CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jorge Vazquez wasn't mentioned much by the Yankees over the winter, but the slugging first baseman has homered in the team's first two Grapefruit League games, forcing them to take notice.
"If he hits a homer every day, I'm sure he'll get the Grapefruit [League] MVP," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Beyond that, though, nothing is assured. Girardi said that it is possible the 28-year-old Vazquez -- who hit 18 homers in 76 games last year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre -- could work his way into the mix to compete for a backup corner-infield job.
"We've always said that he could swing the bat," Girardi said. "He had a tremendous winter ball [season] again. He can put up numbers."
Betances turns heads with flashy debut
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Yankees' team bus rumbled over the Courtney Campbell Causeway on Sunday morning, and Dellin Betances had his earbuds in, pumping hip-hop tunes out of a shuffling iPod.
It was a few hours before the promising right-hander was to take the mound against the heart of the Phillies' Grapefruit League lineup, pitching in front of not only the Yankees' coaches but also a packed house and a television audience back home, and Betances dozed off.
"I just took, like, a 10-minute nap -- it was relaxing," Betances said. "I haven't been nervous at all. These guys are making me feel so comfortable. All I have to do is go out and do my job, which is pitch. That's something I love doing."
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And if it is true that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, at least Betances can rest his head tonight knowing that he made a good one. The 22-year-old struck out the side around a walk, firing a fastball that had the Yankees asking questions.
"Hey," Curtis Granderson asked a reporter, looking up from his locker and nodding toward Betances. "How fast did they get him?"
The answer, at least according to the YES Network, was up to 97 mph. Pitching the fifth inning of the Yankees' 7-3 win, the 6-foot-8 Betances struck out Domonic Brown and Ben Francisco before he lost Carlos Ruiz to a walk. Betances came back to fan Wilson Valdez for the third out.
"Pretty good for the first time being out there," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You kind of want to see how the kids react the first time out and what they do the next couple after that. I'm sure there are some emotions that go in there, some butterflies. There have got to be."
In Betances' case, apparently not many. He credited being summoned to Yankee Stadium for a handful of the team's regular-season games last September, saying that his time in the clubhouse has made his first Spring Training a more comfortable experience.
It also helped having buddy Jesus Montero behind the dish.
"He just came out and was like, 'Let's go -- you know you can do this,'" Betances said. "I've thrown to him so many times, and we always joke around here and there. Today was a little serious. When you get used to throwing to somebody, you get more and more comfortable."
Born in Washington Heights, N.Y., Betances grew up in a Lower East Side apartment before moving to Brooklyn, and he was no stranger to the Bronx -- family members took him to Yankees games often, including scoring bleacher seats for David Wells' perfect game in 1998.
The Yankees have said that Betances' next destination is an assignment to Double-A Trenton, where he made three starts last season, but he's hoping to get back to 161st Street sooner than later.
"I came in here knowing that it's going to be tough because I haven't had that much experience," Betances said. "I'm just going to keep working every time I get the ball. I'm going to try to make the best out of it."
Defense a focal point as Montero develops
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Yankees have crossed just two games off their Grapefruit League schedule, and already you hear that Jesus Montero can be a factor at the big league level right now.
"I'm not a coach, but I know he's ready," right-hander Dellin Betances said. "Whenever he gets a chance, he's going to contribute and help this team win."
OK, so maybe Betances doesn't get to call the shots on this one, but there seem to be few around the game who would share his opinion.
Montero had a relatively quiet spring debut, going 1-for-3 with a broken-bat RBI single on Sunday, but as they consider his potential as a backup to catcher Russell Martin, the Yankees are more focused on the 21-year-old's defensive progress.
"He looked good to me," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He looked comfortable. I thought he did a good job."
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Montero has been compared to Mike Piazza in terms of his future projection, and if that is the case, the Yankees should be elated. But Montero isn't satisfied with people saying his bat will be good enough to carry him.
"That makes me work hard," Montero said. "It makes me work hard every single day, because I want to be a catcher. I want to be behind the plate every single time. I don't want to lose all four years I've been catching with the Yankees. I want to be behind the plate. I want to catch and help them win."
Calf strain to cost Belliard at least a week
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Yankees infielder Ronnie Belliard was scratched from Sunday's 7-3 win over the Phillies with a right calf strain and will miss more than a week of action, manager Joe Girardi said.
Belliard, who will turn 36 in April, was injured while fielding a ball during batting practice and had to be removed from the lineup. Prospect Brandon Laird started at third base in Belliard's place.
A non-roster invitee to Yankees camp, Belliard batted .216 with two home runs and 19 RBIs in 82 games for the Dodgers last season. He showed up this spring noticeably heavier than he had been with Los Angeles.
Mitre eager for a chance to start
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Sergio Mitre's versatility makes it likely that the Yankees will carry him on their roster to begin the regular season, but it also may hurt the right-hander's odds of being in the rotation.
Considered in competition for the Yankees' two rotation vacancies, Mitre instead threw an inning of relief in Sunday's 7-3 win over the Phillies and is scheduled to do so again on Wednesday against the Astros.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Mitre will get a spring start, but he isn't sure when.
"If I am being overlooked, I'm trying my hardest not to be overlooked," Mitre said. "I guess it's a good thing that I can start or be in the 'pen. My main thing is, I want to start. Hopefully, I make a good enough impression."
Mitre pitched a scoreless third inning for New York on Sunday, allowing one hit. He had a 3.33 ERA in 27 appearances last year, going 0-2 with a 5.93 ERA in three starts.
"I'm just trying to win a spot," Mitre said. "Last year there was only one and this year there are two, so there's a little more leeway. There's the same amount of guys that were competing for one spot last year, so lick your chops and get the job done, and hopefully, make the choice a little more difficult for them."
Yankees prospect Andrew Brackman, sidelined with a sore groin, played catch on Sunday and will be evaluated again on Monday. The earliest the right-hander could be on a mound is Wednesday. ... Curtis Granderson homered to left field in Sunday's 7-3 win over the Phillies; he didn't hit an opposite-field home run all of last year. Granderson said the wind helped. ... Russell Martin is scheduled to see action as a designated hitter on Monday against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., and could catch later in the week.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.