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SUMMER CAMP UPDATE: Tanaka Throws a Bullpen, Cole to Pitch Friday

DJ LaMehieu is Back at the Stadium:

Reports began to circulate this week that DJ LaMehieu was back at Yankee Stadium this week. When asked how valuable of a guy he is, Luke Voit stated that LaMehieu is the Yankees’ table-setter and one of the best players in the game. Voit stated he had a great year last year and is hard to get out. Voit described LaMehieu as a guy who pitchers cannot get out and one of the only guys in baseball who doesn’t get shifted on. Voit stated that any type of pitch you send LaMehieu, he can hit. He will make pitchers overthink and make mistakes, and will then deliver and make the pitchers pay. He is a versatile batter with where he hits the balls, whether it be a single or a home run. “It’s fun to watch,” stated Voit who said that he was at the stadium yesterday, but was not there today. Voit stated that LaMehieu is going to be ready and always makes sure he’s prepared. “I’m excited to have him back,” stated Voit. “The machine is finally back.”

Mike Tauchman also spoke on having LaMehieu back, stating that he’s really excited to have him back and that from a production standpoint and at the top of the lineup, that LaMehieu kicks-tarts the offense and that he’s really solid defensively as well with the ability to play multiple positions. He’s a candidate for MVP each year and that’s huge to have on your team.

LUKE VOIT:

Luke Voit met with the media prior to Thursday’s Summer Camp Workout.

Voit was asked what he was most excited bout in facing pitchers from another team. Voit stated that it’ll get the jitters going and make it feel like an actual game. With only having three of them, Voit stated it will be crucial to take advantage of the exhibition games ahead of the Yankees’ July 23rd opener against the Nationals. Voit stated that he expects guys to be more dialed in and pitchers to throw more of their effective pitches.

Asked how ready he feels with just a week left in a shortened Spring Training 2.0/Summer Camp, Voit stated that it’s crucial to take this next week very seriously, including at-bats and intrasquad games. Voit stated that he stayed ready during the quarantine and feels game ready. He stated that with hopefully 15 or so more at-bats, he plans to really dial it in ahead of next Thursday.

When asked about working off the machines and if that work is meaningful to the players, Voit stated that working off the machine is the biggest part of his routine before the game. Voit stated he’s always hitting left and right-handed breaking balls, curveballs, sliders, and makes sure he’s staying on time with fastballs on the machine. He stated that that is how he stayed in shape during the quarantine, was hitting off a machine, and that it’s nice to be able to use one of the fields to see how the ball is spinning. Voit stated you can make the machine do what you want and that as far as the hitters go, it’s about making sure they’re staying through the ball. “It’s huge for my timing and for the other guys to get ready,” stated Voit. “A lot of guys spend a lot of extra time hitting off the machine and in the cages,” stated Voit.

Voit was also asked about Gerrit Cole and his impact on the rotation in 2020 and his impact in the dugout. Voit stated that Cole is going to be a huge presence in the dugout and is always open to giving guys advice. Voit stated that Cole is a work-horse who he’s glad to have on his team and not have to face. “He’s a stud who many of the pitchers go-to for a lot of advice because he’s a very intelligent man,” stated Voit. “He knows what it takes to get it done on and off the field,” Voit stated that he’s excited to see what Cole can do in the next 60 games.

UPDATE ON MASAHIRO TANAKA:

Matt Blake and Aaron Boone both gave updates Thursday afternoon on Masahiro Tanaka. Blake stated that today he threw about 30 total pitches and came in at a much higher intensity than any of the staff expected, which both Blake and Boone stated was really encouraging. His velocity was around 80 to 91 mph, which resulted in a really crisp first bullpen session back.

According to Blake and Boone, Tanaka is scheduled to throw another bullpen session on Sunday and will face live hitters again for the first time since the incident early next week.

Boone has not yet made a determination as to if Tanaka will be on the active roster for next Thursday’s home opener, stating they’ll have to see where he is in his buildup and that by Wednesday when rosters have to be turned in, they’ll have a good idea of if and when Tanaka could possibly join the team again on the active roster as they’ll have a better idea of where he’s at.

When asked about Tanaka’s recovery from being hit by the line drive, Blake talked about how much of a true professional Tanaka is and how strong of mental game he has as well. “He’s been really good with how he’s processed it all,” stated Blake. He has spent time talking with Chad Bohling about the necessary steps that need to be taken in terms of how Tanaka’s processing that moment, and what it means going forward, and the necessary steps to getting himself ready to compete at a high level again without a lot of hesitation about getting back on the mound. Blake stated that Tanaka has been firm in saying he’s ok and understands what happened and he knows the risks of being a pitcher. “His care for himself in terms of day to day work to get out of concussion protocol and his mental approach of what he needs to do to get ready to pitch again have been very good,” stated Blake.

There could potentially be a fifth starter spot open for Tanaka. Blake stated that the Yankees home opener would be the first spot that a fifth starter was needed if it is needed. He stated it’s about seeing how Tanaka responds in the next couple of days that will determine those conversations. The coaching staff doesn’t want to put a timeline on Tanaka just yet.  Boone stated that he would be surprised if Tanaka was in the first rotation, but reiterated that they would see how the next several days go for him and make a decision at that time. Boone stated that those conversations would begin to happen after they see how Tanaka responds over the weekend and into early next week.

GERRIT COLE – STARTING FRIDAY NIGHT AND THEN IN SEASON OPENER:

Gerrit Cole will be the starter for Friday’s night final intrasquad game of Summer Camp. Boone and Blake both stating that Cole will throw around a similar number of pitches as he did his last outing, which was around 85 pitches. His maximum would be a 90 pitch outing. Both Blake and Boone stated that Cole pushed really hard his last outing on a really hot day and that they want him to be at his best leading up to the season opener.

MATT BLAKE:

With the exhibition games coming up this weekend, Matt Blake was asked during his press conference if the starters have been decided for the series. In no particular order, Blake stated it will be King, Hail, and Garcia seeing starts this week, or at least a few innings at some point during the games.

When asked what Blake has seen of the younger guys this camp, particularly Michael King, Deivi Garcia, and Clarke Schmidt, Blake stated that they all been good and the three of them have done a nice job of being prepared for this environment. Blake stated that they have faced some of the Yankees’ best hitters and prepared well on their own to face the Major League level and to be in this environment. Through ramping up, they’ve been outstanding, according to Blake.

Speculation has started to be heard that Luis Cessa and DJ LaMehieu are back in camp. Blake was asked about Cessa and where the Yankees start with him once he gets through the intake process. Blake started they will need to see him in person and see him play catch and see how he responds. They will then get him on a schedule to throw a couple of bullpens and see what shape his body in. They will layout a 3-day plan, followed by a 7-day plan, but have to take it day by day. He is not yet at the ballpark, and that is the first step.

Blake was asked how you keep guys moving when they’re in isolation. “It’s a tricky one,” stated Blake. “Because they’re isolated and shouldn’t be playing catch with anyone. We have to assume they can’t do anything, and anything extra is bonus,” stated Blake. Blake did state that Cessa has been able to do a little work and throw into a net on his own, but it is unknown what type of volume and what level his pitches are at.

Blake was asked that, given the protocols, how his job and the flow of the game is changing or has already changed due to the COVID-19 protocols, as far as pitcher/catcher meetings and mound visits during the game.

As far as Blake’s day to day job goes, Blake stated his job is a little different in regards to how they’re meeting with players and showing them information while trying to stay spread apart in conference rooms and trying to stay within protocols. He stated it hasn’t been too hard, but that they are just staying more intentional with meeting spaces and times.

When they’re in the bullpen, Blake stated that they have to remind themselves not to give knuckles or high-fives and that the coaches can’t carry the players’ bag of balls for them. But he stated the guys are starting to get into a smoother routine as they get used to the protocols.

As far as mound visits go, Blake stated they’re being more cautious with space on the mound, but not changing times of when they go out to the mound as it is an important part of the game. They are being more aware of distancing and how they’re approaching the conversation. Coaches will also wear masks on the mound during mound visits.

When asked how the utilization of space has been, Blake stated it has been smoother than anticipated and that they are utilizing different locker rooms and spacing out the dining area. They feel good about the quality of work and time they are getting with each player and that the level of focus and intent the guys have had has been really good. Blake stated that their players are the highest level of professionals and a high caliber team that stays prepared. “We’ve been able to put good work in on the field at a high-intensity level,” stated Blake. The pitchers’ stuff has been crisp as well Blake stated. He reiterated that the pitchers are getting to game speed quickly and are beginning to own their execution quicker. From this standpoint, Blake stated that things have been better than expected.

MICHAEL TAUCHMAN:

Mike Tauchman also met with the media Thursday, stating that he feels game ready and that the Yankees have done a great job of getting the guys a lot of at-bats. “We have the added benefit of the quality arms we’re facing every day,” stated Tauchman. “it’s a good challenge for the hitters to be facing that caliber pitching,” stated Tauchman. Tauchman also stated that the hitters’ timing is getting better and that pitchers being ahead of the hitters is something you can expect coming off an extended period of off-time. But Tauchman said he feels like the last few days, the hitters were beginning to put together some really good at-bats, they were moving out in front of pitches and beginning to hit the ball hard, which we saw in those home runs by Judge and Stanton off of James Paxton this week. Tauchman also stating that Judge looks great, his drill work looks good and he also doesn’t get enough credit for all he does defensively. Tauchman stating he expects Judge to have his normal impact in the 2020 season.

Tauchman stated that he feels like he would at the end of a Spring Training season and that he’s been able to stay on top of a lot of stuff during the simulated games and intrasquad games. He stated that they’ve been simulating game speed as much as possible and lengthening the time the players are on the field on their feet.

When asked how he feels he fits in in 2020, Tauchman stated he’ll be ready wherever he’s needed and that it’s not something he can control. He stated he can control his preparation. He stated that this is a stacked lineup and that when this lineup is healthy, that this is a dangerous and really tough team. He stated with a big smile on his that getting back to Baseball is exciting!

When asked what he expects from facing another team this weekend and what the benefits will be, Tauchman said it’ll be a lot of fun. He said playing another team just adds another level of competition and that it will be good to get experience playing in the empty stadium with the crowd noise being pumped into the stadium and to see how that environment affects everyone ahead of opening day next week. He also stated that it’ll be good to play nine-inning baseball this weekend, with games that count starting next week.

The media asked Tauchman what his main takeaway has been from facing his own pitchers. He stated they’ve been really good and that it shows that the Yankees’ guys really do their homework. They study, and they prepare. Tauchman said you can’t say the Yankees’ guys don’t prepare. They always have an idea of what to expect from other teams from a scouting standpoint.

The extra innings rule has been a big topic of the week. Tauchman was part of working on that rule this week. With a chance that he could be the guy the Yankees go with off the bench in extra innings, Tauchman stated that with the protocols, the guys will have to get creative with keeping their legs loose and ready to go. He stated you have to think along the lines of a manager from the bench and what situations you could be used for. He stated it’s about being ready and making sure your legs are ready to go. He stated that this could provide quick opportunities to win games and that when the ball is hit or if you’re given the steal sign, you need to be ready to go quick, which means your legs being fresh, stretched, and ready to go off the bench at any time.

When asked if likes the rule, Tauchman stated he’s not a huge fan of it and understands why pitchers don’t like it either. He stated he’d rather see the game played straight up but that it is what it is and they have to be ready to execute it. Whether that means laying down a bunt, getting aggressive off the bench, he stated they’ll find out more if and when the situation presents itself in the regular season.

TOMMY KAHNLE:

Tommy Kahnle spoke with the media Thursday afternoon as well. He started off talking about how his camp has gone so far. Kahnle stating he’s felt really good, from the moment he threw his first bullpen session to his first outing, he’s felt really good. He stated he’s been trying to stay in a routine and keep his arm healthy. During the quarantine Kahnle was back home and had a facility he would go train at until the COVID numbers began to increase, at which point Kahnle stated that he felt it was best to try and stay isolated and not go out as much with hopes of having a 2020 season. Kahnle stated that working out was tough, he kept throwing. Whether it was to a net or long-tossing all over the place, he was doing whatever he needed to in order to keep his arm in shape and ready to go.

When asked about the extra innings rule, Kahnle stated that there’s going to be a lot of different situations with it that guys have to be prepared for. Kahnle got a taste of it in 2018 when he was with Triple-A Scranton, and that you have to be prepared for speed guys to steal or to get bunt over. He said you have to treat it for what it is because as others have stated, it is what it is now and they have to be prepared for it.

Kahnle also spoke on the noise being pumped into the stadium. He stated he feels like it will help players to have some kind of noise to help give them an adrenaline boost. He stated that it will help give pitchers a moment to have it on as long as it’s not too loud and becomes distracting.

When asked what the different challenges are this season, Kahnle stated that being ready to go out of the gate is going to be the biggest challenge. With it being a 60-game shortened season, you have to start out hot and be the upper hand. You have to be prepared to not let off the gas and be focused right out of the gate and stay locked in all season no matter the team you’re playing, the record, or who’s out there. Their main goal going into the season is to focus with an intent to win a championship.

A lot of these guys are pretty much living the quarantine life outside of the ballpark to stay as safe as possible. When asked what he’s doing with his downtime, Kahnle stated that he plays video games and watches movies. He and other teammates like to engage in MLB the Show or Call of Duty, which is also a great way to continue to bond with teammates outside of the stadium given the distancing protocols at the stadium as well.

AARON BOONE:

Aaron Boone closed out today’s press conferences, meeting with the media at the conclusion of today’s practices.

Boone discussed how Aaron Judge was feeling after yesterday’s game, stating he came through everything fine last night and got a lot of reps in at the plate today as well and everything feels good.

When asked about how some of the guys have been putting in extra work on the pitching machines and the velocity machines, Boone stated that the quality and accuracy and some things you can do now to replicate different spin rates on pitches and velocities right down to the number is quite a bit different than when he was a player. He stated they’re tools the Yankees try to take advantage of and are some of the things that many of the guys like to do. It gives them game-like reps from a velocity standpoint that you might not otherwise see outside of a game setting to work on technique and timing.

When asked if he feels like his team is ready with opening day now just seven days away, Boone stated he’s really encouraged. He stated that the biggest unknown coming into camp was seeing what the guys look like, but that the position players came in looking in really shape, as well as the pitchers. Boone stated the next four days, the guys will be put through a season-routine in that they’ll play the majority of an eight-inning game tomorrow as well as be pushed pretty far into the three exhibition games this weekend as well. Boone stated that he feels like his players are ready to be pushed to do that and that he’s been encouraged with how quickly his guys have been able to be ramped up.

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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