On the eve of Spring Training, Buster Olney reports that the Yankees are concerned about Andy Pettitte and expect the lefty to start Spring Training a bit behind in his physical preparations. As expected, the staff feels that the Mitchell Report distractions have hindered Pettitte’s off-season routines.

Olney writes:

Andy Pettitte no longer has to go to Washington, and instead, he is scheduled to report to the Yankees’ training camp in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday. But staff members expect that Pettitte will be behind in his preparation for the 2008 season, because of the off-field issues that have dominated his offseason.

The Yankees won’t get a first-hand read of just how far Pettitte will be behind until they see him throw later this week, but the status of the team’s No. 2 starter is a major concern within the organization…

In past years, Pettitte has worked out during the offseason — sometimes with Clemens and McNamee — before starting his throwing regimen in early January. The Yankees’ staffers don’t know exactly where Pettitte is in his training, but they will operate under the assumption that he will be behind Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Hughes and their other starters.

While on the surface this seems as though it’s something of a big deal, it’s hard to tell what the real story is here. Olney doesn’t seem to get a source close to Pettitte to confirm or deny that the Yanks’ number two starter hasn’t been throwing. And even the anonymous Yankee “staff members” who are concerned don’t bring many concrete worries to the table.

Olney notes that an injury to his son pushed Pettitte’s training schedule back as well, but who knows? If anything, this is simply a story that we’ll keep our eyes on once pitchers and catchers report and throwing schedules come into focus.

Categories : Pitching
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I’m going to do an impersonation for you. Let’s see if you can guess who it is.

Yesterday, I wrote that Joba Chamberlain could start the season in the bullpen. Today, Joel Sherman confirms, via a team official, that that will be the case. He’ll prepare in Spring Training as a starter, but will move into the setup corps once the season commences.

1. Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy would stay healthy to form the rotation. All five would be needed from the outset because the Yanks have just two scheduled off-days from March 31 through May 4.

2. Chamberlain stabilizes the area the Yankees profess offers their greatest uncertainty in 2008: Their setup crew in front of Mariano Rivera. The Yanks envision Chamberlain dominating in the eighth based on his 0.38 ERA and .145 batting average against in 19 regular-season games as a reliever last year.

3. The Yanks see the Chamberlain/Rivera tandem helping them be a dominant late-inning team over the first two months of the season. At some point in June, the Yanks would send Chamberlain to the minors for 3-4 weeks to stretch him out to 5-6 innings in preparation to be a full-time starter in the second half.

4. The Yanks hope is that over the first two months other relievers show enough fortitude/reliability to be moved into the eighth inning. Only Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins are guaranteed jobs. The Yanks think Girardi, who was a Cub teammate of Farnsworth for three years, might help the talented righty find greater consistency and grab the eighth inning.

Sherman also notes that Humberto Sanchez and Mark Melancon could be ready to go by the time Chamberlain is transitioning to a starting position.

This does seem like the ideal plan. Let’s hope it shakes out that way.

Categories : Pitching
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I bet this isn’t what Bud Selig and George Mitchell had in mind when the Mitchell Report hit the streets in December.

After nearly two months of back-and-forth posturing in the press and the halls of Congress, it’s come down to two men. Only Brian McNamee and his one-time client and current arch-rival Roger Clemens will testify in front of the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday. According to numerous reports, Andy Pettitte did not want to testify in public against Roger Clemens, and the committee was satisfied with the deposition testimony it received from Chuck Knoblach and Kurt Radomski, the other New York-based trainer named in the Report. Somewhere, Paul Lo Duca just breathed a giant sigh of relief.

In related news, Jim Baumbach and Robert E. Kessler of Newsday reported that Pettitte’s testimony confirms McNamee’s story and contradicts Clemens’ vehement denials. For Clemens, this will be utterly devastating, and Andy Pettitte, who has long idolized and respected Roger, must not feel too great about the current situation.

From a Yankee perspective, this circus is either ending or just starting. For better or worse, Roger Clemens is now forever linked to the Yankees because of the Mitchell Report fallout and the time of his supposed drug use, the bulk of which is reported to have occurred during his time in the Bronx. If Pettitte’s testimony, part of the public record, shows Clemens’ recent denials to be a façade, the media circus will swarm around Tampa next week like no other. If not, this strange tale of drugs, syringes and gauze will play out in Congress.

For Clemens, this news on the eve of the hearing cannot be good. On Wednesday, two men — one player out of the 89 named in the report — and one trainer will face down a Congressional committee annoyed by the way this drama has played out. One of them will emerge from the committee room most likely the subject of a perjury inquiry and a disgraced man. I wonder what odds Protrade would give on that one.

Finally, there’s always Bud Selig standing in the corner. With this latest development, the Mitchell Report and its original intentions have been launched out the window. No longer is this about stopping steroids in baseball. No longer is that incomplete document that randomly named 89 out of what has to be hundreds of drug users the focus of attention. Rather, it is about only the biggest name in the document and the saga that has played itself out on TV stations and newspapers across the country. It’s about a recorded phone call, eight-year-old syringes and gauze, spousal accusations and firm denials.

Somehow, I bet this isn’t what Bud Selig envisioned three years ago when he commissioned the report, and I bet it’s not what he envisioned when he released this document to the wolves two months ago. A Mitchell Report without names would have served its purpose better than this document, and as the charade continues tomorrow, I have to wonder whether or not this whole thing — this report, this committee hearing, this attention to something that no one can change — is really in the best interest of baseball.

Categories : STEROIDS!
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  • The Scranton 2007 edition of ‘Where Are They Now?’

    Here is a fun post from Chad Jennings and the SWB Yankees blog. Jennings checks in with the 14 members of the 2007 Scranton club who are no longer with the organization. Outside of Tyler Clippard, who should win a job in the Nationals’ rotation this year, things do not look good for the other 13 members of this elite club. Andy Cannizaro, we hardly knew ye. · (9) ·

This is something that many of us simply do not want to hear. Yet, it’s going to be a topic explored throughout Spring Training. Yes, those of us who stand adamantly in favor of Joba Chamberlain in the starting rotation are going to have to deal with him coming out of the bullpen, at least temporarily. Brian Cashman even says so:

“We’ll prepare him as a starter, get through spring training and then determine where he starts,” Cashman said. “He has an innings limit and won’t go start to finish as a starter. That won’t be allowed.

“It wouldn’t be safe, that’s our belief. You have to put the brakes on and make sure he stays healthy.”

As long as everyone stays healthy — far from a certainty, of course — the Yanks will enter the season with six starters: Wang, Pettitte, Mussina, Hughes, Kennedy, Joba. While there have been whispers of starting Kennedy in the minors, that makes little sense. He is poised to pitch more innings than either Joba or Hughes, so he’d fit best into the long-term rotation plan. He could go wire-to-wire as a starter.

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Categories : Pitching
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Talk about a good investment.

Thirty-five years ago, George Steinbrenner and a group of businessmen bought the then-struggling New York Yankees. They paid a pittance to CBS for the team. Each investor had to shell out $833,000 to own a piece of the Yankees.

Today, of course, no one’s buying anything from the Yanks for a mere $10 million. The team is building a $1.3-billion stadium, and with a successful team and TV station, the entire franchise operation is valued somewhere around $1 billion.

For the Yanks and Steinbrenner, it’s been a tumultuous 35 years that seems to be coming to a close. While George isn’t planning on selling the team, due to his advancing age and seemingly declining health, the men behind the scenes are now Hal and Hank, his songs who were just 4 and 15 respectively when he bought the team. The thirty-five year run is marked by intense micromanaging, scandals and an eventual return to greatness in the 1990s that has carried through to today’s team in one way or another.

But going into the 1973 season, with a new and complicated ownership group in place, no one in New York really knew what to expect. No one would guess what the next 35 years would bring.

* * *

It starts with a quote from a largely unknown Cleveland shipping magnate in 1973.

It’s January 4, 1973, and CBS has mercifully sold the Yankees to a group of interested buyers. Under CBS, as Joseph Durso fo The Times detailed, the Yanks finished no higher than third and saw their attendance dip below one million in 1972 for the first time since World War II. The Mets, meanwhile, were the darlings of New York. They drew over 2 million fans, leading the league.

But the quote. Back to the quote. At the press conference introducing the new owners, George Steinbrenner, largely unknown in New York, took the stage. “We plan absentee ownership as far as running the Yankees is concerned. We’re not going to pretend we’re something we aren’t. I’ll stick to building ships,” he said.

Famous first words if I ever I heard any, and at the time no one had any reason to doubt Steinbrenner. Head of what was generally assumed to be the largest ownership syndicate in baseball, Steinbrenner was a Cleveland native and lifelong Yankee fan.

In fact, George had a man back in New York, and this man — Michael Burke — knew New York. Burke had been at the helm of the Yanks for a while. A nine-year veteran of CBS when they bought the team, Burke, a fan of the game, slid seamlessly into his new role and toiled for the better part of the 1960s under CBS’ inept leadership. When the opportunity arose to buy the team, Burke put together a group of investors, and everyone assumed he would be the public figurehead of the team.

And who wouldn’t believe Steinbrenner? Involved in the NBA, Broadway and his own company, George kept saying the same thing. “I won’t be active in the day-to-day operations of the club at all,” he told a young Murray Chass. “I can’t spread myself so thin. I’ve got enough headaches with my shipping company.”

Of course, we know how that story ended. Burke left the team presidency in April when Gabe Paul’s involvement deepened. And George, well, we know what happened to George. He never really stayed true to his word and did become heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the club both on the field and off for the next three decades.

As Steinbrenner’s reign nears its ends, it is very hard to imagine the Yankees without George Steinbrenner. But for a fleeting minute in 1973, imagine if George Steinbrenner had stayed true to his word. New York just wouldn’t be the same.

Categories : Days of Yore
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