'Nervous' A-Rod ready for comeback

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
TAMPA, Fla. -- Call it a comeback or call it a resumption, but however you describe Wednesday's game between the Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies at Steinbrenner Field, Alex Rodriguez's reaction will be the same.

"I’ll be a little nervous, for sure," A-Rod said in the clubhouse this morning before the Yankees left for Clearwater, a trip Rodriguez and most of the regulars did not make. "I haven’t been in front of our fans for a long time. I’m excited about that. I have some challenges ahead."


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The biggest challenge will be hitting against live pitching, something Rodriguez has not done since Sept. 25, 2013. It might help that he will be facing Phillies right-hander Aaron Harang, against whom A-Rod has six hits in eight career at-bats, including two home runs. But it can't be all that encouraging that in Monday's intrasquad scrimmage, Rodriguez grounded out and popped out in two at-bats against a pitching machine.

"That thing was dominating us," he said. "I’ve never seen more choppers and popups in my life. It's hard to hit. The thing was just cranking them in there, 90 mph, right down the middle. It won’t walk you, it always works with a good pace, and it dominated us. It’s good for pitchers to see that."

Rodriguez has been taking batting practice in Tampa since Feb. 23, two days before Yankees regulars reported to camp, but hasn't swung against anything more challenging than the soft tosses from BP coach Danilo Valiente. Rodriguez has also been getting some work at first and third base, but will not play the field Wednesday. Joe Girardi said he plans to give Rodriguez no more than three at-bats his first time out.

"At-bats are key for me because I haven’t see live pitching in a long time, so the more at-bats the better," he said. Girardi has also talked about sending Rodriguez across the street to get a few at-bats against Triple-A pitching once the minor league season begins.

But for now, it's back to the bigs for Alex Rodriguez. "I’m excited for tomorrow. Totally," he said. "I just think it's time. I'm ready to go. Not sure how ready, but I’ll give it a shot."

So far, the reception for A-Rod has been positive at Yankees camp, with the crowd -- a lone exception or two apart -- giving him by far the loudest ovations of any player in camp.

"Everybody’s going to look at it differently," Girardi said. "Some people are going to look at it that he was caught, he paid his time, now he’s a Yankee, and we’re going to cheer for him. Some people are going to have a hard time cheering for him. And some people are just fans, they fall in love with a player no matter what they do, doesn’t matter. So I’m not really surprised. I think people are curious about how he’s going to do. And there’s probably a lot of people who are pulling for him to do well."

"It certainly felt good," Rodriguez said of the crowd support. "It was surprising a little bit, for sure. I didn’t know what to expect."

Many in the crowd might say the same of him. But on Wednesday afternoon, Yankees fans and Alex Rodriguez will begin to find out.

Juan Carlos Nunez sentenced

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
[+] EnlargeBiogenesis of America
Troy Rizzo/Getty ImagesBiogenesis was a dispensary for athletes, among them Alex Rodriguez, to obtain PEDs.

MIAMI -- A South Florida man who admitted to recruiting foreign baseball players for the operators of a steroid-dispensing clinic has been sentenced to prison followed by house arrest.

U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga agreed with the attorney for Juan Carlos Nunez that his part in the Biogenesis conspiracy was minimal compared with others'. Nunez will serve three months behind bars and three months on house arrest.

Nunez admitted in court last year that he brought professional ballplayers from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela to Anthony Bosch and the now-closed Biogenesis of America in Coral Gables, Florida. Fourteen baseball players, including New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, were suspended in the drug scandal.

Nunez said he used his position at a New York-based sports-representation agency, ACES Inc., to connect with foreign players.

(Read full post)

Spring Training Day 11: Play ball!

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
TAMPA, Fla. -- At long last, the day is here. First real game of spring training, against the Phillies in Clearwater at 1:05 p.m.

Here's the first Yankees lineup of the spring:

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Chris Young RF
Garrett Jones 1B
Jose Pirela 2B
Austin Romine C
Kyle Roller DH
Jonathan Galvez 3B
Nick Noonan SS

Adam Warren P

Warren will be followed by Luis Severino and Jacob Lindgren. We'll also get a look at Aaron Judge, Slade Heathcott, Greg Bird, Rob Refsnyder and Cito Culver. No TV or radio on this one.

Schilling fights back against Twitter trolls

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3

Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling didn’t just lash out at Twitter trolls who responded offensively to his congratulatory note to his daughter, he shined a spotlight on the growing problem of cyberbullying and even identified some of the individuals who attacked his daughter on social media.

This all started with this tweet from a proud father Sunday:

Schilling said he expected some inappropriate responses, but nothing like the some of the vulgar tweets he received directed as his daughter.

“I expected the trolls,” he told Boston sports radio station WEEI on Tuesday morning. “The one kid kind of came at me and said, ‘I can’t wait to take your daughter out.’ Kind of borderline stuff, which again, I expected. I’ve been on the Internet since, I started playing on computers in 1980, so I understand how it works and I knew there would be stuff. The stuff that they did, that is not bad or vile, it’s illegal. It’s against the law.

“When that started -- again, I thought it might be a one-off, but then it started to steamroll. And then [my daughter] started to get private correspondence and then I said 'OK, this needs to get fixed.’ This generation of kids doesn’t understand, and adults too, doesn’t understand that the Internet is not even remotely anonymous.”

Any angry Schilling took to his blog to call out the behavior and even identified a couple of the offenders by name.

One of the offenders outed by Schilling was a part-time ticket-seller for the Yankees and has since been fired, the team’s director of communications confirmed to NJ.com.

Another, a student at a community college in New Jersey, was reportedly suspended from school.

You can read more reaction from Schilling, who is also an ESPN baseball analyst, on WEEI.com.

For A-Rod, so far, so good

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2

TAMPA, Fla. -- As a slugger known for doing whatever he damn well pleased, Alex Rodriguez was always one to rage against the machine. So when he faced an actual machine Monday -- a mechanical device pumping in 90-mph fastballs -- Rodriguez was expected to defy his age and injuries and rust, and give at least one pitch a good, long ride.

But no, as the New York Yankees' honest-to-God cleanup hitter in pinstriped pants, A-Rod could only produce a second-pitch chopper to third in his first at-bat, and a first-pitch pop to short right field in his second and final at-bat in an intrasquad scrimmage that wasn't exactly defined by an October urgency or pace.

In between, Rodriguez sat for the longest time outside the dugout and under a baking sun as if he couldn't wait to get back in the box -- as part of a team, any team -- for the first time since September 2013.

Rodriguez will have to wait for Wednesday to face a flesh-and-blood pitcher, as Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided against putting his designated hitter on the travel roster for Tuesday's spring opener against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater. Girardi asked A-Rod if he'd be good to go for the second game against the Phillies, A-Rod nodded, and the most infamous suspended Yankee since George Steinbrenner himself will make his return at George M. Steinbrenner Field as a designated hitter who has been designated for this most unlikely assignment:

To become the lethal weapon he hasn't been in a long, long time.

"That's what we're hoping for," Girardi said, "that he can provide some offensive punch to our lineup. I know it's a tall order. We know that. I mean, he's 39 and a half years old, two hip surgeries. But I don't ever count anyone out."

(Read full post)

Rodriguez sorry for 'poor judgment'

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
[+] EnlargeRodriguez
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsAlex Rodriguez has apologized to Don Hooton, the head of an anti-doping foundation with which he had been aligned, for using "poor judgment."

TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez has apologized to the head of an anti-doping foundation he had aligned himself with for "exercising poor judgment" in the actions that led to his season-long suspension from baseball in 2014.

Don Hooton, president of the foundation named for his son Taylor, who committed suicide in 2003 after using performance-enhancing drugs, said the fallen New York Yankees star called him Sunday -- four days after Hooton told ESPNNewYork.com that Rodriguez had never apologized to him for the PED use that earned his ban and for the "damage he's done to our cause."

"Alex called [Sunday] afternoon to apologize for exercising poor judgment and for making bad decisions that hurt the Yankees, Major League Baseball and our foundation," Hooton said Monday by phone. "It was short and sweet, but Alex said he was profoundly sorry and he seemed very sincere."

Rodriguez had pledged his support to Hooton's foundation after he admitted using banned drugs in 2009 and had made numerous appearances with Hooton to speak to students about the perils of PEDs.

(Read full post)

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees played a simulated game against a mechanical pitcher on Monday, a diversion that Joe Girardi characterized as mostly an exercise in baserunning and defense.

“The focus was a two-edged sword, in a sense," he said. "We wanted to see our baserunners reacting to situations, and we wanted to see cuts and relays and how guys react (on defense) to game situations as opposed to being told exactly what you’re going to do. You have to anticipate. That’s a big emphasis for us. All those little things that you do, that you do correctly, make a difference in all the close games that you play. And I thought it was an outstanding job.”

But why face a pitching machine when, as Girardi pointed out the other day, there are 34 pitchers in camp this spring?

"It’s hard, in a sense, to get the situations you want with a pitcher on the mound," he said. "We could throw the ball in the dirt when we wanted. Throwing strikes, the guys could make contact. You just get a lot more out of it that way.”

No sense in recounting who hit well; all major-league hitters, and even some baseball writers, can hit a pitching machine fairly well. And if Alex Rodriguez didn't do anything to remind you how he has hit 654 big-league home runs (saw three pitches, swung twice, grounded out and popped out), his day was not nearly as embarrassing as Chris Young's. He struck out. In Young's defense, however, he had hit pretty well against Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances in live BP in the morning.

One concerning note: In a game in which six DHs were used, three on each side, Girardi did not use Carlos Beltran at all. Nor will he use him in Tuesdays Grapefruit League opener against the Phillies in Clearwater, nor in the home opener on Wednesday, nor in game three on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton.

Girardi said Beltran would not see action until probably Friday night, when the Yankees play the second of a pair split-squad games against the Pirates at home.

"We’re just taking it a little bit slower with him because of the surgery he came off of," Girardi said. "We feel pretty good about where he’s at, but I’m just going to give him a couple of extra days. Nothing that’s happened in camp to do that, just going a little bit slower with him.”

Beltran had bone chips removed and a spur shaved down in his right elbow during the off-season. He has said the elbow is much better than it had been last year, when he was limited to 109 games and did not play the last 10 days of the season.

More pitchers: We already knew Adam Warren was starting on Tuesday, Nathan Eovaldi on Wednesday and Esmil Rogers on Thursday. Now we also know Bryan Mitchell will start the first split-squad game on Friday against the Phillies in Clearwater, and Chris Capuano will pitch the night game against the Pirates at The Boss. On Girardi's message board, where he writes the initials of the starting pitchers on the days they will be starting, he wrote "CCap," to distinguish Capuano from that other CC on the staff, Sabathia, who will not start until sometime next week.

Spring Training Day 10: Fake baseball

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
TAMPA, Fla. -- It's hard enough to consider early spring training games as "real"' baseball, but imagine if you will, a "practice" spring training game.

That's what the Yankees are doing today, an intrasquad scrimmage, Team Gator vs. Team Goose, in which two teams of 11 players, including three DHs on each team, will hit against a pitching machine for six innings.

The reason for this, Joe Girardi said, was to give a lot of guys some at-bats, especially after Saturday's workout was washed away by rain. Which raises the question, why isn't Carlos Beltran in the lineup as one of the six DHs? Beltran also isn't on the roster for tomorrow's trip to Clearwater, for the first real fake baseball game of the spring against the Phillies. When I asked Beltran this morning why he wasn't in today's lineup, he got uncharacteristically defensive. "I'm not the manager," he said. "I don't make out the lineup." He also said he was fine. So we'll see later why Girardi held him out today and will hold him out again tomorrow.

In the meantime, Alex Rodriguez is playing, sort of, batting fourth as one of the DHs for the Gators. Which means, basically, he will take four at-bats of BP caliber, or less, against Iron Mike, a pitcher I would guess he has had great success against. But he will not play the field, or do much of anything else, and he's not making the trip tomorrow either. So the first chance to see A-Rod in a real fake baseball game won't come until Wednesday when the Phillies come to The Boss for a day game.

Here are the lineups for today's scrimmage:

Didi Gregorius SS
Chase Headley 3B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez DH
Brian McCann DH
Stephen Drew 2B
John Ryan Murphy C
Ramon Flores LF
Tyler Austin RF
Mason Williams CF
Gary Sanchez DH

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Chris Young RF
Garrett Jones DH
Austin Romine C
Jose Pirela 2B
Greg Bird 1B
Jonathan Galvez 3B
Nick Noonan SS
Trent Garrison DH
Kyle Higashioka DH

The fun starts at 12:25 p.m.

Tanaka, Betances throw: Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances, the presumptive ace and closer of the Yankees' pitching staff, both threw live batting practices this morning on the field to a small collection of teammates, 25 pitches each, both without incident. The only hitter who had good swings was Young, who roped a line single into left off Tanaka and pulled a hard grounder over third base off Betances. Neither pitcher seemed particularly worried.

Tomorrow's news: Ellsbury and Gardner are the only two regulars making the trip to Clearwater tomorrow. Young is also going, as are Rob Refsnyder, Pirela, Greg Bird, and Kyle (Steam) Roller, who is built like an NFL nose tackle. Adam Warren gets the start, and we will also see Luis Severino and Jacob Lindgren.

A-Rod won't play in spring opener

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
[+] EnlargeAlex Rodriguez
Jonathan Dyer/USA TODAY SportsAlex Rodriguez will not play in the Yankees' spring opener Tuesday in Clearwater, although he might make his debut Wednesday in their first home game.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez's return to a big league baseball field will have to wait another day.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Monday that Rodriguez's first game in nearly a year and a half will take place Wednesday when New York plays its first home exhibition game of the spring against the Philadelphia Phillies at Steinbrenner Field.

The Yankees' spring opener is on Tuesday against the Phillies in Clearwater, but Rodriguez will not be making the trip. Nor will many of New York's other regulars; Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are the only two Yankees expected to be in their Opening Day lineup who are on Tuesday's travel roster.

Girardi said Rodriguez -- who has been taking reps at third base and first base in training camp -- will be the designated hitter Wednesday and is likely to get two or three at-bats "depending on how often he hits and how long of a game it is, that sort of thing."

According to Girardi, their conversation about playing Wednesday consisted of two sentences.

"I just asked him, 'What do you think about Wednesday?,'" Girardi said. "And he said, 'Good.'"

Rodriguez took part in the Yankees' intrasquad scrimmage Monday, again as a DH. His day consisted of three pitches from a pitching machine, which Girardi said was set around 90 mph, taking one and swinging at two. In his first at-bat, he topped a grounder to third base, and in his second, he popped out on the first pitch he saw to shallow right field.

As he left the batter's box, a man's voice could be heard from the sparse crowd at Steinbrenner Field: "Just like in the playoffs!"

Rodriguez, who will turn 40 in July and is attempting to come back after serving a season-long suspension for PED violations, has not played in a major league game since Sept. 25, 2013. He did not make himself available to reporters after the 90-minute scrimmage.

"Our hope is that he can provide some offensive punch to our lineup," Girardi said. "I know it's a tall order. We know that.

"I mean, he's 39 and a half years old, two hip surgeries, but I don't ever count anyone out."

Rodriguez will stay behind Tuesday to take batting practice and field grounders at third and first, where the Yankees are considering using him occasionally to spell Mark Teixeira

(Read full post)

TAMPA, Fla. -- As reported by ESPN Deportes’ Marly Rivera on Friday, Adam Warren will be the first Yankees starter of the spring, getting the ball in the Grapefruit League opener against the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday in Clearwater.

Warren, who is likely to end up in the bullpen, will be followed by Nathan Eovaldi, the likely No. 4 starter, as starter of Wednesday's game against the Phillies at home. Esmil Rogers, a relief pitcher by trade, gets the start on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton.

All three are expected to go two innings or between 30 and 35 pitches, whichever comes first. Warren will be relieved by high-level prospect Luis Severino and later, by Jacob Lindrgen. The Yankees will get their first look at Andrew Miller, a candidate along with Dellin Betances for the closer’s job, on Wednesday.

The rest of the Yankees’ starting staff -- CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Chris Capuano, and eventually, Masahiro Tanaka -- will likely not see action until next week.

When’s the next Tanaka-palooza?: No one seems to know, not even the manager. Tanaka, who is attempting to pitch with a partially-torn UCL this year, has thrown bullpens less frequently than the other starters and has yet to throw live batting practice. Girardi has said Tanaka is “on schedule,” but clearly, his schedule is different from everyone else’s. Asked when Tanaka would throw next, Girardi professed not to know. “I’ve got 34 pitchers in camp to keep track of,” he said. “I can’t tell you what each of them is doing on any given day.”

Joe likes Mike: Girardi said he was impressed by Pineda’s early morning live BP session.

“I was pretty excited what I saw today,” Girardi said. “He was really, really good. You get excited when you think about sending him out there every day and getting 30 to 32 starts from him, what he could possibly do for your team.”

Girardi said Pineda had good command of all three of his pitches -- fastball, slider, changeup -- and “threw a ton of strikes.”

But he acknowledged the Yankees will remain cautious with Pineda for two reasons: The serious shoulder surgery he had to repair a labrum tear in 2012, and the fact that he has thrown just 76 1/3 innings over the past three seasons and never more than 171 in any season, his rookie season with Seattle.

Starting for both teams, Iron Mike: The Yankees’ intrasquad game on Monday will feature no pitchers, just a pitching machine set up in front of the mound. Girardi said he anticipated most of his regulars would see action, although he could not guarantee we will see Alex Rodriguez just yet. As for hitting against a machine, Girardi said, “For the most part, that’s probably how they would like it anyway. You don’t like facing your own hitters. I don’t care who you are. You just don’t.”

The Yankee pitchers will not have the day off, however. A bunch of them will throw live batting practice on the field before the intrasquad game.
TAMPA, Fla. -- While most of the Yankees regulars were enjoying their final days at home before reporting to training camp, Alex Rodriguez was at the Yankees minor league complex taking batting practice. On the day position players reported to camp, A-Rod was across the street, hitting, running, fielding and throwing, having already taken his physical. And by the time the Yankees held their first full-squad workout, Rodriguez was a full five days into his own spring training, after having had a year to do nothing but train and prepare himself.

So if any Yankee should be ahead of all the others, it is A-Rod.

And yet, it is still unknown whether Rodriguez will play in the Yankees' spring training opener on Tuesday against the Phillies in Clearwater, or even in an intrasquad game, against a pitching machine, that Joe Girardi has scheduled for Monday. That seems strange, considering how Rodriguez has spoken about having a year to work out rather than rehab, and considering the fact that he already has done so much more than his teammates. Not to mention that Girardi repeatedly has stressed the need for A-Rod to get as many at-bats against live pitching as possible this spring.

[+] EnlargeAlex Rodriguez
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyAlex Rodriguez doesn't know -- or won't say -- whether he'll be playing in Monday's intrasquad game or Tuesday's spring training opener.
But when asked if Rodriguez would play on Tuesday, Girardi said, “I’m not sure yet. I’m not sure.”

The manager said he anticipated “almost everyone” would play in Monday’s intrasquad game, which opened the door to the obvious question: Does everyone include Alex?

“I don’t know.”

That left the impression that Rodriguez would make the decision on his fitness and tell Girardi if he felt ready to play.

But when he was asked later if he would play on Monday or Tuesday, A-Rod seemed to throw the ball back into Girardi’s court.

“I haven’t talked to Joe,” A-Rod said in regards to Monday’s game. “If I’m in the lineup, I’ll play, yeah.”

But Joe said he’s leaving it up to you.

“I’ll talk to Joe first.”

Do you feel ready to play?

“I’ll talk to Joe first.”

Which means either Alex has something to tell Joe that he doesn’t want the media -- and the public -- to know first, or that he wants to ask the manager’s advice on whether he should play.

Or it could just be Al being Al, playing coy with the press while knowing exactly want he intends to do.

In any event, no one outside of Alex and Joe, and maybe not even them, knows whether the Yankees’ $61 million man is fit to play yet, even against a pitching machine.

Certainly, it is impossible to tell from the drills we have seen so far. A-Rod hit a couple of Danilo Valiente's BP soft tosses over the fence at Steinbrenner Field on Sunday, as he has in every BP session so far. But when asked by a reporter what he could tell about his swing from those sessions, A-Rod laughed and said, “Not much. You could hit that pitching.”

It has also been tough to tell much about A-Rod’s readiness to play the field, especially since he has yet to use a first baseman’s glove when taking grounders at the position the Yankees are trying to teach him.

“The glove’s not broken in yet,” he said. “A couple more days.”

The mystery about A-Rod’s readiness could be contrived, or it could be real: Maybe no one, A-Rod included, really knows if he’s ready to play ball at even the early spring training level. One thing everyone seems to agree upon is that what Rodriguez is attempting to do may not exactly be unprecedented -- Girardi cited Andy Pettitte’s retirement and comeback as somewhat similar -- but it is unusual at the least, and quite difficult at best.

“I don’t know if you can put a rating on (the difficulty),” Girardi said. “But for a guy that was so talented, he has that going for him and has always had a good swing and been fundamentally sound. He has that going for him. The issues become when you’re older and you haven’t played in a while. That’s the issues. You think about a base for a player, he has it in a sense because he was so fundamentally sound.”

But even Girardi, who has said he would not evaluate Rodriguez for the first three or four weeks, admitted he was interested to see what A-Rod has left. “Yeah, because it’s really been a while since we’ve seen that. I’m excited to see that, and see how he does.”

He may not get the chance right away.

“I feel pretty good,” Rodriguez said after Sunday’s workout in sunny 80-degree weather. “I mean, so far, so good. No setbacks, everything looks good.”

He described his new drills at first base as, “Just fun. Just fun. It’s kind of a completely different perspective from being on first base. I remember how difficult it was moving from short to third. It’s kind of weird going from the left-field corner across the mound to go play first. But it’s pretty fun.”

But as far as being ready to play? That will have to remain Alex Rodriguez’s secret, at least for one more day.
TAMPA, Fla. -- It was only for one inning, about 20 pitches to a pair of minor leaguers, Cito Culver and Nick Noonan, but the implications were obvious: the continuing good health of Michael Pineda is essential to the Yankees' chances for success this season.

And so while Pineda might have been quite surprised -- and he was -- when pitching coach Larry Rothschild told him he was done after a brief appearance on the Steinbrenner Field mound Sunday morning, it was obvious that even three years removed from serious shoulder surgery, the Yankees continue to treat Pineda as if his right arm were made of porcelain.

[+] EnlargeLarry Rothschild
Jonathan Dyer/USA TODAY SportsPitching coach Larry Rothschild told Michael Pineda his day was done after about 20 pitches.
And with good reason. For one thing, labrum tears are among the worst injuries a pitcher can suffer. For another, the Yankees already have enough starting pitchers of precarious health to risk re-injuring Pineda in his first real throwing session of the spring.

Masahiro Tanaka, the presumed ace of the staff, has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament that they opted to rehabilitate non-surgically last year, but no one really knows if it will hold up to the rigors of pitching every five days. CC Sabathia will be pitching on an arthritic and degenerative right knee and is a few pounds heavier than last year. Ivan Nova is recovering from Tommy John surgery and won't be ready until May at the earliest.

Chris Capuano, re-signed as insurance this offseason, is a known quantity, and Nathan Eovaldi, acquired in a trade, is very much an unknown quantity.

That leaves Pineda as the one Yankees starter who is both reliable and reasonably healthy, and as such he must be handled with the utmost care.

And that's why when Pineda tells you his main goal this year is to "stay healthy," you nod your head and think, "good goal."

Because aside from his rookie season with Seattle, when he went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 171 innings, Pineda has thrown only 76 additional innings in the big leagues, all of them last year. He lost time, of course, to the pine tar suspension, and then to a strained shoulder muscle that sidelined him until Aug. 13. But in his brief appearances last year, he was arguably the most dominant starter the Yankees had; in April, he posted a 1.83 ERA and struck out 15 while walking only 3.

The Yankees need that kind of start out of Pineda again this season. Then they need him to duplicate that five more times if they have any real hopes of being in contention this season.

That's why when Rothschild told Pineda, "You're done," after just 20 pitches off a spring training mound, Pineda's incredulity lasted just a few seconds.

Then he started to smile and jogged off the field. He knows that there's no sense in risking throwing 200 innings in the regular season to throw one more in March.

Notes: Andrew Miller threw a live BP session on the back field at the same time Pineda was throwing on the main field. Not even I can be in two places at once so I'll have to rely on Miller and other witnesses to find out how that went. . . . Yesterday's rain created a backlog in work for today; I anticipate a long workout this afternoon. . . . The Daily Alex: Rodriguez, that is, told me he will work with his newly broken-in first baseman's glove today. As I suspected, he chose a smaller model because it feels more like the glove he uses at third base, rather than the jai alai basket most first basemen use, Mark Teixeira included. I asked A-Rod how he felt about playing first. His answer: "Once you've played shortstop, you can play anywhere on a baseball field."

Spring notebook: Rain sets Yankees back

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
TAMPA, Fla. -- The first rainout of the season came early this year, with all outdoor workouts cancelled due to a heavy downpour, and all pitchers who had been scheduled to throw live batting practice, including Michael Pineda, set down for the day.

Now, everything that had been scheduled for Saturday will be re-done Sunday -- Pineda will throw that live BP after all -- and the intrasquad game Joe Girardi had planned to have Sunday will be pushed to Monday. It also delayed, by a day, the official announcement of starting pitchers for the first two spring games, although it remains likely that Adam Warren will make the start against the Phillies in Tuesday's spring opener in Clearwater.

Hit the road, Alex: It was as close to an A-Rod-free day as we have had all spring -- Alex Rodriguez was seen briefly in the clubhouse this morning but did not speak to the media and left before the clubhouse re-opened in the afternoon. Still, he was a topic of discussion in Girardi's interview session.

In answer to a question, Girardi indicated it was likely Rodriguez would make more road trips this spring than a veteran of his age, experience and stature would customarily make because of his need for at-bats following a 17-month layoff. Generally, players like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera rarely, if ever made road trips. The running joke was that Mo did not even own a pair of road gray pants, and Jeter hardly ever went further than the 20-minute ride to Clearwater, the Yankees' nearest road city.

“That’s possible, but I’ll try to pick my spots," Girardi said. "But you’re going to want to play him two days in a row and three days in a row, and to do that, he's going to have to make some road trips. I have a lot of veterans, somebody’s got to make them.”

Girardi said he could not yet commit, however, to Rodriguez playing in the first spring training game Tuesday.

“It’s something I’ve got to talk to him about," Girardi said. "I figured I would wait until Monday to see where he’s at, where he feels he’s at physically. I just have to see where he feels his body’s at.”

(Read full post)

Gregorius owes A-Rod a thank you

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
Didi GregoriusMark LoMoglio/Icon SportswireDidi Gregorius will be the first everyday shortstop for the Yankees not named Derek Jeter in 20 years.
TAMPA, Fla. -- In a world without Alex Rodriguez, Didi Gregorius might be the big story in Yankees camp this spring. It might be his locker that is surrounded after every workout, his BP sessions that draw the crowds, his fielding drills that are scrutinized, dissected and analyzed on a daily basis.

That would not be because of anything Gregorius has done -- he is a career .243 hitter with 13 home runs, 57 RBIs and a .680 OPS in parts of three big-league seasons -- but rather what he is being asked to do: Become the first player in 20 years not named Derek Jeter to play shortstop for the New York Yankees on a daily basis.

Notice I did not say "replace" Derek Jeter, because just about everyone, from GM Brian Cashman to manager Joe Girardi to Gregorius himself acknowledges that Jeter can't really be replaced, although his position on the field will need to be filled. And the circumstances of Jeter's departure -- going into retirement on his own terms and coming off a less-than-vintage caliber season -- seems to indicate that the passage of this torch will not burn Gregorius the way it scorched Tino Martinez, for instance, in replacing Don Mattingly, or even Girardi himself, who wasn't exactly welcomed warmly when he replaced Mike Stanley.

But still, it has certainly been easier for Gregorius so far, with a big assist from A-Rod, who has drawn most of the early camp media attention away from, well, just about anyone else.

"I’m not worried about the attention," Gregorius said Saturday after a day spent working out indoors due to a heavy rainstorm. "Of course I’m going to get interviewed no matter what I do, so it’s fine. Whenever you guys get done talking to Alex, I’ll be waiting.”

Gregorius had a poster of Jeter on his wall as a kid, but has not heard from the former Yankees captain, and in fact, has never met him. Jeter was on the disabled list in 2013 when Gregorius played his one and only game at Yankee Stadium, which turned out to be a memorable one. And so far, he has flown under the radar as a Yankee thanks to the daily circus that swirls around his neighbor, several lockers removed, along the far wall in the Yankees spring training clubhouse.

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Dellin no lies: Floyd's the man

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
TAMPA, Fla. -- Dellin Betances, the front-runner to become the New York Yankees' closer this season, is one of the biggest fight fans on the team, and for good reason.

Not only did Betances grow up in New York in the 90s during the heyday of Mike Tyson, a product of Brownsville, but his dad had also tried his hand at boxing as an amateur. Watching fights together on TV was one of the early bonding experiences between father and son. Since Betances is 6-8, I naturally assumed his dad fought as a heavyweight, but Betances laughed at that.

"My dad's only 5-7," he said.

Betances told me his favorite fighters growing up were Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Roy Jones Jr. As you might expect, Betances is pretty amped about the upcoming Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, scheduled for May 2 in Las Vegas.

"I think it’s great for the sport," he said. "I’m excited. The fans have been wanting to see this, so it’s nice that they finally agreed on it. Those of us who are boxing fans, we can't wait."

And the big fellow is pretty certain who he thinks is going to win: "I’m a huge Mayweather fan, so I’m definitely going to be rooting for him. I hope he wins, but I respect Manny and I think it’s going to be a great fight. But I got Floyd in this one."



Jacoby Ellsbury
.271 16 70 71
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
WM. Tanaka 13
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146