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Yankees, Mets spring training notebook: Yanks with big battle at first

Greg Bird has some major competition for a starting job.

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The latest news and rumors on the Mets and Yankees as Spring Training continues.

Bird, Carter keeping focused

Despite the litany of distractions facing Chris Carter and Greg Bird, they are determined to do the best they can at Yankees’ camp and win the majority of starts at first base.

Carter entered camp with a chip on his shoulder, signed just days before pitchers and catchers reported despite clubbing an NL-leading 41 home runs last year.

“It was definitely a tough offseason,” Carter toldMLB.com. “It seems like the game is changing a little bit where they put more emphasis on…guys that are five-tool players. It’s something I’ve got to deal with now.”

And now that cross-town counterpart Lucas Duda is battling the injury bug, Carter is fielding questions about what might have been if he’d waited a bit longer.

“You can’t sit around, waiting for someone to get hurt,” Carter told the New York Post. “You could end up sitting out even longer. I’m trying to fit in here without worrying about anything else.”

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Bird was the presumptive everyday first baseman until Carter was signed, but he still has to prove that last year’s season-ending shoulder surgery hasn’t inhibited his game.

“I’m fighting to prove that I’m healthy and can play,” Bird told the Daily News. “I’m just trying to play at a high level again, get better every day and become the best possible player that I can be.”

As for the addition of Carter, Bird doesn’t view him solely as his competition.

“[Carter’s] someone I can learn from,” Bird said. “It’s exciting. It’s good for us.”

Not done dealing?

CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine has reported that the demand for White Sox starter Jose Quintana is ‘robust as ever,’ and the Yankees (along with the Astros, Cardinals, and Pirates) are in the mix to acquire him.

“As we sit here…it’s more a function of continuing on the conversations we have had,” White Sox GM Rick Hahn informed Levine. “We will see if we can build off of those.”

Arguably the game’s most underrated pitcher, Quintana has logged four straight seasons of 200 innings or more and a 3.41 career ERA.

All systems ‘go’ for Wheeler, Montero

Zack Wheeler has apparently overcome his elbow discomfort from earlier in camp. He threw an extended bullpen session on Friday and Mets’ pitching coach Dan Warthen was elated with the results.

“Right now, it’s tremendously encouraging,” Warthen told reporters. “He’s throwing all of his pitches right now: fastball, changeup…it was outstanding. He’s throwing his curveball. But today his velocity was very close to Zack Wheeler. I’d say he’s a solid 90, 95 percent.”

Provided there are no further setbacks, Wheeler could pitch in a Spring Training game on March 8 or 10, per Warthen.

Meanwhile, Triple-A pitching coach Frank Viola says that former blue-chip prospect Rafael Montero has looked ‘great’ early in camp. The New York Post has reported that Montero is ‘throwing his fastball in the 92-94 mph range, and his changeup remains an effective pitch.’

“The best part is there’s no pressure on [Montero] right now,” Viola told the Post. “Nobody is talking about him, so he might be able to sneak back through the backdoor, and be nice and relaxed and hopefully that will get him going again.”

Montero’s statline for Triple-A Las Vegas last year was ghastly even for the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League’s standards; 4-6 with a 7.20 ERA in 16 appearances.

 

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