He’s finished. He’s washed up. He’s through. He’s a loser. Why bother with this guy?
All things some current Yankees have probably heard over the past couple of years. But right now, no one is saying any of these things. Right now the Yankees are in first place in the American League East, mostly because of the players who were taken off the so-called scrap heap.
I’ll begin with the obvious: Bartolo Colon.
Tonight he played the role of stopper, pitching eight strong innings en route to a 3-1 Yankee win over the Chicago White Sox, ending a two-game losing skid. Colon worked effectively, throwing 99 pitches, striking out six and only issuing one walk.
He only allowed one earned run, an RBI single in the sixth inning from Adam Dunn which plated Carlos Quentin. Other than that hiccup, Colon was masterful. He worked out of a bases loaded, no out jam in the second inning and his fastball had both life and movement, topping out on the speed gun at 96 mph.
So far Colon is 2-1 with an ERA of 2.77 and honestly, who expected this from him?
Probably not many people.
It’s still early in the season, and Colon has not logged more than 200 innings since 2005, the year he won the A.L. Cy Young Award. In 2007 he tossed 99 1/3 innings, but only registered 39 innings the following year. In 2009 he only threw 62 1/3 innings.
The question has to be asked: can his arm hold up for the rest of the year?
Time will tell. If he continues to pitch as effectively as he has this month for the rest of the season, the Yankees will not have a problem. However if the season rolls along and his velocity goes down, his pitches lose life and they fall flat, the Yankees may have to take action.
But they will cross that bridge when they get there. For now, the Colon signing is looking as if it was the right move. Bench Coach Tony Pena managed him over the winter and recommended him to the front office.
At the moment, Pena deserves a vast amount of credit.
Another signing the Yankees made during the off-season, which right now is paying off, was the acquisition of Freddy Garcia.
Although Garcia hasn’t gotten a lot of mound time, he has made two starts and is 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA. On April 16 he beat a powerful Texas Ranger team, pitching six innings and giving up no runs on just two hits. He only walked one and struck out one, but he made a statement with that game:
“I’m for real and I can still pitch.”
On April 24 he certainly pitched good enough to win, befuddling the Orioles for six innings and not allowing a run while giving up just two hits. He walked two but fanned seven. The Chief did not pick up the win, as the combined efforts of Mariano Rivera and Joba Chamberlain weren’t enough to handle the O’s in the late innings.
The Yanks did win the game though, 6-3 in 11 innings.
Garcia still has a little bit to prove because he only has two starts under his belt in this early season. But both starts have been of the quality variety and he has demonstrated decent control and good command of his pitches.
Another signing paying dividend: Eric Chavez.
Some analysts called having Chavez on the bench a “luxury” being that he is a former Silver Slugger winner (2002) and a six time Gold Glover winner (2001-06). Again, he hasn’t had a lot of playing time (12 games played) but he is making it count when he does play.
So far Chavez is batting .348 (8-for-23) with two doubles, three RBIs, and four runs scored. He has also done a pretty good job playing defense, as he made a nice bare-handed play at third in yesterday’s game, playing third base for Alex Rodriguez who served as the designated hitter.
Chavez has had a series of injuries in his career and the Yankees took a chance signing him. That risk is proving to be a great reward, at least for now. Again, we are in the early stages of the 2011 season, and there is no telling what can happen in terms of injuries.
But if Chavez remains healthy, he could be looked at as a steal in the future; a brilliant acquisition and one of the better moves the Yankees have made in recent years.
Along with Chavez is Andruw Jones – a player once regarded as the most dangerous hitter in the National League. Like Chavez Jones is a former Silver Slugger (2005) and he is a 10-time Gold Glove winner and a five time All-Star.
Jones has played in eight games so far this year and is batting .316 with a home run and two RBIs. He isn’t as fast as he once was, and maybe not even as athletic. But serving the Yanks as the fourth outfielder, he has made a couple of good catches in left field.
As the year progresses, he could become more and more valuable to the Yankees. Jones hit 19 homers for the White Sox last year and knocked in 48 runs. If you ask me, that type of production from a bench player is definitely a plus, and in many ways a bonus.
Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman was criticized heavily by the media and the fan base for making these questionable moves in the off-season. Skeptics (including myself) thought the players taken off the scrap heap were never going to make it.
I think the only way to look at it this way:
If the GM signs the player and he bombs, the GM looks like an idiot. If he signs the player and the player prevails, the GM comes off looking like a genius.
So far, Cashman is looking like a genius.
Yet, it cannot be stressed enough: the season is young. Very young. Through the first month each of the scrap heap signees has done extraordinarily well. They have stepped into these roles and flourished, keeping the Yankees (13-8) above the rest of the teams in the division.
But they need to keep on trucking, otherwise Cashman, as smart as he looks now, will look like a person who didn’t know what he was doing in terms of making these signings.
And for now, they are the scrap heap heroes.
The Yankees had a rare game on Tuesday – a complete meltdown of the bullpen, taking a 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins. Yesterday’s game was rained out, making this afternoon’s game a rubber game. The Bombers came out on top, beating the Twins 4-3 in the series finale.
The Yankees and Twins will make up Wednesday’s rainout in September.
A three-run fourth inning by the Yankees gave them the lead, which they never gave up. Down 2-1, Andruw Jones blasted a double to score Alex Rodriguez, tying the game up at two. Russell Martin then grounded out to first base, allowing Robinson Cano to come to the plate.
Jones came home on a bloop single by Brett Gardner, finishing off the scoring in the frame.
The Yankees built a run in the bottom of the third, with Gardner ultimately coming home on a sacrifice fly to right field by Nick Swisher.
Speaking of Swisher, he took out Twins’ second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka in the seventh, sliding hard into second base to break up what would have been a Mark Teixeira double play.
Swisher broke it up, but in the process, fractured Nishioka’s fibula. The Yankees’ right fielder looked visibly disappointed in himself after Nishioka was removed from the game. He is headed to the disabled list.
Next time the Yankees meet the Twins…watch your back, Swish. (Although Swisher did apologize after the game. Will the Twins will get back at him? We’ll have to wait and see).
In another storyline, Derek Jeter had two hits and he passed Rogers Hornsby and Jake Beckley for 33rd place on baseball’s all-time hits list. The Captain now has 2,931 hits, just 69 base hits away from 3,000.
The Twins scored two in the top of the fourth receiving RBI doubles by Jim Thome and Jason Kubel. They plated their final run in the top of the seventh on a groundout by Denard Span to score Alexi Casilla.
A.J. Burnett pitched for the Yankees and turned in a good performance. The lanky right-hander tossed six innings and gave up two earned runs on five hits. He walked two batters and struck out five, mixing pitches and using his curveball with confidence.
He was backed by the combination of Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano, and Mariano Rivera who put the Twins away in the seventh, eighth, and ninth, respectively. It was certainly an improvement over Tuesday’s collapse. The only blemish was a run given up by Chamberlain – Span’s groundout to score Casilla was on him.
Burnett improved to 2-0 on the season and he is now 7-0 in 12 April starts as a member of the Yankees. He leads the Yankee staff in wins this year.
Rivera has saved all four games the Yankees have won this season, as the Bombers are 4-2.
Now they will head into Boston for the weekend, where things have not gone according to plan. While the Yankees have a winning record, the Red Sox have started the season 0-6, losing their first three games to the Rangers and their next three to the Indians.
Boston has only started two other seasons at 0-6 (1905 and 1927) and statistically it’s the worst start they have ever seen since 1945. Baseball analysts are asking themselves, “What have happened to these guys?” After all, many experts predicted the Red Sox to win it all this year, considering their huge off-season acquisitions. They added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to help bolster an already-potent lineup.
Although the BoSox are scuffling, they cannot blame Gonzalez. He is hitting .304 with five RBIs and he has a home run. Crawford on the other hand is not producing, hitting .174 with no extra base hits, only one RBI, and six strikeouts.
Jacoby Ellsbury, who is Boston’s leadoff hitter, is only batting .167 and has struck out seven times this year. Kevin Youkilis, one of the Red Sox main RBI producers in the middle of the lineup, is hitting a meager .105 with just one RBI and five strikeouts. Dustin Pedroia is batting .227 with no extra base hits and no RBIs.
After their 1-0 loss to the Indians today, Pedroia said he was going to go home and his wife was going to tell him “he stinks.”
Yet, it isn’t just the dead offense. Boston’s pitching hasn’t been much better.
John Lackey, who will start tomorrow afternoon against Phil Hughes (0-1, 11.25 ERA) was shelled in his first start of the year against Texas. He tossed only 3 2/3 innings and surrendered nine earned runs on ten hits. He walked two batters, struck out three, and served up two homers. Lackey’s ERA right now is 22.09.
On Saturday the Yankees will send Ivan Nova (1-0, 4.50 ERA) to the hill to face Clay Buchholz, who was touched up for four homers in his first start of the season against the Rangers. He pitched 6 1/3 innings on the way to a loss in Texas, as he is 0-1 right now with a 5.68 ERA.
The series will conclude on Sunday night with CC Sabathia (0-0, 1.38 ERA) squaring off against Josh Beckett – once the Boston ace, now throwing out of the number four spot in the rotation. Beckett only tossed five innings in Cleveland on Tuesday, giving up three earned runs on five hits. He walked four batters and struck out four, on the way to his first loss of 2011.
Look at it this way: tomorrow is Opening Day at Fenway Park. The Red Sox fans are going to be excited and hoping their team can put the abysmal 0-6 start behind them with a win over the Yankees. During the opening ceremonies, the fans will be cheering and going wild for their players, new life and rebirth fresh in their heads.
If the Yankees jump all over Lackey for a few runs early on, they might turn on their team and get angry. The Boston fans might be getting restless, witnessing their team – that everyone thought was going be dominant – struggle so mightily in the early-going.
And with the way the Yankees have been going ahead early, getting on base, and putting pressure on the other team, it could make for a long weekend for the Red Sox.
As the people in Boston continue to scratch their heads and wonder what is wrong with the Red Sox, New York would love nothing more than to keep the ongoing Boston Massacre alive.
Today, God let there be baseball. And life.
And with it all came a 6-3 Yankee win over the Tigers, as the Bombers have now won 13 of their last 14 home openers. Today’s win also snapped a two-game Opening Day losing streak, as the Yanks dropped their road openers in 2010 and 2009 – to the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, respectively.
Where to start?
How nice was he? He made three outstanding catches in center, highlighting the day on defense. Along with notching a few web gems, he was a force at the plate. In the bottom of the seventh Granderson broke a 3-3 tie with a solo home run to deep right field, a shot that landed in the second deck.
It was Granderson’s first home run of the year and it marked the third consecutive time he homered on Opening Day. Last year he took Josh Beckett deep on Opening Night at Fenway Park vs. the Red Sox and as a member of the Tigers in 2009, he homered in a 12-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Ironically enough, Granderson went deep off the same pitcher he was traded for – Phil Coke. Coke took the loss and Granderson was pretty much the player of the game.
Knowing that, it must be tough to be the Tigers.
Granderson homered off Coke, a left-handed pitcher. Last year he scuffled against lefties (.234 batting average), so the fact that he took a southpaw deep today is hopefully a good sign of things to come.
Not to mention he hurt his oblique during Spring Training and showed no lingering signs of an injury.
Overall, Granderson stole the Opening Day show. And if nothing else, he ushered in the Yankees’ first win of 2011 – hopefully the first of many.
CC Sabathia ended the day with a good line: six innings pitched, six hits, three runs (two earned), two walks, and seven strikeouts. Overall it was respectable, considering it was the first game of the year and Sabathia hasn’t had a fair amount of success to open up the season.
The big man provided the Yanks with a quality start, but the real story was the perfect bullpen.
Joba Chamberlain relieved Sabathia and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, recording one strikeout. He was very effective, although he was only hitting the low-90s on the speed gun.
After Chamberlain was Rafael Soriano, who tossed a scoreless, hitless eighth. The new setup man got the chance to strut his stuff, and I’m sure I can speak for every Yankee fan when say I loved what I saw.
Following him was who else but the great Mariano Rivera. With a new regular season look, sporting his socks high – the same look we saw in Spring Training – Rivera came on to shut down the Tigers in the ninth, 1-2-3 for his 560th career save and first of 2011.
Chamberlain picked up the win while Soriano recorded a hold.
The game has been shortened when it comes to Yankee pitching. If each starter gives the Yankees what Sabathia gave them today, the Bronx Bombers are going to win a heck of a lot of ballgames.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the third, Mark Teixeira blasted a three-run homer to right field, his first of the year, to put the Yanks ahead, 3-1. Like Granderson’s homer, it landed in the second porch in right field.
Teixeira was 1-for-3, as his homer was the only hit he had. But if he swings the bat the way he did today, he might possibly be able to exorcise his “slow start demons.”
Derek Jeter is still 74 hits away from 3,000 for his career, not reaching base by way of a hit today. He did however draw a walk and he drove in Russell Martin with a sacrifice fly.
Speaking of Martin, he scored two runs today and stole a base. That’s right, a catcher stole a base.
Nick Swisher knocked in the Yankees’ sixth run of the afternoon with an RBI single to score Alex Rodriguez. Swisher hit a blooper into right field and tried to stretch it into a double. He was put out 9-3-6-3, but not before Rodriguez crossed the plate.
Rodriguez had a monster double in the sixth that, on any other day, would have gone out for a home run. It caromed off the wall in right-center field, as A-Rod just missed it. The slugging third baseman quite possibly could have had a triple, but he was in his home run trot when he left the box.
Overall, the Yankees played a great game. It was a hard-fought win, because the Tigers kept chipping away at their lead. Finally Granderson was able to put the Tigers away with one swing of the bat and from there it snowballed.
Tomorrow the Yanks will have their traditional off-day following Opening Day. They will be back at it on Saturday afternoon against Detroit.
A.J. Burnett, who is battling a cold, will make his first start of 2011. The number two man is hoping to erase his 10-15 record last year, and what better way to do that than by beginning this season with a win?
He will face Brad Penny of the Tigers.
Today the Yankees beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 in Tampa, leaving only three more Grapefruit League games left on the schedule before they start playing for real on Thursday. The highlight of the afternoon was a towering, two-run homer off the bat of Alex Rodriguez that flew over the batter’s eye in centerfield, his sixth round-tripper of the spring.
A few decisions and moves were made recently, most notably the trade of Sergio Mitre, the signing of Kevin Millwood, and the naming of the fourth and fifth starting pitchers.
Yesterday Mitre was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Chris Dickerson. In this afternoon’s win over the Bucs, Dickerson made his Yankee debut and put on quite a hitting show. The 28 year-old pounded out three hits (including a double) in three at-bats while knocking in a run.
Unfortunately Dickerson was forced to leave the game with an apparent hamstring injury after notching his third hit. As of this point, the Yankee medical staff can only diagnose his injury as “spasms and cramping.”
Tough luck for the kid to go down – especially following such an impressive debut. What’s more, it hurts the Yankees, being that Curtis Granderson is not yet confirmed to be playing on Opening Day in light of his oblique injury. Yesterday Granderson did some running and agility drills, as he hopes to avoid beginning the 2011 season on the disabled list.
Millwood, 36, was signed just yesterday. He owned the worst record in baseball last year, going 4-16 for the Baltimore Orioles with a 5.10 ERA. However, he has been a dominant pitcher in the past, leading the league with the lowest ERA in 2005 (2.86), making the All-Star team in 1999, and finishing third in the N.L. Cy Young voting in 1999 as a member of the Atlanta Braves.
Even though he has proven himself in the past, he hasn’t proven anything yet. He will probably have to go through extended Spring Training and wouldn’t make the team unless he flourishes, another pitcher struggles, or another pitcher gets hurt.
Along with the trade and the signing, it was announced that Ivan Nova will be the Yankees’ number four starter this year, and Freddy Garcia will pitch every fifth day. Bartolo Colon, who many people feel had a better spring than Garcia, will pitch out of the bullpen.
Garcia owned a 5.93 ERA in four spring outings, throwing 13 2/3 innings. Colon held down a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings, giving most people the impression Colon should have won the number five job.
Yankee Manager Joe Girardi maintained that Garcia, 35, was the favorite to win the spot because Colon, 37, hasn’t pitched in a Major League game since 2009. Girardi added that, for his standards, Garcia had a good spring.
Now that we are only six days away from Opening Day, here is how Girardi should build his roster. Only 25 players can be at Yankee Stadium on Thursday and these men (I feel) have earned the honor of making the trek from Tampa to the Bronx.
1) Derek Jeter – SS
2) Alex Rodriguez – 3B
3) Robinson Cano – 2B
4) Mark Teixeira – 1B
5) Jorge Posada – DH
6) Russell Martin – C
7) Brett Gardner – LF
8) Nick Swisher – RF
9) Curtis Granderson* -CF (*if he does not start the season on the DL)
10) Andruw Jones – Fourth Outfielder
11) Eric Chavez – Backup IF/Utility
12) Eduardo Nunez – Backup IF/Utility
13) Jesus Montero – Backup Catcher
14) CC Sabathia – No. 1 Starter
15) A.J. Burnett -No. 2 Starter
16) Phil Hughes – No. 3 Starter
17) Ivan Nova – No. 4 Starter
18) Freddy Garcia – No. 5 Starter
19) Bartolo Colon – Long Relief
20) Mark Prior – Middle/Long Relief (he is interchangeable; can be used for both)
21) Joba Chamberlain – Middle Relief
22) David Robertson – Middle Relief
23) Rafael Soriano – Setup Man
24) Boone Logan* (*Pedro Feliciano will most likely start the season on the DL) – Lefty specialist(s)
25) Mariano Rivera – Closer
Most of these players will be in the Bronx next week and all of them deserve to be. Girardi will probably make a few modifications to my Opening Day roster, but expect to see most of these names called during the pregame ceremony on Thursday.
Mark Prior deserves to be on the roster because of how well he pitched this spring (eight games, 7 2/3 innings pitched, three hits, three runs, one earned run, 1.17 ERA, 11 Ks, and five walks).
He earned the chance to prove himself and could provide the Yanks with some solid middle and/or long relief. I’m not sure if Girardi will send Prior to the Bronx, but if they don’t call him up, at least at some point in the season, they are making a mistake.
If Granderson does start the season on the DL, obviously a spot will be open and it’ll be a toss up. I would expect someone like Justin Maxwell (.206 in Spring Training, but he only had 34 at-bats, three RBIs, and four runs scored) or even Dickerson (if he is healthy, given his injury today) to backup Jones in centerfield. That spot would only be open until Granderson returns, anyway.
Another position in question is the backup catcher role. I feel it is time for Montero to at least gain some experience on the Major League level. Today it was reported that Gustavo Molina could back up Martin at catcher, until Francisco Cervelli returns from his foot injury.
If you ask me though, Montero needs a taste of the big leagues – even if he doesn’t spend the entire season in the show.
Whichever way it goes, in a matter of days, anticipate Girardi giving the official word on who is going to the Bronx and who will be heading to the minors.
A tie in baseball? You know it. On Saturday afternoon the Yankees battled the Toronto Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa Bay to a 5-5 tie in ten innings.
With the Blue Jays leading 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth, Eduardo Nunez chopped a single up the middle to score Doug Bernier, tying the game at five. From there, neither team could scrape a run across the plate.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Yanks and Jays were tied at three until Jorge Posada lined a single to right field to plate Mark Teixeira, putting the Yanks ahead 4-3. Toronto answered with a two-run home run in the top of the sixth, a blast off the bat of David Cooper to give the Blue Jays a 5-4 lead.
It looked as though Cooper took a golf swing, and Yankees’ starter Freddy Garcia knew the ball was gone as soon as it was hit. Garcia pitched six innings and was charged with five earned runs on five hits. He did not walk a batter, and struck out six.
Robinson Cano took a big swing of his own in the bottom of the first, belting a two-run homer over the right-center field wall. His shot gave the Yanks a 3-0 lead, as Cano’s round-tripper followed an RBI double hit by Alex Rodriguez.
Leading 3-0 heading into the top of the fourth, the Jays tied it up. On a wild pitch by Garcia, Rajai Davis crossed the plate. After the wild pitch, Brett Lawrie singled to drive in Yunel Escobar. Later in the frame Cooper hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Eric Thames, knotting the game at three.
Brett Cecil started for Toronto. He pitched 4 1/3 innings and gave up four earned runs on seven hits. He walked three batters and fanned one.
This has been an unbelievable spring for Mark Teixeira. The slugging first baseman is batting .353 and added a double and a run scored today, going 1-for-4 at the plate. As previously documented, Teixeira is a slow-starter. At the beginning of each year, it seems he presses and scuffles along before getting into a groove.
This year could be a different story.
Teixeira hasn’t had a spring like this since becoming a Yankee. I can recall him swinging a hot bat, but nothing like this, at least in terms of his batting average. He has been getting on base, despite not hitting any home runs this spring. His philosophy is “home runs come in bunches” and he has hit over 30 both years in pinstripes, leaving us not to worry about his power numbers.
Speaking of Mark…
Mark Prior once again proved his worth today, tossing a scoreless eighth inning. He worked around a double by Adam Loewen and recorded two strikeouts, lowering his spring ERA to 1.53.
Right now he deserves a spot on the roster. Prior has been one of the Yanks’ most consistent pitchers this spring and can be a valuable asset to the already-strengthened bullpen.
If he doesn’t make the team, it will be a travesty.
Notes & Things to Look Out For
· Alex Rodriguez was 1-for-2 today with two walks, an RBI, and a run scored. He is hitting a mind-boggling .412 this spring. If he continues this throughout the regular season, he will have one amazing 2011 season. He has the ability to put the team on his back and carry them. Hopefully it won’t come to that, because the team does much better when everyone is contributing. However, A-Rod looks as though he will dominate headlines this year.
· Robinson Cano clubbed his first home run of the spring, a bomb to deep right-center field. The ball flew right over an insurance sales sign – which is next to the Hooters sign at Steinbrenner Field. I have never been to Hooters, but I want to go. (You now know something about me).
· Designated hitter Jorge Posada was 2-for-3 with an RBI today, and he raised his spring batting average to .243. He has been streaky this spring, but I expect him to become a little more consistent at the plate during the regular season.
· The Great Mariano Rivera once again showed dominance in a spring outing today. Rivera, sporting the hiked-up socks, tossed a perfect inning and recorded two strikeouts. His spring ERA is, no surprise, 0.00. Typical Mo.
· Derek Jeter had three hits today, going 3-for-4 with a run scored. After the game he spoke about his stride, and how it isn’t a big deal. He also mentioned that he doesn’t care where he hits in the lineup. He was recently plugged into the number two hole in the lineup, as Girardi allowed Brett Gardner to lead off. I don’t think it matters where Jeter hits. He has hit in the two hole a lot in the past as well as the leadoff spot – and he has flourished in both roles. The Captain was wearing a Michigan shirt during his postgame interview. He wants them to beat Duke tomorrow. March Madness even reaches baseball, I suppose.
· Speaking of Gardner, he has a bruised right shin and sat out today. He was injured on Thursday when he fouled a ball off his the bottom of his leg. Foul balls off body parts (I guess I could say) are becoming a real problem in baseball. When you think about it, you are only redirecting the ball when you foul it; it isn’t slowing down an awful lot, and it is still traveling at a high speed. Many players, notably Francisco Cervelli this spring, have been hurt because of foul balls off the feet/ankles.
· Eduardo Nunez played left field today. An infielder by trade, he made a stellar over-the-shoulder catch to end the fifth inning. He did drop a catch later in the game, but it’s no big deal; after all he is an infielder. Nunez’s offense has been unreal. He is hitting .317 for the spring and was 1-for-4 today with an RBI. In my mind, he will make the team. The Yanks would be crazy not to give him a ticket to New York.
· Joba Chamberlain, who like Mitre suffered a strained oblique, threw off a mound today and seemed alright, according to reports. He is expected to pitch in a game within the next few days.
· Pedro Feliciano (sore upper left arm) and Boone Logan (sore back) are expected to be ready for Opening Day. This so-called “revolutionary bullpen” needs to stay healthy.
· Rafael Soriano doesn’t want to face A.L. East opponents during Spring Training. He actually had his pitching schedule changed so he didn’t have to face the Orioles on Wednesday. I just have one question: is this guy for real?
· Tomorrow afternoon the Yankees will travel to Phillies camp. CC Sabathia will start against Joe Blanton. The Bombers will play the Rays at their camp on Monday night, followed by a game at Orioles camp on Tuesday afternoon – which is the next televised game on the YES Network.
· The Yankees’ spring record is now 8-12-3.
On Tuesday the Yankees played the Atlanta Braves to a 5-4 win. Today the Braves gained a measure of redemption, beating the Yankees 6-2 in an exhibition at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Tied at two heading into the top of the seventh, Yankees’ reliever Steve Garrison imploded. The Braves scratched four runs across the plate to take lead and eventually the game. Brent Clevlen singled to score Diory Hernandez to give Atlanta a 3-2 edge. Matt Young followed with an RBI single which plated Brooks Conrad, giving the Braves a 4-2 lead.
Later in the frame Wilkins Castillo grounded out to short, allowing Clevlen to cross the plate. Ed Lucas topped out the huge inning with a single to score Young, giving the Braves six runs in the game.
The Braves scored their initial run in the top of the first on a single by Chipper Jones to score Martin Prado. Jordan Schafer clubbed a solo homer in the second to give the Braves their second run.
The Yankees scored their first run in the second inning on a long solo home run over the right field wall off the bat of Jorge Posada. In the bottom of the sixth, Alex Rodriguez grounded to third, which allowed Andruw Jones to score, tying the game at two.
Tommy Hanson made the start for Atlanta and turned in a good outing. He tossed four innings and gave up one earned run on five hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out two.
Phil Hughes started for New York. He pitched four innings, and gave up two earned runs on seven hits. He walked one batter and K’d two.
Notes & Things to Look Out For
· First off, thoughts and sympathy go out to all affected by the earthquake in Japan. An 8.9 on the Richter scale? – Now that is serious. Yankee pitcher Kei Igawa was permitted to leave the Minor League training facility in an attempt to contact his loved ones in Japan. Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Takashi Saito was also allowed to leave camp, concerned for his relatives back home. We as Americans are left praying and hoping everyone in the Far East will be OK. I can’t help but think of Hideki Matsui, too. I am praying for him and everyone else in Japan. May God be with all of them during this crisis.
· Phil Hughes has a 5.00 ERA this spring. Today he fell behind a few hitters and surrendered a home run, also allowing seven hits and nine total base runners. Was I impressed? Not really. Did he look sharp? Not really. Am I concerned? A little bit. A lot of people jump all over A.J. Burnett’s back for having a poor record and an inflated ERA last season – and rightfully so, Burnett had an off-year.
But what they don’t realize, or seem to remember, is that Hughes pitched to a 4.19 ERA last year (about one run lower than Burnett, who notched a 5.26 ERA) and lost the deciding game of the American League Championship Series. His record last season was 18-8, which is probably why everyone is quick to forgive him. I’m just worried Hughes had a “fluke year” in 2010 and will not be as effective in 2011. His arm seemed to tire towards the end of last year and if it happens again, it could cause some problems for the Yankee rotation.
· Derek Jeter had a hit today and his average is now at .333. It’s good to see the Captain hitting above .300 again and I’m sure he will continue to work on the stride adjustment.
· It was documented that Mark Teixeira is in mid-season form. The slugging first baseman is batting .364 this spring and was 1-for-3 today. The Yanks need a lot of production out of Teixeira this year and right now he is proving that there are no carryover effects of his injuries last year – the hamstring and the broken toe. Traditionally he is a slow starter, but maybe he can leap that hurdle this year and have a big month of April.
· Jorge Posada’s home run today was a BOMB. At 39 years old he is still showing that power he has generally possessed throughout his career. Today he homered from the left side of the plate and the ball would have landed in the second deck at Yankee Stadium, had the game been played there. Although he probably won’t catch at all this year, he might still see some field time. In yesterday’s 7-0 loss to the Phillies, he played first base.
· Regulars Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, and Nick Swisher did not play. Granderson and Swisher played in Dunedin against the Toronto Blue Jays, as the Yanks were in split squad action. Granderson was 1-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Swisher was also 1-for-3 with an RBI.
· Although Granderson and Swisher both had good days at the plate, the other squad lost to the Jays, 10-3.
· Austin Krum made a diving catch to rob Ed Lucas of a hit in the sixth inning. Highlight-reel worthy catch, if I do say so myself. Joba Chamberlain tipped his cap to Krum – and his line: one inning pitched, no runs, two hits, no walks, and one strikeout. Chamberlain’s spring ERA is now 3.60.
· Rafael Soriano made his second appearance of the spring today. He tossed a perfect fifth inning, striking out Brooks Conrad and Martin Prado while getting Chipper Jones to ground out. Soriano will be the eighth inning setup man and I am really excited for him. He looks as though he will be lights out.
· Soriano will be setting up the incomparable Mariano Rivera, who has yet to throw a pitch in a game this spring. He will however get his first spring action on Sunday, according to the YES Network.
· Ivan Nova started against the Blue Jays today. His line: three innings pitched, two earned runs on five hits, two walks, one K, and he gave up a homer to Jose Bautista. He’s been fairly solid up until now. He can bury one shaky start. He has to come out strong next time to stay in contention for a spot in the rotation.
· Steve Garrison will not make the team. Not after today. But I have a feeling he wasn’t making it anyway. He recorded the loss and basically blew the game against the Braves.
· Jesus Montero went 0-for-3 without a hit today at the Blue Jays. His batting average has dipped below .200 and yes, I am a little worried about that. Especially now that he has a chance to make the team because of Francisco Cervelli’s foot injury.
· Behind the plate for the Braves today was Brian McCann. He threw out Jeter and Justin Maxwell trying to steal. The guy has a great arm.
· Former Yankee Scott Proctor got the win today, even though he blew a save. He is now 1-1 this spring, trying to resurrect a career torn down by arm problems. He has Joe Torre to thank for that. On a side note about Proctor – he really resembles WWE superstar John Cena. It’s uncanny how they look alike.
· The Yankees are now 6-7-2 in Grapefruit League play.
· Tomorrow the Yankees will visit the Washington Nationals. On Sunday they will come back to Tampa to play the Minnesota Twins – which is also the next televised game on the YES Network.
Through 5 2/3 innings, the Yankee pitchers kept the Phillies off the bases. That is until Wilson Valdez smacked a line drive homer off Hector Noesi, a shot that landed over the left field fence at Steinbrenner Field. That blow ended the combined perfect game the Yanks’ hurlers were compiling and plated the only run for the Phillies, as the Bronx Bombers went on to beat them 7-1 this afternoon in an exhibition.
In the bottom of the second Eduardo Nunez crushed a three-run home run deep to left field off starter Roy Oswalt, giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Curtis Granderson came up to the plate the next inning and pulled a two-run shot over the left field fence, and the Yanks took a 5-0 lead.
Oswalt was pulled after 2 2/3 innings pitched, and he gave up five runs (three earned) on four hits. He walked no one and struck out three.
In the bottom of the fifth, Jorge Posada singled to plate Brett Gardner. Later in the frame, Granderson scored on an RBI single off the bat of Eric Chavez, giving the Yankees seven runs.
A.J. Burnett started for the Yankees and did not give an inch. The lanky right-hander tossed three perfect innings without allowing a walk. He only had one strikeout, but it was a big one. Burnett whiffed brand name first baseman Ryan Howard.
So far this spring Burnett has tossed five scoreless innings.
Notes & Things to Look Out For
· Obviously A.J. Burnett is doing something right, at least to this point. I mentioned after his first start that he looks like a different pitcher, and it’s the truth; his delivery and arm angle are not the same. His different look gives me a sense of confidence in him, because he didn’t have a good spring like this last year. In fact, I believe I made a remark last spring saying, “His numbers this spring are worse than Joe Biden’s mouth.”
· On a side note about Burnett, he tossed 45 pitches and 30 were strikes. He is demonstrating command – another positive. He looks as though he will be OK, but he is still a work in progress and he’s got a long way to go. Baby steps.
· Jorge Posada laced a double in the bottom of the third, and came around to score on a single by Eric Chavez. Oh wait…he actually didn’t. Posada missed the base and pitcher Vance Worley (who relieved Roy Oswalt) appealed at third and Posada was called out. It helps to touch the base when you’re running. It’s a general rule.
· Nick Swisher made a stellar catch in the top of the fourth to rob Placido Polanco of a hit. In foul ground, Swisher bent over the bullpen railing to make the catch, then front-flipped into the Yankee bullpen. He held on for the catch. It kind of reminded me of July 22, 2009 – the day Swisher ran up the right field wall at Yankee Stadium to make a fantastic catch, worthy of the highlight reel. I was at that game and the crowd went nuts. Everyone loves Swisher.
· Right after Swisher’s catch, Jimmy Rollins chopped a ball off Chavez’s glove at first. He stayed with it and flipped the ball to Joba Chamberlain, who actually covered the base. The big man got to the bag in time, getting Rollins out. Score that crazy play 3-1. It looked more exciting than it sounds.
· Speaking of Joba Chamberlain, he had a good line today: one inning pitched, no hits, no walks, and no strikeouts. It was a step up from his outing on Saturday against the Washington Nationals: one inning pitched, two earned runs on two hits, two walks, and no Ks. I hope this isn’t another up-and-down year for Chamberlain. Whatever Burnett is doing, he needs to do the same. Chamberlain’s ERA this spring is now 4.50.
· Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez did not play. Today was a split squad day (meaning there are two games; some players play in the first game and others play in the second). The regular infielders will play later tonight at the Orioles.
· What happened to Roy Oswalt today? He couldn’t get through the third inning. I think it was just an aberration for him, much like CC Sabathia’s poor start on Saturday vs. the Nationals (five runs in 2 2/3 innings). Against National League hitters this year, he’ll hold his own.
· Brett Gardner was 1-for-3 today with an RBI, a walk, and a stolen base. He was hitting from the leadoff spot today and seems capable of that role. He will most likely have to improve his bunting if he wants to hit in the number one hole.
· I have the feeling the fifth infielder spot is going to come down to Chavez and Nunez. Today Chavez had three hits in three at-bats, knocked in a run and came around to score once. He is batting .471 as of press time. Nunez showed a great amount of power with his home run and he is averaging .286 at the plate so far. Ramiro Pena might be the odd man out, only hitting .063 so far. He will have to turn on the jets if he wants to make the team right out of camp.
· “Perpetual” Pedro Feliciano tossed a perfect fifth inning with two Ks. I get the feeling he will be the primary lefty specialist. Sorry Boone Logan.
· Curtis Granderson is batting .357 this spring and has hit two homers so far. He hasn’t even played in every game, and if his numbers are any indication, he is primed for a big season.
· Mark Prior pitched around a Pete Orr double in the eighth, not allowing a run. He didn’t walk a batter and he fanned one. As I wrote a few days ago, I am pulling for him and I want him to be this year’s big comeback story. He is a hard worker and I get the feeling he wants nothing more than to bounce back and help the Yankees. So far he is proving he can do it.
· Jesus Montero went 0-for-1 at the plate today and struck out, leaving a man on base. He hasn’t really had the opportunity to break out, yet he is still hitting .250. His counterpart Austin Romine will get the start at catcher in tonight’s exhibition vs. the Orioles.
· Former Yankee Nick Johnson signed with the Cleveland Indians today. I feel sorry for them.
· Tomorrow afternoon the Yanks will travel to the Wide World of Sports to visit the Atlanta Braves (the game will be broadcasted on the YES Network). Freddy Garcia will make the start for the Bombers.
· The Yanks are now 4-5-1 in Grapefruit League play. (Subject to change, pending the outcome of the game vs. Baltimore tonight)