Let’s get right to it …
- PeteAbe has a longer-length column on Joe Girardi “more personal approach” this season:
Girardi approached the Yankees last season like one of the industrial engineering assignments he undertook as a student at Northwestern. If he applied enough of his own hard work and logic to whatever issue came up, he would find the solution. But those pesky variables, other people, kept getting in the way. …
Eight days into his second spring training with the Yankees is not enough time to determine whether Girardi truly has changed the methods that led to the reconfiguration of his coaching staff, tension in the clubhouse, and a fractured relationship with the reporters who cover the team. But his reaction to the Rodriguez scandal reveals a man willing to change.
Relentlessly positive a year ago, Girardi has been measured in his support of Rodriguez – a position that reflects the mood of the team – while at the same time using the situation as a way to better connect to his players. The bridges that he vowed to build last fall are falling into place, plank by plank.
- Steve Serby has a fluffy but fun Q&A with CC Sabathia, including this instant classic exchange:
Q: Why do you wear your hat cocked?
A: It feels straight to me when I have it on.
- John Harper details the financial risks Andy Pettitte took in the off-season:
When all the haggling was finally done this winter, Andy Pettitte turned down $10 million and wound up signing for $5.5 million with incentives, which is the kind of deal you think would get an agent fired in most cases.
Pettitte says no, he has no problem with Randy Hendricks and no problem with his deal. He was determined to get the $12 million he thought he was worth, and in the end maybe he paid a price for playing his hand too boldly, but he insists it was worth it for the chance to prove the ugly finish to last season doesn’t mean he’s one step from being washed up.
“Hey, around July last year I thought I was going to win 20 games,” Pettitte was saying Saturday. “I felt that good. So don’t tell me that based on my last 11 or 12 starts I’m done. I had a shoulder problem.”
As it turns out, he’s essentially betting $4.5 million that he can stay healthy and reach the incentives that could get him to $12 million, and for a 36-year-old pitcher with a history of elbow injuries to go with last year’s shoulder problem, that’s a risky bet.
- Wallace Matthews profiles the always energetic Nick Swisher:
Wedged in among the dramatics of A-Rod, the stoic professionalism of Jeter and the quiet dignity of Mariano Rivera, Swisher sticks out like a lunatic in a library.
“Swish is very energetic, I’ll tell you that,” said a bemused Posada, who sits four lockers away, still close enough to feel the bass vibrations in his sternum. “He looks like he’s really enjoying being here.”
Think Jack Black with a first baseman’s mitt or Ozzy Osbourne with the ability to draw a walk, and you’ve got Swisher pegged.
And his high-energy pre-workout routine – a little air guitar, a little wrestling with the kids running around the clubhouse, some mosh pit writhing – was just a warm-up for his post-workout session. That’s when he spent an hour in the batting cage with hitting coach Kevin Long, honing his swing from both sides of the plate while shouting “Nobody else is working like this!” between hacks.
- Kat O’Brien lets A.J. Burnett state his case:
A.J. Burnett has no problem with fans who question his $82.5-million contract.
He has no issues with people who wonder if he can stay healthy, either. He knows he has a lengthy injury history.
“I’ve been on the disabled list [10 times],” said Burnett, 32. “I would think the same thing. The bottom line is, it’s true. I’ve been hurt a lot. Those are the facts. What am I supposed to say, that I wasn’t hurt? I was.”
So Burnett understands the doubts. He has none himself, but he sees why others might. Plenty of Yankees fans are afraid of winding up with a harder-throwing version of the always-injured Carl Pavano on their team. But Burnett insists that won’t be the case, that he is psyched about competing in the pressure-cooker American League East from a new vantage point.
- Ken Davidoff introduces us to new Yankees’ infield coach Mick Kelleher:
“My approach to baseball, and life, is to work hard, study and enjoy myself along the journey,” Kelleher, who also is the Yankees’ first-base coach, said yesterday at Steinbrenner Field. “That’s the way I played. That’s the way I’ve lived my life. That’s the way I teach. I try to pass that on to our players, my friends. It’s just an attitude.”
“His personality is unbelievable,” Cubs bench coach Alan Trammell told Newsday yesterday in a telephone interview. “Mick is always upbeat. You really never see him have a bad day.”
- BP.com’s Kevin Goldstein profiles the Yanks’ Top 11 Prospects. Here’s the lowdown on his two “5-star” prospects:
1. Jesus Montero, C
2008 Stats: .326/.376/.491, .261 EqA at Low-A (132 G)
Last Year’s Ranking: 7
Year in Review: This well-regarded international signee nearly won the Sally League batting title as an 18-year-old in his full-season debut last year.
The Good: Montero’s bat falls into a special category. He has plus-plus raw power that he’s learning to unleash in games, but he’s first and foremost a hitter with a quick bat, tremendous plate coverage, and no weaknesses in terms of any pitch type or location. His plate discipline improved throughout the year and he began to drive the ball more, leading to a .344/.407/.534 batting line after the All-Star break.
The Bad: Montero improved by leaps and bounds on defense in 2008, but as one scout put it, “that means he went from embarrassing to just plain bad behind the plate.” He’s big and sluggish, has problems blocking the ball, his arm is below average, and he has little carry on his throws.
2. Austin Jackson, OF
2008 Stats: .285/.354/.419, .255 EqA at Double-A (131 G)
Last Year’s Ranking: 3
Year in Review: He’s an athletic center fielder who last year failed to build on the previous year’s breakout.
The Good: Jackson’s tools rate as average or better across the board. He works the count well, has enough power to hit 15-18 home runs annually, and the speed to play a solid center field while stealing 20-25 bases a year. He earns raves for his makeup, effort, and competitiveness.
The Bad: Jackson is one of those players who is greater than the sum of his parts, and he doesn’t really have any one overwhelming tool. He’s already lost some speed since signing and lacks the bat for a corner, so he can’t afford to lose more.
- NRI Jason Johnson was diagnosed with a melanoma in the retina of his right eye. He’s undergone treatment during the past two weeks, and his chances of a full recovery are very good.
- ESPN is reporting that the Captain is dealing with hamstring soreness, and Edwar Ramirez has some shoulder tendinitis.
- Mark Melancon impressed PeteAbe with this stuff.
- Boss George is getting a high school named after him. But they’re stumped as to a mascot.
- Rondell White turns 37 today. White signed as a FA with the Bombers in 2002, and proceeded to put up his career-worst OPS+ (76) on a line of .240/.288/.378. He was dealt away prior to the start of the 2003 season.
- Today would have been Elston Howard’s 80 birthday.