Minors report: DeSalvo turning it around
After clearing waivers, right-hander looking to land bullpen role
Hot topic: Matt DeSalvo is in the midst of an impressive turnaround, attempting to prove that 29 other teams missed out on a great opportunity.
DeSalvo, 26, was removed from the Yankees' 40-man roster in January when the team needed to make room for infielder Miguel Cairo.
Coming off a disappointing season that saw him go a combined 6-10 with a 6.40 ERA in 27 games (24 starts) for Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Columbus, DeSalvo, who has admitted that some off-field issues clouded his mind during that campaign, could have been claimed by any club.
Instead, he cleared waivers and wound up back in the Yankees' system, outrighted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Feb. 1 and invited to Major League camp.
"Last year was kind of a rough year for me, in a lot of ways," DeSalvo said. "This year, I'm coming into camp with a little different outlook. I'm just trying to keep my head down and fit in. So far, it's worked out pretty well."
DeSalvo appeared for the first time in Grapefruit League action on Saturday, pitching two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Legends Field. He allowed three hits and a sacrifice fly to Chris Aguila, but that doesn't change DeSalvo's promising reemergence. DeSalvo primarily focused Saturday on spotting his fastball in the zone and said he was pleased with the debut outing.
"Your mind rules your body and, I think, last year, he fought it so much that he lost everything," manager Joe Torre said. "Now, he's in such a positive frame of mind that his stuff is so good, we just have to keep him there."
Catcher Wil Nieves has opined that DeSalvo has some of the best stuff in camp, and DeSalvo has long owned one of the better changeups in New York's system.
DeSalvo was on the cusp of making the Yankees last Spring Training, and he can only hope that another good exhibition slate can return him to similar standing.
"Nobody knows what the future holds," DeSalvo said. "All I know is that if I keep heading out there and pitching well, you can create an opportunity for yourself. That's what I'm trying to do."
On the move: It would be a stretch to say that Kevin Thompson was pleased when Bobby Abreu was sidelined with a strained oblique muscle, putting the Yankees right fielder out of action for at least two weeks, but Thompson understood what the opportunity meant for him.
With Abreu sidelined, it means more at-bats not only for Melky Cabrera, but also the 27-year-old Thompson, who batted .300 with a home run in a 19-game cup of coffee with the Yankees last season.
"It'll be a little bit more of an opportunity for me, I think," Thompson said. "Everybody knows my best shot to stick is as a fifth outfielder, a guy off the bench. That's the way to get going."
Torre said that Thompson, along with fellow 40-man roster outfielder Kevin Reese, will have the opportunity to be available to the Yankees "in the event of an SOS" this season.
On the pine: Right-hander Humberto Sanchez has been receiving daily treatment for a strained right forearm, an injury that popped up in the last week of February. Sanchez was slated to return to action on Sunday, but the Yankees will be cautious bringing him along. Left-hander Ben Kozlowski has returned to action after an abdominal strain cost him some time.
Names in the game: Pitching coach Ron Guidry has been a helpful influence for top pitching prospect Phil Hughes, even given their brief acquaintance. Hughes has said that Guidry "seems like he would be a really good pitching coach" whenever Hughes arrives in the Bronx. Hughes may have some of the best overall stuff in the system, but Guidry hasn't been afraid to assist where needed. Most recently, Guidry offered advice on Hughes' arm slot and tempo.
They're No. 1: Hughes (2004) wasn't thrilled with his command in his first spring exhibition against the Twins on Thursday, walking two batters in 1 1/3 innings and throwing a wild pitch. He is attempting to use the outing as motivation, as Hughes hasn't suffered through much adversity while coming up through the Minor League ranks. ... Third baseman Eric Duncan (2003) has appeared in two Spring Training fames through Saturday. He walked in his only plate appearance and pinch-ran for Jason Giambi on Friday at St. Petersburg, scoring a run.
Class of '06: Ian Kennedy, the Yankees' first-round selection from USC, will begin his first Spring Training across the street from Legends Field at the team's Minor League complex. Young hurlers like Joba Chamberlain and Dellin Betances have quietly been working out on the back fields as well.
What they're saying: "He had great stuff last year, but you could see that the command wasn't right. This spring, it's a different story. He's throwing strikes and going after hitters. It's all coming together. People will know his name before long." -- Nieves, on DeSalvo
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.