Minor League News: Contreras, Norton, Henson

(Rick Stewart/Getty)
Drew Henson is back with the Yankees. (Rick Stewart/Getty)

Got a handful of minor league updates for you, mostly coaching stuff. Everything comes from Josh Norris.

  • Nardi Contreras is now a senior pitching instructor. We heard he was reassigned and replaced by Gil Patterson back in November. Going from minor league pitching coordinator to senior pitching instructor sounds like a promotion, no? Who knows.
  • Tim Norton and Drew Henson will serve as the pitching and hitting coaches, respectively, for the club’s new second Rookie Level Gulf Coast League affiliate. Norton, a former righty reliever, started to make the transition to coaching last year due to continued arm problems. Henson re-joined the organization as a part-time assistant last fall with his eye on becoming a full-time coach this year.
  • Remember RHP J.B. Cox and 3B Bradley Suttle? Well, both guys are listed in the Yankees’ 2013 media guide as players. Norris confirmed they are both still on the restricted list however, meaning they are unlikely to resume their playing career. False alarm. Cox never regained his stuff following Tommy John surgery while Suttle was hampered by multiple injuries, most notably right shoulder surgery. The former left the organization following 2010, the latter last spring.
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Ramiro Pena headlines crop of minor league free agents

Baseball America published their annual list of the offseason’s minor league free agents today, a collection of 549 total players. Here are the players the Yankees are losing to the open market…

RHP: Jason Bulger (AAA), Kelvin Castro (R), Manny Delcarmen (AAA), Grant Duff (AA), John Maine (AAA), Ronny Marte (HiA), Jon Meloan (AAA), Tim Norton (AAA), Ramon Ortiz (AAA), Kevin Whelan (AAA)
LHP: Lee Hyde (AA), Mike O’Connor (AAA), Josh Romanski (AA)
C: Jose Gil (AAA), Gustavo Molina (AAA), Craig Tatum (AAA)
3B: Kevin Russo (AAA)
SS: Doug Bernier (AAA), Walter Ibarra (AA), Ramiro Pena (AAA)
OF: Edwin Beard (SS), Cole Garner (AAA)

Pena, who has spent parts of the last four seasons in New York, headlines the crop of mostly older, veteran players. Losing the three Triple-A catchers is part of the reason why the Yankees claimed Eli Whiteside yesterday. Someone needs to sit on the bench and be the backup in Scranton. Whelan and Russo had very brief stints with the Yankees a few years ago, and Garner made some noise early in Spring Training this year. Duff and Norton have already transitioned to coaching within the organization.

The Yankees already re-signed four would-be minor league free agents to new minor league contracts a few weeks ago, most notably lefty Juan Cedeno and outfielder Abe Almonte. Andrew Brackman (Reds) is the most notable former Yankees farmhand cut lose by another team.

Tim Norton trying to “make the transition into being a pitching coach”

About a week ago we learned that Tim Norton was placed on the minor league DL despite reports that he was “throwing bullpens and feeling fine,” and now we finally have something resembling a real update. Brendan McGair reports that Norton is currently serving as an interim pitching coach in Extended Spring Training, and there’s a chance he’ll work in a similar capacity for the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League team once the season starts in June.

“He wants to stay in the game, but I don’t think his arm was responding like he wanted it to,” said Pat Roessler, the Yanks’ director of player development. “He just didn’t come around like we had hoped … Right now Tim is trying to make the transition into being a pitching coach for us.”

Norton, 28, was the team’s eighth round pick out of UConn in 2006. He’s battled significant shoulder problems as a pro, though last season he was on the cusp of the big leagues after striking out 46 and walking just eight in 30 IP for Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. The shoulder acted up again, ending his season. Norton’s injury is part of the reason why the Yankees had to pick up Cory Wade. It’s too bad his right arm betrayed him, he definitely had big league ability out of the bullpen.

Tim Norton Update: Throwing bullpens and feeling fine

Via Donnie Collins, VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman said right-handed reliever Tim Norton is currently “throwing bullpens and feeling fine” following a shoulder injury that ended his season in June. The 28-year-old was brilliant — 46 K and 8 BB in 30 IP — and on the verge of a call-up before suffering his latest shoulder ailment. It was his injury that prompted the Yankees to pick up Cory Wade off the scrap heap. Hopefully Norton stays on the field and continues to make noise this year, but his career-long injury issues leave me pessimistic.

Heathcott may be out for season, Turley out a month

Via Josh Norris, Slade Heathcott has missed most of the last month or so with a left shoulder issue, and it’s likely that he’ll miss the rest of the season. He had surgery on the shoulder this past offseason, and apparently a second surgery is possible. That’s his throwing arm, by the way. That really sucks. Nik Turley, meanwhile, will miss about a month with a broken hand. Line drive got him. He’s already over his previous career high in innings, so the rest might not be the worst thing in the world. Too bad it’s not by choice.

Need some good news? Donnie Collins says that Tim Norton is about a week or so from returning to the mound, which sounds hard to believe after the report of his labrum being severely torn and his career being in jeopardy. Mark Newman confirmed that he’s a week away, so it’s obvious the original injury report was wrong. Great news, Norton was having an absurdly dominant year.