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Spring Training Notes: 2018
2 years ago  ::  Feb 27, 2018 - 10:39AM #71
Posts: 32,868

Yankees’ fiery backup catcher gets it all from his dad

Austin Romine looks on from the dugout before the Yankees' spring training game against the Phillies on Monday. Corey Sipkin

TAMPA — On a sunny Wednesday morning last July at Yankee Stadium, Reds bench coach Jim Riggleman sat in the visitors’ dugout and pointed to Austin Romine on the field.

“I managed his dad in winter ball,” Riggleman said. “Worked really hard.

“I never saw him smile.”

Austin Romine, informed of Riggleman’s memory of Kevin Romine, flashed a rare smile himself.

“Like father, like son,” he said.

Actually, “I think ‘never smiled’ is a bit of an overstatement,” Riggleman said of Kevin Romine this past week in a telephone interview, and the same goes for the Yankees’ backup catcher. Yet Austin Romine, the younger of two major league sons of a former major leaguer — older brother Andrew is a utility man for the Mariners — has established a foothold on this deep Yankees roster thanks to a seriousness and perseverance that have earned him respect up and down the organization. Those qualities helped endear him to the Yankees’ fan base, as did his participation in a high-profile, bench-clearing brawl last season.

That toughness, Romine said, comes largely from his father.

“He definitely shaped me to where I respect the game and play it hard,” he said. “Just keep grinding.”

Austin Romine is held back by his teammates during a brawl with the Tigers in August.Getty Images

Jody Reed, the Yankees’ field coordinator, played on the Red Sox with Kevin Romine and replied, “Oh, yeah,” when asked if he sees similarities between father and son.

“The intensity. The fire. Even the dry humor,” Reed said. “They’re very serious and take a lot of pride in their profession and their work. You can tell he gets that from daddy right there. No doubt about it.”

Kevin Romine signed with the Sawx in 1982 after getting selected in the second round of the amateur draft. He served as a backup outfielder from 1985 through 1991, so Austin, born in 1988, has no memories of seeing his dad play in the big leagues. That meant Austin grew up with his dad at home in Southern California. Kevin, who owned a garage after retiring and later joined the Los Angeles Police Department, introduced baseball to both Austin and Andrew (born in 1985) at young ages and coached them until high school.

“At the time, I didn’t look at it as raising big leaguers,” Kevin Romine said in a telephone interview. “They both showed an aptitude for the sport. It kept them busy. And if you’re going to play the game, play the game properly.”

“I was brought up to respect the game and respect people that played before it,” Austin Romine said. “Wear your hat the right way. Treat your uniform properly. Just all of the old stuff.”

“He benched me,” Austin added.

Kevin, asked for the specifics behind that benching, said: “Probably just a little attitude adjustment.”

Those lessons all came in handy for Austin as the Yankees drafted him in the second round, just like his dad, of the 2007 draft. He experienced some early success, winning minor league player of the year honors in 2009 and 2011, only to hit a wall in 2015, when the Yankees designated him for assignment and found no takers.

Only in 2016, when Gary Sanchez bombed his spring training audition to be Brian McCann’s backup, did Romine steer his career back in the right direction. He has proven to be a nice defensive complement to Sanchez, who has struggled with his glove while providing immense offensive value. He also brings some institutional knowledge, as only Brett Gardner (drafted in 2005) and Dellin Betances (2006) have longer continuous service in the organization.

“I think I just grew up,” Romine said. “Just focus on things I could control rather than things I couldn’t. Stop making excuses and take care of the job at hand. Your job is backup catcher. That day you’re playing, better get it done.”

“You give him an obstacle, he sees it as something to overcome,” Kevin Romine said. “That’s in the Romine nature to not give up. … He knows his place, knows his role. He’s good with pitchers.”

Last Aug. 24 at Comerica Park, Austin found himself in an unfamiliar place: the spotlight. He squared off at home plate with Tigers icon Miguel Cabrera in the first of many skirmishes on the day. The episode drew him a one-game suspension and a new level of appreciation by fans — and a “thumbs-up” text from Kevin Romine.

“We taught our children, ‘You never start a fight, but don’t walk away,’ ” Kevin Romine said. “He stood his ground, and when Miggy threw one, it’s on.”

“That happens. It’s baseball,” Austin Romine said. “It is what it is. You move on.”

Veteran CC Sabathia and youngster Jordan Montgomery both praised Romine for his game-calling skills. Players with his profile can last a long time in the big leagues.

“In my line of work, if you catch, it’s good,” Romine said. “If you hit, it’s going to be even better. If I can do enough with the bat to hold my weight, it should be a good career.”

And if it’s as good a 2018 season as the Yankees hope, they might generate a long-lasting smile from the entire Romine family.

2 years ago  ::  Feb 27, 2018 - 10:41AM #72
Posts: 32,868
2 years ago  ::  Feb 27, 2018 - 10:44AM #73
Posts: 32,868

New York Daily News | Bill Madden: Former Yankees’ GM Bob Watson is currently battling kidney disease. From the sound of things, he is prepared for the worst. I don’t really have any words here, except that you should read this. All our best wishes to the Bull.

2 years ago  ::  Feb 27, 2018 - 10:45AM #74
Posts: 32,868
  • Yankees — Hoping that Jordan Montgomery continues to progress is a perfectly reasonable strategy for filling out the rotation. And there are at least a few depth possibilities still floating around the organization, with a vast array of possibilities at the deadline. But expectations are extremely high in the Bronx and every win will count. Having added an affordable infield option, perhaps the Yanks can and should spend a bit more to finish off their staff.
2 years ago  ::  Feb 27, 2018 - 10:46AM #75
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2 years ago  ::  Feb 27, 2018 - 10:48AM #76
Posts: 32,868

Yankees 4, Phillies 3: Miguel Andujar walks it off

Miguel Andujar did a cool thing and we were not allowed to see it.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Call spring training games meaningless, but there is no reason all these games can’t be televised in this day and age. There was no video feed for tonight’s game, so it’s pretty difficult to evaluate what happened. It wasn’t the best game overall, but the Yankees won and Miguel Andujar ended it with a walk-off home run. You may have been free to do other things with your time, but I listened and waited. Thankfully, things got more exciting late in the game.

It is hard to figure out who really had a good game when you can’t see the action. You can’t see who was swinging well and who was hitting their spots. There’s little indication how far someone hit the ball or how hard someone was getting hit. Some good things did happen tonight, obviously. Andujar finished the night with two hits and two RBI, and Brandon Drury had a triple and a walk.

The only pitching performance that really mattered was Sonny Gray’s. He struck out two but also allowed two hits in two innings. Most importantly, he made it through his appearance in one piece.

Chance Adams, meanwhile, didn’t look too hot in the third inning. He walked a batter, who then managed to steal off him and advance to third before coming around to score on a fly ball. He then allowed another hit and walk before everything was said and done.

Ben Heller had his own difficult inning in the fifth when he allowed two walks and a single to load the bases. He then hit the next batter to allow another run to score. I guess the plus side of his performance is that he struck out the side, but that didn’t seem to do him much good in the end.

The Yankees finally got on the board in the bottom of the inning. Brandon Drury walked and Billy McKinney reached on an error. Tyler Wade then singled in their first run of the night. Two young Yankees managed to strike in the seventh inning when Drury tripled and Andujar brought him home with a double. They took the lead in the next inning when Erik Kratz and Tyler Austin walked, and then Jorge Saez knocked in a run.

This is where we lose the ability to analyze the events on the field. Austin decided to run home with Kratz and was nailed at the plate, by what the announcer referred to as 10 feet. According to the commentary, there seemed to be some confusion over whether Austin blew through the stop sign or if third base coach Phil Nevin actually sent him. We have experienced more than enough bad sends in the last few years, we do not need another guy out there with no idea what he’s doing. Hopefully this won’t be a sign of things to come.

Despite taking the lead, Cody Carroll coughed it right back up by allowing a home run in the bottom of the ninth. The Yankees went into the bottom of the inning with a tie score and no apparent interest in continuing the game into extra innings. While this might ultimately be meaningless, it’s still exciting when a top prospect leaps into action. Andujar managed a game-winning home run to give the Yankees a win. It wasn’t much of a night, but it ended on a positive note.

2 years ago  ::  Feb 27, 2018 - 10:17PM #77
Posts: 32,868

February 27th Camp Notes

Still undefeated in the Aaron Boone era. The Yankees improved to 5-0 this spring with a 9-8 win over the Blue Jays this afternoon. Danny Espinosa, Miguel Andujar, and Ryan McBroom all went deep — it was Andujar’s second homer in as many days — and Austin Romine had two doubles. You can see Espinosa’s homer in the video above. (There’s no video of Andujar’s.) Mark Payton had the game’s big blow, a bases-clearing double in the team’s five-run eighth.

Chad Green made his first start of the spring and allowed a solo homer to Russell Martin in 1.2 innings before hitting his pitch limit. David Hale (two runs in one inning), J.P. Feyereisen (two runs in one inning), and Josh Rogers (two runs in 1.1 innings) all had trouble on the mound. I’ll set the over/under on their combined innings total for the Yankees this season at 9.5. Here is the box score and here are the rest of the day’s notes from Tampa:

  • The upcoming rotation: Luis Cessa (Wednesday), CC Sabathia (Thursday), and Masahiro Tanaka (Friday). Luis Severino will make his first spring start in the coming days as well. Sabathia, Dillon Tate, and Jordan Montgomery threw bullpen sessions today. [Brendan Kuty]
  • Aaron Judge is still scheduled to make his spring debut tomorrow. “(It’s) just about trusting (the shoulder) and trusting how it feels, and making sure I continue to build up my strength. It’s about making sure it’s pain-free when I wake up each morning,” he said. Judge will DH tomorrow, rest Thursday, then play right field Friday. [Coley HarveyErik Boland]
  • Without being asked, Russell Wilson gave a speech at camp yesterday. “He just talked about some of his principles, his leadership things that he talks about,” said Boone. Brian Cashman said he’s not opposed to giving Wilson an at-bat at some point, though they’ll talk it over with Seahawks first. [Kuty, Randy MillerPete Caldera]
2 years ago  ::  Feb 27, 2018 - 10:18PM #78
Posts: 32,868

Miguel Andujar giving Yankees something to think about at third base with recent power surge 

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Miguel Andujar's recent hitting surge prompted one scout to offer the following assessment on Tuesday:

"It comes off his bat differently."

On Monday night, Andujar doubled and blasted a walk-off homer on a two-strike changeup.

A day later, the nearly 23-year-old third base prospect ripped a solo bomb over the leftfield wall and into the trees at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

"It's not about sending a message, it's about doing your job," said Andujar, who grew up idolizing Adrian Beltre, a likely future Hall of Famer at the hot corner.

Brian Cashman has said that the experience of recent trade acquisition Brandon Drury gives him a "leg up" in the competition at third.

But Andujar, an emerging player who caught A-Rod's eye last spring and later had three hits and four RBI in his MLB debut, is giving team brass something to think about — even with all his defensive deficiencies at this stage of his development.

"What I like to see is the smile is still there," Aaron Boone said. "The belief in what he's doing is there. And it should be. It's fun to watch him play his game. He really impacts the ball."

Specifically, on the defensive side, Boone cited Andujar's need to improve his footwork.

"The skill set, I don't think there's any question it's there," Boone said before the game. "He's got the footspeed, the athleticism, the arm strength, all the traits you like out of a third baseman. But I think it's continuing to really get consistent with his footwork that will allow him to be consistent on that side of the ball, and I feel like I've seen strides there."

Andujar lockers next to Gleyber Torres. The two roomed together while they were playing in the Arizona Fall League two years ago, and they remain close now.

"He's amazing," said Torres, who would often go out to dinner and play PlayStation 4 with Andujar. "I feel super happy for him. He's always practicing and working hard. He's gotten a lot better."

When it comes to Torres, Cashman has repeatedly dismissed the idea that service time will factor into his decision-making process at second.

"We want to take the best players," Cashman said. "We know we'll have our hands full moving forward, so whoever is best (will win the job). The only question with Gleyber is he missed the second half of last year.

"He's very young despite his talent level, and he's pushed himself to where he is now because of his ability. But his experience is still limited at the upper levels, so that's something we'll have to wrestle with compared to how the rest of the competition does."

As for Andujar, Cashman said: "He knows he's competing for something. We have high hopes for him. He's already opened our eyes, and not just with this camp but with what he's done and with where he's at in his career, and competition's always good.

"We try to line up as much of that as we can because we think it brings out the best in people, and when it doesn't it's a learning experience for those who don't adjust well to that competition. They have a chance to regroup, think through what happened, and why it went that way so the next time they can change the narrative."

With every homer he hits, Andujar is keeping himself in the conversation.

"He looked like an everyday MLB regular in the minors last year," another scout said.

2 years ago  ::  Feb 27, 2018 - 10:20PM #79
Posts: 32,868

Giancarlo Stanton braces for shift to New York spotlight

Yankees OF Giancarlo Stanton believes he is prepared for the challenge of the New York City market when he heads north with the team at the end of spring training.

"It's fine," Stanton said to the New York Post. "I'm OK with it as long as it's structured. As long as I can come by my locker and if I forget something, that doesn't mean the moment someone sees me here, I get attacked. As long as it's, 'Set aside this amount of time, this guy needs you, that guy needs you,' then fine. That's how I like it."

Former Yankee Don Mattingly, who served as Stanton's manager in Miami, noted that there is a striking difference for ballplayers between the two cities.

"When you play in the past environment, here, it has not been a culture of winning. It has not been stacked stadiums. A four-game losing streak here is a lot different than it is in New York. That's probably his biggest adjustment."

The 28-year-old Stanton said he is planning to pay close attention to veteran players to help him navigate his new surroundings.

"[My] best learner is my eyes right now," Stanton said. "See how [veteran teammates] approach it. See things that are normal to them that aren't normal to me. That's the quickest way to make it normal for me."

Among those veterans include CC Sabathia, who came to the Yankees in 2009 after stints with the Indians and Brewers.

"I think everybody just gets scared on the outside looking in," Sabathia said. "It's intimidating. But once you get here and see that there's young guys doing it, old guys doing it, it's still baseball. It's the same thing. I think he'll be fine."

Stanton is coming off a breakout season last year during which he hit 59 home runs and 132 RBIs while playing in a career-high 159 games. He hit .268 in eight seasons with the Marlins dating back to 2010. 

2 years ago  ::  Feb 28, 2018 - 10:37AM #80
Posts: 32,868

Checking in on Clint Frazier’s and Tyler Wade’s adjustments at the plate

Spring Training is a time for change. Sometimes the roster changes because a player steals a job or a regular gets hurt, but more often than not, the players themselves change. This guy is in the best shape of his life, that guy learned a new pitch, so on and so forth. All that change is going to make everyone better too. Spring Training is the time for optimism.

This spring the Yankees have several players who have changed or are in the process of changing. Gary Sanchez lost weight. Jordan Montgomery is finding his changeup. Aaron Boone is learning how to be a big league manager on the fly. That all represents change. Some of it will work, some of it won’t, and some of it might even backfire. What if the weight loss robs Gary of some power? It could happen.

Tyler Wade and Clint Frazier, two young Yankees who are probably on the outside of the roster looking in right now — Wade is a better shot to make the Opening Day roster than Frazier, it seems — made changes to their hitting mechanics over the winter in an effort to become more effective players. Both reached the big leagues last year, mostly failed, and learned from that failure and made adjustments.

“There aren’t as many moving parts,” said Frazier to Brendan Kuty about his new hitting mechanics. “… The leg kick is not high. I’ve tried to create some natural separation (between my hands and body) so it starts with keeping my hands on my shoulder. Then I simply lift up my hands, and I pull back with my right hand only because in the end, I had that hitch in my swing — cocking with my hands. Now there’s less of that.”

Long story short, Frazier toned everything down. Smaller leg kick and not as much of a hitch. Everything is a little more compact now. Frazier has bat speed to spare, and with less moving parts, he can be more direct to the ball, at least in theory. Here is 2017 Frazier vs. 2018 Frazier. I apologize in advance for the GIF quality.

That’s the final game of the 2017 regular season on the left and the first 2018 Grapefruit League game on the right. Frazier toned down his leg kick considerably. That’s the biggest and most obvious change. He also all but eliminated his bat waggle, and from the look of things, his hands are closer to his body now as well, though that might just be the camera angles.

Know what else Frazier changed this offseason? His physique. It’s not that Frazier was heavy. The dude was built like a bodybuilder. Remember all those workout videos that mound the rounds last winter? Clint was jacked. Here again is 2017 Frazier and 2018 Frazier:


Last year Frazier’s neck, shoulders, and chest were ready to rip through his jersey. This year he’s slimmed down in his upper half — Kuty says it is most noticeable in Frazier’s chest and biceps — and Frazier indicated he slimmed down to increase flexibility. He was so muscular and wound so tightly in the past that it took some athleticism away. Frazier wanted to get that athleticism back.

Just about everything Frazier did over the winter was designed to make his swing more efficient. He cut down on his leg kick and back waggle to eliminate unnecessary movement, and his workouts traded muscle for flexibility. Last year Frazier tried to succeed with brute force. Now everything is more streamlined. Will it work? Who in the world knows. Clearly though, the Frazier that showed up to camp this year looks different than the Frazier we saw last year.

“I was aware of what my body was doing and what it was supposed to be doing,” said Frazier to George King. “In the past I tried to muscle everything and I created a lot of moving parts. Something needed to change to give myself a better chance to hit … In my opinion it gives me a better chance to square up the ball. I didn’t even know I had fast bat speed until Brian Cashman pointed it out.”

As for Wade, the changes he made to his hitting mechanics came about in a unique way. It turns out Wade’s trainer back home in California also trains Albert Pujols, so Wade and Pujols got together and became winter workout buddies. How about that? The two were hitting together during the offseason when Pujols suggested some changes to help Wade better handle the inside pitch.

“He suggested to change something with my hands and the way my front side is set up,” Wade explained to Randy Miller. “I put it to use and I feel great. I feel free and relaxed now with my front side. I changed my hands and I’m bending my legs a little bit more, which is going to allow me to get to more pitches. I’m more direct. It’s less movement for me. I feel great at the plate.”

Wade’s adjustments aren’t as drastic as Frazier’s, or at least I don’t think so. Here is the obligatory before and after GIF. Again, that’s the final 2017 regular season game on the left and the first 2018 Grapefruit League game on the right.

Wade’s hands are higher this year and I think he’s slightly more open with his stance, though that might just be the camera angles playing a trick on my eyes. Frazier cut down on his leg kick and his bat waggle, and possibly brought his hands closer to his body. Wade simply moved his hands up a bit.

As a result, there’s a little less load in Wade’s swing now. Last year he’d bring his hands back ever so slightly before exploding forward with his swing. This year his hands are already loaded, so he just goes forward. That tiny little change helps him cover the plate more, particularly the inner half. That doesn’t mean Wade will turn on inside pitches and pull them for power, necessarily. But now he won’t be helpless when he gets busted inside.

So far all we know is Frazier and Wade look different at the plate. Changes have been made. We still don’t know whether those changes will make them more effective going forward, and that’s probably something that won’t be answered in Spring Training either. There’s too much noise during Spring Training games. Too many pitchers working on things and too many minor league caliber arms.

I’ve been doing this long enough to know most swing adjustments and mechanical changes result in nothing. They’re something to talk about and they usually don’t help the player in the end. But every once in a while someone will remake their swing and reap huge rewards (hello 2010 Curtis Granderson). Maybe these changes will help Frazier and Wade become more effective big leaguers. Maybe not. Point is, they learned from last season and are trying to get better, and that’s what you want every player to do, rookie or veteran.

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