- Eduardo Nunez will take three full days off as he tries to come back from a right hand contusion courtesy of a hit-by-pitch last Monday. He was originally supposed to start at shortstop last night, but he felt some pain in the hand during batting practice and was scratched as a precaution. The longer he’s out, the more important Bill Hall and Jayson Nix become.
- David Robertson spend some time on a elliptical machine yesterday and could run on a treadmill today. He hasn’t felt any pain in his right foot since shedding his walking boot on Monday. If all goes well these next few days, Robertson could be back on a mound as soon as this weekend after missing a few days with a bone bruise.
- George Kontos came through yesterday’s live batting practice session a-okay. It was his first time facing hitters since tweaking his oblique earlier in camp. He’ll officially re-enter the competition for the final bullpen spot when he makes his exhibition game debut on Friday.
- Dan Burawa‘s torn oblique is going to shelve him for quite some time, as you probably expect. “It could be a while,” said Girardi last night. “I’m not sure … I haven’t gotten a timetable.” Burawa wasn’t a candidate for that last bullpen spot, but he was slated for Double-A Trenton and this injury sounds like it’s going to extend into the regular season.
As the Yanks’ off-season unfolded and their DH platoon needs came into view, Johnny Damon’s name surfaced amongst the Yankee rumors. Damon, a free agent whose numbers likely suffered in the Trop last year, is shy of 3000 hits and still unemployed. I wasn’t too keen on his return to the Bronx and made a rather flimsy case for him. By the time I warmed to the thought of a Damon reunion, the Yanks had locked up Raul Ibañez.
On Tuesday, Damon, still unemployed and hoping for any job offer, took to the airwaves. On SiriusXM, he spoke with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden, and of course, the conversation came around to the Yanks. What happened with the Bombers, Stern asked.
“The only conversation was me reaching out to them because obviously at this point in my career, I would like to have some say on who I can and can’t play for it,” Damon said. “I just wanted to make sure Cashman knew it wasn’t about the money. Pay me whatever, and I’ll try to help you win a championship.”
According to Damon, Cashman basically said thanks, but no thanks. The Yanks’ GM told the free agent that he and his scouts believed Ibañez would be a better option in the outfield because Raul had the chance to play the field for a few years. Damon defended his defense, saying he didn’t have a spot patrolling the Tampa Bay turf because the rest of the Rays’ outfielders were among the best in the league. “I like to think that my legs are a bit fresher,” he said. His arm, of course, is another matter.
Furthermore, Damon claimed that since he hits left-handed pitching so well and the Yanks already have Andruw Jones, he wasn’t a great fit. Cashman, he says, didn’t want to take at-bats away from Jones. “They brought in Andruw Jones to hit left-handed pitching and I actually do that more than right-handed pitching,” he said. Last year, Damon hit southpaws better than he did righties, but historically, he has been a better offensive threat against right-handers.
I’m not sure if we should make much of this at all. It sounds to me as though the Yanks’ reasons for pursuing Ibañez over Damon were a bit flimsy. The club isn’t really expecting Ibañez to be more than fifth outfielder on the depth charts. Maybe he’ll hit; maybe, playing his age 40 season, he won’t. He’s 2 for 21 during Spring Training, but no one on the Yanks is doing much hitting so far.
In an ideal world, perhaps the Yanks would have Ibañez and Damon in camp together competing for one job. If Damon’s words are true, he may have been willing to do that. For now, though, that ship has sailed. Damon appears to be lobbying Detroit for a job, and the Yanks will cobble together a few hundred left-handed plate appearances from Ibañez and others. Damon’s was the reunion never meant to be.
On Monday we introduced the first ever RAB Bracket Challenge, March Madness bracket pool hosted on ESPN.com. If you haven’t joined already, please do so by clicking here and adding your entry to our group. We’re giving away prizes from the RAB Shop, but no RAB hoodie can match the feeling of knowing you bested all your fellow readers. Either way, be sure to join and give it your best shot. For those of you who have joined and filled out a bracket already, it’s not too late to change your entry and have Syracuse getting knocked out a little earlier than you did before. Tough break for the Orange. We’ll be around to answer any questions in the comments.
Earlier today we briefly discussed Ivan Nova’s recent fastball command issues, which is something he’ll try to correct against the Red Sox tonight. The game itself doesn’t mean anything, but because it’s part of the rivalry it will surely get more attention than it actually deserves. Hopefully Nova gets his fastball going where he wants, hopefully everyone makes it through healthy, and hopefully the Yankees win. If they don’t, no big deal. We’d all sacrifice the latter to ensure the first two go well. Here’s the starting lineup…
CF Brett Gardner
C Russell Martin
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Mark Teixeira
DH Raul Ibanez
RF Andruw Jones
2B Bill Hall
LF Jayson Nix
SS Doug Bernier
RHP Ivan Nova
Available Pitchers: RHP Mariano Rivera is scheduled to follow Nova. RHP David Phelps, LHP Boone Logan, LHP Clay Rapada, RHP Cory Wade, LHP Cesar Cabral, RHP Adam Miller, RHP Ryan Pope, and RHP Chase Whitley are also available.
Available Position Players: C Gus Molina, 1B Jorge Vazquez, IF David Adams, IF Ramiro Pena, OF Justin Maxwell, OF Melky Mesa, OF Zoilo Almonte, and DH Chris Dickerson are scheduled to replace the starters.
The game is scheduled to start at 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES, MLB Network, MLB.tv, or MLB.com. Enjoy.
The Yankees and Red Sox are playing a nationally televised night game in a little while, so we’ll have a regular game thread up when the time comes. Until then, here are the day’s notes from Tampa…
- Eduardo Nunez was originally in tonight’s lineup, but he felt pain in his right hand during batting practice and has been scratched. He hasn’t played since getting hit by a pitch last Monday. Bill Hall’s chances of making the team get that much better. [Mark Feinsand]
- Michael Pineda, Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia, and some minor leaguers/non-roster guys threw their scheduled side sessions while George Kontos threw live batting practice. It was his first time facing hitters in camp after being shelved by an oblique problem for a few weeks. [Chad Jennings]
- Bernie Williams arrived in camp and will hang around as a guest instructor for a few days. [Pete Caldera]
And finally, the Yankees have announced that the Mastercard pre-sale of individual game tickets will be from March 22nd-25th. General sale begins the 27th.
For the second straight year, the Yankees have a pair of Rule 5 Draft picks in camp this spring. Right-hander Brad Meyers hurt his shoulder working out over the winter and is behind the other pitchers at the moment, so chances are he will eventually be jettisoned like Dan Turpen and Robert Fish last season. Left-hander Cesar Cabral has a legitimate opportunity to make the team though, plus there’s a chance the Yankees may be able to keep him even without placing him on the Opening Day roster.
Cabral, 23, has already appeared in five exhibition games this spring, the most of anyone on the team. He’s allowed two runs on eight hits in 5.1 IP, striking out three and walking zero. The problem is that he’s given up hits to six of the 14 left-handed hitters he’s faced, including one homer. Obviously a small sample, but he’s got to win a job with that small sample and he’s not getting it done at the moment. I ranked Cabral as the team’s 29th best prospect last month because I like his size (check the photo), performance (2.65 FIP in 194.2 IP last three years), and stuff (low-90s fastball, changeup, slurvy breaking ball). The Yankees obviously like him as well, otherwise they wouldn’t have worked out a pre-Rule 5 Draft trade with the Royals to get him (for an undisclosed amount of cash).
Because he’s a Rule 5 guy for the second time — the Rays took him last year — the rules apply a little differently to Cabral. Rather than be offered back to his original team (the Red Sox) if he fails to make the club, he can instead elect free agency and leverage that into remaining with the Yankees as non-Rule 5 Draft player. The Diamondbacks turned this exact same trick with former Yankees farmhand and two-time Rule 5er Zach Kroenke in 2010, as Nick Piecoro explains…
After the Diamondbacks decided they were not going to put Kroenke on their 25-man roster, they placed him on waivers. Kroenke cleared, which then meant, as a Rule 5 pick, he had to be offered back to the Yankees before he could be outrighted to the minor leagues.
But as a second-time Rule 5 player, Kroenke had the option to elect free agency rather than accept the outright back to the Yankees. He said he would have elected free agency, prompting the Yankees not to request him back.
At that point, he no longer had the rights of a typical Rule 5 player and instead became the equivalent of a normal 40-man guy on the Diamondbacks roster. The Diamondbacks then optioned him to (Triple-A) Reno.
Cabral and the Yankees have the ability to do the same thing Kroenke and the D’Backs did two years ago. The player benefits by remaining on the 40-man roster (going unclaimed on waivers is a pretty strong indicator that no other team would give him a big league contract as a free agent) while the team gets to keep him without restrictions. Cabral has all three minor league options remaining, so if nothing else the Yankees would be securing an up-and-down second lefty reliever for the league minimum through 2014. Not a star, but a potentially useful piece.
As I wrote this morning, there is some merit to carrying a second left-handed reliever early in the season because of the schedule. Some regular Triple-A innings wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Cabral, who has yet pitch above Double-A and could use more time to figure out a breaking ball against same-side hitters. Clay Rapada or even Mike O’Connor probably makes more sense if the team decides to go with the second southpaw in April. Cabral has a nice, intriguing arm and is the kind of guy the Yankees should look into keeping beyond Spring Training. Clearing waivers is not a given, but otherwise the system works in their favor.
The Yankees and Red Sox will renew their rivalry with a completely meaningless Spring Training game tonight, but meaningless only in terms of results. Boston will only play four regulars — Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Aviles, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia — and it doesn’t matter who wins and who loses. The game is more than meaningless for Ivan Nova though, who is making his third start of the spring.
“We are getting closer to [evaluation time],” said Joe Girardi yesterday. “You want to see some progress going into the third start. You take a hard look at the fourth and fifth starts … He struggled with [fastball command] the first couple [of starts] and that’s important to me,”
Nova, who just turned 25 in January, has allowed seven runs on seven hits and a walk in 4.2 IP during his first two exhibition starts, so the command problem isn’t showing up in the walk total. Nova’s been missing his spots and falling behind in the count, and hitters are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do when the pitchers make those mistakes. At this point it doesn’t really matter how command issue manifests itself, just that it exists and both the team and player are working to correct the problem.
“I am perfect in the bullpen, but I get [in a game] and try to do too much,” said Nova. “The fastball is a problem right now, but I know I will get it back … Hopefully, it will be there [tonight]. Whatever happens, happens.”
If you’re the worrying type, there is the matter of Nova’s strained flexor, the elbow injury that forced him out of Game Five of the ALDS last October. Elbow problems usually result in poor command while lack of velocity indicates shoulder issues. Nova is healthy, having rested his arm during the offseason and passing his pre-Spring Training physical. There are no reports of pain or soreness, and his velocity has been fine so the shoulder is apparently sound. He’s just fighting through a poor command phase at the moment, which is something that comes and goes for every pitcher during the course of the year.
Tonight’s game will be broadcast all over the place (YES, MLBN, MLB.tv, and even MLB.com), so we’ll get a chance to see Nova and his command in action. The results don’t matter on March 13th, the only thing that matters tonight is that he’s consistently hitting the target with his fastball and keeping his offspeed stuff down. If he starts to do that against the Sox tonight and continues to get better the next few times out before Opening Day, all will be well with the team’s projected third starter. If not, then Nova will just have to keep working on it and hope things click before the games start to count.