An aborted trip to Steinbrenner Field

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As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, the Yankees denied my request for press credentials. I don’t have any problem with this. There are a metric crap-ton of writers who cover the Yankees, space, even in a big new park like Steinbrenner Field is limited, and if anyone in YankeeLand reads my stuff, they know that I don’t exactly write things that make clubhouse and pressbox access an absolute necessity. It is what it is. And to be honest, since the Braves were in town for last night’s game, I looked forward to enjoying it like a fan.  Unfortunately . . .

Steinbrenner Field rain.jpgUgh. I decided to hang around for a bit, however, and pretend I was a reporter.  Down in the Yankee gift shop I overheard a couple of fans opining that, despite the terrible weather forecast making the game a near impossibility, the team didn’t cancel it earlier because if they had they wouldn’t be able to collect $10 a car for parking and thousands upon thousands of dollars in sales of overpriced Yankees merch.

I went up and talked to them. One of them, Gary, is a Braves fan from Atlanta. The other, Gary’s friend Steve, is a Yankees guy.  They wouldn’t let me use their last names, but they were free with their opinions. “They’re shrewd,” Gary said. “They know what they’re doing. We’re all in here, so why not sell us stuff.”

Steve noted that he came to a similarly rainy spring training game back when George Steinbrenner was in charge. “George was out on the concourse himself, handing out umbrellas.”  Gary added “the only thing we get offered is a chance to buy things.”  At that point he picked up a Yankees shot glass from a nearby shelf and checked the price. It was $8.  “And we have to take a loan to get even that,” he chuckled.

Not that they were complaining too harshly. Both Gary and Steve acknowledged that their ticket money could be refunded, even if the parking fees wouldn’t be. They also pointed out that the Braves only visit Tampa once each spring, and given that it’s a marquee game, the team has to try everything it can to get it in.  Everyone agreed that the there weren’t exactly any great options available and, at the end of the day you can’t really do much about the weather.

After leaving Gary and Steve I wandered out to the stands to get a look at the place. Granted I wasn’t there long, but my quick sense: Steinbrenner field might as well be a major league park. Between its size, the prices, the sheer number of rabid fans, the police out in the parking lot directing traffic and everything else, it’s a much more big time atmosphere and experience than many Reds and Pirates home games I’ve been to.

Not that this is necessarily a good thing.  There are a lot of people who come down to spring training for the intimate, casual atmosphere. To get close to the ballplayers and closer to the action than they can back home.  That’s all out the window at Steinbrenner Field.  I can’t blame the Yankees for this — so many people want to come see the team that having them in some place like McKechnie Field would be an impossibility — but it’s sorta sad on some level.  Nothing can be done about it though. The Yankees Universe is the Yankees Universe.

And if you want, you can get a shirt that says so for around $60:

Yankees Universe.jpgThe game was canceled at 8:30. I went back to my hotel and got some sleep.  No games today — and even if I was heading to one it would probably be postponed due to the rain — but I’m heading to Clearwater to catch the Phillies tomorrow.  I’ll probably hold the Scenes from Spring Training posts until Monday, though.  Until then, back to the blogging.

Frankie Montas out 2-4 months after rib resection surgery

Chicago White Sox pitcher Frankie Montas throws against the Detroit Tigers in the first inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Per Eric Stephen of SB Nation’s True Blue LA, the Dodgers announced that pitching prospect Frankie Montas will be out two to four months after undergoing rib resection surgery to remove his right first rib.

The Dodgers acquired Montas from the White Sox in a three-team trade in December 2015 that also involved the Reds. The 22-year-old made his big league debut with the Pale Hose last season, allowing eight runs on 14 hits and nine walks with 20 strikeouts in 15 innings across two starts. Montas had spent the majority of his season at Double-A Birmingham, where he posted a 2.97 ERA with 108 strikeouts and 48 walks in 112 innings.

MLB.com rated Montas as the 95th-best prospect in baseball, slipping a few spots from last year’s pre-season ranking of 91.

Athletics acquire Khris Davis in trade with Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers' Khris Davis swings on a home run during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
AP Photo/Morry Gash
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The Brewers’ rebuild continues, as the club announced on Twitter the trade of outfielder Khris Davis to the Athletics in exchange for catcher Jacob Nottingham and pitcher Bubba Derby. MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports that the A’s have designated pitcher Sean Nolin for assignment to create room on the 40-man roster for Davis.

Davis, 28, was the Brewers’ most valuable remaining trade chip. He blasted 27 home runs while hitting .247/.323/.505 in 440 plate appearances this past season in Milwaukee. Adding to his value, Davis won’t become eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season and can’t become a free agent until after the 2019 season. In Oakland, Davis will give the Athletics more reliability as Coco Crisp was injured for most of last season and is now 36 years old. Though he doesn’t have much of a career platoon split, Davis split time in left field with the left-handed-hitting Gerardo Parra last season. It’s unclear if the A’s will utilize him in a platoon as well.

With Davis out of the picture, Domingo Santana is a leading candidate to start in left field for the Brewers, GM David Stearns said, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Nottingham, 20, started the 2015 season in the Astros’ system but went to the Athletics in the Scott Kazmir deal. He hit an aggregate .316/.372/.505 at Single-A, showing plenty of promise early in his professional career. With catcher Jonathan Lucroy on his way out of Milwaukee, the Brewers are hoping Nottingham can be their next permanent backstop.

Derby, 21, made his professional debut last season after the Athletics drafted him in the sixth round. Across 37 1/3 innings, he yielded seven runs (five earned) on 24 hits and 10 walks with 47 strikeouts. He’s obviously a few years away from the majors, but the Brewers are looking for high upside.

Yankees, Aroldis Chapman avoid arbitration at $11.325 million

Aroldis Chapman
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees and closer Aroldis Chapman have avoided arbitration, settling on an $11.325 million salary for the 2016 season. It is the lefty’s third and final year of arbitration eligibility.

Chapman had filed for $13 million while the Yankees countered at $9 million, so he gets slightly more than the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

With the Reds this past season, Chapman posted a 1.63 ERA with 33 saves and a 116/33 K/BB ratio over 66 1/3 innings. The Reds have opted to rebuild, so they traded him to the Yankees this offseason in exchange for four minor leaguers. Chapman, who turns 28 at the end of February, will make for a fearsome 1-2-3 punch in the back of the Yankees’ bullpen along with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.

Indians sign reliever Tommy Hunter to $2 million deal

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter throws to the Miami Marlins during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Miami, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
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Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that right-hander Tommy Hunter has agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract with the Indians. It’s a major-league deal, so Hunter gets a spot on the 40-man roster and will be in the Opening Day bullpen if he’s fully recovered from core muscle surgery.

Hunter split last season between the Orioles and Cubs, totaling 60 innings with a 4.18 ERA and 47/14 K/BB ratio. He had a sub-3.00 ERA in both 2013 and 2014, and has generally been a setup-caliber reliever since shifting to the bullpen full time.

He has good control and a mid-90s fastball, but Hunter has never missed many bats despite the big-time velocity and often struggles to keep the ball in the ballpark. He’ll likely fill a middle relief role in Cleveland initially.