Heathcott expects to be out until May

It’s been a rough few years for 2009 first round pick Slade Heathcott, who signed for $2.2M and has since undergone two left (throwing) shoulder surgeries and battled alcoholism. As the now 21-year-old outfielder says in the video above, the latest shoulder procedure is expected to delay the start of his season and keep him out until May.

“I’m trying not to rush it,” he said. “I’m trying to take as long as possible without being aggressive. I’m trying to be in games around May.”

Heathcott is known for his very aggressive and hard-nosed style of play, which has been a bit of detriment. He was limited to mostly DH duty as a high school senior because of a torn ACL and a left shoulder injury he suffered diving after a ball. This latest surgery is his third major left shoulder problem in the last four years. Since signing, he’s only played in 132 of ~240 possible games. That’s a lot of development time he can’t get back.

I had Heathcott 13th on my annual Top 30 Prospects List, though Baseball America, Keith Law, and FanGraphs each had him in the top ten. He was having a really nice season in 2011 before the injury (.279/.347/.437 in 242 PA), so now he’s got to just focus on staying on the field. The kid just won’t be able to get any better if he doesn’t stop getting hurt.

Banuelos among spring’s most impressive prospects

Earlier this week we heard about the buzz David Phelps has been generating this spring, but he’s not the only Yankees farmhand drawing attention. Kevin Goldstein posted a list of young Grapefruit League players that have been impressing this month, and Manny Banuelos made the cut. You can read the article on either ESPN or Baseball Prospectus, but you need a subscription for both.

“I had not seen [Banuelos] since last spring, and he just looks strong and more poised,” said a scout to KG. “He’s 93-96 mph and showing three above-average pitches right now. I saw (Michael) Pineda the following day, and while I know that’s not the same Pineda we saw last year, based just on those two looks, I’d take Banuelos.” Manny got hit around quite a bit the other day, his first hiccup of 2012. He’s ticketed for the stacked Triple-A rotation, but I have to think the Andy Pettitte signing hurts his chances of seeing the show in 2012.

Open Thread: 3/17 Camp Notes

(J. Meric/Getty)

The Yankees beat the Astros 6-3 today. Hiroki Kuroda was fantastic, allowing just one run on three hits in his four innings of work. He struck out two and walked zero, and threw a whopping 49 strikes with his 59 pitches (83.1%). That’ll work just fine thank you. Mariano Rivera needed eight pitches to hit a batter and record three outs in his scoreless inning. He hasn’t allowed a Spring Training run since March 15th, 2008 according to the team.

Robinson Cano was the offensive star of the day, clubbing a three-run homer over the right field bleachers and out of the stadium in an 0-2 count. Bill Hall also chipped in a solo shot, and Andruw Jones had a pair of knocks. Both Curtis Granderson (double and walk) and Brett Gardner (two walks) each reached base twice as well. Dellin Betances showed us all he had in his scoreless inning, including nasty offspeed stuff for swings and misses, on-and-off fastball command, and ugly fielding. Here’s the box score and here’s the rest from Tampa…

  • Eduardo Nunez played today for the first time in close to two weeks. He took batting practice and fielding grounders before the game to test his injured right hand, then wore a protective glove during the game. “It feels better,” he said. [Chad Jennings]
  • Nick Swisher went for a precautionary MRI on his sore groin, which came back clean. He expects to play tomorrow, but since they’re playing a night game an hour away in Sarasota and they have Monday off, I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t return until Tuesday. [Bryan Hoch]
  • David Robertson will throw a bullpen session on Tuesday, his first time back on a mound since suffering the bone bruise in his right foot. [Sweeny Murti]
  • Austin Romine resumed baseball activities today. He took some hacks off a tee and soft toss, and played catch as well. He’s been out for most of camp due to back inflammation. [Jennings]
  • Ravel Santana was scheduled to take batting practice in minor league camp today. There’s been some confusion about his status for this summer following the brutal ankle injury that ended his 2011 season, but at least he’s taking BP. Running and playing the outfield is another matter entirely. [Josh Norris]
  • Rule 5 Draft pick pick Brad Meyers threw live batting practice today. He has yet to appear in a game after hurting his shoulder working out this offseason, so his chances of making the team are basically zilch. For shame. [Jennings]

Here is your open thread for the night. All five hockey and basketball locals are in action, plus MLB Network will be showing games all evening. Talk about whatever you like here.

Yankees unlikely to look at Dontrelle Willis

The Phillies released Dontrelle Willis yesterday after bringing him in as a lefty specialist candidate during the offseason. Joel Sherman says the Yankees did offer the D-Train a minor league contract earlier this winter, but he understandably took the big league contract from Philadelphia. He adds that the Yanks might take another look at Willis, but it’s iffy at best. Buster Olney says they could have signed Mike Gonzalez two weeks ago, but didn’t because of the budget.

Willis, still only 30, hasn’t been an effective big leaguer since 2006 with the Marlins. Following a bout with anxiety disorder late in 2009, he’s held left-handed hitters to .178/.245/.248 batting line with 50 strikeouts (35.0%) and ten walks (7.0%) in 143 plate appearances. Those are some pretty strong numbers despite the obvious sample size concerns. Clay Rapada seems to be separating himself from the rest of the second lefty pack (Cesar Cabral and Mike O’Connor), and while I’m not a big Willis fan, there’s no harm in a minor league contract.

Report: Yanks must get under threshold in ’14 & ’15 for rebates

Via Marc Carig, the Yankees have to stay under the $189M luxury tax threshold in both 2014 and 2015 to qualify for the revenue sharing rebates under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Union head Michael Weiner told Carig that he expects the team to do just that, then spend like crazy come 2016.

Here’s the question: If the Yankees get under the threshold in 2014 only, does that mean they get rebates in 2015 but not 2016? Or do they not get rebates at all if they’re only under the threshold for one year and not two? It’s going to take a while to sort all this stuff out, but at least time is on our side.

ST Game Thread: I Wanna Hirok

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Yankeeland is still reeling from the Andy Pettitte signing, but in a good way obviously. There are completely meaningless games still to be played though, and today Hiroki Kuroda — the guy who took Andy’s locker at GMS Field — is getting the start. I’m sure those two will work the locker situation thing out, but it’s more important for Kuroda (and Pettitte) to work on getting ready for the season. For a veteran guy like Hiroki, today is all about going through the motions and refining command; he doesn’t have to find velocity or work on a new pitch or anything. Here’s the lineup…

LF Brett Gardner
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Robinson Cano
3B Alex Rodriguez
DH Raul Ibanez
RF Andruw Jones
1B Eric Chavez
SS Eduardo Nunezwill wear a protective batting glove on his injured right hand
C Frankie Cervelli

Available Pitchers: RHP Mariano Rivera will actually pitch today. He was accidentally listed on yesterday’s schedule. RHP Cory Wade, LHP Boone Logan, RHP Dellin Betances, RHP George Kontos, LHP Juan Cedeno, LHP Mike O’Connor, and SwP Pat Venditte are all available. I really hope Venditte gets in the game.

Available Position Players: C Jose Gil, 1B Jorge Vazquez, 2B Doug Bernier, SS Jayson Nix, 3B Bill Hall, LF Cole Garner, CF Dewayne Wise, RF Chris Dickerson, and DH Colin Curtis will replace the starters. C Mitch Abeita, IF Walt Ibarra, and OF Abe Almonte have been brought up from minor league camp for the day.

Today’s game starts at 1:05pm ET and can be seen on YES locally or MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

The Morning After: Andy Pettitte

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Remember what it was like when the Yankees had rotation problems? That was only twelve weeks ago, and since then they’ve added Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda while subtracting A.J. Burnett. Yesterday they put the cherry on top, dragging Andy Pettitte out of retirement and signing him to a minor league deal worth $2.5M with no incentives. To call it surprising would be an understatement.

The 39-year-old Pettitte is very much a unique case. This isn’t Bartolo Colon v2.0, a guy who’s trying to come back after major arm problems at an advanced age. Andy voluntarily left the game a year ago and simply got the itch to pitch again. The Yankees have always left the door open and the two sides eventually figured things out once he decided to return. For more on the signing process and stuff, check out my recap post at MLBTR. Here are some random thoughts and musings…

  • One important thing to keep in mind: this is a comeback attempt, Pettitte isn’t guaranteed to do anything. He could get a month into workouts then decide it isn’t worth it and go back home. He could return to the team and pitch horribly due to age and rust. That would be worse.
  • Another important thing to keep in mind: Brian Cashman told Pettitte not to come back after the Pineda and Kuroda moves. Andy keep working out on his own and still wanted to sign. Pretty clear indication that he wants to do this and still thinks he can pitch at a high level.
  • Cashman said yesterday that they offered Pettitte a one-year deal worth $10-12M in December, and I’m almost certain that would have meant no Hiroki Kuroda. I do not believe they would have spent all that money on those two and then kept Jesus Montero. It would have been Pineda and Pettitte instead of Pineda and Kuroda.
  • I don’t know what the Yankees will do with their rotation whenever Pettitte is ready to go — Cashman made it clear yesterday that he’s going to be a starter — but there’s no rush to figure this out. They can wait the six or eight or however many weeks, then sort things out. It’s cliche, but these things tend to take care of themselves.
  • That said, I think it’s pretty obvious that Freddy Garcia is trade bait right now. He has some trade value because his contract is so much more favorable than Joe Blanton’s or John Lannan’s, and he’s at least their equal on the mound. I wouldn’t expect a ton in return. Maybe some salary relief and a Grade-B prospect.
  • The Triple-A starters — specifically David Phelps, Adam Warren, and D.J. Mitchell — are getting hosed, but that’s part of the game. I’m pretty sure we’re going to see at least one of these guys this summer, most likely in relief now. I’m also pretty sure one will get traded at some point, but I thought that before Pettitte came back anyway.
  • I am skeptical about how much Andy can actually help the team after a year away from the game, but he did go out on top after 2010. This isn’t a Jorge Posada situation. Posada was forced into retirement because his skills had obviously faded. Andy was still an above-average hurler when he decided to hang ’em up, and that’s slightly encouraging. The year off might even be a good thing for his arm and body.
  • One more little note: As soon as Pettitte appears in a big league game, he’ll reset his Hall of Fame clock. Right now he’s scheduled to appear on the ballot in 2015, but if he pitches this year it will get pushed back to 2017 at the earliest. I don’t expect him to get in, but who knows how much closer he’ll get to 300 wins now.

It’s hard not to love the contract itself. Pettitte isn’t soaking up a 40-man roster spot at the moment and he won’t get a dime of that $2.5M until he’s added to the roster. Chances are it’s pro-rated as well, he won’t even get the full amount. The Yankees now have a ridiculously great piece of rotation insurance stashed away with zero risk involved. The fact that he’s a fan favorite (and left-handed!) is just icing on the cake.