Tagged: Brian Bruney

Passionate defenses

joba_250_052809.jpgBy Jon Lane
Wow! Such fervor on YESNetwork.com these days. The source of it is a 23-year-old kid from Nebraska who set a standard so high as a set-up man that everything he does is measured against it. And each time he fails or simply takes his lumps, his destiny has to be altered permanently.

Yeah, here we go again. Joba Chamberlain belongs in the bullpen. It’s a topic that just won’t go away (at least we’re not discussing PEDs, the height of annoyance, this time) and right now it’s hot. Chamberlain has labored as a starter, Chien-Ming Wang is not in the rotation and everyone in the Yankees ‘pen not named Mariano Rivera can’t be completely trusted. Since we live in a town that demands instant gratification, Joba to the ‘pen will solve all the Yankees’ problems.

I’m not suggesting this is an argument without merit. It is. Chamberlain was fantastic in his eighth-inning role and only midges off Lake Erie dented him in 2007. Pitching out of the ‘pen allows him to go from zero to 100 using his best two pitches (2 > 4, writes Chris Shearn) while thriving off his emotion. Somebody has to eventually replace Rivera and Chamberlain is currently the best candidate to do it. Many made their points and they’re all valid. Kim Jones is practical. Mike Francesa is angry. Jerome Preisler combines passion with historical precedent. You the readers are speaking too. At last check of our homepage poll, it was 171-5 with the belief that Chamberlain will be back in the bullpen before season’s end. I can’t scientifically prove it, but there are probably many who initially believed in Joba the starter have since changed their tune, which is their right.

I’m not budging. Why are we drawing conclusions after 21 career starts? Does Joba have to be Rick Porcello or Justin Verlander, two guys off the top of my head who instantly met (or meeting) success as rookie starters? Do enough people study the cases of Roy Halladay, Tom Glavine or Zack Greinke, the latter who four seasons ago was 5-17 with a 5.80 ERA and now 8-1, 0.84 with five complete games? (Greinke also overcame social anxiety disorder and depression, another layer to his amazing story.)

Another question: Does anyone notice if Chamberlain was pitching in Kansas City?

Look, Joba the starter has been a tease and often frustrating, but 99 out of 100 young starters pegged for greatness experience a learning curve, and some longer than others. If Chamberlain is moved back to the bullpen, you stunt his development and reduce the innings pitched the Yankees are trying to limit anyway. Furthermore, each time Phil Hughes is lights out, he’s the phenom everyone was dreaming about. Every time he bombs – which will happen again – he’s a bust and belongs either in the ‘pen or the Minor Leagues. You can’t have it both ways and the Yankees have made the choice to build not for only this year, but rebuild a program they hope will come close to winning four World Championships in five seasons.

A big part of that is learning from failure and learning how to lose. Chamberlain deserves the same education. Once he’s a finished product he’ll have four dominant out pitches and a fully matured state of mind. I’ll take an elite starter over someone who only gets three outs and isn’t assured of pitching in every close game.


Another perspective: The problem isn’t Joba the starter. It’s the construction and handling of the current bullpen. Alfredo Aceves needs a defined role and why Jose Veras is continually asked to get big outs I’ll never figure out. David Robertson is back in the bigs. Use him and not just for mop-up duty. Thankfully for the Yankees, Brian Bruney will be back, and this time every extra precaution will be taken. That will leave you with Bruney – not Chamberlain – as your eighth-inning guy, and young guns Robertson, Mark Melancon and Phil Coke as the underbelly.

A nicely-laid plan unless the Yankees manage to swing a deal for Huston Street.


About Wang: Use him too. Don’t wait another nine days to dust him off, but don’t just shrug your shoulders and put him back into the rotation. Injury or not, Wang’s ERA was still 34.50 after three starts and that’s your judge and jury. Hughes got hurt and failed last year. He’s earning his way back. Now it’s Wang’s turn.

Street sense

street_350_052609.jpgBy Jon Lane
For those new to following the Yankees, or ones who skim past the transactions section, Brian Bruney was signed by the Yankees in May 2006 shortly after the Arizona Diamondbacks designated him for assignment. In layman’s terms, Bruney was plucked off the scrap heap. There was no break out the fancy buffet press conference welcoming him to New York City and shirts/jerseys stitched with BRUNEY 38 weren’t made for sale up and down River Avenue or at your local retail outlet.

There’s that old as Angel Berroa saying about one man’s trash. The Yankees took a flier on Bruney and caught lightning when the right-hander’s explosive fastball made him an important member of the bullpen. In the last few weeks we’ve all learned just how important. This is not the older than cavemen expression, “Don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” The Yankees are feeling the effects of Bruney’s absence and bracing for what may turn out the worst possible news.

Bruney has pain in his right elbow and has no clue why. He’s been disabled for the second time in a month and is visiting with Dr. James Andrews, synonymous with the famous procedure called Tommy John surgery. Dr. Andrews’ recommendation will be the difference between a suspension bridge to Mariano Rivera, and one made of fraying rope and decaying wooden planks that connect two ends of a mountain.  

David Robertson is back with the Yankees. Mark Melancon could get another shot. Others (read Phil Coke and Alfredo Aceves) will see further action in the seventh and eighth innings. In short, the Yankees will evaluate internal options and not make a panic move, which is the right thing to do. But that’s not stopping the speculation. Our partners at River Ave Blues run down a list of options that could be made available in a trade. One name in particular intrigues me, Huston Street.

Street’s career is regaining traction four seasons removed from his Rookie of the Year campaign in Oakland. He was traded to Colorado in the Matt Holliday deal and earned back his closer’s role after Manny Corpas pitched poorly. He’s 25 years old, has pitched in the postseason, and is now working for a last-place team that may be sellers at the trade deadline. That means he’s going to cost the Yankees at least one high-end prospect (Zack McAllister?). Street is 7-for-7 in save opportunities with the Rockies and currently has a scoreless streak of 11 innings in 12 games.  He’s a free agent after the season, so it’ll behoove the Rockies to not lose him for nothing.
If you’re the Yankees, do you make a play for Street? Yes. He’s young and battle-tested (only time will tell if he’s New York tough), and this won’t turn out to be an Eric Gagne situation. For those who forgot, the Red Sox acquired Gagne from the Rangers for Kason Gabbard, David Murphy and Engel Beltre, and to say he was a failure in Boston is a compliment. (Of course, in spite of Gagne, the Red Sox won their second World Series in four seasons.)

One more nugget, Street’s 101 career saves are the fifth-most by any player before the age of 26. If he pitches well enough in New York, the Yankees could decide to extend him and groom him as Rivera’s successor, which finally (you’d think) would end this Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes to the bullpen nonsense. The one player in the organization that has the look of the post-Rivera closer is Melancon, but give me production over potential any day, as long as that production is young , still peaking and a cost that doesn’t tear apart the farm system Brian Cashman is painstakingly rebuilding.

Street hits all those checkpoints and more.

Read and React: Hughes vs. Wang

By Jon Lane
Read: Great anecdote from Yankees radio announcer Suzyn Waldman, who also pens for WFAN’s Web site, about Phil Hughes and the fire in his belly. Hughes threw eight stellar innings on Monday in an 11-1 win over the Rangers, allowing only three hits and one walk while striking out six in the longest outing of his career.

React: And there are those who believe Hughes is better suited for the bullpen, even though it’s temporary. Look, when it comes to Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, the two most cherished arms in the Yankees organization, this yo-yo business is stupid. Once you make a decision – starter or reliever – you stick to it without messing with a young pitcher’s head or routine. Wisely, the Yankees are keeping Chamberlain in the rotation even with the possibility of Brian Bruney gone for the rest of the season and Hughes will remain among the five, Chien-Ming Wang or no Chien-Ming Wang.

Chamberlain is 23, Hughes is 22. These guys represent today and tomorrow, and have a great chance to be frontline starters within a few years. To quote “Wall Street’s” Lou Mannheim, “Stick to the fundamentals. That’s how IBM and Hilton were built. Good things sometimes take time.”

Read: Wang is stuck in long relief purgatory.

React: Adam Jones’ line drive that hit Chamberlain’s knee last week put the Yankees in a bind, forcing them to forgo Wang’s final Minor League start for immediate bullpen help. He’s off the disabled list and the Yankees can’t demote him because he’ll be exposed to waivers. It has them in a quandary with Hughes pitching well and Wang needing in-game repetitions, but it’s one of those nice ones. Joel Sherman of the New York Post sums it up best:

“Last year, Hughes was handed something he had not earned: a rotation spot. This year he is earning his spot. Will we ever say that about Wang in 2009?”

Read: Damaso Marte, out since April 26 with shoulder inflammation, is in Tampa, but it’ unclear when he will return this season. The Yankees seem to have little interest in his return, writes Peter Abraham

“It’s going to take some time,” Joe Girardi said. “His timetable? We really don’t have a timetable when he will be back.”

React: Three years and $12 million for Marte? Abraham isn’t the first to wonder why the Yankees are quick to share injury information about most players but not Marte. 

Rebuilding the bridge

By Jon Lane
Expect Brian Bruney to return on Tuesday, a welcome and much-needed addition to the Yankees bullpen. Since Bruney was disabled, the bridge to Mariano Rivera was a wooden plank weathered by rain and fierce winds. If it’s up to me, and it’s not, here’s how I’d reconstruct the bullpen:

Closer: Rivera (obviously)

Eighth-inning man: Bruney (obviously)

Underbelly: Alfredo Aceves. In case you didn’t notice, he won both games this weekend and deserves to pitch in key spots.

Jonathan Albaladejo. Five 2/3 scoreless innings in last five appearances, fanned Jason Kubel for the third out with the bases loaded to end the seventh on Sunday. Albaladejo earned equity with that effort.

Phil Coke. Forget about the home runs allowed Friday and Saturday, Coke bailed Jose Veras out of a second and third, one out situation in the seventh on Saturday; this in the second of consecutive games coming off a bad back.  

David Robertson. When he was here he was relegated to mop-up duty. He deserves a longer look.

Long man: Brett Tomko. A veteran arm that can calm the waters during early blowouts and contribute in big spots.

Out: Edwar Ramirez, Jose Veras

On the Radar: Damaso Marte. The Yankees have no choice with the three years invested in him. To be fair, Marte hasn’t been healthy since the World Baseball Classic, but when he’s back should be relegated to a LOOGY role.

Mark Melancon. A potential successor to Rivera, Melancon’s successes and failures will help him grow. 

Death By Bullpen

melancon_250_050609.jpgBy Glenn Giangrande
I just can’t take it anymore. The Yankees bullpen is like a train wreck that I DON’T want to watch.

In defense of Joe Girardi, he was dealt a tough hand when he lost Brian Bruney to the disabled list and Damaso Marte apparently was pitching hurt. That being said, about half the active ‘pen at minimum is downright unreliable right now. Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, and Jonathan Albaladejo can’t be trusted in big situations, but they also can’t be counted on to keep games close when the Yankees are down. Girardi also doesn’t seem to trust David Robertson much, and I can’t imagine Mark Melancon helped himself by walking the bases loaded in the ninth against Boston Tuesday night. Aside from Phil Coke and Mariano Rivera, it’s ugly out there.

So where on the planet is there to turn? For starters, Alfredo Aceves and his career .228 BAA deserve a chance to pitch some meaningful late innings. I’m not counting on Chien-Ming Wang’s return, so I’ll leave Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain out of the equation for now. Casey Fossum was signed to a Minor League deal after being cut loose by the Mets, a team that like the Yankees are dealing with a bullpen in dire straits. I guess Fossum is no worse than the current options, but anyone out there think he’s a real solution to the problem? Is there even an realistic external solution to be had? It’s too early to talk trade, not that the relief market is going to be any better than usual, and Fossum is clearly the best the Yankees could do via free agency.

On a brighter note, did anyone out there catch Family Guy this past Sunday? I was dying. Lauren Conrad-Bill Cosby sex tape, Mr. Magoo driving with Lindsay Lohan … there was some tremendous stuff. If you want your mind taken off the Yankees’ relievers, check it out on your preferred Internet TV portal of choice. 

Wrapping up the week

By Jon Lane
Our friends at River Avenue Blues had their weekly live chat this afternoon. Among the highlights:

The Yankees made the right move by not offering Chien-Ming Wang a long-term deal. Wang’s miserable beginning to 2009 is 20-10 hindsight, but RAB notes they could afford to go year to year and pay big arbitration raises as warranted. Count on this, though: Wang will right himself and when he’s back – at 100 percent and nothing less – you’ll see what you’ve seen out of the talented right-hander since 2005.

Let’s defend A.J. Burnett’s start Thursday night. Okay, four runs and eight hits in seven innings isn’t pretty, but winning ugly is a beautiful thing. Burnett gave the Yankees seven innings and kept them in the game until they broke through in the eighth. John Flaherty made a great point during the telecast when he cited how Roger Clemens enjoyed pitching a lot more when he had to grind it out. You’re not going to have your best stuff every outing. Burnett didn’t but he found a way to survive and finished with a nine-pitch seventh.  

Who will be the odd man out once Brian Bruney returns? RAB speculates it’ll be David Robertson, but Jose Veras and Jonathan Albaladejo better be on alert. Albaladejo has options and he’s given up seven runs in his last inning of work covering two appearances. That three-year deal given to Damaso Marte is more and more of an albatross.

Interesting poll question: Who will be the Yankees’ closer in 2011? (Mariano Rivera’s current  contract expires after next season.)
Mark Melancon
Joba Chamberlain
Mariano Rivera

Who do you think? Vote here and have your say.

It’s Angels vs. Yankees tonight on YES (weather permitting). Kimberly Jones is there off a successful debut chat. Enjoy the game and the weekend.

Possibilities are endless

hughes_250_042909.jpgBy Jon Lane
It’s one start. One start, or a handful, doesn’t make a person a success or a failure. But Phil Hughes Tuesday night?


Phil the Thrill


Phil Franchise (copyright: Peter Abraham)

“I don’t think you can do any better,” said manager Joe Girardi.

Monday night showed you why Phil Hughes was touted as one day being The Franchise. He showed, for one night, why he wasn’t traded for even the great Johan Santana and that patience can be a virtue even in Yankee-land. That said, watch Hughes get rocked on Sunday and those who today are proclaiming him The Franchise will start demanding his demotion, and the hiring of Bobby Valentine and Steve Phillips to run the club.

Brian Cashman said it best the day he announced he was staying with the Yankees: If the Yankees spend money, they’re criticized for doing so frivolously. If they build a program – gee, what a concept – they take heat for blowing off a chance to win right now.  You can’t have it both ways, folks. But what Hughes provided in his best start since that night he tossed 6 1/3 no-hit innings is optimism that Cashman’s vision will actually work. You don’t proclaim Hughes a success off one start, but you neither call Chien-Ming Wang a lost cause nor Joba Chamberlain a failed starter either.

The Joba-back-to-the-bullpen campaign is gaining tremendous steam, one that will blister the sports talk radio airwaves if he flounders tonight against the Tigers (YES HD, 7 p.m.). If Chamberlain throws six-seven splendid innings, that will pave the road for what will be a difficult decision, but an excellent problem to have.

Picture this: Hughes builds off Monday night. Chamberlain gets into a grove. Wang finds himself. Brian Bruney comes back healthy and Mark Melancon proves to be the real deal. How tempting would it be for the Yankees to add Chamberlain to a late-inning mix with Bruney and Melancon?

It’s risky business. I echo Ron Guidry telling Mike Francesa during the winter that you cannot continue to yank Chamberlain up and down like a yo-yo. And it takes time for power pitchers, especially young ones in their early 20s with an injury history like Chamberlain, to ratchet up velocity and nail down location at the same time. But if Hughes shows he’s here to stay, you can’t move him to the bullpen (ditto a two-time 19-game winner).

I’ve said for months that Chamberlain should be a starter and won’t waver now. But in the interest of fairness, the other side of it is while potential 20-game winners don’t come around often, neither does a close-to-a-replacement-as-humanly-possible for Mariano Rivera. And Joba-to-the-bullpen means less, if not the elimination, of Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez and Damaso Marte, that’s something to seriously consider for the greater good.

The Wang project will take at least a few weeks, enough time for a full evaluation. Wang is the wild card here. If he’s completely shot or a major physical problem reveals itself, Hughes and Chamberlain join Andy Pettitte as the back-end starters. The only thing for Hughes to do is pitch to win, not to avoid going back down to Scranton.

“We want him to pitch great and stay in the rotation,” Girardi said. “What you want as a manager is to have more starters throwing well than spots you have.”

What you have here is a storyline that is tasty and compelling, and one that will build towards a climax if everything goes to plan. It’s better than last season, when injuries and ineffectiveness forced Girardi to hand starting roles to Sidney Ponson, Darrell Rasner, Dan Giese and everyone’s favorite, Carl Pavano.

How do you see this playing out?

Proving ground for Phil Hughes

hughes_370_042809.jpgBy Jon Lane
This is a photograph taken the night of May 1, 2007 in Arlington, Texas. The man below the scoreboard is Phil Hughes and the numbers above him do not tell the whole story. Here was Hughes, 24 days shy of the legal drinking age, on a Major League mound for the second time in his life and he was working the Rangers for a no-hitter along with 10 strikeouts entering the seventh inning. He was eight outs away when he threw an 0-2 curveball to – get this – Mark Teixeira. His 80th pitch would be his last. Hughes grabbed his left hamstring, and was forced from the game and immediately to the disabled list.

The performance was a tease. The injury was a distant early warning. Since 5/1/07, Hughes has won five games – none since September 27, 2007 – thanks to repeated ailments that has his career in stop-and-go traffic. Tonight, a 22-year-old right-hander, “The Sure Thing,” is being asked to halt a four-game losing streak and the latest round of panic attacks amongst the Yankees fan base.

One night after I wrote an open letter to CC Sabathia telling him it was time to play stopper, Hughes is starting the latest “Biggest Game of the Season.” There will be a lot more “big games” and “must wins” if the Yankees continue to stare down the barrel of a losing streak, along with calls for the heads of Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman. Yes, it’s April 28, 2009 and the Yankees have been through worse. This time, they are without Alex Rodriguez, Chien-Ming Wang, Xavier Nady and Brian Bruney, while Johnny Damon is fighting an aching left shoulder and Hideki Matsui brittle knees.

But a team that spent $423.5 million on people is a game under .500 and have watched the Red Sox run off 11 straight wins employing a brand of baseball they’re incapable of doing at the moment: killing with speed, locking down the seventh and eighth innings of tight games, and delivering in the clutch. The Yankees’ problems with runners in scoring position are like stubborn acne. Monday night they were 1-for-9. They have one hit in their last 25 at-bats in the pinch and are batting .223 in such situations.

Memo to Hughes: You’re 5-7, 5.15 in your career. You’re better than that. Tonight begins your chance to show that you can be an answer to Jon Lester. To Justin Masterson. To Manny Delcarmen. Homegrown prospects thriving in the big leagues. The Yankees have shown patience with you, refusing to make you the centerpiece in a deal for Johan Santana. Your legacy will not be written until years later, yet tonight is a big step. For your team. For your confidence.

One good start from Hughes will get the wheels turning towards better days, beginning with a rotation that will meet expectations once CC Sabathia (Monday’s hard-luck loser) and A.J. Burnett find their footing, and Chien-Ming Wang finds his way back. Hughes’ presence, combined with Joba Chamberlain’s underwhelming performances as a starter, has refueled the Joba-to-the-bullpen debate. I don’t remember exactly, but it was either Mike Francesa or one of his callers who theorized that the Yankees “neutered” Chamberlain by making him a starter, taking away the balls-to-the-wall mentality of letting it all go at 97 MPH that made him unhittable.

I will not go there. This topic is burnt to a crisp from where I sit and I’m amazed that it has such shelf life. Whether the Yankees actually cave in and put Chamberlain back in an eighth-inning role depends on a lot of variables, namely Bruney’s health and Mark Melancon’s effectiveness. The first and most important step commences with how No. 65 does tonight in Detroit.

Countdown to the party

stadium_350_041509.jpgBy Jon Lane
T-minus one day until the official home opener. We were on hand for the workouts and the exhibition games, taking you for tour and providing anecdotes from around the Stadium and in the clubhouse. Expect a lot more Thursday afternoon. Fans will be jacked, CC Sabathia will be on the mound and the Yankees will thrilled to enjoy their new spoils for the next seven days. I’ll be keeping a diary and filing a postgame report. Chris Shearn and Co. will be producing exclusive videos, and Friday, Steven Goldman will provide a unique take on the Stadium’s amenities and dining experiences. This will be a lot of fun and knowing the Yankees there will be plenty of surprises. Gates will be open at 10 a.m. and the team is encouraging everyone to be in their seats by noon for the opening ceremonies.


A.J. Burnett was amazing Tuesday night. Better than his six no-hit innings was how he, locked into a pitchers’ duel with Matt Garza, kept his composure after the Rays tied the game in the seventh. After the Yankees regained the lead off the Rays bullpen, Burnett pitched a clean eighth inning, the Yankees broke it open in the ninth and Brian Bruney struck out the side to finish it off. Through two games, Burnett is proving wrong those skeptics (me included) who thought it was a risk giving him $82.5 million over five years. There are tell-tale signs he’s no longer a thrower, but a mature pitcher. Shearn has more on Burnett and Brett Gardner, who to date is making him look like a genius.


Hold your breath and cross your fingers: Xavier Nady is having an MRI done today to examime his right elbow, injured Tuesday in the seventh when he felt a sharp pain while throwing Carlos Pena’s single back to the infield. It’s the same area where he had Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in 2001.

From the sound of it, Nady is headed for the disabled list. That means Nick Swisher will play every day, mostly in right field. Melky Cabrera will be counted on even more to spell Johnny Damon in left. Shelley Duncan, batting .300 with a homer and five RBIs in four games at Triple-A Scranton, would add pop off the bench. None, however, can replace Nady, a steady veteran and a good fit in the bottom of the lineup. The Yankees are wishing Hideki Matsui can play some outfield right now.


It’s Andy Pettitte against Andy Sonnanstine this afternoon (YES HD, 4 p.m.) as the Yankees finally finish their season-opening nine-game road trip. They’d love to officially open the new Yankee Stadium one game above .500, which considering having to go back on the road after just coming back from six weeks in Florida wouldn’t be too bad. Pettitte is the right guy to have on the mound. He was great in his 2009 debut at Kansas City, yielding one run and three hits over seven innings, and is 15-4 with a 3.63 ERA against the Rays, including 8-2 with a 3.72 ERA in 12 starts at Tropicana Field.

Just like it was silly to go insane over an 0-2 start, it’s completely premature to draw conclusions based on eight games. The best you can do is look at things in stages. Right here, right now, Burnett has been gold and Pettitte is a great bargain.


movingforward.jpgYankees great Bernie Williams’ new CD, “Moving Forward” has been released. You can meet Williams and receive a signed copy of the CD at 6 p.m at Borders – Penn Plaza. Williams played one of his songs on Good Day New York this morning. His first CD, “The Journey Within” is excellent. Expect more of the same with his second helping and tune into YES next month for his live concert at New York’s Nokia Theatre.

When 50 grown men became five years old

stadium3_450.jpgBy Jon Lane
We were let in at 11:55 a.m. For many of us, it was our first eyewitness account of the new Yankees clubhouse. My first glance is best summed up by a radio friend of mine who muttered, “Joe Girardi will need a megaphone to hold team meetings.”

I then turned to my left and saw Nick Swisher; his locker next to the main entrance. I heard a lot about Swisher’s glowing, infectious personality from my YES colleagues and saw it as the perfect time to introduce myself. After a handshake, all I needed to do was move my eyes from right to left. He picked up on what I was about to ask.

“I tell you, this is UN-BE-LEAVE-A-BLE!” Swisher said. “Last night when we got off the bus to come here, 50 grown men became five years old. I didn’t think they could top the last Yankee Stadium. They did that.”


Phil Coke was one of many who passed on an immediate trip home after living in Florida for seven weeks, not wanting to wait any longer for a look at his new home away from home. “We were drooling when we first got here,” he said. “I’m still wiping it off.” Coke’s locker neighbor, Brian Bruney, then cut in with an important question.

“How does this computer work?” inquired Mariano Rivera’s primary set-up man. Each locker is affixed with a lap top kiosk with an internet connection and individual message centers used to relay information on team meetings, workouts, batting practice, or if the manager wishes to speak to you. Behind the machine, Coke unveiled a cubby hole that resembled a place to put a hot plate, but better used for vast storage.


For an instant, Bruney wore a glum look on his face. After Saturday, the Yankees won’t be here until April 16 as their first nine games are on the road.

“It’s gonna suck for us to go on the road,” Bruney said, noting his belief that the new Stadium is “the best sports venue in the country.”


The 2009 season will be Andy Pettitte’s 15th in Major League Baseball. You may think he’s seen it all, until you hear about his adventures just getting to the new place. Because he was sitting in traffic, a few people noticed him, which left the left-hander wondering to inquire about the legality of tinted windows.

“That was awkward,” said Pettitte on sitting his car on River Avenue waiting to make a left. For the first time ever, he was right under the No. 4 train. “The subway goes by, rocks are falling on my car. They have all cars parked on the side of the road and all commercial vehicles are delivering stuff in the morning. Literally the only way to get by them is to go into oncoming traffic, and they’re backed up at the red light. People were honking.”

Once he finally made it inside, Pettitte admitted getting used to his new surroundings will take some time. However, he already has his favorite spot staked out.

“I’m a big whirlpool guy,” Pettitte said. “There are unbelievable facilities to help keep the old body loose!”


A couple of pitchers, Joba Chamberlain and Andy Pettitte, told Joe Girardi they felt the mound was a bit closer to the fans. Pettite said it felt like they took the old mound from Yankee Stadium and just brought it over and it might feel even closer once those seats are filled up.

“It looks beautiful,” Girardi said. “To hear our pitchers feel they’ve been on the mound already when they haven’t been there is a good sign.”

One reporter compared exploring the new surroundings to the anticipation of the old game show, “Let’s Make a Deal,” when contestants would learn what’s hidden behind certain doors. The first door Girardi opened was …

…”the kitchen. That was the first door I opened to get to the clubhouse. I love to eat. It’s my passion in life.”

Girardi will have his chances. The Yankees have employed two chefs to cook and serve Yankees players and coaches.


Derek Jeter was not among the group who visited here last night. In fact, before working out, he hadn’t seen the place, period.

“I walked in, came in the trainers’ room and been sitting here and you guys blocked off the whole view, so I can’t tell you how the clubhouse is,” Jeter said.

This morning, the team bus dropped them off and the players entered the clubhouse through a secret passageway. Freddy Schuman, known to longtime Yankees fans as “Freddy Sez” who carried a pot and teaspoon around the stands of the old Stadium, told me at the Hard Rock that fans won’t be able to see players come in and out of the new Stadium, unlike the old place where a crowd would wait behind a barricade as their favorites entered through a press gate.

Jeter will miss that interaction, but that’s not all. At the old place, his locker was next to Thurman Munson’s, which was left empty after the former captain’s death in 1979.

“You miss it but you appreciate it,” Jeter said. “It was special for me to be next to his locker.”

He’ll also miss Bob Sheppard, who hasn’t officially announced his retirement, yet chances of him appearing in the new building are slim. Jeter, though, will continue to step into the batter’s box to the backdrop of Sheppard’s recorded introduction.

“When I grew up, that was the one voice you always heard,” Jeter said. “That comes along with Yankee Stadium. People talk about tradition. He’s a part of that tradition as any of the players. I wanted to be introduced by him because that’s the only person I’ve ever known. I wanted to have it recorded just in case there was one day he decided to retire. He will always announce it.”

Jeter first heard Sheppard’s voice in person in 1986. A kid from Michigan, Jeter spent his summers in New Jersey and his grandmother took him to his first game. The only thing he remembered was that everything was big, but not as big as when he appeared on the field and worked out with Don Mattingly, Wade Boggs, Mike Gallego and Pat Kelly five years later, after completing rookie ball.

“For me growing up watching all these guys play, like Mattingly, and then being on the same field with him, it was kind of weird,” Jeter said. “Dave [Winfield] was the guy I looked up to growing up and when you get to meet him and all of the guys, you really get spoiled.”

Inevitably, the dismantling of the old Yankee Stadium will begin, first with the removal of the seats before the city takes apart the venerable building piece by piece. Like the rest of us, that’s something Jeter will never be able to let go.

“That will definitely be tough, especially when you think about all the things that’s happened there,” Jeter said. “It’s one thing to get adjusted to a new Stadium, but when you see the old one getting torn down, I’m sure it will be … what can you do? This is the good and that’s part of the bad, seeing that Stadium go.”