NEW YORK -- James Paxton was seated in the players' dining area this weekend when he was approached by Carlos Beltran. The long-time big leaguer had made a discovery while reviewing video of the pitcher's most recent start, part of his new role as a special advisor to general manager
NEW YORK -- James Paxton was seated in the players' dining area this weekend when he was approached by Carlos Beltran. The long-time big leaguer had made a discovery while reviewing video of the pitcher's most recent start, part of his new role as a special advisor to general manager Brian Cashman.
As Paxton and Beltran broke down the Astros' at-bats from that April 10 contest at Houston's Minute Maid Park, a pattern emerged. Paxton is now convinced that he was tipping his knuckle curveball while runners were on second base, and efforts are underway to correct that flaw.
"They knew what was coming, so they were fouling off some pretty good pitches, taking some pretty good pitches," Paxton said. "They were stealing some signs, so that didn't help me. We were working on that in the bullpen yesterday. I think we found something to remedy that so I'm not giving away any pitches, so that'll help."
Paxton was peppered for five runs and eight hits in four-plus innings by the Astros, who completed a three-game sweep of the Yankees with an 8-6 victory that night. None of the hits that Paxton permitted came with a runner at second base, but Paxton said that Beltran proved he was giving away information in those situations.
"He said, 'Look at these takes, look at this swing,'" Paxton said. "They wouldn't be making these swings or these takes if they didn't know what was coming. That being said, I also didn't throw the ball very well. I was over the middle of the plate too much even when there were guys not on second base, so I need to be better at that as well.
"[Beltran] was really good at it when he played, picking pitches and looking for tendencies of guys and stuff like that. [Pitching coach] Larry [Rothschild] was aware of that as well, so we had been talking about it already, but seeing the video really helped me see that as well."
Through three starts with his new club, Paxton is 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA. In advance of his upcoming start against the Red Sox, Paxton said that he met with a sports psychologist, with whom he has maintained a relationship since his Minor League days. He said that conversation was helpful.
"I think I've been trying to do too much, trying to be better than I am," Paxton said. "I just need to realize that I'm good enough being who I am or who I was in Seattle, and just have my natural progression instead of trying to go out there and be something that I'm not."
Aaron Hicks stopped by the Yankees' clubhouse on Sunday morning, enjoying a brief respite from his ongoing rehabilitation from a back injury. Though he has no timetable for a return to the big league lineup, Hicks said that he has been running and throwing while hitting soft-toss and off a tee.
"I feel great," Hicks said. "I feel like my strides have been good. I've been pain-free for a while now. That's the most important thing for me. ... It came out of nowhere, from being just regular back pain to something that has been lingering for a while. Two cortisone shots later, I never thought it would be that serious. I figured I would have been back by now and playing games."
Hicks will return to the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday evening and could advance to on-field batting practice this week, according to manager Aaron Boone, though the switch-hitting centerfielder will still need to play in weeks of Minor League games. Hicks' initial injury occurred on March 1, when he said that he did not warm up properly for an exhibition against the Orioles.
"I've been really testing it, swinging hard in the cages and really putting my 'A' swings into it, to make sure it's game-like to really see and test it," Hicks said. "Hitting was a problem for me. Every time I hit is when it would start to fire up and it would start to be painful. The fact that I'm moving forward past that, it feels good."
Austin Romine was out of the lineup in Sunday's 5-2 loss to the White Sox, and Boone said that the catcher had been "a little banged up" in Friday's 9-6, rain-shortened loss. Kyle Higashioka started his second straight game behind the plate, but Boone added that Romine had been available to come off the bench in Saturday's 4-0 victory, had it been required.
"I'm just alternating Higgy and Ro a little bit with a day off [on Monday]," Boone said. "I just liked the match up with Higgy a little bit, but Ro's fine."
This date in Yankees history
April 14, 1955: Elston Howard becomes the first African-American player in Yankees history, making his Major League debut in the Yankees' 8-4 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Howard entered the game as a sixth-inning defensive replacement in left field and singled in his first at-bat two innings later, driving in Mickey Mantle.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.