Notes: Bruney seeks better control
Righty reliever aims to cut down on number of free passes
TAMPA, Fla. -- Brian Bruney celebrated his 25th birthday on Saturday, and the right-handed Yankees reliever planned to spend a good amount of time in front of the mirror.
Bruney isn't exceptionally vain, nor was he searching for some deeper meaning. By mimicking his pitching motion repeatedly, Bruney is hoping to improve his control.
"You can do it anywhere. It's like tic-tac-toe," Bruney said.
If the regimen of shadow work does the trick, it could help Bruney stay in the big leagues for several more birthdays to come.
"The minute you get comfortable in this game is the second it will turn around and bite you," Bruney said. "I'm always looking to improve. That's what's going to make me better."
Released by the D-backs last summer, Bruney became one of the nicer surprises of the Yankees' season, joining the club in late August and posting a 0.87 ERA down the stretch.
In 19 games for New York, Bruney limited opponents to a .189 batting average, walked 15 and struck out 25.
While he was satisfied with the performance, Bruney said he needs to earn a spot in the team's 12-man bullpen if he wants to open the season in the Big Apple.
"I don't think they hand out jobs for something you did last year, and they shouldn't," Bruney said. "Coming in, I'm just here to get my work in and perform to the best of my ability."
A former closer for the D-backs who saved 12 games in 2005, Bruney said he simply walked too many batters, issuing 62 free passes in 77 1/3 innings for Arizona.
"I've still got a lot of work to do," Bruney said. "That's always been one of my downfalls -- not a lot of hits, but a lot of walks. Any time you're putting guys on for free, it's not something you want to do."
Hailing from the tiny town of Warrenton, Ore., Bruney said it was originally "shell shock" to play in front of packed Yankee Stadium crowds, but he now enjoys everything about working in New York.
Well, almost everything. Bruney despises traffic and tried his best to avoid midtown Manhattan, living in New Jersey last season and wearing out a path between the Garden State and the Bronx.
Bruney's only Manhattan experiences came with one trip to a midtown Mexican restaurant and another bumper-to-bumper journey with teammate Scott Proctor.
"He went in for a doctor's visit. I sat in the car and slept," Bruney said. "I just don't like the traffic, so I try and stay out of there. I don't like driving, period."
No word from Bernie: Sunday is the day position players are required to report to Tampa, but as of Saturday evening, outfielder Bernie Williams -- who has been offered a standing non-roster invitation -- had not contacted general manager Brian Cashman about whether or not he'll join the rest of the team.
Better the second time around: Kei Igawa threw his second bullpen session of the spring on Saturday and exhibited better control, pitching coach Ron Guidry said.
Igawa, 27, had a wild first effort on Thursday while throwing to catcher Jorge Posada. After that session, Igawa told Guidry that he hadn't thrown off a mound since November, which cleared up some of the mystery.
"When you don't throw for three months, you can't expect to step on a mound and everything to be perfect," Guidry said.
Guidry advised Igawa to slow down and not worry about precision. The left-hander threw about 45 pitches on Saturday, mixing in a few breaking balls, which Igawa said "felt great."
Meanwhile, Igawa is working on more than his pitches, using some of his free time to study English.
His current book focuses on baseball terminology, but Igawa is pulling out a few generic phrases as well -- on Saturday, he offered, "What's up today?" to a group of reporters, one day after showing off by saying, "Thank you for breakfast."
Igawa's learning capacity is becoming evident. Guidry noticed Igawa was already nodding to feedback before translations were relayed by interpreter Yumitaro Watanbe.
"I think he understands more English than you give him credit for," Guidry said.
Multilingual row: Mike Myers' locker is close to both Igawa and Chien-Ming Wang, providing a prime opportunity for the lefty reliever to expand his horizons.
Myers has started keeping a log of new words, scribbling four columns on a yellow ledger -- English, Japanese, Taiwanese and Spanish. Little by little, Myers is dropping in the basics, garnering translations for the words "Hello" and "Goodbye" so far.
"I'm hoping to have a two-sentence conversation with them by the end of the season," Myers said.
Coming together: Carl Pavano worked with Posada for the first time this spring on Saturday, and the Yankees catcher said he was happy with what he saw.
"The way he was throwing the ball, I could tell that he's healthy and he's feeling better," Posada said. "The ball is coming out of his hand good and he was attacking the strike zone, keeping the ball down."
Pavano said he was pleased with his fastball and changeup, but that his slider still needs a few tweaks. That will gain momentum when the Yankees begin intrasquad competition and continue through the Grapefruit League schedule.
"[The slider] is more of a pitch that I work with when I get hitters up there," Pavano said. "I'll work on it in the bullpen, but if I can't get it consistent yet, I'm not going to beat myself up over it."
Skipper's sick day: Manager Joe Torre was absent from camp on Saturday with a cold and slight fever, Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo said.
The Tampa weather has been unexpectedly chilly for the first few days of workouts for pitchers and catchers, with temperatures dropping into the 40s during the day and frost accumulating on vehicles overnight.
Torre is taking medication and the team is hopeful he will return to Legends Field on Sunday.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.