Spring Training Game Thread: Meet the Mets

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees will be on the east coast of Florida for their next two games, including this afternoon’s match with the Mets in Port St. Lucie. It’s a brand name pitching matchup too: CC Sabathia vs. Matt Harvey. Surely Sabathia is pumped to Harvey, right? “Not really. He’s not on my team. I’m curious to see how Tanaka looks. That’s my guy,” he said to Chad Jennings. Right answer!

Today’s reason to watch: Sabathia vs. Harvey! But mostly Sabathia, who is making his second official spring start and is probably slated to throw three innings and 45 pitches or so. His first Grapefruit League start was a mixed bag — his first inning was excellent, his second not so much — and he said his changeup in particular was not cooperating. So let’s see if Sabathia irons that out this afternoon.

The Mets are playing all of their regulars this afternoon other than Daniel Murphy, who is nursing a hamstring injury. It’ll be a nice test for Sabathia by mid-March standards. Here’s the Mets’ lineup card and here is Joe Girardi‘s starting nine:

  1. SS Didi Gregorius
  2. 2B Stephen Drew
  3. 3B Chase Headley
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Garrett Jones
  6. C John Ryan Murphy
  7. DH Brendan Ryan
  8. CF Jose Pirela
  9. LF Ramon Flores
    LHP CC Sabathia

Available Position Players: C Austin Romine, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Jonathan Galvez, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Aaron Judge, and DH Kyle Higashioka will be the second string off the bench. C Eddy Rodriguez, IF Dan Fiorito, and 1B/OF Tyler Austin drew the short straws and had to make the four-hour bus trip to be the extra players.

Available Pitchers: RHP Scott Baker, RHP Jose Ramirez, LHP Chasen Shreve, and RHP Chris Martin are scheduled to follow Sabathia. RHP Nick Rumbelow, LHP Jacob Lindgren, RHP Nick Goody, LHP Tyler Webb, and RHP Danny Burawa are the extra arms.

The weather is nice in Port St. Lucie this afternoon. Mostly sunny with temperatures in the mid-to-high-80s but not oppressive humidity. This afternoon’s game is scheduled to begin at 1:10pm ET and can be seen on both YES and SNY locally as well as MLB.tv nationally. There’s no local blackout for MLB.tv. Enjoy the game, folks.

Open Thread: March 21st Camp Notes

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Thanks to a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees walked off with a 3-2 win over the Astros this afternoon. Eddy Rodriguez doubled in two runs to tie the game and Jake Cave sealed the win with a sacrifice fly. Carlos Beltran went 1-for-3, Mark Teixeira went 2-for-3, and both Brian McCann and Didi Gregorius went 1-for-2. Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, Chris Young, and Stephen Drew were all hitless.

Michael Pineda started and allowed two runs on four hits in 3.2 innings. Both runs and three of the four hits came in the first inning. Pineda struck out six. Justin Wilson (1.1 innings), Andrew Miller (one inning), and Andrew Bailey (one inning) each struck out two and did not allow a run. Jacob Lindgren fanned one and allowed a hit in his scoreless inning. The bullpen allowed one hit, one walk, and struck out eight in 5.1 innings. Here’s the box score — the game wasn’t on television so are no video highlights available — and here’s the rest from Tampa:

  • Jose Ramirez was optioned to Triple-A, the Yankees announced. He’s officially out of the running for a bullpen spot. By my unofficial count, there are still 47 players in big league camp.
  • Bryan Mitchell and Masahiro Tanaka are starting Monday and Wednesday, respectively. Nathan Eovaldi, Esmil Rogers, and Mitchell were among the pitchers to throw bullpen sessions. [Sweeny Murti, Brendan Kuty, Chad Jennings]
  • The next two games are on Florida’s east coast, so the minor leaguers making the trip will play both games and stay in a hotel rather than ride the bus back and forth to Tampa. [Jennings]

This is your open thread for the evening. All the local hockey and basketball teams are in action except the Knicks. MLB Network is replaying some games tonight (not the Yankees) and of course there’s March Madness as well. Talk about whatever.

Weekend Links: Jeter, Matsui, Betances, Game 162, Cuba, In-Market Streaming

(Shizuo Kambayashi/AP)
(AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

The Yankees are playing the Astros at 1:05pm ET this afternoon (Michael Pineda vs. Dallas Keuchel), but there will be no video broadcast of the game. No YES, no MLB.tv, no nothing. Lame. So, on this day with unwatchable Yankees baseball, here are some miscellaneous links to help you pass the time.

Jeter, Matsui To Participate In Home Run Derby For Charity

Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui will square off in a Home Run Derby at the Tokyo Dome tomorrow to help raise money to support children affected by the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the region in 2011, reports the Associated Press. There will be over 600 participants in the event, including a group of baseball players from the Tohoku region, which was hit hardest by the disaster.

“(Derek) will make an enormous contribution to this event. He is a tremendous human being and was a great teammate and I’m sure the kids will be thrilled to see someone of his stature,” said Matsui to the Associated Press. Jeter and Matsui will also hold a baseball clinic for kids. Some photos of Jeter at sumo matches made the rounds a few days ago and I figured he was just on vacation. Great work by Jeter and Matsui to get together for charity. Hopefully some video of the Home Run Derby pops up soon.

The Deception & Dominance Of Betances

Owen Watson put together a really great article looking at an underrated part of Dellin Betances‘ game: his deception. We all know he throws high-90s with a nasty breaking ball, but his release point and delivery is incredibly consistent for both pitches, so hitters don’t get any sort of hint of what’s coming. This GIF is pretty great:

That’s two pitches laid over one another. One pitch is a 98 mph fastball (taken), the other an 82 mph curveball (swing and miss). Dellin’s delivery and release point are the same and both pitches look identical out of his hand. It’s basically impossible to tell whether a fastball or breaking ball is coming before the hitter’s brain has to tell his body to swing or not, hence all those called strikes he was getting on curveballs last year. They look like high fastballs out of the zone and hitter gives up.

Yankees Hired New Nutritionist This Offseason

The search for a competitive advantage extends beyond the field of play these days, with teams looking for ways to keep their players healthier through improved diet and rest. The Yankees hired a new nutritionist this offseason named Cynthia Sass, according to David Waldstein, and her job is to provide the team with the best possible diet and persuade players to eat it. “We’re trying to build a more perfect beast,” said Brian Cashman to Waldstein.

Teams typically provide players with two meals per day — breakfast and lunch for day games, lunch and dinner for night games — but they can’t force players to eat them. Sass, who spent the last eight years with the Rays and had previously worked with the Phillies and New York Rangers, has added healthy alternatives to the daily menu and will educate players, then adjust the menu based on their preferences. “I’m not there to shove it down their throat,” she said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. The goal is to make the best foods for athletes always available. If they want more of it, we’ll provide it.”

The Yankees have had nutrionists over the years — every team has — but the goal this winter was the refocus their efforts in hope of gaining a competitive advantage. The team also hired former minor league pitcher John Kremer as their “high performance science director” to coordinate the nutritionist, food preparation, medical staff, trainers, coaches … basically everyone who impacts team performance. Teams haven’t necessarily ignored the diet of their players, they just haven’t done as much to optimize it as you’d think. Sass was hired to do that for the Yankees.

MLB Schedules Every Game 162 At Same Time

In an effort to boost the drama and excitement of the final day of the regular season, MLB has scheduled Game 162 for every team at the exact same time this year, writes Bill Shaikin. All 15 games on October 4th — yes, the season ends October 4th — will begin at 3pm ET. The Yankees will be in Baltimore playing the Orioles that day.

“If a game impacts another game, they’re all occurring at the same time, so no team would be put into a lame-duck situation because their fate already had been decided by an earlier result,” said MLB COO Tony Petitti to Shaikin. “If we do have games coming down to the wire, we want to make sure we maximize that day.”

Last year the NL Central and second AL Wild Card spot came down to Game 162. The Pirates lost to the Reds, giving the Cardinals the division title and allowing St. Louis to scratch Adam Wainwright later that afternoon so he could start him in Game 1 of the NLDS. That sort of situation won’t happen this year. I love this idea and as a baseball fan I hope the final day of the regular season is pure chaos. Hopefully the Yankees are involved somehow.

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

MLB Likely To Play Exhibition Game In Cuba In 2016

Commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed to Brian Costa the league is likely to play a Spring Training game in Cuba next season. MLB has been in talks with the government about returning to the island as the two countries work to rebuild their relationship. MLB last played a game in Cuba in 1999, when the Orioles played the Cuban National Team.

“To the extent that we can play a role in helping the United States government effectuate a change in policy, that we’re following their lead and we’re acting in a way that’s consistent with what they want us to do, that’s an honor for us,” said Manfred to Costa. “The combination of their input and where we are in our calendar for 2015 makes the most likely point in time to be Spring Training of 2016. It’s not a three-day exercise to play a meaningful exhibition game in Cuba. You need a little lead time to get that done, to put everything together, to be able to broadcast it in the way that it deserves.”

It’s unclear right now if MLB would play a single exhibition game in Cuba or several. In the past the league has played two games when playing overseas, though traveling to Cuba is much easier than traveling to, say, Taiwan, like the Dodgers did in 2010. Anyway, the Yankees are baseball’s most recognizable and marketable team, so I suspect they will be given consideration for the game(s) in Cuba next spring. Imagine the Yankees vs. Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers or Jose Abreu and the White Sox with Orlando Hernandez throwing out the first pitch. That would be fun.

In-Market Streaming May Be On The Horizon

According to Josh Kosman, MLB will soon announce a deal allowing fans to stream games online in each team’s home market. So New Yorkers will be able to watch the Yankees and Mets on their iPad or laptop instead of sitting in front of a television. The particulars (cost, etc.) aren’t known yet, but Kosman says teams with their own networks will require fans to subscribe to the network to stream online. You won’t be able to simply purchase MLB.tv and watch the Yankees, you’ll have to subscribe to YES through their cable provider. That’s better than nothing, I guess.

Open Thread: March 20th Camp Notes

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees wrecked the Tigers this afternoon, beating them 11-2 thanks to a six-run first inning against Alfredo Simon in Lakeland. Alex Rodriguez (solo) and Rob Refsnyder (two-run) both went deep while Brett Gardner, Jonathan Galvez, and Slade Heathcott tripled. Brendan Ryan went 1-for-3 with a double in his Grapefruit League debut after dealing with a back problem for a few weeks. Brian McCann also went 1-for-2 with a walk.

Adam Warren started and took a firm hold on the fifth starter’s spot with five innings of one-run ball, striking out three and scattering four hits. Chase Whitley threw three scoreless innings out of the bullpen and is a long shot for the fifth starter’s job, but we shouldn’t forget about him either. One more pitching injury thrusts him into a more prominent role. There are no video highlights of this afternoon’s game because there was no broadcast, but here’s the box score and here are the rest of the day’s notes from Tampa:

  • The Yankees announced another round of roster cuts today: Tyler Austin, Danny Burawa, and Jose DePaula were all optioned to Triple-A while Mason Williams was optioned to Double-A. Wilking Rodriguez was reassigned to minor league camp as well. There are still 48 players in big league camp by my unofficial count.
  • Dellin Betances threw a simulated game this afternoon. His last two Grapefruit League outings were shaky and a simulated game better allows him to work with coaches and tweak his mechanics than a regular game. Ivan Nova, Jose Ramirez, and Vicente Campos threw bullpens today. [Brendan Kuty, Chad Jennings]
  • Joe Girardi remains non-committal about his Opening Day starter. Both CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka line up to pitch that day — Sabathia if he stays on a regular five-day schedule for the rest of spring, Tanaka if he stays on a six-day schedule as planned — and Girardi says they’ve yet to make a decision “because we haven’t got them built up enough to feel comfortable that they’re ready to go.” [Bryan Hoch, Jennings]
  • Jacoby Ellsbury (oblique) told reporters yesterday he feels better and is “fully confident” he will be ready in time for Opening Day. The Yankees say they won’t worry unless he isn’t ready to return to game action by April 1st, five days before the start of the season. [Bryan Hoch]
  • The Yankees will be on Florida’s east coast the next two days, so A-Rod and Carlos Beltran will stay behind in Tampa and get a bunch of at-bats in minor league games. Alex is coming off his suspension and Beltran is coming back from offseason elbow surgery. [Mark Didtler]
  • Ty Hensley was among those to pitch in minor league camp today, which is great news. He was viciously attacked over the holidays and had his jaw wired shut, but he’s recovered well enough to return to game action. Great news. [Josh Norris]

Here is your open thread for the evening. MLB Network is showing the Reds and Giants live later tonight, if you’re desperate to see some baseball. The Devils, Knicks, and Nets are all playing and you’ve got a full slate of March Madness to watch as well. Have at it.

Update: Apparently there is one video highlight from today’s game. Here’s A-Rod’s homer:

Hal Steinbrenner confirms Yankees will try to get under luxury tax threshold in two years

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As expected, Hal Steinbrenner has confirmed the Yankees will try to get under the luxury tax threshold in two years or so. The team tried and failed to get under the $189M threshold last year. If you’ve been paying attention at all the last few years, this should be no surprise. Hal is very focused on the bottom line.

Here’s what Steinbrenner told Bill Madden:

“I found (being called cheap) very interesting,” he said, smiling, “given that we offered $25 million (for Moncada) and spent substantially in the international market (a reported $26.82 million in bonuses and penalties for greatly exceeding their bonus allotment). I’m not saying we’ll never give another seven-year contract, but going in you know you’re probably only going to get three-four good years out of it. It remains my goal to get under that $189 million (luxury-tax threshold), but it’s not going to happen for at least two more years when these big contracts we have expire. But I’ve continued to say you shouldn’t need $200 million to win a championship.”

Hal has really worn out that “you shouldn’t need $200M to win a World Series” line in recent years. I guess no one has told him there have only been 12 individual teams with a $200M+ payroll in baseball history, with nine going to the postseason and one winning the World Series (2009 Yankees). One out of 12 is a helluva lot better than whatever the odds have been for all the non-$200M payroll teams in history, but I digress.

Anyway, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2016 season and I expect the luxury tax threshold to be raised at that time. It has to go up. The league’s revenues are through the roof and a dozen teams will open this season with a payroll at or above $120M (six will be at or above $160M). With salaries and revenue only going up, a $189M luxury tax threshold doesn’t make sense anymore. It did when the current CBA was ratified in 2012, but come 2016 it should be at $200M at the very least, if not $210M.

Unlike the last time the Yankees tried to get under the luxury tax, they do have a lot of expensive contracts coming off the books soon. Mark Teixeira ($22.5M luxury tax hit) and Carlos Beltran ($15M) will be gone after 2016, maybe CC Sabathia ($24.4M) too. Alex Rodriguez ($27.5M) and Sabathia will definitely be off the books after 2017. Between shedding those big contracts and the inevitable raising of the luxury tax threshold, the Yankees will have a much better chance of getting under the tax threshold in two (or three) years than they did last year.

I totally understand why Hal wants to get under the luxury tax threshold — luxury tax is basically wasted money and no one likes throwing money away — and it’s his team, so he’s free to do whatever he wants. That said, the Yankees have a distinct advantage over the rest of the league because of their market, and focusing on getting under the luxury tax threshold is essentially tossing that advantage aside and leveling the playing field. The other 29 teams should send Hal a nice thank you note for that.

Whether you like it or not, the Yankees are going to try to get under the luxury tax threshold in the near future. My advice to Hal: stop talking about it. The media is going to ask, I know, but just say you’ve discussed it already and move on. Believe it or not, the fans don’t want to hear the owner talking about reducing payroll in the future, especially coming off back-to-back postseason-less years and with the team hardly a lock for October this year. So Hal, please just keep it to yourself the next few years. You’re the only one in favor of this.

RAB Live Chat

The Cheap Flexibility and Competency of Chris Capuano [2015 Season Preview]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

After a generally successful 12-start cameo in pinstripes late last year (4.25 ERA and 3.85 FIP), veteran southpaw Chris Capuano returned to the Bronx this offseason on a one-year contract worth $5M. He was reportedly considering playing in Japan before the Yankees called. New York re-signed Capuano for depth, basically. He’s serviceable and relatively cheap, someone who can fill-in as the fifth starter until something better comes along.

Unfortunately, the 2015 season is not off to a good start for Capuano. He suffered a Grade II right quad strain covering first base last week and will be out of action for a few weeks, including the start of the regular season. The Yankees are currently sorting through several options — most notably Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers — to take over as the fifth starter, at least temporarily. Capuano figures to return in mid-to-late April and is a not insignificant piece of the pitching staff.

Yankees Need: Get Healthy!

First and foremost, the Yankees need Capuano to get healthy and come back from the quad strain. It’s not an arm injury — Capuano’s had plenty of those in his career, including two Tommy John surgeries — but the timing stinks. Once healthy, Capuano will basically have to go through Spring Training to get stretched out. The Yankees can accelerate that to some degree, but it’ll be an extended process. It’ll take two or three weeks for Capuano to get ready once the quad is healthy at a minimum.

Capuano Can: Get Healthy, Eventually

The quad injury is just one of those fluky baseball injuries. Capuano hurt himself covering first — it looked like the injury happened right as he hit the bag, but who knows — and that can happen to anyone. He doesn’t need surgery, it’s not his arm, it’s nothing complicated like that. Capuano just needs to rest and wait, that’s all. It is worth noting he is 36 years old, however. Older players tend to need a little longer to get over injuries than younger players. Perhaps that mid-to-late April timetable is really more like late-April/early-May.

Yankees Need: Be Flexible

I don’t think Capuano is guaranteed a rotation spot once the quad is healthy. He might get Wally Pipp’d. If Warren or Rogers or whoever gets the fifth starter’s spot pitches well early in the season, the Yankees won’t take them out of the rotation. Capuano was signed to be a placeholder until someone better came along, and the quad injury may have simply sped up the process. If someone does take a firm hold on that last rotation spot early in the season, Capuano would step into a relief role. (No, I don’t think the Yankees would release him. They aren’t in position to cut a starting pitcher.)

Capuano Can: Start Or Relieve

Pitching out of the bullpen would not be a new experience for Capuano. He signed with the Red Sox as a reliever last year and pitched out of their ‘pen early in the season before falling apart in early-June and getting released. (Capuano was sitting on 1.95 ERA and 3.10 FIP on June 1st last year.) Capuano also pitched briefly in relief for the Dodgers in 2013 and did it with a Brewers a few years ago.

Pitching out of the bullpen won’t be a new experience for Capuano, so I don’t expect flexibility to be an issue. He also doesn’t seem like someone who would make a big stink about being moved to the bullpen either. Everyone wants to start and I’m sure Capuano is no different, but if the team asked, I think he’d go down to the ‘pen and do his job like a professional. In fact, Capuano could be the perfect swingman, pitching in long relief and occasionally making a spot start when the Yankees want to give the other starters an extra day of rest.

Yankees Need: Just Don’t Melt Down

No one is expecting Capuano to dominate. Not you, not me, not the Yankees. The Yankees are just hoping for competence, which is what Capuano gave them in his 12 starts last year. Expectations are pretty low. Capuano just needs to be serviceable, soak up some innings in whatever role, and not completely melt down. Be better than Vidal Nuno was in pinstripes last year (5.42 ERA and 5.17 FIP), basically. I’m certain the Yankees would take what Capuano gave them in 2014 across the full season in 2015 and be happy with it.

Capuano Can: Be Serviceable

Even when you include his June meltdown with the Red Sox, Capuano had a 4.35 ERA (3.91 FIP) in 97.1 innings last year. He had a 4.26 ERA (3.55 FIP) in 105.2 innings for the Dodgers the year before and a 3.72 ERA (3.95 FIP) in 198.1 innings for the Dodgers the year before that. That all works out to a 4.01 ERA (94 ERA+) and a 3.83 FIP in his last 401.1 innings. Is that good? No, not really. It’s not a disaster either. It’s fifth starter/swingman material.

Of course, Capuano is now moving into Yankee Stadium full-time, and he is a year older, so the wheels could come off at any moment. That’s why he got a one-year deal, not a two or three-year deal. Capuano pitched decently in his 12 starts last year and his peripherals held steady. What more do you want? There’s no reason to think Capuano is on the verge of falling off a cliff other than age, and, as a soft-tossing lefty, he’s the kind of guy who can pitch forever as long as his arm holds up. I don’t care about strikeout rates, walk rates, or anything like that with Capuano. Get outs and keep runs off the board, I don’t care how. I believe he can still do that at a rate in line with the last three years.