Knicks’ Derrick Rose raves about ‘young energy’ elevating his game

New York Knicks, Derrick Rose

Ever since the New York Knicks acquired Derrick Rose, their offense has been a bit more efficient. Over eight games, Rose is averaging 11.8 points and played an influential role in the victory on Thursday evening against the Sacramento Kings.

The veteran point guard connected on his first six shots, finishing with 18 points and six assists, making both of his shots from three-point. Ultimately, his addition has only benefited the team, especially when it comes to his mentorship of Immanuel Quickley.

While Quickley has suffered through his fair share of rookie struggles, his offensive abilities are rejuvenating Knicks fans once again. In the victory over the Kings, he recorded 25 points and hit all 12 of his free throws. He provides a jolt whenever on the floor, playing 20 minutes compared to Rose’s 28.

Rose was asked about this young Knicks team, having played with them back in 2016 when he was 28 years old. Fast forward four years, and nobody on that squad is leftover with New York, with Frank Ntilikina being the closest having joined the squad in 2017.

Derrick remembers what it was like to carry a team on his back and ultimately ran him into the ground after three consecutive seasons of 20+ points per game. He was considered one of the best point guards in basketball, if not the best player in the league at one point. However, a torn ACL in 2012 significantly damaged his progress, but he has proven to still be an adequate player and influential option off the bench for New York. In fact, he started the game again Sacramento, providing plenty of spark on their team needed him most.

“I had the team on my back for numerous years. I went through all of that. Now, I have the luxury of playing with young energy. They bring more life to me whenever I’m on the floor.”

Adding a bit of veteran leadership to the team has done them well, especially since Rose and head coach Tom Thibodeau have a fantastic relationship. Unfortunately, players like Austin Rivers caught the short end of the stick, as Rose has completely replaced him based on his offensive prowess.

Yankees: Corey Kluber is not worried about loud contact allowed early on in batting practice

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

The New York Yankees’ top five in the rotation are set, with Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgomery, and Domingo German. However, the last four haven’t pitched much in the last couple of years because of injuries.

Kluber has been allowing loud contact early on in spring training’s live batting practice against his Yankees’ teammates, but according to the pitcher, there is nothing to worry: he is exactly where he needs to be.

Kluber tested his stuff for two innings of batting practice, and pitched to talented Yankees hitters such as Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres and Luke Voit.

“My goal is to hit the ground running on Opening Day,” Kluber said to MLB.com. “It’s no secret that I probably haven’t been at my best early on in the season previously in my career; not that I want to be OK with that. I’m always trying to tweak what I need to feel like it will have been better prepared from the get-go. Every game is important.”

The Yankees are giving him a pass

Voit homered off Kluber, and LeMahieu hit the ball really hard. But it’s still very early in the spring, and those are extremely talented hitters. Manager Aaron Boone is also willing to give Kluber a pass, and rightly so.

“I feel really good about his progress,” Boone said. “I thought he finished better than he started, and I think the stuff is overall pretty crisp. I’m encouraged where he’s at. We’re sitting here in February, and we’ve got essentially a stud pitcher ramping up for a season.”

Kluber was particularly impressed with Judge. “There’s not many people in the game as big or as strong,” the pitcher said. “It’s definitely a different look for a pitcher.”

The Yankees signed Kluber to a one-year, $11 million deal on January 27, as the right-hander, who has been brilliant when healthy, tries to re-establish his value and test the market after the 2021 World Series.

Yankees’ Gleyber Torres responds to GM Brian Cashman’s ‘out of shape’ comment

New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres

The New York Yankees are rolling into the 2021 season with Gleyber Torres as their expected starting shortstop, despite general manager Brian Cashman indicating that he is, in fact, a better second baseman. The Yankees retained DJ LeMahieu on a long-term deal, which will leave Torres at SS and LeMahieu 2B.

The question remains, can Torres be the long-term solution there or will they have to allocate resources during a flush-SS market in 2022. Best case scenario, Torres locks down the position and takes a massive defensive jump, which is entirely possible, considering how far Clint Frazier has come defensively in the outfield, it is not crazy to think that Torres can do the same.

The Yankees are expecting more out of Torres at SS:

Torres is confident he’s entering the 2021 season with a far better mindset and is physically prepared. He has flipped the page on the 2020 season, where he struggled offensively and failed to make routine plays at shortstop. While he does inflict damage with his bat, if he can’t hold down the most important defensive position in the infield, the Yankees will be in trouble moving forward.

“I didn’t feel like 100% when I went into the short season but the past is the past,” Torres said on a video call with reporters on Friday. “I’ve passed the page. I just prepare myself right now and I just try to get ready and just play and help my team.”

Torres also gave his reasoning for struggling last year, and it is justifiable given the circumstances of a reconstructed season and spring training that was cut significantly short.

“I didn’t feel well in the first half of the season because of covid and things like that, but after my injury I felt [good] and I fixed little things that I didn’t fix in the first half of the season,” Torres said.

Several months ago, Cashman told the YES Network that Gleyber “wasn’t in the best shape” once the revised season began.

“I think he can do both. I think he’s a better second baseman than shortstop,” Cashman said. “I think that he can play shortstop. I think that ultimately he struggled in the beginning of the pandemic 60-game season because after spring training one shut down into spring training two, he did not, and I’m not playing the blame game, but he wasn’t in the best shape to start the second spring training, so upon his return from the shutdown, we spent a little bit of the first half playing catch-up. Maybe it was the first 40 or 45 games of the season playing catch-up.

Cashman didn’t necessarily need to add that Torres is a better second baseman, demoralizing his spirits and all the work he’s put in toward improving his skill set. Torres didn’t seem to be phased, responding to the criticism with ease.

“The past is the past. … I can’t control what people say,” Torres said. He also mentnioned he doesn’t think the comment needs to be addressed.

Torres did struggle at SS regardless of Brian’s comments — he finished with a .933 fielding percentage at the position when the league average is 973. He needs to take a big step forward this spring if he wants to cement his position on the team.

How should the New York Giants approach Nate Solder this offseason?

New York Giants, Nate Solder

The New York Giants are preparing to deal with offensive tackle Nate Solder this off-season, especially since he’s projected to count $16.5 million against the cap if retained for the 2021 season. They were murmurs that Solder could retire after opting out of the 2020 campaign due to COVID-19, but he has indicated otherwise, and playing in 2021 seems to be in his interest.

According to Jordan Raanan of ESPN, Giants’ OT Nate Solder intends to play in 2021, given the situation is right.

The Giants are going to have to be creative with Solder, if not release him to save money. If he intends to play next season, the Giants could theoretically retain him and shift him to right tackle, where they have a massive gap. They did sign Cam Fleming last off-season to a one-year, $4 million deal, but he is currently a free agent, and it is possible Big Blue moves on.

Fleming had an inconsistent season but more or less held down the right tackle spot without giving up an absurd amount of pressure. According to PFF, Fleming did allow six sacks and 35 pressures, making him one of the worst tackles in the NFL (a bit contradictory, but it could’ve been worse). With that being said, the Giants have third-round pick Matt Peart waiting in the wings — COVID-19 disrupted his season and development. At this point, I think moving on from Fleming is in their best interest, as he’s an inadequate pass blocker but is a decent run blocker.

Solder might be a better fit at RT, having played the position in his rookie year. He finished the season with a 57.6 overall pass-blocking grade and 79.8 run-blocking grade. Clearly, this indicates he’s a better run blocker, but taking an entire season off likely won’t bode well for the veteran.

Nonetheless, the Giants don’t have many options at right tackle and need to find a solution quickly. Whether it be retaining Fleming for one more season and developing Peart, or moving Solder over, his cap hit must be decreased exponentially.

If the Giants do elect to release him, he would only save $6 million pre-June 1, but if they wait until post-June 1, he will save the team 10 million, given them a bit more flexibility to retain some of their players and allocate towards a wide receiver position. My educated guess is that they will cut solar post-June 1 and utilize his money on a stopgap.

The New York Giants could look for an alternative:

One player that stands out is Daryl Williams, who was superb for the Buffalo Bills last season. At 29 years old, the Giants could upgrade the RT spot with Solder’s money and utilize Peart as a developmental piece who can supplement both sides. This is an intriguing idea that might deserve a bit more attention.

Considering Williams sign a one-year, $2.25 million deal with Buffalo, the expectation is that he won’t be expensive. He was a Dave Gettleman draft pick, after all, so the connection is there for the Giants if they want to explore the idea of signing him.

New York Mets: Dellin Betances Ahead of Schedule From 2020

Dellin Betances was a shell of his former self during his first season with the New York Mets. Betances had to battle back from shoulder and Achilles injuries in 2019 and never regained his overpowering velocity during 2020. In his first handful of throwing sessions this spring, Betances on track to return as a dominant pitcher.

Betances faced live batters on Friday and had his classic swing and miss stuff. Pete Alonso‘s home run was the only victory hitters took away from their at-bats. Betances slider/curveball combination induced the ugly swings and flinching takes he is accustomed to. The biggest takeaway from the outing is fastball measuring in the low-90s

During last year’s camp, Betances fastball was only in the high 80s, and the COVID layoff made it harder for him to regain his velocity. He had the lowest average fastball velocity of his career at 93.6 mph and struggled even more with his mechanics.  Betances walked a staggering 12 batters in 11.2 innings pitched.

The Mets will need Betances to step up with Seth Lugo starting the season on the injured list. During his prime, Betances had one of the best five-year runs of any reliever in MLB history. If the Mets can get anything close to that level of production, they will have themselves a very reliable group of late-inning relievers.

Yankees News: Brett Gardner indicates 2021 could be his last season

New York Yankees, Brett Gardner

There was a split second where the New York Yankees parting ways with Brett Gardner was a possibility, but of course, the veteran outfielder and his career club found a way to re-connect. Last week, the Yankees officially signed Gardner back on a one-year deal with a club option for 2022.

At 37 years old, Gardner will likely impact the team as a depth player, as skipper Aaron Boone has already stated that Clint Frazier will likely start in left field this season. While Gardy has a hard time believing he won’t be playing every day anymore, he will fight for reps regardless.

During the off-season, Brett waited patiently for the Yankees to offer him a new deal, but he was open to the idea of exploring free agency, despite the fact that he preferred to return to the Bronx.

“I wouldn’t say [I did] a lot of exploring,’’ Gardner said of his free agency. “Obviously, it took a long time for things to work out, but I was hopeful the whole time. I’ve never been shy about wanting to finish my career here. I was asked from the get-go to be patient and I was patient.”

Clearly, things worked out in his favor, as Gardner will earn $5.15 million for the 2021 season, a bit less than the $10 million he would’ve earned if the Yankees picked up his option for this year.

When Gardy was asked about his new two-year deal, and if it could be his last, he responded with:

“I’d say that’s pretty safe,” Gardner said.

“We’ve been talking about this for the last two to three years,” Gardner said of the end of his career. “I’ll obviously be 38 in August. There are no guarantees. You never know what’s around the corner, never know what to expect.”

If Gardy was to retire today, he will have played 13 straight years for the Yankees, with his inception coming in 2008. He has proven to be an elite defender and a consistent base runner, utilizing his speed. We hope Gardner has never been a slugger, he had a career-high 28 HRs in 2019.

Finishing his career in pinstripes has always been his dream, and it seems like it will come true sooner rather than later.

New York Yankees: Torres wants to forget last season, Kluber is where he needs to be and more

New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres

The New York Yankee’s shortstop Gleyber Torres is looking to have as many home runs as in 2019 or more. Torres led the Yankees with 38 home runs in 2019, but 2020 was disappointing for the young shortstop. He hit only three long balls and had an average of just .243, down more than 30 points from the previous season. During this offseason manager, Aaron Boone said Torres was not in shape he should be at the beginning of the season. His performance was lacking in the first part of the season, but he showed improvement when he came back from the IL in his last 18 games.

Now with spring training in full swing, Torres is healthy, strong, and ready to go.

“I still feel [I have] power,’’ Torres said. “I don’t know why I didn’t hit too many homers last year. I’m trying to get stronger and [have more] agility. We’ll see this year if I have the same or more homers than ’19.”

In 2020 Torres struggled mightily both as a shortstop and behind the plate, but he has worked extensively with bench coach Carlos Mendoza on his play at short.

“Look, everybody knows how difficult last year was, especially when we got shut down,’’ said Mendoza, who has worked extensively with Torres at short. “It was so hard to get ready and we didn’t know when we were coming back. Brian made his comments and [Torres] kept saying he felt fine. … This year, he looks really good.”

When he was asked about Fernando Tatis Jr.’s $340 million contract with the San Diego Padres, and if it was a motivation for him, he said, of course, everyone wants to make a lot of money.

Corey Kluber is feeling fine and is in a good place

Corey Kluber is healthy and has taken to the mound a few times in the 2021 spring training. Kluber had some bad luck being hit by a comebacker in 2019 and suffering a shoulder injury in the first inning he pitched for the Texas Rangers. But that is all behind him now that he is with the New York Yankees, and he is performing well in spring training.

Kluber is a two-time Cy Young Award winner and, when healthy, is an ace capable starter for any team. Friday afternoon at George M. Steinbrenner Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, the right-hander pitched two innings to Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, and Luke Voit. Manager Boone, who observed the pitcher tossing, said:

“I feel really good about his progress,” Boone said. “I thought he finished better than he started, and I think the stuff is overall pretty crisp. I’m encouraged where he’s at. We’re sitting here in February, and we’ve got essentially a stud pitcher ramping up for a season.”

Kluber said there is no reason to worry; I am right where I want to be for this time of the season.

“My goal is to hit the ground running on Opening Day,” Kluber said. “It’s no secret that I probably haven’t been at my best early on in the season previously in my career; not that I want to be OK with that. I’m always trying to tweak what I need to feel like it will have been better prepared from the get-go. Every game is important.”

Jameson Taillon will be innings vigilant

The newly added pitcher for the New York Yankees is Jameson Taillon, who was traded for from the Pittsburgh Pirates. He is coming back from his second Tommy John surgery and is feeling fine, but he talked about pitching 120 to 150 innings as a goal this season. He said that as spring training progresses, he is open to talking about that.

“We haven’t talked about any given number, but we have talked about communicating and staying vigilant,” Taillon said. “I’m ready to be honest and open about that. I’m sure as Spring Training gets on, we’ll communicate about some sort of rough idea that we have. Right now, I’m feeling really good.”

What to expect this Sunday

This Sunday will be the first exhibition game of spring training. It will be against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Yankees training camp in St. Petersburg, Florida, this Sunday at 1:05 pm. Michael King will be projected to start for the Yankees. Manager Aaron Boone has said it will be a seven-inning affair and indicated the first few games would also be limited to seven innings.

The New York Yankees game will be televised on the YES Network, as will most of the Yankees’ home games in spring training. It’s a shorter Spring Training with modified rules. Specifically, the Yanks will only play the Blue Jays, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, and Tigers. This is for COVID-19 travel-related reasons excluding Florida east coast games. 14 games will be at home and 14 away. The YES Network will carry 14 of those games. MLB Network will carry the opening game on Sunday as well as 13 others. Fox and NBC will carry a few of the games.