Spring Training Game Thread: Ellsbury’s Return

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

After spending two weeks sidelined by a minor oblique injury, Jacoby Ellsbury returns to Grapefruit League play this afternoon. He played went through the usual rehab progression — dry swings, hit off a tee and soft toss, hit in the batting cage, full batting practice on the field — before playing in a minor league game yesterday, which he came through just fine. Ellsbury has four spring games remaining to get tuned up for the season.

Today’s reason to watch: Ellsbury’s return, first and foremost. Missing two weeks isn’t a huge deal, but it is Spring Training, so he does have some catching up to do. Also, Chase Whitley and Chasen Shreve will make either their last or second to last appearances before the final two bullpen spots are decided. This might be their last chance to make a statement.

The Rays are up from Port Charlotte for this afternoon’s game. Here is Tampa Bay’s lineup and here is Joe Girardi‘s starting lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. DH Alex Rodriguez
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. SS Brendan Ryan
    RHP Chase Whitley

Available Position Players: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Garrett Jones, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Taylor Dugas, CF Jake Cave, and RF Ramon Flores will be the second string off the bench. C Austin Romine and C Eddy Rodriguez are the extra players.

Available Pitchers: RHP Esmil Rogers, LHP Chasen Shreve, RHP Andrew Bailey, RHP Nick Rumbelow, RHP Jose Ramirez, and LHP Tyler Webb are all scheduled to pitch. LHP Jacob Lindgren, RHP Diego Moreno, and LHP Fred Lewis are the extra arms.

It’s a little cloudy in Tampa but there’s no rain in the forecast and the temperature is in the low-80s. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch live on YES and MLB.tv. The game won’t be blacked out on MLB.tv in either team’s home market. Enjoy.

Thoughts five days before Opening Day

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Just five more days. Five more days of this Spring Training nonsense before the start of the 2015 regular season. To say I’m antsy would be an understatement. Win or lose, I feel like this year’s Yankees will be more enjoyable to watch than the last two years. Lots of power arms and way more athleticism. Hopefully it translates to wins. Here are some miscellaneous thoughts heading into the season.

1. Let’s start with the elephant in the room: what if Dellin Betances stinks now? Even just temporarily. Say his rough spring carries over into the regular season and he’s still struggling with his command and mechanics at the end of the April. Betances has a minor league option left, so the Yankees could send him to Triple-A, but my guess is they would give him lots of time to iron things out unless he was just awful. If that does happen, I guess Andrew Miller would step in as closer with David Carpenter serving as his primary eighth inning guy and Justin Wilson handling the tough lefties, sorta like Boone Logan back in the day. That would leave Betances and I guess Chasen Shreve for the middle innings with Chase Whitley and Esmil Rogers as multi-inning guys. (Assuming Chase and Chasen get those last bullpen spots.) The Yankees have bullpen depth, but Betances is close to irreplaceable. Having him turn back into the old version of Dellin would really throw a wrench into things.

2. Isn’t it amazing how important Didi Gregorius has already become? He landed awkwardly on his wrist last week and everyone immediately held their breath when the trainer came out. That typically isn’t the kind of reaction a potential injury to the ninth place hitter generates. Gregorius has shown this spring his defense is as good as advertised and his bat has maybe more potential than we realized at the time of the trade. Sure, it’s only March, but we’ve seen nothing but positives from Didi. The possibility of replacing him with Brendan Ryan — or even sliding Stephen Drew to short and letting Rob Refsnyder play second — is something no one wants to see. Gregorius has very quickly emerged as not just an important player for the Yankees, but arguably their most entertaining position player. I’m not the only one who thinks that, right?

3. Random observation: Michael Fishman is now listed as an assistant GM on the team’s masthead. Fishman has been the head of New York’s statistical analysis department for years — his old title was “director of quantitative analysis” — but apparently he was recently promoted. Very recently too. Fishman wasn’t listed on the team’s masthead at all as recently as March 16th. For years and years Brian Cashman had just one assistant (Jean Afterman), but he’s now added two in the last three years: Billy Eppler in February 2012 and Fishman. I have no idea who handles what or how their relationships work, so who knows if this is a good arrangement, though I am a fan in general of having many different voices in the front office. With Cashman, Eppler, Afterman, Fishman, and special assistants like Jim Hendry and Gene Michael, the Yankees have a nice blend of old school and new school in the front office.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

4. I am honestly not at all concerned about CC Sabathia‘s spring performance. I guess that’s partly because I don’t have particularly high hopes for him in the regular season, so it’s not like this spring is a shock to the system, but it’s also because he’s coming off a ten-month layoff and knee surgery. And veteran guys in general seem to take it easy in Spring Training and focus on preparing for the season, not necessarily competing. Sabathia’s been doing this a long time and he knows what he needs to do to get ready. Why would he deviate from that? I’m encouraged his velocity is up into the 90-92 mph range, which still isn’t great but it’s way better than the 88-90 mph heat he was taking out to the mound early last year. Hopefully Sabathia can be a league average innings eater this summer. That would be a big help.

5. Our predictions at CBS will be posted Friday, but I’m going to give you a sneak preview of mine now. I have the Orioles, Indians, Angels, Nationals, Cardinals, and Dodgers winning the division with the Mariners, Tigers, Marlins, and Padres as the wildcard teams. Dodgers over Indians in the World Series. I have the Yankees finishing third in the AL East behind the O’s and Red Sox and Sabathia winning the AL Comeback Player of the Year award, because why not? Robinson Cano and Matt Kemp are my MVP picks — MVP is not the most WAR award, I’m banking on the voters picking Kemp after he hits the snot out of the ball and leads San Diego to the postseason — and I have Clayton Kershaw and David Price as my Cy Young picks. I’m going to be wrong. With everything. Except Matt Harvey winning NL Comeback Player of the Year. That’s a slam dunk. Otherwise predictions are nothing more than harmless fun. Feel free to call me out when Cano’s hitting .265 on June 1st or when the Yankees win the World Series.

Open Thread: March 31st Camp Notes

The Yankees lost 3-1 to the Twins this afternoon. Masahiro Tanaka started and was shaky, allowing three runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings before reaching his pitch count (75). He struck out one and walked zero. His next start will be Opening Day. Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and Nathan Eovaldi have combined for 44 strikeouts and two walks in 44 innings this spring, by the way. Bullpen candidate Chris Martin retired all six Twins he faced, including five via strikeout.

Brett Gardner, the only everyday player in the lineup, went 1-for-2 with a walk. Brendan Ryan and Garrett Jones both went hitless in three at-bats while Chris Young went 1-for-3. Ramon Flores went 2-for-4 and singled in the team’s only run. Rob Refsnyder went 1-for-3 with a walk and committed his sixth error in 78 defensive innings this spring. Yeesh. Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here’s the rest from Spring Training:

This is your open thread for the evening. MLB Network is showing the Padres and Royals live later tonight, plus the (hockey) Rangers, Devils, and Nets are all in action. Talk about whatever. Have at it.

Yankees discussing minor league coaching position with Tino Martinez

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are currently discussing a minor league coaching position with former first baseman Tino Martinez, reports George King. The Associated Press says it’s a done deal, though some comments Martinez made to King yesterday make it seem like nothing is final just yet.

“We are talking about it. Seeing minor league teams a couple of times a month,” said Tino to King. “(Farm system head Gary Denbo) asked me to help out, and I have been doing a little bit of everything. These kids are so willing to learn, they want to move up.’’

Martinez, 47, has been at Spring Training as a guest instructor. He spent 2008-09 in the team’s front office as a special assistant, and he spent half of 2013 as the Marlins hitting coach. Tino resigned that July amid allegations he verbally and physically abused players, which, uh, isn’t cool.

I have no idea what kind of instructor Martinez is, so I couldn’t tell you if he would be a good hire or a bad hire. I’m sure the Yankees did their homework. That said, my guess is if this was someone other than Tino Martinez, the abuse allegations wouldn’t be overlooked so easily.

The Summer of A-Rod: Looking At Upcoming Milestones [2015 Season Preview]

As Yankees fans, we’ve been fortunate to see a lot of historic moments over the years. Derek Jeter seemed to pass someone on some all-time list every other game last season. Mariano Rivera rewrote the record book for closers and others like Roger Clemens and Ichiro Suzuki had historic moments while passing through the Bronx.

The 2015 season is shaping up to be a good but not great milestone season for the Yankees. Some players will hit a few nice round numbers but we’re not going to see anything like we did with Jeter and Mariano the last few seasons. Well, that’s not true. The Yankees do have one all-time great close to reaching not one, but three historic milestones. The problem is everyone hates the guy.

As we get closer to wrapping up our season preview series, let’s look at some notable upcoming milestones. We’re only going to focus on the major, somewhat historical milestones though. No one really cares Andrew Miller is ten strikeouts away from 500 for his career, right? Right. Let’s get to it.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Summer of A-Rod

3,000th hit: 61 away
2,000th RBI: 31 away
660th home run: six away

Now that his suspension is over, Alex Rodriguez is able to continue his pursuit of some seriously historic milestones. With good health, he can become the 29th player in history with 3,000 hits and only the fourth ever with 2,000 RBI this season. He can also tie Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time homer list, triggering the first of his five $6M bonuses. Needless to say, the health part is far from guaranteed. Alex wasn’t particularly durable in the years immediately prior to the suspension, remember.

Here’s the coolest part: A-Rod could reach all three milestones on the same swing. It’s extremely unlikely to happen, but the math suggests it’s possible. One swing … bam. He gets his 3,000th hit, 2,000th RBI, and 660th homer all at once. It would be amazing. Jeter and Wade Boggs are the only players to go deep for their 3,000th hit, which is kinda funny since neither was a home run hitter, and it’s been almost a half-century since a player reached the 2,000th RBI plateau. Hank Aaron was the last to do it in 1972. (Babe Ruth and Cap Anson are the other members of the 2,000 RBI club.)

Should A-Rod reach the three milestones at some point this year, all on one swing or otherwise, I don’t think they’ll come with the usual celebration from fans and the Yankees. Announcers will mention it and writers will write about it, but I don’t think we’ll sit through some kind of massive chase like when Jeter was going after his 3,000th hit. That got non-stop, wall-to-wall coverage. That’s fine. Alex made his own bed and he has to sleep in it. I’m still rooting like hell for him though.

CC Sabathia

3,000th inning: 178.2 away
2,500th strikeout: 63 away

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Once upon a time, we would laugh at the idea of Sabathia throwing “only” 178.2 innings in a season. This is a guy who averaged 215 innings a year from 2001-11, which is bonkers. But, between last year’s knee surgery and his natural age-related decline, getting to 178.2 innings is hardly a guarantee for Sabathia. Should he get there, he’d be the 135th pitcher in history to reach 3,000 innings and only the 32nd lefty to do so.

Getting to 2,500 strikeouts is a much bigger deal, historically. Sixty-three more punch outs would move Sabathia into 31st place all-time and make him only the ninth lefty in history with 2,500 strikeouts. That’s not a “stop the game so his teammates can run on the field to congratulate him” type of milestone, but it’s still pretty cool. That kind of longevity and effectiveness is quite an accomplishment.

Carlos Beltran & Mark Teixeira

400th home run: Beltran is 27 away, Teixeira is 37 away

Both of these seem pretty unlikely, though I suppose they aren’t completely impossible. Four hundred dingers is a nice round number and one heck of an accomplishment, but remember, these two are switch-hitters. Only three switch-hitters in history have hit 400+ dingers: Mickey Mantle (536), Eddie Murray (504), and Chipper Jones (468). Beltran is fourth all-time in homers by a switch-hitter and Teixeira is sixth. (Lance Berkman is fifth with 366.) If they don’t get to 400 this year, hopefully both do it before their contracts expire following next season.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Joe Girardi

1,272nd game managed with Yankees: 138 away
1,340th game managed overall: 44 away

When the Yankees play the Orioles at home on September 9th, Girardi will manage his 1,272nd game with the Yankees, jumping over Ralph Houk and into fifth place on the team’s all-time games managed list. Fifth place! It feels like Girardi was just hired yesterday, doesn’t it? My goodness. He has a long way to go before moving into fourth place — Miller Huggins managed 1,796 games in pinstripes — so after Girardi passes Houk, he’ll sit in fifth place for a few years.

If you’re wondering about wins, Girardi has managed 648 of those with the Yankees, the fifth most in franchise history. Huggins is fourth with 1,067 wins. So yeah, it’ll be a while before Girardi moves up a spot on that list. The Yankees have missed the postseason the last two years and could very well miss the playoffs again this year, though I don’t think Girardi is in danger of being fired. Hal Steinbrenner seems to like him very much and that’s the guy you want in your corner. Besides, I don’t see any reason why Girardi should be on the hot seat. If anything he’s helped prop the team up higher than their true talent level the last two years.

Anyway, Girardi will manage his 1,340th career game overall on May 24th, at home against the Rangers, which will move him into the top 100 on the all-time games managed list. Baseball-Reference says 686 men have managed at least one game in the show — I would have guessed more, though that doesn’t include bench coaches who took over in a particular game after the manager was ejected — and Girardi is close to joining the top 100 in games managed just a few months after his 50th birthday. That’s impressive. Joe’s still got a lot of managing left ahead of him.

Spring Training Game Thread: Tanaka’s Last Tune-Up

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Six days from now, Masahiro Tanaka will open the 2015 season for the Yankees at home against the Blue Jays after being named the Opening Day starter last week. This afternoon will be his final tune-up of the spring, and really it’s more about Tanaka getting his pitch count up than anything. His stuff and command have looked fine. Tanaka just needs to stretch it out up over 80 pitches this afternoon.

Today’s reason to watch: Tanaka! I’m not sure why anyone would need any more reason than that, but, if you do, prospects Rob Refsnyder, Greg Bird, and Eric Jagielo will play today as well.

The Yankees are in Fort Myers this afternoon to play the Twins, and not many regulars made the two-hour bus trip south even after yesterday’s off-day. The last thing they need is someone developing back spasms after spending four hours on a bus a week before the season. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Brendan Ryan
  3. CF Chris Young
  4. 1B Garrett Jones
  5. C Austin Romine
  6. 2B Rob Refsnyder
  7. RF Ramon Flores
  8. SS Nick Noonan
  9. DH Eric Jagielo

Available Position Players: C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Greg Bird, LF Taylor Dugas, and CF Mason Williams will be the second string off the bench. Jagielo is also slated to move from DH to third base. 1B/C Francisco Arcia, IF Dan Fiorito, OF Mark Payton, and UTIL Collin Slaybaugh are the extra players.

Available Pitchers: RHP Chris Martin, RHP Danny Burawa, RHP Branden Pinder, RHP Cesar Vargas, and RHP Nick Goody are all scheduled to pitch. RHP Kyle Haynes, RHP Chris Smith, and RHP Alex Smith are the extra arms.

The weather this spring has been pretty great and it continues today. It’s nice and sunny with temperatures in the low-80s in Fort Myers this afternoon. Today’s game will begin just after 1:05pm ET and you can watch live on both MLB Network and MLB.tv. Neither will be blacked out in the Yankees’ home market. Also, if you happen to live in the Twins’ market, you can watch on FOX Sports North. Enjoy the game.

With four candidates left in camp, Shreve and Whitley are good bets for last two bullpen spots

Chase and Chasen. (Presswire)
Chase and Chasen. (Presswire)

The Yankees open the 2015 regular season in just six days now. And, at this very moment, it’s still not clear who will fill the last two bullpen spots. We know Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances will work the late innings — assuming Betances straightens himself out — and Justin Wilson and David Carpenter will get the middle innings. Esmil Rogers will be in the bullpen in some capacity too, like it or not.

Those last two spots are still unaccounted for. In fact, the Yankees haven’t even dropped any hints about which way they may be leaning. Another long man? Two more short relievers with Rogers being the long man? A third lefty? Nothing. The only hints we’ve gotten have come via roster cuts — players optioned or reassigned to minor league camp are out of the running for the Opening Day roster. I mean, yeah, one of those players could always make the roster, but that’s a rarity. Guys are sent out because they’re no longer considered MLB options.

By my count, the Yankees have 36 players remaining in big league camp, 17 of whom are pitchers. Three of those 17 are injured — Vicente Campos (Tommy John surgery), Chris Capuano (quad), Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) — so it’s really 14 healthy pitchers. Ten of those 14 are locks for the Opening Day roster (the five relievers I mentioned earlier and the five starters), meaning the last two bullpen spots are down to a four-man race. And when you look at them individually, it’s easy to see who the two favorites are.

RHP Andrew Bailey

Bailey, 30, has throw four one-inning appearances this spring as he works his way back from a torn shoulder capsule, and he’s had at least two days off between each of those appearances. He hasn’t even worked with one day of rest between appearances, nevermind back-to-back days, which most relievers both in Yankees camp and around the league have already done at this point of spring. After spending nearly 20 months rehabbing from major shoulder surgery, four innings plus whatever Bailey throws this week doesn’t figure to be enough to land him on the Opening Day roster. Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi have continually downplayed Bailey’s chances of making the team and it makes total sense. He’s simply not ready yet.

RHP Chris Martin

Martin’s spring has been better than his 5.63 ERA would lead you to believe. He’s made nine appearances and five of the six runs he’s allowed have come in two of them, plus he has 13 strikeouts and one walk in eight innings. More importantly, the 28-year-old Martin’s stuff has looked good — hittable, but good — which might be enough to convince the Yankees they could hide him as the seventh reliever for a few weeks until Capuano returns or a Triple-A reliever forces the issue.

LHP Chasen Shreve

Not counting the guys who were competing for a rotation spot, the 24-year-old Shreve leads all relievers in camp with 10.1 innings pitched. The Yankees have given him plenty of exposure against righties — 29 of 43 batters faced have been righties — and he’s held his own, with seven strikeouts and one walk in 7.2 innings against hitters of the opposite hand. The overall Grapefruit League numbers are not good (5.23 ERA), but I don’t think the club will ding Shreve too hard given how much they’ve pushed him against righties. The Yankees are not a team that tends to dwell on spring performance. The way they’ve used him makes it seem like they want him to make the roster, or at least considered him a serious Opening Day roster candidate at one point. They might like Shreve’s split-changeup hybrid enough to carry him on the roster to open the regular season.

RHP Chase Whitley

Whitley was a fifth starter candidate but not really. He did get stretched out but only made one start, and he never did throw more than three innings in an appearance. Whitley has helped himself with a strong spring (0.79 ERA), which is better than getting hit around, especially since the Yankees know him from his time with the team last year. It’s hard to say no to a guy who was with you last year and has pitched well in camp, know what I mean? For example, in one hand the Yankees have Martin, who is new to the organization and requires you to squint your eyes to see the positive in his spring performance. In the other is Whitley, who’s three years younger than Martin, has been in the organization for years, and has pitched well in recent weeks. Seems like an obvious call to me.

* * *

The process of elimination leads me to believe Whitley and Shreve are likely to get those last two bullpen spots. Bailey simply isn’t physically ready for the big leagues yet. He hasn’t shown he can handle the workload. Whitley has pitched well and is an incumbent, and Shreve has been used in a way that suggests he is ahead of Martin on the depth chart. The signs point to Shreve and Whitley.

Of course, the bullpen is a very fluid part of the roster, and the Yankees have built enough depth that making the team on Opening Day isn’t a guarantee Shreve and Whitley won’t be in Triple-A come, say, April 20th, two weeks after Opening Day. Winning a roster spot is one thing. Keeping it is another. The Yankees have the ability to swap out relievers as needed and I expect that happen. Being on the Opening Day roster just means Shreve and Whitley (or whoever) will get the first shot at sticking all year.