As training camp continues at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees announced today that they will be playing two simulated games this week. Monday Night J.A. Happ and Clarke Schmidt will start, each expected to throw an inning or two before the game gets turned over to the bullpen. Manager Aaron Boone stated in his press conference today that they have about five to six full innings of pitchers going tomorrow, with the order not yet finalized. But Boone did confirm that it will be JA Happ and Clarke Schmidt getting the initial start. Gerrit Cole is expected to start in Tuesday night’s simulated game. Both Monday and Tuesday night’s games will be broadcast live on the YES Network with immediate post-game reaction and interviews expected.
Boone gave a thorough update of camp today, saying it was a really good day of camp. “Guys touched basis,” stated Boone, who also said that the players went through pretty intense defensive work this afternoon, with everyone getting a lot out of it.
Two players missing from camp the past few days due their testing being delayed, but returning today were Aroldis Chapman and Gary Sanchez. Boone stated that Chapman threw a bullpen earlier today and is on schedule. He joked that those who followed him on Instagram during the quarantine know that Chapman did not skip a beat, showing off his heaters to the social media world throughout the break. Boone also said that Gary Sanchez got a lot of work in while he was home in the Dominican Republic and was catching, hitting, and working out on a regular basis. “They’re both in a really good spot entering camp again,” stated Boone on Chapman and Sanchez entering camp today.
James Paxton was another player who was back out on the field this afternoon. Coming off of back surgery, Paxton says he felt good and he felt healthy, saying that besides some new stretches and a couple different activation exercises to make sure his core is activated and fired up, everything else was normal. “Throwing was normal. I had no problem with the back. Everything felt really good,” stated Paxton. Boone also echoed Paxton in saying that he thought he was really good today and that the results were also good. “I thought he spun the ball really well,” stated Boone. He looked good and he looked fairly sharp. Today was “clearly a stepping stone for him of getting back out there and getting in a little competition against hitters. A good step for summer training for Pax,” stated Boone. “He’s had a few really good months since having the surgery. The progression for him has gone as good as anyone could’ve hoped.”
Paxton also said that he felt good getting back on a dirt mound today, stating that he had been throwing off a turf mound with running shoes for a while. Paxton has also recently changed the way he grips his fastball in order to increase it’s spin rate. While he didn’t have concrete numbers back from the coaches yet, he said that the initial response was that it was a little up, but something he’ll continue to watch and work on as camp progresses.
Another thing Paxton said he was excited about getting back to during camp is facing live hitters. When asked by reporters how not facing as many opposing hitters as usual due to the circumstances surrounding the season would affect hitters, Paxton stated that the Yankees’ pitchers were pretty lucky in that they’ve got some really good hitters. “They know our stuff and what it looks like coming out,” stated Paxton. “It’ll be more challenging… They’ll be able to tell us what they see, which will help me and other guys. I’m looking forward to hearing from our hitters what our stuff looks like coming out,” Paxton stated.
Paxton, who used an L-screen during his live sim session said that after yesterday, he just wanted to play it safe. “What happened yesterday was so scary,” stated Paxton. He just wanted to play it safe, stating that if a ball comes at you as hard as it came at Masahiro Tanaka yesterday, there’s not much you can do. Coaches stated that the ball was coming at Masahiro Tanaka at a velocity of 112 MPH. “Going forward, we’ll all get used to fielding our position again and getting used to that,” said Paxton. But for today, he wanted to play it safe.
Manager Aaron Boone and outfielder, Brett Gardner both gave updates on Tanaka, who was diagnosed with a mild concussion, something the Yankees were happy to hear knowing that the situation could have been a lot worse. Boone stated that ‘Masa’ came in around 12:00 PM and was in really good spirits today. “He had a really good night sleep,” stated Boone, who also said that Tanaka did not lose his appetite. “We’re really encouraged and hopefully it’s something that won’t be too long,” stated Boone on Tanaka. He’s hopeful that Tanaka will be available by the first week of the season, but did not want to speculate based off the sometimes uncertainty of the concussion protocol, stating that the next few days are important.
“He was walking around like his normal self today,” stated Gardner, who also echoed Paxton in saying that it was a very scary incident, and unfortunately is sometimes tough to avoid. Immediately your concern is for the pitcher. Knowing he’s ok, Gardner stated that he’s “hoping that he’s in the clear,” stated Gardner.
Following some brief questions about Masahiro Tanaka, Gardner was then asked by the media about his time at home during the break between Spring Training and “Summer Camp.” “It was different being at home in the Spring Time,” stated Gardner. “I have two small kids, so it was good to be able to spend some time with them and watch my youngest play some baseball here recently.” Gardner stated that he spent time up at his farm during the break and was helping his dad & uncle out while continuing to workout and stay in shape. He was also able to hit and throw during the break.
Asked about playing during these situations, Gardner told the media that it’s important to take things one day at a time and to not have too grand of expectations as everyone is still waiting to see how it all plays out. Gardner said he is 100 percent committed to playing, but also knows that a lot of things have to happen for this (the season) to work. He said everyone is taking tings one day at a time and enjoying everything that comes along with being back at the ballpark. “The first few workouts have been pretty normal, but had a little bit of a different look and feel,” stated Gardner. “Everybody’s happy to be back together and to try to get this thing going.”
Paxton also commented on what it’s going to be like playing during a pandemic, stating that pitching in an empty stadium will be a bit of an adjustment since players are used to the buzz of fans and energy in the stadium. “It’s going to be a unique experience,” stated Paxton. “It’s going to be a little nostalgic being able to hear all the baseball sounds that we used to hear when we were kids.” But Paxton also stated the following: “When I’m out there, I’ve got a job to do, and that’s what I’m focused on is what I have to accomplish, and that’s 60 feet away and I’m doing the same thing every pitch and giving it everything I have, and that’s not going to change,” stated Paxton.
Brett Gardner answered a similar question stating that the players are used to the atmosphere being really really good and that it will definitely be different this year. But like Paxton, Gardner said that he has a job to do and that he’s always been pretty self-motivated. He stated that he will dmiss the fans and the Yankees fans not just in the Brox, but on the road as well, stating that he is, however, hopeful that they can play in front of fans as the season goes on.
Gleyber Torres was also interviewed by the media today, echoing what his teammates stated, saying that the atmosphere is a little different right now, with his teammates and staff using masks. He mentioned that he knows the situation is hard and sad, but that it feels great to be focusing in practice and trying to get ready for this short season and to try to be ready. He stated that he is going to try to keep a strong mentality first and not think about too much. He stated that he will try to be focused on baseball and try to take care of himself and his teammates and try to be safe and play some really good baseball.
Brett Gardner stated during his interview as well that not much has changed since the Yankees left Spring Training, except injury-wise, they’ve come back healthier than when they left. “We look better than we did a few months ago, “ stated Gardner. “We have to do our part to make sure our bodies are ready for this season in a short amount of time. I love the guys that we have, love the team that we have and feel good about our chances,” stated Gardner who also said that he is excited to hopefully get these next few weeks by them successfully and get the season started. “Guys look really good, they really do. Everyone here seems healthy and ready for the season to start,” stated Gardner.
Gleyber Torres echoed Gardner in stating that he too feels really good. “I prepared myself really well during the Quarantine,” stated Torres, who recently has shifted his focus more to playing shortstop. “I just want to play really well and just want to help my team and do my best,” state Torres.
Paxton and Gardner also reiterated what other Yankees players have stated recently, which is MLB and the Yankees themselves are doing everything they can to keep players, staff members, and their families as safe as possible. They’re following protocols and doing everything they can to mitigate the risk and keep everyone healthy. “I feel very safe with this group,” stated Paxton. “I feel like it’s going to be ok.” Paxton stated that the players have to see if what they’re doing is going to work and that everyone in the league is staying very connected and keeping an eye on testing that occurs every other day. But so far, the Yankees in particular, are doing ok. Aaron Boone also stated during his interview that players opting out is something the Yankees might have to deal with and that it’s a very personal situation for people. While he doesn’t expect any members of the Yankees to opt-out, he stated that the Yankees will be supportive of that as an organization if any of the players do decide at some point to opt-out or step away.
Boone closed out his interview stating, as we mentioned above, that there will be simulated games Monday and Tuesday Night. Boone also mentioned that he hopes to play a few exhibition games (against other teams in the league) before the season opener, but that nothing has been confirmed at this time.
The two simulated games this week will be broadcasted live on the YES Network, with coverage from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. It will be J.A. Happ and Clarke Schmidt getting the ball to start the game.
Pinstriped Prospects will bring you live updates as possible throughout those games. We’re inching closer and closer to the official start of the 2020 regular season! It’s an exciting time to be an MLB fan and to be a part of Yankees Universe!