it out to 120 feet next week. Bailey is unlikely to return to a big league mound until August or September, according to the team. [Jorge Castillo]
  • Tanaka’s next start will be Saturday on the road against the Twins. He will be on one extra day of rest. Hiroki Kuroda will stay behind in Tampa and pitch in a minor league game on normal rest that day. [Bryan Hoch]

Here is your open thread for the night. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on YES tonight (7pm ET) and on MLB Network early tomorrow (7am ET). MLBN will air the Cubs and Rangers live later tonight and all three local hockey clubs are in action as well. Talk about anything and everything here.

Spring Training Game Thread: Pineda, Part Two

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The fifth starter competition takes another step forward this afternoon, as Michael Pineda makes his second Spring Training start and third overall appearance. He was reportedly very impressive in his first outing and slightly less so last time out, though he was hardly bad. Pineda will get stretched out a little bit more this afternoon, probably up to four innings and 60-65 pitches, so it’ll be good to see how he holds up later in games. He was hitting a wall around the 70-pitch mark during his Triple-A stint last summer.

The Red Sox are up from Fort Myers for this afternoon’s game, so I hope you’re ready for some over-analyzed Grapefruit League action. If you can’t beat ‘em on March 18th, when can you? Boston didn’t bring any of their top players, with only Jackie Bradley Jr., Jonny Gomes, Xander Bogaerts, and David Ross coming close to qualifying as regulars. Left-hander Felix Doubront will be on the mound. Here is Joe Girardi‘s starting lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. DH Alfonso Soriano
  6. C Frankie Cervelli
  7. 2B Brian Roberts
  8. 3B Kelly Johnson
  9. CF Ichiro Suzuki
    SP Michael Pineda

Available Pitchers: RHP David Robertson, LHP Fred Lewis, RHP Shawn Kelley, RHP Matt Daley, and RHP David Herndon are all scheduled to come out of the bullpen. RHP Jim Miller, RHP Yoshinori Tateyama, RHP Chris Leroux, and RHP Danny Burawa are the extra arms.

Available Position Players: C Austin Romine, 1B Jose Gil, 2B Eduardo Nunez, SS Dean Anna, 3B Zelous Wheeler, LF Yangervis Solarte, CF Adonis Garcia, and RF Zoilo Almonte will be the second string off the bench. C John Ryan Murphy and OF Antoan Richardson are also available.

It’s cloudy and cool in Tampa but there is no rain in the forecast after yesterday’s downpour. Hooray for that. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05pm ET and you can watch live on YES, ESPN, and MLB.tv. Enjoy the game.