In his first Grapefruit League game in nearly two years, Michael Pineda struck out four and allowed a single in two scoreless innings of work against the Tigers on Friday night. The four hitters he struck out were Austin Jackson, Danny Worth, Rajai Davis, and Miguel Cabrera. Three legit big leaguers, including the best hitter on the planet. Not bad. Twenty-one of his 27 pitches were strikes.
According to Joel Sherman, Pineda’s fastball was clocked mostly in the 90-92 mph range with one 93. His slider was 80-82 mph. Not bad velocity following shoulder surgery but obviously not where he was sitting during his All-Star rookie season in 2011. “If I’m the Yankees, I’m pleased. Enough velocity. Sharp with slider and location. Appeared confident and aggressive,” said a scout to Sherman. So far, so good. Pineda’s next start will be Thursday’s game, which will air on YES and MLB.tv. · (23) ·
The Yankees are at home playing the Tigers tonight, but unfortunately the game will not be broadcast anywhere. Not on television, not on the radio, not online. That really bites because Michael Pineda is scheduled to come out of the bullpen to make his first Spring Training appearance in nearly two years, and I know lots of people (myself included) want to get a look at him. Sucks.
Hiroki Kuroda is getting the start, then David Robertson will come out the bullpen before Pineda. Alfonso Soriano is playing in right field for the first time not just this spring, but his entire career. He’s never played a game at the position before and given the current roster, he’s expected to split time there with Carlos Beltran this summer. Tonight is his first test as part of what amounts to a Spring Training crash course. You can follow the game on Gameday right here. Here’s the rest of the news from Tampa.
- Vidal Nuno (simulated game) and Adam Warren (bullpen) were among the pitchers to throw. Slade Heathcott (knee surgery) will hit off a tee for the first time tomorrow but he is not yet working out in the outfield. [Chad Jennings]
- Jose Ramirez (oblique) is getting better, but he is still receiving treatment and not scheduled to return to the mound anytime soon. Francisco Rondon (shoulder) will throw his first bullpen session tomorrow. [Marly Rivera]
- Robertson, Soriano, Beltran, Warren, Derek Jeter, Brian McCann, Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia, and Dean Anna are among those who will travel to Panama for the exhibition games next weekend. Sabathia and Warren will start the two games. [Mark Feinsand, Jennings]
Here is your open thread for the night. As I said, tonight’s game is not being broadcast anywhere. Here’s the Gameday link one more time. MLB Network will re-air a different game later tonight and all five of the hockey and basketball locals are playing as well. Talk about those games or anything else right here. Enjoy.
Yogi Berra’s wife Carmen has passed away due to complications from a stroke suffered earlier this year, reports the Daily News. She was 85. The two celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary on January 26th. “She died peacefully — she went the way she would have wanted to. We’re grateful that she and dad were able to spend some good time together (Thursday),” said Larry Berra, their son.
Carmen and Yogi met in St. Louis in the 1940s, at a restaurant where she worked as a waitress. Yogi was a minor leaguer and had just returned from serving in World War II at the time. Carmen played a big role in the operation of the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey, primarily working with donors and fund-raising events. Our condolences go out to Yogi, his family, and friends. · (17) ·
Last year, the Yankees got close to zero help from their farm system. The only player to come up from the minors and establish himself as a big leaguer was Adam Warren, who spent the year as the swingman. Guys like David Adams, Preston Claiborne, and Zoilo Almonte got off to hot starts, but they all tailed off once they were pressed into regular playing time. Austin Romine also failed to impress as the backup catcher. The system offered close to no help as the injuries mounted and the poor stretches turned into poor seasons.
The Yankees were not oblivious to this — Hal Steinbrenner called a staff meeting and essentially had the scouting and player development staff audited to figure out why there were no internal solution. No major personnel changes were made, but some procedural changes were implemented and the minor league complex in Tampa was renovated. Turning around the system probably won’t happen overnight, but the team did take some steps in the right direction these last few months.
At some point this season, the Yankees will have to dip into their farm system for help. It’s inevitable. Injuries will strike and fringe players will play their way off the roster. When that happens, the first attempt at fixing the problem will come from within. The Yankees have shown they will be patient and not jump right into the trade market when they need help these last few years and I have no reason to think that will change in 2014. Here are the prospects who could come up and help the MLB team this summer.
Catcher: John Ryan Murphy
Murphy, 22, got his first taste of the big leagues late last year, but that was nothing more than a September cup of coffee following a breakout season in Double-A and Triple-A. He hit .269/.347/.426 with 29 doubles and 12 homers between the two levels and has improved so much defensively that he is now viewed as a no doubt catcher long-term. Had the Yankees not signed Brian McCann, the temptation to start Murphy in 2014 would have been be great. Instead, he figures to bide his time in Triple-A and await an injury after jumping Romine on the depth chart. Of course, he might be nothing more than trade bait. Sleeper: Eh, there really isn’t a sleeper behind the plate for 2014.
Infield: Dean Anna
Similar to Murphy, Anna figures to be the first called up whenever injury strikes the infield. The Yankees acquired the 27-year-old from the Padres in a minor offseason deal and he can do a little of everything except hit for power. He can get on base and play both second and short, where the offensive bar is pretty low. I’d say the chances of Anna coming up and being an impact player this summer are remote, but he does enough to potentially help the team both at the plate and in the field if pressed into duty. Sleeper: Jose Pirela, who’s hit .264/.334/.401 and played four positions (second, short, third, left) at Double-A the last three years.
Outfield: Zoilo Almonte
Technically, Almonte had his chance to help the MLB team last year. He came up in mid-June and had five pretty great games to start his career, but it went downhill fast and he finished the year with a .236/.274/.302 batting line in 113 big league plate appearances around an ankle injury. Almonte, 24, offers sound corner outfield defense and a switch-hitting bat, and there’s a case to be made that he’s a better fit for the bench than Ichiro Suzuki right now. Instead of making the Opening Day roster, Zoilo will have to settle for a trip to Triple-A, where he will be the first called up whenever an extra outfield body is needed. He’s the clear first in line. Sleeper: Ronnie Mustelier, who didn’t get a shot last year but could hit his way into the conversation again.
Right-handers: Dellin Betances, Mark Montgomery, Jose Ramirez
Of everyone in this post, the 25-year-old Betances probably has the best chance to crack the Opening Day roster. He finally found something resembling sustained success in the bullpen last year, pitching to a 2.06 ERA with a 93/28 K/BB in 65.2 innings after shifting into a relief role. It feels like a foregone conclusion that Betances will get a chance to not only stick in the big leagues this year, but also assume a high-profile, late-inning role. The time is now for Dellin.
Had Montgomery not gotten hurt last year, he probably would have been called up instead of Claiborne. Instead, the 23-year-old struggled to throw strikes while missing time with shoulder problems. Montgomery will likely have to show he’s back to being the guy he was from 2011-12 before getting a chance to help the MLB team with his wipeout slider. Ramirez, 24, has had trouble staying healthy over the years and sure enough, he’s already been sidelined with an oblique problem in camp. When right, his fastball-changeup combination is electric and could have a huge impact out of the bullpen, assuming the Yankees are ready to give up on him as a starter given his career-long lack of durability. Sleeper: Danny Burawa, assuming he can figure out how consistently throw strikes.
Left-handers: Cesar Cabral, Vidal Nuno
I wouldn’t be a complete shock if either Cabral or Nuno made the Opening Day roster, but, more likely, they figure to serve as up and down arms this season. The 25-year-old Cabral is a pure lefty specialist with a low-90s fastball and a sweepy slider, and his late-season cameo was impressive (nine lefties faced, six strikeouts). Nuno, 26, has a deep enough repertoire to start and we saw him do that last summer before his groin injury. In a perfect world, he’d turn into a left-handed 2009 Al Aceves, a rubber-armed swingman who could come in for one batter or four innings without much of a problem. Sleeper: Fred Lewis, who lacks sexy numbers but has the fastball-slider combination to help as a specialist.
* * *
The Yankees do not have a Xander Bogaerts or a Gregory Polanco in their farm system, that super high upside MLB ready prospect with a clear path to big league playing time in 2014. Any help they get from within this summer figures to come in small doses, from bench players or relievers. Sure, Murphy could take over as the starter if McCann gets hurt or Nuno could grab the fifth starter’s spot and run with it, but that would be a surprise. The system is not a position to provide an immediate impact right now unless it involves trading prospects for a big leaguer.
Six questions and six answers this week. The best way to send us anything is with the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.
Mark asks: After seeing the Giants end their brief mini-divorce with Barry Bonds this spring, do you think the Yankees should break the ice with Roger Clemens and invite him to an Old Timers’ Day? I would ask about inviting him to Spring Training as an instructor as well, but that looks to be impossible as long as he’s employed by the Astros.
I think these two situations are a little different. Bonds and the Giants were never on bad terms; he was at the ballpark all the time these last few years, and they’ve had him throw out the ceremonial first pitch and stuff like that. This spring is the first time he rejoined the team in an official capacity (special hitting instructor), but it’s far from the first time he’s been around the club since he was forced into retirement. Bonds still is and always has been beloved in San Francisco.
The Yankees have kept their distance from Clemens for whatever reason, maybe due to all the performance-enhancing drug stuff that went down after his career (which forced Andy Pettitte to testify). There was never any tension between the two sides, right? Maybe something happened that we don’t know about. I would like to see the team invite Clemens back for Old Timers’ Day — he did win two World Series, four pennants, and a Cy Young in pinstripes, after all — but it seems like he has been intentionally cast aside. I don’t get it. Am I forgetting something obvious? This feels like something that should have happened a while ago.
Dan asks: How aggressive are the Yankees being in moving Ichiro Suzuki? He’s a decent 4th outfielder, but it honestly seems like Zoilo Almonte is better at this point (and maybe you want to see if he can be an everyday player in the next few years). Would they be willing to eat more than half of Ichiro‘s contract to move him? Or in the alternative, move him for a similarly overpriced, underperforming player in a position of need?
The Yankees have been shopping Ichiro for weeks but I don’t know how aggressively they’ve been pushing him. We’ve heard they were open a trade involving a player making a similar salary (J.J. Putz, most notably) and I assume they’d be willing to eat part of his salary to facilitate a trade. Saving a few million bucks that could be put towards a reliever or a midseason pickup would be a net gain.
I think Almonte could step right in and do a comparable job to Ichiro, perhaps providing less on the bases and in the field but a little more at the plate (wouldn’t having a switch-hitter available off the bench be nice?). If Zoilo doesn’t cut it, maybe Russ Canzler or Dean Anna would. The Yankees have some options. Some team is going to lose an outfielder to injury at some point this spring (Cameron Maybin and Andy Dirks are already hurt) and that could result in more interest in Ichiro. At this point, I think they’re stuck starting the season with him on the bench.
Paul asks: The Yankees are hoping Michael Pineda gets the 5th starter spot. Let’s assume he does. Does that make the bullpen David Robertson, Matt Thornton, Shawn Kelley, David Phelps, Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno, Preston Claiborne? Maybe Nuno stays stretched out in AAA and Dellin Betances makes the team (though that leaves only one lefty in the ‘pen)? Any other potential BP arms I’m missing?
Joe Girardi has already confirmed both Phelps and Warren will make the team in some capacity, so if Pineda wins the fifth starter’s job, those two will be in the bullpen. In that case, I would think Nuno would go to Triple-A to remain stretched out as the sixth starter. Girardi has said they’re open to keeping him (and everyone else) as a reliever though. If Nuno goes to the minors, it would clear the path for Betances, Cesar Cabral, Matt Daley, Manny Banuelos, or whoever else in addition to Claiborne. Betances has performed well in camp so far but we still have more than three weeks to go before the last few spots in the bullpen need to be finalized. A lot can change.
T.J. asks: I know it is early, but with the close of Spring Training, there will be an inevitable roster crunch. Do you see some trades taking place for some relief, or do you think we will just have to risk losing some middle-tier prospects? No pun intended, but that relief, will probably turn out to be spots in the bullpen for non-roster pitchers.
The 40-man roster is really tight right now. Short of a trade that sends Ichiro or one of the catchers (Austin Romine? John Ryan Murphy?) away for a non-40-man piece, the Yankees are going to have cut someone who is potentially useful to clear a roster spot. Right now, the most likely candidates to me are Nik Turley, Ramon Flores, and Anna. That’s really it. There are no 60-day DL candidates right now either. The Yankees might have to clear 40-man spots for Scott Sizemore, Daley, or Canzler if they make the team, but otherwise they have enough 40-man pieces to fill out the roster. Eduardo Nunez could sit on the bench while Betances, Cabral, and/or Claiborne fill out the bullpen.
Spencer asks: Why did the Yankees not express interest in Chien-Ming Wang earlier before he signed with the Reds?
The Yankees had Wang in Triple-A for a few months last season, so they got a first hand look at him. He wasn’t very good (7.67 ERA and 5.42 FIP in 27 innings) with the Blue Jays after being released, and this winter he had to take yet another minor league contract. CMW will be 34 later this month and he has not been an effective pitcher since hurting his foot in Houston back in June 2008. Injuries completely ruined him. The Yankees gave him a shot last year but he proved not to be worth it. Time to move on, that’s all.
Bill asks: I’ve seen a lot of ink saying Masahiro Tanaka should be the third starter. Assuming CC Sabathia is 1 and Hiroki Kuroda is 2, shouldn’t the Yanks put someone between Tanaka and Kuroda because of the similarity of their pitching styles?
I honestly don’t think this is that big of the deal. The rotation will be thrown out of whack by off-days and rain outs and whatnot at some point in April, so it’s only a matter of time before Kuroda and Tanaka get separated. I think the whole “their style is too similar to pitch back-to-back” is a bigger deal within an individual game (replacing a fastball-slider pitcher with another fastball-slider pitcher, for example) and not necessarily day after day. Maybe it would be beneficial to split Kuroda and Tanaka up in the rotation, but I think that will happen organically at some point early in the season anyway. To be honest, I’m more focused on having Tanaka start one of the first three games of the season because I’d like to see him get off to a good start, which he is more likely to do against the terrible Astros than the slightly less terrible Blue Jays.
Following a 90-minute rain delay, the Yankees got back into the win column with a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Phillies this afternoon. Masahiro Tanaka made his second appearance (first start) of the spring, allowing a solo homer in three otherwise strong innings. He struck out one, walked zero, and recorded seven outs on the ground compared to one in the air. Pretty good day if you ask me.
In their first games of the spring, both Mark Teixeira (wrist) and Alfonso Soriano (flu) went 0-for-3. Soriano struck out all three times. Derek Jeter went 2-for-3 with a ground ball single and a line drive double, which were his first base hit and first ball hit in the air of the spring, respectively. Kelly Johnson had two more hits to continue his nice spring. Ramon Flores crushed a solo homer and had the go-ahead sac fly in the eighth, capping a rally created by Gary Sanchez (single) and Jose Pirela (double). Here’s the box score and here’s the rest from a rainy day in Tampa.
- Today was the first of the Yankees’ seven spring games with the expanded replay system, but there was some kind of electrical problem, so it wasn’t available. Go figure. The Phillies tried to challenge a play but couldn’t.
- CC Sabathia threw his simulated game as scheduled, presumably indoors given the weather. He unveiled a new cutter during the session, a pitch he learned from Andy Pettitte. “He showed me the grip for the cutter. I used it [Thursday] and I am going to take it into the game.,” said Sabathia. [George King]
- Manny Banuelos will throw an inning in Saturday’s game. It will be his first real game action in about 20 months due to elbow problems. Tyler Austin (wrist) hit off a tee as he works his way back from lingering soreness. [Chad Jennings]
- And, just in case you were worried, Joe Girardi confirmed that Carlos Beltran was scratched from this afternoon’s game because of the weather. He’s not hurt, they just don’t want him and knees on the wet outfield. [Bryan Hoch]
This is your open thread for the night. This afternoon’s Yankees game will not re-air anywhere, but MLB Network is showing Dodgers-Angels on tape delay later tonight, if you’re interested. The Nets are playing as well. Talk about whatever here. Go nuts.
The Yankees relied on international free agents as the backbone of their farm system for years and years, but the new spending restrictions severely limit the team’s ability to build through Latin America. Two years ago they were capped at $2.9M — a touch less than they gave C Gary Sanchez alone back in 2009 — and last summer it was only $1.88M, the third smallest bonus pool in the game. Tough to stick to that number and add impact players.
According to Ben Badler (subs. req’d), the Yankees used that $1.88M pool to sign 45 (!) players last year. Well, kinda. All of that money and then some went to Dominican OF Leonardo Molina ($1.4M) and Dominican SS Yonauris Rodriguez ($570k). The Yankees exceeded their pool by roughly $93k on those two players alone, almost exactly a 5% overage. That results in a $70k tax, or 75% of the overage. Four other players signed for the $50k exemption (each team gets six) and the other 39 signed for no more than the $7,500 exemption (unlimited). Most of those guys are roster fillers and not serious prospects.
The 16-year-old Molina (no relation to the catching brothers) is now listed at 6-foot-2 and 180 lbs. and was one of the top available players on the international market. “Molina set himself apart with some of the best raw tools and athleticism in Latin America last year,” wrote Badler while noting Molina’s strong arm and defensive skills. “He has plus bat speed and a level stroke with good swing path, but he has an unorthodox load that causes his hands to get started a little early. Molina showed the ability to backspin a ball with gap power when he signed, but with added weight and strength since then, his power has already started to tick up significantly, taking balls over the center-field batter’s eye in batting practice.”
Rodriguez, 16, is considered a no doubt shortstop who has some work to be before becoming a real threat at the plate. “With a wiry 6-foot-1, 155-pound frame, Rodriguez projects to stay at the position with good hands and an above-average arm … (his) defense is ahead of his righthanded bat. He will hit some doubles but doesn’t have much power, so he’ll have to focus on line drives and getting on base,” wrote Badler. Here’s video. Both Rodriguez and Molina have a chance to make their pro debuts with one of the team’s two Rookie Gulf Coast League affiliates later this year.
In addition to their two big money signings, the Yankees also landed 19-year-old Dominican LHP Orby Taveras, who signed for one of the $50k exemptions. He already stands 6-foot-4 and 225 lbs. and “throws 88-91 mph, scrapes 92 and complements it with feel for a changeup that’s ahead of his three-quarters breaking ball,” according to Balder, who says Taveras also has a good plan on the mound despite his lack of experience. Dominican OF Frank Frias ($7,500) and Dominican RHP Jhon Morban ($3,000) both stood out for their performances in the Dominican Summer League after signing.
The Yankees are said to be planning a huge international spending spree this year, one that may reportedly cost upwards of $30M between signing bonuses and the taxes excised for exceeding their spending pool. That would help cover for the three top draft picks the team surrendered as free agent compensation this winter. The Yankees will face spending restrictions in future years if they go on such a spree, but the general belief is that an international draft is on the horizon. If so, this summer may be New York’s last chance to target and sign any available international player.
This afternoon’s Grapefruit League game against the Phillies is no ordinary Spring Training game. Not even close. There is be a lot going on for the Yankees this afternoon, with Masahiro Tanaka‘s first start (second appearance) being the headliner. He is starting on a normal five-day schedule, his first time doing so, and because he’s starting, he’ll see mostly big leaguers. That’s kind of a big deal.
That’s not it, though. Mark Teixeira will also be playing in his first spring game after missing nearly all of last year due to a tendon sheath problem in his right wrist. He had surgery in early-July and has been slowly working his way back. With no obvious first base alternative in camp, Teixeira’s health and production is very important to the Yankees this season. Alfonso Soriano, who has been battling the flu, will also play his first spring game today.
But wait, there’s more. For the first time this spring, the Yankees will get a chance to try out the new expanded replay system. Each team will play a handful of “test” games with the new system — not every park has the proper equipment, so they can’t do it every game — and Joe Girardi said he plans to use the system as much as possible to get familiar with it. They’re going to have people checking replays and relaying information like they will during the season.
No, the bad news: it’s pouring in Florida. Pretty much the entire state, but especially the Tampa area. The Yankees are on the road to play the Phillies, but their complex in Clearwater is like, 15 minutes away. The weather will be a problem and there’s a good chance this afternoon’s game will not be played. I suppose they could wait it out, but it is Spring Training. They tend to pull the plug on these games quickly. The Yankees have bused over the stadium though, so here’s the starting lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- RF Carlos Beltran
- C Brian McCann
- DH Alfonso Soriano
- 3B Kelly Johnson
- 2B Brian Roberts
- CF Mason Williams
And on the mound is Tanaka for the second time this spring. His first outing was rather impressive and I think we all want to see some more.
Available Pitchers: RHP Bruce Billings, RHP Chris Leroux, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Danny Burawa, and LHP Fred Lewis are all scheduled to pitch. RHP Preston Claiborne, LHP Cesar Cabral, RHP Brian Gordon, and RHP Chase Whitley also made the trip and are available if needed.
Available Position Players: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Corban Joseph, 2B Yangervis Solarte, SS Brendan Ryan, 3B Scott Sizemore, LF Ramon Flores, CF Antoan Richardson, and RF Adonis Garcia will come off the bench. C Francisco Arcia, 1B/C Jose Gil, C Gary Sanchez, C Peter O’Brien, and UTIL Jose Pirela are also available.
There is no YES broadcast of this afternoon’s game. The network usually doesn’t travel. The game can be seen live on both MLB Network and MLB.tv though, so if they do play, make sure you tune in. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 1pm ET. Enjoy.
Update (1:05pm): I haven’t seen an official announcement yet, but the game is very obviously in a delay right now. A cancellation is sure to follow at some point.
Update (1:27pm): First pitch is currently scheduled for 2:30pm ET. How about that?
Update (1:58pm): Carlos Beltran has been scratched from the game. Ramon Flores will take his place in right field. I assume the Yankees don’t want him playing on the wet outfield.
Update (2:30pm): Game on! They have started played, which seemed impossible not too long ago.