Spring Notes: Captain’s Camp, Tanaka, Pineda, Pettitte

Soon. (Presswire)
Soon. (Presswire)

We are now a day and a half away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Tampa for the start of Spring Training. Of course, a bunch of players are already working out at the minor league complex, so a bunch of spring notes have been trickling in the last few days. Here’s a quick roundup, via Bryan Hoch, Anthony McCarron, and Erik Boland.

2016 Captain’s Camp underway

The second annual Captain’s Camp is underway and the Yankees have been shuttling in former players, executives, and media folks to talk to their top young prospects. CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Alfonso Soriano, and Darryl Strawberry have all stopped by the Tampa complex to spend time with the kids. Derek Jeter took them all out to dinner last night.

“What’s encouraging to me is that we don’t pay anybody to come. We have a lot of really good people that are coming in to talk to our guys, just to voluntarily share what they’ve learned over the years,” said farm system head Gary Denbo, who came up with the idea for Captain’s Camp last year. Denbo confirmed more prospects were invited this year as the Yankees look to groom their next young core.

Interestingly, the Yankees selected two Captain’s Camp “leaders” this year: outfielder Aaron Judge and right-hander Brady Lail. “We picked a pitcher and we picked a position player that we thought could lead by example and through their actions. They’ve done a tremendous job,” said Denbo. I think the whole Captain’s Camp idea is pretty cool. Being a big leaguer is hard and it’s great the Yankees are doing whatever they can to help their prospects get to the next level.

All goes well as Tanaka throws off a mound

Over the weekend Masahiro Tanaka threw off a mound for the first time in Tampa — he threw off a mound at Yankee Stadium last week — and everything is going well with his surgically repaired elbow so far. “(Tanaka) didn’t try to push it too much, but it was good. He wasn’t midseason form, but he was where he should be,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild of the 20-pitch throwing session. Tanaka played long toss yesterday as well.

Tanaka had surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow in October and depending who you ask, he is either right on schedule or the Yankees are handling him carefully. I suppose both can be true. Tanaka says he’s unsure if he’ll ready for Opening Day, Rothschild says he’s right on schedule, and Brian Cashman says they’ll take it easy with him in camp. Either way, so far, so good. “We’ll keep throwing. We’ll probably do a mound (session) within the next couple days, and then just keep progressing from there,” said Rothschild.

Pineda wants to throw 200 innings in 2016

Standard Spring Training story alert: [Pitcher] who has never thrown 200 innings in a season wants to throw 200 innings this year. In this case [Pitcher] is Michael Pineda. “I want to throw 200 innings this year. That’s my goal,” he said. “You always want to do better. Sometimes we have good games, sometimes we have bad games … Now it’s a new year and a new season is coming and I want to be ready and prepared to have a great year.”

Pineda built a gym in his home this offseason and he is “looking slimmed down,” according to Boland. Of course, the biggest issue with Big Mike is health. He was on track to throw roughly 200 innings last season before missing most of August with a forearm issue. Pineda seems like the biggest wildcard on the staff. His upside is so obvious and yet, as we saw last year, the results don’t always match the stuff. He’s frustrating and also way too talented to give up on.

Pettitte throws batting practice, may be back later in spring

While in town for Captain’s Camp, Pettitte threw batting practice to several of the team’s top prospects for about 30 minutes yesterday. “If I’m going to be here, y’all ought to use me. The wind was blowing out. Judge, I think, hit a couple on Dale Mabry (Boulevard),” he joked.

Pettitte may return to Spring Training in a few weeks — he was asked about coming back as a player and answered with a straight “No,” in case you’re wondering — depending on his schedule. “I’m going to try to, but I have to see the kids’ games, the way it works out” he said. “I love being down here, love being around these young guys. It’s extremely important to me, also, because of what the Yankees have been to me.”

Hip, Hip: Previewing the Hall of Fame Case for Jorge Posada

It's a Jorge Posada kind of day. (Chris Trotman/Getty)
It’s a Jorge Posada kind of day. (Chris Trotman/Getty)

I would not have realized this without Mike mentioning it in a post last week, but Jorge Posada will be up for induction into the Hall of Fame during the next round of elections. He last played in 2011, a season that was humbling for him to say the least. His career ended on a positive note, though, as he was one of the few Yankees to show up during the ALDS against Detroit; in that disaster series, Jorge hit .429/.579/.571, notching six hits in the five game set. Amazingly enough, he didn’t drive a single run home in the series. Regardless of the ugly times in 2011, it wrapped up a fantastic career that deserves its share of inspection.

Posada’s Major League career started in earnest in 1997, when he played in 60 games and racked up 224 PAs for the Yanks; it got fully rolling in 1998, when his playing time jumped up and he played in 111 games and went to the plate 409 times. 1999 was rather similar; he played in 112 games and had 437 PA. 2000 was Jorge’s real breakout. Amassing 624 PA across 151 games, Posada raked, hitting .287/.417/.527 with 28 homers and an OPS+ of 139 (.405 wOBA; 140 wRC+). It started a string of four straight All Star Game appearances and four straight Silver Slugger awards. All told, Posada made it to five All Star Games and won five Silver Slugger awards (2000-3, 2007) and had a career line of .274/.374/.474/.848, good for a 121 OPS+ and a .367/123 wOBA/wRC+.

(Photo via NY Daily News)
(Photo via NY Daily News)

If we judge a player by the company he kept, then Posada was nothing short of an offensive leader at his position. His only offensive “sin” during his career was that he was not, in fact, Mike Piazza. Among catchers with at least 5000 PA from 1995-2011, Posada ranks second to Piazza in wOBA; wRC+; and home runs. He’s third in fWAR (44.3) behind Ivan Rodriguez (60.3–whom Posada outhit by 19 points in wOBA and 16 in wRC+) and Piazza (51.2).

Doubtlessly, Jorge Posada was the AL’s best offensive catcher for the years of his career; hitters like Mike Napoli and Joe Mauer definitely caught up to him in the later years of his career, but Posada’s offensive longevity and consistency were marvelous. Only twice–1999 and 2011–did Posada fail to hit at a league average rate, and that’s not adjusting for his position. Eight times, he notched marks at least 20% better than league average.

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)
(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

But in the end, it probably wasn’t enough. Jorge wasn’t as good a hitter as Mike Piazza and he wasn’t as good a catcher as Ivan Rodriguez. He falls somewhere in the middle there, which definitely hurts him. This isn’t to say that his numbers are necessarily Hall-Worthy, but to say Posada was anything short of the second best offensive catcher of his time is unfair. The other big slight against him is another over which he had no control. Posada appeared in games for the Yankees staring in 1995, but wasn’t the full time catcher until 2000. Those years of being a part time player robbed him of the counting stats that a lot of voters take into consideration. Regardless, Posada managed to club 275 homers and drive in over 1,000 runs in his career, good marks for anyone, let alone a catcher. had he received more consistent playing time before 1998-2000, his candidacy might be more than something to dream on.

Considering the fate we just saw Jim Edmonds suffer–falling off the ballot ungraciously and undeservingly after just one appearance–it’s not likely that Posada sticks around very long. That wouldn’t be a big injustice or a travesty or anything, but as a player we feel a lot of emotional connection with, it’ll be a touch sad to see Jorge–like his teammate Bernie Williams–disappear from the ballot easily. In the end, though, it doesn’t change anything about the man and the player Jorge Posada was for the Yankees for so many years. It’s years too late, but thanks for the great career, Jorge. A retired number in Monument Park isn’t Cooperstown, but it’s a damn fine consolation prize.

The Speed of the Game

It’s Friday night and I’m standing in left-center at Teufel Field. It’s the bottom of the first inning and there are runners on first and second with one out and the fourth hitter for the opposing team is at the plate with a 1-1 count (thank you, speed up rules). Our pitcher sets on the mound, rears his arm back, and arcs the ball towards home plate. The batter swings and sends a sinking line drive in my direction, slightly to my left. Eyes squinted in the less-than-idea lighting, I sprint towards the ball charging forward, sliding at the last second, securing the second out before popping up and trying (and failing) to double up the runner at second. This play could’ve happened at least three times in the amount of time it took me to write this and for you to read it. The game is fast, and that’s just slow-pitch softball. On Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, I got even more education on the speed of the game.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the first time, I sat in the Legends seats–Section 14B, Row 2. As someone who played ball growing up and has watched and attended countless games, viewed from all over various in-stadium locations, I certainly knew how quick the game could be, but being so close hammered the point home (rudely at times, like Abraham Almonte’s screaming foul liner that buzzed our collective tower).  From Didi Gregorius‘s speed to the velocity of the pitches delivered by Luis Severino, Danny Salazar, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller, “fast” was the best way to describe yesterday.

With regards to that ‘micro-level’ speed, sitting so close to the action only furthered my appreciation for just how incredibly difficult baseball can be. The way hitters can react quickly enough to not just hit the ball, but hit it with authority, driving it all over the place, never ceases to amaze me. The way infielders can react to sharp ground balls and calmly field them is a near marvel; that they can seemingly flick their wrists and throw the ball harder than I could overhand is another feat that leaves me speechless. Because the players aren’t zooming around the field like they would be in basketball, hockey, soccer, or football, we don’t necessarily think of baseball as a speed sport, but it is unavoidably so.

On the ‘macro-level’ of speed, there was the pregame ceremony for Jorge Posada. As I watched him receive his plaques and gifts, I couldn’t believe almost four calendar years have passed since Jorge suited up for the Yankees. While his former teammates lined the infield grass, I remembered playing Wiffle Ball with friends in my front yard, imitating the batting stances of the men I was looking at–Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Posada himself… Obviously, many years have passed since then, but the memory didn’t–and still doesn’t–seem all that distant. Like the thrown and batted balls, like the lighting-fast pitches, the memories of players passed reminds us that the game moves quickly no matter how you look at it. We could all do well to slow down and appreciate it, from the tiny bursts of speed on the basepaths, to the (hopefully) magnificent careers blossoming in front of us.

Game 122: Jorge Posada Day

Jorge Posada is not my all-time favorite Yankee but he is definitely in the top three. A switch-hitting catcher with power, patience, and a fiery attitude? How did anyone not like the guy? Posada is one of the four best catchers in franchise history, and, among all catchers in MLB history, he ranks third in walks (936), eighth in homers (275), ninth in OBP (.374), 15th in OPS+ (121), and 17th in WAR (48.4).

I don’t know if Posada will ever get into the Hall of Fame, he’s a borderline candidate, but he is going into Monument Park this afternoon. The Yankees are retiring his uniform No. 20 and will also honor Posada with a plaque. He helped the team to five World Series titles — he was a key contributor to four of them — and holds several franchise records, including games caught (1,518). Simply put, he is one of the best catchers in both Yankees and baseball history.

The Yankees want fans in their seats by noon for the pre-game ceremony, but, knowing how these things go, the ceremony itself probably won’t start until 12:15pm or 12:30pm ET. Will Derek Jeter make his second appearance at Yankee Stadium since retiring? I have to think so. The whole gang will probably be there. The weather’s great and it should be a really fun day.

As for the regularly scheduled afternoon game, here is the Indians’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Brian McCann
  5. 1B Greg Bird
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. C John Ryan Murphy
    RHP Luis Severino

This afternoon’s game is scheduled to begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. The Posada ceremony will only be on YES, I believe. MLB Network usually doesn’t carry that stuff. For shame. Enjoy the ceremony and the game, folks.

Injury Updates: Michael Pineda (forearm) will rejoin the rotation Wednesday, Joe Girardi announced. Barring something unexpected, the team will do with a six-man rotation. Predictable … Bryan Mitchell (face) has passed all concussion tests and will throw a bullpen session tomorrow. Geez, sounds like he might be back fairly soon, huh?

Roster Moves: The Yankees have called up Branden Pinder and designated Chris Capuano for assignment, the team announced. Pinder was sent down ten days ago, so the Yankees brought him back as soon as possible.

Saturday Links: Postseason Schedule, Tulowitzki, Patches, Prospects, Online Streaming

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and Indians continue their four-game series later this afternoon. Here are a few links worth checking out while you wait for first pitch.

Postseason schedule announced

MLB announced the 2015 postseason scheduled this week. Unlike the last two years, I can post this information and not feel like I am wasting a bunch of time. The full schedule can be found right here. Here are the dates potentially relevant to the Yankees:

  • Tiebreaker Game: Monday, October 5th (if necessary to determine division winner, second wildcard spot, etc.)
  • AL Wildcard Game: Tuesday, October 6th
  • ALDS: Thursday, October 8th through Wednesday, October 14th (best of five)
  • ALCS: Friday, October 16th through Saturday, October 24th (best of seven)
  • World Series: Tuesday, October 27th through Wednesday, November 4th (best of seven)

As always, the best-of-three LDS round includes off-days between Games Two and Three and between Games Four and Five. The best-of-seven LCS round and World Series have off-days between Games Two and Three and between Games Five and Six. The World Series will bleed into November unless there is a four-game sweep. There hasn’t been a World Series game in November since 2010. The Yankees won the 2009 World Series on November 4th, as you surely remember.

Cashman preferred Tulowitzki to Jeter

Here’s a fun anecdote. According to Sports Illustrated, Brian Cashman told Derek Jeter he would rather have Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop while in contract talks during the 2010-11 offseason. Here’s the full blurb:

“Who would you rather have playing shortstop this year than me?” Jeter asked Cashman.

“Do you really want me to answer that?” Cashman replied. Jeter told him to go ahead, and he listed Tulowitzki, then the Rockies’ shortstop who was in the midst of his first All-Star campaign. “We’re not paying extra money for popularity,” he added, “We’re paying for performance.”

Jeter was 36 at the time and coming off the worst season of his career. He and the Yankees eventually agreed to a new three-year contract with $51M, though reportedly ownership stepped in to wrap things up. SI has a profile of Cashman in this week’s issue that has yet to make its way online.

Hey, as far as I’m concerned, Cashman did nothing wrong. He asked Jeter if wanted an answer, Jeter said yes, and Cashman gave him an honest answer. There needed to be a bad guy in those contract negotiations just to give the Yankees some sort of leverage. They couldn’t go in there kissing Jeter’s behind and willing to pay anything. I would have rather had Tulo instead of Jeter too.

FanGraphs’ midseason prospect update

Over at FanGraphs, Kiley McDaniel posted an updated look at the top prospects in baseball. Dodgers 3B Corey Seager sits in the top spot and is followed by Twins OF Byron Buxton and Phillies SS J.P. Crawford. The Yankee shave three players among McDaniel’s top 26 prospects: RHP Luis Severino (9th), OF Aaron Judge (22nd), and SS Jorge Mateo (25th). I doubt you’ll see Mateo ranked that highly anywhere else this year or heading into next year. McDaniel seems to really believe in him.

Posada & Pettitte Day patches

Later today, the Yankees will honor Jorge Posada by retiring his No. 20. Then tomorrow they’ll do the same for Andy Pettitte and retire No. 46. Both are very deserving in my opinion. It blows my mind anyone would try to argue otherwise. Anyway, in honor of their special days, the Yankees will wear Posada and Pettitte patches on their hats. Here they are:

Jorge Posada Andy Pettitte patch

The Pettitte patch is A+ work. Posada … I’ll give it a C. Good idea, not the best execution. Pettitte’s stare was kinda his trademark and it makes for a good patch. Posada doesn’t have that signature pose or image or whatever. (Maybe it’s this?) Still pretty cool. I’m really looking forward to seeing the ceremonies the next two days.

MLB, MLBPA announce new domestic violence policy

MLB and the MLBPA announced their new domestic violence policy yesterday. The press release is right here (PDF link). It covers domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. In a nutshell, the Commissioner’s Office will investigate, the player will be placed on leave for up to seven days, and commissioner Rob Manfred can impose any discipline he chooses. There is no minimum or maximum suspension, and discipline is not dependent on whether there are charges or a conviction. After the Ray Rice situation and everything else going on in the NFL, MLB and the MLBPA did a good job getting an agreement worked out. Manfred has the ability to be heavy-handed from the start.

Some online streaming to start next season

According to John Ourand and Eric Fisher, MLB and FOX have agreed to a deal making games available for in-market online streaming. There’s a catch: it only covers FOX affiliates. So Yankees fans in New York won’t be able to watch YES online just yet. FOX holds local broadcast rights to 15 teams, so this does cover half the league. That’s a start.

Part of the hold up with other broadcast networks is MLB’s requirement that MLBAM’s operation be in control to ensure the video security and quality, as well as a 4% rights fee. It’ll end up costing regional networks like YES and SNY a couple million bucks to make games available online in-market, say Ourand and Fisher. Hopefully the other networks hammer out a deal soon. It’s 2015. I’d like to be able to watch the Yankees on something other than my TV.

Update: Turns out the Yankees are covered by the FOX streaming deal. How about that? FOX owns a big stake in YES, remember. They bought in a few years ago.

In new book, Posada opens up about bitterness towards Yankees at end of career

(Posada)
Count ’em. (Posada)

Like many all-time greats before and after him, the end of Jorge Posada‘s playing career was not pretty. Posada hit .235/.315/.398 (92 wRC+) in 387 plate appearances as a 39-year-old in 2011, down from the .248/.357/.454 (119 wRC+) batting line he put up in 2011. By catcher standards, Jorge remained remarkably productive in his mid-to-late-30s. That’s why he’s a borderline Hall of Famer.

Posada’s time as a full-time catcher started to come to an end back in 2008. He caught only 30 games that year due to shoulder surgery, caught 100 games in 2009, then only 83 games in 2010. The Yankees signed Russell Martin and moved Posada to DH full-time for the 2011 season. Jorge once said he thought the team’s decision to move him from second base to catcher in the minors was the “worst decision ever,” and now two decades later he was being moved out from behind the plate.

In his upcoming book “The Journey Home: My Life in Pinstripes,” Posada opens up about just how bitter he was following the club’s decision to move him to DH, and about the way the end of his career played out in general. Sherryl Connelly has some snippets.

“I’ll put this as plainly as a I can,” writes the man who caught 1,574 games for the Bronx Bombers, “When you take me out from behind the plate, you’re taking away my heart and my passion.”

“I knew that my role with the club was changing, but I don’t think that anyone making those decisions knew how much the things being done hurt me,” he confesses.

“To have even that taken away from me without adequate explanation, hurt me and confused me,” he writes.

From the sound of it, the Yankees simply decided to move Posada out from behind the plate without consulting him. That seems a little harsh even though we all know Jorge would have fought the move. The only way the Yankees were going to get him to stop catching was by taking the equipment away from him.

It’s important to remember the Yankees didn’t just move Posada to DH for the hell of it. Yes, his defense was terrible, but they were also looking out for his health. Posada had concussion issues later in his career, including one in September 2010 that Jorge himself said was “scary, I have to admit.” He described the test results as “not good.”

Still, Posada was hurt by the decision to move him off catcher, and once his offensive production became untenable in 2011, he was upset about being moved down in the lineup. Joe Girardi penciled Posada into the ninth spot in the lineup for a nationally televised game against the Red Sox in August, which upset Jorge, who refused to play.

“I felt like I wasn’t being treated right, that people weren’t always being as straightforward with me as I wanted them to be or treating me as I deserved to be treated, and I exploded.

“I’d just put up with enough.”

Posada claims he was truly regretful and expressed that to management but “those sentiments were never returned.”

I think Girardi’s a really good manager, but I also think he handled that situation poorly. It’s easy to understand why Posada was upset when he found out he would bat ninth for the first time in years on a nationally televised game against the Red Sox. I don’t think Girardi did it to intentionally embarrass Posada, but it was still a bad move. Does that mean refusing to play was the right move? No. Neither side handled it well.

Posada also discusses his relationship with Girardi in the book and how Girardi was different than Joe Torre, who Jorge considered his “father on the field.” Apparently a turning point was Girardi’s decision to communicate daily lineup decisions via text — he’d simply text “catcher” or “DH” to let Posada know where he was playing on a given day. Girardi still does that to this day because, well, it’s 2015 and people communicate via text. Still, Posada felt it hurt their relationship.

While Jorge was upset with the way the end of his career played out, it hasn’t fractured any sort of relationship with the organization. Posada has yet to appear at an Old Timers’ Day but has been back at Yankee Stadium several times in recent years, most notably throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the 2012 home opener and being on hand for farewell ceremonies for Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. Heck, he was in the YES booth this past weekend. He’s also been to Spring Training as a guest instructor.

The Yankees will retire No. 20 in Posada’s honor later this year and I think it is absolutely, 100% deserved. He’s one of the best players in franchise history and was a linchpin during the club’s four most recent World Series titles. I’m disappointed to hear Posada was so upset with the Yankees towards the end of his career — the Yankees brought some of that on themselves, for sure — but I’m happy this is all in the past and two sides have what appears to be a good relationship these days.