Iron Mike Protects Yankees Pitchers And Helps Hitters

by Nik Swartz | Posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
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Yankees' pitching machine, nicknamed 'Iron Mike,' fires off 90 mph fastballs during an intrasquad game.

Yankees’ pitching machine, nicknamed ‘Iron Mike,’ fires off 90 mph fastballs during an intrasquad game.

The New York Yankees have employed a pitching machine this spring, and it’s not just any pitching machine, its nickname says it all – “Iron Mike”. Iron Mike is a pitching machine that is a strike throwing machine and in the eyes of Yankees manager Joe Girardi, “it’s a dream machine.” Girardi shunned live pitching this spring in an attempt to get the teams’ focus back on the fundamentals.

With the Yankees biggest concern this spring being the potential of the walking DL, they refer to as their starting rotation, making it through the season, using a pitching machine during intrasquad games, as well as for batting practice, makes sense for the Yankees. It should help the pitchers stay healthy and gives them an opportunity to work at their own pace to prepare for the 2015 season.

Iron Mike can toss strikes and pitches all day and night, which helps because the Yankee cannot deal with any pitcher getting hurt this season, especially during the spring. The pitching machine already has a KO on Yankees outfielder Chris Young and held former MLB MVP Alex Rodriguez to a 0-2 day in Monday’s tune-up intrasquad game, as the team prepared for the first game of the spring against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Girardi is using the machine, not only to save his live pitchers, but also to get the team more focused on fundamentals in the batter’s box and on the base paths, as well as defensively and on cutoffs and relays.

“It’s hard in a sense to get the situations you want with a pitcher on the mound,” Girardi said. “We can throw the ball in the dirt when we want; we’re throwing strikes; guys are making contact. We just get a lot more out of (Iron Mike) it.”

This spring the Yankees need to try anything and everything to improve on last season’s poor offensive performance – the Yankees were 13th in the American League in runs scored last season.

Iron Mike will be bringing fire each day for batting practice and the machine helps batters focus on their swing, mechanics and puts more focus on the actual art of hitting, instead of face-offs between the pitchers and hitters in camp.

The fact Iron Mike has already put two Yankees hitters to shame could be looked at as a huge negative, since the machine was only tossing fast balls, but it’s a much bigger positive in the big picture.

Yankees third baseman Chase Headley, who batted once, said hitting against the machine during a scrimmage was unusual, but he didn’t mind it and thought it could benefit the team this spring.

The Yankees also have the “Hack Attack,” which is a three-pronged, 135-pound gunmetal-gray machine. The Hack Attack spits out left-handed and right-handed curveballs, sliders, as well as split-fingered fastballs and knuckleballs.

During the past two springs the Yankees have had a hard time keeping players healthy, during the spring and the regular season; using these pitching machines helps the team in many ways – the most important being the team will use live pitchers less.

Will the pitching machines really help the Yankees this spring? Yes, they should and it can’t hurt the team not having to use live pitchers for the different drills and in intrasquad games. These machines give the batters the time to focus on the fundamentals of hitting, which it seems so many on the Yankees roster have forgotten the past two seasons.

Iron Mike and the Hack Attack give Yankee pitchers time to focus on their fundamentals, at their pace. The pitching machines also give coaches more time to monitor each group, which ultimately helps get the most out of the pitchers and the hitters.

Headley also believes hitting off the machines gives the Yankees hitters a chance to practice beating the shifts. “Baseball in general has shifted in that direction,” Headley said. “The pitching is so much better, and all the analytics that are being stressed with shifts — those things are more magnified in today’s game than they were even two or three years ago. Getting a chance to hit like this does help us with different techniques to beat the shifts we’ll see this season.” Headley added, “Not only have the shift and all the analytics that are stressed so much better – they are also so magnified in today’s game. A lot more than they were two or even three years ago, being able to just focus on situations will really help us and using these machines have helped the hitters do just that.”

Yankees at Phillies Spring Training Game 1 Notes: Adam Warren got the first start of the spring for the Yankees; Warren looked very solid in his two innings of work. Warren only gave up one hit and his command was spot on. Luis Severino, the Yankees top pitching prospect, who is looking to make a strong impression with the Yankees this spring, had a tough outing. Severino was rocked in 1.1 innings of work, giving up four hits and two runs.

With the Yankees down 5-2 in the 9th inning, Aaron Judge hammered a one out three-run shot to tie the game at 5-5; the game ended in a tie as the Phillies were unable to score in the bottom of the ninth.

The Phillies and Yankees play again today in Tampa. Today’s game will bring the much anticipated Spring Training debut of Alex Rodriguez, who will get the start at DH for the Yankees.

Follow Nik Swartz on Twitter @Sweetnesz13


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Nik Swartz
About the Author

Graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication and Psychology, currently a counselor in Philadelphia. I started writing professionally in 1999 as the Penn State beat writer for the Milton Standard/Lewisburg Daily Journal in Pa. I have worked at eight daily newspapers as a Sports Writer/Editor - covering all high school sports, the NFL, professional baseball and professional hockey. A few sites I've written and/or contributed articles for include Rant Sports, Bleacher Report, FanSided and Pro Football Spot. Follow Nik on Twitter @Sweetnesz13.

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