Yankees release Jorge Vazquez

Via Chad Jennings, the Yankees have released Triple-A masher Jorge Vazquez. They prefer the recently signed Steve Pearce at first base for their top minor league affiliate. Of course, JoVa’s days in the organization were numbered after word got out that he was fed up with being stuck in Triple-A and wanted to play in the big leagues. That just wasn’t going to happen with the Yankees.

ST Game Thread: Beat the Mets

Pelf gonna Pelf. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Believe it or not, today is the first time the Yankees and Mets will play each other in a Spring Training game since 1996. I guess that’s what happens when the two clubs play in the same state, but on opposite coasts. Here’s the lineup…

LF Brett Gardner
DH Nick Swisher
1B Eric Chavez
RF Andruw Jones
SS Eduardo Nunez
C Frankie Cervelli
CF Dewayne Wise
2B Bill Hall
3B Doug Bernier

RHP Ivan Nova

Available Pitchers: RHP David Phelps and RHP D.J. Mitchell are both scheduled to pitch, their final chance to make an impression and win that last bullpen spot. RHP George Kontos, RHP Brandon Pinder, RHP Mark Montgomery, LHP Juan Cedeno, and SwP Pat Venditte are also available if needed.

Available Pitchers: C J.R. Murphy, 1B Kyle Roller, 2B Kelvin Castro, SS Ramiro Pena, 3B Zach Wilson, LF Chris Dickerson, CF Abe Almonte, and RF Justin Maxwell will replace the starters.

Today’s game starts at 2:10pm ET and can be seen on YES, SNY, and MLB Network. Enjoy.

Minor Links: DePaula, Campos, Mack, Krum

Just a quick reminder, the minor league season starts this Thursday. Here’s some various minor league links to hold you over…

  • In this week’s Ask BA, Jim Callis said he would rank Rafael DePaula ahead of Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy on the team’s top prospects list. “His talent is legitimate,” wrote Ben Badler. “The fastball really is touching the high 90s, power curve, good body, good mechanics, he’s just had an extremely atypical developmental path because of the suspension and visa issue … DePaula is 21 and has now stuff.”
  • Jose Campos is the first prospect listed on Marc Hulet’s list of five prospects teams will regret having traded this past offseason. “The prospect is still a long way away from reaching his potential but he has the stuff to develop into a No. 1 or 2 starter,” he wrote. “He’s definitely not the type of arm you usually get as a throw-in to a deal.”
  • Outfielders DeAngelo Mack and Austin Krum have both been released according to Josh Norris. Mack had some sleeper potential, but it just didn’t work out.

[Campos video via Josh Norris]

RAB Q&A: Al Leiter

(Getty Images/Jim Mcisaac)

Last Friday I was invited down to the MLB Network studios in Secaucus to look at their operation, and while I was there I had a chance to speak one-on-one with two-time former Yankee and current YES Network/MLB Network broadcaster Al Leiter. We talked for nearly 20 minutes and mostly discussed his career, but we also touched on Andy Pettitte‘s comeback, Michael Pineda‘s missing velocity*, and the 2012 Yankees in general.

* The interview took place before Pineda’s shoulder tendinitis was diagnosed.

Leiter is every bit as entertaining in real life as he appears on television, so needless to say it was a pretty awesome experience. Here’s the full interview, beginning with a question straight out of left field…

Mike Axisa: In Game Seven of the 1997 World Series, you threw a first pitch curveball to Omar Vizquel (to start the game). What was the thinking behind that?

Al Leiter: “Because I got peppered in Game Three, in Cleveland, I knew I had to throw a curveball. I went back and looked at two left-handers,  and it was the Yankees series against Cleveland. David Wells did well — Boomer was fastball-curve — and I watched every pitch. And then I looked at Andy Pettitte’s game; Andy Pettitte got peppered a little bit. Andy was more fastball, curve, cutter, slider, and I said forget it. You know what? It’s gonna be a [bad] game if I don’t use [my curve].

[Read more…]

ST Game Thread: Miami, Part Two

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

The Yankees beat the Marlins in their new ballpark last night, and now it’s time for round two. There will be a few more people in the stands as they build up towards Opening Day, but it’s still just a Spring Training game. Hiroki Kuroda will throw 60 or so pitches in his final tuneup before the regular season, and that will be that. Here’s the lineup…

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

RHP Hiroki Kuroda

Available Pitchers: RHP Phil Hughes, RHP David Robertson, RHP Rafael Soriano, LHP Boone Logan, RHP George Kontos, RHP Brandon Pinder, RHP Mark Montgomery, LHP Juan Cedeno, and SwP Pat Venditte.

Available Position Players: C Gus Molina, 1B Doug Bernier, 2B Bill Hall, SS Ramiro Pena, 3B Eduardo Nunez, LF Justin Maxwell, CF Abe Almonte, RF Chris Dickerson, and DH Andruw Jones will replace the starters.

Tonight’s game starts at 7:05pm ET and can be seen on MLB Network. The blackout has been lifted in the Tri-State Area. Enjoy.

Pettitte prepping for possible minor league outing on Thursday

Via George King, Andy Pettitte could make his first minor league appearance this Thursday after throwing a 25-pitch bullpen session today. “I plan on pitching somehow Thursday for sure,” said Pettitte. “[A minor league game is] an option, anything is an option right now … Thursday is my day but I wish I could tell you exactly.”

High-A Tampa is playing at home that night, so it’s a pretty safe assumption that Pettitte would pitch in that game if he does get on the mound Thursday. He will probably only throw an inning or two, but it would be a significant step in his comeback attempt. Since Pettitte is on a minor league deal, he can make as many minor league appearances as he wants to get himself ready for the season. It’s not he’d be starting his 30-day clock on an injury rehab assignment or anything.

Ibanez gets a fresh start on Friday

Raul, going deep. (AP Photo)

In his spring training debut, against his former team, Raul Ibanez laced a double in a 1 for 3 performance. Over the next three weeks he’d pick up just one more hit. Considering his age and his 2011 numbers, his slow spring caused plenty of concern for Yankees fans. It’s just spring training, sure, but doesn’t it mean more when a 40-year-old player looks his age? If his bat is slow now, won’t it continue to be slow during the regular season?

In other words, there were plenty of out-loud questions about Ibanez’s ability to help the Yankees in 2012. As with Andruw Jones last year, he has drawn comparisons to Randy Winn, whose time with the Yankees in 2010 didn’t last even two months. While an early exit for Ibanez is still within the realm of possibility, it’s still only speculation at this point. There’s still time for Ibanez to round into form and help the Yankees this season.

For starters, Ibanez’s numbers this spring aren’t his worst in recent memory. In 2010 he hit .130/.266/.241 in 54 spring training at-bats, amounting to a paltry .506 OPS. This year he’s at .167/.211/.370, which is slightly better at .581. His strikeout totals are nearly identical, 13 in 2010 and 12 this year. The only difference is that he hasn’t walked this year. Maybe that’s cause for concern, or maybe it’s him being a little too anxious to belt a base hit. In any case, he went on to produce a .275/.349/.444 line in 2010, including .277/.366/.455 against right-handed pitching. While those aren’t stellar numbers, a repeat would be quite welcome all considered.

Since that horrible start to the spring, Ibanez has rebounded a bit. Following his 2 for 37 slump he’s gone 7 for 17 with a double and three home runs, plus a walk. He also had a fourth homer taken away by Jason Heyward. That streak should at least table the argument of whether he’s finished as a major leaguer. It won’t completely remove it, of course, just as his early spring slump didn’t prove it. But it’s at least a bright sign after a mostly dismal start to the spring.

We can look to the past, as well, to see other players who performed poorly in the spring, only to bounce back for a quality regular season. In 2010 Marcus Thames looked done, hitting just .135/.192/.269 in 52 spring at-bats. The Yankees signed him to a non-guaranteed contract, yet they still chose to bring him north. He rewarded them by hitting .288/.350/.491 in 237 PA. Brett Gardner hit .200/.286/.273 that spring, but hit .277/.383/.379 in the regular season. Last season Andruw Jones turned in a miserable spring, hitting .182/.265/.318. Even worse, he started off the season slowly. Yet he came back and provided excellent production in the second half.

The exceptions don’t prove that Ibanez will bounce back and produce big from the DH spot in 2012. What they illustrate is that spring numbers can deceive. Some players just take a while to get started. Some streak and slump to a greater degree than others, and their slow springs are just poorly timed slumps. For all we know, Ibanez might really be done as a major leaguer. But it’s not his spring training that will prove it. He’ll get his chances during the season, and considering how the Jones situation played out chances are the Yankees will give Ibanez an extended look. It might not work out, but we’ve seen too many veterans perform well after poor springs that he certainly deserves the shot.