March 2012

Yankees Rally From 6-1 Hole To ‘Wisecrack’ Phils

GAME 28

YANKEES 13, PHILLIES 9

TAMPA – Dewayne Wise led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a solo home run to break a 7-7 tie as New York rallied from an early 6-1 deficit to overtake Philadelphia on Friday in an exhibition game at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Wise, who entered the game in the top of the seventh, added a two-run home run in the eighth inning to pace the Yankees’ six-run surge in the final two innings.

Clay Rapada (1-0) pitched a scoreless seventh inning to get credit for the victory. Lisaberto Bonilla (0-1) took the loss for the Phillies after giving up three runs (two earned) in his one inning of work.

The victory could end up being a very costly one for he Yankees, however. The status of two pitchers who were used in the game remains up n the air on Saturday.

Starting pitcher Michael Pineda, a 23-year-old right-hander obtained in a trade from the Mariners for mega-prospect Jesus Montero, told the Yankees after the game he was feeling soreness in the back of his right shoulder. That may have accounted for the fact that Pineda was tagged for six runs on seven hits and three walks in 2 2/3 innings.

In addition, Ceasr Cabral, a Rule 5 selection from the Boston Red Sox via a deal the Yankees made with the Kansas City Royals, left the game on Friday complaining of severe pain in his left elbow. Cabral was competing with Rapada as a potential second left-hander for the Yankees’ bullpen. Cabral threw a scoreless fifth inning, giving up just one hit.

Both pitchers have been scheduled for MRIs today to determine the extent of their injuries. But it is safe to say that Pineda and Cabral will not pitch again in spring training and both pitchers likely face the prospect of starting the season on the disabled list.

With the victory the Yankees improved their spring record to 14-11. The Phillies are 12-13.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Despite Wise’s two home runs and three RBIs it is a foregone conclusion the 33-year-old outfielder will not make the Yankees’ 25-man roster. Unless Wise would be willing to play in the minor leagues he likely will be released at the end of spring training.
  • The same can be said of outfielder Justin Maxwell, who drove in three runs to help the Yankees climb out of a 6-1 hole. Maxwell is out of options and he can’t be sent to the minor leagues. So the Yankees will be forced to place Maxwell on waivers despite a .342 spring average and five stolen bases.
  • Eric Chavez is swinging a hot bat of late. He was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored on Friday. Chavez is batting .283 this spring, but in his last four games he is 7-for-14 with five RBIs.
  • Curtis Granderson shook off a sore elbow and blasted his second home run of the spring, a two-run shot in the third inning off former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Granderson is hitting .333 this spring.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Pineda has been a major disappointment all spring and the injury may account for the reason his velocity has been down from the 97 miles per hour he was throwing in the first half of his rookie season with the Mariners when he made the American League All-Star team. Pineda is 1-0 with a 5.68 ERA this spring. He has given up 12 runs on 24 hits and 10 walks and struck out 18 in 19 innings covering six starts. If he is sidelined for a portion of the season it would settle the Yankees’ immediate problem with six starters vying for five spots. However, his injury will leave a burning question to general manager Brian Cashman for trading the Yankees best power prospect in years (Montero) for a pitcher who lost velocity and won only one game in the second half of last season. There had to be a reason the Mariners were so anxious to trade him. I think we know the reason why now.
  • Though the Yankees were not charged with an error in the game, they played some pretty sloppy defense at times against Phillies. In the fifth inning, after Chris Dickerson made a spectacular diving catch on a drive hit by Jim Thome, Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter combined for a real brain cramp. On a pop fly to shallow left by Hunter Pence, Jeter drifted back and then stopped as Gardner watched the ball drop between them. Pence was awarded a gift double and he scored a run on a Placido Polanco single that retied the game at 7-7 just after the Yankees had retaken the lead 7-6 the previous inning.
  • In a game in which there were 22 runs, 31 hits and 15 walks, Gardner was 0-for-3 and his spring average is just .213.  Though he did steal his sixth and seventh bases in the game, Gardner also failed to lay down a sac bunt in the fifth inning before grounding into a fielder’s choice.

BOMBER BANTER

Nick Swisher played five innings of a minor-league game on Friday as he recovers from a sore left groin. Swisher has not played in a Grapefruit League game since a March 14 game against the Blue Jays. Swisher said he expects to be ready for Opening Day next Friday.  . . .  Though it may be a moot point now, Freddy Garcia said Friday that he would not mind pitching out of the bullpen if the team needs him to do it. But Garcia, who has only two relief stints in his 329 major-league appearances, said he prefers to remain a starter. With Pineda sidelined for now, Garcia, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova will win rotation spots by default. However, when Andy Pettitte returns to claim a starting spot sometime in May, one of those three pitchers could be shifted to the bullpen.

ON DECK

The Yankees hit the road on Saturday to face the Houston Astros in Kissimmee, FL.

The Yankees will start right-hander Adam Warren in the game. He will be opposed by Jordan Lyles of the Astros.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will not be broadcast.

 

Orioles Wing It Past Yankees With Run In Ninth

GAME 27

ORIOLES 4, YANKEES 3

TAMPA – Ronny Paulino singled up the middle to score L.J. Hoes in the top of the ninth inning to break a 3-3 tie on Thursday night as Baltimore defeated New York in a Grapefruit League contest at Steinbrenner Field.

Orioles reliever Pedro Strop (1-1) pitched a scoreless inning in the eighth to get credit for the victory. Pat Neshek fanned two in a perfect ninth inning to earn a save. D.J. Mitchell (2-1) was tagged with the loss.

The Yankees trailed most of the game 3-1 until they tied it up in the seventh inning when Derek Jeter drove in Eduardo Nunez from third on a groundout. Raul Ibanez drove in the Yankees’ other two runs on a solo home run in the second inning and an RBI single in the sixth.

The Orioles’ attack was led by Matt Wieters, who stroked a double and a triple and scored two runs, and Mark Reynolds, who twice drove in Wieters with a groundball error off the glove of Alex Rodriguez and a double.

With the loss, the Yankees’ spring record fell to 13-11. The Orioles are 11-11.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • The Yankees now have their lefty DH in Ibanez. With his 2-for-3 night and two RBIs, Ibanez has raised his spring average to .125 and he is showing signs he will be able to contribute to the team’s offense as he did with the Phillies last season when he had 20 home runs and 84 RBIs.
  • David Phelps started for the Yankees and gave up three runs (two earned) on seven hits in five innings. However, he gets major kudos for getting out of a jam with runners on second and third and no outs in the fifth. Phelps struck out Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Wieters in succession. Phelps, a Notre Dame alumnus, will start his season at Triple-A Empire State.
  • Outfielder Chris Dickerson made a spectacular catch in right-field on a long drive off the bat of Orioles DH Nick Johnson in the seventh inning. He grabbed the ball at the top of the wall as his back slammed into it at the top of his leap.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The infield at Steinbrenner Field is hard because a lack of rain this spring but the Yankees were very sloppy in the field. Rodriguez chose to play Reynolds’ bouncer to the side and it bounced over his glove to cost the Yankees one run. Jeter made an off-target throw to first in the fourth inning that cost the Yankees another run. In the ninth, second baseman Bill Hall actually should have made the play on Paulino’s grounder up the middle that won it for the Orioles.
  • Andruw Jones was 0-for-2 at the plate and is hitting .190 this spring. In addition, Jones was slow to reach Wieters’ triple in the second inning and a double by Johnson that bounced over Mark Teixeira’s head in the fifth inning. Jones can catch anything hit near him but his legs are pretty much shot at age 34.
  • Nunez continues to impress this spring. he was 1-for-3 with a stolen base and is hitting .387 so far.

BOMBER BANTER

Curtis Granderson returned to the lineup as the DH on Thursday and was 1-for-3. Granderson has been sidelined for a few games due to some soreness in his right elbow. Manager Joe Girardi said if it had been a regular-season game Granderson would have played in the field. The injury is not considered serious.  . . .  Meanwhile, Nick Swisher is making progress with his sore right groin and he is expected to play for the Yankees on Friday. Swisher has been playing in some minor-league games the past few days.  . . .  Ivan Nova gave up three runs in 7 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays’ Triple-A team on Thursday. Nova, who is sporting a gaudy 6.86 ERA possibly could be in danger of losing a spot in the starting rotation.  . . .  Girardi said Thursday that the loser in the battle for starting rotation spots may not necessarily pitch out of the bullpen. That means if Nova or Michael Pineda do not win spots they could be sent to the minor leagues. It is unlikely the Yankees would send veterans Phil Hughes or Freddy Garcia to the minors.

ON DECK

The Yankees remain home to play their last game under the lights at Steinbrenner Field and it will be against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Yankees are expected to start Pineda in his sixth outing of the spring. He will be opposed by right-hander Michael Stutes.

Game-time will be at 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast locally by the YES Network.

 

Braves’ Rally In 9th Spoils Kuroda’s Great Effort

GAME 26

YANKEES 5, BRAVES 5 (10 INNINGS)

LAKE BUENA VISTA – Just when it looks like the Yankees are going to coast to a win in a Grapefruit League game something happens to snatch a tie out of the jaws of victory. That played out for the third time this spring on Wednesday.

George Kontos was called upon to pitch the ninth inning with a 5-3 lead. However, Kontos issued a one-out walk to Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward made him pay with a two-run home run as Atlanta rallied to earn a tie with New York in 10 innings at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL.

Heyward’s home run spoiled an excellent outing from Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda, who gave up two runs on six hits and no walks and he struck out a half-dozen in seven innings. For the 37-year-old right-hander, who was named the team’s No. 2 starter on Tuesday, it was his best outing of the spring.

The Yankees got a huge offensive boost from Eric Chavez, who had a pair of two-out RBIs singles in the first and third innings and added a two-out RBI double in the eighth as the Yankees built their lead from 3-0 in the third to 5-2 in the eighth.

The Yankees tagged Braves starter Brandon Beachy for three runs (two earned) on six hits  and no walks in five innings. They added a pair of runs in the eighth off reliever Eric O’Flaherty in the eighth.

The Yankees’ spring record remains 13-10. The Braves are 9-14.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • You had to be directly behind home plate like I was on Wednesday to appreciate how smart Kuroda is as a pitcher. He mixed all of his pitches, varied speeds and locations to keep the Braves off-balance all day. His wild pitch with Heyward on third in the fifth allowed one run to score. Freeman touched him for a solo home run to right-center (his third home run in two games) in the seventh was Kuroda’s only other blemish in what otherwise was a masterful performance.
  • Chavez was hitting .120 as of March 20 but he is 5-for-10 in his last three games and he has raised his spring average to .235. Chavez, 34, was 3-for-4 with a double, two singles and three RBIs in the game. Chavez has already locked down the backup corner infield spot for the Yankees. Their only concern with the six-time Gold Glove winner is keeping him healthy for a full season.
  • Raul Ibanez was 1-for-3 with a single in the game. You are likely wondering why I mention him. Well, Ibanez also hit what would have been a two-run home run to right in the third inning but Heyward ran to the wall, leaped and brought it back into the ballpark with a spectacular catch. Ibanez, 39, may be hitting .089 but he is making much better contact of late. He may be showing signs of life – finally.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Failing to win three games that ended up in ties in the past seven games may seem like something that would concern Yankee fans. But look at the pitchers who were on the mound and who was in the lineup when those games were tied. Against the Red Sox on March 22, Juan Cedeno and Kontos  combined to give up the lead in the bottom of the ninth. On March 25 against the Tigers, the Yankees stranded 10 runners over 10 innings after Derek Jeter led off the first inning with a solo home run. Then on Wednesday, Kontos was victimized by Heyward’s home run. Those two pitchers will not make the Yankees’ 25-man roster and the Yankees pulled most of their starters against the Tigers in the sixth and seventh innings. That would not happen in regular-season game.
  • Cory Wade continues to struggle of late. He has been scored upon in his last three appearances, including Wednesday against the Braves. Wade, 28, gave up a run on two hits in the eighth inning on Wednesday. He has now given up five runs on nine hits over three innings of work. His spring ERA is 7.27.
  • Francisco Cervelli was 0-for-4 in the game and his spring average dipped to .176. I doubt, however, that the Yankees really care how much their backup catcher hits.

BOMBER BANTER

A MRI taken on Curtis Granderson’s sore right elbow showed no structural damage but the outfielder remains day-to-day. Meanwhile, fellow starting outfielder Nick Swisher had 10 at-bats in a minor-league game on Wednesday and he is expected to both hit and play the outfield in another minor=league game on Thursday. Swisher is nursing a sore right groin.   . . .  Manager Joe Girardi confirmed that there is a “decent” chance that a second lefty reliever could make the 12-man pitching staff to start the season. Girardi is also pretty sure that the Yankees will lose either 30-year-old Clay Rapada (0.00 ERA) or 23-year-old Cesar Cabral (1.74 ERA) if they do not make the roster.  . . .   The Yankees on Wednesday claimed veteran catcher Craig Tatum off waivers from Arizona Diamondbacks because Austin Romine has suffered a setback in his recovery from lower-back inflammation. Romine, 23, likely will not be able to start the 2012 season in order to continue his rehab from the injury. Tatum is former catcher with the Baltimore Orioles and came up out of the Cincinnati Reds’ organization.

ON DECK

The Yankees return home on Thursday to play host to the Orioles.

Ivan Nova was originally scheduled to make the start but Girardi said that Nova will pitch in a minor-league game instead. Right-hander D.J. Mitchell will start that game. Veteran right-hander Jason Hammel will start for the Orioles.

Game-time will be at 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network on tape delay and locally by the YES Network.

 

Yankee Bats Misfire As Jays Soar Past Bombers

GAME 25

BLUE JAYS 4, YANKEES 3

TAMPA – Kelly Johnson led off the game with a triple and scored on a Yunel Escobar groundout and drove in Yan Gomes with a single in the third inning as Toronto beat New York 4-3 in Grapefruit League game on Tuesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Kyle Drabek (2-0) pitched five scoreless innings, giving up five hits and two walks while fanning five batters to earn the victory. Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia (0-1) was touched for three runs on six hits and no walks and struck out five in six innings of work. Aaron Loup of the Jays earned a save despite giving up two runs (one earned) in the ninth inning.

The loss snapped an 11-game unbeaten streak the Yankees have compiled (8 wins, no losses and 2 ties) since March 14 when the Yankees lost a 7-5 decision to these same Blue Jays in Dunedin, FL.

The Yankees are 12-10 on the spring while the Blue Jays are 20-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Brett Gardner was 2-for-3 with an RBI in the game. His one-out single off reliever Francisco Cordero in the seventh inning drove in Chris Dickerson with the Yankees’ first run of the game. Gardner also stole a base, his fifth of the spring, which leads the club.
  • Lefty Clay Rapada, who is vying for a spot in the bullpen, pitched another scoreless frame in the ninth and struck out a batter. Rapada, 30, has not given up a run in 8 1/3 innings of work in nine spring appearances. He has given up just three hits and three walks and struck out 11.
  • If Rapada wins the job that means fellow lefty Cesar Cabral will not and he will have to be offered back to the Kansas City Royals. Cabral gave up an unearned run in the eighth inning on one hit and a walk. Cabral 23, has a 1.74 ERA in 10 1/3 innings over nine appearances. He has given up 11 hits and two walks and has struck out 12.
  • Eduardo Nunez came off the bench late and stroked an RBI single in the ninth inning as part of two-run rally that just fell short of tying it in the ninth. Nunez is a robust .375 this spring despite missing most of the first two weeks with a bruised right hand.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Some of the same issues that plagued the Yankees on Sunday against the Tigers cropped up again Tuesday – an inability to get runners across after the Yankees get on base. Drabek was not dominating in his five innings of work.
  • Sabathia was not as sharp as he would have liked to have been. But chalk it up to spring training. Sabathia has a 4.50 ERA this spring but it is doubtful that it truly indicates how he will pitch in the regular season. He will make one more start on Sunday before pitching the season opener on April 6 against James Shields and the Tampa Ray Rays in St. Petersburg, FL.
  • Robinson Cano took a rare 0-for-3 in which he failed to get a ball out of the infield. Cano is hitting .196 this spring but I doubt manager Joe Girardi is worried about his All-Star second baseman.

BOMBER BANTER

Outfielder Curts Granderson had to be scratched from the lineup on Tuesday due to a sore right elbow. Granderson will undergo a precautionary MRI exam on Wednesday but the injury is not considered serious. Granderson is hitting a red-hot .333 this spring with a home run and four RBIs.  . . .  Nick Swisher, who has been sidelined by a sore right groin since March 20, also was unable to play on Tuesday and is slated to take some at-bats on a minor-league game on Wednesday.  . . .  After the game, the Yankees optioned infielder Jorge Vazquez to minor-league camp. Vazquez hit only .091 this spring.  . . .  It was no surprise that Girardi named 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda as the team’s No. 2 starter and he will face the Rays in the second game of the opening series on April 7. Kuroda also is scheduled to start on April 13 in the Yankees’ home opener against the Angels.

ON DECK

The Yankees take to the road to face the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday in Lake Buena Vista, FL.

Kuroda will be making his fifth spring start. Cano, Mark Teixeira and Raul Ibanez are scheduled to make the trip.

The Braves are scheduled to start 25-year-old right-hander Brandon Beachy.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN.

 

Yankees Strand 10 To Settle For Tie With Tigers

GAME 24

YANKEES 1, TIGERS 1 (10 INNINGS)

TAMPA – Derek Jeter led off the bottom of the first inning with his first home run of the spring. Little did the Yankees know but that would be the only run they would score all day against the Tigers.

New York stranded 10 runners over 10 innings and had to settle for a tie with a Detroit split squad on Sunday in a Grapefruit League contest played at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.

Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda recorded one of his best outings of the spring, giving up one run on five hits and two walks in five innings of work. But the Yankees did not give him much in the way of support.

The Yankees collected only five hits but they got some help from six walks and two hit batters to put plenty of runners on base to take the lead in the game. But much like the Game 5 loss of the American League Division Series against the Tigers, the Yankees could not collect a big hit with runners in scoring position. They were 0-for-10 with RISP in the game.

Meanwhile, relievers Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, David Roberston, Clay Rapada and Manny Delcarmen each turned in a scoreless inning of relief against the Tigers to keep the game knotted.

Jeter’s home run in the first came off Tigers left-hander and starter Duane Below.

The Tigers tied it in the third inning when Danny Worth drew a leadoff walk and Ramon Santiago delivered a one-out RBI triple.

The Yankees remain 13-9 with two ties this spring. They have not lost a game in their last 11 spring contests. The Tigers are 14-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • In Jeter’s second game back after being shelved by a tight left calf, he delivered a home run to right and double to left-center. Jeter is quietly hitting .348 this spring and the best news is he is driving the ball with authority and not squeezing weak grounders through the infield. Those who might have written Jeter’s baseball obituary at age 37 might have been a bit premature.
  • Pineda struggled at times in keeping the Tigers off base but he only gave up the one run. After Santiago’s triple, he struck out the next two batters as part of stretch where Pineda fanned four of the last eight batters he retired. Pineda’s velocity also was consistently at 93 miles per hour during his outing.
  • Brett Gardner led an outfield that recorded three assists on Sunday that helped keep the Tigers from scoring more runs. With speedy Austin Jackson on second in the first inning, Alex Avila stroked a lined single to Gardner in left. Gardner charged the ball on the hop and gunned Jackson out at the plate with a perfect throw. In the eighth inning, new left-fielder Jayson Nix caught Brent Wyatt’s line drive and gunned down Dixon Machado after he failed to retouch second base on his way back to first. In the ninth, center-fielder Dewayne Wise caught a Ryan Strieby liner and doubled off Tony Plagman at second base.
  • Robertson returned to action for the first time since he bruised his right foot in an accident at his home on March 7 and he showed no ill effects from the injury. Robertson struck out a batter and he benefited from Machado’s poor base-running on Wyatt’s line drive to pitch a scoreless eighth inning. Robertson said he felt good and he hopes to build upon it with his next outing.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Despite Jeter’s good day there was one striking negative: In the fourth inning, Jeter rolled out to short with the bases loaded. He was a part of an offense that sputtered all day when they had chances to take the lead. In the fifth inning, right-hander Collin Balester walked three batters. But Curtis Granderson was nailed by Avila attempting to steal second and Russell Martin hit into a fielder’s choice after Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira drew two-out walks.
  • In the seventh, it was no better for the Yankees against Brayan Villarreal. Doug Bernier was hit by a pitch and stole second. Granderson then drew a walk. However, Robinson Cano hit into a double play. After Rodriguez was hit in the ribs with a pitch and left the game as a precaution, Teixeira grounded out to short to end that threat.
  • In the second inning, the Yankees had Texeira on third and Martin at second with one out. However, Eduardo Nunez struck out looking and Gardner bounced out to the pitcher and spoiled that effort. So it was obvious that there was a lot of frustration with the offense on Sunday.

BOMBER BANTER

Joba Chamberlain was released from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, FL., on Sunday four days after he suffered an open dislocation of his right ankle in a trampoline accident. General manager Brian Cashman echoed manager Joe Girardi’s assessment that there was a possibility that Chamberlain could return to pitch this season. Chamberlain had Tommy John surgery last summer and was not expected back to the Yankees until June when the injury occurred last week. Chamberlain will wear a non-weight-bearing cast for six weeks and then will be fitted for a weight-bearing walking boot.  . . .  Although Rodriguez left the game Sunday after being struck in the left ribs on a pitch from Villarreal, Girardi said he expects Rodriguez being able to play on Tuesday.  . . .  Girardi also said he hopes to get Nick Swisher back into the lineup on Tuesday. Swisher has only had two at-bats since he injured his left groin on March 14.  . . .  After the game on Sunday, the Yankees optioned Ramiro Pena to Triple-A Empire State and reassigned outfielders Colin Curtis and Cole Garner, catcher Jose Gil and pitchers Kevin Whelan and Delcarmen to minor-league camp.

ON DECK

The Yankees are enjoying their second off-day of the spring on Monday. They will return to action at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Ace lefty CC Sabathia will make his fourth Grapefruit League start. The Blue Jays will start right-hander Kyle Drabek.

Game-time will be at 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be televised nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

This report was delayed by technical difficulties.

 

Yankees Wise Up To Take Tigers By Tail In Tenth

GAME 23

YANKEES 4, TIGERS 2 (10 INNINGS)

After blowing a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, New York rallied behind a two-run double by Dewayne Wise with the bases loaded in the top of the 10th inning to defeat Detroit on Saturday in a Grapefruit League game played at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, FL.

D.J. Mitchell (2-0) was credited with the victory despite the fact he gave up a leadoff home run to Audy Ciriaco and a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to Danny Worth in the ninth that forced the extra frame. Lefty reliever Cesar Cabral pitched a perfect tenth inning to get credit for a save.

Veteran Tigers lefty Danny Schlereth (1-1) was the losing pitcher.

The Yankees’ rally began when Justin Maxwell reached first in a fielding error by Worth. Bill Hall then worked a walk and Maxwell and Hall then successfully executed a double steal.

Austin Krum flied out to shallow left and Schlereth intentionally walked Colin Curtis to pitch to Wise. But Wise foiled the strategy by lacing a double to right-field that scored Maxwell and Hall with what proved to be the winning runs.

Mitchell’s inability to keep the Tigers off the board spoiled two significant story lines for the Yankees.

The first big news for the Yankees was that Freddy Garcia was making his first start since he bruised his right hand trying to field Edwin Encarnacion’s hard-hit grounder on March 14 in a game against Blue Jays in Dunedin, FL. Garcia also was trying to reinsert himself into the battle for a rotation spot that is crowded with four starters vying for two spots.

Garcia was up to challenge also. He allowed only one hit and walked two while striking out four in 4 1/3 shutout innings against Tigers. Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer matched zeros with Garcia until the seventh inning, which was the point of the second big development for the Yankees.

With two out in the seventh, Mark Teixeira slapped a single into center and Raul Ibanez, who was a woeful 2-for-39 (.051) as he stood at the plate, launched a two-run home run to the deepest part of the ballpark in center-field to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

With the victory, the Yankees have stretched their spring hot streak to 8-1 with one tie in their last 10 games. Their overall record stands at 13-9. The Tigers, who had only lost three games this spring, are now 14-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • It is no secret that Garcia, 35, is facing long odds at making the rotation despite his 12-8 record and 3.62 ERA in 2011. But Garcia stepped up and pitched excellent baseball. He lowered his spring ERA to 2.92 and manager Joe Girardi was very pleased with what he saw. But with CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte assured rotation spots when Pettitte is activated in May, Garcia is battling uphill against Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes for the other two spots.
  • It remains to be seen if Ibanez’s two-run home run gets him going this spring. Yankee fans and the media have been focusing on Ibanez’s struggles as his average continued to dip lower. Ibanez, 39, is assured that he will be the left-handed designated hitter because he signed a $4.5 million contract just before camp opened.
  • Wise, 33, came up with a clutch hit just when the Yankees needed it. Wise has no shot at making the Yankees’ 25-man roster this spring but you have to give him credit for hitting .444 with six RBIs and three stolen bases. He also has played the excellent defense for which he is best known.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Mitchell’s failure to close the deal in the ninth was an aberration from his fine work this spring. He entered the game with a 0.90 ERA. The 24-year-old former Clemson right-hander will begin the season at Triple-A Empire State but he could end up with the Yankees in the future as starter or reliever because of his ability to induce ground-ball outs.
  • Yankee hitters have been swinging at air the past two days. On Friday they fanned 12 times in Clearwater, FL against the Phillies and Scherzer and the Tigers struck out another dozen on Saturday. The last time the Yankees hit double-digit strikeouts this spring was against the Red Sox on March 13 at George M. Steinbrenner Field when they fanned 13 times.
  • Chris Dickerson has been a major disappointment this spring. He started in center on Saturday and was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts. He is hitting .200 so far. Dickerson was removed from the 40-man roster to make room for Eric Chavez and he is out of options. So the Yankees likely will release him at the end of camp.

This report was delayed by technical difficulties.

 

Cano’s Hitting Backs Kuroda As Yankees Nip Phils

GAME 22

YANKEES 5, PHILLIES 3

Robinson Cano sparked a three-run first inning on Friday with an opposite-field two-run double and a New York split squad made the lead hold up behind the solid pitching of Hiroki Kuroda to defeat Philadelphia in a Grapefruit League contest at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL.

The Yankees jumped on Phillies starter and eventual losing pitcher Vance Worley (1-2) early with a leadoff double by Brett Gardner and a bloop single by Francisco Cervelli that advanced Gardner to third. Cano then laced a double to the wall in left center to score both runners. Eric Chavez then capped the big inning with a RBI double to left that scored Cano.

Kuroda (2-1) gave up only one run on six hits and one walk and struck out three in his 5 2/3 innings of work to earn the victory. David Phelps gave up two runs in his 3 1/3 innings of relief to earn a save.

With the victory the Yankees are 7-1 with one tie in their last nine games. Their spring record stands at 12-9-1. The Phillies fell to 9-11.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Cano was 3-for-4 with two doubles, a run scored and two RBIs. He has raised his spring average to .243 and he looks to be on his way to another big season with the bat hitting in the No. 3 spot for the Yankees.
  • Kuroda looked very sharp against he a team he was very familiar with when he was pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kuroda threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 24 batters he faced. Only six balls reached the outfield on him. Kuroda and CC Sabathia are the only two pitchers assured of spots in the rotation when the season starts.
  • Doug Bernier continues to shine at the plate. He was 2-for-4 with an RBI double and a bunt infield single. Bernier is hitting .385 and playing excellent defense despite the fact he has absolutely no a ghost of a chance to make the team. It would be tough for him with Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena ahead of him.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees won but they could have put away the Phillies a lot easier had they not had three double plays turned against them. They had Worley on the ropes early but allowed him to escape further trouble after the first inning. The Yankees added single runs in the seventh inning off David Herndon and in the eighth inning off Eric Stutes.
  • Phelps allowed the Phillies to get back into the game by giving up an RBI single by Miguel Abreu in the seventh and a solo home run to Erik Kratz in the eighth before retiring the Phillies in order in the ninth. The two runs were the first earned runs Phekps has allowed this spring.
  • It is hard to evaluate this victory because the Phillies are reeling from injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Starting third baseman Placido Polanco and catcher Carlos Ruiz also sat on Friday. The Phillies offense looks to be lacking and they are going to have to rely on their pitching to carry them. So the Yankees should not get too excited about winning this one.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees are reeling from the news Joba Chamberlain underwent surgery on his dislocated ankle on Thursday and will miss the remainder of the 2012 season. The 26-year-old right-hander has not pitched since June 5 and underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He was rehabbing the elbow this spring and hoped to return to the Yankees sometime in June. However, on Thursday night he was playing with his son on a trampoline in the Tampa area and suffered an open dislocation of his right ankle, which means the bone was protruding through the skin. Chamberlain also, according to reports, lost a “life-threatening amount of blood” as a result of the injury. Chamberlain will remain hospitalized for a few days and it is unclear how far back this will push his return to the Yankees.  . . .  Andy Pettitte threw a live batting practice session and reported that he his left arm felt good afterwards. Pettitte threw 35 warmup tosses and 26 pitches to batters and two pitchouts during the session. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild called the session by the 39-year-old veteran “awesome.” Pettitte’s next hurdle will be to pitch a light bullpen session on Sunday. He hopes to be able to return to the major leagues in early May.  . . .  Manager Joe Girardi defended his decision to end Thursday’s game against the Red Sox in Fort Myers, FL., after Boston tied the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. Girardi said there was no communication from the umpires about the status of the Yankee pitchers. Girardi said he simply made the decision based on the status of his pitchers and it would have been acceptable to play an one extra half-inning if Boston manager Bobby Valentine had wanted Clayton Mortensen to throw. Valentine claimed Girardi’s decision not to play a 10th inning “was not courteous.” Considering the source (Valentine) I would not lose sleep over it.  . . .  Jeter returned to the lineup and played three innings of the split squad game in Tampa, FL., against the Twins. Jeter was 1-2 in the game. He had been sidelined for seven games with a strained left calf.

ON DECK

The Yankees are in Lakeland on Saturday playing the Detroit Tigers at 1:05 p.m. EDT.

The game is not being telecast.

 

Williams Keys Yankees’ Comeback Against Twins

GAME 22

YANKEES (SS) 6, TWINS 4

TAMPA – The Yankees got a small glimpse of their future on Friday at George M. Steinbrenner  Field and they have to be very happy with what they saw.

Mega-outfield prospect Mason Williams broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning with an infield single and Mark Teixeira followed with a fielder’s choice groundout that scored an insurance run as a New York split squad rallied from a 4-1 deficit to score five runs in the inning to down Minnesota in Grapefruit League action.

Wiiliams, 20, is the Yankees top-rated outfielder after a season in which he hit .349 with three home runs, 31 RBIs and 28 stolen bases in 68 games with Single-A Staten Island in the New York-Penn League. On Friday he was called upon to pinch-hit for Curtis Granderson in the seventh with the game tied, one out and runners at second and third after Ramiro Pena laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance them.

Williams slapped a hard grounder to second baseman Pedro Florimon and Florimon’s desperate throw home from his knees was too late to get Nunez sliding in with the tie-breaking run. With that hit, the 6-foot, 150-pound centerfielder, has a perfect 1.000 batting average with hits in his only two at-bats.

Ivan Nova (1-2) pitched seven innings to get credit for the victory. But it was one of those “Tale of Two Cities” outings for the 24-year-old right-hander. He opened the game in the “best of times” by pitching four perfect innings, striking out four and retiring four other batters on routine infield grounders.

But Nova’s “worst of times came in the fifth and sixth innings, when he was hammered for four runs on seven hits, which left the Yankees on the wrong end of a 4-0 score.

Unfortunately for Nova, Francisco Liriano was just as good or even better than he was. Liriano shut out the Yankees for five innings on four hits and one walk while striking out five.

The Yankees collected one run off Twins right-hander Jeff Manship on a leadoff home run by Pena in the sixth.

But they batted around on Manship (1-1) and right-hander Jared Burton in the seventh. Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano pitched a pair of scoreless innings to salt away the victory. Soriano got credit for a save.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their spring record to 11-9. The Twins fell to 12-10.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Besides Williams, the Yankees’ hitting star of the day was Eduardo Nunez, who was 3-for-3 and he keyed the seventh-inning rally with a huge two-run double off Manship that drew the Yankees to within a run at 4-3. Nunez is hitting a red-hot .412 this spring despite missing the first two weeks with a bruised right hand.
  • Pena is quietly having a good spring with the bat. He homered and put down a perfect sac bunt in the game and he is hitting .300. However, Nunez will likely win the backup middle infielder role he won from Pena last spring and Pena looks to be headed back to Triple-A for the second straight season.
  • As advertised, the Yankees’ bullpen protected the lead in the eighth and ninth innings. Rivera needed only seven pitches to dispatch the Twins. Soriano pitched a perfect ninth with a strikeout to close it out. As good as last year’s bullpen was the 2012 version has the potential to be even better.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Manager Joe Girardi probably regrets ever saying that Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia would compete for the No. 5 spot in the rotation because it must have given Nova a false sense of security. In 19 2/3 innings over five starts, Nova has given up 16 runs (15 earned) on 23 hits and five walks. After giving up 13 home runs last season, Nova has been tagged for five home runs this spring. With Hughes pitching well and Andy Pettitte returning in May, Nova might want to start pitching better real soon.
  • Granderson and Alex Rodriguez have been having the best springs amongst the regular starters. But on Friday they combined to go 0-for-6 with three strikeouts. They probably can be forgiven for their troubles because they were facing a very tough left-hander in Liriano, who has 2.00 ERA on the spring.
  • Andruw Jones was 0-for-3 and he is having another subpar spring with the bat. he is hitting just .176. But Jones had even a worse spring in 2011 and it worked out OK for him. So I doubt Girardi is too concerned with him.

The Bomber Banter and On Deck features will be posted with the Yankees’ report on the second split squad game against the Phillies.

 

Bosox Rally In Final Two Frames To Tie Yankees

GAME 20

YANKEES 4, RED SOX 4 (9 INNINGS)

If the quote “a tie is like kissing your sister” applies than the Yankees probably feel like they lip-smacked the ugliest sister they have in the Red Sox.

Jason Repko laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to score Ryan Sweeney with one out in the ninth inning as Boston overcame a 4-0 lead in the final two innings to tie New York on Wednesday night at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL.

If Yankee fans want a culprit for blowing the big lead, look no further than right-handed reliever Cory Wade. Wade gave up three runs on four hits (three of them long doubles) in a less-than-stellar two-thirds of an inning.

Juan Cedeno struck out Josh Kroeger with a tying run on second to end the eighth, however, he ran into trouble in the ninth by allowing a leadoff single by Sweeney. George Kontos entered the game and after one out, Mike Aviles slapped a double off the left-field wall to setup Repko’s squeeze bunt that tied the game.

The Yankees built their four-run lead with two runs off Red Sox starter Aaron Cook in the fourth inning, keyed by a RBI double by a red-hot Curtis Granderson and RBI single by Andruw Jones.

They added two runs in the fifth off of former Yankees right-hander Ross Ohlendorf. Brandon Laird led off the frame with a double, Jose Gil singled to right to advance Laird to third. Then with one out, Doug Bernier rolled a single into right to score both runners.

Yankees right-hander Adam Warren started the game and pitched an excellent four innings. Warren, 24, blanked the Bosox on two hits and no walks and he fanned three.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Originally the Yankees had announced David Phelps would start. But Warren pitched instead and he looked sensational. Warren is 0-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 9 1/3 innings spanning four appearances this spring. The Yankees obviously have no room for Warren with seven pitchers vying for five starting spots but Warren will be part of the “Fab Five” starting for Triple-A Empire State with Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, D.J. Mitchell and Phelps.
  • Granderson’s RBI double raised his spring average to .393. Granderson has six doubles, a triple and a home run among his 11 hits and he is slugging at a .786 clip this spring. For those of you who might have thought that 2012 was a fluke you had better think again.
  • Bernier is 31 and there s no way he will make the team with Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena ahead of him on the depth chart at shortstop. But he has had a sensational spring in the field and he is hitting .364. If Bernier ends up staying with the Yankees he will play at Triple-A Empire State.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Wade, 28, has given up four runs on seven hits in 1 2/3 innings over his last two appearances. That has forced his ERA to balloon to a very ugly 7.04 this spring. Wade was integral to the Yankees’ bullpen last season, recording a 6-1 record and a 2.04 ERA. But with potentially two starters being shifted to the bullpen when Andy Pettitte returns in May, Wade might be out of a job if he does not turn it around soon.
  • The Raul Ibanez spring hit meter is still stuck on two. Ibanez was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and his average has dipped (and we do mean dipped) to .054. That means the Yankees are paying Ibanez a whopping $2.25 million per hit. Where do I sign up for that gig?
  • The spring “Siesta Award” will have to shared by Jones and Eric Chavez. Chavez singled to lead off the second but was picked off first base by Cook. After Jones drove in Granderson with his single in the fourth inning he was promptly picked off first by Cook also. Getting caught napping is embarrassing enough but worse when it s the Red Sox. Wake up, guys!

BOMBER BANTER

Pettitte will throw a live batting practice session for the Yankees on Friday at their spring complex. The Yankees are also saying that it is possible the lefty could pitch in a spring training game. Pettitte, 39, said he is targeting May for his return to the big leagues.  . . .  Infielder Jorge Vazquez was struck in the right hand on a pitch from former Yankees right-hander Mark Melancon in the eighth inning and he left the game immediately. Vazquez, 29, will have precautionary X-rays done on the hand and it is unclear how much, if any, time he will miss.  . . .  Jeter participated in a full team workout on Thursday and he is expected to start on Friday. Jeter has missed the last seven games with a sore left calf.  . . .  Nick Swisher said his sore groin is improving and he could return to the lineup sometime this weekend. Swisher left Tuesday’s game against the Pirates when he felt his groin tighten up as he ran out a ground ball.  . . .  CC Sabathia gave up one run in six innings in a game against Double-A hitters on Wednesday. He is on track to pitch the opener for the Yankees on April 6 in St. Petersburg, FL., against the Tampa Bay Rays.

COMMENTARY

Once again, Red Sox manager “Booby” Valentine has shown his hindquarters. Manager Joe Girardi informed home-plate umpire Mark Lollo that he did not have any pitchers available to pitch a 10th inning against the Red Sox. Girardi did have Mitchell on the trip but he had thrown a side session earlier because Girardi did not expect him to get into the game. By the typical spring rules, managers are within their rights to end a tie game after nine innings if they do not feel it is in their interest to push a pitcher into throwing too much. Valentine took umbrage because he chose to warm up Clayton Mortensen in the bullpen in the bottom of the ninth. “It was regretful that Mortensen warmed up, though, and then we were told they weren’t going to play extra innings,” Valentine said. “I don’t think that was very courteous.” Courtesy is extended to those who earn it, “Booby.” Your remarks about Jeter and Alex Rodriguez earlier this spring, which were designed to get back to the Yankees, were uncalled for and extremely discourteous. So as far as see it, “Booby,” you can just suck on it. It is so ironic that it is you that are fit to be tied. Welcome to the rivalry you stoked!

ON DECK

The Yankees will play a pair of games on Friday.

The home squad will face the Minnesota Twins at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Ivan Nova, coming off a horrible performance against the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota on Sunday, is expected to pitch for the Yankees in that game. The Twins will start veteran left-hander Francisco Liriano.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network on tape delay and live locally on the YES Network.

The road squad will travel to Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL., to face the Philadelphia Phillies. Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda is scheduled to start for the Yankees. The Phillies will start right-hander Vance Worley.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network on tape delay.

 

Yankees Exterminate Rays Behind Maxwell, Molina

GAME 19

YANKEES 5, RAYS 2

Upstart rivals like the Rays are like cockroaches. You can’t be satisfied with just watching them flail aimlessly in their backs. You have to step on them hard to remove all hope. The Yankees did that on Wednesday.

Justin Maxwell, who continues to impress this spring, hit a bloop double near the right-field line to score Cole Garner with the tie-breaking run in the ninth to put Tampa Bay on their backs and Gustavo Molina followed with a two-run home run to snuff them out as New York came from behind to win at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, FL.

The Rays took an early 2-0 lead in the second inning on infield single by Carlos Pena and a two-run home run to straightaway center by Matt Joyce off Yankee starter Phil Hughes.

The Yankee rallied to score single runs in the sixth and seventh innings off Rays left-hander Ceasr Ramos.

Rule 5 selection Cesar Cabral (1-0) pitched two innings to earn the victory. Michael O’Connor pitched a scoreless ninth to earn a save. Rays right-hander Brandon Gomes (0-1) took the loss.

The Yankees have now won five of their last six games and pushed over the .500 mark on the spring at 10-9, The Rays are 5-11.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Cabral earned this victory the hard way. In both innings he struck out the side with a potential lead run on third base. His work in the eighth was particularly impressive. Elliot Johnson opened the inning with a double down the left-field line. Cabral then committed a balk that advanced Johnson to third. Cabral escaped disaster by fanning Jeff Salazar, Luke Scott and Matt Mangini. Cabral, 23, is 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA and has given up two runs on 10 hits and one walk in seven appearances this spring. More impressive is his 11 strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings. Cabral is competing to become a second left-hander in the bullpen and if he loses the battle he will have to be offered back to the Kansas City Royals. That would be a shame because Cabral looks like he is a very talented young pitcher.
  • Hughes pitched a sensational five innings despite the Joyce two-run home run. Hughes only gave up one hit after the second inning, walked one and struck out three. Hughes threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of the 19 batters he faced including the last 10 batters he faced. Hughes is 0-1 with a 2.03 ERA in his four spring outings and he may be on the verge of winning a spot in the rotation.
  • Maxwell’s spring heroics continued on Wednesday. Cole Garner opened the ninth with a ground-rule double off Gomes. Jorge Vazquez, who tied the game in the seventh with an RBI double, advanced him to third on a long flyball to center and Maxwell scored him with his bloop double. Maxwell, 28, is hitting a sizzling hot .435 with five doubles among his 10 hits this spring. Maxwell, as I said before, won’t make the 25-man roster but his impressive play may win a call-up this season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees scored their first run in the sixth inning when Raul Ibanez grounded out to first with the bases loaded and one out. OK, why would an RBI by Ibanez be a negative? Well, Ibanez was 0-for-3 again and his average has now dipped to .059. Seriously, grounding out with the bases loaded? That is bad. Pretty soon they are going to replace the Mendoza Line with the Ibanez Line to measure hitters. Of course, hitting better than .059 could be a piece a cake for even most pitchers.

BOMBER BANTER

Nick Swisher said that his groin injury was much better on Wednesday. Swisher was removed from Tuesday’s game in the third inning after he struggled to run out an infield grounder. After resting a tight left groin, Swisher now has soreness in his right groin. Manager Joe Girardi said Swisher will not return to the lineup until he is fully recovered. He is listed as day-to-day.  . . .  On the heels of Andy Pettitte’s impressive bullpen session on Tuesday the Yankees have scheduled him to throw batting practice to live hitters on Friday at the Yankees’ spring complex in Tampa, FL. Pettitte is targeting May 1 for his return to the major leagues.  . . .  Freddy Garcia, who suffered a bruised right hand on a hard-hit grounder by Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays in Dunedin, FL on March 14, will start on Saturday in Lakeland, FL., against the Detroit Tigers. The presence of Pettitte means Garcia will have to pitch well to win a spot in the rotation.

ON DECK

It is time for the 2012 version of the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry Part 2 on Thursday night. The Yankees, who lost a 1-0 game on two errors on one play in the ninth on March 13, will make their first visit to JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL.

CC Sabathia will skip the game in order to pitch in minor-league game. The Yankees will start 25-year-old right-hander David Phelps, who ironically was the losing pitcher in that March 13 game against the Red Sox. Phelps is 0-1 with a spotless 0.00 ERA this spring. Overshadowed in the organization by mega-prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, Phelps has actually outpitched them both.

The Red Sox will start veteran right-hander Aaron Cook, one of the many pitchers they invited in an open casting call for a No. 5 starter for the 2012 season. Cook is 0-0 with a 0.00 in two outings (one start) covering 5 1/3 innings.

Game-time will ve 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.

 

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