Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Big Bart

With Ivan Nova all but locking up the 4 spot in the Yankees rotation, one spot still remains open. It seems Sergio Mitre is destined for the long relief spot in the bullpen. So for the final week of spring, Bartolo Colon will battle Freddy Garcia for the final spot even though that battle seems to be over. Garcia is not likely to see anymore action in the big league camp, although he is scheduled to pitch in a minor league game this week.

Brian Cashman said "We have a pretty good idea of what Freddy can do." He said that Colon was just way more surprising this month. Joe Girardi seems to agree. Girardi explains that he is no longer a power pitcher but he can still get his velocity up to about 93MPH and can still locate very well. A long with his command, he has improved his breaking ball and his change up, essentially reinventing himself on the mound.

Garcia has not pitched badly and, if it came down to it, he could likely do a pretty decent job at the back end of the rotation but the Yankees seem to feel they have caught lightning in a bottle with Colon. There is still some life left in that right arm. The only serious concern remaining about Colon is his weight. Colon is up at 267 pounds and the Yanks are wondering if he can hold up through the dog days of summer. Girardi says that it hasn't been cool in camp lately and Colon has bounced back nicely. But his lack of a full season since his Cy Young year in 2005 begs the question; can he take the ball every 5 days for 6 months? These are the things that the Yankees must think about over the course of the next week but with AJ Burnett being named the official number 2 starter, I imagine the rotation will look like this:

1. Sabathia
2. Burnett
3. Hughes
4. Nova
5. Colon

SIDENOTE: Joba is scheduled to pitch tonight, officially putting his oblique issue behind him. Chamberlain is not worrid but Girardi will feel better after he sees him effectively throw an inning.
Pedro Feliciano (bicep tightness) threw a bullpen session in which he threw 25 pitches and reported no issues.
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Thursday, March 17, 2011


Last night, we got a glimpse of the Yankees as they will take the field on Opening Day against the Tigers. Along with their now likely number 4 starter, Ivan Nova, the Yanks showed what they can do against an Opening Day caliber Baltimore team. The Yanks put on a show with the bats including 2 doubles by Teixeira, a double by Chavez and a monster 2 run blast off the bat of Alex Rodriguez.

In fact, the only starter that did not join the hit parade was Bret Gardner who still managed to reach base by working a walk. Yes, the Yankee offense looked amazing last night but the story was (as it has been all spring) the pitching.

Ivan Nova showed his confidence and his ability by hurling 6 shutout innings against a talented O's lineup. Not only did he not give up a run, he never surrendered a hit, while striking out 4 batters. Nova's only blemishes were a hit batter in the first and an error by A-Rod. Only one hit was given up all game and it was by the most unlikely candidate, Mariano Rivera. Mo gave up a double to Vlad Guerrero. Other than that hit, Mo was strong. He needed only 12 pitches to get out of the inning even with the double to Guerrero. Prior pitched a strong inning surrendering a walk but no hits. Dave Robertson ended the game with a perfect inning, even striking out a batter.

Girardi won't admit it but with just two starts left for Nova, it's hard to see him not starting the season as the Yankees' number 4 starter. Leaving the 5 spot to Bartolo Colon and a long relief spot for Freddy Garcia. This is only speculation of course. We will know for sure in 2 weeks when the Yankees take the field in the Bronx.
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Monday, March 14, 2011

Lightning In A Bottle

It is now a 17 days until the Yankees suit up in their pinstripes. Just 17 short days until Opening Day. Spring Training is now more than half way over and dare I say it, the Yankees look to have possibly caught lightening in a bottle with several players. Of course, it all depends on how they hold up during the season, but I have to believe the Yanks are feeling good about what they see.

This may surprise you but I am not going to start with the pitching. Eric Chavez has done a great deal to turn some heads. He is batting .417 this spring and has shown range with his glove by learning to play first base. Chavez is looking to make the roster has a backup corner infielder and as long as he stays healthy, it seems the job is his.
By adding Chavez to the team, the Yanks are adding a veteran player who has the ability to play everyday and can fill in for A-Rod and Teixeira when needed without giving up a whole lot in the field. He has had some problems staying healthy recently but is looking to put that behind him.

Russell Martin has quietly had himself a nice spring. He has shown that he can be an asset at the plate as well as behind it. Martin's bat hasn't been quiet, even hitting his first spring homerun a few days ago but it is his ability to work the count and walk that had really caught my eye. He has done what the Yankees intended Nick Johnson to do last season. What has really impressed me about Martin though is his ability to call a game. He has learned the staff very well and seems comfortable catching everyone. His arm is also very impressive, which will hopefully minimize the opponent's running game.

O.K., now its on to the pitchers.

Bartolo Colon is pitching for a spot in the rotation and he has really turned some heads. His dominant command is making him a front runner for one of the two available spots in the the starting rotation. He has given up a couple of runs but he rebounds nicely and makes his pitches. I would have to say that right now he is the only front runner for a spot. It is not for lack of pitching though. It is because the other 3 guys are also bringing their A game.

Ivan Nova has been pitching very well but his last outing was less than stellar. Nova looks like the type of pitcher who always has to overcome that one bad inning during a start. Although there is hope for Nova because early on, Phil Hughes looked that way as well.

Freddy Garcia gave up 4 runs in his outing yesterday but previouly had not given up a run. It will be important to see how he bounces back from this start but he seems healthy and comfortable. You have to remember, these guys are not always going to be perfect. In fact, you expect the back end of your rotation to have the most amount of losses. With the setup the Yanks have now, I believe they are not only going to be good, but I am also havinga hard time believing this "underdog" label they have been given.

SIDE NOTE: Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera gave us our first preview to the 8th and 9th inning combo. Soriano pitched well giving up 1 hit in a scoreless frame. Mo dazzled hitters with his cutter as usual. Rivera struck out all three batters he faced, two of them looking. He threw 12 pitches, 9 for strikes in what was a dominant first outing of the spring for the closer. Mo has started his spring late as usual and is expected to throw 6-8 inning before the start of the season. Soriano is comfortable with this number and seems to be following Rivera's lead.
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Monday, March 7, 2011

The Passed Week at Yankee Camp

I'm going to have to start with Derek Jeter. He is clearly still getting used to his new stride-less swing. Jeter has asked that people not judge him on the results until opening day but the day after his first multi-hit game of the spring, it looks to be working. Jeter had a 2-3 day yesterday and both singles were positive results. Leading off the game, Jeter laced the first pitch to the left-center field gap for a line drive single. His new swing is supposed to give him more of an ability to get the ball off the ground and drive it for hits. Jeter then led off the third inning with a ground ball through the hole at second base. Here Jeter is showing his ability to still go the other way when he needs to. Obviously Jeter's swing is a working progress and we won't know much until the season starts but so far so good.

Moving right along, Francisco Cervelli has a lot to be angry about. For the third time, Cervelli has an sustained an injury that he will carry into the start of the season. It's definitely worth geting frustrated over but Cervelli isn't letting it come to that. His initial reaction was one of disappointment and dejection but, after speaking to his family and friends and celebrating his birthday, Cervelli has awoken with a positive outlook. "Let's do this" Cervelli said. Joe Girardi believes that as soon as Cervelli is physically able, he will be back with team and doing all he can to help win. Cervelli has a broken foot and will be in a walking boot for 4 weeks. His injury is expected to sideline the catcher for 4-8 weeks.
With Cervelli's injury comes a bit of good news for Jesus Montero. Sometimes this is what it takes for a young player to break into the bigs and show what he's got. Montero is on a mission to prove that not only is he ready for the back up slot, he can be the starter if the Yankees need him to be. He has amazing ability with the bat and has really impress the organization with how comfortable he looks behind the plate and how well he can call a game. The pitching staff seems to like him behind the plate. With Cervelli being hurt, it gives Montero a much better chance of making the team out of spring training.

Another guy competeing for a job is veteran hurler, Bartolo Colon. Colon threw 3 very impressive innings against the Red Sox. He comanded his pitches well and reached 94mph at one point. At this point in spring, all who are competeing for a spot in the rotation are really stating a case for the job.

Earlier today, A.J. Burnett threw three sparkling innings against the phillies. In fact, Burnett retired all nine hitters he faced. His spring has started exactly how the Yankees have hoped.

Tonight at 7:05 is the second split squad game for the Yanks. They will be facing the Orioles and Sergio Mitre is scheduled to pitch 3 innings.

Worth Mentioning: A-Rod is batting over .400 thus far and is driving the ball extremely well. Kevin Long says that he hasn't seen A-Rod's swing look this good since 2007 when Rodriguez won AL MVP.

That's all for now...more to come.
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Monday @Tigers and Tuesday @ Pirates.

The important things to take away from the 6-2 loss to the Tigers are clear. Pitching is clearly ahead of hitting but don't worry, that's just how it works in spring.

C.C. Sabathia went 2 scoreless inning. He was noticibly thinner and looks strong. His pitches looked sharp and he worked quickly. Next time through the rotation, the starters will likely pitch 3 innings each.

Manny Banuelos made his spring debut as well and let's just say it went the exact same way as Bryce Harper's debut; strikeouts. Considering Banuelos is a lefty pitcher, strikeouts are good. He first got Victor Martinez to ground out weakly to short, clearly fooling him with a changeup. Next up was Jhonny Peralta. Banuelos quickly froze him in place with a curveball that can only be described as disgusting. Strike three looking on Peralta. Brandon Inge had the same fate as he froze staring at Banuelos' curve for strike three, as well. 1-2-3 for the 19 year old who is clearly making a case to be a late season call up with fellow teammate, Dellin Betances.

As far as hitting goes, Mark Teixeira's swing is in mid-season form. So far he is batting .600 and will likely see a lot of playing time to gear him up to hopefully have a strong April.

Alex Rodriguez is also hitting very well. Even his outs look good. He is clearly driving the ball well. A-Rod looks poised to have a big year.

Andruw Jones got his first unofficial hit as a Yankee as well as his first RBI. He drove in the Yanks' final run with a sharp single.

Ok, I'm going to address it just because apparently it's a big story. Derek Jeter has had 6 at bats and only one has been a hit. Even more troubling is the fact that all 6 at bats have resulted in ground balls. First let's focus on the fact that none were strikeouts. He's seeing the ball fine. The truth is, Jeter is still getting used to a stride-less swing. It's difficult when you have been doing something one way for so long then u cut out a large part of it. He is Derek Jeter and he has 4 weeks to figure it out. It's called spring training for a reason.

Francisco Cervelli is someone that has to be mentioned. Cervi is ripping the ball every time he hits it, which has been often. It seems that all his extra work with Robinson Cano has payed off. Cervelli started working at the begining of December with Cano in the D.R. Cervi's hands look much quicker than they have been which will result in more hard hits down the line. He does not seem ready to accept a back up job.

The hitting news in the 2-0 loss to the Pirates is almost non-existent. Actually, it seems the biggest news is probably Jorge Vasquez. This was his fourth appearance of the spring and he made his first out. Vasquez has been a pleasant surprise this spring. He homered in his first and second game and had a two hit day in his third game despite being put in the game late. This kid seems to be someone to keep an eye on.

Once again, the focus should be on pitching. Phil Hughes looked real sharp with two no-hit innings. He issued just 1 walk but looked dominant. Hughes was particularly satisfied with his outing having mixed in his new change up 3 times in his two innings. He says that he is aware it won't be his go to pitch but he wants to be able to use it occasionally to make him more of a dangerous pitcher.

Dave Robertson also made an appearance, his second of the spring and the only thing I can deduce from his outings are that he plans on striking everyone out this year. His put away ability is definitely there which inspires even more faith in this seemingly invincible bullpen.

Today the Yankees play at 1:05. The game will be televised on YES and the MLB network. A.J. Burnett will get the start. Details will be posted later on facebook and twitter.

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