By Sweeny Murti
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Some thoughts after the first weekend:
*After three games Mark Teixeira is still on pace for 162 home runs. I’m betting against it, but it still has to be nice for him to avoid pressing in the first month of the season.
Teixeira had been reluctant in the past to discuss any concrete reasons for his slow starts, but finally admitted (to himself most importantly) that there was indeed a reason for them. Teixeira came to the conclusion that he was tiring himself out with intense workouts before the season ever started, so he and Hitting Coach Kevin Long decided to cut out the extra work and concentrate on hitting more.
Listen to Teixeira as he explained over the weekend how he came to the realization that he wasn’t starting the season in the best shape for hitting:
Teixeira has hit all three of his homers batting lefty, which is the side he said needed more work in the off-season and spring training. Will it continue? Time will tell. But a good start takes some weight off his shoulders for a little while.
*Jorge Posada’s transition to DH looked pretty good on Sunday with a two home run day. But it’s definitely something that will take some time to adjust to. In Saturday’s long, lopsided game Posada was scheduled to lead off the bottom of the 9th if the game ever got there (it didn’t—the Yanks won 10-6). But the late innings of that game dragged so much, it would have been about 90 minutes between Posada’s last at-bat in the 6th and his next at-bat had he gotten up in the 9th. That’s a long time to sit and wait.
*Phil Hughes’s loss in velocity might just be mechanical, but I’ll let Larry Rothschild come to that conclusion, if that is indeed the answer. I guess you can never rule out that something is physically wrong, but I doubt Hughes could have thrown every day he was scheduled all spring without missing a turn and have something bothering him physically.
Could it be tougher for some guys to get loose in the colder weather? Joba Chamberlain was throwing in the mid 90’s consistently all spring, some scouts thinking he was as close to his 2007 form as he’s ever been. Sunday in the 9th inning against the Tigers, Chamberlain threw 12 fastballs and all were measured between 85-88 mph (data from MLB.com Gameday).
*A.J. Burnett was on fumes in the fifth inning Saturday, his energy sapped by a head cold. When he got into trouble in that fifth inning, Burnett had to reach back, and he reached for a pitch he doesn’t throw much, but could be the biggest key for him—the changeup.
It’s almost a running joke between me and Burnett, that changeup of his. In fact he looked right at me as he told reporters that was his go-to pitch in that inning. I’ve spent the better part of the last two years talking to Burnett about his changeup, and he keeps telling me how much he’s aching to use it and how managers and pitching coaches have tried over the years to get him to use it more. Burnett talks about the pitch all spring training, and then the real games start, and he puts the pitch in his back pocket.
Saturday, Burnett said he threw about five or six changeups, most of them in that fifth inning. On his way out the clubhouse after Saturday’s win, Burnett showed me a text message from his father, applauding A.J. for “breaking out that 3rd pitch.”
Russell Martin said after Saturday’s game, “I think he underestimates his changeup, but I think the more he throws it the more he’s going to realize it’s a really good pitch for him.”
*I agree that the bullpen formula on Opening Day worked to perfection (Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano, and Mariano Rivera combined for 3 perfect innings). But can we wait till they do it…oh, I don’t know…maybe TWICE before we start comparing them to the 1996 Yankees?
*I’ll leave you with this. Mike Mussina, who talked with reporters before throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day, was asked about the transition players need to make when they come to the biggest market and play for the Yankees. Nobody was a better example than Mussina—hated by most local reporters his first year in pinstripes (2001) for his curt manner, a go-to guy for the media by his last year (2008).
Mussina was able to capsulize why that transition is so difficult and why it’s important to come to terms with if a player is to succeed here:
That synopsis should be in the media handbook for every player that comes through New York, no matter the sport.
What are your thoughts after watching the Yankees through 3 games? Let us know in the comments below…