Yankees vs. Orioles preview 3/29/12

    Thursday, March 29, 2012, 1:53 PM [General]

    The Yankees’ rotation competition will be on hold – at least for one night – when the Yankees host the Orioles on YES Thursday night at 7 p.m.

    There are still four men vying for the final three spots in the Yankees’ rotation – a battle that Jon Lane looks at here – and all four men will be in action at some point this weekend; Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia were slated to pitch in Minor League games Thursday and Friday respectively, while Michael Pineda and Phil Hughes will likely start Friday and Saturday’s Grapefruit League games.

    So, when the Yankees take the field on Thursday night, it will be behind prospect David Phelps, who has had a solid spring so far. In five appearances, the 25-year-old has allowed just two runs in 11 innings (a 1.64 ERA) while striking out eight.

    D.J. Mitchell, who was originally penciled in to start, is still expected to split the pitching duties with Phelps. Like his fellow prospect, Mitchell has pitched well in his five trips to the mound this March, allowing three earned runs in 12 innings (for a 2.25 ERA) while fanning nine.

    Both men last saw action last week, with Phelps pitching the final 3 1/3 innings (giving up two runs on three hits and a walk) of the Yankees’ Friday win over Philadelphia and Mitchell allowing two runs on three hits over three innings in Saturday’s win over Detroit.

    The lineup behind them:

    Derek Jeter SS
    Curtis Granderson DH
    Alex Rodriguez 3B
    Mark Teixeira 1B
    Raul Ibanez LF
    Andruw Jones RF
    Brett Gardner CF
    Eduardo Nunez 2B
    Francisco Cervelli C

    Curtis Granderson, who got some good news on Wednesday when the MRI on his elbow came back negative, is back in the lineup as the DH. Nick Swisher, meanwhile, is out once again; Swisher was scheduled to play in a second straight Minor League game today, but was not in the starting lineup with the Scranton squad, so it remains to be seen or heard if he will return Friday as Joe Girardi hoped.

    Robinson Cano and Russell Martin also get the night off in favor of Eduardo Nunez and Francisco Cervelli.

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    Yankees lineup vs. Braves 3/28/12

    Wednesday, March 28, 2012, 11:55 AM [General]

    The Yankees are headed to Disney World today – more specifically, Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., where they will take on the Braves at 1:05 p.m.

    Hiroki Kuroda, who Joe Girardi has said will open the season as his No. 2 starter, is on the mound, and he has a handful of regulars behind him. The starting lineup:

    Eduardo Nunez SS
    Robinson Cano 2B
    Mark Teixeira 1B
    Raul Ibanez DH
    Eric Chavez 3B
    Francisco Cervelli C
    DeWayne Wise CF
    Chris Dickerson RF
    Justin Maxwell LF

    Among the pitchers on the trip who may see action behind Kuroda are Cory Wade, prospect Adam Warren, switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, and lefty Cesar Cabral.

    According to Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog, Girardi said on Wednesday that the Yankees will likely carry a second lefty in the bullpen, with the competition between Cabral and Clay Rapada. Both have had great springs so far, but as Girardi said, the biggest issue with Cabral is that the team can only make an “educated guess of what his upside is.”

    Non-roster invitees Jayson Nix, Bill Hall, Gustavo Molina, and Doug Bernier are among the reserves Girardi will have on the bench in Lake Buena Vista as well.

    Also, Curtis Granderson, who felt soreness in his elbow on Wednesday, went for a precautionary MRI Thursday morning, and the team hopes to know more later in the afternoon.

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    Yankees vs. Blue Jays lineup, Pettitte notes

    Tuesday, March 27, 2012, 5:14 PM [General]

    It might look a lot like April 6 when the Yankees host the Blue Jays tonight at 7 p.m. on YES.

    CC Sabathia, the Yankees ace, will be on the mound against Toronto, and he will be backed by nearly the entire expected Opening Day lineup:

    Derek Jeter SS
    Curtis Granderson CF
    Robinson Cano 2B
    Alex Rodriguez 3B
    Mark Teixeira 1B
    Russell Martin C
    Raul Ibanez DH
    Andruw Jones RF
    Brett Gardner LF

    The one notable exception is Nick Swisher, who is still out nursing a groin injury he suffered last week. Swisher did take batting practice earlier Tuesday, and is scheduled to play in Minor League games Wednesday and Thursday before rejoining the Grapefruit lineup on Friday.

    Otherwise, it’s business as usual for the Bombers, who resume their spring schedule after an off day Monday.

    In one other note, Swisher took the aforementioned batting practice off of Andy Pettitte, who threw 35 pitches to Swisher and Chris Dickerson among others. WFAN’s Sweeny Murti Tweeted that Pettitte was happy with his location, and that the lefty said that "I need the ball to move late, and the hitters so far are telling me it's doing that."

    Good signs for both Pettitte and Swisher, as well as the Yankees.

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    Why the hate for Tim Tebow?

    Monday, March 26, 2012, 5:35 PM [General]

    Tim Tebow is clearly one of the most polarizing players in the NFL. People either love him or vehemently hate him, with no middle ground.

    The guy has the best-selling jersey in the NFL and is the basis of “Tebowing,” but since the minute the Jets acquired Tebow last week, the reaction has been mostly negative around the sports world. Mike Francesa called the trade “a colossal disaster,” Joe Namath called it a “publicity stunt,” and even a good chunk of the media at Tebow’s press conference on Monday wanted to ask him less about his own game and more about potential quarterback controversies or his faith or anything else.

    I only have one question regarding all this: Why? Why does everyone hate Tim Tebow? Why has this trade become the iceberg that will sink the Rex Ryan-led Titanic once and for all?

    Look at some of the biggest criticisms since the trade, and you tell me.

    Criticism No. 1: "He’ll create a quarterback controversy." If anyone is going to do that, it’s not going to be Tebow, it’ll be Mark Sanchez. Mike Tannenbaum said that Tebow is the No. 2 quarterback…so is it his fault if he becomes No. 1? The Jets gave up quite a haul to draft Sanchez, and after two straight trips to the AFC Championship Game, he regressed a lot last season. Plus, his totals (73.2 rating, 3,070 yards average per season, 55 TD vs. 68 turnovers) don’t exactly scream franchise quarterback in a league where passing is now premium. If anything, the thought of Tebow taking his job should push Sanchez more than three years ahead of Mark Brunell on the depth chart ever did.

    Criticism No. 2: “The Wildcat is a gimmick, and that’s all he’s good for.”  The AFC West wasn’t great last year, but whatever you want to call the offense Tebow ran in Denver, he went 7-4, won the AFC West, won a playoff game…and beat the Jets. Not to mention that he had a better yards per carry average and the same amount of rushing touchdowns as the Jets’ top running back in 2011.

    Criticism No. 3: “He’s too preachy.” Tebow isn’t shy about his faith, and it’s become a fixation for people who hate him. But let’s be honest here – the Jets have the most bombastic head coach in the league, started a convicted felon at wide receiver last season, and have a starting cornerback who proved on television that he can’t even name all of his illegitimate children. On this team, Tebow isn’t just a saint among sinners, he’s Mother Teresa. You’ve surely heard the expression “good clubhouse guy” in baseball, and if anything, Tebow might be worth it for that alone.

    Criticism No. 4: “He cost too much for a backup.” Monetarily, he cost them $2.5 million in salary advance that had to be repaid and another $500k that was “wasted” on Drew Stanton’s signing bonus. As far as draft picks go, considering they got one back for Stanton, they basically traded a fourth and a sixth for a seventh and another to be determined. Late-round picks get thrown around all the time (or spent on “useful” parts like Bilal Powell), and the money is nothing considering they had just signed Stanton – who has all of 12 games of NFL experience with the Lions – for $1.25 million.

    Bottom line, Tim Tebow is a pretty decent football player. He gives it his all on every play, wants (and knows how) to win, and possibly squeezes more out of the ability he has than anyone in the game.

    I urge the haters to remember that the first time Santonio Holmes pouts mid-season and takes plays off.

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    Jets trade Drew Stanton to Indianapolis

    Friday, March 23, 2012, 5:52 PM [General]

    Talk about the circle of life, and the ears of a few NFL quarterbacks might start ringing.

    The news item here is that the Jets granted quarterback Drew Stanton’s trade request on Friday, sending the former Michigan State signal-caller to the Indianapolis Colts for an undisclosed draft picks.

    Where the circle of life comes in is in the circumstances leading up to, and the results of, Stanton’s quick departure after a cup of coffee in New York.

    Stanton was traded to the Colts, as in the same Colts who cut Peyton Manning two weeks ago, allowing Denver to sign Manning to a five-year deal and seek a trade for former starter Tim Tebow.

    Of course, Tebow who was traded to the Jets on Wednesday and publicly proclaimed by General Manager Mike Tannenbaum to be the No. 2 quarterback – taking the spot Stanton had been promised when he was signed to a one-year, $1.25 million contract a week ago.

    And now, with Stanton in Indianapolis, the three men have simply rotated into one another’s previous locales and completed the bizarre circle.

    When the Jets acquired Tebow on Wednesday, Stanton was understandably upset and asked the Jets to either trade or release him, with his agent reportedly giving Tannenbaum a list of preferred destinations that included Indianapolis among a handful of others.

    To their credit, the Jets not only paid the $500,000 signing bonus mandated in Stanton’s contract last week, but also made a deal happen less than 48 hours after Tebowmania ran wild.

    And so, Manning will lead the Broncos in 2012, Tebow will play behind (and potentially in conjunction with) Mark Sanchez, and Stanton will likely compete with any other acquisitions the Colts might make for the right to back up whichever quarterback – likely Andrew Luck, but possibly Robert Griffin III – they select No. 1 overall in the upcoming NFL Draft.

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    Yankees injury news, notes

    Friday, March 23, 2012, 1:15 PM [General]

    The biggest news out of Yankees camp on Friday is the injury suffered by reliever Joba Chamberlain, who will be out indefinitely after suffering an open dislocation of his right ankle on Thursday.

    However, the team did get some good news regarding some other players on the injury report over the last few days.

    Freddy Garcia, who has been out since suffering a bruised right hand on March 14 against the Blue Jays, threw a bullpen session on Thursday and should be able to start against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., on Saturday afternoon.

    Nick Swisher, who has sat out the last few days after feeling a tug in his groin on Tuesday against the Pirates, is improving, and manager Joe Girardi said Thursday that Swisher could also return to action this weekend against the Tigers.

    "He said he feels pretty decent," Girardi said. "I'll talk to [head athletic trainer] Steve Donohue and see, do we try to put him in before the weekend is over or do you wait until next week? He said he felt OK."

    David Robertson, who has been out since March 7 with a bone bruise in his foot, threw a 29-pitch bullpen session on Friday. According to YES Network’s Jack Curry, Robertson faced seven batters and struggled with the strike zone a bit despite striking out two.

    And finally, Jorge Vazquez, who left Thursday’s game against the Red Sox after being hit on the hand by a Mark Melancon pitch, said he was "okay" despite the hand being heavily wrapped when he left Fort Myers on Thursday night. He was scheduled to see a doctor prior to Friday's game against the Twins and was penciled in as available for that game, but did not see action.

    In non-injury news, Andy Pettitte also faced six batters in live batting practice Friday morning, and according to Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog, the lefty said that he “missed a few spots, but otherwise, everything’s where it needs to be” and that his fastball was “riding nice.”

    Also, David Phelps returned to camp Friday following the birth of his child. Phelps had been originally scheduled to start Thursday’s game in Fort Myers, but left the team after his wife went into labor. He was with the split-squad in Clearwater, and pitched the final 3 1/3 innings in the Yankees' 5-3 win over the Phillies.

    Congratulations go out to Phelps and his wife.

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    Yankees lineup vs. Phillies

    Friday, March 23, 2012, 10:40 AM [General]

    The Yankees play a pair of split-squad games today, with half the team in Tampa to host the Twins and the other half in Clearwater to battle the Phillies.

    Here is the starting lineup for the squad that will be in Clearwater:

    Brett Gardner LF
    Francisco Cervelli C
    Robinson Cano 2B
    Eric Chavez 1B
    Brandon Laird 3B
    Chris Dickerson RF
    DeWayne Wise CF
    Colin Curtis DH
    Doug Bernier SS

    RHP Hiroki Kuroda

    Top prospect Dante Bichette, Jr. is with the team in Clearwater as well.

    A full preview of the Twins/Yankees game in Tampa is available here.

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    Cabral, Rapada making bullpen battle a heated one

    Thursday, March 22, 2012, 4:57 PM [General]

    Boone Logan will definitely be Joe Girardi’s top left-handed option out of the bullpen this season, and the Yankees manager hasn’t said whether or not he prefers to take a second one north.

    Either way, Clay Rapada and Cesar Cabral are making Girardi’s decision about the final spot in the bullpen a very, very tough one.  

    Outside of both being left-handed, Rapada and Cabral seemingly couldn’t be any more opposite. The former is a 31-year-old non-roster invitee, a “journeyman” who has 78 Major League appearances on his resume; the latter is a 23-year-old Rule 5 draftee whose 24 appearances at Double-A Portland last summer represent his highest trek up the baseball ladder.

    But they couldn’t be any more similar either, because both have been dominant so far this spring.

    Rapada has pitched 6 1/3 innings in Grapefruit League competition, and so far he has not been scored upon. He has recorded nine strikeouts against just three walks and two hits, and among pitchers still in camp, his 0.79 WHIP is second only to Mariano Rivera, only perhaps the greatest reliever of all-time.

    Cabral, meanwhile, has a 2.16 ERA so far through 8 1/3 spring innings, but has also struck out 11 batters in that time – six of which came in two impressive frames against the Rays on Wednesday night.  

    Both men also hold a distinct “advantage” over the other.

    In Rapada’s case, he has that experience. Rapada has pitched parts of five seasons in the Majors, including a stint in 2011 with the Orioles, and although some of his numbers on paper (5.13 ERA, 32 BB in 52 2/3 career innings) may put you off at first glance, he has held lefties to a .153 average over his Major League career.  

    He’s also had a bit of a chip on his shoulder since being released by the Orioles on Feb. 15 and signed to a minor league deal by the Yankees three days later.

    “I came here knowing that there was an opportunity,” Rapada told Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees blog on Wednesday. “Having that extra chip on your shoulder to fight for a job is always a plus … I feel like I’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose.”

    As for Cabral, he has the “advantage” of being a Rule 5 Draftee – meaning that if he doesn’t make the Yankees and spend all season on the Major League roster, he must be offered back to his previous organization(in this case, the Red Sox) for $25,000. And while he may not have any Major League experience, is strikeout totals this spring are indicative of the repertoire that has helped him record nearly a K per inning over his six stops in the low minors.

    Whether the competition for the final bullpen spot is lefty-specific or not, both men have pitched well enough to make choosing between just them a nightmare, albeit a good one, for Girardi.

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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