Adjusted swing demands Jeter's patience
Progress slow but steady as captain tweaks mechanics
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Derek Jeter still thinks about his adjusted stride when he steps into the batter's box, which is a good indication that the changes haven't completely set in yet.
Working with hitting coach Kevin Long to take back the inside part of the plate and avoid chopping pitches into the dirt, Jeter hasn't enjoyed terrific spring returns -- a grounded single on Monday and a smattering of other choppers in six at-bats. But it is early.
"It takes a while," Jeter said. "[Saturday] was the first time I've seen pitching with it. It's going to take a while to get comfortable. You have more time, because there's no stride. Now, you've just got to figure out when to swing."
The alterations are a continuation of an edit Jeter started in Texas last Sept. 11, when the captain rested with a .260 batting average and submitted his swing to Long for analysis, saying it had become "necessary" to switch things up.
Long suggested that Jeter eliminate the stride completely, and Jeter responded by hitting in 18 of the Yankees' last 19 games, batting .342 (27-for-79). Jeter said he can't estimate when he'll be able to feel completely comfortable with the new stance.
"You hope that it becomes second nature so you don't have to think about it," Jeter said. "The good thing is, my foot hasn't been moving. That's a step in the right direction, I guess. This is a first for me, so if I gave you a time frame, I'd just be guessing."
CC pleased with command early in spring
LAKELAND, Fla. -- CC Sabathia chuckled after being reminded of the poor spring start he turned in two years ago at Joker Marchant Stadium, where the Tigers knocked the left-hander out in a five-run second inning.
That aborted start -- which included, as Sabathia correctly recalled, a two-run homer by Gary Sheffield -- may have caused minor panic back in New York, but there was nothing to worry about on Monday, as the ace hurled two scoreless innings in his spring debut.
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Not that Sabathia is too worried about his Grapefruit League results, now 25 pounds lighter and hoping to build on a career-high 21 wins last year.
"Over the years, I would stress out and worry about it if I gave up runs," Sabathia said. "Now, I'm just trying to get my work in and make sure my pitches are doing what they're supposed to do, and just go from there. As you get older, you learn how to do those things."
The 30-year-old Sabathia limited Detroit to two hits -- a Magglio Ordonez single and a Jhonny Peralta double -- over his two frames, walking none and striking out two.
"I'm pleased," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He just went out and did his business. It's kind of what we expect from CC."
Sabathia was happy with his fastball command and said he can now begin working on getting pitches in to right-handed batters.
"Usually, it takes me a while to get it," Sabathia said. "I'm [usually] cutting balls, up and away. But to have it this early is good."
Sabathia's offseason diet and exercise regimen helped him drop to his listed weight of 290 pounds, taking pressure off his surgically repaired right knee. Sabathia said that he has not felt any issues this spring.
"Throwing off the mound and throwing batting practice, I had no problems, so I knew it was going to be all right," Sabathia said.
Banuelos looking to stay on fast track
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Manny Banuelos may well be ticketed to begin the season at Double-A Trenton, as the Yankees have promised. But that doesn't mean the young left-hander can't try to change the team's mind.
Banuelos, who will turn 20 next month, was excellent in his spring debut on Monday, firing a perfect fourth inning that included freezing a pair of Tigers big leaguers -- Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Inge -- on sharp curveballs for called third strikes.
"It felt great," Banuelos said. "I'm really excited because I feel I did a great job. That's what they want, right? And I did it."
Signed by scout Lee Sigman out of Mexico in the same batch of transactions that brought the Yankees right-hander Alfredo Aceves, Banuelos has size that's deceptive to hitters. The 5-foot-10 southpaw also showcased a sneaky fastball and a good changeup.
"He threw the ball well," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "It looks like he's got great stuff. It's tough to tell in spring, because I think it takes time for both pitchers and hitters to be ready. At this point, I think the pitchers are probably way ahead of hitters, unless they're coming off winter league. But he's got great stuff."
Banuelos said that he felt "a little bit nervous" coming into the game but otherwise felt normal. He got Victor Martinez to ground out on a changeup and was most proud of his curveball, which he has been trying to improve.
"I know those are great hitters," Banuelos said. "Now I know I can pitch in the big leagues."
Banuelos pitched at three levels of New York's system last year, going 0-3 with a 2.23 ERA in 10 starts at Class A Tampa, where he struck out 62 and walked 14 in 44 1/3 innings. He also made three starts at Double-A Trenton, where the Yankees want him to begin this season.
"I've heard that," Banuelos said. "If they want to send me to Trenton, it's OK. I just want to try to move up quickly."
Prior's first step modest but satisfying
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Mark Prior sensed those same familiar nerves on Monday morning, the same way he used to when he'd roll out of bed knowing the Cubs needed him to strike out double digits that night.
No one feels more removed from those dominant days than Prior, but as he attempts to roll back the clock and latch on in the Yankees' bullpen, any flashbacks will be welcome occurrences this spring.
Prior made his Grapefruit League debut for New York on Monday, hurling a scoreless, hitless fifth inning that included a strikeout of Alex Avila on a darting split-fingered fastball in the dirt.
"I came into camp feeling confident with the way I was throwing the ball, knowing that there are still a lot of things I have to learn, re-learn, re-acclimate myself to," said Prior, who has not pitched in the Major Leagues since 2006.
"I understand where [the Yankees] are as a ballclub, but I also understand what I can do. For me, it's health. If I stay healthy, I know I can still compete at this level."
Prior said he is still getting used to the process of pitching in relief, although he needs only about 10-20 pitches to warm up. The key for him is being able to locate at least one secondary pitch -- on Monday, it was the split-finger, as he said his breaking ball was "terrible."
That usually comes with throwing to hitters and finding a release point, Prior said, so he isn't concerned. Prior said that he sees the long-shot nature of his bid and that he is prepared to go to the Minor Leagues if he isn't able to break camp with the Yankees.
"I understand what I signed up for," Prior said. "I understand my situation. I know I haven't really pitched since 2005. I pitched in 2006, but it wasn't really pitching. It was surviving -- or trying to. If you go out and throw one inning, it's not going to make or break what they see."
Yankees outfielder Greg Golson was hit in the helmet by an A.J. Burnett pitch during batting practice on Sunday and was excused from workouts on Monday. Manager Joe Girardi said Golson should resume workouts on Tuesday and could play on Wednesday at the earliest. ... Catcher Russell Martin said he feels only a little tightness remaining in his right knee when he runs and is on schedule to catch on Thursday or Friday. He went 0-for-1 with two walks as a designated hitter on Monday. ... Jorge Vazquez stroked two more hits on Monday, a single and a double. He has also homered twice and has yet to make an out this spring.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.