Open Thread: Good journalism vs. bad journalism

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

I tend to have very little interest in players’ personal lives. It adds zero value to my life, all I worry about is what happens on the field. So when Austin Romine left camp for a few days last week for a personal reason, I thought nothing of it. Stuff comes up, who cares, none of my business. Jack Curry wrote about Romine today, and it turns out the young backstop had to leave camp to attend the funeral of his younger cousin, who was killed while participating in a combat operation in Afghanistan. “At this point in time,” said Romine, who remained in camp for ten days after learning of his cousin’s death, “I have no more tears.” It’s a great and heartfelt article that gets RAB’s highest recommendation.

Unfortunately, that side of journalism, the good side, is generally overshadowed by garbage. Instead of more columns like Curry’s, we get stuff like this complete assassination of Marcus Thames by T.J. Simers of The LA Times, a hatchet job that went so far as to attack the pronunciation of the guy’s name. Based on what we read and saw last year, Marcus was as nice a guy as they come, and if you needed any reason to root harder for him, well Simers provided it. I’m glad Thames took the high road and refused to stoop to that level, a level unfit for the hackiest of hacks.

Anyways, here is your open thread for the night. YES is playing an encore of this afternoon’s Yankees-Orioles game, and MLB Network will be doing the same with Mets-Tigers. All three hockey locals are in action as well. Talk about whatever, go nuts.

Colon & Garcia’s Opt-Out Dates

We’ve known for a while that both Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon have the ability to become free agents if they don’t make the Yankees out of Spring Training, but now we have some actual dates thanks to Ken Rosenthal. Garcia can opt out of his minor league deal on March 29th (next Tuesday) while Colon can do so on Opening Day, March 31st (next Thursday). If the Yankees plan on releasing Sergio Mitre, they’ll have to do it before March 28th (next Monday) to avoid paying him his full season salary ($900,000). In that case they’d only owe him 45 days termination pay.

I suspect the opt-outs won’t be that big of a deal, the Yankees are going to need to make a decision about the fourth and fifth starters very soon, by the end of the weekend at the latest simply because there are only so many games left in Spring Training. They need to start lining guys up and stretching everyone out to maximum capacity.

Injury Updates: Chavez and … Marte?

Via Erik Boland and Chad Jennings, we’ve got a pair of quick injury updates for you. Eric Chavez experienced spasms in his calf yesterday, but he says it’s fine. He took batting practice today and will do a full set of fielding drills tomorrow, though Joe Girardi told him they’re going to hold him out of games until Friday. I know Chavez has been brittle over the last few years, but I wouldn’t worry about calf spasms. No big deal.

Meanwhile, the forgotten man Damaso Marte was in the clubhouse this morning and said his surgically repaired shoulder is doing well. He expects to start working out and throwing soon, and doctors have told him that there’s a chance he’ll be ready to return by the All-Star break. I still have zero expectations of Marte making it back healthy this season, but hey, good news is better than bad news.

The RAB Radio Show: March 22, 2011

The Yankees have four pitchers competing for three spots, and less than a week to determine who is the odd man out. Mike and I tackle the issue. We also discuss Curtis Granderson‘s injury and how that can play into the situation.

Podcast run time 18:45

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Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

Montero’s cup of coffee

(Kathy Willens/AP)

Despite the competitive overtures, the Yankees’ backup catcher situation, at least in terms of Opening Day, is likely settled. Austin Romine might have made a decent case, but when Joe Girardi announces the 25 men headed to the Bronx on March 31, expect him to call Jesus Montero‘s name. With Francisco Cervelli sidelined for the next few weeks, it’s a sensible temporary option that could aid Montero’s development.

Montero breaking camp with the big league club acts in the same manner as a September call-up. While Montero did spend time with the team last September, he was not placed on the active roster. He can get that experience during the first two to three weeks of the season. During that time he can start six or seven games, giving Russell Martin a rest and perhaps horning in on a start or two at DH. That would not only give him time traveling with the big league club, but would give him 25 or 30 PA of experience.

At that point perhaps the Yankees will have a better idea of what they want to do with Montero. If they think he can be a valuable contributor to the big league club in a part-time role, they can install Cervelli at AAA. If, on the other hand, they think he needs to play every day in order to hone his defensive skills, he can take the shuttle to Scranton and allow for Cervelli’s return. In that way, the cup of coffee acts as both a taste of the big leagues and as a further evaluation period.

The most prominent objection to using Montero as a backup is that it won’t afford him regular at-bats — or, in Montero’s case, regular reps behind the plate. Behind Martin he’d likely play once, maybe twice per week. Combined with a few appearances as the DH, and that amounts to maybe 250 PA during the course of the season. For that reason, I wouldn’t advocate Montero spending the entire season in the bigs unless there was room for him to play every day, preferably behind the plate. But for two or three weeks, there isn’t much downside.

There are really only two negative aspects to utilizing Montero at the start of the season. First is service time. He’ll accumulate some, but if they option him when Cervelli returns it will be a negligible amount. He’s going to end up in the majors at some point this season and will start his arbitration clock. Two or three extra weeks won’t make a huge difference. Second is using an option. If the Yankees called up Montero in, say, June, and kept him up all year, they wouldn’t burn an option. If they use him as the backup they will (assuming they send him down in a few weeks). But if Montero develops as hoped, the options won’t be an issue. They won’t need them anyway.

When the Yankees assembled for spring training it appeared they had clear paths for their catchers. Martin was the starter, Cervelli was the backup, Montero would continue to hone his skills at AAA, and Austin Romine would wait at AA for an opportunity for advancement. Cervelli’s injury threw things off temporarily, but the Yankees can use this as an opportunity. Montero can get a taste of the big leagues before heading to AAA and getting regular reps behind the plate. At the same time, the Yankees can further evaluate their best prospect. Cervelli’s injury might have changed the team’s plans, but it might end up being a net positive.

ST Game Thread: A last look at Sergio?

(AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

As the fourth and fifth starter competition rolls along, it’s tough to see how exactly Sergio Mitre fits into this whole equation. Ivan Nova and Bartolo Colon have shown enough in camp that they should at least be given chances in the regular season, and for whatever reason we keep giving Freddy Garcia the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that lat part is just me.

Anyway, we’ve already talked about the possibility of releasing Mitre, and even though it doesn’t make sense to me, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Sergio’s on the hill today, and I suppose it could be the last time he ever pitches in the Yankees uniform. Here’s the lineup…

Curtis Granderson, CF – Melky Mesa, CF …  Grandy’s hurt
Nick Swisher, DH
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Andruw Jones, RF
Jesus Montero, C
Greg Golson, LF
Eduardo Nunez, SS
Ronnie Belliard, 2B
Brandon Laird, 3B

Available Pitchers: Sergio Mitre, Joba Chamberlain, Mark Prior, Romulo Sanchez, Luis Ayala, Ryan Pope, Steve Garrison, George Kontos, and Wilkins Arias.

Available Position Players: Gustavo Molina (C), Jose Gil (1B), Ramiro Pena (2B), Doug Bernier (SS), Kevin Russo (3B), Justin Maxwell (LF), Melky Mesa (CF), and Jordan Parraz (RF).

I should probably also mention that Joba will be appearing in his first game since suffering that oblique injury. This Grapefruit League game against the Orioles is being broadcast live on both YES and ESPN at 1:05pm ET. Enjoy.