Notes: LeMahieu's extra reps; Paxton 'ready'
NEW YORK -- This past winter, Aaron Boone placed a call to his predecessor in the Yankees’ dugout, leaving a voicemail message to thank Joe Girardi for the role he played in preparing the “Baby Bombers” to succeed at the big league level.
Girardi, who had been named the Phillies’ manager by that time, was surprised and appreciative of the gesture. Boone and Girardi have kept their lines of communication open, including a chat prior to Monday’s exhibition in which they agreed to allow DJ LeMahieu to continue gathering at-bats after he is replaced at second base.
“He is going to play three, four or five innings, something in that range in the field,” Boone said. “He's actually going to stay in the game and continue to get at-bats, so he's likely to get all four of his at-bats. It’s something that Joe and I, and the Phillies, have kind of worked out, so you might at some point see 10 men in the lineup in this game.”
Monday marked Girardi’s first visit to Yankee Stadium in uniform since he was dismissed by the club following the 2017 season. Girardi said that it took him about a year to accept the Yankees’ decision to change managers; after the 2018 season, Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman met in the New York suburbs to clear the air about their professional parting.
“I had given a lot to the Yankees in the 10 years that I was there,” Girardi said this sping. “I put my heart and soul in it, and I thought I was going to be back. I was looking forward to it, because we went through some years that were kind of lean and we transitioned with some older players. It was finally like, ‘The young guys have arrived.’ And you knew that they had a run for a long time, so I was looking forward to that.”
Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, the franchise’s longest-tenured big league player, said that Girardi had “a really good run” over his decade at the helm. Under Girardi, the Yankees opened the current Yankee Stadium with a World Series title in 2009 and compiled a regular-season record of 910-710 (.562).
“I wish it would have resulted in one or two more championships over the course of it, but we put in a lot of work together and I definitely miss him,” Gardner said. “Boonie has done a good job coming in; I think both have a lot of the same qualities. They’re both very personable and do a great job of controlling the clubhouse and commanding a great deal of respect in their own way. I definitely miss Joe being here, but I've enjoyed playing for Boonie.”
James Paxton tossed 84 pitches from the Yankee Stadium mound over five simulated innings on Monday, representing the left-hander’s final tuneup before he takes the mound for the second game of the regular season on Friday at Washington.
“It went pretty well,” Paxton said. “I’m still looking for the last few ticks [of velocity], trying to get that really comfortable feeling out there with my rhythm and everything. I'm working towards it. I feel like I'm ready to go. I’m going to take whatever I've got and go out there and do what I do.”
Paxton said that he spent part of Monday’s mound session working on his mechanics, aiming to show full extension after his pitches. Paxton said that he has been conferring with Gerrit Cole on that topic, finding the ace right-hander to be a useful resource.
“I told him what I was feeling and he had some really good thoughts for me, some things to think about,” Paxton said. “I'm going to take a look at video and everything like that, but great pitchers talk. He's got a lot of great knowledge and it's been fun to bounce ideas off of him.”
Boone said that the Yankees considered having Paxton pitch against the Phillies on Monday, but decided against it because Paxton is likely to face Philadelphia early in the season.
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Luis Cessa tossed from the Yankee Stadium bullpen mound on Monday afternoon, the right-hander’s first time doing so since he recovered from having the coronavirus.
“I was supposed to throw 20 pitches,” Cessa said. “[Bullpen coach Mike] Harkey said, ‘Hey, how do you feel? You look great. You think you can throw 10 more?’ Finally, I threw 31 pitches today.”
Cessa tested positive for COVID-19 while at home in Arizona. He said that his girlfriend showed more evident symptoms than he did, though the pitcher said he lost his sense of smell and taste. Cessa said he was able to keep in shape by throwing baseballs into a net and running on the streets during hours when few people were around.
“Right now, Arizona is a little bad with the coronavirus,” Cessa said. “The goal was to stay inside all the time in quarantine, because I don’t need to have contact with other people. I try to stay inside and work out in my garage or in my neighborhood.”
The Yankees will hold a workout on Tuesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, allowing hitters to take live at-bats in preparation for Thursday’s Opening Day contest against the Nationals in Washington, D.C. Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who is returning from a concussion sustained on July 4, has been listed among the hurlers who are scheduled to see time on the mound.