Notes: No lack of effort from Ensberg
Veteran infielder dedicated despite abundance of competitors
TAMPA, Fla. -- Morgan Ensberg has had a lot of adjusting to do over the past year. New team. New expectations. New position. So far, he's taking it all in stride.
"I don't think that the woulda, coulda, shouldas are very productive," Ensberg said. "I just continue to try to do right now. Past is past."
It's a past that could've been a bit more favorable to the 32-year-old Ensberg. A combination of an off year in 2007 -- he hit just .232 in 85 games with the Astros -- and the steady performance of Mike Lamb, who hit .299 (207-for-692) during the past two years combined, sent Ensberg to San Diego in the final hours before last year's non-waiver trade deadline.
The Padres, in turn, released Ensberg after the season, whereupon he shopped around for a bit, before inking a Minor League contract with the Yankees.
"I had quite a few other teams where my position was much more secure, where I could play third every day," admitted Ensberg. "When I really sat down and looked at where I felt my best opportunity was, I felt that the Yankees were the team. It had everything to do with the lineup, and also the opportunity that was presented."
There was one small catch, though: Eleven-time All-Star Alex Rodriguez is already holding down the hot corner, so Ensberg is forced to find another spot to call home.
Nowadays, Ensberg is putting in extra work to better familiarize himself, having landed with New York after spending all but three of his 621 career big league games at third base. To date, he has anchored first in only one game, as a member of the Padres last season.
Among the things Ensberg is focused on is how to read the ball's spin off the bat. Ensberg readily admits he has spent a lot of time on the sidelines intently tracking infield hits during batting practice, then putting his new knowledge to work while taking grounders.
"I'm really just concentrating on working my tail off right now -- going at it 100 percent, taking very small steps and keeping my thinking very short term," Ensberg said.
Ensberg still has a long road ahead of him, as strong first-base contenders already include veteran Jason Giambi, promising slugger Shelley Duncan and Wilson Betemit. Ensberg had offers from other teams, so why put himself in pinstripes knowing the uphill battle he would face?
At 32, he's certainly not considered a newbie anymore.
"I absolutely love competition," Ensberg said. "I think it makes you better. I think it makes you sharper. I think I'm a much better player when dealing with competition."
Captain speaks out: Derek Jeter must have nothing to hide. Jeter told Bloomberg News on Sunday that not only is he not against conducting blood tests on players for banned substances, he doesn't think it's any invasion of a player's privacy, either.
"You can test for whatever you want to test for," the shortstop said. "We get pricked by needles anyway in Spring Training, so we have a lot of blood work to begin with."
Armed and dangerous: Yankees manager Joe Girardi knew that LaTroy Hawkins had evolved into a solid ground-ball pitcher before Hawkins landed in New York, but that didn't stop Girardi from lavishing praise on the 35-year-old righty after Sunday's workouts.
"The thing that I'm seeing in all of [Hawkins'] bullpens is that everything is down. He's a versatile guy because he is a ground-ball pitcher," Girardi said. "Obviously, you love having guys that have the ability to strike hitters out in the back end, but sometimes, you need that double-play man. Trying to get two with one pitch can be very important."
Also earning mention were right-handers Jonathan Albaladejo, Steven White, Daniel McCutchen and Mark Melancon.
Rotation, rotation: The Yankees' pitching lineup has been finalized for the first two games. Wednesday's seven-inning intrasquad matchup will showcase Mike Mussina, Darrell Rasner, McCutchen, Albaladejo and Melancon against Jeff Karstens, Steven Jackson, Scott Patterson, Billy Traber and Ross Ohlendorf.
Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes, Kei Igawa, Jeffrey Marquez, Alan Horne and Scott Strickland will toe the slab during Thursday's nine-inning game.
Great impressions: One of the pitchers prompting Girardi to take notice early in camp has been Melancon, a right-handed reliever coming off Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
Melancon, who turns 23 on Monday, said that his right arm now feels "as good as it ever has" in his short career, which could bode well for his future progression.
A ninth-round pick of the Yankees in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, the former University of Arizona closer missed the entire 2007 season after meeting with noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews the previous October. He is primed to rebound pain-free and resume lighting up radar guns with a power fastball, curveball and developing changeup.
"For the first couple of weeks, you look ahead and a year turns into a long time," Melancon said. "After you get off the initial shock of surgery, you just take it day by day. Before you know it, you're seven months through and you're pitching on a mound again. It went a lot faster than it sounds like it."
Melancon said that his initial meetings with Andrews left the impression that he would not need surgery, but Melancon insisted that he would not complain about his arm unless it hurt. Andrews ordered additional MRIs, and after reviewing later images, he told Melancon that his pitching arm "looked like mush."
"I didn't know what was really going on, so when I found out I needed surgery, it was kind of a good thing," Melancon said. "I knew it was fixable, and with Dr. Andrews doing it, I knew I could trust him and it would be done right."
Bombers bits: Pitchers faced something different from the everyday bullpen session on Sunday, as Girardi had them throw 20 pitches, sit for seven minutes and toss another 20 in order to help better simulate an actual inning. ... Workouts began just before noon ET, Girardi said, to allow the players extra time with their families. ... The Yankees will likely break camp with 12 pitchers because of the strenuous first month of play. New York will open the season on March 31 against Toronto, take off April 1, then play its next 20 games without a break. ... Girardi said the Yankees plan to use the designated hitter as much as possible during Spring Training, which depends on which opponents will agree to use it as well.
Dawn Klemish is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.