Tonight is the closest we’ve been to “real baseball” since Spring Training. The Yanks will play the first of two consecutive intrasquad games under the lights at Yankee Stadium tonight. YES will have the broadcast both nights, beginning at 6 pm EDT. I’ve been pretty agnostic to all of this so far – I will need to see the season to believe it at this point – but I’m going to be honest: I am psyched for this. So is Gleyber:

Anyway, there will be actual baseball to discuss soon! That is pretty exciting. It all starts today, really, as it’s the first time we’ll see the Yankees in “action” since March. (Unless there’s rain, which, as I glance out the window now, seems incredibly likely.) I don’t really care that it’s even less meaningful than Spring Training matchups. Baseball is baseball. Here are the big things in Yankeeland from the past few days.

The Big Story: Schmidt vs. Happ

Via Lucas Apostoleris

Remember way back in Spring Training when Clarke Schmidt was all the rage? I was convinced that he was going to pull a Jordan Montgomery, surprise everyone, and win a spot in the rotation out of camp. He was certainly doing his part: in 7 innings, he allowed just 2 ER, struck out 8 guys, and walked 3. His quality of opponent was just below AAA level, per Baseball-Reference, but that’s worth taking with a grain of salt: Spring Training was barely underway. Bigger opportunities were coming.

More importantly, he’d started to develop some really nice stuff. His curve in particular (see above) was turning heads. So, when the Yankees announced that Schmidt would be starting the first intrasquad game against J.A. Happ, I definitely noticed. Schmidt is clearly still in the conversation even after all of this time. (For more on that, see Derek’s breakdown from earlier today.)

Here are two additional items worth keeping in mind tonight:

  • It’s A Different Rotation: Back in March, James Paxton was on the shelf nursing a back injury. He’s now fully recovered and should be in the big league rotation come Opening Day, so that, in theory, means one fewer spot to win. But with Tanaka’s new injury (more below), that spot may be open again.

    Gerrit Cole, James Paxton, Jordan Montgomery, and Happ all figure to be a lock for the rotation out of Camp: Part II. That leaves one open spot for Schmidt to win, figuring he’ll be competing against Mike King and possibly Deivi Garcia for that final slot. (It also wouldn’t necessarily shock me to see a six-man rotation this year for many reasons, but we’ll get there when we get there.)
  • Every Game Matters: The big difference between now and Spring, though, is the added importance of each game. Look, I know April games always counted – and boy did I miss them this year – but it’s all taken on a different significance this year. A 60-game season means each game is that much more important. That means each start is more important, as there are fewer of them to go around. Obvious stuff. But how the Yanks divvy up those starts, especially at the beginning, will tell us a lot about how they feel about these guys. I wonder if they’re ready to give Schmidt regular starts in this new context. We’ll find out, I guess.

I’d talked myself into Schmidt in the spring – he certainly was looking ready – but that is ancient history now. It really is. It’ll be really interesting to see how things develop tonight.

The Big Story Pt. II: Tanaka’s Concussion

I’m sure we’ve all seen this by now, but man oh man was Tanaka absolutely drilled on Saturday. That is one of the scariest moments I can ever recall seeing on a diamond, honestly. (Watch at your own peril.) A few folks were saying that the team should have used L-screens, but I don’t think it would have even mattered in this case. It was also meant to be a live at-bat, clearly, which has to happen at some point.

In any event, nobody can react quickly enough to get out of the way. The ball left the bat at 112 mph. It was just one of those freak accidents that happen sometimes. Tanaka was taken to the hospital and released later that night, later saying that he “feels it a bit right now”:

He was subsequently diagnosed with a “mild concussion” (if such a thing exists), and entered into the league’s concussion protocol. Who knows if he’ll be ready for Opening Day in a few weeks. I have my doubts – head injuries are no joke, and even missing a few days of camp, which would be the bare minimum here, will have snowball effects for getting ready – but it is what it is. We’ll see how this develops.

What is more important is that Tanaka seems to be okay for now. He “came in around noon or 12:30 today and was in really good spirits — he got a good night’s sleep, no loss of appetite. I think all the signs are pointing that he really dodged the bullet there. We’re encouraged where he is, but we’ll take it day by day,” Aaron Boone said yesterday.

Leftovers

A bunch of stuff happened over the weekend. Here’s the most important leftover information not mentioned above:

  • Gary, Chapman Arrive: Camp is starting to fill out. Gary Sánchez and Aroldis Chapman both arrived yesterday, so we’re almost at full capacity.
  • Paxton Ready to Go: As I indicated above, Paxton is all good and ready to go. That’s good news, and hopefully Big Maple puts on a dominant season to position himself for some big bucks this offseason, when he’ll be a free agent. (Bryan Hoch)
  • Hicks is Healthy: Aaron Hicks also appears healthy and ready to play, which would make him the first player in MLB history to get Tommy John surgery and not miss a single game. It makes sense given Didi’s timeline last year, and it’s a real win for the Yankees. They’re much better with his patience at the plate and stellar defense in center. (Bryan Hoch)
  • COVID & the Yankees: DJ LeMahieu and Luis Cessa both tested positive for COVID over the weekend and are resting at home. (They never made it to the Bronx, obviously.) LeMahieu is asymptomatic while Cessa is feeling sick. Everyone in camp already tested negative, per Aaron Boone. (James Wagner)
  • Testing Issues: A number of MLB teams – the Angels, Astros, Athletics, and Nationals among them– have experienced issues with the new testing protocol. The Yankees, too, had their own issues. Mass testing at this scale was always going to be a massive logistical operation, and it’s definitely not a surprise that there are some kinks to iron out, but the league is going to need to figure this out sooner rather than later if a real season is going to happen.
  • Hair Policy: Former (and, in my eyes, forever) Yankee Andrew McCutchen spoke out against the Yankees’ archaic hair policy today. Preach on, Cutch. You’re right. The policy is dumb and outdated. It should change.

It feels good to be back, doesn’t it? As I said above, YES Network will have the broadcast tonight beginning at 6pm and first pitch at 7pm. Enjoy the “game”, everyone.

UPDATE (4:45 pm): Well, would you look at that. A lineup graphic! Check it out:

A few quick notes: 1) looks like Tyler Wade is getting a shot with the A-team, 2) Matt Duffy playing short sure is interesting, 3) this will help elevate the “quality” of Clarke Schmidt’s spring opposition, 4) I assume Clint is supposed to be in left field (not a second DH) and 5) Estevan Florial, emergency catcher. A real lineup! Imagine that.

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