Kozma Among Yankees Invitees to Spring Training

The Yankees announced on Friday that they have signed 15 players to minor league contracts with an invitation to Major League Spring Training, among them veteran infielder Pete Kozma and pitcher Vinnie Pestano.

Kozma, 27, is a utility infielder who spent parts of five seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, from 2011 to 2015. He has appeared in 275 Major League games, batting .222 (138-for-621) with 76R, 29 doubles, 3 triples, 3HR and 52RBI. The right-handed batter made his third Opening Day roster with the Cardinals in 2015, appearing in 76 games and playing five different positions: shortstop (31G/8GS), second base (17G/7GS), third base (13G/3GS), first base (1G) and left field (1G). In 788 games over eight minor league seasons, he has hit .238 (667-for-2,808) with 380R, 136 doubles, 15 triples, 48HR and 342RBI. Born in Tulsa, Okla., Kozma was originally selected by St. Louis in the first round (18th overall) of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

Pestano, a 30-year old right-handed reliever,  has spent six seasons in the major leagues with six seasons with the Cleveland Indians from 2010-14 and the Los Angeles Angels in 2014 and 2015. He owns a 6-8 career record with 11 saves and a 2.98 ERA (202.2IP, 168H, 73R/67ER, 87BB, 244K) in 223 relief appearances in.

Pestano has a career .169 (68-for-402) opponents’ batting average vs. right-handed batters is the fifth-lowest among active pitchers (min. 400 RHB faced), behind only Aroldis Chapman, Jose Fernandez, Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel. The right-hander has appeared in 254 games over seven minor league seasons, going 11-18 with 87 saves and a 2.42 ERA (260.1IP, 203H, 83R/70ER, 88BB, 290K). Pestano was born in Huntington Beach, Calif., and was selected by the Indians in the 20th round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

The other players signed to minor league contracts with a spring training invitation were LHP Richard Bleier, RHP Tyler Cloyd, C Carlos Corporan, C Francisco Diaz, INF Jonathan Diaz, C Kyle Higashioka, INF Pete Kozma, RHP Diego Moreno, RHP Vinnie Pestano, OF Cesar Puello, C Eddy Rodriguez, INF Deibinson Romero, INF Donovan Solano, RHP Anthony Swarzak and C Sebastian Valle.

Higashioka, Moreno and Rodriguez were in the Yankees organization last year and return in 2016 after signing new minor league deals.

The Yankees also invited 10 additional players to 2016 spring training, bringing the total number of invitees to 25 (10 pitchers, six catchers, six infielders and three outfielders). The number of players now scheduled to report is 65.

Corporan, 32, has hit .218 (153-for-701) with 63R, 25 doubles, 20HR and 78RBI in 232 games over parts of six seasons with the Brewers (2009), Astros (2011-14) and Rangers (2015). In 11 minor league seasons, he owns a .253 (571-for-2,257) career batting average with 257R, 128 doubles, 48HR and 293RBI in 690 games. The switch-hitter was born in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, and was originally selected by Milwaukee in the 12th round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft.

Solano, 28, batted .257 (269-for-1,046) with 94R, 38 doubles, 6 triples, 8HR and 97RBI in 361 games with Miami over four seasons (2012-15). The right-handed batter has primarily played second base (231G) but has also appeared at third base (24G), shortstop (19G) and in left field (10G). Over 11 minor league seasons, has batted .263 (735-for-2,791) with 322R, 110 doubles and 241RBI in 801 games. Born in Barranquilla, Colombia, Solano was originally signed by St. Louis as a non-drafted free agent on 1/14/05.

Swarzak, 30, has appeared in 191 Major League games (32 starts) over six seasons with the Twins (2009, ‘11-14) and Indians (2015), going 16-24 with a 4.45 ERA (453.0IP, 500H, 243R/224ER, 131BB, 280K). His 64 multi-inning relief appearances since 2012 are the second-most in the Majors in that span (Craig Stammen, 66). Swarzak was born in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and was originally selected by Minnesota in the second round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.

INF Jorge Mateo earned an invitation after combining with Single-A Charleston and Single-A Tampa to bat .278 (125-for-449) with 66R, 23 doubles, 11 triples and 40RBI in 2015. The right-handed batter led all minor leaguers with 82 stolen bases and was tabbed by Baseball America as the No. 1 prospect in the Yankees organization following the season. A native of Santo Domingo Oeste, Dominican Republic, Mateo was originally signed as a non-drafted free agent on 1/28/12.

Of the Yankees’ 25 non-roster invitees, seven were originally drafted by the Yankees, including the Yankees’ first-round pick in 2015, RHP James Kaprielian. In his professional debut, the right-hander combined to go 0-1 with a 3.97 ERA (11.1IP, 10H, 6R/5ER, 4BB, 14K) in five games (three starts) with the GCL Yankees 2 and short-season Single-A Staten Island. Kaprielian also made two postseason starts for Staten Island, posting a 0.73 ERA (12.1IP, 7H, 1R/1ER, 2BB, 10K). Following the season, he was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in the Yankees organization. A native of California, Kaprielian attended UCLA where he went 17-10 with a 2.06 ERA and 275K in 66 games (31 starts) over three seasons.

Also invited are four players who were selected by the Yankees in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft: OF Aaron Judge (first round, 32nd overall), INF Tyler Wade (fourth), LHP Tyler Webb (10th) and OF Dustin Fowler (18th). Judge led all Yankees minor leaguers with 20HR and 72RBI in 2015 and was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 3 prospect in the Yankees organization following the season.

The Yankees’ remaining draft picks attending spring training as non-roster invitees are Higashioka (2008/seventh) and RHP Brady Lail (2012/18th). Lail combined at Single-A Tampa, Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to go 10-6 with a 2.91 ERA (148.1IP, 141H, 53R/48ER, 43BB, 85K) in 28 games (27 starts). The right-hander ranked sixth among all Yankees minor leaguers in ERA and was named an Eastern League Mid-Season All-Star.

Rounding out the Yankees’ invitees are RHP Domingo German, RHP Chad Green and C Santiago Nessy.



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