YANKEES 8, METS 3
TAMPA – All good things must come to an end and so it was for the New York Yankees, who lowered the curtain on their 2012 spring training schedule on Wednesday with a victory.
Francisco Cervelli, who moments later would find out he was being sent to the minors, slammed a two-run home run in the seventh inning to tie the game at 3-3 and a bevy of Single-A Yankees later combined to score five runs in the eighth inning as New York downed the Mets in their Grapefruit League finale at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Cory Wade (1-0) ended his poor spring with a scoreless inning of relief to get credit for the victory. Left-hander Angel Cuan gave up four runs (three earned) on one hit, one walk and two Met errors in the eighth and took the loss.
The Mets jumped out to an early 3-0 lead on a three-run home run from Ike Davis off Yankee starter Freddy Garcia in the third inning. Davis’ walk-off home run in the ninth on Tuesday in Port St. Lucie, FL., gave the Mets a 7-6 victory in this rare home-and-away exhibition Subway Series.
The Yankees ended their spring slate with a record of 18-12 with three ties. The Mets ended up 9-20.
PETTITTE RETURNS TO MOUND
Along with the token victory that evened the series, the highlight of the day was the return to the mound of 39-year-old left-hander Andy Pettitte.
Pettitte entered the game in the sixth inning to a loud and thunderous standing ovation from most of the 10,813 in the crowd.
It took Pettitte just 13 pitches to retire the Mets but he had a little help from catcher Russell Martin.
Pettitte gave up a high-hop single over the head of first baseman Kyle Roller to Corey Vaughn. Scott Hairston popped out to short for the first out. Martin then gunned down Vaughn attempting to steal second. Pettitte then ended his brief stint by inducing Mike Nickeas to ground out to second.
Pettitte then left the mound to another thunderous standing ovation.
- Despite the fact a numbers game ended up with him being sent to the minors, Cervelli gave Yankee fans a nice going-away gift with his two-run home run in the sixth. Cervelli is a very popular player in the clubhouse and with fans because of his outgoing personality. Let’s hope manager Joe Girardi is correct and that Cervelli will be back in the major leagues. Of course, Girardi very carefully did not say Cervelli would be back in the majors with the Yankees.
- Clay Rapada celebrated his day learning he made the team as a second left-hander in the bullpen by pitching a scoreless one-third of an inning. Rapada ended the spring with a 0.90 ERA and he will give Girardi a second option in the bullpen to lefty Boone Logan.
- The starters in the game collected only two hits off Mets starter Dillon Gee. One of them was a lined single to up the middle by Alex Rodriguez in the first inning. Rodriguez had a solid spring, hitting an even .300 with two home runs. A healthy A-Rod throughout the 2012 season is the No. 1 key to the Yankees’ success this season.
- Austin Romine’s back injury caused a ripple effect that now makes the Michael Pineda trade look like a real mistake. The Yankees chose to trade megastar in the making Jesus Montero to the Mariners for Pineda. Now Romine’s immediate future as a catcher is in question and the Yankees were forced to trade pitcher George Kontos for 30-year-old Chris Stewart from the Giants. Because Stewart is out of options, the Yankees will have to keep him on the roster and Cervelli ends up at Triple-A. Factor in that Pineda begins the season on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis and you have what looks to be a lopsided trade of Montero. By the way, Montero hit .328 with two home runs and 13 RBIs for Seattle this spring. Will the trade come back to haunt general manager Brian Cashman?
- The biggest concern for the 2012 Yankees is age. Rodriguez will be 37 and Jeter will 38. Mariano Rivera is 42. Hiroki Kuroda was signed as a free agent and he is 37. Pettitte comes out of retirement at age 39 and the Yankees decide to add a 30-year-old backup catcher over Cervelli who is 26. Pineda is 23 and he is on the DL in favor of 35-year-old Garcia. Age can mean experience and it can be a good thing. But it also can weigh a team down with injuries that take much longer to heal on older bodies. At some point the Yankees will have to get younger. It won’t be 2012.
- My biggest concerns coming out spring training is the ability of Pineda to overcome his shoulder injury. A similar problem shelved Phil Hughes last season. It could also do the same to Pineda. I also was not happy with what I saw from Wade this spring and I think his days could be numbered if he pitches the same way in the regular season. I also am wary of nagging injuries like the ones that slowed Nick Swisher, Martin and Jeter this spring. They have to avoid serious injuries to be successful this season.
The Yankees are one of the more fortunate teams coming out of spring training. They do not have to leave Tampa at the start of the season.
They will open their 2012 season on Friday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.
Ace left-hander CC Sabathia will be the Opening Day starter for the Yankees for the fourth consecutive season. He is 9-7 with a 3.10 ERA in his career against the Rays.
The Rays will counter with right-hander James Shields, who was 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA last season. He is 5-11 with a 4.14 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 3:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
In the final day of spring training the New York Yankees decided to make a trade and the end result is Francisco Cervelli has lost his job as the backup catcher.
The Yankees on Wednesday traded right-handed pitcher George Kontos to the San Francisco Giants for backup catcher Chris Stewart. Because Stewart is out of options, Stewart would have to clear waivers before he could be sent to the minors.
So the Yankees have decided to keep Stewart on the 25-man roster to back up starting catcher Russell Martin and Cervelli was optioned to Tripe-A Empire State.
Kontos, 26, compiled in a 2.62 ERA and struck out 9.2 batters per nine innings for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season. He had a 2.81 ERA in 8 1/3 innings of work this spring after missing four weeks with an oblique injury.
Stewart, 30, played in 67 games last season for the Giants and hit .204 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. He threw out 39% of base-runners who attempted to steal last season.
Cervelli, 26, hit .286 with four home runs and 22 RBIs last season.. He nabbed 14% of base-runners last season.
Manager Joe Girardi said on WFAN that the Yankees needed depth at the catching position because 23-year-old Austin Romine suffered a setback in his recovery from a strained lower back and he could be sidelined for up to two months. Romine suffered a similar back injury when he was playing for Double-A Trenton in 2011.
Cervelli, however, was miffed when he was given the news by the Yankees.
“I am disappointed. It was the last day and I was ready to go. They explained the reason but I do not understand it.” Cervelli said.
Girardi said that Stewart had to be kept at the major-league level because of the lack of options and he said that Cervelli would be back in the major leagues at some point.
Girardi also announced the other roster moves the Yankees made to round out their 25-man roster.
Left-hander Clay Rapada, 30, was placed on the roster as the team’s second lefty reliever, joining Boone Logan. Rapada was 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA in 10 innings this spring covering 12 appearances.
The move was no surprise because Rule 5 draft pick Cesar Cabral, 23, suffered a stress fracture of his left elbow in a game against the Phillies on March 30. The Yankees will be able to keep Cabral on the disabled list while he recovers from the injury.
The other spot in the bullpen will go to 25-year-old right-hander David Phelps, who will replace Michael Pineda. Pineda is suffering from tendinitis in right shoulder and he will be placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Phelps will be utilized as a long reliever in the bullpen. Phelps, the winner of the 2012 James P. Dawson Award as the Yankees top rookie in camp, was 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA this spring. Phelps struck out 14 batters in 17 1/3 innings.
YANKEES 10, MARLINS 8
When the Yankees christen a new ballpark they make it a good show of it for the opponents. They did it again on Sunday as they opened the Marlins new retractable-roof stadium in Miami.
Eric Chavez doubled home Bill Hall in the top of the ninth inning to break an 8-8 tie as New York defeated Miami in their new digs named Marlins Park in front of a “restricted crowd” of 25,000.
George Kontos (1-0) pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to get credit for the victory. Former Yankee right-hander Chad Gaudin (2-1) took the loss. Yankees left-hander Juan Cedeno pitched the final two-thirds of an inning and picked up a save.
Hall opened the ninth with a double into the gap in right-center off Gaudin. Chavez followed a double off the wall in left-field that scored Hall. One out later, pinch-runner Ramiro Pena moved to third on an infield groundout and he scored on a wild pitch to give the Yankees their final two-run margin.
With the victory, the Yankees assured themselves of a winning record in spring training as they now sport a 16-11 mark. The Marlins are 11-13.
- The Yankees were trailing the Marlins 3-1 beginning the fifth inning but they managed to bat around on Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco and score five runs. Russell Martin rolled a grounder deep in the hole at short to score Nick Swisher with the first run. Derek Jeter followed with an RBI groundout to score Raul Ibanez that tied the game. Then Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez followed with RBI hits in succession to build a 6-3 lead. The Yankee offense has really taken off this week. In their last three games the Yankees have scored 36 runs on 45 hits.
- Swisher returned to the lineup for the first time since March 14. He singled in scored in the fifth and homered deep down the right-field line in the sixth. Swisher missed just over two weeks with a sore left groin Swisher attributed the injury to a new workout regimen he used during the winter.
- Cano also contributed to the attack with an RBI sacrifice fly in the first inning and an RBI double in the fifth. In his last three games, Cano is 4-for-8 with a homer, a double, two singles and four RBIs. After a slow start this spring, Cano is heating up just before the start of the regular season.
- The Marlins somehow were able to get to three of the Yankees’ best pitchers to score five runs in the first six innings. Starter CC Sabathia gave up three runs on four hits and two walks and struck out three in four innings of work. The Marlins then greeted closer Mariano Rivera by pushing across a run on a pair of hits and a sac fly in the fifth. That is the first run Rivera has allowed in a spring training game since March 15, 2008. The Marlins then added a run in the sixth off Rafael Soriano on a two-out RBI single by John Buck.
- Cory Wade is pretty much assured a bullpen spot to start the season but he is going to have to pitch better if he intends on keeping it. Wade again was touched for three runs (two earned) on two hits and an error in the seventh inning, which allowed the Marlins to rally from an 8-5 deficit to tie the game. Wade’s spring ERA is 7.71.
- Manager Joe Girardi played what will be his Opening Day starting lineup and every one of them recorded at least one hit except Mark Teixeira, who was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and groundout. The three outs dropped his spring average to .292.
Girardi said on Sunday that Andy Pettitte will not make an appearance in a spring training game. The Yankees had thought about using Pettitte for an inning in the team’s final Grapefruit League game against the New York Mets on Wednesday. However, Pettitte threw a 33-pitch live batting practice session on Saturday and Girardi said the team wants to keep him on a five-day schedule. . . . The Yankees came away very impressed with the Marlins’ new park. The game was played with the roof closed and the ball seemed to carry well to all fields and the outfield gaps are huge. The park holds 37,000 but the team limited sales to 25,000 to test operations before the regular season starts.
The Yankees will remain in Miami and play the Marlins in a second game at their new park. This time the game will be played at night and the roof will be open. In addition, the team will allow 30,000 tickets to be sold.
The Yankees will start Hiroki Kuroda and the Marlins will start former Cubs right-hander Carlos Zambrano.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network.
YANKEES 5, BRAVES 5 (10 INNINGS)
LAKE BUENA VISTA – Just when it looks like the Yankees are going to coast to a win in a Grapefruit League game something happens to snatch a tie out of the jaws of victory. That played out for the third time this spring on Wednesday.
George Kontos was called upon to pitch the ninth inning with a 5-3 lead. However, Kontos issued a one-out walk to Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward made him pay with a two-run home run as Atlanta rallied to earn a tie with New York in 10 innings at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL.
Heyward’s home run spoiled an excellent outing from Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda, who gave up two runs on six hits and no walks and he struck out a half-dozen in seven innings. For the 37-year-old right-hander, who was named the team’s No. 2 starter on Tuesday, it was his best outing of the spring.
The Yankees got a huge offensive boost from Eric Chavez, who had a pair of two-out RBIs singles in the first and third innings and added a two-out RBI double in the eighth as the Yankees built their lead from 3-0 in the third to 5-2 in the eighth.
The Yankees tagged Braves starter Brandon Beachy for three runs (two earned) on six hits and no walks in five innings. They added a pair of runs in the eighth off reliever Eric O’Flaherty in the eighth.
The Yankees’ spring record remains 13-10. The Braves are 9-14.
- You had to be directly behind home plate like I was on Wednesday to appreciate how smart Kuroda is as a pitcher. He mixed all of his pitches, varied speeds and locations to keep the Braves off-balance all day. His wild pitch with Heyward on third in the fifth allowed one run to score. Freeman touched him for a solo home run to right-center (his third home run in two games) in the seventh was Kuroda’s only other blemish in what otherwise was a masterful performance.
- Chavez was hitting .120 as of March 20 but he is 5-for-10 in his last three games and he has raised his spring average to .235. Chavez, 34, was 3-for-4 with a double, two singles and three RBIs in the game. Chavez has already locked down the backup corner infield spot for the Yankees. Their only concern with the six-time Gold Glove winner is keeping him healthy for a full season.
- Raul Ibanez was 1-for-3 with a single in the game. You are likely wondering why I mention him. Well, Ibanez also hit what would have been a two-run home run to right in the third inning but Heyward ran to the wall, leaped and brought it back into the ballpark with a spectacular catch. Ibanez, 39, may be hitting .089 but he is making much better contact of late. He may be showing signs of life – finally.
- Failing to win three games that ended up in ties in the past seven games may seem like something that would concern Yankee fans. But look at the pitchers who were on the mound and who was in the lineup when those games were tied. Against the Red Sox on March 22, Juan Cedeno and Kontos combined to give up the lead in the bottom of the ninth. On March 25 against the Tigers, the Yankees stranded 10 runners over 10 innings after Derek Jeter led off the first inning with a solo home run. Then on Wednesday, Kontos was victimized by Heyward’s home run. Those two pitchers will not make the Yankees’ 25-man roster and the Yankees pulled most of their starters against the Tigers in the sixth and seventh innings. That would not happen in regular-season game.
- Cory Wade continues to struggle of late. He has been scored upon in his last three appearances, including Wednesday against the Braves. Wade, 28, gave up a run on two hits in the eighth inning on Wednesday. He has now given up five runs on nine hits over three innings of work. His spring ERA is 7.27.
- Francisco Cervelli was 0-for-4 in the game and his spring average dipped to .176. I doubt, however, that the Yankees really care how much their backup catcher hits.
A MRI taken on Curtis Granderson’s sore right elbow showed no structural damage but the outfielder remains day-to-day. Meanwhile, fellow starting outfielder Nick Swisher had 10 at-bats in a minor-league game on Wednesday and he is expected to both hit and play the outfield in another minor=league game on Thursday. Swisher is nursing a sore right groin. . . . Manager Joe Girardi confirmed that there is a “decent” chance that a second lefty reliever could make the 12-man pitching staff to start the season. Girardi is also pretty sure that the Yankees will lose either 30-year-old Clay Rapada (0.00 ERA) or 23-year-old Cesar Cabral (1.74 ERA) if they do not make the roster. . . . The Yankees on Wednesday claimed veteran catcher Craig Tatum off waivers from Arizona Diamondbacks because Austin Romine has suffered a setback in his recovery from lower-back inflammation. Romine, 23, likely will not be able to start the 2012 season in order to continue his rehab from the injury. Tatum is former catcher with the Baltimore Orioles and came up out of the Cincinnati Reds’ organization.
The Yankees return home on Thursday to play host to the Orioles.
Ivan Nova was originally scheduled to make the start but Girardi said that Nova will pitch in a minor-league game instead. Right-hander D.J. Mitchell will start that game. Veteran right-hander Jason Hammel will start for the Orioles.
Game-time will be at 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network on tape delay and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, RED SOX 4 (9 INNINGS)
If the quote “a tie is like kissing your sister” applies than the Yankees probably feel like they lip-smacked the ugliest sister they have in the Red Sox.
Jason Repko laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to score Ryan Sweeney with one out in the ninth inning as Boston overcame a 4-0 lead in the final two innings to tie New York on Wednesday night at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL.
If Yankee fans want a culprit for blowing the big lead, look no further than right-handed reliever Cory Wade. Wade gave up three runs on four hits (three of them long doubles) in a less-than-stellar two-thirds of an inning.
Juan Cedeno struck out Josh Kroeger with a tying run on second to end the eighth, however, he ran into trouble in the ninth by allowing a leadoff single by Sweeney. George Kontos entered the game and after one out, Mike Aviles slapped a double off the left-field wall to setup Repko’s squeeze bunt that tied the game.
The Yankees built their four-run lead with two runs off Red Sox starter Aaron Cook in the fourth inning, keyed by a RBI double by a red-hot Curtis Granderson and RBI single by Andruw Jones.
They added two runs in the fifth off of former Yankees right-hander Ross Ohlendorf. Brandon Laird led off the frame with a double, Jose Gil singled to right to advance Laird to third. Then with one out, Doug Bernier rolled a single into right to score both runners.
Yankees right-hander Adam Warren started the game and pitched an excellent four innings. Warren, 24, blanked the Bosox on two hits and no walks and he fanned three.
- Originally the Yankees had announced David Phelps would start. But Warren pitched instead and he looked sensational. Warren is 0-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 9 1/3 innings spanning four appearances this spring. The Yankees obviously have no room for Warren with seven pitchers vying for five starting spots but Warren will be part of the “Fab Five” starting for Triple-A Empire State with Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, D.J. Mitchell and Phelps.
- Granderson’s RBI double raised his spring average to .393. Granderson has six doubles, a triple and a home run among his 11 hits and he is slugging at a .786 clip this spring. For those of you who might have thought that 2012 was a fluke you had better think again.
- Bernier is 31 and there s no way he will make the team with Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena ahead of him on the depth chart at shortstop. But he has had a sensational spring in the field and he is hitting .364. If Bernier ends up staying with the Yankees he will play at Triple-A Empire State.
- Wade, 28, has given up four runs on seven hits in 1 2/3 innings over his last two appearances. That has forced his ERA to balloon to a very ugly 7.04 this spring. Wade was integral to the Yankees’ bullpen last season, recording a 6-1 record and a 2.04 ERA. But with potentially two starters being shifted to the bullpen when Andy Pettitte returns in May, Wade might be out of a job if he does not turn it around soon.
- The Raul Ibanez spring hit meter is still stuck on two. Ibanez was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and his average has dipped (and we do mean dipped) to .054. That means the Yankees are paying Ibanez a whopping $2.25 million per hit. Where do I sign up for that gig?
- The spring “Siesta Award” will have to shared by Jones and Eric Chavez. Chavez singled to lead off the second but was picked off first base by Cook. After Jones drove in Granderson with his single in the fourth inning he was promptly picked off first by Cook also. Getting caught napping is embarrassing enough but worse when it s the Red Sox. Wake up, guys!
Pettitte will throw a live batting practice session for the Yankees on Friday at their spring complex. The Yankees are also saying that it is possible the lefty could pitch in a spring training game. Pettitte, 39, said he is targeting May for his return to the big leagues. . . . Infielder Jorge Vazquez was struck in the right hand on a pitch from former Yankees right-hander Mark Melancon in the eighth inning and he left the game immediately. Vazquez, 29, will have precautionary X-rays done on the hand and it is unclear how much, if any, time he will miss. . . . Jeter participated in a full team workout on Thursday and he is expected to start on Friday. Jeter has missed the last seven games with a sore left calf. . . . Nick Swisher said his sore groin is improving and he could return to the lineup sometime this weekend. Swisher left Tuesday’s game against the Pirates when he felt his groin tighten up as he ran out a ground ball. . . . CC Sabathia gave up one run in six innings in a game against Double-A hitters on Wednesday. He is on track to pitch the opener for the Yankees on April 6 in St. Petersburg, FL., against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Once again, Red Sox manager “Booby” Valentine has shown his hindquarters. Manager Joe Girardi informed home-plate umpire Mark Lollo that he did not have any pitchers available to pitch a 10th inning against the Red Sox. Girardi did have Mitchell on the trip but he had thrown a side session earlier because Girardi did not expect him to get into the game. By the typical spring rules, managers are within their rights to end a tie game after nine innings if they do not feel it is in their interest to push a pitcher into throwing too much. Valentine took umbrage because he chose to warm up Clayton Mortensen in the bullpen in the bottom of the ninth. “It was regretful that Mortensen warmed up, though, and then we were told they weren’t going to play extra innings,” Valentine said. “I don’t think that was very courteous.” Courtesy is extended to those who earn it, “Booby.” Your remarks about Jeter and Alex Rodriguez earlier this spring, which were designed to get back to the Yankees, were uncalled for and extremely discourteous. So as far as see it, “Booby,” you can just suck on it. It is so ironic that it is you that are fit to be tied. Welcome to the rivalry you stoked!
The Yankees will play a pair of games on Friday.
The home squad will face the Minnesota Twins at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Ivan Nova, coming off a horrible performance against the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota on Sunday, is expected to pitch for the Yankees in that game. The Twins will start veteran left-hander Francisco Liriano.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network on tape delay and live locally on the YES Network.
The road squad will travel to Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL., to face the Philadelphia Phillies. Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda is scheduled to start for the Yankees. The Phillies will start right-hander Vance Worley.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network on tape delay.
The New York Yankees will open the spring with an exhibition game against the University of South Florida on Friday.
Manager Joe Girardi is planning to have his starters get one at-bat or two and right-hander Adam Warren will be the starting pitcher for the Yankees.
Warren, 24, is a non-roster player who was 6-8 with a 3.60 ERA in 27 starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. With the Yankees’ rotation loaded with six pitchers vying for five spots, Warren is obviously headed back to Triple A.
But Warren hopes to leave a good impression this spring with hopes of in-season call to the major leagues as a starter or reliever.
Girardi also announced the pitchers who will follow Warren to the mound. They are: Brett Marshall, Dan Burawa, Juan Cedeno, Graham Stoneburner, Ryan Pope and Kevin Whelan. All of them are non-roster pitchers who were invited to spring training.
The game, which begins at 1:05 p.m. EST at George M. Steinbrenner Field, will benefit the University of South Florida baseball program.
The club has five players who have come up with injuries this spring.
Right-handed reliever Manny Delcarmen, another non-roster invitee, will miss four to five days with a slight strain of his right lat muscle.
Rookie catcher Austin Romine has been hobbled by inflammation in his back and the Yankees are being very cautious before letting him return to action.
First baseman and designated hitter Russell Branyan has been shelved with tightness in his back. Catcher Kyle Higashioka has been bothered with right shoulder soreness and right-handed reliever George Kontos has a slight oblique strain.
ALL EYES ON A.J.
Speaking of wounded, the Pittsburgh Pirates announced on Thursday that A.J. Burnett will undergo surgery in Pittsburgh on Friday after he suffered a fractured right orbital bone in his right eye in a bunting drill on Wednesday in Bradenton, Fl..
The Pirates do not have a timetable for his recovery at this time.
Burnett, 35, was acquired by the Pirates on Feb. 18 from the Yankees in return for two minor-league pitchers.
The Pirates scrapped Burnett’s scheduled start on Sunday and now face the likelihood with the setback in his spring preparation that he likely will not open the season on the team’s roster.
Burnett was injured while participating in the team’s bunting tournament. He fouled a ball from a pitching machine into his right-eye area and had to be immediately tended to by trainers.
On behalf of the Bottom of the Ninth blog and all the Yankee fans who still love and support A.J., we wish to express to A.J. and his family that we are are hoping the surgery goes well and he bounces back to pitch well for the Pirates this season.
Robinson Cano returned to camp in Tampa, FL, on Thursday after spending a few days in the Dominican Republic attending his grandmother’s funeral. She died of cancer at age 91. Cano will not play in a exhibition game until Sunday. . . . The Yankees’ annual team-building outing was held on Thursday at the Tampa Improv in Ybor City, FL. The team participated in improvisational skits and activities designed to loosen up the players and allow them to have some laughs together. Girardi said the trip was especially important for the young players in camp in helping them feel a part of the team. . . . Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said Thursday that the team has a goal to lower payroll to $189 million over the next two years and the development of the team’s young pitchers would help toward that goal. He said the team’s current payroll is around $210 million.
Here are some random news items revolving around the New York Yankees spring camp in Tampa, FL, this week:
- CHAVEZ SIGNS: As expected the Yankees re-signed 34-year-old corner infielder Eric Chavez to a one-year, $900,000 contract with performance incentives. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported the story but the Yankees will not confirm the signing until Chavez passes a physical. Chavez hit .263 with two homers and 26 RBIs in 58 games with the Yankees last season. He missed 2 1/2 months of the season after fracturing a bone in his left foot running the bases in early May. The Yankees see the lefty-hitting Chavez as a Gold Glove quality backup at third base for Alex Rodriguez and he also can sub for Mark Teixeira at first base.
- RAUL IN: The Yankees made it official by signing free-agent outfielder Raul Ibanez to a one-year, $1.1 million contract with plate-appearance incentives that could increase the deal to $4 million. Ibanez, 39, will be the Yankees’ primary designated hitter against right-hand pitching. Andruw Jones likely will handle the DH role against left-handers. Ibanez, like Jones, will also see some time in the outfield. Ibanez batted .245 with 20 home runs and 84 RBIs last season with the Philadelphia Phillies.
- SAY IT AIN’T SO, MO: Mariano Rivera is hinting that the 2012 season may be his last. He told reporters he had made up his mind two weeks ago along with his family but he has not informed the Yankees about his decision. Manager Joe Girardi and some Yankee relievers like David Robertson do not want to even contemplate what life on the Yankees would be without their Hall-of-Fame closer. Robertson said that he could “Brett Favre us.” Despite the fact Rivera turned 42 in November he is showing no signs of slowing down. He was 1-2 with a 1.91 ERA and recorded 44 saves in 49 opportunities in 2011. he is in the last season of a two-year contract worth $30 million.
- JONESING TO PLAY: After having arthroscopic surgery to repair a small meniscus tear in his left knee, Jones said he is hoping to have an expanded role in 2012 beyond being the right-handed DH. Jones, 34, would like to play more in the outfield this season. That is good to know because Brett Gardner hit only .233 against left-handers last season and if that number does not improve this season Jones could end up as a platoon left-fielder.
- SAYONARA TO NO. 18: Jones also made news by surrendering the No. 18 he wore last season with the Yankees to free-agent right-hander Hiroki Kuroda. In Japan, that number is generally reserved for the ace pitcher of the team so Jones agreed to relinquish the number to his new teammate.
- JOBA DEBUT: Joba Chamberlain will throw his first mound bullpen session on Wednesday since having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last July. Though Chamberlain is making excellent progress in his rehab the Yankees do not expect him to be able to pitch until June or July.
- HURT LOCKER: Right-hand reliever George Kontos became the first Yankees casualty of the spring. He pulled an oblique muscle on Tuesday and he will be sidelined for at least two weeks.
- LESS CC: Bad news for teams in the American League East: CC Sabathia showed up in camp at his playing weight of 290 pounds, dropping about 15 pounds to get there. Sabathia also vowed to continue a training regimen to keep his weight steady throughout the season. Prior to Aug. 6 last season, Sabathia was 16-5 with a 2.55 ERA. After his Aug. 6 start, Sabathia was 3-3 with a 4.30 ERA. He also was 0-0 with a 6.23 ERA in his three appearances in the 2010 A.L. Division Series against the Detroit Tigers. Some in the Yankee hierarchy believe Sabathia gained a lot of weight down the stretch and it hurt his performance. Sabathia disagrees with that assessment but said he will maintain his training regimen to keep it from being raised as an issue in the future.