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SUMMER CAMP UPDATE: Judge and Stanton Homer, Loaisiga Shines on the Mound

The Yankees played another intrasquad game on Wednesday night. Prior to Wednesday’s game, Aaron Boone, Gary Sanchez, Kyle Higoshioka, Miguel Andujar, and Tanner Swanson met with the media.

AARON BOONE – PRE-GAME:

Yankees manager, Aaron Boone met with the media prior to Wednesday night’s intrasquad game. He began with an update on Aaron Judge, who according to Boone, his neck is feeling much better and Judge was out stretching with the team and going throw his pregame routine on the field. As long as everything continued to go well with that, he will be playing in Wednesday night’s intrasquad matchup.

Boone also gave the media an update on Masahiro Tanaka, stating that he will throw a bullpen session on Thursday. Boone stated the coaching staff and trainers continue to be pleased with where Tanaka is going and how he is doing after the incident in July. “The fact that he has not had any symptoms and has responded well since we ramped up his workload is encouraging,” stated Boone, who said they are encouraged by how he is feeling, not only physically, but mentally as well. The Yankees are letting Tanaka be the driving effort for his comeback, stating that given the nature of the incident, they also want to be sure that Tanaka is ready from his own standpoint and psyche. “If things go well, we’d hope he’d be able to see live hitters before opening day,” stated Boone. Tanaka will throw a series of bullpen sessions, then depending on how he feels, he will face live hitters after that. Boone didn’t want to get too far ahead on his timeline for Tanaka, stating once again, that with the nature of his injury and the incident, they want to take it slow and be sure Tanaka is mentally ready to take the mound again as well.

Boone gave an update Wednesday on DJ LaMehieu and Aroldis Chapman, saying there is still no update on their timeline and both are still to receive two negative test results before they can enter back into camp.

Speaking on Opening Day, Aaron Boone unveiled the starters for the first two games in Washington next Thursday. As expected, Gerrit Cole will get the start for the Yankees in game one against the defending World-Series Champion Washington Nationals; and it will be James Paxton getting the ball for game two next Friday.

Boone was asked Wednesday how valuable it has been to have Sam Briend a part of the Yankees coaching staff as a pitching coach. Boone stated he’s “been incredibly valuable as a pitching coach, and his understanding of the tools available to us now in how we evaluate our pitchers. He’s able to teach and communicate well,” stated Boone. Boone confirmed that Briend will be down in Scranton once the Yankees begin to send guys out and he will be the pitching coach down there getting the guys ready. The Yankees are expected to have many top big prospects down in Scranton with the ‘Taxi Squad,’ as it’s been dubbed this year. Boone stating this will be a critical time for those guys to get ready and to use this time to continue to develop as pitchers.

Jonathan Loaisiga just rejoined Yankees Camp last week after struggling to find flights back to the United States. When asked about what his role could be in 2020, Boone stated he could be a starter or a reliever. “I see him initially in a reliever role, a guy who could get us some length,” stated Boone, who expects Loaisiga to play an important role for the Yankees in 2020. Boone is happy with how Loaisiga has continued to develop and grow, cleaning up his delivery, mechanics, and timing. Boone stated he is getting his body and arms in better positions, and over the past year or so has become a much more polished pitcher. “He pitched in the postseason and from a maturity standpoint is ready to take the next step as well,” stated Boone. “He’s going to take a big step for us this year.”

Boone was also asked about James Paxton, who he stated earlier will be the game 2 starter for the Yankees on July 24th against the Nationals in Washington. Boone was asked what was expected of Paxton in his first intrasquad start. Boone stated he was expecting Paxton to throw 65 to 70 pitches and to see what he’s been working on come through a live game. Boone stated the Yankees have been pleased with the whole process for Paxton from his rehab from surgery to playing catch at the end of Spring Training 1.0. Boone stating that Paxton also got a lot of great quality work in while he was home in Wisconsin. “He came in ready to go,” stated Boone.

GARY SANCHEZ:

Catcher, Gary Sanchez also met with the media prior to Wednesday evening’s intrasquad game. He was asked if he has noticed the differences in the changes he’s made with catching coach, Tanner Swanson. “I definitely feel the improvement,” stated Sanchez. “I definitely have gotten a lot better, especially with pitches low in the zone,” Sanchez stated he still has a lot of work to do, however, he feels much better now than compared to when he started working on this new stance back in Spring Training. “Overall, you have more practice with the new stance and getting used to the new stance,” stated Sanchez.

Sanchez stated that his biggest challenge in learning the new stance was that it’s something new to get used to that you’ve never done before. It’s about finding a way to find your comfort zone in a new stance of receiving. “It’s a matter of making adjustments, keep working, and getting to where you feel really comfortable,” stated Sanchez.

Kyle Higoshioka has stated that he plans to wear a protective facemask under his catcher’s mask. When asked if Sanchez will do the same thing, he stated that as of right now he doesn’t feel comfortable using one because of the heat on the field. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that right now,” stated Sanchez. He said that when it gets cooler in the Winter that he might consider wearing one, but as of right now, because of the heat, he does not plan to wear one on the field.

KYLE HIGOSHIOKA:

One of the Yankees’ other catchers, Kyle Higoshioka also met with the media on Wednesday afternoon.

When asked how he has felt since Summer Camp started, Higoshioka stated he feels good. He stated he’s been working on a lot of stuff to get game-ready as quickly as possible and that he feels good with where he’s at. Higoshioka stated that they’re making sure they touch on something every single day in their drill work and are routinely catching guys every single day.

Higoshioka has stated that he plans to wear a protective mask under his catcher’s mask. Higoshioka has stated that he plans to do this due to being in close proximity with others during the game, including the hitter and umpire. “Might as well throw the face-covering on to be safe,” stated Higoshioka. The one he has been using he stated feels pretty thin. “It’s nice cool material so it doesn’t really hinder me,” stated Higoshioka. He stated he doesn’t feel comfortable wearing it hitting, but for catching it’s nothing that bugs him.

When asked about the runner-on-second extra innings rule and working with runners on second, Higoshioka stated that it’s something he’s grown accustomed to in Triple-A the past couple years. “I’m familiar with it, whether or not I like it is another story; to me, it’s not a big shock, it’s something I’ve gone through a couple of times before,” stated Higoshioka, who did not want to answer directly whether or not he liked it.

MIGUEL ANDUJAR:

Miguel Andujar also met with the media on Wednesday afternoon.

When asked if he feels comfortable in the outfield, Andujar stated he feels really good. He feels the progress he’s made and the work he’s done has carried over into the intrasquad games. He stated it’s a positive opportunity for him, for the team, and he feels really good back there in the outfield.

Andujar stated that his biggest challenge has been learning a new position, especially at the big-league level. “I’ve played third base all my career, so to have to learn a new position is not easy, but at the same time I understand that through practice and getting in repetitions, from the positive results we’ve got, it’s very encouraging,” stated Andujar.

Andujar stated he also enjoys playing in the outfield. “It’s another opportunity for me to play this game and help this team,” stated Andujar. “I have plenty of guys around me to pick up tips and learn from some great outfielders.”

When asked about what progress he’s made at third as well and how the new footwork has helped him, Andujar stated that he feels good there too. He stated that the work he’s done on the hop and the first step was the plan. His plan was to work on his agility so his reaction time can be better. “It’s one of those things you keep practicing and doing the repetitions,” stated Andujar. “Eventually, put that into reactions, you see the results in the game.”

Andujar was asked what it’s going to be like playing a season without fans, and if it makes getting used to a new position even harder. “It’s definitely going to be different, but at the same time you have to play the baseball game,” stated Andujar. “Fans are a source of adrenaline and energy,” he stated. Andujar mentioned that a player’s concentration needs to be the same or better than when there’s fans in the stadium. “You’re trying to win games and focus on the job at hand,” stated Andujar.

Andujar was also asked about his shoulder injury and how he felt since then. Andujar stated his shoulder feels really good and is no longer an issue at all.

TANNER SWANSON:

Tanner Swanson, who has become the “health and safety guy,” stated his role, along with working with catchers and quality control, is to try to help hold the staff and players accountable in the dugout.  Swanson stated that Yankees entire staff has done a great job collectively in doing what they can to model the protocols in place and remind the players and staff to do the best they can. “We’re all just doing our part,” stated Swanson.

Tanner Swanson has been working with Gary Sanchez and other catchers on new stances and receiving positions. He was asked how he kept that going during the quarantine.

Swanson stated the catchers are doing really well and their progress has gone really well. Swanson stating, he leaned on Marlin a lot when communicating with Gary, specifically, and stayed in communication weekly with Gary, who utilized a facility in the Dominican Republic to get his training in during the shutdown. Sanchez would send Swanson videos and Swanson would provide feedback to Sanchez. “We’d hop on zoom calls and discuss variations of positions and moves he was working on,” stated Swanson, who stated the new positioning has allowed Sanchez to explore some of the positions and how he could adapt them to his own style. He stated that the exploratory period will pay off.

When asked how the adjustments will continue to help Sanchez behind the plate, Swanson stated that it will help him maintain the improvements they’ve seen in 2019 from a blocking standpoint, while growing Sanchez’s capacity and skill set as a pitch framer. “All of the new positioning and setups are geared toward getting him (Sanchez) in a better position to receive the baseball,” stated Swanson. “We’ve kind of merged his ‘ready’ or ‘secondary’ stance that most catchers employ with runners on base. We’ve merged that to resemble a position catchers get in with no runners on base, and merged that to learn how to block, receive, and throw from one stance,” stated Swanson. With this new stance, it has allowed Swanson and Sanchez to create some varieties out of the base position and stance. With this, Sanchez’s receiving metrics have continued to grow and he’s also blocking at a very consistent rate as well. “So far it’s been really positive,” stated Swanson.

Swanson was asked by the media if he has had to change the way pitchers and catchers communicate because of social distancing rules, for example, mound visits. As far as regular meetings go, Swanson stated they haven’t employed the zoom platform for meetings yet, and they are doing them in the somewhat traditional format, just being conscious of spacing and maintaining space and wearing facemasks per protocol. He stated nothing has really changed in that regard due to the fact that they are important meetings. Swanson stated the same about mound visits, stating that the level of communication on a game day is really important and crucial and that at certain times, you have to be able to communicate pitcher to catcher, get on the same page about signs and adjusting game plans to attack certain hitters. “We can communicate from the plate,” stated Swanson, “but don’t see what we can replace mound visits with.” “That in-game communication is really hard to replace with something else,” stated Swanson. He did mention that Kyle Higoshioka wearing a facemask is smart for mound visits, but that they’re not necessary for mound visits. “if they (mound visits) duo need to happen, we just try to maintain some kind of a distance,” stated Swanson. That’s the common ground.

When asked how Gary Sanchez deals with struggles and catching this pitching staff, Swanson stated that this is one of the hardest pitching staff to catch, with a lot of really quality arms. Swanson said he was impressed with Sanchez’s ability to step into a starting role at a young age and in this market, saying it’s something about his ability to stay grounded and neutral. Swanson stated that it is important to perform at a consistent level and that you need to be level headed. “Gary has that trait,” stated Swanson. “His ability to experiment with a new catching style on the biggest stage in our game, speaks to his desire to grow and get better and to be vulnerable. I’m impressed with the willingness to implement what we’ve asked him to do,” stated Swanson.

Swanson, who also works with Kyle Higoshioka, asked what his impressions of Higoshioka have been. “It’s been equally great,” stated Swanson. “I’ve really enjoyed getting to work with Kyle.” Even though Sanchez and Higoshioka have different catching styles, he stated that he’s been able to also gain some ground with Higoshioka. “He’s already been an elite receiver and has a high ceiling in that regard,” stated Swanson. “As the general awareness of pitch framing continues to grow and teams value it, I think the margins get smaller and smaller and the details become really important,” stated Swanson. He stated that there are similarities with what Sanchez and Higoshioka are trying to accomplish. They’re both learning how to block and throw from the best receiving positions. Swanson stated that Sanchez has a more kneed-out stance, while Higoshioka sits in a really low crouch and can continue to block and throw at a proficient level from that position, which will pay dividends in the end.

When asked if Gary Sanchez should wear a protective face covering/facemask under his catcher’s mask, Swanson stated that each individual has the right to decide their own comfort levels. He stated that Higoshioka feels like it was in the best interest being close to the pitcher, hitter, and umpire, being in the thick of it, his comfort level is to wear a facemask. As for Sanchez, he’s not at the point to where he wants to wear one on the field. Swanson stated that that is his opinion and it should be respected as it’s his decision to make on his own.

Asked about balancing Sanchez’s work-load and maintaining his power at the plate, Swanson stated that it’s something the coaching staff tries to balance. Swanson stated that Sanchez recovers well from extended outings. He can catch multiple six to seven-inning days in a row and recover well, however balancing that work-load is something they take into consideration planning day to day. “It’s a balancing act,” stated Swanson. They do their best to communicate and go by how many innings they feel are appropriate after an extended outing. Swanson stated that they want to put Sanchez into a position to be at his best strength as often as possible. “Offense is a big piece of his game and we don’t want to take anything away from his offensive capacity by overworking him defensively,” stated Swanson.

POST-GAME PRESS CONFERENCES

Following Wednesday night’s intrasquad game, Aaron Boone, Aaron Judge, James Paxton, and Jonathan Loaisiga met with the media.

AARON BOONE:

Manager, Aaron Boone met with the media again following Wednesday night’s intrasquad game.

Boone was first asked about James Paxton’s outing. Boone stated that he thought it was alright. He stated Paxton’s fastball reached 92 to 94 mph and he made a lot of good pitches. While he also made some mistakes in the middle of the plate that cost him, but he got his pitch count up and overall, Boone felt he had a pretty good outing and that it was a good step for Paxton, who himself wished he would’ve been a little sharper.

As for Jonathan Loaisiga, Boone stated that he looked really efficient Wednesday night, and was overwhelming hitters with his stuff. He was real aggressive with the fastball and efficiently reached just 33 pitches in three innings of work. Loaisiga will go again on three days of rest, pitching again on Sunday during the Yankees’ exhibition game against the Mets at home at Yankee Stadium.

Aaron Judge was back in the lineup Wednesday night and Aaron Boone stated that he was happy to see him and Giancarlo Stanton posting. Boone stated he was never concerned with Judge’s neck, and that he knew he would recover quickly from the stick neck. Boone stated that he feels like Judge and Stanton are going to do a lot of damage this season and that when they’re in the games, they’ll do what the coaching staff knows they’re capable of doing. Boone did say that it was weird with Paxton of the mound because you want your pitcher to get in the work, but you want to see your hitters succeed as well. Boone stated that it’s good to see that the competition that is existing out there is exciting. Guys are using the games to get ready for next week, but see competitive juices coming out with these guys and wanting to do well against each other.

Boone was asked about evaluating an intrasquad game verse a spring training game. Boone stated both are competition and that while this is unique and different with no fans in the stands, everyone understands the importance and urgency of the games. Boone stated the hitters understand the importance of getting at-bats and defensive reps and that pitchers understand the importance of building pitch counts, with relievers going back to back. The players understand that these times are incredibly important and the evaluations the coaching staff does are akin to what they would do in Spring Training.

Aaron Boone was asked how much work he wants to see his guys get in leading up to the Opener on July 23rd. Boone responded saying he wants them to get in quite a bit of work still. “We’ve gotten to go back to back with them building in the recovery days,” stated Boone. The position players have pushed seven-innings and Gary Sanchez caught six innings yesterday and four more today. Building up the endurance of Stanton, Judge, and Sanchez, and their ability to bounce back is important moving forward in this next week or so.

AARON JUDGE:

Aaron Judge was back in the lineup Wednesday night. He met with the media following his first game back since the stiff neck and a couple of days of camp missed.

Judge stated that he had no issues tonight, and that was obvious with the home run he hit off of James Paxton. Judge stated he is not quite 100 percent, but that he felt good enough to play, so he got out there for some at-bats and wanted to see how it felt. Judge stated he’s all good and felt good in Wednesday’s game.

Asked how he injured the neck, Judge responded with, “Sometimes you just wake up on the wrong side of the bed.” He said seeing the trainers has helped out and that he couldn’t initially turn his neck all the way. The trainers worked on mobilizing the neck, loosening up his muscles, and that because these games don’t matter as much, he was just cautious in coming back. Today he was able to get mobility and turn his head and see the pitcher and felt good enough to get back out there. Overall, Judge was happy with getting some good at-bats. Judge was specifically happy with his at-bat against Paxton where he drew a 3-2 count that led to getting walked. He was able to take counts deep and win at-bats. Judge was happy with his performance and at-bats tonight.

When asked if little injuries can be frustrating, Judge stated that it’s about getting ready for opening day. He stated that freak things happen, but that it’s about working all that out in Spring Training or Summer Camp and being ready for opening day.

When asked about the hitters being behind the pitchers at first and then the hitters now starting to catch up to the pitchers, Judge responded saying hitters have to treat it like Spring Training. Judge and others try to get some extra work in after intrasquad games off the machine and try to work on the little things and situational scenarios whenever he can. Judge stated it’s about getting reps in and doing what you have to in order to be ready for the regular season.

Judge was asked what he saw out of James Paxton on Wednesday night. Judge stated that Paxton looked good. He stated that he always looks sharp and that his fastball was coming out well. He stated Paxton’s fastball/cutter combo is his bread and butter, and that his curveball, slider combo is also devastating. Besides the fastball that Paxton left up that Judge was able to beat him too, he looked good and sharp.

JAMES PAXTON:

James Paxton met with the media following his Wednesday night outing. When asked how it felt to get back out there, Paxton stated he felt good and it felt good to get back on the mound and have the competitive juices flowing again and to get back into game mode.

Asked about the couple mistakes he made in the middle of the plate to Judge and Stanton, Paxton responded saying the first couple innings he was searching for his delivery a bit and trying to find a rhythm. He stated he left two balls over the middle, in the sweep spot of kind of thigh high to Judge and Stanton, which he paid for, however as the game went on, Paxton stated he found more rhythm as the game went on, but that it’s a work in progress. He has one more outing to go to tighten some things up before pitching in game two of the regular season against Washington.

When asked what it’s like facing the daunting lineup that is the Yankees’ lineup, Paxton stated it’s a great lineup and one that he is glad it is his lineup and one that he does not have to face all the time. “They’re phenomenal hitters,” stated Paxton.

When asked about the big hits from Stanton and Judge, Paxton stated it was great to see them get those hits, he just wished it wasn’t off of him. He acknowledged that he made the mistakes and paid, but that they also executed where they should’ve. The pitches he left up are pitches he wants to tighten up a bit before opening week.

James Paxton is scheduled to throw in game two against Washington. When asked if feels ready and if it’s different preparing for a 60-game season, Paxton responded saying it’s going to be a challenge. It’s a much shorter turnaround than normal between Summer Camp and the regular season than Spring Training and the regular season. He’s going to get tightened up and going to do the best he can to be ready to go. Paxton stated that as far as the 60-game season goes, that everyone is in the same boat and that he’s going to give it everything he can and prepare the same way. He recognized that every start means more in a shorter season and that he’s going to go out and do everything he can with each outing.

JONATHAN LOAISIGA:

Jonathan Loaisiga also met with the media Wednesday night following a very sharp outing.

When asked what he was going to take away from his outing tonight, Loaisiga stated he wanted to execute on pitches and be sharp and reach his pitch count and the goal the staff had for him innings wise. He also wanted to be sharp on his pitches, and stated that is something he has worked hard on for a long time now, is being more economical, wanting to be better and improve on executing pitches and putting away batters on a faster pace.

Loaisiga stated that one of the key things to being more economical is being more aggressive and having the opportunity to get ahead right away in the at bat and once you have a batter with two strikes, putting them away right away and not doing too much in those counts. Loaisiga stated that the batters are the ones in trouble and he has to keep the aggressiveness in those situations. He wants to get to that count where he’s ahead quickly and finish the batters off quickly as well.

Aaron Boone has stated that Loaisiga could be used as a starter or reliever in 2019. When asked if it matters to Loaisiga when he comes in, he stated it doesn’t really matter. “It’s about getting in the game and doing your job,” stated Loaisiga. “I’m I’m going to start, come in in the middle, or close the game, I’m cool with that. I want to pitch, help and do my job,” stated Loaisiga.

He was also asked what the swings of the hitters are telling him about the quality of his pitches right now. Loaisiga stated that coming into camp and having to face your teammates is not easy for the pitchers. He alluded to the fact that the pitchers have been ahead of the hitters due to the fact that it was easier for the pitchers to simulate game situations. He stated that for the batters, it’s not easy to go into the box and face hitters throwing 95 mph and up. “You see that, you see the swings, you see them miss certain pitches, especially attacking with a fastball,” stated Loasiga. “You know it’s not easy for hitters when they don’t have an opportunity to see live pitching to all of a sudden see live pitching. It’s definitely tough,” stated Loaisiga.

The Yankees have a shorter workout day Thursday afternoon, followed by an Intrasquad game Friday night and the first exhibition game of the Summer on Saturday against the Mets. Jonathan Loaisiga will throw Sunday against the Mets.

Since the intrasquad game ended Wednesday night, it has also been released that DJ LaMehieu will be coming off of the COVID-19 list and joining the Yankees this week.

Written By

Alexis Farinacci is a baseball beat writer and social media editor for the Pinstriped Prospects. Follow Alexis on Twitter & Instagram: @alexisfarinacci .

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