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The Yankees stated that this spring they intended to experiment with different lineups. One of those experiments is that Jeter may not lead off. However, Kevin Long had this to say about where Derek is to land in the batting order:

If Derek Jeter gets moved in the batting order, the Yankees captain won’t be bumped out of the upper-third of the lineup

If Jeter were to move down to the 2 hole, Gardner would be the hands on favorite to take over as leadoff. In 2010 Gardner had a triple slash of .290/.412/.376 from the leadoff spot in 115 PA’s. Career wise from the same spot he is .279/.364/.374 in 222 PA’s. Jeter in the 2 hole, if history holds up, would do just fine as he has a career triple slash of .314/.384/.456.

Girardi said that he would begin tinkering with the lineup after the team’s off day on March 15.

 

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Dave Eiland Starting pitcher CC Sabathia #52 (R) and pitching coach Dave Eiland #58 of the New York Yankees walk towards the dugout from the bullpen to play against the Texas Rangers in Game Five of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium on October 20, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City.

Joe Girardi signs a 3 year/$9M contract: The Yankees announced Friday that Girardi will return as manager through the 2013 season after agreeing to terms on a deal worth $9 million, representing a pay raise from his previous contract. “My focus the whole time was on our club. I didn’t really think about leaving the Yankees,” Girardi said. “My thought process was that I was going to be back.” The contract terms, which were confirmed by The Associated Press, also include bonuses of $500,000 per year if the Yankees are able to win the World Series. Girardi’s previous deal with the Yankees was for three years and $7.8 million. General manager Brian Cashman had said that re-signing Girardi was the team’s “first order of business.”

I’m not sure I can handle 3 more years of Girardi. What do you guys think of the move?

Kevin Long returns: “Kevin Long will continue to dissect swings in the cages with the Yankees, agreeing to a three-year deal to stay on as hitting coach. A baseball source confirmed the new pact for the 43-year-old Long, whose contract expired on Sunday along with the Yankees’ other coaches. The Yankees have not officially announced the move.”

Dave Eiland addresses the ESPN report: Eiland broke his silence on Saturday, telling the Daily News that an ESPNNewYork.com report that said the pitching coach’s relationship with manager Joe Girardi was the primary reason for his departure from the team. “That’s absolutely ridiculous and simply not true,” Eiland told the Daily News in an e-mail. “Joe and I have never had a problem nor do we now. He’s a solid baseball man and a great manager, and more importantly one of the best human beings I have ever met.”

Things you might have missed:

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Courtesy: AP/Seth Wenig

As the 2011 preseason is now officially underway for the Yankees, it’s time for Yankee fans to fire up the hot stove and begin contemplating what the team will look like next Spring. But before you can take the first step forward, it helps to know where you are. After all, every destination has a starting point. It just happens that 2011 and #28 begins from the rubble of what was a once promising season in 2010.

So, where are the Yankees right now?

Front Office: The Yanks front office appears more stable than at any time in more than a generation. Gone are the days when Mount Steinbrenner might erupt at any moment, causing the Yanks management team a severe case of angina and filling the back pages of NYC’s tabloids. Brian Cashman, love him or hate him, seems certain to retain the General Manager’s position for the foreseeable future. While the Steinbrenner sons seem to have placed their faith in Cashman, I wouldn’t advise him to repeat last year’s disastrous offseason. While they strike me as the polar opposite of their Dad in the way they approach running the team, I also can’t imagine that the Steinbrenner demand for winning is sublimated to profits under their watch. Cashman is excellent at the operations side of the baseball business – but more player moves on par with Nick Johnson and Javy Lopez will end his run.

Field Management: Cashman already announced that bringing back skipper Joe Girardi is “job 1” this offseason. That probably says more about the lack of available managerial talent than Girardi’s skill in guiding the team, in my opinion. The only other decent manager available right now is Bobby Valentine. Somehow, I can’t see Bobby V’s penchant for grabbing the spotlight and the current front office’s desire to avoid controversy co-existing. Joel Sherman
made an interesting point about the skipper needing to loosen up a bit and have fun in an earlier column today. It’s a point that hopefully Girardi will take to heart in 2011. Oh, and hopefully he loses that infernal binder along the way, too.

Earlier today, the coaching staff shake-up began in earnest, as Dave Eiland was jettisoned. No real reason was given, but I suspect Eiland wanted out as much, if not more; than the brass wanted him gone (he did disappear for nearly a month during the regular season, for reasons nobody has ever explained). Regardless, the Yankees now need a pitching coach. I imagine with AJ Burnett due back and the real possibility of having a rookie in the starting rotation, the Yankees will look for somebody with not only pitching expertise, but a psychiatry degree. With Cliff Lee an obvious target of Yankee affection, expect a pitching coach Lee respects to be targeted.

Otherwise, don’t expect major changes on the bench. Kevin Long is still regarded as one of the best hitting coaches in the business and 3B/IF coach Rob Thompson is widely regarded as helping Robinson Cano realize his potential in the field. Bench coach Tony Pena seems likely to stay – but I’m certain if a managerial job opens up for him, he’ll jump on it.

Coming tomorrow: Core Four

Coming Wednesday: Pitchers

Coming Thursday: FIelders

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I was going to write about the sudden spate of injuries that hit the Yankees this past week. But I figured enough has been written and said regarding Andy Pettitte‘s groin, Alex Rodriguez‘s calf, Nick Swisher‘s forearm, Alfredo Aceves‘ back and Lance Berkman‘s ankle that you probably know more about their injury status than I do. Besides, after a post about Javier Vazquez‘ dead arm, I’ve had my fill of negativity. ESPN loves to talk about how the Red Sox have overcome their injuries to remain in the hunt, but they generally neglect that some pretty important players in the “Evil Empire” have dealt with – and are still dealing with – some significant injuries. So, if Boston is playing with such extreme grit and fortitude, than the Yankees must
be doing something even better – after all, the Beaneaters are still 5 ½ games back. So I decided to write about one of those things. (Ok, enough of the digression – but it gave me a chance to get a dig in on the Red Sox, and I can’t pass those up!)

One of those good things for the Yankees lately is the play of Curtis Granderson. Traded to the Yankees for Austin Jackson and Phil Coke during last offseason, Granderson has been largely a disappointment this year. Many fans (me included) have wondered what happened to the guy who hit 30 home runs last year; who blended speed and power into an all-star caliber player. Just 5 short weeks ago I wondered aloud if just maybe, Dave Dombrowski had snookered Brian Cashman. Even Joe Girardi had seemed to lose faith in his stating center fielder – after acquiring Austin Kearns in a deadline deal, the skipper looked to be employing a platoon between Granderson and Kearns.

But something magical happened between then and now. I’m not sure what it was, but the Yankees should patent it and sell it to every player in a season long slump. Most folks point to Kevin Long instilling a new swing and enhanced plate discipline during a 3 game respite on the last road trip. I’m not quite sure that’s all there is to Granderson’s revival. After all, you have to presume Long was working with Granderson over the previous 100 odd games, so I suspect there was a riot act read to him either before or during that hiatus. Whatever the case, Granderson has emerged from that brief interlude with a revamped approach – he’s quieter at the plate now, holding his hands closer to his body and slightly lower, and his crouch isn’t as exaggerated as before. Don’t listen to all of those folks saying Long adjusted Granderson’s swing – the one thing anyone who’s played the game knows, is a player’s swing is as natural as breathing. Even if you need to make changes, it’s not something that can be done in a few days. But the approach can. In Granderson’s case, those adjustments have made a world of difference. His bat was always quick; he just found himself swinging at air too often because his approach at the plate inhibited his view of the ball. It caused his head to bob; his hands had to drop and come in to get into hitting position. As a result, pitchers knew they could bust him inside, leaving Curtis vulnerable to off-speed pitches away.

Although hardly a sample size to get excited about, the results from a few tweaks in Granderson’s in Granderson’s hitting style have been eye-popping:

Date

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

BAbip

k%

Before 8/12

0.239

0.306

0.415

0.722

0.317

22.0%

Since 8/12

0.364

0.440

0.727

1.167

0.421

12.0%

The last two columns are the ones that may indicate this isn’t a temporary change in Granderson’s fortunes. Granderson is swinging and missing less often (though still more than I’d like for a speed guy) and when he hits the ball, he is scorching it more often. I doubt he can maintain that average on balls in play for an extended period (or the OPS – both are in Barry Bonds territory), but if he can hold that metric at a .350 or so clip and keep the strikeouts down it translates to a .308 batting average and .414 on base average for the rest of the season, very respectable numbers that the Yankee will gladly take from their 7 hole hitter.

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From Sweeny Murti of WFAN (Via Twitter):

“Nick Swisher will compete in HR Derby.”

I guess the Yankees aren’t worried about Swisher’s swing..only Cano’s. Chris Young was also a late addition to the contest, according to Chad Jennings. This will be the Yankees first representative in the derby since Jason Giambi competed back in 2003. Now, Yankees fans will have a reason to tune in.

Update: 7:30PM ET: According to Mark Feinsand of the Daily News, Swisher contacted Girardi, Long and Cashman before afreeing to participate in the derby.

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This year’s All-Star Game is now being called “Challenge the Yankees”….just like the card game from the 1960’s! Think about it…the whole American League roster is filled with New York Yankees.

Joe Girardi, Dave Eiland, Mike Harkey, Mick Kelleher, Kevin Long, Tony Peña, Rob Thompson, Nick Swisher, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Phil Hughes, Andy Pettitte, CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez are all headed to the Midsummer Classic in Anaheim, California. With the possibility of Cliff Lee landing on the Yankees, the roster could consist of 15 people associated with the New York Yankees organization. And this list doesn’t even include Mariano Rivera..think about that!

National League vs The Bronx Bombers…are you ready?

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Via Twitter: Mark Feinsand (BloggingBombers):

“Source tells Daily News that Robinson Cano has pulled out of Home Run Derby due to minor back injury”

I wonder what this means. Is this Kevin Long’s way of getting him out of the derby? I don’t know. There’s been some uproar about how the derby could change his swing, so it’ll be interesting to see how this story unfolds.

Update: 5:05PM ET: Cashman confirms the report.  “The minor back injury has not been previously reported, though the Daily News’ report indicates that he’s been receive treatment for two or three days.”

Update: 6:45PM ET: Cano still in the HR Derby? “Robinson Cano said no one has told him that he’s pulling out of the Home Run Derby. As far as he knows he’s still going. His back has been stiff, but not bad. He was told today he’s just getting a regular day off.”

Update: 6:50PM ET: Marc Carig of The Star-Ledger says: “Just texted Cashman; says Cano is out.” & “Girardi says Cano is out.”

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I thought I would wrap up Spring Training before the game starts tonight. Here are some things you might have missed:

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The other day, the Yankees front office invited the beat writers, coaching and staff to go paint balling with them at a place called ’Jungle Games’ in Lutz, Florida. These pictures below are before and after the battle. These photos are priceless.

The notable people involved: Mark Feinsand, Joe Girardi, Mick Kelleher, Brian Cashman, Jason Zillo, Tony Pena, Bryan Hoch, Erik Boland, Kevin Long, Rob Thompson, Sweeny Murti, Marc Carig and Mike Harkey.

Paintball 1.jpg

Paintball 2.jpg

(Photos Courtesy of Bryan Hoch)

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2009 in some respects was a down year for Granderson, his defense was at times not as good as it should have been and his batting average was at a career low of .249. However, he did hit 30 home runs with his home park being in Detroit.

Looking ahead to 2010: 2010 should be a better year for Granderson, in that he is playing in a lefty friendly hitting ballpark and that his career norms dictate that he will hit above .249. If all goes right, Curtis could hit 35+ home runs and might be able to steal 30+ bases while improving the Yankees defense immeasurably. On top of all this Granderson was tabbed to do some extra work with Kevin Long this offseason, hopefully that went off without a hitch.

2010 Projections: .265, 28 HR, 75 RBI, 28 SB

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Here are a few things that are floating around the Yankees universe as we ready ourselves for pitchers and catchers this week.

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With Kevin Long already hard at work with some of the Yankees’ hitters, I decided to look as far back as 1996 until now to see how his contemporaries have fared in their jobs.

Below I have listed all the Yankees Major League hitting coaches from 1996 to present. For some reason, I thought the Yankees had more. Maybe it was the fact that there were persistent rumors about their dismissal is why I thought there were more. Either way, it’s time to delve into the past…

Chris Chambliss

Year R/G R Hits HR BA BB K OPS
1996 5.38 871 1621 162 .288 632 909 .796
1997 5.5 891 1636 161 .287 676 954 .798
1998 5.96 965 1625 207 .288 653 1025 .822
1999 5.56 900 1568 193 .282 718 978 .816
2000 5.41 871 1541 205 .277 631 1007 .804

Since 1996, Chambliss has been the longest tenured Yankees hitting coach clocking in at 5 long years. During his tenure, Chambliss presided over an offense that hit .284, which is the highest of all Yankees hitting coaches since ’96. Also notable is the fact that the Yankees lineup from 96-2000 typically did not have the firepower that most Yankees fans have been accustomed to over the last few years. However, Chambliss was fired because of players reliance on Minor League hitting coach Gary Denbo. Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez and Jorge Posada were known to go to Denbo during Chambliss’ tenure. Grade: B+ (more…)

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