11:02pm: Robertson told Sweeny Murti that he just slept on his arm wrong and was a little achy, nothing more. They’ll see how he feels tomorrow.
9:51pm: Via Dan Barbarisi: David Robertson was scratched from tonight’s scheduled appearance because he had trouble getting loose in the bullpen. Brian Cashman says it’s a low-level thing and he isn’t concerned, they were just being cautious. Still. Ugh. Rain, pours, yadda yadda yadda. · (5) ·
9:48pm: Brian Cashman told Dan Barbarisi that Teixeira felt a “pop” in his wrist and he’s concerned because wrists are tricky. Either way, the first baseman will be shutdown for a minimum of two weeks.
6:27pm: The Yankees are officially calling it a right wrist sprain and say Teixeira will be evaluated by two doctors in New York tomorrow.
5:08pm: Danny Knobler says Teixeira has a strained forearm and will miss 7-10 days. The Yankees doctors still need to look at him though.
4:47pm: Jon Morosi confirms that Teixeira will indeed be removed from the Team USA roster. Apparently it’s more of a wrist/hand issue than a forearm issue, which is like ten times worse.
4:16pm: Mark Teixeira was been scratched from Team USA’s exhibition lineup this afternoon due to discomfort in his right forearm. Joe Girardi told reporters he felt it during batting practice and while x-rays are negative, he is headed for more tests with the Yankees doctors. There’s a decent chance he’ll be leaving the World Baseball Classic all together. It goes without saying how bad a serious injury to Teixeira would be. Fingers crossed. · (54) ·
We can eliminate one player from outfield competition. Adonis Garcia broke the hamate bone in his left wrist during batting practice on Sunday and will have surgery on Thursday, the Yankees announced. He’ll miss 6-8 weeks according to Chad Jennings. Hamate injuries are notorious for sapping power and that figures to be the case for Garcia since the left hand is his bottom hand as a right-handed hitter. The Yankees still have plenty of outfield candidates, so it’s not a huge loss in that sense. · (6) ·
For the first time in 2013, the Yankees are playing a night game. The Braves and their ridiculously awesome outfield are in town for the nightcap, though B.J. Upton will be at DH rather than his customary center field. Yankees fans have seen enough of him over the years though, Justin Upton and Jason Heyward are where it’s at. You can make a really strong case they are two of the three best 25-and-under corner outfielders in baseball along with Giancarlo Stanton, and Atlanta has both (and the elder Upton) under control for the next three years. Jealous.
Anyway, the Yankees are coming off their first Spring Training off-day and the name of the game right now is survival. Curtis Granderson is out until May with a fractured forearm and this afternoon Mark Teixeira had to leave Team USA because of a forearm strain. Between that stuff and Phil Hughes‘ back, let’s just get through the rest of the week with no more injuries, okay? Okay. Here’s the lineup…
- CF Brett Gardner
- LF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Jayson Nix
- DH Travis Hafner
- SS Eduardo Nunez
- C Chris Stewart
- 1B Dan Johnson
- RF Zoilo Almonte
- 3B Corban Joseph
Available Position Players: C J.R. Murphy, 1B Luke Murton, 2B Jose Pirela, SS Addison Maruszak, LF Ramon Flores, CF Melky Mesa, and RF Thomas Neal will all come off the bench. I guess Hafner and Joseph will play all nine innings.
Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES and MLB.tv (no local blackouts). Enjoy.
Via Chris Cotillo: The Yankees have signed right-hander Chris Bootcheck to a minor league contract. Cotillo says it was a split contract but no way. Bootcheck is listed on the minor league workout groups but not on the 40-man roster. Minor league deal all the way.
Bootcheck, 34, has not pitched in the big leagues since 2009 with the Pirates. He posted a 4.06 ERA (3.00 FIP) with a 10.76 K/9 (25.9 K%) in 44.1 relief innings for the Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate last year. His walk rate (5.28 BB/9 and 12.7 BB%) was astronomical though, which has been a career-long problem. Bootcheck has started seven games in the last six years, so he won’t be that veteran starter the Yankees want to stash in Triple-A. He’s just emergency bullpen depth. · (8) ·
Starting this week and continuing through the end of the Spring Training, we’re going to preview the Yankees position-by-position and on a couple of different levels.
The Yankees have only had four regular first baseman over the last 20 years, so the position has become pretty low-maintenance in the Bronx. That doesn’t make it any less important though, and this summer the club will have to rely on the most recent of those four first baseman to anchor their offense and be a steadying presence in the lineup. Robinson Cano is clearly the team’s best hitter, but he can’t do it all himself.
There’s no doubt Mark Teixeira is one of the most important Yankees heading into the 2013 season. The club lost quite a bit of offense this winter and will be without Curtis Granderson for the month of April, meaning they can’t afford another one of Teixeira’s customary slow starts — during his four years in the Bronx, Tex has hit .209/.336/.386 in April and .271/.361/.525 in the other five months of the season. Perhaps playing in the World Baseball Classic this spring will break that trend, but I’m not counting on it.
Teixeira, who will turn 33 a few days into the season, has all but abandoned any hope of getting back to being the all-fields hitter he was prior to the 2010 season. The short porch in right field was too enticing and he completely changed his approach as a left-handed hitter, opting to pull the ball in the air rather than just drive it wherever it was pitched. That approach is great for power but lousy for everything else, as the shift and routine fly balls have sapped his batting average and by extension, his on-base percentage. Teixeira tried to get back to hitting to all-fields last year and the result was a lot of weak fly balls the other way, so the damage to his left-handed swing is been done. He remains an above-average hitter (116 wRC+ in 2012) but is now just a one-dimensional one.
On the other side of the ball, Teixeira has few peers in the field and is one of baseball’s best defensive first baseman. His range actually kinda stinks thanks to his thick lower half and utter lack of foot speed, but he sucks up every ball he can reach and is as good a thrower as you’ll find at the position. The total package is an above-average player but not an elite one despite his salary, and Teixeira is aware of that. The Yankees desperately need him to stay healthy and be productive this summer.
With the bench still unsettled, Teixeira’s backup right now is third baseman Kevin Youkilis. Given the team’s lack of hot corner alternatives, I’m guessing the bench will feature a more clearly defined backup first baseman such as 33-year-old Dan Johnson or even 34-year-old Juan Rivera, who played more games at first (54) than in the outfield last year (46). Either way, Teixeira has been a lock for 155+ games played for most of his career and will be counted on for that many in 2013. There will be no platoons or experiments here, Teixeira is the guy. If he gets hurt and misses a few weeks, the drop-off between him and his replacement — or the replacement third baseman with Youkilis sliding over to first — is considerable.
Knocking on the Door
Johnson could either make the team or open the season in Triple-A — I don’t think either would be much of a surprise. If he does open the year on the bench in New York, 26-year-old Luke Murton would get the call as the regular first baseman for Triple-A Scranton. Matt’s little brother hit .249/.327/.464 (117 wRC+) with 25 homers in 526 plate appearances for Double-A Trenton last year, though he isn’t much of a prospect because he struggles against breaking balls and isn’t much of a defender. The righty hitting/righty throwing first baseman is one of baseball’s weakest historical profiles, so Murton is at an even greater disadvantage. He is technically knocking on the door of the big leagues since he’ll be with the Triple-A squad, but I wouldn’t expect to see him wearing pinstripes this year or any other year for that matter.
The Top Prospect
I didn’t rank a single first base prospect in my preseason top 30 list and that’s no accident. It’s a low priority position and very few players are actually drafted and developed as first baseman. Most move there from other more high-profile positions as a last resort. Prince Fielder is the most notable exception.
Anyway, New York’s best first base prospect — 20-year-old Greg Bird — has indeed moved to the position because he couldn’t handle catching full-time due to a back injury. The left-handed hitter owns a .307/.418/.446 (~159 wRC+) career batting line since signing for $1.1M as the team’s fifth round pick in 2011, but unfortunately that performance has come in only 122 plate appearances. Bird offers power and patience and he can really hit, but he’s going to have to keep producing since he’s already relegated to the lowest priority position before his 21st birthday.
The Deep Sleeper
As I said, there aren’t many first base prospects worth knowing throughout the game in general, nevermind in Yankees’ system. Bird is their best prospect at the position by a big margin, but last summer’s tenth round pick Matt Snyder could be a breakout candidate this summer. The 22-year-old hit .299/.397/.428 (147 wRC+) with more walks (26) than strikeouts (19) in 219 plate appearances for Short Season Staten Island last year, but therein lies the rub: his season ended prematurely because of a broke wrist. Wrist injuries tend to linger and impact power output for a year or so, meaning Snyder’s breakout potential is limited.
* * *
The Yankees are setup well at first base with Teixeira, though his production has slipped and he’s no longer the two-way force he was earlier in his career. He’s more of a great complementary player than a cornerstone, which kinda sucks because there is still four years left on his contract. The team lacks first base prospects — specifically at the upper levels of the minor leagues — but that’s not really a big deal at this point. They are going to live and die with Teixeira for the foreseeable future thanks to his contract anyway.
Other Previews: Catchers
Via George King: Phil Hughes made 50 throws from 60-feet on flat ground yesterday as he works his way back from the bulging disk that sidelined him for roughly two weeks. “We amped up the intensity a bit and doubled the throws,” he said. “I didn’t feel anything (in my back). I felt like I lost a tick of arm strength. Hopefully that comes back quick, it’s only been two weeks. Hopefully I get that back and go from there.”
Hughes, 26, said he has been pain free for five days and expects to begin a long-toss program to rebuild that arm strength soon. The trainers and coaches have yet to tell him when that will happen though, and they don’t have any throwing planned for today or tomorrow. If Hughes doesn’t get back on a mound and in game conditions within the next 10-14 days or so, it’s unlikely he’ll be stretched out in time for what would have been his first start of the regular season. · (36) ·
The Yankees had their first off-day of Spring Training yesterday, nearly three full weeks after pitchers and catchers first reported. I figure this is as good a time as any to cull together some random thoughts for a post.
1. I mentioned this the other night, but I’ve been really impressed by left-hander Francisco Rondon so far. Obviously three Grapefruit League appearances totaling 4.1 innings means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but his stuff is better than I expected. Usually when the top scouting publications like Baseball America, Keith Law, and even Minor League Ball ignore a player, he’s a non-prospect. The 24-year-old Rondon looks like someone who has legitimately flown right under the radar. His delivery is real smooth and simple, plus he’s been sitting 90-93 with his fastball and showing a real wipeout slider. That’s lefty specialist stuff right there (30.8 K% vs. LHB last two years). Rondon isn’t a finished product despite spending time at Triple-A last year and being placed on the 40-man roster this winter — he needs to work on his overall command, particularly with the fastball to setup the slider — but he’s definitely someone to watch. I probably would have snuck him onto the back of my preseason top 30 prospects list if I hadn’t published it before camp opened.
2. While on the subject of lefty relievers, Boone Logan‘s elbow trouble isn’t very encouraging given that big workload last year. Remember, it’s not just appearances and innings, it’s all the times he warmed up and didn’t get into the game as well. The Yankees do have decent left-handed relief depth but if Logan has to miss the start of the season for whatever reason, I’m guessing his replacement would be a righty like Shawn Kelley or Cody Eppley simply because those guys are better than southpaws like Josh Spence or Juan Cedeno or Rondon. Lefty Cesar Cabral should be ready in late-April/early-May-ish and will be another bullpen option. He needs to spend at least 90 days on the active (non-DL) roster to satisfy the Rule 5 Draft rules before he can be optioned down without being exposed to waivers. Either way, Logan’s elbow will continue to be a question until he actually gets on a mound and throws some innings without breaking down.
3. Obviously Derek Jeter‘s injury has contributed to this, but Eduardo Nunez has played more innings this spring than anyone other than Melky Mesa. The Yankees have been running him out there at short at pretty much every opportunity, to the point where Jayson Nix — the only other utility infielder candidate in camp — has started just one game at the position. That can change in a hurry of course, but it sure seems like the club is leaning towards carrying Nunez into the season with Jeter’s ankle a question. Even if the Cap’n is ready in time for opening day, he’s going to DH a ton in April — especially against lefties — and someone needs to man short in his place. That’s fine, I’m actually in favor of using Nunez in that role (to a certain extent), but I do wonder if this will be his last chance to correct his defensive issues and stick with the team. I doubt it happens since he’s always been a bad defender, but I can’t imagine the Yankees would tolerate that much longer.
4. Speaking of Mesa, he’s played ten (!) more innings than any of the other left field candidates this spring. That number is a bit skewed because Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz have gotten a healthy share of time at DH, but that ten-inning difference stands out when you’re talking about unproven guys like Zoilo Almonte and Ronnie Mustelier. Again, this could all change in a hurry — it would have had Mesa not withdrawn from the World Baseball Classic — but it’s hard not to think all that playing time means he has a leg up on everyone else in that competition. Given his ability to contribute on both sides of the ball — Almonte and Mustelier are clearly bat-first players — he probably deserves to have a leg up in the competition. None of these guys will replace Curtis Granderson‘s offense, but at least Mesa offers power, speed, and defense instead of just one of the three.
The Yankees were off on Monday and it was a full day off — no bullpens, no simulated games, no batting practice, no fielding drills, nothing. Robinson Cano and bench coach Tony Pena were at George M. Steinbrenner Field for a workout with Team Dominican Republic in advance of the World Baseball Classic, but that’s all. Everyone will reconvene tomorrow and play the Braves at 7pm ET.
The big news of the day, which you’ve surely heard by now, is that Brian Cashman suffered a broken right fibula and dislocated right ankle while skydiving with the Army Golden Knights this morning. He had/will have surgery at some point today and blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda. The GM having to spend a few weeks on crutches is no big deal. The good news is the broken ankle likely brought even greater awareness to the Wounded Warriors Project, which is why Cashman was jumping in the first place. Sucks for him but good in general.
Anyway, here is your open thread for the evening. The Devils and Knicks are both playing tonight, plus MLB Network will be airing some baseball as well. First Spring Training and then the World Baseball Classic overnight. Talk about any of those games or anything else here. Enjoy.
Via George King: Ivan Nova has been working on a new, shorter arm action early in camp as he hopes to move beyond his struggles from last summer. “It was something we worked on before Spring Training,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild. “He actually had done it with his curveball a lot. That made it a little bit easier to introduce.”
Nova, 26, looked very sharp in his Grapefruit League debut over the week, specifically because he was pounding the bottom of the zone (22 of 27 pitches were strikes). His improved strikeout and walk rates were very encouraging last year, but it seemed like every mistake pitch he made was clobbered for extra bases. That needs to be fixed. “New pitching mechanics” stories are on par with “best shape of his life” stories this time of year, so we’re going to need to see a lot more before we can declare Nova cured of whatever ailed him in the second half. This weekend’s performance was encouraging and it’s good to know there’s some work going on behind the scenes. · (19) ·