The first Yankees lineup of Spring Training

It’s Saturday morning, February 23, 2012 and that means it’s time for the first Yankees lineup of Spring. Now, hopefully you won’t ever see this particular lineup in Yankee Stadium this season otherwise, the team is in big trouble.

Eduardo Nunez SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Juan Rivera DH
Matt Diaz LF
Francisco Cervelli C
Melky Mesa CF
Zoilo Almonte RF
Corban Joseph 3B

RHP David Phelps

[Lineup courtesy of the Lohud Yankees Blog]

IIATMS Top 30 Prospects 2013

With Spring Training underway and the Yankees gearing up for their first “game,” it seems like a good time to look at the Yankees of the future. The bulk of the Yankees’ strongest prospects still have at least a couple years to go, but they are getting closer. Some of these guys may find their way to the Bronx at during the next seven or eight months, others are still a few years away from the majors and – of course – some may never get the chance to run out onto a big league field. Regardless, here are some names to keep an eye on during this year’s Farm Reports.

1. Gary Sanchez (C):
We had Sanchez at the top of our list all last season and see no real reason to move him out of that top spot, though some of the other young guys make this a bit of a harder decision – but more about them later. The Yankees have had a wealth of catcher prospects over the last few years, but with Jesus Montero now in Seattle and Austin Romine missing most of last season with another back injury, Sanchez has become the focal point in the Yankees’ internal search for their future catcher. Sanchez had a rough 2011, with some “character” issues and a mediocre year at the plate, but he seemed to turn it around quite a bit in 2012.

Offensively, Sanchez still is a bit raw, but at 20 he continues to improve and has always projected to hit for average and power. He hit .290/.344/.485 between Charleston and Tampa in 2012. He was SAL Player of the Week twice and picked up SAL Mid-Season All-Star and Organization All-Star honors. Much like Montero, Sanchez’s offensive potential has never been questioned, but his ability to stick behind the plate continues to garner discussion. He has a strong arm and appears to be making improvements defensively. He is probably a safer bet to play catcher than Montero ever was, but some scouts continue to doubt whether this will happen. Sanchez will likely start the year in Tampa and find himself in Trenton by the end of the season, giving him a few more years until we see him in the Bronx.

2. Mason Williams (OF):
If you wanted to know who the best all-around prospect was in the Yankees system, Williams would probably be at the top of most lists. The young outfielder made a splash in 2011, when he hit .349/.395/.468 in 68 games with Staten Island, showing great potential on both sides of the field. Williams continued to impress in 2012, hitting a combined .298/.346/.474 between Charleston and Tampa, before his season ended early due to an injury to his non-throwing arm shoulder. A speedy outfielder with a decent arm and strong defensive ability, Williams could grow into the full package. He has always shown the ability to hit for a high average and is starting to put some more power into his game. A few comments were made about “character” issues at the end of last season, which was the first many of us had heard with Williams. For now, I am willing to chalk it up as nothing more than growing pains for a young player who looks like he should have a bright future ahead of him.

3. Slade Heathcott (OF):
The Yankees’ first round pick in 2009 has already overcome quite a bit in his short professional career, with some off-field and on-field controversies along with shoulder problems. Still, if he can stay healthy, Heathcott continues to show some incredible potential. While he missed the early part of the 2012 season, Heathcott hit an impressive .307/.378/.470 in sixty games for the Tampa Yankees in 2012 (credit xiavien). He got some extra work done in the Arizona Fall League, where he .388/.494/.612 for the Scottsdale Scorpions. Heathcott can hit for average, but has some solid power as well. He is another speedy outfielder and has a strong arm. Heathcott should see time in Trenton this year and if he can stay healthy he could be ready for the Bronx sometime next year.

4. Tyler Austin (OF):
Austin rounds out the Yankees’ trio of exciting outfield prospects, having made the move from playing corner infield positions. While Williams made his splash in 2011, Austin was quickly everyone’s new favorite prospect in 2012. He hit .322/.400/.559, spending most of the year in Charleston before getting promoted to Tampa and making a couple appearances in Trenton. Austin’s pull power is particularly impressive and he has some decent speed. His defense is not quite a strong as Heathcott or Williams, but the idea of the three of them roaming the Yankees outfield in a few years sounds pretty nice to me.

5. Manny Banuelos (P):
Banuelos was at the top of most Yankees prospect lists at the start of last season, but the southpaw missed most of 2012 with back and elbow issues and will miss all of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. While it is frustrating to watch the career of someone on the verge stall due to injury, it is important to remember that Banuelos will turn 23 during Spring Training 2014. The young hurler still has plenty of potential and while we will have to wait a bit longer than anticipated to see him in the majors, there is no reason to see him there in the long run.

6. Jose Campos (P):
Much like Banuelos, Campos also missed most of 2012 with elbow problems, however, he did not require Tommy John surgery and should be back in action this season. Campos was the other exciting part of the Montero trade, exhibiting a plus fastball and a plus curve. His fastball generally sits in the low 90s, but he has hit 97 and is still just twenty years old. He will likely give it another shot in Charleston to start the year.

7. Ty Hensley (P):
The Yankees’ first round pick last season signed late, after talks were slowed upon the discovery of an “abnormality” in his shoulder. Hensley only threw twelve innings in the Gulf Coast League, striking out fourteen batters, giving up eight hits and seven walks. His fastball has plus potential and he has hit 97mph. Hensley compliments his fastball with a strong 12-6 curve that he commands well. He has a changeup that has potential, but he needs to work on his consistency with it. After getting just a glimpse of him last season, it will be nice to see him really start his professional career later this summer when the short season clubs get underway.

8. Angelo Gumbs (2B):
An infielder who has a lot of tools and a high ceiling, Gumbs seems to get better as he moves up. He started 2012 in Charleston pretty slow, but once he adjusted to the Sally League he made quite the impact. At the end of the year he had a line of .272/.320/.432, with seven homers, fourteen doubles and an 26 stolen bases. Gumbs uses the whole field and has great bat speed, making him a big threat at the plate. He has good speed on the bases, but what makes him dangerous is his aggressiveness. Gumbs is still adjusting to playing second base, but his good range, hands and strong arm should make him a solid second baseman.

9. Mark Montgomery (P):
Montgomery has flown through the Minors and it would not be surprising to see the reliever on the mound in Yankee Stadium during 2013. He owns a 1.65 ERA over 92.2 innings through the last two seasons, starting in Staten Island after being drafted and ending last year in Trenton. He strikes out batters, picking up 150 Ks during his professional career while allowing just 35 walks. He has a deceptive four-seam fastball that he throws in the mid-90s, but it is his slider that has been confounding batters. Montgomery has a changeup that he mixes in from time to time. He is often compared to David Robertson and if this truly is the final year of Mariano Rivera‘s illustrious career, it may make it easier on Yankees fans to envision a future with Montgomery setting up and Robertson closing.

10. Ramon Flores (OF):
Flores had a slow start to 2012 but turned things around rather quickly. His exceptional plate discipline and ability to use the whole field were truly on display in Tampa, as he started to add a little more power to his game. At just 20, Flores has always appeared to have a more advanced approach at the plate for someone his age. Over the year, he hit .302/.370/.420 in Tampa and played one game in Trenton, going 2-5 with a homer. Flores is a smart baserunner, if not particularly speedy, so he can swipe his share of bases during the course of a season. He also continues to improve defensively and is starting to turn into a solid all-around player. Look for him in Trenton this season.

11. Bryan Mitchell (P):
Mitchell finished his first full season of professional baseball last year, pitching for the Charleston RiverDogs. He threw 120 innings and while his 4.58 ERA shows how inconsistent he can be, he was able to pick up 121 Ks. Mitchell boasts some of the best pure stuff in the Yankees’ organization, but the comparisons to A.J. Burnett are likely to make many fans wary of whether he will be able to take advantage of it. Mitchell has a powerful fastball that averaged in the mid-90s last season, but also routinely hit 98. He was able to maintain velocity deep into games, but he struggled with control. He throws one of the best curves in the system, which gets him a lot of strikeouts. His changeup is a work in progress, but it shows flashes of potential.

12. Dante Bichette, Jr. (3B):
It has been an interesting road already for the young Bichette, who many were surprised to see the Yankees snatch up in the first round in 2011. While many questioned the pick early on, Bichette signed quickly and put together an impressive first season in the Gulf Coast League and even playing a handful of games for Staten Island. The Yankees were impressed enough that in 2012 they sent him right to Charleston for his first full season of professional ball. Not surprisingly, Bichette struggled some as he had to adjust to some tougher competition. He hit just .248/.322/.331 in 122 games for the RiverDogs, but seemed to find his swing towards the end of the year, hitting .371/.463/.457 in his last ten games. When he was drafted there was skepticism about Bichette’s ability to stick at third base, but he has worked pretty hard and looks like a solid defender. There are still a lot of things to like about Bichette, including a strong work ethic and winning mentality. He still has a lot to learn, but the tools are there.

13. Brett Marshall (P):
Marshall put together a strong 2012 in Trenton, picking up 120 strikeouts, with a 3.52 ERA and only 53 walks. He has developed a nice sinking two-seam fastball, favoring that over his former power four-seamer. A good changeup with some nice movement has become his main strikeout pitch. A decent slider and curveball round out his repertoire, each with the potential to turn into solid major league pitches. Marshall is an efficient pitcher who could be a good major league starter if he finds some more consistency. He will likely start the year in Scranton and could see time in New York this season with a chance to make the major league roster next spring.

14. Ravel Santana (OF):
There was a lot of excitement over the return of Santana from a nasty ankle injury in 2011. Once a truly exciting prospect, Santana has had to overcome both the injury, eyesight problems and his own apprehensions upon returning to the field. Once a speedy and aggressive base runner, Santana is much more cautious. The same goes for his play in the outfield. In the end, he hit .216/.304/.289 over sixty games for Staten Island. This by no means signals the end of Santana’s career, once he gets the ankle and vision issues behind him, he should be able to get back on track as the exciting prospect he can be. He is no longer on the fast track to the majors, but he is still just twenty years old and has a pretty high ceiling.

15. Austin Romine (C):
Romine had a rough 2012, injuring his back early in Spring Training, when he was competing for a spot on the major league roster. The injury kept him out of commission for the bulk of the season, though he got some more swings in during his stint in the Arizona Fall League. Romine has always been praised more for his defense than the other Yankee catching prospects, but he can put together a decent offense. If it weren’t for last year’s injury, it is likely Romine would definitely be looking to become the Yankees’ starting catcher this season, after Russell Martin left in the offseason. However, it seems likely he will head back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for a little more work and hopefully should get another shot in the Bronx pretty quickly.

16. J.R. Murphy (C):
After 2011, Murphy had moved his name into the ongoing discussion about the Yankees’ wealth of catching prospects. He had hit .297/.343/.457 in Charleston and improved defensively. In 2012, he continued to make defensive improvements and move up the ladder, but he never quite got his swing going. He went .248/.316/.386 between Tampa and Trenton, striking out 73 times and drawing just 42 walks. Much like Romine, Murphy has become a solid defensive catcher and he has the tools to has a major league worthy offense. He does a lot of things well, but does not stand out in one particular area. Murphy will likely start 2013 in Trenton, but could see time in Scranton with an eye towards the majors next year.

17. Nik Turley (P):
At 6’6″, Turley is a big southpaw who has drawn comparisons to Andy Pettitte. He had a good year in Tampa last season, where he had a 2.89 ERA and picked up 116 Ks and walking only 44. Turley’s fastball improved this past season, getting some more velocity and even routinely hitting 95mph. He has good control over his fastball and his changeup, probably his best offspeed pitch. His curveball has gotten better, but he still lacks consistency and he has worked on adding a slider. Turley would be my pick for a pitcher to keep a close eye on this season, if he continues along this path he could easily find himself in the middle of a major league rotation in a couple years.

18. Rafael DePaula (P):
It has been a long journey getting DePaula playing professionally, as he was in limbo due to visa issues for quite some time. After finally getting the green light, DePaula got his start in the Dominican Summer League. The righty put some pretty nice numbers there, owning a 1.46 ERA and 85 Ks, while allowing only eighteen walks and a batting average against of just .162 over 61.2 innings. Still, he turns 22 in about a month so he better put those kinds of numbers up in the DSL. He is hard to project, given he hasn’t played in the US yet, but this year we should start to see him moving more quickly up the ladder.

19. Jose Ramirez (P):
Ramirez reminded the Yankees why he is a special prospect in 2012. He had a 3.19 ERA with 94 strikeouts and just 30 walks. Ramirez has a nice power fastball, consistently hitting the mid-90s late in games and having great command over the pitch. Combined with his plus changeup, which he delivers much like his fastball, and a slider he has introduced and has helped him gain some confidence, Ramirez has the potential to be a special pitcher. Where he seems to struggle the most is the mental side of the game, lacking confidence despite his ability to command these pitches well. He should start the year in Trenton and could see time out of the bullpen in New York next season.

20. Adam Warren (P):
Warren’s first taste of the majors did not go as he likely envisioned it, when he gave up six runs on eight hits in just 2.1 innings, but overall 2012 was a good year for the right handed hurler. A rough start was quickly forgotten and he owned a 3.71 ERA, 107 Ks and only 46 walks for the Empire State Traveling Yankees. There really isn’t a lot left for Warren to prove in the minors, he will just have to wait for another shot at the majors and hope that things go better the next time around.

21. Corban Joseph (2B):
Joseph crushed Double-A last year for Trenton, hitting .314/.412/.430 over 23 games before being sent up to Empire State. He continued to show some good stuff in Triple A with a line of .266/.366/.474 and thirteen homers. A decent defensive player, Joseph has always shown some natural hitting ability. Some confidence in his defense could go a long way and he is starting to find more power offensively. He will hit for average and is probably ready to give the majors a try at some point this season.

22. Austin Aune (SS):
Aune was the Yankees’ second round draft pick last year and he started his professional career pretty nicely down in the Gulf Coast League. He hit .273/.358/.410 with twenty RBIs, ten doubles, three triples and a homer. His ability to stick at shortstop is questionable, but he has some great offensive – albeit raw – talent. Aune has a long road to travel, but it should be interesting to watch how he develops.

23. Zoilo Almonte (OF):
Almonte made quite a statement during last year’s Spring Training, but was slowed down when a hamstring injury sidelined him for a month. He returned to Trenton where he put together a solid .277/.322/.487 line, with 23 doubles and 21 homers. He also managed to swipe fifteen bases, getting caught four times. The switch-hitter has a knack for clutch hits and shows some nice power, along with some solid defensive play in the outfield. Almonte was added to the 40-man and should be in Scranton to start the season with a real shot to show up in the Bronx if the need arises.

24.David Adams (2B):
Another player who had to come back from a bad ankle injury, Adams wasted little time in getting back on track. He hit .306/.385/.450 in 86 games for Trenton last year. A patient and consistent hitter, Adams’ swing does not seem to have suffered due to his time off. He is going to hit more for average than power, with the ability to knock quite a few doubles. He has lost a little speed since the injury and while he is not going to be an elite defender, he is a competent second baseman with a strong arm and can play a little third base as well.

25. Nick Goody (P):
Goody has only 32 innings of professional baseball under his belt, after being drafted in the sixth round last season, but he jumped from Staten Island to Tampa quickly. Over three levels, he had a 1.13 ERA with a .177 batting average against, 52 strikeouts and only nine walks. He collected seven saves and has yet to give up a homer. Goody throws a hard fastball and goes right after batters. His slider has potential to be a true strikeout pitch and he throws a changeup that needs some work. Goody could follow in Montgomery’s footsteps, flying through the minors and projecting much like another Robertson setup type pitcher.

26. Dellin Betances (P):
I am guessing that Betances was really happy to see the calendar change from 2012 to 2013. After making his major league debut in 2011 and having long been one of the Yankees most talked about pitching prospects, Betances had a truly frustrating last season. The hard-throwing righty still has some great stuff, but his inability to find any consistency has paused his progression and has many people wondering whether he will turn things around. It is still too early to give up on the guy, especially given the potential he still has. He threw out of the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League and showed some good stuff, so that may be the key to seeing if the Yankees can do something with him.

27. Matt Tracy (P):
Despite starting 2012 on the DL, Tracy has continued his fast assent towards the majors. After a strong 2011 season with Staten Island he skipped Charleston and put together a nice season in Tampa. In eighteen games he had a 3.19 ERA and pitched two complete games. He was rewarded with a promotion at the end of the year not to Trenton but to Empire State, where he put together a nice five inning start, allowing just one run on three hits, three walks and four Ks. Tracy may not have much in the way of professional experience, but there is a reason the Yankees keep skipping him along. He has incredible command over his fastball and keeps the ball low in the zone. Over the past two seasons he has allowed just four homers. Whether he spends this season in Trenton or Scranton, Tracy should continue his quick rise to the top.

28. Cito Culver (SS):
What is there to say about Cito Culver? I truly root for the guy and he is still pretty young, but last year was frustrating to watch. There continues to be little doubt about his skills in the infield. Culver is a very good shortstop, with a strong arm, good instincts and the ability to make big plays. However, he is going to need to start doing more offensively if he is going to make his way up the ladder. In Charleston last year, Culver hit just .215/.321/.283 and I would expect to see him back there trying to prove he can do more with his bat before moving up any further.

29. Melky Mesa (OF):
Mesa finally made his major league debut last season, picking up a hit and RBI in his first at bat. He has great power, speed, defensive ability and arm strength, but Mesa has long been knocked by his inability to consistently hit. This past season, however, he seems to have put this together enough to become a viable major league option. He hit .264/.325/.480 with Trenton and Empire State last season, along with 23 homers and 22 steals. Mesa is hardly a sure bet, but I wouldn’t count him out if the Yankees find themselves needing some help in the outfield.

30. Jordan Cote (P):
The New Hampshire native, drafted in the third round in 2011, put together a strong first year in the Gulf Coast League. He threw 27.2 innings and had a 0.98 ERA with 25 Ks and only four walks. The tall righty signed out of high school and has always been viewed as a raw pitcher with a lot of potential, but requiring a lot of work in the short-term. His fastball lost some velocity this past season, but expectations are that he will regain it after recovering from the elbow tendonitis and other minor injuries he struggled with during the short season. If Cote can get his consistency together and sort out his curveball, he could be a strong pitcher for the Yankees down the road. has opened their vault

So Jonah Keri of Grantland alerted the masses to this information earlier today: has finally opened their vault and you can view a ton of old clips online. Keri focused on the league, I chose to focus on our New York Yankees.


Pat Kelly helps the 1995 Yankees make the playoffs:

The 1998 Yankees win their 114th game:

This isn’t a happy one but I’m posting it because I was at this game. May 28, 2000: Trot Nixon breaks a scoreless tie. It was a Pedro vs. Clemens game. The Yanks lost.

Back to 1998, when the Yankees had to play in Shea because the old Stadium was leaking sections of concrete. Darryl Strawberry hits a home run in Shea with the Yankees as the home team:

I’ve been lucky in my life and have been able to attend a lot of great games. Here’s another one: Alfonso Soriano gives the Yankees a 3-1 series lead in the 2001 ALCS:

And the last one. Lou Piniella nearly loses a ball in the sun on October 2, 1978. Come on, posting the Bucky Dent home run would be too easy:

As Mr Keri says at the end of his piece, “Seriously, just quit your job and leave your spouse now, save yourself the trouble later.” You can blame him for the hours you spend looking at classic MLB clips (don’t blame me.)

Notes from Yankees camp: The returns of Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera

Every year, the Yankees invite former players to camp to act as guest instructors during Spring Training. As we all remember, Andy Pettitte returned as an instructor in 2012 then suddenly announced he was returning to the baseball. This year it was Jorge Posada‘s turn to be asked to go down to Tampa to act as a guest instructor by the Yankees.

So will Posada pull a Pettitte? All signs point to no. Posada said he has no intentions of playing. Though I’m sure if he did, he’d probably do just as well – at least at the plate – as the guys the Yankees currently have competing for the starting catcher’s job.

But remember, Andy Pettitte also said he had no plans to return when he first arrived in Tampa last February and a few weeks later Jack Curry was tweeting that Pettitte signed a deal to make his return to the club. That was one of the weirdest days I ever had blogging about baseball. I remember that the news broke shortly before the Yankees were scheduled to play a Spring Training game and when people actually began to realize what was happening, Twitter exploded. That was a fun time.

Will we experience that again this year? Probably not but it’s nice to daydream sometimes.

Another player returned to Yankees’ camp this season: Mariano Rivera. After suffering a season-ending knee injury in May 2012, Rivera threw his first  live batting practice earlier today. He pitched to two batters and reported no issues with his surgically repaired knee.

It was a relatively quiet day in Yankees camp and we like it that way because as they say, no news is good news. The Yankees are gearing up for their first games of the Spring this weekend. Saturday’s game is not being televised but Sunday’s is at 1 p.m. on YES. The Yankees will be playing the retooled Toronto Blue Jays.

Phil Hughes And The Art Of Not Being Labeled Injury-Prone

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

Phil Hughes has been given a lot of different titles and descriptive identifiers in his professional career.  From “can’t miss” and “surefire” to “uncertain” and “inconsistent,” he’s pretty much run the gamut of labels given to top prospects in his still short Major League career.  One thing he hasn’t been called, however, is injury-prone, which comes as a bit of a surprise given his long track record of injuries, the latest of which could put him out of early spring action for a couple weeks.

(Click to enlarge. Courtesy of Baseball Prospectus)

Take a gander there.  That’s not a short list by any measure, basically one injury for every year Hughes has pitched in the Majors.  For most guys, that’s enough to get the label slapped on them after just 3 or 4 years, but Hughes has spent 6 pitching at the Major League level and has still yet to have his injury problems questioned as much as his offspeed pitch selection, fastball command, or future ceiling.  How can that be?

For starters, a couple of Hughes’ early injuries were freak situations.  The pulled hammy in ’07 came in the game in which Hughes was throwing a no-hitter through 6+ against the Rangers, just a case of bad luck.  And there was no indication that anything was wrong with Hughes before he suffered the strained oblique/cracked rib in ’08.  He had gotten through the last 2 full MiL seasons without issue after herniating a disc in his back in 2004, and then didn’t suffer any injuries in the next 2 years, so it was easy to pass off the hamstring and oblique as blips on the radar.

The timing of Hughes’ injuries has also been a factor in him avoiding the “injury-prone” tag.  His original back injury in ’04 happened in September, after the GCL season had ended, and didn’t result in any missed game time.  The shoulder problems in 2011 were present all through Spring Training and the early part of the regular season, and were attributed to poor conditioning and a tough recovery from the previous season’s high workload.  Now that I think about it, I don’t even really remember Hughes’ shoulder ever being referred to as “injured” that year.  When he came back, Hughes missed a few days with back soreness at the end of the season, and then suffered another back strain that caused him to leave his playoff start early last year, again with no missed game time.

The latest disc issue in Hughes’ back also happened early in ST, in enough time for Hughes to recover and be able to start the regular season on schedule.  Early reports after the diagnosis have him recovering well and feeling better, but with a history of back problems and a longer than you’d like to see injury ledger, should this latest injury be of more concern?

Hughes is still young, which could be another reason he hasn’t been saddled with the label, but he’s got a lot of physical mileage on his 26-year-old body.  He’s missed between 1.5 and 2 years’ worth of games due to injury since breaking into the Majors, time that could have been very helpful to his development.  For better or worse, Hughes has managed to avoid being tagged as an injury-prone player.  But if this latest back issue is the start of another problematic season for him health-wise, it might be time to slap the tag on him.

Is Michael Pineda Ahead Of Schedule? Should We Be Excited About That?

(Courtesy of the AP)

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod

Michael Pineda came to Yankee camp last year with high expectations.  He was a hulking 23-year-old kid coming off an impressive rookie season, the Yankees had just traded their best prospect in years to acquire him, and he represented the first significant move in the Yankees’ efforts to get younger and get below the $189 million payroll threshold.  Long story short, those expectations were far from being met after Pineda showed up to camp overweight, struggled with his velocity and command, and eventually missed the whole 2012 season with a labrum tear in his pitching shoulder.

Pineda came to camp this year with no expectations.  He started his rehab throwing program in the fall, and the early words coming back from Brian Cashman and the coaching staff focused more on the idea of Pineda not pitching at all in 2013 than on exactly when he would be back.  Since arriving in Tampa, however, there’s been a pretty noticeable shift in the Pineda discussion and evaluation, and there seems to be a renewed sense of positivity about the progress he’s making.  With not a lot of other positive storylines to latch onto this spring, I’ll raise the question.  Is it too early to start getting excited about Pineda’s comeback?

“Excited” might be too strong a word to use when describing Pineda’s progress.  He still isn’t anywhere near pitching in a game situation, and is probably still at least a month away from having a radar gun on him.  Until those things happen and we see what the results are, excited is a word that should probably stay off the table.  But how about “encouraged?”  That seems fair given what’s happened in the last few weeks.  Here’s what we know about Pineda right now:

  • He stuck to his post-surgery rehab and workout schedule and received positive comments on both his work ethic and conditioning.
  • Pineda showed up to camp early to continue his rehab at 260 pounds, 20 pounds lighter than what he came into camp at last season.
  • He started throwing off a half-mound on 1/29 and quickly made the transition to a full mound on 2/12.
  • Pineda’s second full-mound session on last Friday drew a positive review from Joe, who praised his arm speed and said he looked “pretty good.”
  • He’s scheduled to start facing hitters sometime next month.

“Next month” could mean March 1st or it could mean March 27th when it comes to facing hitters, but the point is that Pineda has moved forward quickly in his rehab since getting back to throwing regularly and that’s a very good sign.  Whenever he does start facing batters, I would anticipate the remainder of his Spring Training being spent doing that and then a transition to Extended Spring Training to get some more game situation work in before heading to a MiL rehab assignment sometime in May.  June has always been the rough target date for Pineda’s return and that date continues to hold.  The encouraging part of that timeline is that the talk from the Yankee brass has shifted from outright pessimism and tempering expectations for the season to what Cash called “cautious optimism” after watching Pineda throw last week.

The projections for Pineda this season have been surprisingly positive.  ZiPS projects 120.0 IP over 20 starts with a 4.43/4.29 ERA/FIP slash, while CAIRO has him at 147 IP in 25 starts with a 4.24/3.95 slash.  The Yankees would be ecstatic with either of those projected scenarios playing out, but in reality they are both overly optimistic.  Once again, though, Pineda and the discussion surrounding him has shifted to a positive, optimistic tone, and that’s a good thing.  Way back when his injury was first diagnosed and the surgery was performed, there was talk about this being a career ender for him, and in fairness the history of labrum tears amongst pitchers is a checkered one.  But Pineda has put in the time and the work with his rehab to get back to being the best pitcher he can be, and that time and work is being reflected in his early spring camp performances.

Like I said, “excited” might be a stretch right now because he still has a long way to go.  But “encouraged” is more than appropriate and a serious improvement from the feelings about Pineda going back a few months.  Pineda is still the wild card in the 2013 rotation, and based on his early work in camp, that wild card has a better chance of returning some dividends this year.

Mariano Rivera throws BP and everyone in Yankeeland rejoices

Mariano Rivera threw a round of batting practice to real, live batters and made it out with no issues.

Wally Matthews of ESPN NY reports that Rivera threw 20 pitches to two hitters and that he is excited to be back.

That’s good news for Yankee fans who suffered through most of the 2012 season without seeing Rivera on the mound after he suffered a nearly career-ending injury in May while shagging fly balls in Kansas City.

Rivera, who usually doesn’t begin to pitch in Spring Training games until the latter stages of training camp, will more than likely appear earlier this year because of his lack of activity since having his knee surgically repaired last year.

And how was his “stuff?” Rivera said, “It will get better. As long as I keep throwing, it will get better.” Rivera also spoke about his fielding. He was more anxious to see how his knee responds to his fielding balls than how it does when he’s on the mound.

My favorite quote from the story is so Mariano Rivera. He said, “My command, I don’t worry about. That’s one thing I never worry about. It didn’t take no vacation. It’s still there. It hasn’t gone nowhere.”

Mo’s motto, which he first said on the Kids on Deck back in 2005, is, “I get the ball, I throw the ball, and then I take a shower.”

It’ll be great to have him back.

Posnanski on A-Rod: A must read

This morning NBC Sports published a piece by Joe Posnanski in which he chronicles the rise and fall of Alex Rodriguez.

I know what you’re probably thinking, you’re assuming it’s another piece that goes out of its way to trash Rodriguez and I understand why you would feel that way. Bashing Alex Rodriguez is a rite of passage these days but you’d be wrong about this piece. Posnanski does bring up all of the bad stuff but you have to in order to write a complete piece about Alex Rodriguez. For better or for worse, it’s all part of his story.

Posnanski goes back to the days when Rodriguez was a 17-year-old phenom being scouted. He talks to the scouts and GM’s who watched him all those years ago. He compares Rodriguez’s beginning to Rodriguez’s present as an injured, older player looking to work his way back after yet another hip surgery. I won’t reveal too much about the piece because I think you should read it for yourselves, draw your own conclusions and come up with your own opinions on it but I thought it was really good.

And I’ll admit, I was worried that it would be the same old Rodriguez fluff but it wasn’t.

Friday morning news and notes: 2/22/12

Good morning, Yankee fans. Today is the last Friday without Yankees baseball until (hopefully) November. Can you believe it? For as much as some of us, okay, mainly me, complained about how long winter seemed, baseball is just around the corner.

I thought I’d start everyone’s Friday morning off with some links from around the Yankees blogosphere.

First up, Andy McCullough of The Star-Ledger, writes about Curtis Granderson‘s defense. He takes a look at UZR and shows that it might not be all that reliable as a defensive metric. He cites the UZR ratings of other star center fielders and how they vary from year-to-year.

Over at the New York Daily News, Bill Madden writes that Yogi Berra believes “that kid” Eduardo Nunez should get 500 at-bats.

According to one of the group, who talks to him all the time, Yogi has had a recurring theme all winter: “They better find a way to get that kid 500 at-bats.”

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I actually agree that Nunez should probably get more at bats but I don’t want to see him in the field. Every position is an adventure with him and every time he throws the ball to first base, I cover my eyes and cower. It may have been only six at-bats but Nunez was pretty much the only Yankees batter who did anything worthwhile in the four-game sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series. Because of his two hits – which were a triple and a home run – he finished with .333/.333/1.167/1.500 line.

Nunez has the ability to hit the ball, he has speed and who knows? If Derek Jeter isn’t quite ready, Nunez may see some at bats in the beginning of the season. It just may mean that Yankee fans will have to up their dosage of Xanax to get through his adventures in the field.

And in case you missed it last night because it surfaced later in the day, Alex Rodriguez wants to come back and help the Yankees. He said through a spokesperson, “I am conducting two rehab sessions each and every day in an effort to get back on the field and rejoin my Yankees teammates. I think we have a great team and I want to be a part of it.” He added, “Right now I’m dedicating 100 percent of my energy and focus on my rehabilitation.”

Finally, in just about 30 minutes, our very own Tamar Chalker will be unveiling her Top 30 Prospects post. We hope you enjoy it.