March 2010

Cano, Winfree Power Yankees Past Orioles 11-7

GAME 24
YANKEES 11, ORIOLES 7

Robinson Cano and David Winfree blasted three-run home runs and combined for seven RBIs as the New York Yankees powered their way past the Baltimore Orioles 11-7 on Monday night at a blustery Ed Smith Stadium in Saraota, FL.
Javier Vazquez (3-0) was touched for four runs in 5 1/3 innings but picked up the victory nonetheless. Jeremy Guthrie (0-4) took the loss.
The Yankees raised their spring ledger to 11-13 while the Orioles record dropped to 10-15.
YANKEE POSITIVES

  • Cano’s home run in the first inning off Guthrie gave him two home runs, eight RBIs and he finished the game with a batting average of .341.
  • Winfree, who only entered the game after first baseman Mark Teixeira was forced to leave the game with a contusion on his right arm after being hit by a pitch by Guthrie, drove in a run in the fourth on a groundout and added his three-run shot in the sixth inning to blow the game wide open. The home run travelled a good 410 feet to straightaway center. Winfree, who was acquired from the Twins, has had an impressive spring but is still ticketed to play for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
  • Marcus Thames hit his second home run of the spring, a solo shot in the seventh inning. He has been coming on of late and the Yankees seem to be leaning on him to be the 25th man on the roster because he provides power off the bench.
  • Francisco Cervelli reached base on all four of his at-bats, scored two runs and even stole a base.
  • Nick Johnson, true to form, walked three times and scored two runs.
  • Journeyman reserve catcher P.J. Pilittere connected on a solo home run in the ninth inning to give the Yankees four home runs in the game.
  • The 11 runs the Yankees scored are the most runs they have scored in a game this spring.
  • Joba Chamberlain pitched two-thirds of an inning and, despite giving up a scratch single, looked impressive striking out Brian Roberts to end the sixth inning.
  • Chan Ho Park also pitched a scoreless inning and served notice to Chamberlain that the fight for the set-up role will not be easy.
THE NEGATIVES

  • Derek Jeter did drive in a run on a fielder’s choice but was 0-for-5 and is now hitting .209 this spring.
  • Vazquez hung a pitch to Adam Jones and Jones crushed it for a three-run home run in the fifth inning that brought the Orioles back to make it a 5-4 Yankees’ lead.
  • Despite the 11 runs, the Yankees struck out 13 times (outfielder Greg Golson struck out three times) and the team was 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position. 
  • In his first three at-bats, Alex Rodriguez struck out with two on, grounded out to the pitcher with the bases loaded and flew out to center with two on to strand a total of seven runners. He did single in the sixth in his final at-bat.
  • Royce Ring, bidding to become potentially a second left-hander in the bullpen, gave up a two-run home run to lefty Luke Scott in the ninth inning.
  • This last item is decidely tongue-in-cheek: What’s wrong with Jon Weber? The former Rays outfielder has been making a habit of getting hits in his few at-bats this spring, But tonight Weber bounced out to the pitcher in the eighth inning to drop his average to .560 this spring. Come on, Jon!
DIAMOND NOTES

The reason for five of the six home runs hit in the game was a virtual gale-force 24 mph wind blowing out to left-center at Ed Smith Stadium. The Orioles also hit six doubles, many which were wind-aided shots off the outfield fences.  . . . Despite the chilly (64 degrees) and windy conditions, the attendance of 8,208 was the largest crowd to ever attend a game at Ed Smith Stadium. On Saturday, the Yankees-Tigers contest drew 10,219, which is a record for Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, FL. The Yankees continue to draw record sellout crowds for the road contests this spring.  . . . The Yankees said that Teixeira suffered a contusion on his right arm and is day-to-day. But they said he should be able to play in the April 4 opener with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. “It’s bruised. It should just be a day or two,” Teixeira told reporters after the game.  . . . Guthrie not only hit Teixeira, he also hit Cervelli with a pitch in the fourth inning. That drew some sharp words from Yankees manager Joe Girardi: “If you are having a hard time commanding your fastball inside, I don’t think it’s the time to be working on it.” Guthrie also walked four batters. Kevin Millwood was quoted this spring in assessing Guthrie that he was “too nice” and he needed to “get mean” and start pushing hitters off the plate. Obviously, Guthrie is trying to do just that.  
THE NEXT GAME

The Yankees will play a pair of games on Tuesday. One Yankees squad will travel to Lake Buena Vista, FL to take on the Atlanta Braves. CC Sabathia will get the start for the Yankees in his final tuneup before his Opening Day start on April 4. “Switch-pitcher” Pat Venditte is also expected to pitch for the Yankees. Venditte, a 20th round draft pick in 2008, throws left-handed and right-handed. Kenshin Kawakami will start for the Braves.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and there is no broadcast scheduled.
Meanwhile, another Yankees squad will play host to the Toronto Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. The Yankees will start Sergio Mitre in that game. Left-hander Marc Rzepczynski will start for the Blue Jays.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the YES Network will broadcast the contest.

Rain Spoils Pettitte’s Start For Third Time This Spring

TAMPA – Rain has been the bane of Andy Pettitte all spring and it came back to spoil yet another one of the veteran left-hander’s starts on Sunday afternoon.
The New York Yankees’ exhibition season game with the Detroit Tigers on Sunday was cancelled due to rain in the bottom of the fourth inning with the Yankees leading the Tigers 8-0 at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Manager Joe Girardi and Pettitte were outsmarted by Mother Nature again. Girardi had elected to not start the game by using Pettitte because he saw weather reports predicting rain to begin at 1:15 p.m. Girardi did not want to use Pettitte only to have rain wash out his start after an inning or two.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland had the same idea. He did not use right-hander Max Scherzer to start for the Tigers as he was scheduled to do.
However, after three innings of using relievers Damaso Marte, Mariano Rivera and Boone Logan, Girardi decided to pitch Pettitte in the fourth inning hoping he could get six innings and about 90 pitches of work in.
Instead, Pettitte got in one perfect inning and 13 pitches.
Pettitte has pitched only four previous innings of “A” games this spring and has had three starts cancelled by rain. The Yankees, as a team, have now had four games cancelled this spring due to rain.
Pettitte did manage to throw 87 pitches over five innings in a simulated game indoors and he seemed unperturbed about his bad luck when he spoke to reporters afterward. “I will be ready. There are no excuses. I’m ready.”
Pettitte has one more spring start to go before he makes his first 2010 start as the No. 3 starter against the Boston Red Sox on April 7 at Fenway Park.
Girardi was also not deterred by the weather. “Sometimes these things are a blessing in disguise.” Girardi had hoped to bring Pettitte along slowly after he pitched so many important innings for the Yankees in the playoffs last season.
Pettitte’s next spring start will be Friday against the Baltimore Orioles at Steinbrenner Field. If you plan to attend the game, you might want to bring along an umbrella or a poncho — just in case it rains.
DIAMOND NOTES

Fans at George M. Steinbrenner Field gave a loud and raucous ovation to Johnny Damon when he stepped to the plate in the first inning for the Tigers. It was Damon’s first appearance in a game against the Yankees in Tampa, FL, this spring. Damon was so touched he stepped out of the batter’s box, doffed his batting helmet to the crowd and then placed his fist over his heart. Damon then ripped a single off Marte. Damon is hitting .341 this spring with two home runs and seven RBIs.  . . . Leyland’s decision to start lefty Jon Kibler instead of Scherzer was in hindsight a mistake. Kibler lasted one-third of an inning and faced seven batters. He gave up three hits and three walks and he ended up giving up six runs.  . . .  Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano led the Yankees’ assault on Kibler. A-Rod blasted a two-run single and Cano followed with a two-run double.  . . . In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Yankees exhibited some of the oddest base-running you will ever see in a game. With pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez at first after an A-Rod walk, Cano hit another long drive to the wall in center field. Nunez, who thought center fielder Austin Jackson had a play on the ball, retreated to first base as Cano passed him and stood at second. After a short conference, the umpires allowed Nunez to go second and returned Cano to first. The rules indicate that Cano should have been called out for passing Nunez.  . . . Because the game was called before five innings were played none of the statistics in the game count. . . . Marte, Rivera and Logan each pitched scoreless frames. Rivera hit one batter and fanned another. Marte gave up the single to Damon and walked Ryan Raburn. But he fanned two batters to end the threat.
THE NEXT GAME

The Yankees will take to the road on Monday night to play the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota. The Yankees will start Javier Vazquez in the contest. The Orioles will counter with Alfredo Simon.
Game-time is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. EDT. There is no telecast scheduled.

Former Tigers’ Hitting, Burnett’s Pitching Boosts Yankees

The transmission of this report was delayed by technical difficulties.

GAME 23
YANKEES 2, TIGERS 1

A.J. Burnett pitched into the seventh inning and former Tigers Curtis Granderson and Marcus Thames drove in a run each as the New York Yankees defeated Detroit 2-1 on Saturday at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland.
Burnett (1-1) gave up one run on three hits and three walks and fanned two batters for the victory. Joba Chamberlain, making his first appearance of the spring as newly designated relief pitcher, earned a save. Nate Robertson (2-1) took the loss for the Tigers.
The Yankees improved their Grapefruit League record to 10-13. The Tigers fell to 14-10-1 on the spring.
YANKEE POSITIVES

  • Burnett did not have command of his breaking pitch throughout most of his outing but he and catcher Jorge Posada managed to find a way to get the Tigers out over 6 2/3 innings.
  • Marcus Thames, who is the apparent leader for the 25th spot on the roster, blasted a long home run — his first in March — off Robertson in the fourth inning to break a 1-1 tie. Thames, who struck out in his next two at-bats, has a .132 average this spring.
  • Granderson, who hit miserably off left-handers last season, doubled off Robertson with two out in the first inning to score Jorge Posada from third with the game’s first run.
  • Posada collected two hits in the game and is hitting .367 this spring.
  • Though he gave up two hits in the ninth, Joba Chamberlain used a double play and strikeout to earn his first save of the spring. The Yankees were happy that his velocity on his fastball reached 94 mph.
  • Chan Ho Park looked impressive in pitching a scoreless eighth inning. He gave up a single but got out of the inning with the help of a double play started by Kevin Russo.
  • The run the Yankees scored in the first inning broke a string of 20 straight scoreless innings.
  • Would you believe Jon Weber did it again? The veteran former Rays outfielder singled in his only at-bat in the ninth and is now hitting .583. He has no chance to make the team but his hitting is sure opening eyes for a potential call-up later in the season.
THE NEGATIVES

  • Brett Gardner was 0-for-3 and his batting average has now dipped to .233. The Yankees have no real choice but to start Gardner with Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera and Austin Jackson gone and Randy Winn struggling with a .219 average himself.
  • Winn was 0-for-4 in the game.
  • Two two-out hits came back to bite Burnett on Saturday. In the third inning, Damon doubled and Magglio Ordonez singled him in with two outs for the Tigers’ lone run.
  • Nick Johnson had an uncharacteristic game: He was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
  • The Yankees were only 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position despite winning the game.

Yankees Shut Out For Second Consecutive Game

The transmission of this report was delayed by technical difficulties.

GAME 22
PHILLIES 3, YANKEES 0

TAMPA – Jamie Moyer thoroughly shut down the Yankees on one hit over 6 2/3 innings as the Philadelphia Phillies blanked the New York Yankees 3-0 on Friday night at George M. Steinbrenner Field. It was the second consecutive game in which the Yankees were shut out.
Shane Victorino singled in the fourth and blasted a two-run double in the eighth inning to lead the offense. Moyer (1-0), trying to become the Phillies No. 5 starter at age 46, struck out six batters and walked none. Ryan Madson pitched a scoreless ninth to earn a save. Phil Hughes (0-3), the Yankees’ newly announced No. 5 starter, took the loss. 
The Yankees’ spring record dropped to 9-13. The Phillies are now 12-8 in Grapefruit League play.
YANKEE POSITIVES

  • Phil Hughes actually did not pitch poorly at all. He gave up two hits in 3-plus innings. However, the Phillies drew four walks and Hughes’ pitch count stood at 68 when started the fourth inning. He walked Raul Ibanez to begin the fourth and Ibanez scored on a throwing error after Hughes had been removed from the game.
  • The Yankees’ only hit off Moyer was a one-out single in the first inning by Marcus Thames, who entered the game batting .094.
  • Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect sixth inning with one strikeout. He retired the side using only 13 pitches.
  • Damaso Marte followed Rivera with a perfect seventh inning. He struck out one batter and he needed only 10 pitches to retire the Phillies.
  • Amaury Sanit pitched a perfect ninth inning and he also struck one batter. He has an 0.00 ERA this spring.
  • Jon Weber did it again. In the ninth inning he singled of Madson to raise his batting average this spring to .565.
THE NEGATIVES

  • In their last two games the Yankees have managed just nine hits. They have not scored a run in their last 20 innings. It wasn’t the bench players either. The Yankees played six starters against the Orioles on Wednesday and seven against the Phillies.
  • Hughes did not have very good command and the Phillies made him pay by laying off pitches out of the strike zone. 
  • Yankees starters Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner were a combined 0-for-16 off the veteran left-hander Moyer.
  • Francisco Cervelli, the defensive wizard with the rocket right arm, threw a ball into center field in trying to cut down Victorino stealing second base in the fourth inning. Ibanez scored from third on the errant throw and the Phillies took a lead they never gave up. Later in the inning, Cervelli nailed Jimmy Rollins trying to steal second.
  • Lefty Royce Ring, vying for a spot in the bullpen, struggled for the first time this spring. He gave up two hits and two runs in the eighth inning. However, an error by Weber at first base did not help his cause and the two runs were unearned, keeping Ring’s spring ERA at 0.00.

Yankees Lay Big Goose Egg As Orioles Romp

GAME 21
ORIOLES 8, YANKEES 0

Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and Garrett Atkins drove in two runs apiece and Brad Bergesen pitched shutout baseball into the sixth inning as the Baltimore Orioles defeated the New York Yankees 8-0 on Thursday at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota.
Bergesen (2-0) scattered three hits, walked one and struck out two in 5 2/3 innings for the victory. Alfredo Aceves (1-2) took the loss.
The Yankees’ Grapefruit League record dropped to 9-12. The Orioles are 9-13.
YANKEE POSITIVES

  • There was not much to be positive about in an 8-0 thrashing but Randy Winn was the only Yankees’ hitter who seemed ready to play. He was 3-for-3 with a double. He was 60% of the Yankees’ offense, which managed just five hits.
  • Chan Ho Park was impressive again in his two innings of work. He gave up two hits, walked none and struck two batters.
  • David Robertson walked a batter and gave up a hit but was able to get through his one inning without giving up a run. He seems to have a virtual lock on a spot in the bullpen.
  • Sergio Mitre, a loser in the No. 5 starter sweepstakes, had his sinker working well. Though he gave up a run on two hits, he retired five of the six batters he got out on ground balls.
  • Derek Jeter and Ramiro Pena collected the Yankees’ other two hits.
  • As far as we know, nobody in the crowd was injured while Aceves was pitching.
THE NEGATIVES

  • I am not sure whether it was just a bad day or if Aceves was shaken by not being named the fifth starter, but he was not himself at all. He gave six runs (five earned) on six hits and two walks in two-plus innings of work. After owning a 0.90 ERA going into his fourth start on Saturday, Aceves’ spring ERA ballooned to 6.06. He is going to have to recover soon just to make the bullpen now.
  • Robinson Cano did not make the day any better when he threw a ball away in the third inning that allowed a run to score in an inning where the Orioles scored two unearned runs.
  • Nick Johnson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher combined to go 0-for-14 in the game.
  • Our favorite non-roster invitee, Marcus Thames, finished the day 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he is now hitting .094. Thames leads the team in strikeouts. He has 13 in only 32 at-bats. It would be a miracle if Thames made the roster with those stats.
DIAMOND NOTES

The Yankees were probably surprised by the Orioles onslaught because the Orioles have been hitting .249 as a team this spring.  . . .  A standing-room crowd of 8,017 packed Ed Smith Stadium to see the Yankees play the Orioles.  .
. . Adam Jones hit a two-run home run off Aceves in the second inning that struck one of the Yankees’ team buses.  . . . The Yankees brought their starters with the exception of Curtis Granderson, Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner to Sarasota. . . . CC Sabathia, who was in line to pitch, stayed behind in Tampa, FL, to pitch for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in a game against the Phillies’ Triple-A Lehigh Valley club.  . . . Home-plate umpire John Hischbeck took several foul tips, including one to the throat, during Thursday’s game and left with paramedics after three innings. Third-base umpire Bill Welke then had to suit up to replace Hirschbeck, causing a 14-minute delay.
THE NEXT GAME

The Yankees will play host to the National League champion Phillies on Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Phil Hughes, the newly anointed No. 5 starter, will start the game for the Yankees on three days rest. The Phillies will counter with veteran left-hander Jamie Moyer in their final meeting of the spring.
Game-time is 7:05 p.m. EDT and the contest will not be telecast.

No Surprise: Hughes Named Yankees’ No. 5 Starter

The biggest question the New York Yankees had coming into spring training has been answered: Phil Hughes was named the No. 5 starter by manager Joe Girardi on Thursday.
Hughes, 23, impressed Girardi with the development of a change-up this spring. In his four appearances in the spring, Hughes is 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA with 10 strikeouts and he has walked two and allowed 12 hits in 13 innings.
The selection of Hughes means that Joba Chamberlain, Alfredo Aceves and Sergio Mitre will compete during the rest of camp for bullpen spots. Chad Gaudin, who was the fifth candidate for the No. 5 spot, was given his unconditional release on Thursday.
Because Hughes pitched only 96 innings combined between the regular season and playoffs last season, he will be limited to about 140 innings this season. Girardi will not address that situation now but it is obvious that what were called “Joba Rules” will now become “Phil Rules” in 2010.
Hughes also was told on Thursday that he will start on three days rest for the Yankees on Friday against the Philadelphia Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
“We evaluated the whole spring,” Girardi told reporters, “I’m very excited about with the improvement in [Hughes’] change-up. To me, that made a big difference in who he is. Our decision is for him to be the fifth starter and all the other guys are competing to be in the bullpen.”
Chamberlain, the No. 4 starter last season who struggled with a 16.20 this spring, will have an opportunity to regain the setup role he excelled at in 2007. However, Girardi made a point of saying that Chamberlain will have to earn it.
Hughes began last season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was promoted in late April and was 3-2 in seven starts. But he emerged in the bullpen and eventually became the setup man for Mariano Rivera beginning in July.
He was 5-1 with a 1.40 ERA in the bullpen. 
The big surprise was the release of Gaudin. The right-hander entered camp with a decent shoot at being the No. 5 starter or a long man in the bullpen. Gaudin pitched well for the Yankees as a long reliever and spot starter when he was acquired from the San Diego Padres in August.
But he struggled in three of last four appearances of the spring, ending up 0-3 with a 8.68 ERA. General manager Brian Cahman told reporters on Thursday that the Yankees released Gaudin in hopes that he will have time to hook on with another team.
With Rivera, Chan Ho Park, Damaso Marte and David Robertson virtual locks to make the bullpen, Chamberlain will join Aceves, Mitre and left-handers Boone Logan and Royce Ring in competition for the three remaining spots.

Vazquez, A-Rod Lead Yankees Over Nationals

GAME 20
YANKEES 3, NATIONALS 1

TAMPA – Alex Rodriguez drove in two runs and Javier Vazquez pitched six strong innings as the New York Yankees edged the Washington Nationals 3-1 on Wednesday night at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Vazquez ran his spring record to 2-0. Mark Melancon pitched a perfect ninth and picked up a save. Livian Hernandez (0-1) took the loss.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their Grapefruit League record to 9-11. The Nationals are 5-15.
YANKEE POSITIVES

  • There are not enough superlatives to describe how well Vazquez pitched. He gave up one run on four hits. He did not walk a batter and he fanned six. He threw first-pitch strikes to the first 15 batters he faced and he had three-ball counts on only three batters. His spring ERA is now 3.21.
  • Mariano Rivera, despite giving up a leadoff double, needed only nine pitches to retire the next three batters.
  • Mark Melancon, a longshot to make the bullpen, struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth and his spring ERA is now 2.45.
  • Rodriguez and Nick Johnson teamed up in the fourth and sixth innings to deliver runs. In the fourth, Johnson walked and Rodriguez tripled him home. In the sixth, Johnson doubled and Rodriguez singled him in.
  • Robinson Cano followed Rodriguez with a single to drive in the third run but Cano was cut down at second base trying to stretch the hit into a double.
  • Vazquez, Rivera, Melancon and Damaso Marte combined to not walk a single batter and they struck out 11.
  • Curtis Granderson is coming on with the bat. He walked and singled in his three at-bats and he has raised his spring average to .281.
THE NEGATIVES

  • Marte spoiled Vazquez’ shutout bid. Entering the game in the seventh after Eric Bruntlett singled, Bruntlett later stole second and scored on Alberto Gonzalez’ pinch-hit double.
  • Derek Jeter was 0-for-3 and is hitting .250 on the spring. But I do not think manager Joe Girardi is that concerned about it.
  • Mark Teixeira also was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. In his last game against the Phillies on Monday he was 4-for-4.
  • Brett Gardner was thrown out on a steal attempt in the fifth inning by former Yankees catcher Wil Nieves. Gardner needs to work on getting bigger leads off first base.
  • The Yankees were only 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position. 
DIAMOND NOTES

Nationals outfielder Willy Taveras was ejected in the third inning by umpire Chad Fairchild for arguing after he was caught stealing. . . . Former Yankees reliever Brian Bruney pitched a scoreless seventh for the Nationals. . . . Another former Yankee, Tyler Clippard struck out two of the three batters he faced in the eighth inning.  . . . Nick Swisher
doubled in the third inning to extend his spring hitting streak to nine games.  . . . Girardi was beaming about Vazquez after the game: “I’m very happy. He threw the ball well tonight. He was ahead on the count all night.” . . . Backup catcher Francisco Cervelli added to his versatility by playing third base for the final two innings. He handled an Eric Bruntlett grounder in the ninth inning perfectly in his only chance in the field. Cervelli could be used as emergency infielder behind utility infielder Ramiro Pena this season. . . . A crowd of 10,850 attended Wednesday night’s game.
THE NEXT GAME

The Yankees will travel to Sarasota, FL, on Thursday to play the Baltimore Orioles. Alfredo Aceves will start for the Yankees. Sergio Mitre will also pitch in the game. The Orioles will start right-hander Brad Bergesen.
Game-time is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will not be broadcast to New York. MASN will broadcast the game for the Orioles.

Walkoff Home Run Propels Phils Over Yankees, Hughes

GAME 19
PHILLIES 9, YANKEES 7

Career minor-league infielder Wilson Valdez hit a two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Philadelphia Phillies a 9-7 victory over the New York Yankees on Monday at Bright House Network Field in Clearwater, FL.
Mike Stutes (1-0) pitched one inning of scoreless relief to pick of the victory. Phil Hughes (0-2) took the loss.
The defeat dropped the Yankees’ Grapefruit League record to 8-11. The Phillies are now 9-7-1 this spring.
YANKEE POSITIVES

  • Phil Hughes gave up four runs on three home runs but, make no mistake about it, he pitched some exceptional baseball. In 4 2/3 innings — taking away the home runs — Hughes gave up no runs on two hits and no walks and struck out six batters. Chalk up those home runs to luck and a stiff breeze blowing out to right that made just about every fly ball carry over the wall. Hughes was sensational.
  • Mark Teixeira had a 4-for-4 day with two singles, a double and a home run. He scored two runs and drove in two and raised his spring average to an even .400.
  • Curtis Granderson also contributed a single and a double and was on base three times in four at-bats. He raised his spring average to .267.
  • The “utility guys” (Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo and Eduardo Nunez) combined for a triple, a double and another double, in that order, to begin a five-run rally off Cole Hamels in the fourth inning.
  • Lefty specialist Royce Ring was called upon to pitch to left-hander Raul Ibanez to begin the fifth inning and he retired him on a popup. His ERA this spring is still 0.00.
THE NEGATIVES

  • This was not A.J. Burnett’s day. He gave up four hits and two walks in the first inning, which led to five runs. Placido Polanco stroked a two-run home run and minor-league catcher Dane Sardinha doubled in three runs. Burnett seems to be still having trouble with the OBI — one bad inning — problem that plagued him last season. In the next three innings he gave up no runs on three hits and he ended up striking out four batters on the day.
  • Hughes did lose the game. He now is 0-2 and his ERA spiked to 4.15. He also badly hung some curveballs and he needs to work on the command of that pitch.
  • Catcher Francisco Cervelli had a awful day at the plate. He was 0-for-4, he did not get a ball out of the infield, struck out once and grounded into a double play.
  • After pounding Cole Hamels for seven runs on nine hits in four innings the offense took an extended siesta for the rest of the afternoon, managing only three hits over the next five innings against relievers David Herndon, Antonio Bastardo and Stutes. 
DIAMOND NOTES

Despite the wind, the Yankees were happy with clear and sunny skies and a game-time temperature of 65 degrees. After three cancellations this spring, the Yankees just hope for clear skies. . . . A standing-room crowd of 10,724 packed Bright House Network Field to watch this World Series rematch.
. . . The Phillies wanted to start their Opening Day lineup in the game but center fielder Shane Victorino, catcher Carlos Ruiz and even third-base coach Sam Perlozzo all had to be scratched from the game because of illness. . . . Sardinha, who would not have played had Ruiz been healthy, not only hit the three-run double off Burnett in the first, he added a solo home run off Hughes in the eighth inning that tied the game at 7.  . . . Manager Joe Girardi had a busy day. He watched his own players play an intrasquad game that started at 10 a.m. at George M. Steinbrenner Field and then hopped on the bus with the team to head to Clearwater and play the Phillies.  . . . Girardi got a chance to observe Joba Chamberlain pitch to 19 batters in five innings in the intrasquad game. He gave up two runs and three extra-base hits in a 75-pitch outing. Unfortunately, Chamberlain may have not done enough because Hughes looked so sharp in his outing against the Phillies on Monday.  . . . Alex Rodriguez will leave the team to head to Buffalo, N.Y., to answer questions from federal investigators about Canadian doctor Anthony Galea, the New York Times reported.
THE NEXT GAME

The Yankees will not play an exhibition game on Tuesday. The team will return to action at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday when they play host to the Washington Nationals. The Yankees will start Javier Vazquez and Mariano Rivera is also scheduled to pitch. Livian Hernandez will start for the Nationals.
Game time is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will not be telecast.

Sunday’s Washout Makes It Tougher To Select No. 5 Starter

TAMPA – It is impossible to decide what has been a bigger headache for Yankees manager Joe Girardi: The battle for the No. 5 spot or the weather in Florida.
On Sunday, both of those problems collided.
Torrential rains in the Tampa area forced the cancellation of Sunday’s Grapefruit League game between the Yankees and the Detroit Tigers. You could see the frustration on Girardi’s face as he chatted with the media.
The problem now is how to get his pitchers enough work to keep them on schedule. Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland finally came up with a plan to get all of his pitchers work on Monday and keep them on track.
The Yankees will play an intrasquad game on Monday morning. Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Damaso Marte will pitch for one squad and Joba Chamberlain, Chan Ho Park and David Robertson will pitch for the other squad.
Girardi has been staring in the face of a tough five-man battle for the No. 5 starter spot all spring long. Pitchers have risen and fallen — and, in the case of Chamberlain, they have risen again. The three rainouts this spring have not made the decision any easier.
“In the big scope of things you’re not going to say the rain affected you. But right now it is a little pain in the rear,” Girardi told reporters after the cancellation.
There is a larger issue at stake also. The decision about the No. 5 spot also affects the composition of the eight-man bullpen. At this point, the four candidates who do not get the No. 5 starter’s role will have to compete with lefty Boone Logan (or even lefty Royce Ring) for only for four spots left in the bullpen. (It would be safe in saying that Rivera, Marte, Park and Robertson are locks to make the staff, barring injury).
That means the loser’s in the No. 5 battle and the losers of the bullpen battle face either reassignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, a possible trade or release. With time running out and rain shortening the opportunities to make a case, these pitchers begin the new week with a lot of pressure on them.
THE NO. 5 RACE

Insiders have said that Phil Hughes is currently in the lead for the No. 5 job. But he has one big hurdle to climb on Monday afternoon when he will pitch against the Phillies. In his three appearances he has pitched 8 2/3 innings. He has given up seven hits and two walks and his ERA is 2.08. Eiland has been impressed with the way Hughes is utilizing his newly learned change-up, a pitch that can keep hitters off his fastball.
Sergio Mitre entered the competition viewed as a longshot based on how poorly he pitched coming off Tommy John surgery last season. But he has been a different pitcher this spring. In 14 innings, over four appearances, he has given up just five runs on nine hits and three walks. But here is the shocking statistic: Mitre leads the team in strikeouts with 14.
Alfredo Aceves actually had a shot to unseat Hughes when he started against the Houston Astros on Saturday with a 0.90 ERA. But after three really good innings, Aceves was touched for five runs (four earned) in the next two innings. His ERA shot up to 3.77. But he is by no means out the race. He has only given up eight hits and one walk in 14 1/3 innings.
Chamberlain looked to be out of the race entirely until he pitched so well against the Phillies his last time out. His stats still look ugly: 6 2/3 innings, 10 hits, 12 earned runs, seven walks and five strikeouts and an ERA of 16.50. But Girardi is going to give his big right-hander an opportunity on Monday to show more progress. Chamberlain likely has the most pressure going into tomorrow’s intrasquad game.
Chad Gaudin pitched well in his first outing. Since then he has gotten steadily worse. He is 0-3 in his last three appearances and he now has given up nine runs on 16 hits and five walks. His ERA has ballooned to 8.68. Gaudin would need a miracle to win the job and now has to be concerned that his opportunity to even make the staff is being hurt by Aceves, the emergence of Mitre and the way lefty relievers Logan and Ring have pitched this spring.
Could the Yankees head north with Mitre as a No. 5 starter, Hughes and Chamberlain in the bullpen and Aceves and Gaudin traded, released or in Tripe-A? That could happen. 
That is why Girardi is hoping for clear skies Monday. That will help him sort out the toughest call he may have to make. He hopes to announce a decision by Thursday or Friday.
THE NEXT GAME

The Yankees will jump on the buses to roll over to Clearwater, FL, to take on the Philadelphia Phillies. A.J. Burnett, who was scheduled to pitch Sunday, will start for the Yankees. He will be followed by Hughes. The Phillies will start left-hander Cole Hamels.
Game-time is 1:05 p.m. EDT and it will be broadcast live on ESPN.

Astros Pound Aceves, Yankees For 8-6 Victory

GAME 18
ASTROS 8, YANKEES 6

KISSIMMEE – Hunter Pence hit a two-run, two-out double in the fourth inning to put the Astros up 5-4 and Houston went on to defeat the New York Yankees 8-6 on Saturday at Osceola County Stadium.
Bret Myers (3-0) was the winning pitcher, despite giving up four runs (three earned) on eight hits and three walks. Shane Loux pitched 1 2/3 innings and got credit for a save. Alfredo Aceves (1-1) took a step back in his bid to be the No. 5 starter and took the loss.
The Yankees spring record fell to 8-10. The Astros improved their Grapefruit League mark to 9-7.
YANKEE POSITIVES

  • The Yankees pounded out 16 hits, including five doubles, two triples and a home run. They also reached base via three walks, a hit batsman and one error. Yet, they scored only six runs.
  • Brett Gardner is beginning to show what he can do as the No. 9 hitter and the starting center fielder. He bunted for a base hit in his first at-bat and stroked a stand-up triple the next time. He has raised his spring average to .281.
  • Alex Rodriguez also is beginning to get his swing and timing down. He blasted a pair of doubles and drove in two runs. he is now batting .320. In the field, he made an outstanding stab in the first inning to rob Pence of a hit and saved a run.
  • Robinson Cano started off the Yankees’ scoring with a leadoff home run in second inning. The home run cleared the fence in center field at the 410 mark. It was Cano’s first home run of the spring.
  • Third-string catcher Mike Rivera, making a rare start ahead of Francisco Cervelli, knocked in a run with a double in the fourth inning. 
  • Boone Logan, bidding to make the bullpen as a second left-hander, was the only Yankees’ pitcher who managed a scoreless outing. He pitched an inning, giving up one hit and striking out one batter. He lowered his spring ERA to 2.57.
  • A couple of the minor-league reserves need mentioning: Infielder Jorge Vazquez was 2-for-2 off the bench and Colin Curtis increased his team lead in RBIs this spring with his eighth RBI in the ninth inning on a sacrifice fly.
THE NEGATIVES

  • Today’s loss was all about bad pitching. Aceves gave up five runs on five hits and a walk. His spring ERA entering the game was 0.90. It rose to 3.77. Aceves opened with three shutout innings but then was touched up for two runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth.
  • Mark Melancon, who actually has pitched well this spring, did not provide much relief for Aceves in the fifth. After a Kevin Russo error allowed one inherited runner to score, Melancon gave up the two-run double to Pence that scored two more inherited runners. Melancon then gave a single to Carlos Lee that scored Pence.
  • Dustin Moseley pitched a solid seventh inning and then gave up a two-run home run to DH Cory Sullivan in the eighth, making the deficit 8-5 in the ninth.
  • When you put 21 runners on base like the Astros did you should lose. But they didn’t because the Yankees were a dreadful 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
  • The first inning was a great example of how the day went. Gardner reached on his bunt base hit and then was promptly picked off first by catcher Humberto Quintero. Nick Johnson and Mark Teixeira drew consecutive walks. But Rodriguez grounded into an inning-ending double play.
  • In the fifth, with one out Teixeira singled and Rodriguez doubled. However, Myers ended his outing by striking out Cano and Marcus Thames.
  • Thames posted another 0-fer on Saturday with two strike outs and fly out. He is now hitting .120 and he is sinking quickly into non-roster oblivion.
  • In the seventh inning the Yankees had the bases loaed with one out however, Curtis popped out to the shortstop and Cervelli was called out on strikes.
DIAMOND NOTES

The Yankees drew a record crowd of 7,020 to Osceola County Stadium for the Astros. The previous record was 6,904 set in 2003 in a game against the New York Mets.  . . . One reason for the great crowd was the great weather. The game-time temperature was 66 degrees with sunny skies and a slight 5 mph breeze towards right. . . . Nick Johnson showed off his skills as a No. 2 hitter by walking twice and scoring a run in his three trips. Johnson leads the starters this spring with a .483 on-base percentage. . . . Curtis Granderson told reporters back in Tampa that his right hand was fine after being struck by a pitch from the Rays’ Jeff Niemann on Friday night. Granderson was not scheduled to make the trip to Kissimmee, FL on Saturday and stayed at the Tampa spring complex and took batting practice. “I iced it [the hand), woke up this morning and felt fine,” Granderson told reporters. . . . Manager Joe Girardi said his decision on a No. 5 starter might come next Thursday or Friday. However, Aceves’ setback Saturday and Chad Gaudin’s weak outing Friday has kind of scrambled the field. Phil Hughes would appear to be the leader now with a 2.08 ERA but  a lot can change in a week. . . . A personal note to the Yankee fan in the crowd who decided to interject himself into a seat dispute that did not even concern him. You are absolutely Exhibit A of why people direct their anger at the Yankees as team and their fans. It’s the behavior of rude fans like you that make it hard on decent Yankee fans to cheer on the team they love. I also notice you left the game early and somebody took your seat, which kind of proves an ironic point. 
THE NEXT GAME

The Yankees will stay in Tampa to play host to the Detroit Tigers on Saturday. A.J. Burnett will make the start for the Yankees. He will be followed by Phil Hughes, who will try to take another step towards winning the battle for the No. 5 spot. The Tigers will be starting their ace, Justin Verlander.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network. 
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