Friday, February 27, 2015

Yankees enjoy upbeat first week of Spring Training

The New York Yankees are one week into Spring Training as of Friday and while there is incessant chatter about Alex Rodriguez’s return to the diamond (or more like everything he does off it), there are many other on-the-field happenings that has the club upbeat.

While it’s early, the pitching staff has been building up arm strength, with some, facing live batters. The word is that everyone is feeling healthy and showing no signs of early camp soreness {knocking on wood}.

Nathan Eovaldi seems to be the furthest along, mostly since he was in Tampa well before the others arrived. Of course, this makes sense with Eovaldi working on his ancillary pitches in an effort to make the most out of his power fastball.

CC Sabathia threw his latest bullpen session Friday and George King III of the New York Post reported that the big lefty’s surgically repaired right knee is responding well and that he’ll face live hitters sometime next week.

“No problems. I am still working on the cutter and changeup,’’ said Sabathia. “I definitely like where I am at. I am not feeling pain and moving forward. I feel great.’’

The Yankees other worrisome rotation member, simply from an injury perspective, is Masahiro Tanaka who tossed a bullpen session Thursday. He also hurled 41 pitches and told The LoHud Yankees Blog’s Chad Jennings he felt stronger than his last time on the mound.

“I think I was throwing with more force than the last bullpen,” Tanaka said.

Michael Pineda and Chris Capuano have also been readying themselves for spring games and so far all is quiet on the health front from them. Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers are working as starters early on with the Yankees planning on using a six-man rotation for Spring Training and will potentially do the same in the early parts of the season when they go through a period of 30 games in 31 days.

Girardi as a whole is happy with the first week from his pitching staff. This, via Jennings:

“When I look at things today, I think the pitchers are a lot further along," Girardi said. "I was very pleased with what I saw from Tanaka. I’ve been very pleased as far as what I’ve seen from our pitchers as a whole."

Rodriguez took fielding drills at first base using his regular infielder’s mitt in a group with Mark Teixeira Friday. The notion of Rodriguez getting starts might say something about the Yankees lack of confidence in Teixeira staying completely healthy, or simply having A-Rod be somewhat familiar with the role for emergency purposes. A-Rod will get at-bats as the designated hitter against lefties for certain, and Garrett Jones is on board to spell Teixeira (if needed) when a righty is on the mound.

Teixeira told the media that he was not going to try to beat the shift by becoming a slap-hitter, which no one is really asking him to do.

One of the cool things that happens in spring camp is we get a look at some of the future players making their way through the system. Luis Severino and Aaron Judge faced off during batting practice Friday and Jennings caught some video of it. Severino has been getting raves from the media and the coaching staff thus far and Judge is simply enormous.

Finally, one injury did creep up on the Bombers Friday when the club reported via Twitter that utility infielder Brendan Ryan suffered a mild back strain and is off the field for the next five days. Ryan is hoping to maintain his roster spot this spring, with Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder trying to supplant the light-hitting slick fielder. Losing Ryan for an extended period is not a big worry for the Yanks, especially this early in camp.

One week in the books and so far all is well in Tampa for the Yankees. Keep your fingers crossed that it stays that way.

Photo of CC Sabathia courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer and sports media strategist. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly Closer Report column. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.