Saturday, February 16, 2013


 By The Big Ragu
Staff Writer NFL PRO ZACH

During the first couple days of spring training most of the talk was about Alex Rodriguez and his alleged use of performance enhancing drugs. Also linked to the South Florida clinic is catcher Francisco Cervelli. Cervelli stated he went to the clinic just for consultation to find a fast solution to recover from a broken foot. A-Rod left Tampa and is headed back to New York to rehab his hip and blah blah blah !! To be honest with you I'm so tired of hearing all this talk about PEDs !! Let's get back to the game !!

     Ahhh !! The smell of green grass, the crack of the bat, and the pop of a fastball pounding a catcher's mitt is one of my favorite times of the year. The other being Opening Day of course. Spring training has arrived and baseball is underway !!

     Derek Jeter arrived early ( as usual) to rehab his broken left ankle which suffered during last years ALCS. Another position player to arrive a little early is newly acquired third baseman Kevin Youkilis. " Youk " stirred the pot a little by saying he will always be a Red Sox but he did say he's looking forward to putting on the pinstripes and that he is fully committed to helping the Yankees win a World Series. I wanted the Yankees to find a younger third baseman but they didn't. Even though Youkilis was once a Red Sox and I didn't really agree with them signing him he's here, he's wearing the pinstripes so I'll cheer him on. I always liked his gritty style of play so as long as he produces I'm sure it will be easy for me and Yankees fans to accept him. Heck ! If we could except former Red Sox Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens it should be easy to welcome Youkilis to the Bronx. 
     The popular Andy Pettitte has returned for another year. The veteran turned down an invitation from Joe Torre to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Pettitte said he would have loved to pitch for his country but decided not to in order to stay focused on pitching for the Yankees. We'll keep an eye on the crafty veteran and hope father time doesn't catch up to him too fast. 

    Also returning from injury is the greatest closer ever Mariano Rivera. The 43 year old is returning from a torn ligament in his right knee which he suffered last year while shagging fly balls. Rivera threw a bullpen, took place in pitchers fielding drills and did some running. Mo was asked how he's feeling. " On a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the best. " He said, I feel good. I would say around 9 for sure." He also said he will continue to shag fly balls in the outfield before every game. I guess old habits are hard to break. Keep your fingers crossed.

     When it comes to this team I've always been a glass half full kind of guy but I'm very concerned about this year. I said in my last few blogs that the Yankees didn't do anything to improve this past off season. Don't get me wrong their not a terrible team there's just a lot of uncertainty. Everyone else in the AL East Division has gotten better. If the Yanks are going to make the playoffs I feel a lot has to go right. Staying healthy being the most important. Their going to need contributions from everybody. With A-Rod out in addition to not being the player he once was, Nick Swisher now in Cleveland, and first baseman Mark Teixeria saying in an interview he might be at the beginning of the down swing of his career this team is going to lack some power. They signed DH Travis Hafner to replace Raul Ibanez but what can we expect from Hafner ? Last season the injury prone 36 year old was with the Indians and the Rockies Triple-A  team where he had 229 at-bats with 12 homeruns and 35 RBIs. I hope he wins Comeback Player of the Year but I just don't see him contributing a whole lot. Sorry Haf. 
     Defensively I expect the team will to strong. Around the horn with A-Rod or Youk, Jeter, Cano and Tex the infield will be solid. With Curtis Granderson, the resigning of Ichiro, and Brett Gardner coming back from an elbow injury the Yankees will have one of the fastest outfields in all of baseball. 

     One position in question is catching. Right now it looks like the Yankees are going with Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart serving as his backup. Both are good defensive catchers but lack the offensive bat for an everyday catcher. With Russell Martin in Pittsburgh and Jorge Posada in camp as a guest instructor it's time the Yankees give one of their top prospects a chance to make the big club. I'm talking about Austin Romine. The Yankees are saying that Romine will begin the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre. But the 24 year old Romine has other ideas. " Definitely, I don't want to go to Triple-A." Romine said. "I want to be on this team. I'm here to show them that I can do it and I'm here to earn it." Romine missed most of last season with a back injury. He said that he lost thirteen pounds in the off season and spent a lot of time core training. I hope this kid has a great spring. Let him make the club and catch two three days a week to get his feet wet. Let Cervelli be his backup. If Cervelli plays everyday his bat will be exposed, same goes for Stewart. No offense but these guys are not everyday catchers. If they make Romine start the year at Triple-A I hope he tears it up down there and the Yankees have no choice but to bring him up ! Give this kid a legitimate chance !! 

     Pitching, pitching and more pitching. You can never have too much pitching. We've got CC Sabathia back after having some minor off season surgery. Nothing major just a little cleaning out of bone spurs in the left elbow. I expect a solid year from him again. Andy Pettitte is older.How will he hold up ? Can we expect the same from Hiroki Kuroda ? Last year Phil Hughes made some steps in the right direction with 16 wins. I expect him to continue moving forward. I would like to see him pitch a little more economically and pitch deeper into games.

     Not a bad top four in the starting rotation. Last off seasons trade of top prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle brought pitcher Micheal Pineda to the Yankees. But the righty was shut down in early spring to have shoulder surgery and was gone for the 2012 season. This spring Pineda did throw a 25 pitch bullpen session but it looks as if Pineda won't be ready until June. His shoulder is feeling fine. He has come to camp this spring 20 pounds lighter than last year. He's weighing in at 260 lbs. and has been throwing off a full mound. GM Brian Cashman has said he is " cautiously optimistic " about Pineda's progress. We shall see.

     One arm to keep an eye on is left-hander Cesar Cabral. The 24 year old almost made the club last spring before fracturing his elbow. Cabral was a Rule 5 Draft selection from the Red Sox by way of the Kansas City Royals. In 132 minor league appearances (all with Boston ) from 2006-2011 he had an ERA of 3.61. After just coming off surgery he could be pitching some minor league games in May. I don't know if he'll make the team this year but we'll keep an eye on him for the future. 

     That still leaves the fifth starting spot up for grabs. Getting an early look this spring is right-hander David Phelps. Phelps already threw to live batters the first week of camp. He threw thirty pitches when he faced Francisco Cervelli and Bobby Wilson. Last year Phelps was 4-4 with a 3.44 ERA in 33 appearances. Eleven of those appearances were as a starter.  

     Another pitcher fighting for a spot is Ivan Nova. Nova is looking to improve from last years second half slump. Last season Nova was 12-8 with a 5,02 ERA. He was left off last years playoff roster. I'm going to chalk up Novas year to the sophomore jinx. I look for Nova to be the number five starter and Phelps to be the long man out the bullpen and to make a spot start from time to time.     

     The New York Post is reporting that the Yankees have looked at 32 year old Chin-Ming Wang. According to the Post Wang threw a bullpen session at the home of Yankees pitching guru Billy Connors. Last year Wang was 2-3 with an ERA 6.68 in ten games with the Washington Nationals. If you remember Wang won 19 games each year with the Yanks in 2006 and 2007. Hmm ? Lighting in a bottle ? Maybe but I don't see anything happening with this one. 

    This years team isn't going to pound their way to victory. Their going to have to do the little things to win games. I expect a good defensive team. With an outfield of Gardner,Granderson and Ichiro they have speed. These three guys can run ! They should steal some bases to win games. In 2011 Gardner stole 49 bases and in 2010 47. Last year Ichiro swiped 29 bags. In the two previous seasons he stole 40 and 42.  It's Granderson who needs to cut down on the strikeouts get on base more and do some running. Last year he hit .232 with 195 strike outs !! Too many !! He had an OBP of .319 and only 10 stolen bases. Sure he hit 43 homeruns and had 105 RBIs but I'd rather have his season from 2011 when he hit .262 BA, 119 RBI, 41 HR .364 OBP, and 25 stolen bases. He did strike out 169 times that year but if he cuts down the Ks the other offensive numbers will go up. 

     Like I said before their not a bad team. The division has gotten tougher and so has the American League. They have to stay healthy, pitch well, play good defense and hit in the clutch.That's not to much to ask is it ? Lol. Hit in the clutch, hmm ?  Seems I've heard that before. 

     Well that's it for now. Stay tuned for the arrival of position players. I'll take a look at who's hot and who's not. I'll see if any young players are opening any eyes with a chance to make the big club. 

     We finally have baseball back ! Let's Go Yankees !! 


Anonymous said...

They blew it by not signing Hamilton

thebigragu said...

Short term possibly. Ask yourself that same question in three four years. Hamilton signed a five year deal with the Angels. I see him breaking down after the next two season. So long term, no the Yankees didn't blow it.