Monday, February 23, 2015

Yankees’ weekend news wrap: All about pitching

The New York Yankees saw their hurlers on the mound for the first time this spring over the weekend and as is the case around the league, optimism reigns supreme.

CC Sabathia

The big southpaw checked into camp at 305 pounds according to Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York. Sabathia told Matthews that he feels more comfortable in this weight zone, than he did when he came to came 30 pounds lighter last season.

Sabathia made just eight starts in 2014 and is coming off arthroscopic right knee surgery. He went 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA (4.78 FIP), 1.48 WHIP and 48 K in 46 innings. After also turning in a disappointing 2013 season (14 W, 4.78 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 175 K in 211 IP), Sabathia’s road to a turnaround begins with his health and ends with his ability to get batters out without a high velocity fastball.

Sabathia says he’s been picking the brain of former Yankee great Andy Pettitte regarding how to make the transition from a dominant fastball to relying on offspeed offerings. Sabathia tossed 25 pitches in his first bullpen session Saturday, a mix of fastballs and changeups. The changeup used to be one of Sabathia’s best pitches and if he can determine the best velocity difference between the fastball and change both pitches could become more effective again.

Masahiro Tanaka

Tanaka tossed his second bullpen of the spring and felt no ill effects on his right elbow. Tanaka is pitching with a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. He threw 35 pitches, mixing in more offspeed offerings Sunday according to LoHud Yankees Blog’s Chad Jennings. Jennings provided a video with Tanaka and others throwing below. Enjoy the popping of fastballs as you read on.

New lefties get some work in

Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson were also on the hill and seen in the video. Manager Joe Girardi is excited to have such excellent relief depth, particularly from lefties.

“We’ve got a couple of lefties we can go to, when you start thinking about it,” Girardi said. “There’s some quality left-handers here. I think it really gives you options as a manager. And I like that.”

Nathan Eovaldi

Perhaps one of the Yankees’ bigger wild cards not related to injury is Eovaldi. The 25-year-old right-hander has a big-time fastball but his ancillary pitches are not strong enough for the fastball to be completely effective.

Eovaldi has been in camp for some time working with pitching coach Larry Rothschild on a split-finger fastball as well as his offspeed offerings in an effort to induce more strikeouts.

Eovaldi threw live batting practice Sunday in which he worked on keeping his fastball up in the strike zone while moving the splitter into different locations around the plate. Girardi was encouraged by Eovaldi’s performance according to Jennings.

“He looked good,” Girardi said. “He threw a batting practice session, worked on some things, worked on some different ideas with his split. I was very encouraged by it. Arm strength is good. It’s still very early in camp, but it was positive.”

The rotation comes with some serious question marks concerning health, but as of now, everyone is feeling well and looking to get stronger before games begin in a couple of weeks. As Girardi says, it’s still early, but optimism is abound.

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.