Monday, February 27, 2006

Floyd, Mets Get Ready for 2006 Season

Willie Randolph is four days away from putting names on an exhibition game lineup card and weeks away from identifying his regular-season batting order, much less committing to it. Yet Floyd is batting sixth. He's certain of it, even if the manager isn't -- just as sure as Billy Wagner is when he asks, "Does a one-legged duck swim in circles?"

Floyd has, as he said, "done the math," and his figures add up to him batting sixth, directly after David Wright, two places lower than Carlos Delgado and the position from which he produced most of his numbers in 2005. He not only is agreeable to the reassignment, but he sees his accepting it professionally as a means of delivering the message he considers critical to the team's chances of meeting its aspirations.

"I want my boys to say, 'He's about us,' when they talk about me," Floyd said. "That's the way it has to be if we're gonna win. It's not about where I want to hit; it's about which way the team will be better off."

"I want to win this year," he said, conceding he could be displaced in the left field by Lastings Milledge in 2007. "Whatever's best for us is what we do."

He and Wright have discussed the circumstances in private, and each has come away speaking only in the first-person plural.

"No one's going to be selfish," Wright said. "Not this year. We can have a special year with all the talent we have here."

Wright even suggested a scenario in which Floyd would bat third, followed by Carlos Beltran, Delgado and himself. That's not likely, either. "But that would be fine," Floyd said.

Carlos Delgado, at age 33, sees he may be in position to reach the postseason for the first time. He's had three seasons of 40 or more home runs and three of at least 130 RBIs. He could produce another of each this season. But his primary objective also is expressed in the first-person plural.

Randolph has Julio Franco, who already is spreading the gospel according to Us in the clubhouse.

And on Saturday, Ramon Castro spoke of "winning in New York." He said "I am happy to play not so much if we win. I'll be happier if we win than if I play more."

And Bartolome Fortunato, who is recovering from back surgery, expressed similar thoughts.

"I think about pitching more than I think about making the team," he said. "But if I make the team, I can be here to win. And that's what we talk about all the time -- win, win, win."

"I hear it when we talk," Floyd said. "We're putting the team first. That's the right way."

Friday, February 24, 2006


It's that time of year again! All baseball players gather in training preparing for a new season. On March 2nd, Spring Training begins when the Yankees take on the Phillies and the Mets visit St. Louis. I will have "full coverage" of these games, reporting who looks ready to play in the regular season.

Can't wait!

Spring Training starts six days from today!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Mets' Franco Eyes Making History at 47

At age 47, Julio Franco has no desire to retire. He signed a $2.2 million, two-year contract with the New York Mets and has a chance to become the oldest player to hit a home run in the major leagues — pitcher Jack Quinn was 46 years, 357 days when he homered for the Philadelphia Athletics on June 27, 1930.

"To stay in shape as long as he has is phenomenal," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "His leadership is important. He's the type of guy who brings a lot to the table."

Franco batted .275 last season with nine homers and 42 RBIs in 233 at-bats for the
Atlanta Braves. He attributes his longevity to going to bed as early as 8 p.m., eating organic foods and staying firm in his Christian beliefs.

His mental and physical endurance has made him eager to dispense his knowledge. Franco cherishes working with players willing to listen and learn.

"You have to do things other people aren't willing to do," he said. "There are a lot of things written in baseball that are sometimes wrong."

Franco hopes to remain in baseball after he retires as a player.

"Ultimately, I'd like to manage," he said. "My wish is to do it here. On the No. 1 day, instead of in the dugout, we meet in my office."

I hope Franco keeps playing for a while. It is awesome to see him play, and play well for his age.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Randy Johnson, Jorge Posada Learning to Work Together

Randy Johnson and Jorge Posada are hoping for better results this season.

Johnson was a 6-foot-10 mystery in his first season with the New York Yankees, uncomfortable on the mound and at times on the streets of the big city. Backup John Flaherty wound up as his personal catcher, and Johnson was 12-2 when Flaherty started, 5-6 when Posada began games behind the plate.

But now Flaherty is gone, replaced as the backup by Kelly Stinnett, so Johnson and Posada are trying to forge a new relationship, on and off the field.

After the Big Unit's first bullpen session of spring training in Tampa, Fla., Posada walked up to give him a handshake.
"Start all over again," the catcher said later.

Johnson said repeatedly that he doesn't care who is behind the plate, that he'll pitch to anyone. He had 12 or 13 mound sessions before coming to spring training, about two more than usual, trying to work on the mechanics that were so hard to find last year.

He said he spent the second half trying to "get back to what I used to do."

"I got away from it the first half, and I think me and Posada need to talk about that quite a bit," the five-time Cy Young Award winner said Friday. "We need to talk about how I got away from what is my bread and butter and what I was trying to be out there that I wasn't. It was very evident the first half of the season that I wasn't the pitcher that I was comfortable being out there, with my mechanics, with my delivery, with setting up hitters. And then everything kind of came together the second half."

Read the whole article here.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Yankees Sign Chacon and Rasner

Pitcher Shawn Chacon and the New York Yankees agreed Friday to a $3.6 million, one-year contract and avoided a salary arbitration hearing scheduled for next week.

The 28-year-old right-hander was acquired by New York from Colorado on July 28 and went 7-3 with a 2.85 ERA in 12 starts and two relief appearances. It was a startling turnaround for the former All-Star, who was 1-7 with a 4.09 ERA for the Rockies.

In addition to his salary, Chacon can earn $100,000 in performance bonuses: $25,000 each for 180, 190, 200 and 210 innings.

After making $2.35 million last year, he had asked for $4.15 million in arbitration and had been offered $3.1 million.

The New York Yankees claimed right-hander Darrell Rasner off waivers from the Washington Nationals on Saturday.

Rasner was 0-1 with a 3.68 ERA in five appearances, including one start, for the Nationals after being called up from the minors on Sept. 6. He was 6-7 with a 3.59 ERA in 27 games for Double-A Harrisburg.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated right-hander Jason Anderson for assignment.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

A call to arms in the Bronx

When your lineup already features names such as Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield ,Hideki Matsui, Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi, adding a player such as Johnny Damon can only make the machine run more effectively.

But even before the Damon signing, the Yankees weren't very concerned with their ability to score runs. After all, New York's 886 runs last season ranked second in the American League, so putting crooked numbers on the scoreboard wasn't the problem.

The Yankees' success in 2006 will have less to do with their offense as it will with their pitching, as they enter the season with a deep rotation and a brand new bullpen -- each of which has some major question marks.

New York's pitching staff ranked ninth in the AL with a 4.52 ERA last season, its lowest ranking in the last four years. Injuries forced the club to use a total of 14 starting pitchers throughout the course of the season, which was both a blessing and a curse.

The curse? Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright fell short of expectations in their first year in pinstripes, while Mike Mussina battled an arm ailment for the second consecutive year.

The blessing? Those injuries forced the Yankees to send pitchers such as Chien-Ming Wang, Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon to the mound, giving the Bombers three more arms they can depend on without worrying about how the pressure of the Bronx will affect them.

The Yankees enter Spring Training with seven starters vying for five spots, a luxury Joe Torre didn't have last year at this time. All spring, Torre expressed his concern for the lack of depth, and the rash of injuries that followed justified that concern.

With Randy Johnson, Mussina, Wang, Chacon, Pavano, Wright and Small all set to report to camp in mid-February, Torre and Ron Guidry, the team's new pitching coach, will have plenty of options when it comes to the rotation.

"We have a lot of talent, but a lot of questions," said general manager Brian Cashman. "Some regarding age, some regarding health, some regarding how real last year's second-half performances were. How real were Chacon and Small? Is Johnson going to be what he was in the second half? Will Pavano be healthy?"

This marked the first offseason of the new millennium in which Cashman was not shopping for starting pitching, apparently confident to go to battle with the arms already on the roster.
In recent winters, New York has acquired players such as Mussina, Jose Contreras, Javier Vazquez, Kevin Brown, Jon Lieber, David Wells, Johnson, Pavano and Wright, adding at least one arm to the rotation each year.

There was no splashy pitching signing or trade this year, however, as the Yankees chose to pass on names such as A.J. Burnett and Josh Beckett, unwilling to pay the price in dollars or prospects to acquire a new hurler.

But what happens when camp breaks at the beginning of April? Only five of the pitchers can work as starters, leaving two of them to adjust to life in the bullpen. As far as Cashman is concerned, that would be a nice problem to have.

"Hopefully everyone stays healthy and their performance will dictate what happens from there," Cashman said. "Their Major League contracts say 'Major League Baseball player,' not 'starting pitcher.' The competition will decide who earns the right to be in the rotation and who doesn't."

Johnson and Mussina will lead the rotation as long as they remain healthy, leaving the final three spots up for grabs among the other five pitchers. If Wang and Chacon pitch the way they did last season, it would be hard to imagine either of them not landing starting jobs.

Pavano and Wright must prove to the coaching staff that they are back at full strength, the problems of 2005 completely behind them. Pavano, who is entering the second year of a four-year, $40 million deal, would seem to be the favorite to land the final spot in the rotation if he is healthy again. Cashman believes he is, though he needs to see it with his own eyes.

"Until he's throwing off the mound, I guess it will be a question mark," Cashman said. "He's got a full, clean bill of health, but he has to go out there every five days and mow hitters down without complaint."

Whatever decisions are made by the end of camp, the Yankees will have some insurance in the event of another injury or two -- something they didn't have last season when they needed it most.

"It's helpful, but we're hoping we don't have to turn to those options," Cashman said. "We have more depth on paper than we did last year, and hopefully they're quality options. There's a very high ceiling."

- Official Yankee Site

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Jeter Set to Play in World Baseball Classic

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter remains set to play in next month's World Baseball Classic.

The Yankees' captain has been taking part in pre-spring training workouts at the New York's minor league complex. He took batting practice and grounders with teammate Miguel Cairo on Wednesday.

"It's an opportunity to try and expand the game globally," Jeter said. "I think there's going to be a lot of interest, especially in some of the countries that haven't come over to play before. I think it's great for the game."

Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano won't play in the Classic. Cano, who was on the Dominican Republic's provisional roster, wants to focus on preparing for the major league season.

"I want to win a World Series, so I'm going down to spring training and get ready for the season," Cano told reporters Tuesday night at a ceremony in Manhattan where he received the Thurman Munson Award for charity work.

Another factor in Cano's decision was the fact that the Dominican team also has Alfonso Soriano and Luis Castillo to play second base.

"I'm going to be on the bench," Cano said. "I'm not going to play. They're going to use me once in a while. I want to get a world championship, and if I go there, I'm going to be sitting for games. I want to get ready for the season."

Houston Astros' pitcher Andy Pettitte, also honored at the dinner, was also leaning toward not playing.

"When I get down to spring training, I'll see how I feel," Pettitte said. "But since I'm starting late this year, it probably wouldn't be real smart for me to do that. Obviously, I'm obligated to the Astros."

The World Baseball Classic will be over by the time the regular season begins. So I don't see how Jeter's playing in the Classic will harm the Yankees in any way. I can understand Cano and A-Rod's want to stay out of the Classic...but I look forward to seeing at least one Yankee play.