Yankees designate Justin Maxwell for assignment

Via Mark Feinsand, the Yankees have designated outfielder Justin Maxwell for assignment. The writing was on the wall with this one, he was out of minor league options and the team had no room for him on the roster. A trade market never developed, I suppose. Maxwell had a huge spring and is a useful player, just not to the Yankees. He’ll likely get claimed off waivers, and yes, I know I said the exact same thing about Chris Dickerson.

Yankees trade George Kontos for Chris Stewart; Cervelli to AAA

So much for George Kontos stealing a bullpen spot. Multiple sources report that the Yankees have traded him to the Giants for catcher Chris Stewart. You might remember Stewart from 2008, when the Yankees ran through a half dozen catchers. He also spent time with AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2009. He will start the season as the Yankees’ backup catcher, as Francisco Cervelli will start the season at AAA.

Color me confused on this one. Stewart has a career .328 OBP in the minors, and .273 in the majors. How he’s an upgrade over Cervelli in any way is beyond me. If this was made to cover the catcher position at AAA since Austin Romine will start the season on the DL, well, it still doesn’t seem to make much sense. Kontos seems like a useful piece. Couldn’t the Yankees have found a .273 OBP catcher who cost a bit less?

Update: MRI negative on Logan’s back

Update (2:11pm): Via Bryan Hoch and Carig, Brian Cashman said the MRI came back negative. It’s just back spasms and not a DL situation. Logan will be on the roster come Opening Day.

11:43am: Via Marc Carig, Logan is now headed for an MRI on his back. That can’t be good.

10:00am: Via Mark Feinsand, Boone Logan showed up to the ballpark with an achy back today and has been sent to the doctor. There’s no word on the extent the injury yet, but we’ll find out soon enough. Clay Rapada was a virtual lock for the roster anyway, but now there’s a chance he’ll end up the primary left-hander by default. Hopefully it’s nothing serious and the Yankees won’t have to dig up another reliever to start the season.

Ivan Nova and why 7 starters for 5 spots isn’t too much

(Steve Ruark/Getty Images)

Are you worried about Ivan Nova‘s rough spring? In one way, it’s easy to write off his poor performance. We can turn to some pretty gruesome spring trainings that meant absolutely nothing. After all, in the spring of 2009 Zack Greinke had an ERA of nearly 10; he won the AL Cy Young Award that season. Cliff Lee had a 5.68 ERA in the spring of 2008, and he had been demoted for poor performance in 2007, yet he produced a magnificent Cy Young season. In that way, it’s not too concerning to see Nova’s 8.06 ERA this spring.

Yet there’s something peculiar about the way Nova has performed this spring. Read accounts of his games, and you’ll see one term repeated frequently: not sharp. It wasn’t exactly a control thing; he walked only three batters in 22.1 innings. But he just wasn’t locating his pitches as he did last season. He wasn’t getting ground balls, which are key to his game. And he was leaving plenty of mistakes over the plate, as his team-leading five home runs suggests. Does that do anything to raise the level of concern?

It’s easy to forget how Nova ended last season. After surrendering a pair of solo homers in the first inning of ALDS Game 5, Nova mysteriously did not come out for the second. It was later revealed that he suffered an injury to the flexor tendon in his forearm, which is never something you want to hear. But he had the whole winter to rest and rehab, and it wasn’t long before the Yankees declared him healthy and ready to go. All seemed well. That is, until he got knocked around this spring.

This isn’t to throw up alarms and declare Nova injured. For all we know he could do the same thing that Greinke did in 2009, that Lee did in 2008, and completely shed a rough spring. But there has to be some worry that the injury continues to affect him. Maybe it’s not at risk for further damage, but maybe it throws him off enough that he’s not effective. That could hamper the Yankees to start the season. It’s also exactly why they assembled so much depth.

When Michael Pineda went down it was a big deal, but only because he represents such a big part of their future. Thankfully, the Yankees were prepared for such an occurrence. While having six starters for five spots was deemed a competition, it was as much insurance as anything. Pitchers get hurt, so having six for five spots is almost a necessity for a contending team. The Yankees suffered an injury, and were able to cover it up with their depth. If something is wrong with Nova and he’s not able to pitch effectively, they’ll again have to dip into their depth.

Thankfully, the Yankees do have some options that they can use in Nova’s place should worse come to worst. David Phelps has already made the big league club in the bullpen, and if Nova falters from the start they could slide him into the rotation. They also have Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell in AAA, if they’d rather use someone who is already stretched out. Chances are none of those guys will step in and immediately replicate Nova’s production. But they certainly represent better options than we’ve seen in the past. That is to say, there’s no Sidney Ponson on the horizon if the pitching staff suffers another injury or bout of ineffectiveness.

Nova’s poor spring performance might be nothing. It might have been him pressing himself a bit too much. It might been him making certain necessary adjustments. It might have been one of those spring flukes we see nearly every year. But there is a possibility that something is not right with Nova, and that it will hurt his effectiveness from the get-go. If that is the case — and, again, it’s just a what-if scenario — the Yankees do have the depth to cover him. It might not be ideal, but it’s there. That’s why there’s never a problem in having seven guys for five spots. Something always comes up to mess up the best-case scenario.

ST Game Thread: The Finale

(REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

At long last, the end of the exhibition season is upon us. The Yankees will close out their Spring Training schedule at home against the Mets today, then enjoy tomorrow’s off-day before officially kicking off the 2012 regular season against the Rays on Friday afternoon. Oh, and by the way, Andy Pettitte is going to return to the mound and throw an inning this afternoon. Hooray for that. Enjoy the last meaningless game, the roller coaster starts in two days. Here’s the lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Robinson Cano
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
DH Raul Ibanez
C Russell Martin
LF Brett Gardner

RHP Freddy Garcia

Available Pitchers: LHP Andy Pettitte will follow Garcia, though I doubt he enters the game mid-inning. RHP Cory Wade, LHP Clay Rapada, RHP Dave Robertson, LHP Rigoberto Arrebato, LHP Vidal Nuno, RHP Brandon Braboy, and RHP John Brebbia are also available if needed.

Available Position Players: C Frankie Cervelli, 1B Eric Chavez, 2B Bill Hall, SS Jayson Nix, 3B Eduardo Nunez, LF Andruw Jones, and CF Justin Maxwell will replace the starters.

Today’s game starts at 12:05pm ET and can be seen on YES locally (but not SNY) and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Injuries change Yanks bullpen outlook

(Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Coming into spring training, the Yankees had a pretty solid plan for their bullpen. With Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, and Corey Wade already in place, they needed to fill just two spots. Given the number of pitchers they brought to camp, finding worthy candidates didn’t seem like a difficult task — especially given that Freddy Garcia was a favorite to slide into a bullpen spot due to the starting pitching surplus. Yet as we see nearly every spring, injuries have altered the picture.

While a few relievers suffered injuries of varying degrees this spring, the staff remained mostly in tact and ready for Opening Day. That is, until last Friday. That’s when Michael Pineda revealed soreness in his shoulder that turned out to be tendinitis. It’s also the same day that Cesar Cabral suffered a stress fracture in his elbow, shelving him indefinitely. Today we learned of another bullpen casualty: Boone Logan will visit a doctor to examine his aching back. Backs ailments are never to be taken lightly. Losing Logan for an extended period could seriously alter the Yankees bullpen outlook.

Pineda’s injury already had the Yankees pulling from their pitching depth. Instead of having Garcia in the bullpen as the long man, it appears that they’ll now use David Phelps. Now with Logan’s injury they’ll have to choose yet another pitcher who they did not plan to carry. That could be George Kontos if Logan’s injury is serious enough to warrant a DL trip, but not serious enough to worry about long-term. If Logan will miss significant time, the Yanks might look at other lefty options — Mike Gonzalez is still unemployed, and has been working out for teams.

The Yankees, of course, will be just fine with however this situation plays out. They did, after all, survive a stretch last year in which they carried both Amaury Sanit and Pants Lendleton in the bullpen. But their outlook has certainly changed in the past week. The Logan injury could potentially cause a few significant roster changes. Thankfully, the Yankees have enough options to fill the void.

2012 Draft: Cape Cod League Standouts

Play well in the CCBL and the Yankees will notice. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Yankees have shown a bit of a drafting pattern under scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, favoring college pitchers and high school position players over the alternatives. They also prefer strong makeup and — more tangibly — a strong track record in wood bat leagues. That’s why they’ve targeted so many Cape Cod League standouts over the years, drafting players like Andrew Brackman, Adam Warren, David Adams, and D.J. Mitchell after stellar showings on the cape.

The CCBL is the best college summer league out there, drawing the very best talent from all around the country. It’s still a pitcher’s league but not as extreme as it was a few years ago. The Yankees don’t figure to change their target demographic in this summer’s draft despite the new spending restrictions implemented by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, so here’s a look at five guys who performed well on the cape last summer and could find themselves on the team’s draft board.

Dylan Floro, RHP, Cal State Fullerton (video)
After two years as a swingman type, Floro assumed a spot in Fullerton’s rotation this spring after a dominant showing with Hyannis last summer. The 6-foot-2, 180 lbs. right-hander is a classic sinker-slider type, sitting 89-91 with the heat and in the upper-70s with the breaking ball. He also throws a low-80s changeup and adds deception with a whippy arm action. Floro is an extreme strike-thrower — four walks in 52 IP this spring and 28 walks in 198 IP during his college career (1.27 BB/9) — and probably to a fault. He’s hit prone because he’s around the zone with less than stellar stuff, though at least most of the balls in play are on the ground. For what it’s worth, Floro also draws raves for his competitiveness and makeup, which the Yankees love. He’s more of 5th-10th round guy at the moment.

(Photo via BigEast.org)

Kyle Hansen, RHP, St. John’s (video)
A starter for the Red Storm who closed for Yarmouth-Dennis last summer, Kyle is the younger brother of former future Red Sox closer Craig Hansen. He’s built off his CCBL success and has struck out 43 while walking just 11 in 34.2 IP this spring. Brian Cashman recently said he’s a “crack addict for size and power,” so he’ll surely like the 6-foot-8, 215 lb. Hansen. He sits 91-93 as a starter while running the heat up to 96 as a reliever, and he can miss bats with a low-80s slider that isn’t nearly as good as his brother’s. It occasionally morphs into more of a curveball, so he’s got some work to do. The changeup isn’t anything special and the delivery qualifies as funky. Hansen is likely a reliever long-term, and he’s currently expected to come off the board in the third or fourth round.

Dane Phillips, UTIL, Oklahoma City University (video)
A Chatham alum, Phillips had to transfer to OCU because the NCAA ruled him ineligible for the 2012 season after he tried to transfer from Oklahoma State to Arkansas. Baseball is like football now, meaning if you transfer from one Division I school to another you have to sit out a year for whatever reason. Phillips is completely annihilating the competition (.423/.507/.854 in 34 games) and has settled in well behind the plate. He’s a left-handed hitter with a nice swing and strong plate discipline, plus he hangs in well against same-side pitchers. Phillips shows big power to the pull side during batting practice, but he uses the entire field during games and doesn’t really tap into his pop as much as he should. If catching doesn’t work out long-term, he has the experience and athleticism to handle a corner outfield spot or first base. Phillips is a personal fave, and right now he’s expected to come off the board in that 5th-10th round range.

(Glenn Beil/The Tallahassee Democrat)

James Ramsey, OF, Florida State
The top college senior in the draft class, Ramsey had a big summer with Yarmouth-Dennis and won the MVP award at the CCBL All-Star Game after homering into the Fenway Park bullpen. He’s a left-handed swinger with some power and an all-fields approach, plus he can also run well. Strong plate discipline helps him get the most of his offensive ability. Ramsey has ‘tweener potential because he might not stick in center field long-term or have enough power for a corner, but he plays very hard and offers a little of everything with no glaring weakness. A huge spring (.426/.556/862) has Ramsey climbing up draft boards after the Twins took him in the 22nd round last year. He’s a top three rounds guy after dominant performance with wood bats on the cape last summer.

Adam Brett Walker, 1B/OF, Jacksonville (video)
Walker is the son of former Minnesota Vikings running back Adam Walker, and his athletic bloodlines are obvious in his 6-foot-5, 220 lb. frame. The right-handed batter has some of the biggest raw power in the country, launching absolute moonshots with wood bats last summer. Walker is a Grade-A hacker though, susceptible to breaking balls and quality elevated fastballs. There is big time upside here, but also a lot of risk given his propensity to make poor contact and swing and miss. Walker is a 3rd-5th round type based on his physical tools, which still haven’t translated all the way into baseball skills.