Thursday, February 18, 2016

Yankees' Girardi talks Chapman, rotation and spring battles

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi held his initial spring training news conference Thursday morning as pitchers and catchers reported to camp in Tampa, FL. He touched on several items in his discussion.
Joe Girardi
Photo: Keith Allison

Aroldis Chapman

Girardi said he understood the apprehension surrounding the domestic violence allegations against Chapman, and felt it was a very important topic of which he has discussed at length in his own home. Girardi stated he understood and agreed that while there were no criminal charges brought against Chapman, MLB and the Players’ Association wants to hold their employees to a higher standard. Girardi would not go so far as to label Chapman. He will read the police report and then meet him before discerning his closer’s character.

Girardi’s take is a good one in my view. He seemed sincere when speaking about the importance of domestic violence and how it has no place in the game, or anywhere for that matter. I had some reaction to Chapman’s own comments over at SNY earlier today.

The rotation

Girardi discussed several areas of the rotation, one of the Yankees bigger question marks. He mentioned that the rotation needed to try to provide more innings per start and he believed that Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino would be in the best position to do so. Tanaka led Yankees starters in innings per start last season with 6.4. Girardi also mentioned that Tanaka will be taking it slow this spring.

Girardi stated that there was not an innings limit on Severino and that he felt the young right-hander can accumulate 200-plus innings this season.

When asked about CC Sabathia being the No. 5 starter, Girardi skirted the issue and basically suggested that he’d put out his top five pitchers and usually competitions over the spring weed themselves out (typically due to injuries). I mentioned yesterday at SNY that this topic was going to be a major theme of the camp. Girardi seems to think so as well.

I find it interesting that Girardi suggested Severino could help where it concerned getting deeper into games, essentially bypassing Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi who have plenty more experience and should be the ones doing better in that area. If anything, the comment points to Girardi’s confidence in the soon-to-be 22-year-old hurler.

Upgraded roster

Girardi sounded confident that the additions to the team in the offseason — Chapman, Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks — make the club better on paper, but that means little. I’d have to agree on both fronts.

Chapman strengthens one of their best areas from last season, Castro is an upgrade over Stephen Drew with the potential be a special player and Hicks can aid the Yankees in all three outfield positions. As Girardi alluded, being better on paper is all well and good, but winning on the field is what counts. Those players will have to live up to expectations in order to give the Yankees a chance to win the American League East.

Other battlegrounds

The other spring battles will focus on the backup catcher role and the front-end of the bullpen. Heralded prospect Gary Sanchez seems to be the favorite for the backup catcher spot. Girardi said that Austin Romine and Carlos Corporan will be given a fair shot at winning the role behind starting catcher Brian McCann.

After the rotation is sorted out, it seems plausible that the odd person out (if no injuries pop up) will be the long man in the bullpen. After that the three remaining roles will be all up for grabs. The Yankees have a slew of talented young relievers with which to pick from as well as a few veteran arms at camp on minor league deals.

I would expect Girardi to let those battles last straight through the final day of camp and I’d also suspect that he’ll pinpoint more than three arms who will be able to come back and forth from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to New York much like the Yanks employed in 2015.

The main thing to understand from Girardi’s discussion is that there are no sure things for his or any baseball team in February. There will be injuries, there will be players who have poor springs and others who will open some eyes. The best thing for a club to do is be ready to pivot in the direction necessary so they do not lose ground. The Yankees have some issues, but they seem to have enough depth to be able to shift gears if necessary.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for His baseball commentary has also been published on The Cauldron via Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports 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.