Congratulations, Yankees fans, you’ve survived the offseason! It was a rough one, especially with the Yankees refusing to sign a free agent, but that’s all behind us now. It’s finally March, which means that spring training is here. These exhibition games won’t feature the most exciting and pivotal action that you’ll witness this season, but it’s better than looking out the window and watching the snow pile up.
Besides bringing the wonderful feeling of baseball back, spring training can also determine starting jobs, playing time, and who makes the major league roster come April. Stats don’t really matter, but what occurs during the spring won’t be insignificant. Here at BP Bronx, we’ll bring you a weekly ST recap, complete with game summaries and other news that may prove to be important.
Luis Severino kicked off the spring with a promising 96 mph fastball. Unfortunately, he took a turn for the worse in the second inning, leaving after just 1 1/3 innings of work with five runs to his credit. The rest of the game featured a bevy of relievers, most notably Nick Rumbelow and Nick Goody. The two young arms also had less-than-stellar outings.
The Yankees had a much better day on offense than they did on the mound. Starlin Castro looked good, making a great play in the third inning. Top prospect Jorge Mateo hit a triple on a ball crushed to left field, showcasing both his surprising pop and top of the scale speed. Austin Romine and Dustin Ackley also had fine days at the plate. The final score doesn’t really matter, though it’s worth noting that the Yankees got the win on a walk off.
There’s not a whole lot that went on in this game, and the fact that it wasn’t televised makes elaborating on an ugly loss even harder. Still, there’s a few things worth noting in the 13-4 loss. Alex Rodriguez made news when he hit a two-run home run in the first inning. Although it doesn’t sound overly impressive, think about this—a forty-year-old that hasn’t hit live pitching since October managed to hit a ball out on the first swing of the new year. A-Rod is pretty good, I guess.
Two Yankees arms with some question marks going into this Spring made their debuts on Thursday in Ivan Nova and Jacob Lindgren. Nova was fine in two innings, though Lindgren was hit hard. He walked three and hit a batter before being pulled after recording just one out, and the Phillies ended up scoring four runs off of him. James Pazos, vying for a spot in the bullpen, also put up an ugly line of three runs in just two thirds of an inning. Not the greatest of days for the Yankees.
The Yankees faced the Tigers again on Friday, but forgot to bring their bats this time around. Almost nothing happened at the plate, with the most notable occurrence being a double and a walk from Didi Gregorious.
Bryan Mitchell started the game on the mound, going two smooth and striking out two. It was a promising start for Mitchell, and this spring could play a big role in where he ends up to start 2016. Surprising Yankee Vinnie Pestano had a day to forget, surrendering three runs. Fellow surprising Yankee Kirby Yates had a better outing, throwing a clean frame. James Kaprielian made some noise in his outing, sitting at 94-96 MPH over two perfect innings. Kaprielian has been in the 90-93 range in the past, so this is an interesting development. This gain could be a product of him throwing just two innings, but if the gains are real he could be more than a third or fourth starter. The main return for this offseason’s controversial Justin Wilson trade, Luis Cessa, threw two clean innings as well.
Saturday’s game brought some much needed excitement back to spring training, featuring the core of the Yankees’ future. Mateo showed his elite speed on Wednesday, and flashed power in this game with a home run. Aaron Judge also impressed with an opposite field three-run home run in the seventh inning. He won’t break camp with the team, but a hot start could get him into the majors by the All-Star break. Meanwhile, Rodriguez continued to look locked in with a 2-2 day (and a walk) to raise his batting average to .750.
Saturday’s pitching performances were pretty unspectacular, though Chasen Sheve and Johnny Barbato turned in nice innings. Barbato’s looked good early on in the Spring—he came over to the Yankees last offseason in the Shawn Kelley deal. Shreve is looking to bounce back from a disastrous end to 2015, and started 2016 on a high note. Mark Montgomery gave up three runs in an inning of work, which is a bit disappointing after a strong first game.
Tanaka time made its grand return on Sunday, as the Yankees’ ace threw two clean innings. The results didn’t really matter here—the key is that Tanaka’s velocity was normal and he came away healthy. It looks like Tanaka sat around 89-91, which is where he was at this point last season. In other pitching news, Branden Pinder and James Pazos were a bit shaky in their appearances, continuing a rough start to the Spring for them. Former next Yankees great Vicente (previously Jose) Campos went a scoreless frame, sitting at about 91-93.
Mateo stayed hot with a single, walk and stolen base, while Austin Romine raised his batting average to .500 with two doubles. The talk of the game was Rob Refsnyder, who played third base for the first time in his career. He made two solid plays, but throwing away a ball on what turned out to be a foul ball. Overall, it wasn’t a bad audition for Refsnyder, who figures to get some more looks at the hot corner this Spring. He’s been doing everything possible to make the team, and also managed to steal two bases
Aroldis Chapman: You’ve likely already heard about Chapman’s thirty game suspension which will keep him out until early-May. He’ll be seen around camp, but isn’t allowed to throw in a live game. Chasen Shreve and some young relief pitching will need to step up in Chapman’s absence.
Rob Refsnyder: The idea has been entertained on and off, but finally it looks like Refsnyder will get a chance to try out third base. He and Castro will both get reps at the hot corner this spring with the Yankees looking for a backup third baseman. The next man up is Peter Kozma, owner of a 7 wRC+ last season, so the Yankees hope they can find a solution with one of the former two players. Refsnyder likely doesn’t have the arm for the hot corner, but it’s worth a shot anyway. He looked decent there in his first game on Sunday and it’s currently his best ticket onto the final roster.
Aaron Judge: Judge appears to have incorporated a leg kick into his swing this offseason, with the help of new hitting coach Alan Cockrell. Although change isn’t always a good thing, this should help Judge with his timing a bit. The top prospect has also spent the offseason working on his pitch recognition, something that really hurt his performance last season in Triple-A.
Watching Aaron Judge in batting practice just keeps getting better and better.https://t.co/K5b4896ezT
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) March 1, 2016
Nathan Eovaldi: Eovaldi suffered a sore groin early in camp, and it prevented him from making his Spring debut on Saturday. He insisted that it isn’t something that would have cost him a start in the regular season, and a bullpen session went smoothly. He should be fine for his next scheduled start.
Masahiro Tanaka: There were some concerns earlier in March when Tanaka said that his Opening Day status was up in the air. Luckily, it seems that things have gone well so far with Tanaka making a 61 pitch bullpen last Sunday and throwing two clean innings this Sunday.
Brett Gardner: Gardner is still recovering from a bone bruise in his wrist from the Wild Card Game, and has yet to appear in a game. He’s been fine in batting practice, and Joe Girardi hopes he will be back around March 14th. Still, this is a situation to monitor…wrist injuries are tough for batters and we saw what happened to Gardner last season when his other wrist was injured.
Position Battle Updates:
5th Starter: C.C. Sabathia is the heavy favorite for this job, and it would have to a failure from him, opposed to success from Nova, to force the Yankees to change the guard. Sabathia has yet to pitch in a game, but Nova threw two smooth innings.
Backup catcher: Romine had a strong start to the spring and is currently hitting .500. His defense is fine, but the Yankees will need to see some life out of his bat to be confident that he’s worth a roster spot come April. Right now it’s probably Gary Sanchez’s job to lose, with the Yankees keeping a close eye on his defense. Sanchez’s glove could lose him the job, while Romine’s bat could win it.
Backup Infielder: The Yankees appear to be aware of how rough the third base situation is in, and are throwing all of their chips on the table. Refsnyder and Castro are getting chances at third base, with the hope that they can get the backup job opposed to using a roster spot on Kozma.
Final 3 Bullpen Spots: This job was wide open going into the spring, and will continue to be wide open throughout. Bryan Mitchell is a favorite to make the club, though there are some rumors that he’ll go to Triple-A and work as a starter. The team would like to see Lindgren make the final roster, but he’s had an awful start to Spring Training. Goody and Pazos didn’t look so great either, though it’s a long way until a decision is made here.
Lead photo: Kim Klement / USA Today Sports