Minors report: Sardinha impressing
Torre believes lefty-hitting outfielder has big-league potential
Hot topic: Bronson Sardinha has been the "most pleasant surprise" of the spring for the Yankees, according to manager Joe Torre.
The outfielder, who turns 24 next month, has been among the team's offensive leaders in Grapefruit League play. He cracked a game-winning home run to defeat the Pirates on March 5 and has batted .367 with six RBIs through 14 games.
"He doesn't tip-toe up there," Torre said. "He takes a good swing and always seems to have a pretty good at-bat. I think he's got big-league potential offensively, and he holds his own in the outfield, too. He doesn't have that blinding speed that the other guys have, but he certainly plays hard."
The left-handed-hitting Sardinha said he is thankful for the opportunity to impress the Yankees' brain trust.
He admitted to being disappointed when he began last season at Double-A Trenton, his third consecutive year in the Eastern League, but said that a July promotion to Triple-A Columbus boosted his spirits.
"I guess I didn't have as much drive as I needed to have," Sardinha said. "Once I got up to Triple-A, I just felt like I belonged there. It was kind of like a new life for me."
Working with hitting coach Kevin Long -- who has since been promoted to the Yankees' Major League dugout -- Sardinha made his swing shorter and more compact at Columbus. He batted .286 in 52 games at Triple-A, including a nine-game hitting streak shortly after his promotion.
Sardinha concedes that he doesn't have much chance of making the Yankees' 25-man roster out of Spring Training, instead figuring to begin the year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Torre said last week that if the Yankees were to carry a fifth outfielder, he would prefer a player with big-league experience, floating the name of Bernie Williams as an example of veteran-caliber talent.
"Bernie could at least have been a part of this ballclub coming off the bench," Torre said. "Someone as young as Bronson, you certainly don't want to bring him up unless you know he can play somewhat. Hopefully, that's not going to be the case, because it means we've run into a problem."
Nevertheless, Sardinha believes his spring experience has been a productive one and a step toward his Major League debut.
If the Yankees need an outfielder later in the season due to injuries or trades, Sardinha hopes he will be among those considered.
"I guess I've been doing something right to get their attention a little bit," Sardinha said. "I'm excited about it. Now they'll be watching me during the season a little bit, just in case anything happens."
On the move: Chris Basak signed with the Yankees as a six-year Minor League free agent during the offseason, jumping across town after being drafted by the Mets in 2000 and working his way up to the Triple-A level last season.
Regarded as a good-fielding, light-hitting infielder, Basak never warranted a callup to Shea Stadium, but he's looking pretty sharp in pinstripes. Entering play on Sunday, Basak had the highest batting average (.458) of any player in Major League camp.
"Basak has gotten our attention, let's put it that way," Torre said. "He's done well at a number of positions. Offensively, he's also shown us that he has a feel for the game, [with] something as simple as going from second to third on a ground ball to shortstop."
Scouts seem to agree that Basak's ceiling would be as a big-league utility player. He led Triple-A Norfolk with 17 stolen bases and 22 doubles in 2006, playing shortstop, third base, second base and the outfield.
On the pine: Humberto Sanchez threw a full bullpen session on Sunday, likely one of his final acts this spring in big-league camp before his eventual reassignment to Minor League camp. It was a disappointing spring for Sanchez, a right-hander acquired from the Tigers in the Gary Sheffield trade. The South Bronx product laments that he would have liked to have appeared in one big-league Spring Training game, but Torre indicated that the Yankees won't have a chance to use him.
"Nothing I can do about it," Sanchez said. "I can just move on from here and get ready for the season."
Jose Veras, a right-handed reliever, was sidelined recently with pain in his throwing elbow. Further examinations showed nothing out of the ordinary.
They're No. 1: Right-hander Phil Hughes (2004) took his reassignment to Minor League camp in stride, acknowledging that this spring taught him he had items to work on at Triple-A. Hughes allowed four runs and six hits in 4 2/3 spring innings (7.71 ERA), while walking six and striking out two. Hughes said that he can't expect to get Major League hitters out with only two pitches, and he said his changeup and slider will be improved. ... Eric Duncan (2003) had just one hit in 10 at-bats this spring before being reassigned, but he made it count. Duncan slugged a two-run homer against the Pirates on March 10, lifting the Yankees to a 5-3 victory.
Class of '06: Ian Kennedy, the Yankees' first-round selection from the University of Southern California, is in action as Minor League games have started at the Yankees complex. The right-handed Kennedy faced the Rays' Class A roster on Saturday and threw two scoreless innings. Sources indicate that right-hander Joba Chamberlain appears powerful after pitching for West Oahu in Hawaii Winter Baseball to finish out 2006.
What they're saying: "I'm Irish every day." -- Triple-A catcher Ben Davis, who was spotted wearing a shamrock cap 24 hours after St. Patrick's Day>
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.