• Jennings: Several teams scouting Francisco Cervelli

    Via Chad Jennings: Several clubs are specifically scouting Frankie Cervelli this spring as they look for catching help. We’ve heard that the Brewers and White Sox are scouting the team’s spare backstops, and the Diamondbacks are said to be looking for an MLB ready catcher as well.

    Cervelli, 28, is out of options and can not go to the minors without first passing through waivers. He’s slated to start the season as Brian McCann’s backup. Jennings hears that Cervelli’s value isn’t all that high, and that a trade would likely involve another team’s out of options player. Spare part for spare part, basically. Here are the Brewers, White Sox, and D’Backs out of options guys, if you’re interested. None of the players who figure to actually be available are all that appealing.
    · (66) ·



Mariano Rivera has retired and he’s not coming back. After 16 years of enjoying eight inning games thanks to the best reliever in baseball history, the Yankees are beginning an era in which the ninth inning isn’t such a lock anymore. The bullpen anchor is gone, and even though we got a glimpse of what life without Mo was like when he hurt his knee in 2012, this is still going to be a new experience.

The Yankees have stopped short of officially naming David Robertson their new closer, but that is a mere formality at this point. Joe Girardi, Brian Cashman, and even Hal Steinbrenner have indicated Robertson will assume ninth inning duties this spring. That’s no surprise. Robertson has been excellent these last three years and has pretty much every quality you’d want in a future closer. He strikes guys out, he gets ground balls, and he has experience working high-leverage innings for a (mostly) contending team in a tough division in a huge market. All the boxes are checked.

At this point, I think we all know what Robertson is and what he can do. He’s primarily a cutter pitcher at this point, mixing in the occasional curveball when ahead in the count. He’s also cut down on his walk rate drastically these last two years, going from 4.7 BB/9 (12.2 BB%) from 2008-11 to a 2.6 BB/9 (7.3 BB%) from 2012-13. Robertson is not the most efficient pitcher in the world, but he has said this spring that he is making an effort to throw fewer pitches and get quicker outs this season. Maybe that leads to him striking out fewer batters but being available three days in a row instead of just two. We’ll see.

There seem to be two opposing schools of thought when it comes to the closer’s role: anyone can do it and not everyone can do it. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Not everyone likes pitching at the end of games — Jeremy Affeldt and LaTroy Hawkins are two notable players who have admitted as much — but way more guys can close than most people initially thought. The fact of the matter is we don’t know how Robertson will react to closing until he does it. I think he’ll be more than fine but what do I know? All we can do is wait a few weeks and see.



Instead of focusing just on Robertson, I want to spend some time exploring what the Yankees are looking at in the post-Rivera years. How the other half lives. That is, basically, a revolving door at closer. Sure, Robertson might be the guy for the next half-decade, but he has not been a closer yet and he’s due to become a free agent after the season. It’s not crazy to think he might not be the team’s closer long-term. Closers like Rivera, Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, Billy Wagner, and Trevor Hoffman are very rare. Not many guys do the job for ten years or more. There is generally a lot of turnover in the ninth inning.

As of right now, only three teams project to have the same closer on Opening Day 2014 as they did on Opening Day 2012: the Phillies (Papelbon), Braves (Craig Kimbrel), and Padres (Huston Street). (Aroldis Chapman and Glen Perkins took over as their club’s closer a few weeks into the 2012 season, but were not the guys on Opening Day.) Three teams, that’s it. You can go back and check if you want. Furthermore, all four LCS teams last year (Dodgers, Cardinals, Red Sox, Tigers) changed closers at midseason. World Series closers Koji Uehara and Trevor Rosenthal weren’t even their team’s Plan B. Uehara got the job after Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey got hurt, and Rosenthal got it after Jason Motte got hurt, Mitchell Boggs flopped, and Edward Mujica crashed late in the season.

That is the norm. Most teams wind up making changes at closer if not in season, than at some point in the span of two seasons. The Yankees are very fortunate to have Robertson, who is more Rosenthal than Mujica, but in a world without Rivera, they could be looking at a new closer every year or two. Remember what it was like before Mo? John Wetteland for two years, Steve Howe for a year, Steve Farr for three years … on and on. Let’s not forget the postseason either, Rivera was beyond brilliant in October and that is irreplaceable. That revolving door is what the next few years of the ninth inning could look like, especially if Robertson proves to be not up to the task or bolts as a free agent next winter.

For this coming season, the Yankees appear to have a more than capable ninth inning man in Robertson. If he can’t hack it, then whichever reliever happens to be pitching the best at the time figures to get a crack at the ninth inning. Maybe that’s Shawn Kelley or Dellin Betances or Adam Warren. Who knows? We’ll worry about that when the time comes. Robertson is as good as any prospective closer in the game, but because of his impending free agency, the ninth inning is still a question long-term. That’s the case for almost every team in baseball and new experience for the Yankees as we know them.

Categories : Death by Bullpen
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Depending on what happens with the fifth starter spot, the Yankees have either two or three bullpen spots up for grabs in camp. There are something like eight or nine relievers competing for those spots, though some obviously have a better chance than others. Dellin Betances and Cesar Cabral, both of whom pitched with the team last September, have already emerged as the early favorites for big league jobs just two weeks into the Grapefruit League schedule.

Betances, who turns 26 in less than two weeks, continued his strong spring yesterday by pitching around a one out double in an inning of work. He didn’t just pitch around the double, he did it by throwing six straight curveballs to big leaguers Matt Joyce (strikeout) and Wil Myers (ground out). That’s not something Betances would have been able to do in the past. Emphasizing his offspeed stuff is something he’s been working on this spring.

“I feel good right now. I feel good with where my offspeed is. I feel like I can throw it for strikes. It’s been working for me. I’m just trying to better myself with each outing,” said Betances to Bryan Hoch. “I know my offspeed was one of the things that helped me out when I got in trouble with my fastball. I would try to use that to keep myself a little calm with my mechanics. I just tried to take that into this spring, mix my pitches. In the big leagues, everybody can hit fastballs, no matter how hard you throw. I’m just trying to use all my pitches the best way I can.”

Betances is up to 6.1 scoreless innings in camp, striking out five against two walks and two hits. The opponent quality stat at Baseball Reference says he’s been facing mostly big leaguers, which isn’t surprising. He’s been the first guy out of the bullpen in most games. Betances has the size and power stuff the Yankees love, so maybe a roster spot was his to lose coming to camp following last season’s bullpen breakout. If it was, he’s done nothing to lose the spot. If it wasn’t, he’s pushed himself towards the top of the depth chart.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

With Cabral, on the other hand, it always felt like he was on the outside of the bullpen competition looking in. At least it did to me. Carrying a second lefty specialist is a luxury, and with Matt Thornton already on board to be the primary guy, passing on Cabral to take a more versatile right-hander makes some sense. It still does, actually. Then again, the best pitchers are the best pitchers, and if another southpaw is one of the seven best relievers in the organization, he should be on the roster come Opening Day.

In 4.1 innings across four appearances this spring, the just-turned-25-year-old Cabral has allowed one hit and two walks, striking out four. Lefties are 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and a walk against him. Cabral has not faced the best competition however, basically Double-A level according to that opponent quality metric at B-Ref. He can only face the guys he’s put out there against though, and if he keeps getting outs and handling lefties, he’ll get a longer look and more serious consideration as camp progresses.

So far, after only a handful of Grapefruit League appearances, both Betances and Cabral have done everything they’ve needed to do to secure a big league bullpen job. Neither guy has a spot locked up of course, but they have moved to the front of the pack. Preston Claiborne, Matt Daley, and Fred Lewis have pitched well too, so they’re not alone, but others like Robert Coello and Brian Gordon have already managed to pitch themselves out of bullpen consideration. Both Betances and Cabral have made a nice little statement early on and put themselves in good position for a big league job when roster decision time comes.

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Spring Training Record: 7-4-1 (58 RS, 44 RA)
Spring Training Games This Week: Mon. OFF, @ Nationals (Tues.), vs. Tigers (Weds. on YES, MLBN), vs. Orioles (Thurs., split squad on YES), @ Phillies (Thurs., split squad), vs. Twins (Fri. on YES), @ Orioles (Sat., split squad on MLBN), vs. Marlins (Sat., split squad in Panama), vs. Braves (Sun., split squad on YES), vs. Marlins (Sun. split squad in Panama)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Categories : Polls
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In what was easily the most competitive game of the spring, the Yankees and Rays played to a 3-3 tie this afternoon. Joe Girardi managed to win, pinch-running when the Yankees were down a run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. He also pinch-hit Scott Sizemore for Mason Williams to get the platoon advantage. The pinch-runner (Antoan Richardson) came around to score on a wild pitch. Pretty fun.

David Phelps was very strong, allowing three hits in five scoreless innings. He struck out one, walked zero, and recorded eight ground ball outs. Jacoby Ellsbury doubled and struck out twice, Alfonso Soriano singled twice in three at-bats, and both Carlos Beltran and Derek Jeter took an 0-for-3. Jose Pirela had two hits off the bench. Dellin Betances continued his strong spring with another scoreless inning, striking out one and pitching around a double. Matt Daley chucked a scoreless frame as well. Here are the box score and video highlights, and here’s the rest from Tampa.

  • The Yankees announced the first roster cuts of the year: Jose Ramirez (oblique) and Francisco Rondon (shoulder). Both have been sent down to minor league camp. Neither pitched this spring due to their injuries. Ramirez is on the 40-man roster, so was optioned down. There are still 64 players in big league camp.
  • Kelly Johnson left today’s game after taking a fastball to the back, but he is fine. It was probably going to be his final at-bat of the day anyway. Johnson had an uneventful first day at first base, making all the routine plays. [Andrew Marchand]
  • Hiroki Kuroda, David Robertson, and Matt Thornton all threw their scheduled bullpens. Tyler Austin (wrist) hit, either in the cage or regular batting practice. Scott Sizemore has been playing with a brace on his left knee following back-to-back torn ACLs. [Chad Jennings]
  • Brendan Ryan (oblique) is feeling better and better. He hopes to return to game action on Wednesday. [Bryan Hoch]
  • Tomorrow is the team’s first off-day of the Grapefruit League schedule and it’s a total off-day. A few guys might come in for extra work or medical treatment, but there are no workouts are scheduled at all.

Here is your nightly open thread. This afternoon’s game will not be replayed on television anywhere replayed at midnight on MLB Network, after they re-air the Mets and Braves later tonight. The Nets are playing as well. You folks know how this works by now, so have at it.

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Now that Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Manny Banuelos, and Mark Teixeira have made their Spring Training debuts, I feel like all the major milestones have passed. Well, we still haven’t seen Pineda pitch in a televised game, but that’ll happen Thursday. Eyes were on those guys for obvious reasons these last few weeks and now that they’ve all gotten their first games under the belt, it’s back to business as usual and preparing for the season.

Kelly Johnson will start this afternoon’s game at first base for the first time this spring and only the third time in his career. He played three games (two starts) and 18 total innings at first last season, his only other experience at the position. Given the roster, Johnson is Teixeira’s backup at first pretty much by default, so learning the position and getting comfortable around the bag will be pretty important. His first real test of the spring is today.

The Rays are up from Port Charlotte for this afternoon’s game and they brought a pretty representative squad. Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, Wil Myers, James Loney, Ryan Hanigan, and Jose Molina all made the trip. Former Yankee Jayson Nix will be in the starting lineup as well. Chris Archer, who dominated the Yankees in three starts last summer (three runs and 12 hits in 22 innings), will be on the mound. Here is Joe Girardi‘s starting lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. LF Alfonso Soriano
  6. 1B Kelly Johnson
  7. 2B Brian Roberts
  8. DH Ichiro Suzuki
  9. 3B Yangervis Solarte

And on the mound is right-hander David Phelps, whose has some more serious competition for the fifth starter’s spot now that Pineda is pitching in games. Phelps is likely scheduled for four innings or 60-65 pitches, give or take.

Available Pitchers: RHP Dellin Betances, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Bruce Billings, RHP Danny Burawa, and RHP Matt Daley are all scheduled to pitch. RHP Preston Claiborne, RHP Branden Pinder, LHP Jeremy Bleich, and SwP Pat Venditte are the extra arms.

Available Position Players: C J.R. Murphy, 1B Russ Canzler, 2B Zelous Wheeler, SS Dean Anna, 3B Jose Pirela, LF Ramon Flores, CF Mason Williams, RF Adonis Garcia, and DH Jose Gil will be the second string off the bench. C Francisco Arcia, C Peter O’Brien, C Gary Sanchez, IF Corban Joseph, OF Zoilo Almonte, and OF Antoan Richardson are also available if needed.

It’s nice and sunny down in Tampa, with temperatures in the mid-70s. No chance of rain or anything like that. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05pm ET and the game will be broadcast live on YES and MLB.tv. Enjoy.

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The Yankees won their third straight Grapefruit League game this afternoon, beating the Astros 9-6 in a back and forth affair. Ivan Nova got hit around really hard in the first inning but settled down in the next three. His finished with three runs allowed on eight hits in four innings, striking out five and walking zero. Manny Banuelos got roughed up in his spring debut. Five relievers combined to allow only two hits in the final 4.1 innings.

At the plate, Brett Gardner went 1-for-4 with a single while Mark Teixeira went 1-for-2 with a double off the wall (as a right-handed batter), a walk, and a strikeout. Kelly Johnson had a walk and a two-run homer in three plate appearances. Dean Anna and Austin Romine both had two singles and Mason Williams had the double off the wall you see in the video above. He also got picked off first base later in the game. Here’s the box score and video highlights, and here’s the rest from Tampa.

  • The upcoming rotation: David Phelps (Sunday), Monday off, CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka (Tuesday, Tanaka will throw a simulated game), Hiroki Kuroda (Wednesday), Michael Pineda and Nova (Thursday, split squad games), Phelps (Friday), Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren (Saturday, Tampa and Panama), Tanaka and Sabathia (Sunday, Tampa and Panama). [Chad Jennings]
  • Because of the Panama games, the first round of roster cuts will come later than usual this spring. They simply need the extra bodies since they’ll be playing seven games in four days from Thursday through Sunday. Joe Girardi is heading to Panama and third base coach Rob Thomson will serve as manager for the games in Tampa. [George King]
  • Johnson will get his first start at first base tomorrow. He’s the backup first baseman by default. Bench coach Tony Pena ran him through a scooping drill today by hitting hard hit ground balls at him from second base. [Jorge Castillo]
  • Brendan Ryan is “nicked up” and will be out until the middle of next week with a back/oblique issue. It isn’t considered a long-term problem. [Erik Boland]
  • Sabathia and Tanaka threw their usual between-starts bullpen sessions. Tyler Austin did not hit today, but it was a scheduled day off for him and his balky wrist, not a setback. [Jennings]

This is your nightly open thread. This afternoon’s game will not be replayed anywhere, though MLB Network will carry and the Mariners and Dodgers live later tonight. The Devils and Knicks are both playing as well. Talk about anything and everything right here.

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Fastball by George Springer for the strikeout.

Fastball by George Springer for the strikeout.

It didn’t go particularly well, but left-hander Manny Banuelos made his first spring appearance of the year this afternoon. He has missed nearly two full years following a pair of elbow injuries (bone bruise and Tommy John surgery). The first three batters he faced reached base, including a double by Jose Altuve (GIF) and a three-run blast by Chris Carter (video). Banuelos settled down to retire the next two batters before reaching his pitch count and being lifted.

I unofficially had Banuelos at eleven strikes and nine balls in the 20-pitch outing. He threw almost all fastballs with a handful curveballs but no changeups, his trademark pitch. Erik Boland says a scout had him at 92-94 mph with “no reason to think he can’t rebound” from the injuries. Banuelos was a little wild but that isn’t too surprising after missing two years. Hopefully he throws a few more innings in camp and fares a little better. Either way, the Yankees have already said he’s all but a lock to start the season in Triple-A. Makes sense.

There are a few more GIFs after the jump. As you can see, the camera angle during the broadcast was just awful. The center field camera must have been out in the parking lot somewhere. You can click each GIF for a larger view.

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(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Maybe the most used photo in RAB history. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Last night, Michael Pineda return to a Spring Training mound for the first time in nearly two full years following shoulder surgery. He was impressive, or so we’ve heard. The game was not televised but the always fun anonymous scout quotes indicated he looked strong and better than he did the last time we saw him, in the weeks before he blew out his shoulder.

This afternoon, another one of the Yankees’ promising young starters will return to the mound. Left-hander Manny Banuelos is scheduled to throw an inning after missing most of the last two years with elbow problems, first a bone bruise and then Tommy John surgery. He threw in simulated games and in Instructional League last fall, but this is his first time in something that resembles a competitive environment. It’s easy to forget Banuelos is still only 22 after all the lost time. Getting him back and healthy would be a big boost to the organization going forward.

The Yankees are on the road this afternoon, making the short-ish trip up to Kissimmee to play the Astros. Mark Teixeira is in the lineup for the second time as he works his way back from wrist surgery, and Scott Sizemore is starting a game for the first time this spring. He’s missed most of the last two years due to back-to-back torn left ACLs. Dexter Fowler, Jose Altuve, and Jason Castro are all in Houston’s lineup. Hard-throwing righty Jarred Cosart will be on the hill for them. Here’s the Yankees’ starting lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 2B Eduardo Nunez
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. DH Kelly Johnson
  5. C Frankie Cervelli
  6. SS Dean Anna
  7. 3B Scott Sizemore
  8. LF Zoilo Almonte
  9. RF Mason Williams

And on the mound is right-hander Ivan Nova, who was very impressive last time out. As good as I’ve ever seen him, regular season or otherwise. He’s probably scheduled for something like four innings or 65 pitches.

Available Pitchers: LHP Manny Banuelos, LHP Cesar Cabral, RHP David Herndon, and LHP Fred Lewis are all scheduled to pitch. Herndon, a sleeper for one of the open bullpen spots, will be making his spring debut after missing most of last season due to Tommy John surgery. RHP Chase Whitley, RHP Chris Leroux, RHP Mark Montgomery, and RHP Danny Burawa also made the trip and are available if needed.

Available Position Players: C Austin Romine, 1B Corban Joseph, 2B Jose Pirela, SS Yangervis Solarte, 3B Zelous Wheeler, LF Ramon Flores, CF Antoan Richardson, RF Adonis Garcia, and DH Peter O’Brien will all come off the bench to replace the starters. C Francisco Arcia, C/1B Jose Gil, and C Gary Sanchez also made the trip.

It’s sunny with temperatures in the upper-60s in Kissimmee, so good weather for baseball. Today’s game will be broadcast live on MLB Network and MLB.tv, but not the YES Network. YES usually doesn’t travel for Spring Training games. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 1pm ET and, by the way, the new expanded replay system will be available. Enjoy the game.

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