TAMPA — Considering that Jason Varitek(notes) was about the only Red Sox player of known repute to make the travel squad's journey Friday night, Hollywood's Richard Gere might have been the visitor of most note at Steinbrenner Field.
That Richard Gere? The "Officer" and the "Gentleman"? "Mr. Goodbar," himself? Yup, though he curiously looks like John Denver at some angles. He's a big Yankees fan (if you didn't notice the cap) and was at the game to watch with his son and to throw out the first pitch. He did well, too, even giving himself a congratulatory arm pump after tossing a near-strike to Jorge Posada(notes).
Gere must have been wondering about the state of the club, though. The Yanks had just learned that backup catcher Francisco Cervelli(notes) would miss at least a month because of a fractured bone in his left foot. Good thing the Yanks have plenty of depth — particularly Jesus Montero and Austin Romine — after Russell Martin(notes). Manager Joe Girardi and GM Brian Cashman said it was one of the deeper positions in the organization.
That depth doesn't include Posada anymore, unless an emergency comes. Though he catches some ceremonial first pitches and bullpen sessions, Girardi wants him to DH and that's it.
Hey, Mr. Gere, what do you think about the pitching?
Unfortunately, he didn't want to do an interview — with me, anyway — though he was friendly and polite about declining.
"You know, I’m kind of, like, done with that now, you know?" Gere said.
Oh, I know.
He had just talked with "Yankees On Demand" (so check there, if you're dying for Gere content). He might have a quote or two on there about "Henry and Me" a new Yankees-themed movie in which Luis Guzman voices Lefty Gomez. Looks like a tearjerker, though.
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And so, the pitching. They have CC Sabathia(notes), Phil Hughes(notes), Rafael Soriano(notes), Mariano Rivera(notes) and a whole lot of mystery. Which brand of A.J. Burnett(notes) will show up and when? Is there a future for Joba Chamberlain(notes) in New York? Can they squeeze anything out of Bartolo Colon(notes) and "Sweaty" Freddy Garcia(notes)?
Colon pitched well Friday, Prior was OK and Gere had good movement on his cutter, but the most eye-opening performance came from left-hander Manuel Banuelos, who turns 20 years old in a week.
Banuelos, listed at 5-foot-10 and 155 pounds, showed stuff and poise. He also takes a good photo (right).
"We saw him do some good things tonight," Girardi said. "He threw a 2-0 curveball and a 1-0 changeup. Located his fastball. He did a lot of good things.
"From looking at him, where I'm standing, it doesn't look like he has any fear. He's aggressive. He's confident in his offspeed stuff that he can throw it behind in the count. He doesn't nibble. He goes right at hitters. ... From what I've seen, Manny has poise. You don't usually see almost-20-year-olds this far along at this stage."
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New York also has Mark Prior and Brian Anderson(notes) — the former White Sox outfielder — in camp to see what they can do. What an interesting time to be the new pitching coach in town, but they probably don't make them better than Larry Rothschild, so the Yankees are fortunate.
Over two outings coming into Sunday, Prior has three strikeouts and a walk in two innings.
"It's an ongoing process, so we'll continue to give him his opportunities," Rothschild said. "But it was great to see him out there again. "It's not just a one-outing thing now, it's coming back after a couple of days off. As we get into it, if things work out, we'll give him one day off in between appearances and see where it goes."
If the Yankees like what they see, Prior is likely to start the season at Triple-A. Even then, he would only be a one-inning guy. Prior might reclaim his baseball career, but he won't be able to get all of it back.
"No, he’s not going to start anymore," Rothschild said. "I think it's just too much on his arm."
Said Girardi: "He knows he's coming back from a long road. A lot of surgeries. He threw the ball OK."