Feb. 26 -- Notes from Yankees-Rays

3:59 PM

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I wasn't with the Mets today, but I did see this story, and I believe the official baseball term for this is "NOT GOOD."

Over on this side of the state, we saw Phil Hughes, who was once an emerging top pitching prospect, pitch against the Rays and Wade Davis, who appears to still be. Davis hit 95 on the radar gun and struck out three batters in two scoreless innings, leaving the Yankees impressed and reinforcing the notion that the Rays aren't about to run out of pitching anytime soon. (More on that below.)

Two notes of significance from the Yankees' side of things today.

First, it appears Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi met with Alex Rodriguez to tell him it might not be a great idea to have the cousin he one week ago identified as his steroid supplier and fellow steroid user pick him up from the ballpark anymore. You'd think this would be something a person wouldn't have to be told, but with Alex, traditional logic apparently gets tossed in the hazardous waste bin with the used needles.

Cashman, Girardi and Rodriguez all were asked about the Cousin Yuri issue today. Cashman said, "It's been handled." Girardi and Rodriguez said, "It's been addressed." All three were pressed further, none commented further.

At this point, this has to be getting old for Cashman and Girardi, no? I mean, at this point, when A-Rod walks into the room for the meeting and sees those guys sitting there, do they even have to say anything anymore? If you're Cashman, don't you just wave the newspaper at the guy and go, "Really? Really, you thought this was a good idea?"

For a guy who seems so obsessed with the way he's perceived, Alex sure is tone-deaf in regard to his own actions. What's next? Dinner with Victor Conte?

The second note of interest -- most likely greater interest to Yankee fans -- has to do with Jorge Posada, who hit the ball as if he were angry with it. He homered on the first pitch he saw this spring, leading off the third inning. And in the fifth he hammered a long double to center field. A-Rod said he jokingly asked Posada if he'd been playing winter ball in Puerto Rico, his swing looked so good.

"I was a little nervous," said Posada, who missed much of the 2008 season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. "So I said, 'I'll just go up there and swing at the first pitch and see what happens."

Posada was the DH today, and Girardi said they're still hoping he'll be able to catch by March 15. He said he caught Hughes' warmup in the bullpen and was trying to "mimic" the pregame routine he'd be going through if he were catching. In the meantime, he's happy to be getting at-bats and feeling good -- he said the shoulder injury prohibited him from "loading" and deprived him of power when he tried to swing last year before going on the disabled list for good.

The Yankees need Posada to be healthy, and they need him to be healthy enough to play catcher -- as in, not DH. Because every day he's the DH, that's a day Jose Molina plays catcher and a better hitter (Xavier Nady, Nick Swisher, Hideki Matsui...somebody) rides the bench. The Yankees' lineup will function better if Posada can be in it as the catcher for at least 120 games, and the pitching staff is likely to benefit from having the same person back there every night. So Posada is worth watching as a key to the Yankees' season.

As for the Rays...interesting note I picked up today. It appears that David Price, the wonder-prospect who got the final outs of the ALCS for them last October, is NOT a lock to start the season in their rotation. The Rays say they're holding an open competition for their No. 5 starter's spot, including Price, Jason Hammell, Jeff Niemann and Carlos Hernandez, the former Astros lefty who's attempting a comeback following multiple shoulder surgeries.

Price obviously has the stuff to compete at the major-league level, as he showed in October. But Rays GM Andrew Friedman says that Price's development is the most important factor in determining where he pitches. If they feel like he'd be better off starting the season in Triple-A, they'll send him there.

There are, of course, off-field concerns directing some of this. Niemann and Hammell, for instance, are out of options, meaning the team would have to trade or release them if they don't make the big-league club. Price can be sent to the minors without such a concern. And remember last year, when the Rays started third baseman Evan Longoria in the minors so as to delay the start of his arbitration/free agency "clock." They could employ a similar strategy with Price, though I think that would be unwise.

The AL East is going to be a brutal division this year. It is very possible, I believe, that the three best teams in baseball reside in the AL East. That means none of the three contenders -- Yankees, Red Sox or Rays -- can afford to fiddle around. If the Rays believe Price makes them better, then they should probably put him on the team, rather than waiting until May to do it.

A year ago, remember, the Rays were the out-of-nowhere Cinderella team. They didn't open the season with any apparent expectations. This year, they're the defending league champions, and they're fully expected to make a run at a second straight division title. Tough to give away a month for procedural roster reasons when you're in that kind of spot.

Once again, you can catch me Friday morning on "First Take" on ESPN2 at around 10:20 am EST. After that, I'm heading back home to the frigid north. But I plan to be back in Florida at some point for more spring training. This week was too much fun!

2 Responses to "Feb. 26 -- Notes from Yankees-Rays"

February 27, 2009 at 2:15 PM
That's why I thought the Mets were being stupid not getting a big pitcher this off-season, if something happens to Santana they are done for.

Oh, you are one of these blogs that doesn't do the name/url option?

Dan said :
February 27, 2009 at 2:18 PM
Sadly, I am "one of those blogs" that doesn't know what you're talking about. But I'd be happy to have you enlighten me, as I am a novice blogger and always looking for ways to make it better.

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