My brackets are in pretty decent shape so far, much better than the last few years. Ironically, I paid even less attention to college basketball this year than I usually do. Go figure.
Anyway, here’s your links:
- Now that they’ve been eliminated, the 2009 WBC is the first time since 1959 that Cuba has not reached the finals of an international tournament. That is a pretty amazing accomplishment. (h/t Neyer)
- Speaking of the WBC, I got my first look at the mythical beast known as Yu Darvish the other night. And you know what? The dude is filthy. RJ Anderson at Fangraphs and Harry Pavlidis at Beyond the Box Score both took a look at his start against Korea, Pitch f/x style.
- Joba’s DUI hearing was pushed back a third time.
- This one’s behind the Insider wall, but KLaw ran down the list of players who currently project as first round picks for the 2009 Draft. Right now there’s only fifteen no-doubt-about it first round talents. Last year Law said there were about twenty true first round players.
- Lots of great interviews on the netweb recently: Jason at IIATMS sat down with author Jeff Pearlman, Rays Index interviewedthe team’s principal owner Stuart Sternberg, Brandon Isleib spoke with Twin’s Director of Baseball Communications Dustin Morse, and David Laurila interviewed Shariz Rehman, the D-Backs Director of Baseball Ops. Awesome stuff all the way around.
- The inaugural RAB Fantasy Baseball League (and the Alternate League) are drafting Sunday night. I’m picking 17th (out of 20 teams), and right now I’m leaning towards Jacoby Ellsbury with my first pick. I hear he’s teh awesome. I’ll post my team early next week for you all to bask in it’s fantasy goodness laugh at.
Here’s your open thread for the night. The Isles, Devils, Knicks and Nets are all in action tonight, plus there’s a whole bunch of college basketball games going on. Today’s an off day for the WBC, the semifinals kick off tomorrow night when Korea takes on Venezuela. USA will play Japan Sunday night, and they’ve pushed Roy Oswalt up for the game Anything goes here, just be cool.
That shot of some players walking around the infield comes courtesy of longtime RABer Andy in Sunny Daytona (I have no idea who they are, so don’t ask). Apparently Daytona wasn’t sunny enough for Andy today, so he drove across the state to watch a bunch of minor leaguers. We benefit though, because he also got some pictures of Jorge Posada catching, Andy Pettitte walking around the mound, and Mark Melancon in mid-delivery. Pete Caldera also has some pics of Andy pitching, which you can see here and here.
Someone stole a base off Posada, who had to made three throws to second base, all of which went fine. Melancon struck out the side. Andy also send along a picture of the monstrosity he ate for dinner last night. I think it’s sushi. Anyway, thanks to Andy for the pics. I wish I was there.
As Alex Rodriguez
preens for the mirrorworks his way back from hip surgery, news from Colorado has been quiet. Today, in his Under the Knife column, Will Carroll chimes in with an update. “Alex Rodriguez,” the BP scribe writes, “is ‘well ahead’ of his rehab schedule.” While Carroll provides no further information than that, I would expect to see A-Rod return to the Yanks sometime around mid-to-late April, just in time for Selena Roberts’ tell-all to hit bookstores around the country. · (16) ·
Just a couple of notes to hold you over until the chat at 2:
- The coaching staff is impressed with Jorge Posada’s arm strength. From Mark Feinsand: “I feel good about it, I do. And last night’s the best I felt, because of what I saw,” Girardi said. “When he threw it, I went, ‘wow.’ That’s the expression I used when I looked at Tony (Pena). He said he felt great, and that was really positive.” Hey, we’re looking for any bit of positivity about Posada we can find. His ability to catch will mean a great deal to the Yanks this season (as we’ve said roughly 18 billion times this winter/spring). Jorge will catch for the second day in a row today, a big test for him.
- According to Joe Auriemma at YES, Nick Swisher is day to day with a bruised lower calf. It doesn’t sound serious at all, just a regular bump/bruise in Spring Training. I don’t think it will affect his competition with Xavier Nady for the right field job.
In 2008, no one in the AL struck out more hitters than A.J. Burnett, and only Tim Lincecum in the NL and CC Sabathia in two leagues topped Burnett’s 231 K’s. In an effort to spread the strike out wealth, Burnett has been coaching Chien-Ming Wang on the finer points of mixing and matching pitches. Wang’s progress this year will be one of the more compelling Yankee pitching stories. He’s not the team’s number one starter, and his heavy sinker provides a great contrast to Joba Chamberlain, Sabathia and Burnett’s strike out-oriented approach. If Wang can up those K/9 IP numbers just a tick, the Yanks’ pitching will be that much better. · (25) ·
In 17 days, the Yankees will begin their inevitable march toward a 27th World Series championship. Meanwhile, they still have no set center fielder. With Grapefruit League action a-dwindlin’ in Tampa, it’s time to check in on everyone’s favorite positional battle.
We start with a Jayson Stark rumor:
GLOVE AFFAIR: The most-heard observation about the Yankees this spring: That team could have serious, and potentially fatal, defensive issues. They’re range-challenged in left, in right and at shortstop. (Ed. Note: That’s a shot at Jeter.) They have reliability issues at second. Alex Rodriguez is now a major question on every level. And nobody knows what kind of defensive catcher Jorge Posada is capable of being over the long haul. There are rumblings the Yankees are poking around again on Mike Cameron’s availability.
So basically, that paragraph boils down to blah, blah, blah, and oh, yeah, the Yanks are back on the Mike Cameron bandwagon. If Stark’s sources are telling the truth, I’m not really sure what the Yankees see in Cameron. He’s having a terrible spring for the Brewers; he’s old; and he’s not cheap. The Yanks have two center fielders in camp who could do the job, and while Cameron may still be a better defender than Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, a weaker hitter, is just as good, if not, better at getting to fly balls.
Cameron, a few months older than Johnny Damon, doesn’t fit the Yankees’ move toward younger, more versatile players either. Perhaps the Brewers are trying to stir up interest in a contractual albatross, but I just don’t see Cameron arriving in the Bronx any time soon. Meanwhile, the Brewers are denying any and all trade rumors, and this looks like a big nothing from Stark. Shocking, I know.
Back in Tampa, Bryan Hoch checked in with Melky Cabrera. The displaced starter now battling for his position feels as though he has a shot at the job, and Joe Girardi is conceding nothing. “This offseason, I worked really hard, so when the opportunity came, I’d be ready to play,” Cabrera said to Hoch. “I worked on defense and hitting and was working out every day. It’s helping a lot. I’m ready to go.”
For his part, with a few weeks of spring games left, Girardi is not giving the spot to either player. “Melky’s playing at a very high level, as well,” Girardi said. “I’m happy with the way Melky is playing. He’s really started swinging the bat, and you see him doing little things — bringing the defense in with drag attempts and shooting balls by them.”
For what it’s worth, Brett Gardner is far outhitting Melky in Spring Training. Cabrera is hitting a Melky-ian .250/.341/.361 through around 40 PAs, and Gardner is hitting .382./447/.765 in the same span.
The Yanks though are far from finished with the auditions. According to Hoch, the team likes Cabrera’s arm in center, and the decision may come down to defense, a factor that should favor Gardner’s speed and range. In the end, Hoch notes that the Yanks could carry both players, and considering that Melky is out of options, they very well might so as not to lose the youngster. I wouldn’t, however, pencil in anyone but Gardner for that Opening Day spot quite yet. Who emerges as the center fielder by game 100 is anyone’s guess.
For the first time as a Yankee, AJ Burnett just didn’t have it tonight. Joe Inglett hit his first pitch of the game off the right-center field wall for a leadoff triple, the first extra base hit (and second hit period) Burnett’s allowed this spring. He worked around the trouble and escaped the first without allowing a run by getting Lyle Overbay to ground into an inning ending 4-6-3 double play with the bases juiced. There was a scary moment in the third (I think it was the third, anyway) when Burnett took a John McDonald line drive off the left tricep before catching a spike as he attempted to field the ball. Thankfully he was fine and pitched until he reached his limit, throwing just 33 of his 61 pitches for strikes as he battled his command. He walked three and only struck out one in 3.1 IP, but he did have a nice 7-2 GB/FB rate.
Brian Bruney replaced Burnett in the fourth, threw one of his warmup pitches to the backstop, then threw his first five pitches (all fastballs) out of the strike zone. Jorge Posada switched it up after that and starting calling for sliders, which Bruney was able to get over the plate, eventually inducing an inning ending 5-4-3 double play. Bruney loaded the bases in the fifth and allowed a two-run double to ex-Scranton Yank Jason Lane before giving way to Steven Jackson, who wiggled out of the inning on just one pitch.
Mariano Rivera threw the next inning, and I have to be honest, I didn’t catch him in action because I was watching The Office. Judging by his 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K line, I’d say things went pretty well. Edwar Ramirez followed him with a scoreless inning, and Danny Giese picked up the save with two innings of one run ball.
Offensively, the heavy lifting was done by Jorge Posada, Nick Swisher, and Hideki Matsui. Posada scored a pair of runs and drove in another thanks to a 1-for-3 effort, but more importantly things went just fine for him behind the plate once again. Swisher went 2-for-2, pulling a run scoring double down the left field line after fouling off at least four pitches in a 1-2 count in his second plate appearance. Matsui drove in a run with a shot into the opposite field gap, but was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double. He smiled as he jogged off the field, and indication that his knees are fine. Austin Jackson went 1-for-1 with a walk off the bench, and Eduardo Nunez hit a two-run homer off former Yankee draft pick David Purcey in the eighth to put the game out of reach. The Yanks won 7-4, and are riding a seven game winning streak.
Phil Hughes will take on the Twins in Fort Myers tomorrow afternoon while Andy Pettitte pitches against a squad of minor leaguers in Tampa. Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner, Robbie Cano, and Matsui will be joining Hughes on the two hour bus trip. Swisher was scheduled to join them, but he’ll be held back after fouling a ball of his left calf and suffering a bruise, which he’s not too happy about.
Here’s a fun one to while away the last two innings of this
excruciatingcompelling Spring Training match-up between the Yanks and Blue Jays: Earlier today, Pete Abe wrote a short post on rooting for a player because of a shared characteristic. In the 1930s and 1940s, for example, my grandparents and a lot of their fellow New Yorkers rooted for Hank Greenberg because he’s Jewish. I’m pulling for the Pirates’ Pedro Alvarez because he and I went to the same high school, he graduated with my sister and I played baseball with him for a day when he was 14 and I was 18. So RAB readers: Which players do you root for because of some random connection? Spill the beans. · (105) ·
Looking to improve upon his stellar spring (6 IP, 1 baserunner), AJ Burnett will face his most recent former team tonight, the Toronto Blue Jays. Well, at least a bunch of guys wearing the Jays uni anyway. Only three players off the Jays projected starting nine made the trip to Tampa, the best of the bunch being second baseman Aaron Hill. The opposing starter will be Casey Janssen, who missed all of 2008 due to a torn labrum.
Following Burnett will be Mariano Rivera, who’s going to make his second appearance of the spring. Based on his last outing, Mo’s already in midseason form. Jorge Posada will make his third appearance behind the plate tonight and will probably catch five or six innings. Here’s the rest of the starting nine:
Scheduled Pitchers: AJ Burnett, Mariano Rivera, Edwar Ramirez, Dan Giese, Brian Bruney
YES will have the action, first pitch is at 7:15.
Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP