Archive for Spring Training
For the first time this year, the weather didn’t cooperate. It rained in Tampa this morning so most of the day’s workouts took place indoors. Such is life. Here’s the latest from Tampa.
- As usual, Chad Jennings has the day’s workout groups. David Phelps threw a simulated game while Matt Thornton and Shawn Kelley threw live batting practice. Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren, and David Robertson threw bullpen sessions. Kelly Johnson worked out at second and third bases but not first.
- Tyler Austin‘s wrist is bothering him again. He dealt with a bone bruise most of last season. Austin said it started acting up a few days ago, but when it didn’t go away, he told the team. He hopes to only miss a few days but who knows. [Chad Jennings]
- Alfonso Soriano (flu) is still being held out of workouts and will be re-evaluated on Monday. Nik Turley‘s arm was “a little tight” and he was shut down for the day. Jim Miller has “slight irritation” in his calf and will be re-evaluated Monday. [Dan Barbarisi, Jennings]
- And finally, today was photo day. You can scroll through all the shots right here, though they might not all be uploaded yet.
Here is your nightly open thread. Both the Knicks and Nets are playing, plus the Olympics are still going on. I’m sure there’s college basketball on somewhere as well. Talk about anything and everything here. Have at it.
Happy Friday everyone. Spring Training is fully underway now that position players are in camp and in just a few days, the Yankees will open their slate of Grapefruit League games. Here’s the latest from Tampa.
- Chad Jennings has the day’s workout groups. Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ivan Nova were among those to throw live batting practice. Kelly Johnson spent time working out at first base, which is important because he has 18 career innings at the position and is slated to serve as Mark Teixeira‘s backup this year.
- Joe Girardi confirmed Tanaka will be allowed to face AL East clubs in exhibition games. The team typically tries to hide their stop starters from rival clubs, but they feel it’s important for Tanaka to face MLB caliber hitters. [Jennings]
- Teixeira said he is “probably a week to ten days” away from facing live pitchers in batting practice. He won’t get into a Spring Training game until early March, as expected. [George King]
- Slade Heathcott, meanwhile, still has not started hitting or fielding drills after having offseason knee surgery, so he’s behind the other position players. [Jennings]
Here is your open thread for the night. The Knicks are playing and the Olympics are still going on as well. Talk about those games, Spring Training, or anything else right here. Have at it.
For the first time this year, the entire Yankees team worked out on Thursday. Position players reported yesterday so the first full squad workout was held today, meaning the first Grapefruit League game is less than one week away. Hooray for that. Here’s a recap of the day in Tampa.
- As usual, Chad Jennings has the day’s workout groups. Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren, and Dellin Betances were among those to face hitters in live batting practice while Michael Pineda threw in the bullpen. Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira took batting practice and participated in infield drills as scheduled.
- Jeter lost some weight this winter in an effort to reduce the stress on his legs. Joe Girardi said he looked far better during today’s workout than he did at any time last year. ”To me it looked like he never got hurt,” said the skipper. [Dan Barbarisi, Joel Sherman]
- We have our first injury of Spring Training: Alfonso Soriano has the flu and missed today’s workout. That counts as an injury, right? [Sherman]
- Both Hideki Matsui and Willie Randolph arrived in camp to serve as guest instructors. [Mark Feinsand]
Here is your nightly open thread. Neither the Knicks or Nets are playing, so you’re left with the Olympics and whatever college basketball you can find. Talk about anything here, enjoy.
Position players reported to Spring Training today, but the day was all about Derek Jeter. He discussed his plan to retire following the season during a press conference this morning. You can watch the video right here if you haven’t seen it yet. Jeter said exactly what he wrote in his initial statement: things that used to come easy are a little more difficult, and he’s looking forward to starting the next chapter of his life. Here’s the rest from Tampa.
- As always, Chad Jennings has the day’s mound assignments. David Robertson, Matt Thornton, and David Phelps threw bullpen sessions while Manny Banuelos and Shawn Kelley were among those to face hitters in live batting practice. Adam Warren had been on the same schedule as Phelps, but he didn’t throw today and will instead throw live batting practice tomorrow. Seems like they are being lined up for some early Grapefruit League starts.
- From what I can tell, all the position players reported today with no issue. No visa holdups or anything like that. The first full squad workout is tomorrow but Eduardo Nunez was already out taking ground balls at third base. [Bryan Hoch]
- And, just in case you were wondering, Joe Girardi confirmed everyone has made it through Spring Training healthy so far. It has only been a week, but still. Health is good. [Jennings]
This is your open thread for the evening. Both the Knicks and Nets are playing, plus the Olympics are still on as well. You folks know how these things work by now, so have at it.
Three offseasons ago, just weeks after winning the World Series, the Cardinals let Albert Pujols walk as a free agent. They made a substantial offer but reportedly held the line at five years, so it was no surprise that he left when another club blew that offer out of the water. The Cardinals wanted Pujols back but on their terms and their terms only.
This past offseason, just weeks after missing the postseason for only the second time in the last 19 years, the Yankees let Robinson Cano walk as a free agent. Like St. Louis with Pujols, the Yankees made Cano a substantial offer but held firm, topping out at seven years and $175 million. When another team blew that offer out of the water, Robbie was gone. New York wanted him back, but again, only on their terms.
The Cardinals’ situation with Pujols and the Yankees’ situation with Cano were very similar and in more ways than the ones I just laid out. Not only did the two teams hold a hard line during talks with their homegrown star, but when that homegrown star left, both clubs turned to the same player to replace the lost offense: Carlos Beltran. St. Louis signed Beltran soon after Pujols left and plopped him in the middle of their order. The Yankees signed Beltran hours after Cano left and are counting on him to anchor their rebuilt lineup.
Beltran, who will turn 37 in April, is certainly no stranger to New York. He spent parts of seven seasons across town with the Mets and he has flirted with the Yankees on numerous occasions. Beltran famously offered to sign with the Bombers at a discount during the 2004-05 offseason, and he also gave them a chance to match the Cardinals’ offer three winters ago. The Yankees passed both times but decided now, with his best years almost certainly in the past, was the time to bring him. Cano’s departure was a big reason why.
With Brian McCann, the Yankees addressed a very specific short and long-term need behind the plate. Jacoby Ellsbury was signed mostly because he was the best non-Cano free agent on the market, but he gives the team a dynamic leadoff hitter who has been through the AL East wars and knows all about playing in a huge market. Beltran is sorta like a combination of the two. He’s a middle of the order bat like McCann but he’s also familiar with playing in an intense market with big expectations.
At the same time, Beltran is nearing the end of his career, so it’s tough to know exactly what to expect at this point. His defense has already declined to the point where he needs a late-inning replacement and his production against lefties has slipped as well, so these next three years will be interesting. I’ve said before that the signing gives me a Randy Johnson vibe, that the Yankees acquired the right player only nine years too late. I really hope that isn’t the case and considering how much money they sunk into him, the team is confident Beltran will remain a very good hitter for another few seasons.
“I look at the team, I look at our situation, the players we have and we have a pretty good chance,” said Beltran to Dan Martin yesterday. “Last year, I experienced being in the World Series with the Cardinals and it was a great feeling. Once you play there, you want to go there every year … Hopefully we can help this team win a championship. I know [Derek Jeter] has a lot of championships, but I don’t have [any]. Hopefully, I can win one.”
During his two years with the Cardinals, Beltran essentially matched Pujols’ offensive output with the Halos (128 vs. 130 OPS+) while doing a better job of staying on the field (296 vs. 252 games). I would be very surprised if Beltran hits anything like Cano these next few years, nevermind play a similar number of games. The Yankees don’t need him to do that though. They improved several lineup spots this winter and should have a deeper lineup overall. Beltran doesn’t have to be The Man for New York the way Cano was, but he does replace him as the team’s best all-around hitter and likely number three hitter. That’s a role Beltran is very familiar with.
There is nothing quite like the first few days of Spring Training, before position players even show up to camp. Pitchers aren’t doing much more than throwing in the bullpen or facing hitters during live batting practice, yet they all seem to look great and are poised for a big season. Just the other day Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told John Lott that Brandon Morrow “looks like a good, strong, starting, durable pitcher.” If that’s not a sign of early Spring Training optimism, nothing is.
The Yankees, of course, are no different. John Ryan Murphy (weird) told Andrew Marchand that Masahiro Tanaka was “very impressive” during his second bullpen session yesterday and that’s great. It doesn’t really mean anything though. Hitters will tell us how impressive Tanaka is once he gets into an actual game in a few weeks. But still, this is the time of year when everyone gets excited about everything and so far the team’s new high-priced right-hander looks as good as advertised.
Tanaka is not the only pitcher in camp who is something of an unknown. Not even close, really. In fact, I consider Michael Pineda an even bigger unknown after missing two years due to major shoulder surgery. At least Tanaka spent the last few seasons pitching against a reasonably high level of competition. Pineda has thrown two bullpen sessions since Spring Training opened last Friday — including 35 pitches on Monday — and he has looked great, because of course.
“I thought the ball was coming out easier [than last spring],” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings on Monday. “I know he’s had time to clean up a couple things too, mechanically, in this two-year span. He just looked like it came out free and easy to me. Didn’t look like he put a ton of effort into it, or that he was overthrowing it. … To me, it looked different than what I saw a couple years ago when he got hurt and was pitching in games. I’m anxious to see him obviously get in some games in the next 12 days or so.”
Pineda is the perfect example of how this time of year lends itself to getting excited about a player, no matter what hurdles they have to clear. He hasn’t thrown a Major League pitch in two years and he wasn’t exactly a finished product before he got hurt either. Remember how he needed to develop a changeup and was fly ball prone? Those issues didn’t disappear as he rehabbed from shoulder surgery. Pineda says he’s the same guy he was before the injury — “I’m feeling so strong. I’m feeling good power … I’m throwing the same. Mechanics the same. Everything is the same. All pitches are the same. I’m the same Michael Pineda,” he said to Jennings — which means there is still development to be done before he lives up to his potential.
And yet, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Pineda in 2014. He is finally healthy, first and foremost. He turned only 25 just last month. During that 2011 season with the Mariners, he became the only rookie pitcher in baseball history with a 9.0+ K/9 and sub-3.0 BB/9. That’s really impressive. Michael Pineda finally being healthy and in position to help the Yankees this year is exciting even if so many questions remain.
There will be plenty of time to worry and fret about Pineda and every other part of the Yankees over the next few months. Trust me, it’ll happen. Pineda will have back-to-back crappy starts at some point and we’ll all wonder if he’s breaking down again. The Yankees will lose like four games in a row and we’ll all worry things will never turn around. That’s just the nature of the beast. This time of year is different though. This is the time of year when everything is a reason to be excited, including Pineda’s early bullpen work.
The complex in Tampa is going to get much more crowded when position players officially report to Spring Training on Wednesday. Sure, a bunch of them are already in camp working out, but everyone will be there tomorrow. The Yankees will play their first exhibition game one week from today (vs. Florida State) and one week from tomorrow will be their first televised Grapefruit League game (vs. Pirates), so hooray for that. Here’s the latest from Tampa:
- Chad Jennings has the day’s workout groups. Ivan Nova threw live batting practice while CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Masahiro Tanaka threw in the bullpen. Pretty light day otherwise.
- Joe Girardi told Jacoby Ellsbury he will indeed bat leadoff and play center field. No surprise there. Also, the broken foot Ellsbury suffered late last year and played on during the postseason is fully healthy and not expected to limit him in camp. [Dan Barbarisi, Nick Cafardo]
- Derek Jeter will talk about his decision to retire following the season during a press conference at 11:30am ET tomorrow, which will air on the YES Network.
Here is your open thread for the evening. The Knicks are playing, plus the Olympics are still going on as well. Talk about that stuff, Spring Training, Jeter, or anything else right here. Have at it.
The new Yankee Stadium has been open for five full seasons now, more than enough time to definitively say it is a hitter’s park, especially for left-handed hitters. The short porch in right is shorter than it was across the street, so we’ve seen plenty of balls that looked like routine fly outs go over the fence for the cheap homer. Anecdotally, I think the short porch has benefited the Yankees much more than it’s hurt them since 2009.
Because of that potential for the cheap homer, the Bombers have emphasized getting ground balls since the new park opened. The staff has gradually progressed from a 42.3% ground ball rate in 2009 to a 44.9% ground ball rate last year. Ground balls will again be a focus this year, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild has his staff focusing on the bottom of the zone early in camp. From Joel Sherman:
In bullpen sessions this year, pitching coach Larry Rothschild has introduced a technique he used in previous locales, but not with the Yankees — he has a yellow string that crosses the bottom of the strike zone and he actually is encouraging his pupils to hit the string.
Pounding the bottom of the zone should lead to more ground balls just because it’s tough to lift a ball at or below your knees, though the occasional golf shot is unavoidable. Whether this new drill actually leads to an increased grounder rate during the regular season remains to be seen, but hey, at least they’re trying.
In addition to an increased ground ball rate, emphasizing the bottom of the zone may also have a side effect: more called strikes. In a long but must read piece, Jon Roegele explained last month that the shape of the strike zone has changed during the PitchFX era. The zone is increasing in overall size but the corners are coming in while the bottom of the zone has expanded downward. Here are two heat maps from his post:
Grey means no change in the percentage of called strikes from 2008 (first full year of PitchFX) to 2013 while white means fewer called strikes and black means more called strikes. Again, the corners are coming in while the bottom of the zone gets bigger and bigger. You can click the image for a larger view, or, even better, click the link and read Roegele’s post for the entire analysis. It’s great stuff.
Anyway, Rothschild has emphasized the bottom of the zone this spring and it figures to help the Yankees both get ground balls and called strikes. Throwing strikes is hard though, especially to precise locations. It’s unlikely the entire pitching staff will suddenly start throwing everything right at the knees, but all it takes is one pitcher taking advantage of the bottom of the zone for this work to be worth it.
Twenty-four years ago today, the Yankees signed Mariano Rivera as a 20-year-old amateur free agent out of Panama. He received a bonus somewhere around $2,500, so by today’s standards he was old and very cheap for an international player. Man, I’m really going to miss Mo. Here’s a recap of the day in Tampa:
- As usual, Chad Jennings has the day’s bullpen and batting practice groups. Michael Pineda threw a bullpen session while Adam Warren, David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, and several others faced hitters in live batting practice.
- Pineda is open to pitching out of the bullpen and said he is motivated to return this year because he wants to play with Derek Jeter before he retires. “When I heard I was traded to the Yankees, I was thinking, ‘I get to play with Mariano Rivera, with Jeter,’” he said. “That’s what I’ve always wanted.” [Dan Barbarisi, Buster Olney]
- Brian Roberts said the Yankees reached out to him even before Robinson Cano signed with the Mariners, but he didn’t expect anything to come of it because he assumed they’d re-sign Cano. Brendan Ryan, meanwhile, thinks he might be used off the bench to replace Jeter for defense in the late innings. The team hasn’t said anything about that though. [Jorge Castillo, Anthony Rieber]
- And finally, former head trainer Gene
MichaelMonahan was at the complex today and will spend Spring Training with the team. [Meredith Marakovits]
This is your nightly open thread. The Olympics and college basketball are the only sports on television tonight, so it’s a good night to catch up on some sleep or House of Cards or whatever. Talk about anything and everything right here. Go nuts.
The first weekend of Spring Training is complete, though position players have not yet officially reported and the first full squad workout is still a few days away. Here’s a recap of the day in Tampa.
- Chad Jennings has the day’s bullpen and batting practice groups. Manny Banuelos plus a bunch of relievers were on the mound, including David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, and Matt Thornton. The pitchers will starting throwing live batting practice tomorrow.
- Mark Teixeira said his Spring Training plan is mapped out and he’s expecting to get 50+ at-bats, which is a normal amount. He is taking roughly 50 swings from each side of the plate right now and he feels a bit better from the right side. Tex also said he grew an inch this winter (!?) and hopes to play another five years. [Bryan Hoch, Sweeny Murti, Jorge Castillo, Dan Barbarisi]
- Apparently Peter O’Brien was the star of batting practice yesterday, hitting balls over the batter’s eye and off the scoreboard in left. “What puts his swing at a different level is the ease of it,’’ said hitting coach Kevin Long. [George King]
- Hoch has the list of guest instructors, which includes both Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui. Ronald Blum says Andy Pettitte will be in camp as an instructor as well.
Here is your open thread for the night. The NBA All-Star Game is on, ditto the Olympics. Talk about those games, Spring Training, or anything else right here. Enjoy.