The five pitchers who followed Sabathia -- Matt Daley, Jim Miller, David Herndon, Cesar Cabral and Brian Gordon -- turned in five innings of one-hit, no run ball. But the Yankees couldn't manage a hit for four innings off starter Jordan Zimmermann -- Eduardo Nunez's triple with two out in the fifth off reliever Drew Storen was their first -- and despite getting an RBI single from Dean Anna in the fifth and a sacrifice fly from Brett Gardner to drive in Zoilo Almonte, who doubled off the top of the wall in the sixth, lost for the fifth time in 13 games this spring, with one tie.
Joe Girardi said the Yankees radar gun clocked Sabathia's fastball at 88-89 MPH. He also said he wasn't paying close attention to the readings and only glanced at them "once or twice." And of course, he said he wasn't concerned.
“His command was a little off today; that’s really where he got in trouble," Girardi said. "A couple walks kind of hurt him today. He did OK. They hit a couple balls on the screws, but he was a little off command-wise today.”
Brian McCann, who caught Sabathia for the first time in a game today, disagreed with Sabathia's harsh self-assessment.
“I thought he threw the ball well," McCann said. "I thought early on his footing slipped like the first five or six throws of the inning. It was real wet. But he settled down. He hung one pitch [to Anthony Rendon for a two-run double]. He wanted to get that more down. Other than that, I thought he threw the ball well.”
McCann said he thought Sabathia's cutter, which he has added to his repertoire this spring, could compensate for the loss of velocity on his fastball.
“It will help him command both sides of the plate," McCann said. "You get something to come in to righties, and then you get something going away from them. It’s kind of a change of speed for them. I think once he gets a better feel it will go more in, but I thought it looked good today.”
Tanaka taken out: The reviews on Masahiro Tanaka's sim game this morning were positive from Joe Girardi, via pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who stayed behind in Tampa to watch before driving across the state to Viera.
“He was OK," Girardi said. "He threw 61 or 62 pitches and everything was OK. His split was supposed to be really good today.”
By the raw numbers, Tanaka faced 18 batters over four innings, got nine strikeouts and allowed three hits. What the manager didn't mention was that one of the hits was a long home run into the right-field bleachers by Jake Cave, who said he was looking for an inside fastball, and got it. Got all of it. The other two hits were singles by Cito Culver, also on fastballs. Neither rookie was able to do anything with Tanaka's splitter.
Tex "boring but good": Mark Teixeira was hitless in three at-bats, and is hitting .125 (1-for-8) overall this spring, but he says he continues to be encouraged by how his surgically-repaired right wrist is recovering.
"I really couldn’t be happier with how I feel right now," he said. "I’ve swung at good pitches, I’m taking good swings, my BP’s have been solid. Nothing has happened that I’ve said, let’s re-assess something. It’s boring, but it’s good. It is. It’s very good."
Teixeira will not make the trip to Panama later this week because, he said, "the Panamanian training facilities aren't ideal" for his continuing rehab.
"I need a lot of extra work," he said. "I’m still doing rehab and strengthening things, getting treatment every single day. And we wanted to make sure I stayed on that schedule. If I'm the player I've always been, we're a better team."
Sweeps week: Brendan Ryan, recovering from an oblique-slash-quad-slash-lower back injury, took some swings with a broomstick today. He may progress to a mop tomorrow.
Upcoming probables: RHP Hiroki Kuroda goes against the Tigers at The Boss on Wednesday; RHP Michael Pineda pitches in a split-squad game against the Orioles at The Boss on Thursday while RHP Ivan Nova goes against the Phillies in Clearwater the same day, and David Phelps starts, with the help of the Yankees not going to Panama, Friday afternoon against the Twins.
VIERA, Fla. -- While CC Sabathia gave up three runs in three innings testing a new pitch, Jordan Zimmermann had everything working just the way he wanted in a perfect four-inning performance as the Washington Nationals beat the New York Yankees 3-2 Tuesday.
Sabathia tested the cutter, throwing eight or nine of the pitch taught to him by former teammate Andy Pettitte. Overall, Sabathia gave up four hits and two walks. He struck out two.
Anthony Rendon hit a hanging slider from Sabathia into the left field corner for a two-run double that gave Washington a 3-0 lead.
"I spent 12 hours walking around Disney yesterday," Sabathia said. "This was more fun."
That was in spite of the fact the Yankees' ace left-hander had problems throwing strikes in the first inning, got tagged for a two-run double in the second and needed 61 pitches to get through three innings against the Washington Nationals, in which he allowed three runs on four hits and a pair of walks.
Asked what he could take away from his second start of the spring, Sabathia said, "That I sucked. We can leave it here in Vero or Viera or wherever we are and just go on to the next one.”
That will be in Panama on Sunday when the Yankees travel to Rod Carew Stadium for a two-game Legends Series against the Miami Marlins in honor of Mariano Rivera, the most famous pro athlete to come out of Panama since the retirement of Roberto Duran.
"I think it will be fun, getting a chance to pitch over there," Sabathia said. "I'm excited to see Mo. I’ve been there before, and I know how much they love baseball. I think it will be a fun trip.”
It has to be more enjoyable than Sabathia's day on Tuesday, in which he walked the leadoff hitter in his first two innings and allowed a leadoff single in the third, missing repeatedly up and away with his pitches before correcting himself in the third.
"I was kind of erratic, like all over the place," Sabathia said. "I couldn’t get my delivery down, and try to push off, try to get some leverage throwing downhill, it was just hard for me. I don’t know if I was just jumping off the mound, leaving too early. From my point of view, I just felt like I was rushing."
On the positive side, Sabathia said he was happy with his newly unveiled cutter, which he is developing as an alternative to his four-seam fastball, a pitch that has lost significant velocity over the past three seasons.
Sabathia said he threw the cutter eight or nine times and was pleased the Nationals never put it into play.
"They either yanked it foul, or they just ticked it," he said. "I’m not going to give up on it. I’m definitely going to keep using it and keep going."
Sabathia has been encouraged in the use of the cutter by Andy Pettitte, another Yankees lefty who had to make adjustments to compensate for a lack of velocity later in his career.
"That’s something me and Andy talked about, not getting frustrated with it, because it is a tough pitch to throw," he said. "So I’m going to stick with it.
"I’m sure he’s going to call me after this game, and we just talk about it. It’s a huge plus for me."
Sabathia also said he has noticed an improvement in his slider since incorporating the cutter.
"The slider’s been tight, tighter since I started throwing the cutter," he said. "So hopefully it makes it better. It’s never really that tight this early in the spring, so I’m excited about that."
Since there was no radar gun on display at Space Coast Stadium, it was impossible to say what Sabathia's fastball velocity was, although the gun on the MLB.TV broadcast caught him in the mid-80s, down even from his last start, when he topped out at 88.
“I don’t get so caught up in that," Joe Girardi said before the game. "I know it was a big issue last year, and I think it probably led to some of his issues on the mound where he was probably trying to overthrow. The bottom line is outs and swings. What type of swings are they getting off a guy? That’s what I look at.”
The Nationals had one very good swing off Sabathia when Anthony Rendon lined a hanging slider into the left-field corner for two second-inning runs. The other came on an infield groundout after a walk and a single gave the Nats first-inning runners at the corners.
Asked when an outing like this would start to become cause for concern, Sabathia said, "April 1. I feel good. I think I’m headed in the right direction. I promise you guys I’m light years ahead of where I was last year in spring training. I’m encouraged by that, and I feel really good."
Better even than after a day at Disney World.
It may not be a logistical nightmare, but it’s certainly a challenge: After playing their final Cactus League game Sunday, the Dodgers catch a midnight charter for Sydney, Australia.
They have a day to adjust to the time zone (16 hours ahead of PDT), a workout Wednesday, an exhibition game Thursday and real games against the Arizona Diamondbacks Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. In between, MLB has lots of sightseeing activities planned.
Following Sunday’s game, they bus to Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport and fly east for 13 hours. Oddly, they’ll land in Los Angeles Sunday about five hours before they took off in Australia. Then, they have four days off before any game, an exhibition against the Angels, and a week off before North American Opening Day in San Diego.
That layoff, of course, could do more damage than the trip itself. Jet lag is one thing. A stop-and-start season is equally worrisome.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was a coach on the 2004 New York Yankees, who opened the season against the Tampa Bay Rays in Japan, then came home and went 9-11 in early games before rallying and making it to the American League Championship Series.
“We came back with four spring training games and that was miserable and we started bad,” Mattingly said. “Those are the things I worry about. The bell rings, those two games count, then you come back and say, ‘Don’t matter.’ I worry about bad habits.”
The Dodgers’ players voted to go, so they have no one to blame but themselves (or their teammates) if it sends them into the season a bit sluggishly. Not everyone voted “yes,” of course, with the most public abstainer being pitcher Zack Greinke, who now won’t have to make the trek after injuring his calf.
History suggests that teams have been able to overcome the rigors of overseas openers, but there has been an early price to pay.
Major League Baseball has opened its season six times outside the continental U.S., but the first two were in Mexico and Puerto Rico, which offer only minimal travel and time-zone adjustments.
The last four were in Japan. One World Series team, the 2000 New York Mets, came out of such a series. Four of the eight teams reached the playoffs and two other teams, the 2004 Yankees and 2008 Boston Red Sox, went to league championship series. In other words, a lot of teams have started on the other side of the Pacific and gone on to great things, but it wasn’t easy.
Mattingly’s Yankees weren’t the only team to start a bit sluggishly after playing in Asia. Every playoff team that started in Japan got off to a losing start: The 2000 Mets started 5-8; the 2008 Red Sox went 5-6; the 2012 Oakland A’s started 4-7.
The only one of the eight teams to start with a winning record was the 2008 A’s, who lost 85 games that year. The 2004 Rays had the worst start: 9-23. There certainly seems to be some sort of lag effect.
A’s general manager Billy Beane doesn’t believe it’s a major concern, telling MLB.com, “We had no issues getting players ready.”
On the other hand, Beane said it did present some challenges. The A’s had to face Felix Hernandez twice in their first four games. The Dodgers could benefit from the weird schedule by using Clayton Kershaw three times in their first six games without asking him to pitch on short rest.
They haven’t decided whether they’ll take advantage of that option, though they did announce Kershaw will pitch the first game in Australia, so it’s open. There’s no reason he wouldn’t also pitch the opener in San Diego, considering he’d be working on seven days’ rest. If he pitches the Dodgers’ home opener, too, on April 4, he’d be working on the customary four days’ rest.
Kershaw told reporters earlier this spring he was preparing himself for the rigors of the off-kilter throwing schedule. He spoke with the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Brandon McCarthy, who pitched in Japan for Oakland.
“He said coming back is the hardest part, to get ready for the season,” Kershaw said. “It’s definitely not an ideal situation travel-wise, but I guess we’ve got to make it work.”
There’s always this to fall back on: If you think the Diamondbacks are the Dodgers’ biggest challenge in the division this year, they’ve got to try to make it work, too.
Here is (a fairly representative) Yankees lineup:
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Scott Sizemore 2B
Eduardo Nunez SS
Dean Anna 3B
Austin Romine DH
Zoilo Almonte RF
Tanaka dominates: OK, he was only facing a couple of overmatched minor leaguers (Cito Culver and Jake Cave), so it was to be expected Masahiro Tanaka would be unhittable in his simulated game early this morning at The Boss. Still, Tanaka needed so few pitches to get three outs in his first inning that pitching coach Larry Rothschild had him get two more in a five-out inning, including two swinging strikeouts on splitters-slash-curves that dived out of the strike zone at the last second. That was all ESPNNewYork.com had to see before embarking on the 2-1/2 hour drive to Space Coast Stadium, but we'll have a full account on the rest of Tanaka's outing -- he was supposed to go four innings -- when Girardi gets Rothschild's report later on. The manager left with the team bus before Tanaka took the mound.
Panama bound: Girardi said Sabathia will start the second of the two games at Panama's Rod Carew Stadium, on Sunday. Adam Warren will get the Saturday start. Among the Yankees regulars making the trip: Derek Jeter, Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, McCann, Carlos Beltran and David Robertson, the anointed heir to Mariano Rivera, who will of course be in attendance as the guest of honor in his home country.
Staying behind -- the Yankees have split squad games Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Tampa -- will be Ellsbury, Teixeira, Nunez, Francisco Cervelli, Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson. Tanaka will pitch against the Atlanta Braves at The Boss on Sunday. The rest of the roster will be filled out with minor leaguers from across the street.
No Mo in center: There had been some hope that Rivera, who joked about wanting to play center field at least once in the major leagues, might play an inning out there this weekend when the Yankees come to Panama. But Girardi said Rivera has not raised the subject, and saw no need to ask him -- or cajole him -- into doing it. "I'm sure enough will be written about it, so he'll hear about it," Girardi said.
Ryan's hope: Brendan Ryan has been down with lower back soreness, but Girardi said he hoped the backup shortstop would be able to take some dry swings today and possibly progress to tee-and-toss tomorrow.
Radio silence: No TV or radio of today's game but you can get live updates via my Twitter feed, @ESPNNYYankees.
Let me inform you right now that you will not learn anything from it.
Sabathia's new, leaner fastball, to go along with his new leaner body, clocked in at around 88 mph in his first spring start back on March 1 (he had a gun-free simulated game on March 6). The likelihood is it won't be a heck of a lot faster Tuesday.
And yet, that is no reason for panic among Yankees fans that the nominal ace of their pitching staff is headed for another sub-par season in 2014. Trying to predict in-season production off spring training performance is a fool's gambit, since the object of these games is not to break speed records, or even necessarily to win games, so much as it is simply to get ready for the games that really count.
Necessity is the mother of reinvention, and at 33 years old -- he turns 34 in July -- Sabathia may be facing the toughest challenge of his career as he transitions from power pitcher to simply pitcher. And there's no way we're going to know if he can do that off this start, or the one after that or the one after that. In fact, it may take a healthy chunk of the regular season before we can even begin to make a fair judgment on how much Sabathia has left, and how much he can contribute to the Yankees this season, and for the remaining two seasons -- plus an option -- remaining on his contract.
Of course, plenty of pitchers have had great careers with the kind of repertoire Sabathia seems to have now. Tom Glavine rode an 89 mph fastball all the way to Cooperstown, and David Wells never threw much harder.
The difference is, those guys started out like that. They never had to make the kind of adjustment Sabathia is going to have to make now. That is the challenge that faces him, and none of us should expect him to make it overnight. Suffice it to say that Sabathia's changeup, a huge part of his arsenal in 2009, will be a key pitch for him this season.
The Nationals, among the favorites to win the 2014 World Series -- at least one online betting site lists Washington's odds at 12-1, and the Yankees at 14-1 -- have a strong lineup featuring the likes of Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche, although we won't know how many of them will be in the lineup against Sabathia until Tuesday morning. It is possible he'll get smacked around some. It's also possible he will shut them down.
Either way, it won't really make much of a difference. The odds are that Sabathia is going to be a work in progress for all of this spring training, and for at least part of the 2014 regular season. Reinventions are never easy and never quick.
Let's give Sabathia as much time as he needs to accomplish this one. In a lot of ways, the Yankees' season may depend on it.
Q: What other sports did you play besides baseball as a kid?
A: PE? Does that count?
A: PE classes, I took it really seriously.
Q: Was there another sport besides baseball that you played a lot?
A: I feel I’m pretty good all around, besides basketball.
Q: So you're not good at basketball?
A: No sense.
A: I really didn’t have one particular athlete I liked growing up.
Q: Were there a few you liked watching?
A: When I was in high school I liked watching Kazumi Saito.
Q: Why Saito?
A: The pitching style he had. His fastballs were really fast. His determination for the game was something special. He was a fighter.
Q: How about an American athlete?
A: Not really.
Q: Favorite actor?
A: I’m not really into movies so I don’t have one.
Q: What do you like to do away from the field?
Q: What type of handicap are you?
A: I’m not good at all [laughing]. I’d probably [score] about 100.
Q: When did you first start playing?
A: Offseason of 2007.
Q: So seven years.
A: It is only been seven or eight years. I only play in the offseason. I have to get better at that sport.
Q: Is Tiger Woods your favorite or somebody else?
A: I watch golf, just looking at the pros and I’m in awe of how they play. Not one particular player, maybe all the players.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: They are retired right now. They worked at a regular company.
Q: What did you learn from them?
Q: What is your favorite type of music?
A: Pop music from Japan.
Q: Your wife's?
A: Not necessarily my wife’s music. I’m not necessarily a fan of my wife’s music [laughing].
Q: Three dinner guests from now or history, who would they be?
A: It is really hard to come up with somebody because it is unrealistic. I really can’t think of anyone. Sorry [in English and smiling].
Q: No problem. Let’s go back to baseball, when did you start throwing your splitter?
A: Probably 2010.
Q: When did you know, "Wow, this is a really good pitch?"
A: When I first pitched in the bullpen, I knew right away.
Q: What is the most pressure you felt on the mound?
A: Probably would be the WBC game last year, would definitely be one of them and also the Japan Series, pitching in that game would be one of the most pressured ones for me.
Q: The Yankees liked how you handle pressure. They felt you threw your fastball a little bit harder when you needed to. What do you do in those moments?
A: Every game is the same for me. I just go into a game and try to look at the situation and what needs to be done. I try to execute.
Q: What was the first thing you bought after you signed your Yankees contract?
Q: Plane ride?
A: It probably might be that. The plane ride from Japan to New York.
A: Thank you.
At this time last year, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Michael Pineda were well on their way to missing all or most of 2013.
So let's run down five things we have seen:
1. Saluting No. 2: Whatever happens in 2014, the year will be remembered for Derek Jeter retiring. On the field thus far, he is clearly moving better than last spring. He seems much more natural and fluid on his repaired ankle. After failing to hit the ball out of the infield in his first 10 at-bats, he has picked it up at the plate. He has four hits in his last seven at-bats.
2. CC's velocity: CC Sabathia threw only 88 mph his first time out. He had a simulated game his second turn around. On Tuesday, he will be in Viera to face the Nationals.
The importance of velocity always comes up every spring. Yes, it is possible to be successful with it reduced, though it is difficult to be an ace. For those who really like to belittle it, why do you think teams are always drafting guys that throw in the 90s?
So at 33 years old, off a bad year with a reduced heater, Sabathia's fastball needs to be watched.
3. Big men on campus: Tucked in the left corner of the clubhouse, there are nearly 14 feet of pitchers. The 6-foot-7 Michael Pineda and the 6-foot-8 Dellin Betances have been impressive in camp.
Pineda has had only one outing, but it was a pretty incredible one for spring training. If he builds on it, he could be a game-changer. It is still early, but Pineda may end up being the most exciting aspect of this Yankees camp.
Betances' rebirth as a possible reliever option is also interesting. He ate the minors up in the pen in 2013 and has continued that in the spring so far.
4. Handling New York: Masahiro Tanaka has arrived exactly as advertised, as Brian McCann put it the other day.
Though we have witnessed the vaunted splitter, we really won't start to know how good of an MLB starter he is until about June. However, what has stood out for me is the 25-year-old has a presence and handles all the attention with ease.
By the way, we put him under the ESPN New York Q&A spotlight, so look for that on Monday morning.
5. The roster: Let's project the roster, going with 12 pitchers and 13 position players.
2. Hiroki Kuroda
3. Ivan Nova
6. David Robertson
7. Shawn Kelley
8. Matt Thornton
9. Preston Claiborne
10. David Phelps
11. Adam Warren
12. Dellin Betances
The position players
13. Mark Teixeira, 1B
14. Brian Roberts, 2B
15. Jeter, SS
16. McCann, C
17. Francisco Cervelli, C
18. Kelly Johnson, 3B
19. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF
20. Brett Gardner, OF
21. Carlos Beltran, OF
22. Alfonso Soriano, DH
23. Brendan Ryan, INF
24. Ichiro Suzuki, OF
25. Eduardo Nunez, INF
The last spots on this roster are far from a sure thing. Cesar Cabral, a second lefty, could beat out Betances for the final spot. But Betances has looked good.
After Sunday, he has thrown 6 1/3 scoreless spring innings. On Sunday, he let a man reach third but escaped by forcing Wil Myers to bounce out to second. Betances is making a strong case. Cabral has thrown 4 1/3 scoreless innings. There could be room for both because an injury of some sort will invariably happen.
The fifth starter spot is still up grabs. Phelps threw five scoreless on Sunday, which keeps him very much in the race. Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno are still contenders as well, but if Pineda builds on what he did Friday, it is his job.
In the infield, Nunez may not make this club. Let's be clear, I'm not saying Nunez won't make it, but Yangervis Solarte -- hitting .588 in 17 at-bats -- has played very well. He is not on the 40-man, so the Yankees would have to maneuver to have him on the team. Scott Sizemore, coming back from a bad knee injury, and Dean Anna also have shots to stick. All could be in the mix during the year because the Opening Day roster -- while a big deal symbolically -- is always evolving.
In years past, Jeter, deferring to Alex Rodriguez's needs, would go to the opposite side of the infield.
"It feels worse for me if I'm on the other side of second," Jeter said. "It is like looking in the mirror backwards. That's why we are doing it. Alex didn't like it either, so I was forced to do it in the past. The guys that are playing third now have played second as well."
Jeter went 0-for-3 but did hit one line scorcher to first. He is batting .235 in 17 at-bats.
Jeter mentioned A-Rod's name at his news conference, but other than that, players have not brought up the suspended Rodriguez's name.
Notes: David Phelps helped his fifth-starter hopes by throwing five scoreless innings. ... Dellin Betances, competing for a bullpen job, threw a scoreless inning. Betances gave up a double but ended the inning by using six slurves -- his version of a curveball and slider -- to get out of the jam. He finished off the inning by retiring Wil Myers.
"I was like, 'Damn, I threw six straight breaking pitches,'" Betances said.
Betances has thrown a team-best 6 1/3 scoreless innings.
Kelly Johnson got nailed in the back by a fastball. He was fine. Johnson, who is the starting third baseman and the backup for nearly everywhere else, played first on Sunday without any incidents. ... Jose Ramirez, who had a chance to make the team as a reliever, has been optioned to Triple-A. He has an oblique injury. Lefty Francisco Rondon was sent to the minors, as well. ...
The Yankees have a full off day on Monday before going to Viera on Tuesday to face the Nationals. CC Sabathia will start. Masahiro Tanaka will throw a simulated game Tuesday in Tampa.
Phelps, who gave up three hits and struck out one, is competing with Michael Pineda, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno for the final rotation spot behind CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova. The right-hander has been touched for two runs over 9 2/3 innings in three spring training starts.
Alfonso Soriano had an infield single and Ellsbury doubled off the Tampa Bay right-hander, who went 9-7 with a 3.22 ERA over 23 starts during his rookie season last year.
New York Yankees
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Derek Jeter, SS
Carlos Beltran, RF
Brian McCann, C
Alfonso Soriano, LF
Kelly Johnson, 1B
Brian Roberts, 2B
Ichiro Suzuki, DH
Yangervis Solarte, 3B
David Phelps, P
Tampa Bay Rays
Desmond Jennings, CF
Matt Joyce, LF
Wil Myers, RF
James Loney, 1B
Sean Rodriguez, 3B
Cole Figueroa, 2B
Ryan Hanigan, C
Jose Molina, DH
Jayson Nix, SS
Chris Archer, P
NOTES: Manny Banuelos said he felt fine after his first appearance in nearly two years on Saturday. Banuelos, who had Tommy John surgery, feels he will gain confidence from knowing he was lighting the radar gun up at 93.
The fact that Banuelos gave up a three-run homer to Chris Carter ripped a nice little bow from the story. However, the radar gun readings on Banuelos topped out at 93 and Banuelos' elbow felt fine.
"The best thing is I feel healthy," said Banuelos, still a few days shy of his 23rd birthday.
To begin the fifth, Banuelos allowed a chopped double down the third-base line to Jose Altuve before walking Jason Castro. He next hung a change to Carter, who did what major league home run hitters do.
Banuelos retired the final two batters and, as Joe Girardi noted, he left with a smile. It became a bit larger when he found out his velocity was in the 90s.
"They said it was 3," Banuelos said, meaning 93. "That was awesome. I thought it was 89-90."
Banuelos' pitches still leave his hand like they are on a spring, according to former major league manager and current special assistant Trey Hillman. Girardi mentioned the confidence that Banuelos exudes. He walks around the clubhouse like a big leaguer.
“We believe he has a high ceiling,” Girardi said. “If he were to help us this year, I can’t say how that will be. We are going to look at everything that gives us the best 12-man pitching staff.”
Banuelos could be a big part of a young pitching transformation that might materialize for the organization over the next year and beyond.
On Friday, a healthy-looking Michael Pineda, 25, made an impressive return, highlighted by striking out the best hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera. Masahiro Tanaka, 25, has displayed his world-class splitter and seems like he could be a No. 3 or better if expectations don't swallow him up. Ivan Nova, 27, had a 2.70 ERA over his final 16 starts in 2013 when he was clearly the Yankees' best pitcher.
Dellin Betances, who turns 26 this month, has thrown 5 1/3 scoreless innings this spring. He is putting himself in position to make the team as a one- or two-inning reliever.
"Two days in a row," an excited Francisco Cervelli said. "To see Pineda yesterday and Manny, I know that he has been working so hard."
In this game, things can change swiftly. A year ago, the Red Sox were an organization in disarray. Now, they are the world champs.
The Yankees could see their young pitching prospects make that sort of leap in 2014. A weekend in March foretells nothing definitive, but the seeds for October harvests are planted in the baking sun of Florida. So, it is OK for Yankee fans to dream a little about what they're reading, hearing and seeing about these potential comebacks.
Betances is already making a strong impression. Girardi pointed to the 6-foot-8 righty as someone who has stood out thus far.
The Yankees thought Betances could be a top starter, but could settle for him being a top bullpen piece. At Triple-A in 2013, he had a 1.35 ERA over 32 relief appearances, spanning 60 innings.
Betances and Banuelos have remained close, as they've grown up with the hype of being the Killer B's (the third "B," Andrew Brackman, is long gone from the organization).
When Banuelos underwent Tommy John surgery, Betances had some advice for his younger friend. Betances told him to keep a positive mindset, focusing on the fact he is at Triple-A, still just one step away from the big leagues. Betances also emphasized that Banuelos is still very young.
The two hang out all the time in Tampa, going out to eat and playing video games. (Betances wanted to make sure it was mentioned that he consistently beats Baneulos in FIFA soccer.)
The Yankees are considering Banuelos for an Opening Day bullpen spot. More likely -- and more prudently -- Banuelos will begin as the No. 1 starter at Triple-A.
Banuelos might not have gotten the result he wanted Saturday, but he was in the right place.
"Now, I'm back, so I keep working hard and forget the past," Banuelos said.
Teixeira, playing in his second spring game after missing most of last season due to wrist surgery, led off the third inning with a long double off reliever Darin Downs. Johnson hit the next pitch for his first homer.
Ivan Nova gave up three runs and eight hits in four innings in his second sprig start for the Yankees. Carter's first spring home run came off Manny Banuelos, the 23-year-old left-hander who didn't pitch last season after having elbow surgery.
When you consider the Yankees have no true backup for him, Teixeira's importance swells. On Saturday, he doubled in his second start of the spring. Overall, Teixeira went 1-for-2 with a walk.
"I really am knocking the rust off," Teixeira said.
Teixeira played just 15 games last season because of wrist surgery. He said he will next play Tuesday in Viera against the Washington Nationals.
GAME CHANGES: Ivan Nova left with a poor line -- four innings, three runs (all earned) on eight hits with five strikeouts and no walks -- but he showed the ability to adjust.
When you look at how Nova has grown -- and will continue to grow -- as a starter, it is his ability to make in-game changes. Nova got hit hard in the first -- he gave up half of his hits and two of his runs in the inning -- but then made a little change so he wasn't leaving his pitches up. It is a small thing now, but if he can continue to do that during the regular season, it'll make a difference in winning games and saving the bullpen.
KELLY'S A HERO: Starting third baseman Kelly Johnson hit a two-run homer. Johnson, who is the backup to everything, will give first base a try Sunday at Steinbrenner Field.
"It would be a lot weirder if I was younger, a little newer in the game," Johnson said. "I've been around just enough to feel a little more comfortable."
Johnson has played first base just three times in the majors.
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