Open Thread: March 12th Camp Notes

The Yankees lost 2-1 to the division rival Rays earlier this afternoon. Luis Severino struck out four in 3.2 scoreless innings, allowing four hits and no walks. James Pazos allowed both runners he inherited from Johnny Barbato to score. Nick Goody struck out the side in a perfect inning, and Branden Pinder retired all three men the faced in a nice and tidy three-pitch inning.

At the plate, the Yankees only had four hits on the day: a double by Chris Parmelee and singles by Aaron Hicks, Carlos Beltran, and Austin Romine. Jonathan Diaz drew the game’s only walk. Ronald Torreyes drove in the team’s only a run with a ground out to shortstop. Exciting stuff. Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here are the day’s notes from Tampa:

  • I’m not sure where or how this rumor started, but Severino is not hurt. There was chatter he left today’s game with the trainer and stuff like that. He’s fine though. No problems whatsoever. Step away from the ledge.
  • Dustin Ackley, however, is hurt. He was scratched from today’s road trip with a tight quad. Hopefully it’s nothing serious and he returns in a few days. Ackley is the backup first and second baseman, so if he’s not ready for the start of the season, the Yankees would have to figure some things out. [Bryan Hoch]
  • Both CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda will pitch in tomorrow afternoon’s game against the Phillies. That one will air on YES.

This is today’s open thread. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on MLB Network at 8pm ET, if you’re interested. There’s going to be several live Cactus League games on MLB.tv later tonight as well. The (hockey) Rangers are playing right now, the Devils play later tonight, and there’s a whole lotta college hoops on the schedule too. Have at it.

Spring Training Game Thread: Severino’s Third Outing

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are on the road to play the Rays this afternoon, and today’s game is notable because Luis Severino is making his third appearance of the Grapefruit League season. The first was ugly (five runs in 1.1 innings). The second was so much better (three scoreless innings). Hopefully we see more of the latter this afternoon.

Severino is likely scheduled for something like four innings or 60 pitches today. Pretty standard third appearance of the spring stuff. The Yankees didn’t send many regulars on the 100-mile road trip down to Port Charlotte this afternoon, so prepare yourself for nine of innings of mostly minor leaguers and non-roster players. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Aaron Hicks
  2. 3B Rob Refsnyder
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Gary Sanchez
  5. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  6. 1B Chris Parmelee
  7. LF Slade Heathcott
  8. DH Jonathan Diaz
  9. SS Jorge Mateo
    RHP Luis Severino

Available Pitchers: RHP Johnny Barbato, RHP Nick Goody, LHP James Pazos, RHP Branden Pinder, RHP Anthony Swarzak, and RHP Mark Montgomery are all scheduled to pitch, somehow. LHP Richard Bleier, RHP Tyler Cloyd, and RHP Luis Cessa are the extra arms.

Available Position Players: C Austin Romine, 1B Sebastian Valle, 2B Vince Conde, SS Tyler Wade, 3B Deibinson Romero, LF Ben Gamel, CF Dustin Fowler, and RF Cesar Puello will come off the bench to replace the starters. C Santiago Nessy, C Eddy Rodriguez, IF Jose Rosario, and OF Lane Adams also made the trip.

It’s a very nice afternoon for baseball on Gulf side of Florida. There are only a few clouds in the sky with temperatures in the mid-to-high-80s in Port Charlotte, the internet tells me. If you’re in the Rays’ home market, you can watch this afternoon’s game on Sun Sports. If not, you can watch on MLB.tv. There’s no YES or live MLB Network broadcast. As always, there are no local MLB.tv blackouts in Spring Training. Enjoy the game.

Saturday Links: Randolph, Strength of Schedule, Yankees for Sale

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

The Yankees continue their Grapefruit League season this afternoon with a road game against the Rays. We’ll have a regular game thread up a little closer to first pitch. Until then, here are some random links to help you pass the time.

Randolph still looking for a coaching job

It has now been five years since former Yankee Willie Randolph held a big league coaching job, but as he told Brendan Kuty, he’s still trying to find one. Randolph, who interviewed for the Yankees third base coach job prior to last season, last coached with the Orioles in 2011. He was their bench coach for half the season and their third base coach for the other half. Here’s what Willie told Kuty:

“I let everybody know I’m doing my due diligence,” he told NJ Advance Media in the Yankees’ clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Thursday. “Let everybody know I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth.”

“What makes it hard to keep it out there is that there’s so much of a change of the guard,” Randolph said. “So many new kids out there, that even if you keep it out there — they know who you are. There are baseball people who are going to know who I am.

“My resume speaks for itself. It wasn’t that long ago when I managed. But there seems to be a comfort zone with some of these cats. I get it. That’s part of the game. It’s who you knows, who might sponsor you, who you’re comfortable with.”

Randolph, now 61, managed the Mets from 2005-08. He was on the Yankees coaching staff from 1994-2004, spending most of his time as the third base coach but also some as Joe Torre’s bench coach. Randolph managed Team USA in the inaugural Premium 12 tournament last fall and he’s currently in Yankees camp as a guest instructor.

Teams are skewing younger with their managers and coaching staffs these days (the Yankees are no exception), so I understand Randolph’s frustration. There’s no way this won’t sound like a knock on Willie, so I’ll just say it: I’m of the belief that if you haven’t coached in five years or managed in eight years, there’s probably a reason why. If a team felt Randolph could be an asset on their field staff, he would have been hired. Teams know him. He’s not flying under the radar or anything.

2016 Strength of Schedule

Each year, Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs calculates each team’s strength of schedule using projections. It’s not perfect — projections themselves are far from perfect, plus rosters change throughout the season — but it’s a nice ballpark number. The Yankees have the second toughest schedule in the AL this year, about a win more difficult than average. That means the Yankees are expected to win one fewer game against their schedule than they would the average schedule. Make sense?

The Orioles have by far the toughest schedule in the league at two wins below average while the Indians have the easiest at a win above average. Most teams are within a half-win of average. The Mets and Nationals have the two easiest schedules in baseball by a huge margin. They’re both at two wins better than average. That’s what happens when you get to play 54 games — exactly one-third of the 162-game schedule — against the Braves, Phillies, and Marlins.

MLB submits proposal for new Cuban player signing system

According to Ben Strauss, MLB has submitted a proposal to the Treasury Department outlining a new system that will allow Cuban players to sign directly with big league teams. This would provide a safer path to the big leagues for players since they’d no longer have to defect, and the plan includes a way to raise money to improve youth baseball in Cuba. From Strauss:

Under the proposed plan, according to M.L.B.’s top lawyer, Dan Halem, an entity made up of Cuban entrepreneurs and officials from baseball and its players’ union would be created. A percentage of salaries paid to Cuban players would go to the new body, which would function like a nonprofit organization and support youth baseball, education and the improvement of sports facilities in Cuba.

Because no money would go directly to the Cuban government, the plan could satisfy the embargo. A few months ago President Obama said he intends to normalize relations with Cuba and this could be an important step in that direction. MLB has been working with both the U.S. and Cuban governments behind the scenes to find a way to allow Cuban players to come stateside safely and legally.

The Rays are scheduled to play an exhibition game against the Cuban National Team in Havana on March 22nd. They’ll be the first MLB team to play in Cuba since the Orioles in 1999. Derek Jeter and Joe Torre are among the dignitaries who will be on the trip. Luis Tiant and Jose Cardenal will be there as well.

The Yankees are for sale (kinda)

An unnamed minority owner is selling a 1% share of the Yankees, reports Scott Soshnick. The price? A mere $24M. Documents associated with the sale indicate the team is worth somewhere in the $2.75 billion to $3.25 billion range. That’s the team only. It doesn’t include the YES Network or Legends Hospitality. The Yankees and MLB would have to approve any sale, because duh.

Minority owners sell some or all of their shares all the time, so there’s nothing unusual about this. Hal Steinbrenner recently said the family has no plans to sell the team — they’re actually working on a long-term plan to hand over control to the next generation of Steinbrenners — and this won’t change anything. I have to say, 1% of the Yankees for $24M seems like a pretty good investment given how healthy the game is financially. We should start a Go Fund Me.

Open Thread: March 11th Camp Notes

The Yankees beat the Orioles 7-1 earlier today. It was New York’s first Grapefruit League win since Saturday. The Orioles are still winless this spring (0-10-2), by the way. Masahiro Tanaka looked very sharp in his second spring start, allowing only an infield single in three scoreless innings. He fanned three. Chasen Shreve retired all four men he faced and looked pretty darn good himself.

Jacoby Ellsbury had two hits and Didi Gregorius had three. Mark Teixeira smashed a double while Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, and Chris Denorfia had one single apiece. The Yankees scored all seven runs with two outs. Pretty nice day for the bats. Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here are the day’s notes from camp:

  • Slow day at the complex today. Michael Pineda, James Kaprielian, and Ivan Nova threw bullpen sessions and Jacob Lindgren faced hitters in a simulated game. Lindgren was originally scheduled to pitch in this afternoon’s game, but he ended up pitching in Wednesday’s extra innings game against the Mets, which threw his schedule out of whack. [Chad Jennings]
  • The upcoming rotation: Luis Severino (Saturday on TV), CC Sabathia with Pineda coming out of the bullpen (Sunday on TV), Monday is an off-day, Nova (Tuesday on TV), and Nathan Eovaldi (Wednesday on TV). [Bryan Hoch]
  • Brett Gardner (wrist) is tentatively scheduled to play in his first spring game next Wednesday. He’s going to take some live batting practice in the coming days. [Ryan Hatch]
  • Among the players scheduled to make tomorrow’s 100-mile road trip to Port Charlotte to play the Rays are Carlos Beltran, Dustin Ackley, Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez, Jorge Mateo, and Rob Refsnyder. [Jennings, Hatch]
  • The Yankees haven’t said anything official, but I have to think the first round of roster cuts is coming soon. Other teams are already making cuts, and soon the regulars will need more playing time. Tomorrow might be our last chance to see Mateo until next spring.

This is the nightly open thread. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on YES after tonight’s Nets game, so figure it’ll start at 10-10:30pm ET, somewhere around there. MLB Network will show a bunch of non-Yankees games on tape delay throughout the night. The Knicks (and Nets) are playing, and there’s lots and lots of college hoops on the schedule as well as we approach the tournament. Talk about anything here except politics and religion. Please and thank you.

Ivan Nova’s Contract Year [2016 Season Preview]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Ivan Nova has spent pretty much his entire career in someone else’s shadow. Coming up through the minors, he was always stuck behind more highly regarded pitching prospects like Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, and Manny Banuelos. Then when he broke into the big leagues, he was behind guys like Phil Hughes and Michael Pineda. Even David Phelps at times.

This season Nova came to camp as the second oldest of the team’s six starting pitcher candidates — only CC Sabathia is older — and he isn’t even assured a rotation spot. He’s coming back off a yucky 2015 season (5.07 ERA and 4.87 FIP) that started late because he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The poor performance and the injury could be connected, of course. Then again, Nova was healthy in 2012, when he had a 5.02 ERA (4.60 FIP).

Nova is entering his age 29 season and his sixth big league season, and I still feel like we have no idea who he really is. Is Nova the guy who pitched so well in 2010 (3.70 ERA and 4.00 FIP) and 2013 (3.10 ERA and 3.47 FIP)? Or is he the guy who stunk in 2012 and 2015? Is he a fastball-slider pitcher or a fastball-curveball pitcher? He’s alternated breaking balls over the years too. Nova’s a mystery.

The 2016 season is Ivan’s last year before free agency, so it’s fair to call this the biggest season of his life. A good season along the lines of 2010 and 2013 will equal a handsome payday next winter. A poor season like 2012 and 2015 means Nova will probably find himself looking for a one-year contract to re-establish value. That’s a lot of pressure, and I can’t imagine it helps that he came to camp as the sixth starter. This is a tough spot.

That said, I’m pretty sure Nova’s going to end up making a bunch of starts this season. Upwards of 20-25, even. No team goes through a season using only five starters these days, and the Yankees carry even greater injury risk in their starting five than most teams. Heck, the Yankees go out of their way to use a sixth starter. At some point someone is going to get hurt and Nova will step into the rotation. It’s going to happen. Baseball is a son of a bitch like that.

The question is can Nova give the Yankees quality innings and put himself in position to land a nice payday after the season? When he’s been at his best, Ivan combined an average number of strikeouts with an above-average number of ground balls. Last year his strikeouts were down (15.3%) but his grounders were fine (49.0%). He also had close to no platoon split when at his best. Nova never did get enough credit for having success against both righties and lefties earlier in his career.

Last year though, left-handed batters tattooed Nova for a .311/.375/.524 (.387 wOBA) batting line. They struck out only 9.1% of the time too. Yikes. He was fine against righties (.300 wOBA and 21.6 K%) but lefties were unforgiving. Looking at the heat map of his pitch location against lefties, it appears he was a little more over the plate last season than he was in 2013, his last full season before Tommy John surgery:

Ivan Nova vs. LHB

The heat maps are from the catcher’s point of view and you’ve got 2013 on the left and 2015 on the right. You can click the image for a larger view. All the red is in the lower left corner, which means Nova threw most of his pitches to lefties down and away. That’s good. There were some more pitches out over the middle of the plate last season, which could be the cause of his problems or nothing at all. It could be sample size noise.

The book on Nova has long been that he has good enough control (the ability to throw strikes) but below-average command (the ability to locate exactly where he wants), and he also lacks deception in his delivery, so hitters get a good look at the ball out of his hand. His stuff is good. Nova’s fastball moves and he can throw a nasty breaking ball when right. Even his changeup looks pretty good from time to time. He just needs be really fine because hitters see everything well.

At this point of his career, it’s unlikely Nova will alter his delivery to add deception or improve his command in a meaningful way. Not too many pitchers make major changes to their mechanics after five years in the show. Guys like Charlie Morton are the exception, not the rule. That said, it’s possible Nova will be more consistent with his delivery this season, as he gets further away from Tommy John surgery. He never blamed his 2015 struggles on the surgery but he did acknowledge his arm feels “lighter” this spring.

If Nova can repeat his mechanics and locate a little better this summer, it could have a big time impact on his numbers. He left way too many mistake pitches over the plate last season and he paid for everything. Nova never seems to get away with a mistake. Limiting those mistakes has always been the priority and it can be hard to do that when you’re breaking in a new elbow ligament. Ivan’s not the first guy to have problems after elbow reconstruction.

This is a big season for Nova personally. He stands to make himself millions with his performance. Nova is also pretty important to the Yankees as their inevitably-will-be-needed sixth starter. He’ll be further away from Tommy John surgery, which may or may not improve his location and his performance against lefties. As much as he frustrates me, part of me will miss Ivan if (when?) he leaves as a free agent. Hopefully his final year in pinstripes is his best yet.

Spring Training Game Thread: Tanaka, Take Two

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees gave us all a nice little surprise today. This afternoon’s game was not on the YES Network’s original spring broadcast schedule, but they decided to pick up the game at some point, so we’ll be able to watch Masahiro Tanaka‘s second Grapefruit League start today. Hooray for that. Nice way to start the weekend.

Tanaka, who is coming off offseason surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow, is scheduled for three innings and 45 pitches or so this afternoon. At this point Tanaka is no longer rehabbing. He’s a healthy starter preparing for the upcoming season. Tanaka is currently lined up to start Opening Day — with an extra day of rest between his remaining spring starts, of course — and that’s good news. He’s kinda important.

The Orioles made the 60-mile trip up from Sarasota for this afternoon’s game and they sent a roster that can generously be described as a skeleton crew. I wonder if they’ll get fined for not sending the required four MLB regulars. Here is the O’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. LF Chris Denorfia
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Available Pitchers: RHP Nick Rumbelow, LHP Chasen Shreve, RHP Vicente Campos, LHP Tyler Olson, and RHP Kirby Yates are all scheduled to pitch after Tanaka. RHP Johnny Barbato, RHP Nick Goody, RHP Mark Montgomery, and RHP Branden Pinder are the extra arms.

Available Position Players: C Gary Sanchez, 1B Dustin Ackley, 2B Pete Kozma, SS Tyler Wade, 3B Ronald Torreyes, LF Lane Adams, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Ben Gamel, and DH Carlos Corporan will come off the bench to replace the starters. C Santiago Nessy, C Eddy Rodriguez, SS Jorge Mateo, and OF Dustin Fowler are also available if necessary.

It’s a bit cloudy in Tampa but there’s no rain in the forecast, which is good enough for me. This afternoon’s game will begin a bit after 1pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB.tv anywhere. There are no local MLB.tv blackouts in Spring Training. Enjoy the game everyone.