Ahead of an off-day for Yankees camp on Friday, the Yankees played their third intrasquad game of Summer Camp on Thursday night. Aaron Boone spoke with the media prior to and after today’s intrasquad matchup.
AARON BOONE PRESS CONFERENCE:
Boone spoke on a couple housekeeping items to begin his press conference, including Friday being an off-day. Boone stated that James Paxton may come in to throw on Friday, as well as a couple rehab guys. However, with heavy rain and weather conditions on Friday, the Yankees will be taking an off-day on Friday.
Boone also gave an update on Masahiro Tanaka, stating that he was out working out today and that when he checked in on him, he’s doing well.
Prior to Deivi Garcia starting in today’s intrasquad matchup, Boone spoke about what he saw out of Garcia during Spring Training in February and March. Boone stated that Garcia has a great demander and poise about and that he handles himself with confidence. He believes he’s capable of pitching at this level, with a really impressive spin to the ball. He’s been working on things within his delivery and made great strides during Spring Training.
After today’s game, Boone said that in the one inning that Garcia threw today, that he was really efficient and putting his fastball up in the zone and forcing strikeouts. Boone was impressed with Garcia’s breaking pitches and said today’s outing was a great step for him with facing “our big boys.” “It was good to see him out there,” stated Boone.
Boone was asked during his press conference about the second base position with D.J. LeMahieu still out due to COVID-19. Boone stated that guys including Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, Rosell Herrera, and Matt Duffy are all candidates who are capable of playing at second base.
In a follow-up question, Boone was asked about the players meshing in the infield. He mentioned how Thairo Estrada and Tyler Wade have played a lot with Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, and Mike Tauchman in the minor leagues, so he feels good about where they’re at as a unit.
Boone was also asked how to know how much to push players right now with a quicker ramp-up and just two weeks until games are being played. Boone stated that he leans on his strength and conditioning and training staffs to help with how much the players can handle, while striking the balance of pushing them, building them up and taking care of them. He stated that he feels pretty comfortable and has a decent handle on his players. “So far so good,” stated Boone who mentioned his infielders playing five innings in the field Thursday, he expects them to play five innings Saturday and a few innings on Sunday in a day-game as well.
When asked if two weeks will be enough to ramp up players, Boone stated that it definitely is with the fact that a majority of the players have come in in-shape and ready. Boone stated that it’s about getting up to speed and speeding up the process a little bit from Spring Training. He stated that the hitters feel a little overwhelmed, but that it’s getting used to the velocity, which can come pretty quickly.
Yankees Bench Coach, Carlos Mendoza met with the media next. A main topic among many of the press conferences today was on Miguel Cabrera’s strides that he’s been making at third base. Mendoza said Miguel Andujar has an incredible work ethic and that he is someone who is going to put in the work. Andujar stayed in Tampa with Tyler Wade during the shutdown and was putting in work at third base and multiple other positions, including the corner outfields. Mendoza mentioned that Andujar’s footwork is better and that now it’s about getting live reps in and staying aggressive at third base. “He’s grabbed the bull by the horns,” stated Mendoza. He mentioned that Andujar shows what kind of a player he is and he’s open to playing around the field and is easy for us. Andujar showed up early to Tampa in February and wanted to work. “That’s huge,” stated Mendoza. “We’re happy with where he’s at and want to see more games out of him,” Mendoza stated.
Mendoza also went more in-depth on Andujar’s improved footwork, stating that in 2018 he had a really low ready position and was farther back on his heels than needed. Since then, the coaches have incorporated a small hop when the ball is pitched for better rad off the bat and to put him in a better position to get better reads off the bat. The biggest challenge for Andujar moving to first base is where to be on relays, getting to know the pitching staff, shifting, and knowing where the second baseman is playing, opposed to automatically going for the ball off the bat at third base. At first base, his initial reaction needs to be going to first base. For Andujar to get used to these differences, it’s about him simulating game-situations during pre-game for him to get used to. “So far he’s been great,” stated Mendoza.
Mendoza was also asked about Luke Voit dropping weight and looking trimmer at camp. “He’s lighter and moving a lot better,” stated Mendoza. Voit has been working on his range and is moving better side to side. “He’s working hard at it,” stated Mendoza.
The infield is a big topic for the Yankees right now with the hole at second base while DJ LeMaheiu is still out. Mendoza mentioned that Torres and Wade are used to playing together and that Tyler is continuing to get reps in. Their transition from MiLB to MLB will not be as hard since they’re used to playing with each other up the middle. Thairo Estrada is also aother player getting reps in at second base.
Carlos Mendoza was also asked about the new rule of a runner on second to start extra innings. Mendoza stated that the team is working more on bunt plays and that they have to be prepared and ready. The guys are working on bunt drills and plays at the plate and defensively as well.
Jonathan Loaisiga also met with the media during today’s zoom session.
Loaisiga mentioned at the start of his press conference that he was delayed getting to camp due to no flights coming to New York out of Nicaragua.
Loaisiga stated while in Nicaragua, he played in a league and pitched eight and a third innings in total, including four innings last Saturday. He stated that he was lucky enough for that opportunity in that it allowed him to face hitters and stay in game action. It kept him in shape and healthy.
Coming into the 2020 season, Loaisiga said that wherever he is needed, he is going to be there. While he likes coming out as a reliever, he stated he’ll do whatever the coaches ask him.
Jordan Montgomery was next to meet with the media, and it was following his outing in Thursday’s intrasquad matchup.
During today’s matchup, Montgomery stated that he wanted to throw as many cutters as he could and get comfortable with that. He stated that he threw a couple good ones Thursday, but wants to put more slide to it to the left. He also wanted to throw as many fastballs as possible and work on his command.
Montgomery mentioned that getting ready for a 60-game season is weird, but that arm-strength wise he feels better than he has in a long time. He did not take any time off during the shutdown and has been fine-tuning his command and off-speed pitches. He’s excited to be facing hitters again since he did not have access to hitters during the shutdown.
Kyle Higoshioka met with the media Thursday night following the intrasquad game. He gave an update on the neck soreness he felt and stated that he wasn’t sure how it started, but that he’s feeling better now and wanted to take precaution to take a day off since it was affecting his ability to swing competitively. However, he is feeling better now.
Higoshioka was asked about Deivi Garcia’s outing Thursday afternoon, stating that his fastball was playing up in the zone, which is also something that Boone stated. Higoshioka mentioned that his breaking balls looked sharp, he had great command and a really good inning Thursday. Higoshioka talked about Garcia’s high spin rate on his fastball and that his breaking ball has high spin as well on the other directions. He has high velocity, high spin rate, and knows how to pitch.
One thing that some have noticed, is that pitchers are ahead of hitters. Higoshioka mentioned that he would agree with that statement because e pitchers had an easier time of staying in game-shape than hitters because they can throw a bullpen easier than hitters having access to live pitchers. As a hitter, you can only get those reps in when you have live pitching, which most didn’t have. You need spring training to see that live pitching or else your underprepared.
Mike Tauchman was next up with the media.
Tauchman mentioned that he’s excited to be back playing. With Chicago where he’s from being under stay at home orders, Tauchman mentioned that he’s excited to be back with the guys and is ready to be playing some baseball. He stated that once the real games start, that even without fans, he feels like the game will feel like it always has.
Also asked about pitchers being ahead of hitters, Tauchman mentioned that the game is getting younger and pitchers are getting stronger. He also mentioned, as did Higoshioka, that pitchers have more access to preparing than hitters during off-season and a shutdown like we all just experienced. Tauchman mentioned that for the Yankees’ hitters, they have the advantage of facing elite arms, including Gerrit Cole, as Tauchman mentioned. He stated that Cole’s ahead of everybody, in a joking manner, but that facing elite arms within the Yankees’ pitching rotation is going to help the Yankees’ hitters really prepare for the season starting later this month.
Tyler Wade, who was a big topic of today’s press conferences, spoke with the media next.
Tyler mentioned that he is excited to be a guy who can fill in different roles at different positions and said his body feels fresh and ready to go. He said speed is a huge asset of his and that small ball is going to be a big facet, making steeling and base running a big part of the game this season. Wade mentioned that he wants to get his legs back to being game-ready, but feels really good right now and will be ready to go ahead of July 23rd’s home opener in Washington.
When asked about how impressed he is with Miguel Andujar, Wade, like Boone and Mendoza, mentioned his work ethic. Andujar and Wade stayed in Tampa together during the shutdown and continued to train together. Wade mentioned that Andujar was out every day grinding and working his butt off. He was asking Wade questions and taking it very seriously and putting in the work.
Wade mentioned that Andujar is getting consistent and watching his fundamentals and what he’s doing every day. “He’s in a really good spot,” mentioned Wade.
Wade is also a contender for the spot at second base. He mentioned that he’s preparing every day to play everyday. He’s getting his reps in all over and preparing to play everyday and do whatever they need him to do.
When asked what a 60-game season is going to feel like, Wade mentioned that it is going to be competitive and that every game is going to matter. “It’s going to be a sprint, everyone’s got a chance,” stated Wade. He mentioned that there’s no time to take off-days and that you have to be ready everyday.
Zach Britton, who also pitched during Thursday’s intrasquad matchup, stated he felt a little better this time around. He mentioned he felt a big inconsistent with his breaking ball, but that overall he felt good and just wants to continue to improve upon it, as well as his breaking ball and sinker that he’s focusing on. Britton was happy with the sharpness of his sinker and stated that he had good pitch sequencing Thursday.
The Yankees have a very strong rotation and bullpen this year. When asked about that, Britton stated that the guys look fantastic, including Khanle, Ottavino, and Green who all threw Thursday night. “Guys have been putting in the work,” stated Britton.
Britton was also asked about pitchers being ahead of the hitters, stating that when you’re home, for pitchers it’s easier to simulate a game atmosphere than hitters. Pitchers can up their velocity easier and for hitters, it’s important to have live pitchers, which many didn’t have access to during the shutdown. Britton started the velocity of the Yankees pitching has been strong and that with the quality of pitching they’re facing during camp, that Britton believes the Yankees bats will be ready by July 23rd.
The topic of pumping crowd noise into the stadium has also come up. Britton believes it would be a good idea, with the stadium so quiet without fans. He believes the Yankees players would like that.
As mentioned at the start of this article, tomorrow is now an off-day for the Yankees. They will resume camp on Saturday once the weather has passed. Boone stated it will be J.A. Happ pitching Saturday, along with possibly Clarke Schmidt. The Yankees are also scheduled to tentatively play an intrasquad DAY game on Sunday.