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Rob Refsnyder optioned to Triple-A — March 27, 2016

Rob Refsnyder optioned to Triple-A

By Chad Jennings

ref butcher

New York Yankees third baseman Rob Refsnyder throws out a Washington Nationals runner in the third inning of a spring training baseball game, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Viera, Fla. 

Just a few days ago, Rob Refsnyder seemed to be a favorite to make the Yankees big league roster as a utility infielder. Today, he was optioned to Triple-A.

One day after his 25th birthday — and one day after he was hit in the face by a bad-hop grounder for the second day in a row — Refsnyder was sent to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he will presumably continue to get experience at third base in preparation for a possible bench role later in the season. Refsnyder hit just .242/.286/.364 this spring and was 1-for-11 with a home run against lefties. He seemed to be a favorite for the big league roster because of his strong finish to last season, his offensive potential from the right side, and because of his early success while learning to play third base.

The past two days, though, were not kind.

On Friday, Refsnyder made errors on back-to-back plays. The first was a throwing error just wide of first base (the first baseman was able to catch the ball, but had to come off the bag). The second was a bad hop grounder that hit off Refsnyder’s glove, struck him in the face and forced him out of the game because he was bleeding. The very next day, on Saturday, Refsnyder made another throwing error — this one wide left of the bag where Mark Teixeira couldn’t scoop it — and was hit in the face by another grounder, this was one on an especially brutal hop of a ground ball that jumped into the air when Refsnyder least expected it.

Joe Girardi said he didn’t think either ball to the face was a product of Refsnyder’s experience at third. They were simply the product of tough luck on dry spring training infields. The bad throws, while not as embarrassing, might have been just as damning.

Without Refsnyder, the Yankees have three options for their final bench spot (which Girardi has said will definitely go to someone who can play third base).

1. Ronald Torreyes — The 23-year-old has hit .313/.333/.375 while playing second, third and shortstop this spring. He has limited Major League experience and a reputation for making consistent contact at the plate. He’s struck out three times in 32 at-bats this spring. He can play the left side of the infield but has been primarily a second baseman. Torreyes is on the 40-man roster.

2. Pete Kozma — The 27-year-old defensive specialist used to be the regular shortstop in St. Louis but fell into more of a utility role because of his underwhelming offensive numbers. He’s a former first-round pick who started this spring with a mild back injury. He’s since hit .167 through 24 at-bats. He has significant experience at all three non-first infield positions and would be the best defensive option available.

3. Late spring castoff — A wild-card possibility, and one Brian Cashman always leaves open during spring training. As other teams make their final roster decisions, veterans on minor league contracts and young guys out of options will inevitably become available (similar to Ruben Tejada earlier this spring). If the Yankees like one of those options, they could make a move to acquire someone for a minimal contract.

Yankees could look to add reliever? —

Yankees could look to add reliever?

By Brendan Kuty

TAMPA, Fla. —€” The Yankees might look to bring a middle reliever from outside the organization, according to the MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

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The back end of the Yankees’€™ bullpen might be the best in the league, with Aroldis Chapman serving as closer and Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances setting him up. The club also seems to expect Chasen Shreve to fill a mid- to late-inning role.

But Chapman won’€™t be around until May 9, thanks to a 30-game domestic violence suspension.

So the team has to fill his spot in their bullpen until he returns. It has spent the spring whittling down the number of relievers in camp, and it sliced another two off the major-league spring roster Saturday, sending youngsters Nick Rumbelow and James Pazos to minor league camp.

The Yankees don’€™t seem all too enamored with what they have in camp. Bryan Mitchell has pitched well, but he could open the season in the Triple-A rotation. He could also end up taking the club’s swingman role, which Adam Warren filled admirably until he was dealt to the Cubs for second baseman Starlin Castro in the offseason.

At the moment, Kirby Yates, Tyler Olson, Branden Pinder and Johnny Barbato seem like the leaders to fill the club’s final two or three spots the Yankees have open.

General manager Brian Cashman has said the team will continue to stay in contact with other clubs, looking to see if it could pick away another team’s player if he’s better than what the Yankees have.

Yankees looking for infield help? —

Yankees looking for infield help?

By Brendan Kuty

TAMPA, Fla. — Are the Yankees in the market for reserve infield help?

That might be the word going around the league, according to a report from the New York Post’s George King.

From the report:

Other organizations believe the Yankees’ second reserve infielder isn’t in camp yet. The current plan includes using second baseman Starlin Castro at short from time to time to give Didi Gregorius a rest. However, the Yankees, who are going with Dustin Ackley as the backup at first and second, likely are looking for somebody who can play short and third.

Rob Refsnyder appeared to have the inside track at the job, as the Yankees like the right-handed bat he’d bring off the bench. But the 25-year-old has had it rough at third base lately after a nice start. He’s made three errors in two games and he left Saturday’s contest to get tests after a grounder took a bad bounce and hit him in the face.

Ronald Torreyes and Pete Kozma are options, too. Each is in the glove-first mold that the Yankees valued in Brendan Ryan last year. The team, however, eventually tired of Ryan and included him with Adam Warren in a trade to the Cubs that netted Starlin Castro. The Cubs immediately release Ryan, who ended up with the Nationals.

Over the last couple of seasons, the Yankees have prioritized infield defense over offense. But the team could be searching for another righty bat that provides a bit more of a threat while at the same time is capable of playing short and third. The team offered ex-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada a minor-league deal, but he turned it down for the Cardinals’ major-league offer.

Why Jacoby Ellsbury is taking longer to heal than Yankees hoped — March 25, 2016

Why Jacoby Ellsbury is taking longer to heal than Yankees hoped

jake

By BrendanKuty

TAMPA, Fla. — Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury‘s right wrist is taking a little bit longer to heal than the Yankees hoped.

A 90-mph fastball blasted Ellsbury on the right wrist on Saturday, forcing him immediately out of a home game against the Braves before he was sent to get tests on it. Doctors said there was no structural damage.

The team hoped Ellsbury would be ready to return to the lineup Thursday. But now it’s looking more like the earliest the 32-year-old will come back could be Saturday against the Twins.

Ellsbury didn€’t play in Thursday’s loss and wasn’€™t on the travel roster for Friday’€™s trip to Sarasota to face the Orioles or Saturday‒s bus ride to Dunedin to take on the Blue Jays.

On Thursday, Girardi said Ellsbury could return Saturday. That no longer seems like the case. Ellsbury took batting practice outside Thursday morning and wasn’€™t ready to get back into games, the manager said.

“We just feel like he could use another day of (batting practice) and he’s not quite there yet,” Girardi said Thursday night. “€œHe just said, ‘It’s not quite there yet.’ So we’ll take another day of BP. … It’s just kind of a little discomfort, I think.”

Girardi has said he expects Ellsbury to be ready for Opening Day.

Ellsbury missed 43 games thanks to a right knee sprain last season. The injury marred his impressive start, which saw him spend April and May as one of the game’€™s best leadoff hitters.

The $151-million man was so bad come the playoffs that Girardi sat him in favor of Brett Gardner, who was also struggling, against lefty ace Dallas Keuchel of the Astros.

Ellsbury was banged up in each of his first two spring trainings with the Yankees.

Is Masahiro Tanaka pitching himself out of an Opening Day start? — March 24, 2016

Is Masahiro Tanaka pitching himself out of an Opening Day start?

By George A. King III

tunuca

VIERA, Fla. — Even if you discount two-wind-blown homers and a run-scoring double that was aided by the breeze blowing from left to right, Masahiro Tanaka’s outing against the Nationals Wednesday night at Space Coast Stadium wasn’t good.

The Yankees’ Opening Day starter April 4 against the Astros was battered from the first frame until he exited after four.

“Yes, they were flat,’’ Tanaka said of his pitches. “And not down in the zone.’’

Tanaka gave up a run in the initial inning when he was called for a balk, six in the third when Wilson Ramos and Stephen Drew each hit opposite-field homers to right. In four innings the Nationals collected nine hits en route to a 13-0 victory.

That’s not exactly what a team is looking for from its ace with one more start in front of an Opening Day assignment.

According to a speed gun behind the plate, Tanaka averaged 89 mph with his fastball that reached 92 mph. The slider, was described as “soft, with no bite’’ by a scout. The split had “limited depth.’’

Manager Joe Girardi hasn’t announced Tanaka as the Opening Day starter for a second straight season, but unless Tanaka is injured he gets the ball against the Astros in The Bronx.

“The positive is to get these kind of outings out of the way in spring training and not take them into the regular season,’’ said Tanaka, who has allowed 16 hits in 11 spring innings. “Obviously the results aren’t there, but the good part is I am healthy. I feel good about the whole body.’’

Girardi agreed with his ace about the outing not being good.

“His stuff wasn’t sharp tonight. I don’t think the command was good,’’ said the manager, who wants to see improvement the next time. “You want to get going. The next start is very important.’’

Asked if another clunker could put the Opening Day assignment in peril, Girardi said, “That’s way far in front.’’

Tanaka’s next start is likely Tuesday against the Pirates at GMS Field. That would give him five days’ rest, something the Yankees like to do with him, before the season starts.

Because he had a bone spur removed from his right elbow in October the Yankees eased Tanaka into the exhibition program.

“I wasn’t concerned that he was starting a little bit slower than maybe some other starters but you see that in a lot of camps, they kind of push starters back the first time through just because they don’t necessarily need seven starters, eight starters, or even six,’’ Girardi said. “So we thought it was best to know he was healthy and ready to go before we threw him in a game.’’

Lindgren, Judge, Kaprielian among massive first round of Yankees cuts — March 13, 2016

Lindgren, Judge, Kaprielian among massive first round of Yankees cuts

By Chad Jennings

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New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge during a spring training baseball workout Monday, Feb. 22, 2016, in Tampa, Fla

The Yankees have announced a huge first round of cuts in big league camp, sending 17 different players to the minor league complex. Most notable among the cuts are high-end prospects James Kaprielian and Aaron Judge, as well as reliever Jacob Lindgren, who seemed to have a legitimate chance to make the Opening Day roster. Lindgren was option to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the other cuts were simply reassigned (because they’re not on the 40-man roster)

Here’s a breakdown of the players no longer in big league camp.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

LHP Jacob Lindgren — Coming off elbow surgery, I didn’t expect Lindgren to actually make the Opening Day roster, but I certainly thought he would stick around beyond the first round of cuts. Presumably Lindgren will head to Triple-A to get some much-needed innings after he missed the entire second half of last season.

BIGGEST NAMES

RF Aaron Judge — Arguably the most-discussed prospect in the Yankees’ system, Judge often has been the center of attention this spring, but he never seemed to have a realistic chance to break camp in the big leagues. Needs to master Triple-A first. Could certainly hit his way into the big league conversation this year.

RHP James Kaprielian — Last year’s top draft pick was invited to big league camp in his first spring training, and his debut was an overwhelming success. The Yankees have indicated he could move quickly through the minors, but he might not be a realistic big league option this year. My own guess: He’ll start the year in High-A Tampa if only for a month or so.

SS Jorge Mateo — The youngest player in Yankees camp made a heckuva first impression with his speed, his bat and his glove. Could be a September call-up candidate to provide some speed off the bench, but he was a predictable opening cut because of his age and inexperience.

IMMEDIATE TRIPLE-A DEPTH

OF Lane Adams — Speedy center fielder claimed off waivers to give the Yankees some right-handed balance, but now it seems veteran Chris Denorfia is the right-handed outfielder most likely to make the Opening Day roster if the Yankees have a need.

RHP Brady Lail — After a strong Double-A season, Lail is surely heading to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to try to establish himself as a ready spot-start candidate. Needs to get stretched out for the season, so it makes sense to get him to the minor league complex pretty early.

C Sebastian Valle — With Austin Romine out of options and Carlos Corporan able to opt out, the Yankees could have a wide-open Triple-A catching situation. The fact veteran Eddy Rodriguez is still in camp suggests he might be ahead of Valle in the pecking order, but Valle could certainly end up in Triple-A as a just-in-case option.

LHP Tyler Webb — Missed the second half of last season because of a blister, but he pitched in the Arizona Fall League and could become a big league option this season. He’s surrounded by a lot of good, young left-handed relievers, though. Needs to put up numbers to set himself apart.

YOUNG PROSPECTS

OF Dustin Fowler — Coming off a breakout season that put him on several Top 10 Yankees prospect lists. Fowler held his own in big league camp despite being 21 and having never played above High-A. Uncertain whether he’ll open this year in Tampa or Trenton.

RHP Chad Green — Struggled in his two games in big league camp, but the Yankees clearly like him after acquiring him from Detroit in the Justin Wilson deal. Could open in Double-A or Triple-A. Had a strong second half in Double-A last season.

SS Tyler Wade — Just turned 21 this offseason and had a nice year in High-A Tampa last season. Wade is almost certainly going to Double-A to play a lot of shortstop and a little second base. He’s been on the radar for the big league coaching staff since playing well when he came up from minor league camp for a few games last spring.

ROLE UNCERTAIN

RHP Domingo German — Coming back from Tommy John surgery, German had a setback this spring because of a nerve issue, but he’s expected to get back on the mound soon (if he’s not there already). Hard to know how quickly he’ll be able to get into games or where he’ll be assigned this season.

RHP Kyle Haynes — Three scoreless innings with only one hit allowed in big league camp, Haynes was a late addition to big league camp but pitched well. Hard to know whether he’ll be a starter or a reliever, in Double-A or Triple-A.

3B Deibinson Romero — A 29-year-old corner infielder, Romero spent last season in Korea and has previously put up pretty decent numbers in Triple-A. Could be an everyday third baseman in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but other minor league infielders are still in big league camp and seem ahead of Romero in the pecking order.

EXTRA CATCHERS

C Francisco Diaz — Spend the past four years catching in Low-A in the Pirates organization. The Yankees signed him just to provide some organizational depth, and they brought him to big league camp to help catch a bunch of bullpens.

C Kyle Higashioka — Long-time Yankees minor leaguer was re-signed this offseason and brought back to big league camp. He hit a huge home run this spring, and could play anywhere from High-A to Triple-A this season. Good defender and popular player within the organization.

C Santiago Nessy — Once carried legitimate prospect stock in the Blue Jays system, but the Yankees were able to get him in the minor league Rule 5 draft this offseason. Could be a candidate for regular playing time in either High-A or Double-A.

How Yankees’ Aaron Judge could get even better — March 8, 2016

How Yankees’ Aaron Judge could get even better

By Brendan Kuty

herecumduhjudge

TAMPA, Fla. — Recently, WFAN’s Sweeney Murti and Yankees vice president of player development Gary Denbo sat down for a great two-part interview. They went over plenty: Denbo’s experience in his first year on the job, Yankees prospects deep in the system, and what a few top-shelf youngsters must do to reach the majors. Read it here and here.

One of them? Aaron Judge, the 23-year-old right fielder at or near the top of just about every big-named publication’s top prospects rankings for the Yankees.

Judge figures to start the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But he could be in line for a major-league call up if something were to happen to Carlos Beltranor if Judge forces the issue with his power bat and impressive athleticism for a 6-foot-7, 255-pounder.

How (and why) Judge is changing his swing

How (and why) Judge is changing his swing

The hulking hitting prospect hopes to mash at Triple-A

Here’s what Denbo said when asked how Judge could improve in 2016, according to the report:

“He would see a lot off-speed pitches in fastball counts and vice versa. He ended up taking a lot of those pitches and not pulling the trigger on them rather than attacking pitches that he could hit in his hitting zone and taking the ones that he couldn’t.”

Denbo added:

“And he’s made some adjustments with his lower half in terms of the move that he makes to load up, to prepare to hit, that should allow him to be in a better position to recognize pitches and then be in a better position to pull the trigger when he sees one that he wants to attack.”

Carlos Beltran gushes over 2 Yankees prospects — March 6, 2016

Carlos Beltran gushes over 2 Yankees prospects

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Mar 5, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) works out prior to the game at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

By Ryan Hatch

TAMPA — Maybe you heard the news from Saturday: prospects Aaron Judge and Jorge Mateo have the Yankees dreaming of the future.

And they both seem to have received the seal of approval from one of the most respected veterans in the clubhouse: Carlos Beltran.

Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman vs. Jorge MateoYankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman faces top shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo.

“He’s a good kid, man,” Beltran said of Mateo. “He listens. He’s very polite. Something that I don’t see often. Sometimes when I go to the cage and he’s in the cage, he gets himself out of the cage and calls me in. Those type of things. Of course, I would not take the space, but just to see that in a young guy, that he respects the guys around.

“It’s good to see. It reminds me some of myself when I was growing up and playing with veteran guys.”

Before camp started Beltran requested Judge, also a right fielder, have his locker placed next to his. If nothing else, Beltran’s said, to just help mentor him and teach him how to play in the big leagues.

“He’s an unbelievable talent,” Beltran said of Judge. “He’s working. He’s a guy that asks questions. He wants to learn. He has a great attitude. It’s great to see younger guys performing well.”

Judge, 23, is further along in his career than Mateo and probably needs less guidance off the field since he’s from the United States, having grown up in California.

Mateo, 20, is from the Dominican Republic and faces a cultural and language barrier every day. (He conducts interviews with reporters using a Spanish translator.)

Beltran, born and raised in Puerto Rico, says he can relate.

“I do talk to [Mateo],” Beltran said Saturday. “Today we were talking about family. He has family in the Dominican Republic. I was just telling him, I understand how difficult that can be, but just make sure you don’t lose focus on what’s going to take care of the family, and that’s your career.”

Mateo hasn’t played above high-A since 2012 but has a high ceiling. He swiped 82 bases last year, the most in the organization at any level, and is apparently showing he can put the ball over the fence, too.

“[The Yankees] know me pretty well,” Mateo said. “If I make the big club is up to them, but they know what kind of game I have.”

Maybe they don’t, though. Maybe it’s better than originally thought.

As the Red Sox change plans again, the Yankees continue to stick to theirs (for better or worse) — March 4, 2016

As the Red Sox change plans again, the Yankees continue to stick to theirs (for better or worse)

By Mike Axisa

MLB: New York Yankees-Workouts
Feb 23, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman watches workouts at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When the Yankees played their first Grapefruit League game of the year Wednesday, future rotation cornerstone Luis Severino was on the mound. Severino represents a sea change for the Yankees. Not too long ago the team used promising young like players like him to acquire proven big leaguers. Now they’re incorporating players like Severino into their big league roster and looking towards the future.

This emphasis on young players is fairly new. Remember, it was only two offseasons ago that the Yankees committed over $450M to big ticket free agents, including Jacoby Ellsbury and Masahiro Tanaka. Last year the Yankees shifted gears and went young with a few mid-range free agents mixed in, namely Andrew Miller and Chase Headley. This offseason they avoided free agents all together and continued to get younger.

That’s the plan now: young players and no big money long-term contracts, at least not until the ones already on the books expire. The Yankees say they’re committed to this plan and I buy it. They’ve been to the postseason once in the last three years, and that was a one-game cameo as the wildcard team last season. Ratings and attendance are down. The Mets are the talk of the town. The free agent class was outstanding. The Yankees had every reason to spend big and trade prospects for big leaguers this past winter, and they didn’t do it. Regardless of whether you agree with it, their restraint was impressive.

Meanwhile, a few hours north, the Red Sox have apparently once again changed their organizational philosophy. Last week owner John Henry said the club won’t rely on analytics as much going forward — they’re not abandoning statistical analysis, just scaling back — even though they’ve had a ton of success over the last 12 years thanks to their ability to interpret numbers. Heck, Henry made his fortune using data to analyze hedge funds. You won’t see the Yankees abandon analytics anytime soon.

“One of the reasons that we’ve been able to avoid a dramatic falloff and at least be competitive is how effective our analytics have been,” said Brian Cashman to Peter Gammons recently. “We’ve been able to find players to fit in, like (Nathan) Eovaldi. We have great scouts and development people, but there are a lot of factors that go into the totality of an organization.”

Over the winter the Red Sox signed 30-year-old David Price to a $217M contract only a year after Henry said spending big on players on the wrong side of 30 is a bad idea. “Virtually all of the underpaid players are under 30 and virtually all the overpaid players are over 30, yet teams continue to extravagantly overpay for players above the age of 30,” said Henry to Nick Cafardo in 2014. “It is a wildly different approach. We haven’t participated in this latest feeding frenzy of bidding up stars.”

The Red Sox also traded high-end prospects for bullpen help after former GM Ben Cherington — with Henry’s blessing — wanted the club to focus on developing their own cornerstone players. That plan didn’t work in 2014, the year after the BoSox won the World Series by spreading the wealth around and signing several quality free agents rather than one or two stars. That spread it around strategy came about after spending huge dollars on Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford failed spectacularly.

That’s an awful lot of philosophical changes in a short period of time. The Red Sox have spent big, spent small, gone young, and now they’re circling back to spend big again. And now they’re scaling back on analytics to some degree. It gives off the impression the BoSox are reeling from all the recent last place finishes, don’t have any answers, and are scrambling for a solution. Fair or not, that’s how it comes off. Every plan needs to be flexible. This goes beyond normal flexibility.

For better or worse, the Yankees are now going young — they’re entering year two of this go young plan, so it’s lasted longer than any of the Red Sox’s recent plans — after years of spending big and emphasizing veterans. The Yankees were bonafide World Series contenders not too long ago and spending big made sense. Success is fleeting these days. I think you have to go all-in when you can, and the Yankees did just that.

Now it makes sense to step back and retool for the future, which the Yankees are doing. They’re trading for young guys with upside and keeping their prospects. That they’ve so far been able to do that without becoming an abject embarrassment on the field is gravy. I have no idea if this plan will work, but I’m pretty confident the Yankees will see it through either way.

Changing strategies year after year is no way to run a team. Not if the goal is long-term success. You’ve got to find a plan, stick to it, and hope it’s successful. One year is not nearly enough time to determine whether something as important as a team-building strategy is a success in this game.

Aaron Judge, Starlin Castro in lineup for Yankees’ 1st spring game — March 2, 2016