The Yankees played their first matinee’ intrasquad game of Summer Camp this afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Manager Aaron Boone, Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier, and Mike Ford all met with the media prior to this afternoon’s game.
AARON BOONE – PRE-GAME PRESS CONFERENCE:
During his pre-game interview, Boone was asked about Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt’s potential to make an impact early on this season. Boone stated that he doesn’t feel it’s an early impact situation, but that if Garcia and Schmidt are on the roster, that there is a reason for it. “If they’re going to be here or we’re going to them, it’s because we’re confident in their ability.” “If we deem they’re ready for that, we’ll go to them and expect results,” stated Boone. Boone stated they would not rush them and Boone looks more at their history, their strength & conditioning measurements and they’re training. If the coaching staff feels they’re ready, they’ll play and be expected to produce.
Boone was also asked about Aaron Judge, who was once again scratched from today’s lineup. Boone stated that he was still pretty stiff in the neck today and was receiving more treatment today. It wasn’t something the Yankees wanted to push at this point and felt it was better to not push it today. Boone hopes that with a lighter day tomorrow and no game, that Judge will be good to go for Tuesday’s intrasquad matchup.
Boone was asked about social distancing and if there was more the Yankees could do to keep players safe and socially distant even more. Boone stated that there’s always going to be more they, or any team can do and that right now they’re trying to figure out the current protocols and hoping that as time goes on, everyone in the organization gets used to the protocols and being naturally aware of what needs to be done. Boone stating that it’s constant reminders in group settings and individually of guys being smart and holding each other accountable. Boone stated that the dugout is one place that as you get focused and dialed into a game, where players start drifting closer to each other, so it’s just a reminder to keep space and to do better on that end when it happens.
Boone stated that it is the responsibility of the coaching staff and players to be as respectful as they can of the rules and protocols put in place and that as time goes on, “hopefully at some point we get more vigilant and natural at some of these things,” stated Boone.
Aaron Boone also gave a daily update on Masahiro Tanaka, stating that he threw again today and was throwing out to 100 feet. He also ramped up his cardio a bit more today. As long as he continues to respond well and feel good tomorrow, Boone stated that Tanaka’s workout will be a little more strenuous tomorrow. There is no date as to when he’ll get off a mound again at this point.
Players have been asked consistently during their press conferences about their reaction to Aroldis Chapman’s positive COVID-19 test result. Gardner stated that he was disappointed that one of his teammates got it, but that they’ve all been prepared for this kind of thing to happen. Gardner stated his main concern was for Chapman’s health and his family’s health. Gardner stated that it doesn’t affect the way he looks at the season, and that the team is going to continue to keep distance and wear masks inside.
With having to socially distance and stay safe in the clubhouse, the atmosphere is changed. Gardner stated there’s a lot of things that are different now then he has grown accustomed to during his tenure with the Yankees, but again stating, it’s something they all have to deal with. “The better we can navigate those changes and deal with them, the better off we’ll be as a team,” stated Gardner, who also said there are still opportunities to have conversation and to learn and teach guys in the clubhouse and on the field. Gardner stated that it’s a matter of all being on the same page and pulling for each other, being as cohesive of a unit as possible. Gardner stated that the players are also not accustomed to facing each other in intrasquad games, but knowing they have to go out & prepare and get ready for the season. The purpose is to get ready for the season. Gardner reiterated that there’s still opportunities to talk to each other and learn from each other in a smart to way to get where they want to be.
Part of facing each other in intrasquad games, also comes with having player umpires some of the time. Gardner stated that Radley Haddad (Bullpen catcher) did a pretty good job back there, as well as Julio. Gardner joked saying he gave Haddad a hard time in last night’s game because he was more mad about a really good pitch Schmidt made, stating he was very impressed with Schmidt.
Gardner stated that it’s beneficial to face any live pitching right now, but that with facing their own pitching staff, they can be a sounding board to them and tell them how things look and how their stuff looks coming out of their hands. Gardner stated the Yankees pitching is still a bit ahead of the hitters, but that the Yankees have a really good pitching staff.
Gardner stated he’s excited to face opposing pitching this coming weekend as well, stating it’ll be good to finally see a different uniform out there and play games that really matter in a shortened season.
Brett Gardner was also asked about former teammate and now special advisor to Brian Cashman, CC Sabathia being back at the field and having a strong opinion on the recent events going on. Gardner stated that he greatly admires Sabathia as a player, person, and stated that he was one, if not the very best teammates Gardner has ever had. Gardner stated that everyone looks up to, respects, and misses Sabathia’s leadership.
Clint Frazier met with the media prior to this afternoon’s intrasquad game. He was first asked about hit planter fasciitis issue he was dealing with, stating he started to feel it during Spring Training during a period when he was taking on a weight gain program. He stated that he put on 15 to 20 pounds of weight during spring training, which could have led to the impact of his foot soreness. He stated the weight gain was initially to help with his swing power, but stated that his body could not handle the extra weight. “I was trying to improve my swing and swing harder,” stated Frazier. “I wasn’t as fast in Spring. It made it a little harder for me throw.” When the foot started bothering him and he was told that it could have to do with the weight gain, he came up with a new diet and started to lean out and lose some weight and do something symptom free.
Since then, Frazier said he has now lost weight and leaned out. “With down time I addressed it,” stated Frazier. “I’m up to speed, I’m shagging and running.” Frazier stated he’s being patient with the program and that it’s a little frustrating not being able to go out there (in the outfield) right now and that the Yankees are making the program and taking it slow. He stated he looks forward to being 100 percent and released for full activity.
Frazier has, however, taken some at bats and done some running. He stated that his swing improvement did not have an impact on his planter fasciitis, and that his swing in Spring led to the numbers he was having and the success he’s having now. Recently Frazier has forced a few walks, hit a couple balls well and feels good. Frazier’s goal is to make his first opening day roster this season.
Clint Frazier has also stated that he intends on wearing a mask/facial covering throughout the entirety of the season, not just when it’s mandated off of the field, but also while he is on the field. Frazier stated that he first started trying it during practice and in the batting cages, and then he wanted to try it in a game. “I’m here because I want to play, but there are things going on around us,” stated Frazier, who also made the point that there are guys in the [batters] box with him and that it’s an easy task to do to wear a mask. He stated he is doing what he can to keep his team healthy, stating it’s a big year for him and he wants to play. During the shutdown, he stated he was frustrated because he knew his playing time was going to be limited as the layoff continued. Frazier stated he wants to play, but not at the expense of someone being hurt. “I’m in a position to make an impact in whatever way that’ll be,” stated Frazier who said that he wants to make sure that if someone out there sees him wearing a mask, that maybe they’ll do it too. He stated it has just become second nature to wear it.
Frazier stated that he intends to wear the mask during the regular season as well, stating that if he feels it’s getting in the way, he may take it off, but for now he plans to wear it during the season. The only question is if it will be comfortable to wear at all times.
Aaron Boone was asked about Frazier’s decision. He stated that anyone who feels like they can perform with it all, will be supported in their decision. Boone stated that it is not something he will suggest or mandate of other players, but he will support other players if they feel like they can handle it. “In Clint’s case, it seems to work for him,” stated Boone, who also stated that other guys are also wearing it more during just catch play on the field.
Brett Gardner also spoke on Frazier’s decision, stating that it’s not something he would consider yet. Gardner stated he is being respectful of everyone and stated that if it was required or suggested, he would do what he needs to do. Currently, Gardner stated they are doing whatever is asked of them and trying to be as responsible as possible.
Michael King also spoke on Frazier’s decision, stating he has not thought about wearing a mask on the mound and that it’s an unselfish decision. King stated he wears it all the time in the clubhouse, but that he finds it hard to be full go, full effort and get the oxygen he needs. “I’m isolated on the mound,” stated King. A lot of guys are wearing it in the dugout. King stated that he will usually give himself a breather and then put it back on. “We have a good shot at winning the world series if we can all stay healthy,” stated King.
Giancarlo Stanton also spoke on the mask situation. “I don’t mind it, especially if it doesn’t affect his play,” stated Stanton. “If I do anything, it would be our cool-gear mask. I’ve done it when it’s cold out, wouldn’t be that big of a difference,” stated Stanton.
Frazier stated that Major League Baseball players have a big platform and the Yankees make the platform twice as big. Frazier stated that it’s about trying to keep the health and safety of others in mind. “There are people at risk here,” stated Frazier. “I’m trying to protect myself and the people that are here and the people who been affected by this,” stated Frazier. He stated that it’s easy to do and that it’s the right thing to do. “It’s not hard to do,” stated Frazier,” “I’m going to do it as most as I can.” Frazier stated that it’s just to make sure they can make it through the season and try to stay healthy. Frazier stated that whichever team has the most players standing at the end of the season is likely to win.
Gerrit Cole was the main story of today’s intrasquad matchup, absolutely dealing during today’s matchup. Cole recorded 9 strikeouts, just one walk, and no runs, throwing 84 pitches over the course of 5 2/3 innings pitched.
Cole stated that felt really good today. He stated that it was hot out there today and that it felt good to push the limit a bit today and he was happy with maintaining his fastball command through 84 pitches, 56 of which were all strikes.
Boone stated in his post-game press conference that Cole was even crisper this time out, and that his fastball was playing a little better. “He did a good job of it in the strike zone and running it up when he wanted to while maintaining command,” stated Boone. It was a really good step for him to get up to 84 pitches in 6 innings.
Cole stated that he has enjoyed working with Gary Sanchez the last couple times, stating they were on the same page a lot today and that Sanchez was sharp behind the plate, giving good targets and calling some good sequences. It helps that Sanchez knew the other squad really well as well, but that if there was a time when they weren’t in sync, they would talk about it between innings in the dugout and improve it the next inning.
Cole stated that he’s hopeful he can recover well this week again and build off this outing the next turn and be ready to go for the next one. Boone stated that Cole will probably pitch next tentatively on Friday, which would not have him pitching in one of next week’s exhibition games. Based on his five day plan, with a six day plan planned for sometime this summer, that the situation will remain fluid and that the coaching staff will see how Cole bounces back tomorrow. Boone stated he will continue to be built up from here and add to his pitch count next time out and that they will probably use the sixth day heading into the opener in Washington.
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Cole was asked how he felt in later innings, stating he felt pretty good, but was tiring in the sixth inning with the heat. Cole recovered well after his last outing and stated that today he felt prepared and made some adjustments with his fastball leading up to today’s start. Cole stated he didn’t have any scenarios today where he lost command and that he felt pretty good. “It was hot and I am tired as of now,” stated Cole after today’s outing. “I’m not anticipating it being a significant challenge recovering for the next one,” stated Cole who was looking forward to drinking some water and cooling off from the heat.
Cole stated that while the scenarios may be different due to everything going on and masking in the clubhouse, combined with staggered start-times for players, that generally, he tries to keep the same routine and tries to mentally and physically prepare himself for his training and outings.
Following this outing, Cole stated he would normally continue to push the pitch count, but stated it was up to Matt and Aaron and what they wanted moving forward. Cole stated that the next 24 to 48 hours would determine his course of action. He stated he certainly would not back track, but stated that if it’s worth it to repeat the same load, then build off that or push it slightly to have extra rope for opening day, he’ll do what he’s told and see how he feels.
Cole said his progression has gone well and as the Yankees would expect it to and that he feels prepared as the season quickly approaches.
Michael King met with the media following his outing today, stating he felt fine, had a couple good sliders and that his changeup was there. King stated he didn’t have as much command on his fastball. “I was opening up really quick and got in some disadvantage counts,” stated King who also said Gleyber Torres got him twice on elevated fastballs.
King, who is usually able to correct his fastball command in game was flying open early. Even in his bullpen session, King wasn’t getting in glove-side and was opening up early. King felt that if he had more pitches, he would’ve gotten it back, but by the third inning was probably tiring.
Cole stated that he’s learning a lot from Gerrit Cole, stating that he texted his friend, Justin Dunn from the Mariners, stating that Cole has King to not throw his slider in flat ground because it gives a totally different arm slot, forcing you to land later. Cole told King you want to execute it glove side down. King stated he has taken that advice and had success with improving his slider.
With 11 days until the start of the 2020 season, King said he is trying to do as much as possible to make the roster. He was honest in saying that at the end of Spring Training, he felt like he still had a lot of work to do on arm-slot and his release point. He felt his lower-slot was benefitting him on his changeup, but that the extra time let him become more confident in his pitching. “I’m more confident in my stuff and feeling ready to go,” stated King.
AARON BOONE – POST-GAME:
As mentioned throughout the article, Aaron Boone also met with the media following the game, speaking on what he saw of Gerrit Cole, his plan for Cole and building him up, which we discussed above.
Boone spoke as well on Estevan Florial, the Yankees top prospect in camp this season. Boone stated, “We love Flo!” He stated that Florial has a chance to be a special player and that unfortunately his development has been slightly delayed due to injuries he’s faced in the past. Boone stated that they love the person he is, and the tools and potential he has. “This feeling remains incredibly high,” stated Boone. “There’s a lot of value to him being out there.” “As far as opening day goes, you have to be adjustable in your plans. He’s here where if something happens he very well becomes part of the mix,” stated Boone.
Boone was also asked about preparing for the extra innings, runner on second rule, stating that the Yankees would pick some spots where they’ll do some situational stuff and try to pick situations where they can try some things that don’t necessarily have to happen in the tenth inning. They plan to work on bunting and to try to prepare the guys for those types of situations.
Giancarlo Stanton also met with the media after today’s game. When asked how he is feeling at the plate, he stated he’s getting his timing down and getting his at-bats in. He feels he will be ready to and good to go progress wise to get to where he needs to be by opening day.
Stanton stated that the intrasquad setting is a different way of preparing than Spring Training, but that the guys are used to facing guys on the back field in Spring Training. Stanton said it’s a matter of, are you worried about everything else around or are you zoned in and locking in? Stanton stated it’s about focusing and it just being you and the pitcher when you’re at the plate.
Stanton stated that his calf is feeling good, but that batting practice is a more controlled setting while pitchers are trying to get work in.
Giancarlo continued to reiterate that it doesn’t matter if it’s a little, fans in the stadium helps. But with knowing if there’s going to be crowd noise or not, at the end of the day, it’s you as the hitter, and the pitcher. You can’t let anything get in the way.
Mike Ford was the last player to close out a busy day in the media room.
Ford spoke on pitchers being ahead of the hitters. He stated that it happens every year and every Spring. “These guys are so talented,” stated Ford. For having three months off, Ford stated he feels like he’s in a good spot and that other guys are in a good spot as well. He stated that they’ve been working a lot off the pitching machine to get timing back and that it’s dependent upon each hitter how quick they get timing back. “Some guys might be behind, other guys will pick them up,” stated Ford.
Ford comes from a family of physicians, with his parents retired physicians and his brother and his wife practicing as well. The advice they have given him is to take some precautions, but at the end of the day it’s their job. He stated that guys get the flu throughout the year, and though this is handled differently, taking precautions in the clubhouse and at home was their advice to Ford. “Everyone is at least younger and a healthier human being as an athlete. We’ll be ok if we do our part and take precaution,” stated Ford.
Ford stated that the players and staff are doing everything they can to protect themselves and their teammates at the field and at home to keep the lineup in place. “We’re doing everything we can in the clubhouse,” stated Ford.” “Including the food room and everything.” He stated they’re limiting interactions and doing contract tracing of those who test positive, but that it’s about limiting exposure. He also stated that he knows they’re taking a risk to play, but that it’s time to get going and the players are ready.
Ford spent most of his time in Florida during the shutdown to guarantee he would have a place to train. He stated he wanted to be ready to go as soon as they got the call. He stated that he feels good now and is ready to go.
The Yankees have a lighter day of practice tomorrow and will resume intrasquad play on Tuesday night. They will take on the New York Mets at Citi Field on Saturday night in the first exhibition game of Camp, just a few days ahead of opening day in Washington.