Yankees fond of young Williams' desire
High-energy outfield prospect proud to play before family
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Yankees outfield prospect Mason Williams brought a devoted cheering section to the stands at Ed Smith Stadium on Sunday, and he seems to have acquired a fan in the dugout as well.
The 20-year-old Williams -- rated the Yankees' fourth-best prospect by MLB.com -- joined New York's travel squad for its 6-3 loss to the Orioles, entering as a pinch-runner and logging a single in his only at-bat. He also showed aggressiveness, attempting to steal second base after manager Joe Girardi gave him a green light.
"It was good to see our young kids get in, to see Mason get a hit," Girardi said. "His family was here, and it's always a special time, even your first big league Spring Training game. I was happy to see him try to steal. He showed me he doesn't have fear and he has a plan. I was pleased with what I saw."
Williams was a fourth-round pick of the Yankees in 2010 out of West Orange High School in Winter Garden, Fla., and said he had about 10 friends and family members make the trip to Sarasota to witness his first Major League spring game.
"It felt great, definitely, to play with the guys that wear this Yankees uniform every single day," Williams said. "To take part in that was an awesome experience."
Williams entered as a sixth-inning pinch-runner for Mark Teixeira and took off on lefty Troy Patton but was gunned down at second base by Orioles catcher Matt Wieters. He added a bloop single to left off Robert Hinton in the eighth inning.
"I'll remember that until the last day," Williams said. "It was an awesome experience, and I was smiling when I was on the bases. I was smiling a lot."
Williams was a standout in the New York-Penn League last year, batting .349 (94-for-269) with 11 doubles, six triples, three homers and 31 RBIs in 68 games for Class A Staten Island. He stole 28 bases in 40 attempts and is expected to begin the season at Class A Charleston.
"This makes me more hungry," Williams said. "The adrenaline doesn't stop here. It keeps going to tomorrow. I want to come back here, and I want to play as hard as I can and hopefully make an impact."
Shaky Nova cites communication lapse
SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles had a four-spot on the scoreboard by the time Ivan Nova finally got back to the dugout on Sunday, and the Yankees right-hander said that he and catcher Gustavo Molina had issues to work out.
"I think I had all I needed today, we just had bad communication in the first inning," Nova said. "That affected my game too much, but I feel really good today."
Nova served up a three-run homer to Baltimore's Adam Jones and a solo blast to Matt Wieters in the first inning, both drives coming after Nova went with Molina's suggestions -- pitches in which the right-hander had less than 100 percent conviction.
"We threw a couple bad pitches, like the curveball for a homer and the slider for the other homer," Nova said. "In that situation, you have to move the hitter, and we didn't do it. Sometimes, you want to throw that pitch and he doesn't call that pitch. You start shaking and you get out of what you want to do. I think that happened out there."
Nova settled in to complete four innings, allowing five runs on seven hits while walking none and striking out four. Manager Joe Girardi said that the communication issues could be expected from a young pitcher and a catcher who hasn't worked with him, but the manager still seemed less than enthused by Nova's explanation.
"You have to take charge and get on the same page," Girardi said. "That's the bottom line. He's the guy with the ball, always."
Pain-free Robertson may pitch within week
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Yankees right-hander David Robertson reported no pain after a bullpen session on Sunday and hopes to pitch in a Grapefruit League game within a week.
Robertson suffered a bone bruise on his right foot after missing a step while going down the stairs on March 7. He said that he should still be able to make two or three outings this spring to be ready for Opening Day.
"It's a huge relief, believe me," Robertson said. "I'm still thankful I didn't break my foot. It was a stupid accident; it's embarrassing."
With the Yankees off Monday, Robertson's next assignment should be another bullpen session on Tuesday, the same day that Andy Pettitte is scheduled to arrive in camp for his bullpen session.
"I'm curious to see how [Robertson] feels Tuesday, because it's different from running; it's different from playing catch," manager Joe Girardi said. "But it is good that he's making the right steps."
Yankees all but rule out six-man rotation
SARASOTA, Fla. -- What would the Yankees do if Andy Pettitte is ready to pitch in the Major Leagues, perhaps around the month of May, and there were no issues with the club's starting rotation?
One thing is certain: They won't go to a six-man rotation to accommodate the 39-year-old left-hander, manager Joe Girardi said on Sunday.
"I should not say never, but no, no, no," Girardi said.
Pettitte will arrive in camp on Tuesday to throw his first bullpen session and figures to need a full seven weeks to get into big league game shape. Girardi said that the Yankees want to make sure Pettitte's lower half is strong and won't rush him, but it is envisioned that Pettitte will take a rotation spot when ready.
"That's something we all have to talk about, but we didn't sign him for him not to pitch here," Girardi said. "We signed him because we thought he could really help us, but you have to evaluate everything as it moves forward."
Derek Jeter (left calf), Russell Martin (groin) and Nick Swisher (groin) are all scheduled to return to action on Tuesday against the Pirates in a 7:05 p.m. ET contest at Tampa, Fla., that will air on MLB.TV. However, Jeter has been told that if he isn't ready to play on Tuesday, Girardi will hold him out until Friday to save Jeter long bus trips to Port Charlotte, Fla., and Fort Myers, Fla.
The Yankees had originally planned to have Hiroki Kuroda face the Twins in a split-squad game on Friday, with Ivan Nova pitching against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., but Girardi is reconsidering. He said that because the Twins are likely unfamiliar with Kuroda and might face them during the season, there is no need to give Minnesota a free look in the spring.
Raul Ibanez went 0-for-3 on Sunday and is 2-for-31 (.065) this spring, but he isn't worried about his struggles. Ibanez said that he is working on his mechanics with hitting coach Kevin Long and believes he is on the cusp of a breakthrough.
"I'm caught up in the feeling, being able to execute a swing and repeat it, to take a good feeling into the season," Ibanez said. "That's what I'm really focused on. Kevin and I are going to keep working on those things, and hopefully it is going to pay dividends down the road."