TAMPA, Fla. — About eight hours before his New York Yankees — a team he was practically born into rooting for — played their fourth game of spring training, Russell Wilson was already inside the complex at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday morning, working out.
It was an early sign of his eagerness to play a part in the storied franchise’s latest chapter.
“He’s almost giddy. You can tell this is like the first day of school,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “You can tell he’s genuinely excited to be here and to just be a part of our guys.”
Wilson, the Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, isn’t only “a part” of the Yankees. He’s their newest second baseman, traded for earlier this month. He isn’t going to play in any games during his six-day stay, nor will he make the 25-man roster in the near future. But the Yankees still hope his presence will have an impact on this year’s team.
Read on as ESPN spent a day in the spring training life of the quarterback-turned-part-time-second-baseman:
11 a.m. ET
Aaron Judge and Russell Wilson hit consecutively today, and both put on a show. Unofficially, Judge had 10 BP homers today. Wilson and his 31-ounce Louisville Slugger had five. Giancarlo Stanton paced the group with 15.
Not long after Wilson arrived to the Yankees’ facility, Boone gave him some rude news.
Although Wilson said it had been more than a year since he had taken batting practice, he was going to take BP on Monday with the Yankees’ modern-day embodiment of Murderer’s Row: Judge, Stanton, Sanchez, Bird.
Last year, in an injury-abbreviated season, Greg Bird had nine homers, but he figures to factor more heavily in the Yankees’ power numbers in 2018. Gary Sanchez had 33 home runs. And Giancarlo Stanton (59) and Aaron Judge (52) paced their respective leagues in homers last season, Stanton while he spent the year with the Miami Marlins in the National League.
Boone’s announcement of Wilson hitting with batting practice Group 2 included an ominous message: “You better be on it today. I’m throwing you with the big boys.”
“They better be ready.”
1:00 p.m. ET
Here’s a first look at Russell Wilson in pinstripes as a member of the New York Yankees.
One of the most important people in Wilson’s life, his father Harrison Wilson III, was a big Yankees fan before his death from complications to diabetes in 2010.
When the multi-sport playing Russell Wilson was growing up, he and his dad and his great-uncle often spoke about him one day donning the Yankees’ unmistakable pinstripes.
“I love watching winners win,” Russell Wilson said of the 27-time World Series champion Yankees. “Loved seeing the process of why they won. The discipline it took. The passion of the fans. The energy they played with. The poise that they played with. Guys like Andy Pettitte. Guys like Derek Jeter and [Jorge] Posada.
“My great-uncle wears his Yankee hat every single day. He was a lawyer in New York for a long, long time. But he wears a Yankee hat every day, no matter where he goes. He comes to a Seahawks game, he’s wearing a Yankees hat.”
With his own new Yankees hat freshly atop his head, Russell Wilson’s day began on a backfield, where he got his arm loose before fielding a few ground balls.
1:22 p.m. ET
Russell Wilson told new Yankees teammate Didi Gregorius that it had been a year and a half since he was taking ground balls. “I told him it does not look like it,” Gregorius said. “He did not look rusty at all.”
As Wilson took grounders from second base, he teamed up with Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius to form a double-play tandem. While practicing together, they worked on pivots around second base, with Wilson looking more comfortable as the drills progressed.
One turn featured Gregorius feeding Wilson a quick toss, which the second baseman promptly and smoothly proceeded to catch with his bare hand before firing across to first base.
Ever the athlete on the football field, Wilson regularly displayed in these drills the type of twinkle-toed agility around the bag that has made him one of the more noted mobile quarterbacks in the NFL. After the fielding session ended, infield instructor and Yankees major league quality control coach Carlos Mendoza dropped the bat he had used to hit Wilson grounders and clapped, applauding his efforts.
“Some people always, for me, get confused on ‘is this just a stunt’ or whatever. They don’t know me. If you really know me, baseball’s been part of my blood,” Wilson said. “When you see me make plays on the football field, a lot of that’s a direct correlation to baseball.”
Gregorius didn’t think it looked like it had been a year and a half since Wilson took ground balls.
2:10 p.m. ET
Russell Wilson on the uniform number he’s wearing this week at Yankees’ spring training: “I tried to get No. 3 but I think somebody had it already (laughs). … So I’m wearing No. 73. Number 7 was my baseball number in high school.”
News conferences are a regular part of an NFL quarterback’s job, and Wilson handled his first appearance before the New York media horde like an experienced vet.
In fact, he didn’t show the slightest set of nerves before making his way over to the large news conference space affectionately known as “The Tent” at Steinbrenner Field. Between his infield session and the news conference, he was sitting inside the Yankees’ clubhouse joking with teammates who sat nearby.
Locker neighbor Tyler Austin shared laughs with Wilson, as did other players who dropped by the area to meet the four-time Pro Bowler.
Following the laugh session, Wilson spent more than 20 minutes with reporters before his day got into full stride. It was time for stretching, in-stadium infield drills and the major spectacle of the day: batting practice.
3:26 p.m. ET
Russell Wilson got a nice assist from Gary Sanchez on a full-team, infield in drill. Short-hopped the throw home.
Before Wilson ducked into the Yankees’ home dugout to grab a black, 31-ounce Louisville Slugger that had his name branded into it in silver, he grabbed his black fielding glove and jogged over from the outfield stretching area to second base. There, he proceeded to toss a baseball around the horn with his fellow infielders as defensive workouts commenced.
Wilson’s only real fielding blemish of the day came during an infield-in drill, which forced infielders to take ground balls near the lip of the grass and throw home to get an imaginary baserunner out. One of Wilson’s throws came in a little low and short-hopped Sanchez, who was catching.
Sanchez, whose defense drew former Yankees manager Joe Girardi’s ire at times last season, fielded the short hop cleanly and completed the play. Perhaps the fake baserunner would have been out.
3:56 p.m. ET
Here’s Russell Wilson taking batting practice. No home runs the first go-around but he was jacking it. Went yard a couple times his second time up.
The moment many at the ballpark had been awaiting finally arrived: Bird, Stanton, Judge, Wilson and Sanchez were in action. The concourses and walkways were buzzing, as fans were being let into the ballpark to watch the action. The batter’s eye, scoreboards and outfield bleachers were about to get busy. But before they did, it was time for a little bunting practice.
As the Yankees typically do, non-hitting players in the batting group lined themselves along the first- and third-base lines as a hitter stepped into the batter’s box to drop down two bunts. It’s custom for the non-hitting players to carry their bats out with them, with the sole purpose of slashing the bouncing ball to each other. That’s just some of their pre-hitting bonding and fun.
It appeared Wilson, the new guy, didn’t know the ritual at first. When the first slashed ball came his way, he tried to catch it with his hand, drawing a couple of laughs from teammates.
After bunting practice, the real show began.
One of Judge’s early home runs not only left the field, it flew over the tall batter’s eye beyond the center-field wall. Like at Yankee Stadium, the center-field fence here is 408 feet from home plate. Unofficially, Judge hit 10 homers, while Stanton paced the group with 15. Bird and Sanchez had eight and five, respectively.
While Wilson’s first round of batting practice didn’t produce any home runs, his latter two did. Each of Wilson’s unofficial six blasts were hit to left field, although he did have one impressive early drive to right that made it to the warning track.
Right after a Wilson home run that banged off the bottom of the scoreboard in left field, Judge, who was standing to the left of the cage, shook his head, smiled and said, “He’s been taking BP.”
4:12 p.m. ET
Russell Wilson had a special cheering squad here to see him for his first day with the Yankees. They even videotaped a special message to send to their mother, Ciara, who couldn’t be here today.
Wilson’s day in the cage was over. The dream of putting on the pinstripes had become a reality. For another five days, he’ll be the envy of other lifelong Yankees fans who have wondered how they might feel inside the ‘stripes while playing alongside up-and-coming team legends.
Following his rounds of hitting, Wilson addressed reporters briefly again before scouring the area around the dugout for his daughter Sienna, and wife Ciara’s son, Future Zahir Wilburn. Although Wilson wouldn’t be taking the field, there was a game to play Monday night in Tampa.
What began for Wilson more than 29 years ago as a family obsession with the Yankees, will continue.
Braves rip ’embarrassing call at home plate that keyed Phillies’ win
Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm slid home with the eventual winning run as Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud attempted to apply the tag, moving from the third base side of the plate to the first base side where Bohm was coming in.
Home plate umpire Lance Barrett called Bohm safe though replays showed he may never have touched home plate. After a long delay for the video challenge, the ruling on the field was upheld.
“In real time it’s bang, bang,” Braves starter Drew Smyly said after the game. “We have five different angles on a national televised game, and it’s clear that his foot didn’t touch the plate. That it was on the chalk. For MLB not to overturn that, it’s embarrassing. Why even have replay if you won’t overturn that?”
The official ruling from MLB stated the replay official “could not definitively determine that the runner failed to touch home plate prior to the fielder applying the tag.”
“Initially, I didn’t know if he was safe or out but after watching the replay it looked like his foot didn’t touch the bag, from any angle we saw,” d’Arnaud said. “I thought he was clearly out at the plate.”
The inning began with the teams tied, 6-6. After Bohm led off with a double, Jean Segura hit a ground ball to second, allowing Bohm to reach third base. Lefty Didi Gregorious then hit a shallow fly ball to left field off of Braves reliever Will Smith. Braves left fielder Marcell Ozuna camped under it then threw a two-hopper to the plate, slightly to the third base side. D’Arnaud caught the ball and then slid over towards first to tag Bohm as his left foot got to the plate.
Bohm was asked if he thought he was safe after the game. “I was called safe,” he said. “That’s all that matters.”
Phillies manager Joe Girardi added: “We felt like we had a chance [to score on the fly ball]. It was a narrow one and it was by the skin of the big toe that we scored. It looked like his big toe kind of hit the corner of the plate when we saw all the angles.”
The Braves adamantly disagreed.
“It makes me not even want [replay] anymore,” d’Arnaud said. “It just slows the game down. To me, they got it wrong. I just rather not have it and get the game going.”
Braves manager Brian Snitker said he didn’t get a good explanation from the umpires after the call while d’Arnaud stated the replay official in New York should be the one being interviewed. After the Braves lost the challenge, the downsized crowd at Truist Park got angry, throwing garbage onto the field, prompting a scolding from Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson.
“I love our city,” Swanson said. “I love our fans. They’re passionate. They care. But what happened after they announced that call is the most embarrassing part of the whole night.
“The throwing of things on the field, it’s disrespectful to the people who put in so much work to have the field ready for us every day. …It’s an embarrassing representation of our city. The worst part of it is I don’t think people realize we have families here. There are kids that are sitting in the front row and you have bottles whizzing by their heads. Endangering kids that may not be able to protect themselves is downright embarrassing and shouldn’t happen again.”
The controversy overshadowed another good game by Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. He had three hits, including an infield single he beat out on a routine ground ball to short in the first inning. Later, he homered to tie the game, 6-6.
In all, Acuna had nine hits in the three-game series, most for him over a 3-game span in his young career. But it won’t get the headlines as the replay challenge took center stage in an early season battle between division foes.
“They said there wasn’t enough evidence but there were five different angles,” an incredulous Smyly declared. “It’s clear. He didn’t touch the plate.”
Boston Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez on a mission to leave 2020’s struggles behind
J.D. Martinez suffered through a miserable 2020 season. He hit .213. He ranked 129th out of 142 qualified hitters in weighted on-base average (wOBA). He finished with more strikeouts than hits. It was a shocking season for a hitter who ranked second in the majors in wOBA from 2017 to 2019, behind only Mike Trout.
He also made one thing clear in spring training: “I’m kind of tired of being judged on two months,” he told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford late in March.
Martinez is making an early statement in 2021. He hit three home runs in Sunday’s 14-9 win for the Boston Red Sox over the Baltimore Orioles and has started the season with extra-base hits in all eight games he’s played — including seven doubles and five home runs. Martinez is the hottest hitter on the planet. Oh, and after Red Sox Nation and pundits were ready to bury the Red Sox after an 0-3 start in which the Orioles outscored them 18-5, Boston has won six in a row.
“He’s on a mission to prove people wrong,” manager Alex Cora said after Sunday’s win. “It was only 60 games. He was one month away from getting his numbers right and now he’s locked in and I’m glad he’s swinging the bat the way he is.”
Against the Orioles on Sunday, his three home runs came off three different pitchers:
• Third inning: 1-2 knuckle-curve from Jorge Lopez, 372 feet to right field (105.2 exit velo)
• Sixth inning: 1-2 curveball from Mac Sceroler, 382 feet to right-center (102.4 exit velo)
• Eighth inning: 0-2 changeup from Tyler Wells, 430 feet to center field (105.7 exit velo)
Granted, that trio of pitchers isn’t exactly headed to the 2021 All-Star Game. I hadn’t even heard of Sceroler and Wells until now, as Sceroler was making just his second major league appearance and Wells his fourth. Still, all three home runs came with two strikes, a good sign considering Martinez hit .171 with two strikes a year ago.
From the cool factoid department, Martinez also became the fifth player to hit three home runs in a game with three different teams:
• Martinez (Tigers, Diamondbacks, Red Sox)
• Mark Teixeira (Rangers, Braves, Yankees)
• Alex Rodriguez (Mariners, Rangers, Yankees)
• Dave Kingman (Mets, Cubs, A’s)
• Johnny Mize (Cardinals, Giants, Yankees)
Martinez’s eight straight games with an extra-base hit to start a season ties the major league record held by Alex Rodriguez (2007) and Sandy Alomar Jr. (1997). It’s the volume of extra-base hits that is so impressive, however, as Martinez is hitting .472/.500/1.083:
Most extra-base hits in player’s 1st 8 games played in a season (since at least 1906):
2021 J.D. Martinez: 12
1994 Dante Bichette: 12
2006 Chris Shelton: 11
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) April 11, 2021
OK, the Chris Shelton reference is a reminder that not all hot starts are going to last, but Martinez has that long track record of being one of the best hitters in the game — and now he has his beloved in-game video back to study.
That was offered as one reason for Martinez’s struggles in 2020, when in-game video was disallowed under the guise of pandemic protocols. He also had an ankle issue he played through that may have affected his swing. Whatever the reason, he admitted his troubles were self-inflicted.
“I think I’ve got a little bit of a chip on my shoulder,” Martinez said when he reported to spring training in February. “I’ve always played with that, I’ve always played with that chip, having to prove people wrong my whole career. It kind of might have went away a little bit, but I think I’ve got it back a little bit now.”
Martinez struggled most of spring training, however, leading to concerns that maybe he had just lost his swing overnight. Still, he’s just 33, so it seemed a little early for that to happen. Cora pointed out Martinez finally got going late in camp, especially driving the ball to right field – like he did on Sunday. Cora sent another message to Martinez in spring training, playing him quite a bit in the outfield instead of just using him as the designated hitter. While Martinez has started just one game in the outfield so far, it was perhaps a signal from Cora to remind Martinez to stay in shape.
Still, it’s hard not to ignore the psychological comfort of being able go into the dugout or clubhouse between at-bats to check the iPad. Few hitters in the game study their swing as studiously as Martinez — remember, he completely reconstructed his swing earlier in his career and was in the middle of that process when the Astros released him in spring training of 2014. Martinez signed with Detroit and has since had four 36-homer seasons, five .300 seasons and four 100-RBI seasons. And one big chip on his shoulder.
As for the Red Sox, their six-game win streak includes two extra-inning wins (12 innings over the Rays and 10 innings over the Orioles on Saturday) and they’ve hit a robust .332 with 53 runs those six games. Rafael Devers has homered in three straight games, Xander Bogaerts is hitting .375 and Christian Vazquez is off to a hot start. For this Red Sox lineup to click like it has in past seasons, though, it needs Martinez to thump.
What remains to be seen is how good the pitching will be. Playing six of nine games against the Orioles doesn’t really tell us much. This week’s series against the Twins and White Sox will be a much tougher test. Nick Pivetta, who won Sunday’s game with four runs over six innings, is a key member in the rotation. For now, the Red Sox are in first place – it’s early, of course, but that’s a much better place to be after starting 3-9 and 6-13 in 2019 (and never really recovering) and then 6-18 in 2020.
Philadelphia Phillies reliever Archie Bradley on IL with oblique injury
Bradley, 28, revealed the injury to Phillies brass after giving up a run on two hits in Saturday’s loss to the Atlanta Braves.
“It’s not something I can pinpoint,” Bradley said on Sunday afternoon. “It wasn’t one particular act that I felt it on.”
Bradley was a major offseason addition to the Phillies’ bullpen, which had a historically bad season in 2020. He gave up runs in two of his four appearances this year before heading to the injured list.
This is Bradley’s first experience with an oblique ailment, which can take considerable time to heal, depending on the severity. The righty wasn’t sure on a timetable for his return.
“It’s not something I felt doing baseball activities,” Bradley said. “Honestly, I don’t know where it came from.”
The Phillies recalled lefty JoJo Romero from the alternate site to take Bradley’s place on the roster. Romero was a late cut from spring training but is now needed just over a week into the season.
“He’s throwing the ball pretty well,” manager Joe Girardi said of Romero.
Cricket7 days ago
County Championship 2021 – Wayne Parnell to miss Northants season opener after quarantine extended by NHS system
MLB6 days ago
Boston Red Sox ‘push the envelope’ with Marathon-inspired blue-yellow uniforms
Golf1 day ago
Masters suspended: Thunderstorms force golf major to be stopped in third round
MLB5 days ago
Washington Nationals put 10 on IL ahead of COVID-delayed season opener
NFL5 days ago
Two women who filed lawsuits vs. Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson alleging sexual misconduct speak out
MLB7 days ago
From drawing to coffee to jigsaw puzzles — What MLB players picked up with so much free time
MLB6 days ago
Fernando Tatis Jr. leaves San Diego Padres game with undisclosed injury
NFL2 days ago
DMX tributes pour in from LeBron James and others in the sports world