Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Getting Stoked For Tanaka's Spring Training Outings

(Courtesy of the AP)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Later today, the Yankees will take the field for their Spring Training opener against Florida State.  Vidal Nuno will get the ball to start and he'll be followed up by Ivan Nova, David Phelps, and Adam Warren over the next 3 games. The competition for the 5th starter spot will be the leading storyline for the early ST games, and that's to be expected with that group of pitchers being further along than their veteran counterparts and with the other 4 rotation spots setting in stone.

While he hasn't has his name penciled into a date for his ST debut yet, Masahiro Tanaka took another step towards that debut when he threw his second batting practice session yesterday morning.  As he did after the first session on Friday, Tanaka drew praise from the coaches who watched him and the batters who faced him.  His splitter is already creating a lot of buzz in camp for its sharp movement and how difficult it is to identify coming out of his hand, and each time he throws, more excitement builds for his first outing.  Tanaka added to that excitement after the session when he declared himself ready to pitch in games, a declaration that Joe didn't bite on.  One thing that hasn't been talked about a whole lot yet is Joe's plan for Tanaka this spring, and as the pieces of that plan start to formulate I find myself caught between the desire for Joe to be smart, rational, and strategic and the desire to see him unleash Tanaka and make a statement to the rest of the AL.

2014 Spring Training Roster Battles: 5th Starter

(The favorite?  Courtesy of the AP)

By the time this post goes up, the Yankees will be in the middle of their first Spring Training game of 2014.  The start of ST games brings with it the end to the early, relatively stress-free spring camp activities.  No more light jogs around the outfield, half-speed double play turns, and nice-and-easy BP sessions in the cage.  From here on out, guys are being judged on what they do and how they do it and results count.  Well, they count as far as the players who are competing for roster spots are concerned.

ST is never short on roster battles and this year is no exception.  The Yankees have more than a few spots up for grabs and plenty of players battling to earn one of those spots.  Over the next week or so, I'll break down the key roster battles in camp and the players involved, offering up my loose predictions for who I expect to win.  In following Yankee ST tradition, we start with the competition for the 5th rotation spot.

Spring Training Opener Starting Lineup

1) Brett Gardner- CF
2) Francisco Cervelli- C
3) Kelly Johnson- 3B
4) Russ Canzler- 1B
5) Zoilo Almonte- LF
6) Brendan Ryan- SS
7) Adonis Garcia- RF
8) Yangervis Solarte- 2B
9) John Ryan Murphy- DH

SP) Vidal Nuno

Available to play off the bench: Gary Sanchez, Jose Gil, Corban Joseph, Dean Anna, Jose Pirela, Antoan Richardson, Mason Williams, Ramon Flores, Peter O'Brien, Francisco Arcia, Austin Romine, Zealous Wheeler

Available to pitch out of the bullpen: Brian Gordon, Shane Greene, Bryan Mitchell, Francisco Rondon, Chase Whitley, Fred Lewis, Dan Burawa

There you have it.  A mix of mostly lower-level guys and fringe roster competitors.  Let's play ball!

Spring Training News And Notes: 2/24/14

It was a light workout day yesterday before the Yankees' first ST game of 2014.  They had their players' union meeting and did their annual team bonding outing (pool tournament), and there was a little pitching.

- The highlight of that pitching was Masahiro Tanaka throwing batting practice and continuing to get rave reviews on his splitter.  Did you know it's what was in Marcellus Wallace's briefcase in "Pulp Fiction"?

- CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda also threw morning BP, David Phelps threw a sim game, and Adam Warren, Preston Claiborne, Manny Banuelos, and Mark Montgomery all got early sessions in.

- As for today's lineup, we still don't know what it's going to be but Joe did say that Brett Gardner, Francisco Cervelli, and Kelly Johnson would be the only regulars to play.  And we already knew that Vidal Nuno was getting the start.

- Andrew Bailey showed up to camp and did some stretching and long toss.  He told the media he was "100%" expecting to pitch this season.

- He didn't do much, but Alfonso Soriano was back on the field and in action this morning.  Looks like he's over his flu.

It's Game Day!

Who cares that there's only going to be a handful of regulars in today's lineup and none of the really big names?  This afternoon the Yankees will take the field for their first game of the 2014 Spring Training season and that means baseball is one step closer to really being back!  I want Gardner to go 2-2 with 2 stolen bases, I want Kelly Johnson to play a clean game at third and smack a home run, and I want Vidal Nuno to toss 3 shutout innings.  Let's go Yankees!