The Yankees lost to the Cardinals (via walk-off hit) this afternoon and believe it or not, Brett Gardner was actually held hitless. Chris Stewart and J.R. Murphy doubled while Ramon Flores, Ichiro Suzuki, Dan Johnson (first hit of spring!), Frankie Cervelli, Matt Diaz, Thomas Neal, Austin Romine, Ronnie Mustelier, and Addison Maruszak all singled. Cervelli and Mustelier also stole bases while Diaz was thrown out.
Ivan Nova allowed one run on three hits and a walk in his three innings of work, and even though it’s only been two outings, he’s already pitching better than he had last spring. He got crushed in camp last year but everyone was too busy paying attention to Michael Pineda‘s velocity. Brett Marshall got hit around a bit, surrendering three runs on five hits in four innings, including a pair of homers. Here’s the box score and here’s the rest from Tampa…
- During a conference call with reporters, Mark Teixeira called his right wrist strain an “overuse injury” and said he won’t need surgery because nothing is severely torn or displaced. He is wearing a soft cast but will continue to work out, including swinging a bat one-handed. The doctors won’t let him do anything with the injured wrist until it is 100% healed to avoid a setback. [Dan Barbarisi & Jack Curry]
- Travis Hafner apparently used a glove (!) and took some fielding practice at first base today, but Brian Cashman confirmed there is nothing to it. They will use Hafner as a DH exclusively. [Mark Feinsand]
- CC Sabathia threw a bullpen session today and everything went just fine. “I feel pretty good, especially after today. I cut a few loose and had no pain,” said the left-hander, who will throw a simulated game on Sunday. [Feinsand]
- Derek Jeter visited Dr. Robert Anderson, who performed his left ankle surgery in October, in North Carolina for a routine and scheduled checkup today according to the Yankees. Joe Girardi said everything “went great” and called it “final clearance.” The Cap’n is expected to be back in camp tomorrow. [Joel Sherman]
- Phil Hughes (bulging disk) threw 15 pitches — using his actual pitching delivery and not just playing catch — on flat ground. Boone Logan (elbow) played catch on flat ground, making 38 tosses. David Robertson played catch for the first time since having trouble getting loose on Tuesday. [Associated Press]
- The Yankees are still on the road in Jupiter and will play the Marlins tomorrow afternoon. Adam Warren gets the start. That game will be broadcast on MLB.tv only, but thankfully there are no blackout restrictions.
Here is your open thread for the night. All three hockey locals plus the Knicks are in action, and you’ve also got the World Baseball Classic on MLB Network. Robinson Cano‘s Dominican Republic team is facing Venezuela. Talk about any of those guys or anything else here. Enjoy.
Following this afternoon’s game, Joe Girardi told reporters Clay Rapada has been shut down for 7-10 days with left shoulder bursitis. With Boone Logan sidelined due to elbow problems, both of the Yankees’ lefty relievers are on the shelf due to injury.
Rapada, 31, pitched to a 2.82 ERA (3.20 FIP) in 38.1 innings spread across 70 appearances last season. He’s a true lefty specialist as you know, holding same-side hitters to a .183/.263/.355 (.238 wOBA) batting line with a 28.7 K% and 44.9% ground ball rate last summer. Righties destroyed him, putting up a .303/.425/.424 (.372 wOBA) line in just 40 plate appearances. There’s no chance the Yankees would open the season without a lefty reliever, so if the Logan and Rapada injuries linger, the door will be open for Juan Cedeno and Francisco Rondon. · (43) ·
An era is ending in the Bronx. Joel Sherman reports Mariano Rivera will hold a press conference on Saturday morning to announce his retirement from baseball following the 2013 season. He could always change his mind between now and then, but I wouldn’t count on it. The press conference is scheduled for 10am ET at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.
Rivera, 43, said he made up his mind about his future when camp opened, but he wasn’t ready to tell anyone anything yet. News of Saturday’s announcement is no surprise, as I think most of us expected Mo to retire following last season. The season-ending knee injury in early-May changed those plans. In fact, Rivera said himself there was a “good chance” he would have retired in the offseason had the knee gotten healthy in time to allow him to pitch in the playoffs.
The Yankees signed Rivera for just $2,000 as a 20-year-old out of Panama back in February 1990. He spent the early part of his career as a starter, gradually working his way to the big leagues and making his debut on May 23rd, 1995 against the California Angels. They clobbered him, hanging five runs on eight hits and three walks against Rivera in 3.1 innings. He remained in the rotation for another three starts and resurfaced later that season, most notably striking out eleven White Sox in eight two-hit, shutout innings on Independence Day. It was, by far, the best of his ten career starts.
The club moved Rivera to the bullpen to open the 1996 season and the rest, as they say, is history. He pitched to a 2.09 ERA with 130 strikeouts in 107.2 relief innings that year, serving as a super-setup man to closer John Wetteland. Rivera allowed one run in 14.1 postseason innings that fall to help the Yankees to their first World Championship in almost 20 years. All of that happened before Mo learned his trademark cutter.
As the story goes, Rivera was playing catch with fellow Panamanian Ramiro Mendoza in 1997 when the ball just started cutting. That was it, he didn’t alter his grip or anything. Rivera rode that pitch to become the most dominant reliever in baseball history. He took over as closer for Wetteland in 1997 and hasn’t looked back, pitching in that same capacity for the last 17 years now. Mo has helped the Yankees to five World Championships and 18 postseason berths during his 19 seasons.
Along the way, Rivera has become baseball’s all-time leader in saves (608), games finished (892), and ERA+ (206). His postseason record in beyond belief, with a 0.70 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in 141 total innings. That is ridiculous. Rivera has never won a major award but he owns five top-five finishes in the AL Cy Young voting and has received AL MVP votes in nine different years. He will also be the final player in baseball history to wear #42. Mo is a 12-time All-Star and one of the greatest Yankees to ever live. An icon.
Off the field, Rivera is well-known as a kind and caring person who is a true class act. He’s everything anyone could ever want in a baseball player and person. Mo has been my favorite Yankee for a long time and this is a bittersweet day. I’m sad he’s leaving and I’m glad he’ll leave under his own terms. Getting carted off the field following a pregame accident in Kansas City is no way to go out. Teams will give Rivera a grand Chipper Jones-esque send-off this summer and it will be glorious.
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 been getting above-average production from the shortstop position for nearly two decades now thanks to Derek Jeter, who continued to prove doubters/me wrong by hitting .316/.362/.429 (117 wRC+) with a league-leading 216 hits at age 38 last summer. His postseason ended prematurely due to a fractured left ankle — after playing on a bone bruise pretty much all September — that required offseason surgery, and he’s yet to play this spring as he rehabs. The shortstop position is a question mark for New York and it’s not just because of Jeter’s injury.
It will be Jeter, hell or high water. Despite his lack of Grapefruit League action to date, he hasn’t suffered any kind of setback and is expected to be ready in time for Opening Day. The Yankees will, however, use the Cap’n as their DH against left-handed pitchers quite a bit (i.e. all the time) in April to give him the occasional break and day off his feet. They did something similar last year and will do it again this year, but it’s a bit more of a necessity now.
Offensively, the projections hate Jeter because he’s a 38-year-old shortstop coming off a major injury, but he’s been legitimately driven the ball since working with former hitting coach Gary Denbo during his midseason DL stint in 2010. He’s managed a .321/.369/.434 overall batting line in over 1,000 plate appearances since then — including a respectable .298/.351/.377 against righties, who handled him very well from 2010 through the start of the DL stint — which is no small sample. Those hits weren’t ground balls with eyes or bloops in front of poor defensive outfielders, it’s been vintage Jeter slashing the ball to right and occasionally over the fence.
The defense is what really concerns me. The Cap’n has pretty much always been a below-average defender and he hasn’t gotten any better with age, but now we’re adding the ankle injury on top of it. If he loses any more mobility, forget it. He’d be completely unplayable at shortstop even though the Yankees would never consider moving him down the defensive spectrum. Jeter’s arm is fine and his glovework — he handles whatever he can get to — is strong, but his limited range could be even worse in 2013. With a ground ball heavy rotation (outside of Phil Hughes), it could be a major problem. For now the Yankees will count on Jeter to again ignite the offense from atop the lineup and live with his flaws, which is what they’ve been doing for several years now.
It’s obvious the Yankees want it to be Eduardo Nunez. They’re giving him every opportunity to show he can handle the position, starting last year with his demotion and continuing this spring with his 36 defensive innings, two shy of team leader Melky Mesa. They’ve worked with him on shortening his arm action and all sorts of stuff, but nothing has taken. Still, they’re apparently intrigued by the 25-year-old’s offensive potential, which stems almost exclusively from his contact ability and speed. If they get their way, it will be Nunez soaking up all those shortstop innings while Jeter spends the day at DH against left-handed starters.
Jayson Nix is the only alternative here and is more of an emergency option at shortstop that someone you’d want to run out there several days in a row if need be. Neither he nor Nunez inspires much confidence, really.
Knocking on the Door
The Bombers do not have a shortstop prospect in Triple-A at all. There’s an outside chance Nunez will get sent down to start the season, but I wouldn’t count on it. The Scranton club will rely on the likes of 33-year-old Gil Velazquez and 26-year-olds Addison Maruszak and Reegie Corona at the infield’s most important position. Velazquez and Corona are no-hit/all-glove types while Maruszak doesn’t really do much of anything well. The team’s only real in-house shortstop options are Jeter, Nunez, and Nix. They’d sooner make a trade than run Velazquez, Corona, or Maruszak out there semi-regularly.
The Top Prospect
The Yankees don’t have a standout shortstop prospect but they do have a very interesting one in 19-year-old Austin Aune, the team’s 14th best prospect overall. Last summer’s second rounder received a $1M bonus and hit .273/.358/.410 (130 wRC+) with one homer and five steals in 163 plate appearances for the rookie level Gulf Coast League affiliate, though his inexperience was evident in his 27.6% strikeout rate. Aune was a top quarterback recruit who passed on a commitment to TCU to sign with New York, so the Yankees are hoping that focusing on baseball full-time will allow him to reach his considerable ceiling. Aune has big power potential from the left side to go along with his strong throwing arm and athleticism, but there is a lot of work to be done. He’ll likely begin the season in Extended Spring Training before joining Short Season Staten Island at midseason, so he’s far from being a big league factor.
The Deep Sleeper
Cito Culver and Claudio Custodio are New York’s most well-known lower-level shortstop prospects, but neither hit much last season or projects to be a real impact player. The Yankees’ most intriguing shortstop prospect way down in the minors is 18-year-old Abi Avelino, who signed for $300k back in 2011. He’s a standout defender with a good arm, good instincts, and good body control, and his offensive game is built around an easy right-handed swing that produces an awful lot contact. Avelino obviously has a long, long way to go before he becomes a factor in the Major Leagues, but he has all the tools to breakout and establish himself as one of the team’s best prospects. The Yankees are expected to bring him stateside with one of their two rookie level GCL affiliates this summer.
* * *
The Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira injuries mean Jeter’s return from his ankle surgery is extremely important to the team’s early season success. He needs to get on the field, stay on the field, and get on-base so Robinson Cano has someone to drive in. The Yankees will ease him back into the shortstop position with those DH days, but the Cap’n's bat is the most important thing. There is no real immediate help at the position coming up behind Jeter just in case, that is unless Nunez suddenly figures out how to make routine throws. I’m not counting on it.
The blows just keep on coming. Yesterday afternoon the Yankees learned Mark Teixeira had strained his wrist while taking batting practice with Team USA in Arizona the day before, an injury that will sideline him for 8-10 weeks. That comes a little more than a week after Curtis Granderson‘s forearm was broken by a J.A. Happ pitch and about two weeks after Phil Hughes was sidelined by back trouble. Things have gotten so bad that Brian Cashman will spend eight weeks on crutches after breaking his leg skydiving for charity. The Yankees haven’t been bit by the injury bug, this is an infestation.
Those injuries, specifically the long-term-ish losses of Granderson and Teixeira, make Robinson Cano the most important position player in baseball. No other team that fancies itself a contender will rely as heavily on one player as the Yankees will rely on Cano early this season. He’s the clear focal point of the offense — the team’s best hitter for both average and power — and the hitter New York will need to plate every runner on-base and start rallies when the bases are empty. Guys like Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner will need to step up their game as complementary players, but neither is capable of providing the kind of impact the Yankees will need from Robbie.
The Yankees put themselves in this position, at least to a certain extent. Granderson’s injury was a fluke and Teixeira’s slightly less so, but the club did willfully downgrade in right field and behind home plate this offseason. They knew Derek Jeter was coming off ankle surgery and knew Alex Rodriguez needed hip surgery in early-December, yet their solution(s) was the injury-prone Youkilis and … Dan Johnson? They didn’t bring in any other legitimate depth players for the left side of the infield, possibly because they had a little too much faith in the injury-prone David Adams and error-prone Eduardo Nunez. Now the club is stuck scrambling for a first/third baseman and Jeter has yet to appear in a Spring Training game because of his rehab.
When the season begins in 25 days, there’s a decent chance the around-the-horn infield will be Youkilis, Nunez, Cano, and Johnson. On Opening Day. Think about that. Two-thirds of the outfield will feature slap-hitting speedsters, one of whom hasn’t reached base in more than 31% of his plate appearances since 2010. Things are pretty bad right now. The Yankees can’t afford to have Cano start the season slowly — remember that 90 wRC+ last April? — or worse, consistently bat with the bases empty. They need to protect him by getting runners on-base in front of him, not by sticking a big bat behind him. Trust me, there’s no one in the organization they could bat behind Robbie that will make the other team pitch to him in a big spot. They need to stack their on-base guys in front of him and let him do damage. It’s imperative he does, at least until some of the supporting cast gets healthy.
I honestly can’t remember the last time the Yankees looked this … weak? vulnerable? underwhelming? all of the above? … heading into the season. You’d have to go back to the early-1990s, which I don’t remember all too well. The club does have a strong rotation and bullpen, which is good because they’re really going to need it, but Cano is going to have to carry them on the position player side. They need him more right now than they’ve ever needed him before because there were always those strong supporting players in the lineup to pickup any slack. Now? Nothing. It’s Cano and hope some other guys exceed expectations around him.
Via George King: The Yankees will look at acquiring both first and third basemen in the wake of Mark Teixeira’s wrist injury. Kevin Youkilis can play either position and gives the team some flexibility. “This ain’t good,” said Brian Cashman of the injury. “We will look at our best option. We have time to evaluate all our options …. Third base is very difficult. First is always an easier position to fill.”
Teixeira, 32, will miss 8-10 weeks with a wrist strain suffered during batting practice with Team USA yesterday. That timetable puts his return somewhere in the mid-to-late May range, but wrist injuries do tend the linger and the Yankees have to consider the possibility he may come back as a less productive player, especially in the power department. Finding something more than a temporary stopgap would be a pretty wise idea, especially since Youkilis isn’t exactly Mr. Durability either. That won’t be easy though. · (97) ·
The Yankees got thumped by Robinson Cano and the rest of the Dominican Republic team this afternoon, just before we all learned Mark Teixeira will miss 8-10 weeks with a wrist strain. They were getting no-hit until Zoilo Almonte hit a two-run homer with two outs in the seventh — Yankees farmhands Vidal Nuno (four innings) and Juan Cedeno (one inning) contributed to that — and finished the day with as many hits as errors (two, both miscues by interim first baseman Dan Johnson). Fun stuff. The good news is Hiroki Kuroda was very sharp, allowing two hits and no walks in three shutout innings. He was hitting the corners with his fastball and getting whiffs on his splitter. That was good to see. Here’s the box score and here’s the rest from Tampa…
- Mariano Rivera did not pitch today and will instead make his Grapefruit League debut on Saturday. The Yankees are on the road the next two days and Mo doesn’t travel. In other Rivera news, he has left the team to attend to a personal matter in New York. He’ll return in time for Saturday’s outing. [Chad Jennings & Erik Boland]
- Derek Jeter is happy with how his ankle has responded to increasingly intense workouts, but he needs to run the bases at full speed before appearing in a game. He won’t put a date on when that may happen. [Andy McCullough]
- David Robertson, who had trouble getting loose last night, has been cleared by a doctor and hopes to pitch in tomorrow’s game. The Yankees also seem to give guys that one extra day, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Robertson doesn’t return until the next home game on Saturday. [George King]
- Curtis Granderson (fractured forearm) was cleared to begin working out today. He can ride a stationary bike and lift with his legs, but he can’t do anything with his right arm (duh) or anything that puts him at risk of falling (also duh). [McCullough]
- Slade Heathcott (thumb) started hitting yesterday and feels fine. He said he plans to get back into a game on Saturday. [Chad Jennings]
- The Yankees are on the road to play the Cardinals in Jupiter tomorrow afternoon, but that game will not be on television at all. No YES, no MLB.tv, no nothing. Adam Warren gets the start.
Here is your open thread for the evening. The Knicks and Nets are both playing tonight, plus MLB Network will air a game a little later on as well. Talk about whatever you like here, go nuts.
Mark Teixeira will be sidelined for at least eight to ten weeks with a strained right wrist, the Yanks announced this afternoon. The first baseman will rest for four weeks before beginning rehab activities with a return expected by mid-May. For the power-starved Yankees, this development is a big blow to the team’s lineup.
With this injury, the Yankees’ 2013 Opening Day lineup will have at most three players who also appeared in the lineup on Opening Day last year, and such luminaries as Dan Johnson and Travis Hafner will be expected to pick up the offensive load. The Yanks’ April calendar isn’t an easy one, and pitching will now become that much more important. Hopefully, Tex won’t miss much more than the expected timeframe, but wrist injuries tend to both linger and sap hitters of their power. · (186) ·
As I said in the second base preview this morning, Robinson Cano‘s impending free agency is the cloud that’s going to hang over the Yankees until he signs a new contract, one way or the other. Brian Cashman admitted the team has already made a “significant offer” in an effort to retain their second baseman, but Cano didn’t hire Scott Boras to take the first offer. The two sides will undoubtedly continue to talk right down to the very end.
The Yankees have already broken their policy of not signing a player (or coach or executive) to a new contract until their current one expires once for Cano and they’re obviously willing to do it again. The primary advantage to breaking the policy is avoiding a bidding war, which could escalate quickly thanks to the suddenly free-spending Dodgers. You can be sure Magic Johnson & Co. will make a serious push to sign Robbie after the season if he hits free agency, and that is the kind of bidding war no team wants caught up in.
The other advantage of signing Cano before he hits free agency — and specifically this month before the season starts — has to do with their plan to get under the $189 million luxury tax threshold by next season. The Collective Bargaining Agreement is a bore to read and a nightmare to interpret, but Joel Sherman explains contract extensions are added to whatever is left on the the player’s existing contract to create a new total for luxury tax calculation purposes. Rather than giving Cano a new contract after the season with whatever average annual value, signing him right now would include his 2013 salary — a paltry $15M compared to what he will earn in the future — and one more year to the extension, dragging down the annual average value (and luxury tax hit).
Just as an example, let’s say the Yankees sign Cano to Mark Teixeira‘s contract, meaning eight years and $180M. I’m just using that as an example, I’m not advocating it. If they give him that deal after the season, it’s a straight average annual value calculation: $180M divided by eight years equals a $22.5M luxury tax hit. Now, if they were to give him that deal this month before the season begins, the average annual value of the contract would be $195M (new contract plus his 2013 salary) divided by nine years (new contract plus 2013), or $21.7M annually. The difference isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but $800k is room for that one extra bench player or middle reliever under the luxury tax threshold.
That is just one example and obviously the numbers would change depending on the contract. Things would have been much better had the Yankees managed to sign Cano before last season — his luxury tax hit with that new eight-year, $180M deal would have been $20.9M had he signed it prior to 2012 — but Boras would have never let that happen. He wouldn’t have had much leverage in talks and that’s the name of the game here, creating leverage to get the biggest contract possible. Would have been a nice way to save some room under the luxury tax threshold for 2014 and beyond, but alas.
I don’t expect the Yankees to sign Cano to a new contract this month but I don’t think there is zero chance of it happening. It would surprise me though, you can count the number of big-name Boras clients to skip free agency in favor of an extension on one hand (Carlos Gonzalez, Jered Weaver, and … ?). The club would save a tiny bit of space under the luxury tax threshold by signing Robbie this month, not to mention any money they would save by avoiding a bidding war with the Dodgers. There are several reasons for New York to try to hammer out a deal in the coming weeks, but I don’t expect Boras to make things easy.
We’re a few weeks into Spring Training now and the monotony has begun to set in. The meaningless games aren’t as enjoyable as they were when camp opened and most of the top prospects have already been reassigned to minor league camp, so there isn’t too much to get excited about. Happens every year around this time.
Today will be a little different though. The Yankees are playing the Dominican Republic team in a World Baseball Classic exhibition game at George M. Steinbrenner Field this afternoon, a Dominican Republic team that is managed by Yankees bench coach Tony Pena and anchored by Yankees cornerstone Robinson Cano. Pena’s team destroyed — I’m talking eight runs on 12 hits in 2.2 innings — Cole Hamels in Phillies’ camp yesterday, so I’m sure the club feels good about themselves right now. The game does count for anything but it will be fun to see Robbie out there on the other team, I’m sure the players are looking forward to it. Here’s the starting lineup…
- SS Eduardo Nunez
- 2B Jayson Nix
- DH Travis Hafner
- 3B Kevin Youkilis
- RF Juan Rivera
- C Frankie Cervelli
- LF Matt Diaz
- CF Melky Mesa
- 1B Luke Murton
Available Position Players: C Bobby Wilson, 2B Jose Pirela, SS Addison Maruszak, 3B Dan Johnson, LF Thomas Neal, and RF Zoilo Almonte are all scheduled to come off the bench. Murton, Mesa, and Hafner will apparently play all nine innings.
Here is the Dominican Republic lineup if you’re interested. Starting for them this afternoon is … wait for it … lefty Vidal Nuno. How about that? Jennings says some Yankees relievers may come out of the bullpen for the Dominican Republic as well. These World Baseball Classic exhibitions aren’t the most formal thing in the world, I guess.
This afternoon’s game is scheduled to start a little after 1pm ET and can be seen on YES, MLB Network, and MLB.tv. There are no local blackouts. Enjoy.