Yankees option Rob Refsnyder to Triple-A, final bench spot remains unsettled

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have optioned infielder Rob Refsnyder to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced today. He seemed to have the inside track for the final bench spot for most of the spring, but some recent defensive problems — Refsnyder took ground balls to the face in back-to-back games this weekend — and a sneaky lack of production at the plate (.649 OPS) pushed him off the Opening Day roster.

With Refsnyder out, the competition for the final bench spot comes down to Pete Kozma and Ronald Torreyes. Kozma’s the known quantity. He’s been around for a few years and is firmly established as a no-hit/all-glove utility man. Kozma is the new version of Brendan Ryan, basically. Torreyes has some offensive skills, specifically his contact ability, and he can play all over the infield well enough. My money’s on Kozma getting the job.

I’ll be interested to see whether the Yankees continue to give Refsnyder time at third base in Triple-A. There’s no reason not to, right? He looked fine at the hot corner earlier this spring, though that was mostly because he was making routine plays. Refsnyder has looked worse and worse in the field as the spring has progressed. It’s become clear he’s not a big league caliber third baseman at this point.

For now, Refsnyder’s only real path to meaningful playing time with the Yankees is injury. If either Starlin Castro or Didi Gregorius get hurt, Refsnyder would be the obvious candidate to come up and play second base in the interim. We’ll see. I’m not sure where Refsnyder fits long-term and that has been the case since the Castro trade. A utility role is his best (only?) chance to stay with the Yankees going forward.

Spring Training Game Thread: Ellsbury Returns

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Eight days after taking a Julio Teheran fastball to his right wrist, Jacoby Ellsbury returns to the lineup this afternoon. Tests showed no fracture, but the team had to wait for the soreness and inflammation to clear out. Ellsbury took batting practice the last few days and says he’s good to go. That’s good news. The Yankees really need him at his best this summer.

The Twins made the trip up from Fort Myers for this afternoon’s game, and old friend Phil Hughes will be on the mound for them. He’s started three regular season games against the Yankees the last two years. Gosh, it feels like we were following him in the minors just the other day, doesn’t it? Time flies, man. Anyway, here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ starting lineup, which looks pretty close to what we figure to see on Opening Day:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 2B Starlin Castro
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Available Pitchers & Position Players: None of the reporters in Tampa tweeted out the lineup card this morning, so I’m not sure who the reserves are today. Chad Jennings says IF Abi Avelino, 3B Miguel Andujar, and 1B/OF Tyler Austin are among the players up from minor league camp and on the bench though.

It’s an okay afternoon for baseball in Tampa. Cloudy with temperatures in the mid-80s and a pretty gross level of humidity. This afternoon’s game will begin just after 1pm ET and you can watch live on YES, MLB Network, and MLB.tv. MLB Network will be blacked out in New York but not in the Twins’ home market. Enjoy the game.

An Album for Alex Rodriguez

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Alex Rodriguez will retire following the 2017 season. Or maybe he won’t. We’ll see, I guess. Regardless, we’ve long since passed the time when A-Rod‘s past days in pinstripes severely outweigh his future days in pinstripes. Two full seasons is a long time to start waxing about most players’ careers, but few players in baseball have been as meaningful to the game–positively and negatively–as Alex has during his time in the Majors. His tenure with the team has been at times tantalizing, tumultuous, tedious…it’s safe to say we’ll likely never have an experience with a player quite like we have with A-Rod.

To kick off my part in his two-year “retirement” tour, as Mike put it in his post, I’m going to turn to an assignment I’ve given out to multiple classes. In the assignment, the students had to make an album for our curriculum, selecting songs that they felt spoke to the characters and/or themes of the texts we’d been studying. For the purposes of this assignment, the “text” is Alex Rodriguez’s Yankee career.

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

1. Okay, I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don’t–Brand New: “I am heaven sent/Don’t you dare forget/I am all you’ve ever wanted/What all the other boys all promise…”

Ignoring any sort of nuance to the words or song, let’s take them at face value for a moment. I remember exactly where I was during the press conference that introduce A-Rod to the Yankees–I was getting a haircut–and while I didn’t think of this song at the time, looking back, it makes perfect sense. When the Yankees acquired A-Rod, he was the best player on earth, hands down, bar none. He was heaven sent. He was all anyone would ever want or could ever want out of a baseball player. And, likely, deep down, Alex knew that and comported himself as such. Was he cocky at times, even arrogant? Sure he was. But when you’re a player like that, you’ve earned it.

2. One-Eighty by Summer–Taking Back Sunday “Go on, just say it/You need me like a bad habit…”

Are there any words that could more aptly sum up the media’s obsession with Rodriguez over the last 12 years? No matter what he did, no matter what he said, it was all taken in by a hungry media, digested, and spit back out as a hot take of some sort. This has cooled since season, but there has always been an undercurrent of tension with Rodriguez and the media, and for certain outlets, he’s a habit they just can’t break.

3. The Mountain Range In My Living Room–The Early November “It’s never been harder to fall/There’s nothing to grab and that’s/All I want to hold on to/Just another sweep and it’ll be fine/But this carpet’s got hills/And I can’t see this helping at all.”

Alex has had troubles in his times with the Yankees, and there’s no denying that. Sometimes, he’s wanted them swept under the rug, and we have too, thinking some things were non-stories or not important. But the fact remains that he’s brought a lot of things upon himself through both words and actions. He’s most definitely been held accountable for them and he’s most definitely changed, but we can’t ignore his issues, be the hills in the carpet or mountain ranges.

He's not a businessman he's a business, man. (Cindy Ord/Getty)
He’s not a businessman he’s a business, man. (Cindy Ord/Getty)

4. Sympathy for the Martyr–Straylight Run “A laundry list of problems doesn’t make you interesting/Never getting help doesn’t make you brave/Not listening to reason doesn’t mean that you have faith/You’re just cutting off your nose to spite your face…”

After Alex danced around steroid suspicions and admissions in the offseason between 2008 and 2009, we were all glad to be rid of that distraction, especially when he dominated the 2009 playoffs like he did. Things came up again in 2013 and 2014 and most of us still defended Rodriguez from our fan’s perspective. It’s hard, though, to ignore the feeling that at that point, continuing to do PEDs was probably the dumbest thing Rodriguez could’ve done and his reaction to his mistakes wasn’t exactly professional. All of that led to his 2014 suspension, and certainly a change of heart.

5. I Don’t Like Who I Was Then–The Wonder Years “I put my past self in the ground/I’ve been dancing on his grave/I’m not the person that I was then/I’m sending him away/I was bitter/I was careless…”

This song is Alex’s 2015 (and so far 2016) in a nutshell. He recognized who he was and changed it after his 2014 suspension. Yes, he’s still goofy and awkward now, but he’s embraced it. He had a season no on expected. He endeared himself to fans and media alike. He went onto Fox’s World Series coverage, something that seemed beyond inconceivable in 2014. The person that Alex was before 2015 is long gone.

6. My Hero–The Foo Fighters “There goes my hero/He’s ordinary…”

Alex Rodriguez is not a hero. He’s also not a villain. He is, by all accounts, ordinary. He has an extraordinary talent and is an extraordinary baseball player, but as a human being, he is as ordinary as you are and I am. He has strengths, weaknesses, flaws, and charms. He is a real person, and over the course of his time in the Bronx, we have seen the full picture of him as a person more than we have just about any other player. I’m thankful for his time in pinstripes and will remember it fondly.

Open Thread: March 26th Camp Notes

The Yankees beat the Blue Jays 4-3 this afternoon. Bryan Mitchell started and was fantastic again, allowing just one hit in four innings of work. He fanned four. Hard to think he won’t be on the Opening Day roster at this point. Branden Pinder tossed a scoreless frame and three-time Tommy John surgery guy Conor Mullee struck out the side in the ninth for the save. One strikeout per surgery. Mullee was up from minor league camp for the day.

Aaron Hicks led the game off a homer and both Carlos Beltran and Alex Rodriguez had base hits. Ronald Torreyes went 2-for-4 with a double off a wall after just barely missing a home run earlier in the at-bat. The ball sailed just foul. Pete Kozma had a hit as well. His chances of making the team are annoyingly high. Here is the box score, here are the video highlights, and here is the rest of the day’s news from Tampa:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury (wrist) took batting practice again today and said he’s good to go for tomorrow’s game. Rob Refsnyder, meanwhile, took a ground ball to the face for the second straight day. This one caught him in the cheek and he’ll see a doctor. The third base experiment is not going too well these days. [Bryan Hoch, Erik Boland, Mark Feinsand]
  • Masahiro Tanaka threw a bullpen session with increased intensity today after the team told him to stop holding back. “I heard some people talking about that he did turn it up a little bit today. We think that’s important because we have to get him going too and get him feeling good about himself,” said Joe Girardi. [Chad Jennings]
  • Meaningful roster cuts before today’s game: James Pazos and Nick Rumbelow were optioned to Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. That effectively takes them out of the running for Opening Day bullpen spots. Chris Parmelee was sent to minor league camp after the game. The Yankees still have 40 players in camp by my unofficial count.
  • The upcoming rotation: Nathan Eovaldi (Sunday on TV) and Luis Cessa (Monday, no TV). The Yankees are playing the Tigers on Monday, and it seems Cessa is getting the start because they don’t want Detroit to see one of the regular starters. The Yankees play the Tigers in the second series of the regular season. [Jennings]
  • Dellin Betances pitched an inning in a minor league game today. Shane Hennigan has the day’s minor league lineups, if you’re interested. Aaron Judge hit a grand slam. [Hennigan]

This is your open thread for the night. MLB Network is showing the Giants and Cubs live right now, then they’ll show a bunch of games on tape delay throughout the night. All of the local hockey and basketball teams are in action tonight except the Devils, and there are two March Madness games as well. Talk about those games or anything else right here.

Spring Training Game Thread: Only One Week Left

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

One week from today, the Yankees will play their final exhibition game of the spring. We can finally see the light at the end of the Spring Training tunnel. These games are fun in their own way, but the novelty has more or less worn off at this point, and I’m ready for meaningful games. Soon.

The Yankees made the quick half-hour ride up to Dunedin to play the Blue Jays this afternoon. I’m not sure there is anything in particular to watch this game — Rob Refsnyder‘s play at third is worth monitoring, especially since he seems to be getting exposed of late — and that’s probably a good thing at this point of the spring. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Aaron Hicks
  2. RF Carlos Beltran
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Austin Romine
  6. 3B Rob Refsnyder
  7. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  8. SS Pete Kozma
  9. LF Cesar Puello
    RHP Bryan Mitchell

Available Pitchers: RHP Anthony Swarzak and RHP Branden Pinder are scheduled to pitch. RHP Gio Gallegos, RHP Jonathan Holder, RHP Conor Mullee, RHP Matt Marsh, RHP Alex Smith, and LHP Caleb Smith are up from minor league camp and on the trip as well.

Available Position Players: C Carlos Corporan, 1B Deibinson Romero, LF Chris Parmelee, CF Lane Adams, RF Juan Silva, and DH Eddy Rodriguez will come off the bench. C Kyle Higashioka, IF Vicente Conde, IF Cito Culver, and IF Jose Rosario are on the trip too.

It is cloudy with temperatures in the low-80s in Dunedin, and there are some thunderstorms in the forecast. Doesn’t look like it’ll be anything long-lasting though. Maybe just a quick shower. We’ll see. There is no YES or MLB Network broadcast for this afternoon’s game. If you’re in the Blue Jays’ home market, which I’m pretty sure is all of Canada, you can watch on Sportsnet. Otherwise MLB.tv is your only option. Enjoy the game.

Saturday Links: Hicks, Revenue Sharing, Garagiola

Hicks. (Presswire)
Hicks. (Presswire)

The Yankees begin their final week of exhibition games a little later this afternoon. Only seven days of Grapefruit League play to go. Hooray for that. Here are some links to help you pass the time until today’s game thread comes along.

Hicks among Law’s top breakout candidates

Earlier this week, Keith Law (subs. req’d) posted his annual list of the top breakout candidates for the upcoming season. These are post-hype players. Guys who were once highly touted prospects, have been in a show for a little while now, and are ready to break out and live up to their potential. Aaron Hicks is among then. Here’s a snippet of Law’s write-up:

Hicks, like Schoop, came up before his bat was ready — his glove was ready, but his bat had developed gradually over the previous three years — and in hindsight it appears skipping Triple-A was the wrong move for him. He was a different hitter in 2015, becoming much less passive, taking fewer strikes and looking more for pitches to drive when he was ahead in the count. Now he’s moving to a better park for power and will have a full-time job from day one.

Hicks will not have a “full-time job from day one” — Law said he was joking about the injury and age concerns in the outfield — but he’s going to play a lot. The Yankees have made it pretty clear. It’s possible Hicks will end up starting something like four out of every five games as the regulars rest. He made some adjustments last year and it appears Hicks might indeed be on the verge of a breakout. I’m excited to see what happens this summer.

Levine takes shots at Mets over revenue sharing

According to Ken Rosenthal, Yankees team president Randy Levine took some shots at the Mets over the revenue sharing system. “What is very burdensome to us — and is unfair — is the amount of money we have to pay in revenue sharing compared, for example, to teams in our market that pay ten times less than us,” said Levine. “Hopefully that is something that will get looked at in the next labor agreement.”

The Yankees pay more money into revenue sharing than any other team — Levine said they paid roughly $90M in revenue sharing last year — because they generate more revenue than every other team. There’s no mystery here. Commissioner Rob Manfred told Rosenthal the Yankees have been very supportive of the revenue sharing system, though they are looking forward to seeing proposed changes for the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement.

I doubt Levine and the Yankees will gripe too much about the Mets or any other team — I’m sure the Yankees do plenty of fancy accounting and don’t want MLB digging too deep — but obviously they think it’s unfair they’re paying so much more than a team in the same market. We’ll see how the revenue sharing system is tweaked with the next CBA, if at all.

Joe Garagiola passes away at 90

Sad news to pass along: former Yankees announcer Joe Garagiola passed away earlier this week. He was 90. Garagiola grew up with Yogi Berra in St. Louis and the two were lifelong friends — the Cardinals signed Garagiola, not Berra, out of a tryout camp in 1943 — and he played for four teams from 1946-54. After his playing career ended, Garagiola got into broadcasting, and he called Yankees games on WPIX from 1965-67. He spent most of his career on NBC’s lead broadcasting team. Our condolences go out to Garagiola’s family and friends.

Open Thread: March 25th Camp Notes

The Yankees lost 11-10 to the Orioles this afternoon, and if it were a regular season game, it would have been a Very Bad Loss. Nick Rumbelow gave up a homer in the ninth to blow the save, the Yanks took a 10-8 lead in the top of the tenth, then the Orioles scored three runs in the bottom half to walk-off with the win. Rob Refsnyder committed two errors at third base in that tenth inning. Tough fake loss.

Anyway, Ivan Nova started and got roughed up, allowing six runs (five earned) on five hits and three walks in 4.2 innings. He struck out five. Nova allowed three homers, and to be fair, the wind was blowing out this afternoon. “I put myself in a really bad position. I didn’t help myself today,” he said to Pete Caldera after the game when asked about the fifth starter’s competition.

Chris Denorfia whacked a three-run home run — like I said, the wind was blowing out — and Brett Gardner had two hits. One was a beautiful bunt single, the other was a triple off the wall. Didi Gregorius doubled off the wall. Dustin Ackley and Chase Headley each had a base hit as well. Here is the box score, here are the video highlights, and here are the day’s notes from Tampa:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury (wrist) took full batting practice today. “I felt very good today. I felt confident in my swing. I was able to drive the ball to all gaps. (Thursday) was just nice and easy batting practice to see how I felt and today I was taking my normal swing. I walked away today feeling very pleased how it went. It was a nice progression,” he said. Ellsbury is going to track pitches tomorrow and hopefully play Sunday. [George King, Jared Diamond]
  • On his second error in that tenth inning, Refsnyder took a hard hit ground ball to the face. It took a weird hop and jumped up on him. He was bloodied and left the game with a cut up near his eye. That’s the only damage. Just the cut. The third base experiment will continue, according to Joe Girardi. [Bryan Hoch]
  • Michael Pineda threw five scoreless innings in a minor league game. Austin Romine caught him. No surprise there. Romine is on track to be the backup catcher and he needs to learn the pitching staff. Andrew Miller, Luis Severino, and Luis Cessa threw bullpens. [Erik Boland, Chad Jennings]
  • For what it’s worth, CC Sabathia went back to using an old two-seam changeup grip last night. He had a 6/1 GB/FB in that start after having a 14/10 GB/FB in his first three Grapefruit League starts. Eh, we’ll see. I’m not sold on a new changeup grip solving Sabathia’s problems. [Brendan Kuty]
  • Shane Hennigan has the day’s minor league lineups. Cito Culver batted tenth for Triple-A Scranton. I’m not joking. Rain screwed up the minor league travel plans this afternoon, so the Yankees had their players stay in Tampa and play a bunch of intrasquad games. [Hennigan]
  • Prior to last night’s game, Severino and Gary Sanchez were named the 2015 Kevin Lawn Award winners as the Yankees’ minor league pitcher and player of the year, respectively. It was Severino’s second straight Kevin Lawn Award. Congrats to the two of them.
  • Among the players making tomorrow’s road trip are Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Aaron Hicks, Carlos Beltran, and Bryan Mitchell. I assume Mitchell is starting. Pineda had been lined up to start that game. That will be one of those MLB.tv only games. No YES or MLB Network. [Mark Feinsand]
  • Some non-Yankees news: Collin McHugh will start the second game of the season for the Astros (behind Dallas Keuchel), and Evan Gattis (hernia) is expected to start the year on the DL. The Yankees open the season at home with three games against the ‘Stros. [Evan Drellich]

This is tonight’s open thread. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on YES at 7pm ET, if you’re interested. MLB Network is showing the Angels and Athletics live right now, then they’ll have games on tape delay all throughout the night. The Devils and Islanders are both playing, and you’ve got the four March Madness games too. Have at it.