Results tagged ‘ Albert Pujols ’

Cano’s Temper Leads To Sad Departure To Seattle

Some Yankee fans got together and attempted to ship some baby pacifiers to Robinson Cano. How appropriate!

Temper, temper, Robbie! Tsk! Tsk!

Cano, 31, as you all know by now, got pissed off when the Yankees offered outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury an eight-year, $169 million contract and took his bats and gloves and run off to the Great Northwest for a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Seattle Mariners.

Hope you did not let the clubhouse door hit you in the rump on the way out, Robinson.

To be clear, it is a shame that a marvelously talented player like Cano has decided to leave the Yankees. He was the best player on the team the past two seasons and his durability was welcome in a disastrous 2013 season that saw the Yankee roster look, at times, like an Independent League All-Star team.

Cano also had a point in looking at Ellsbury’s career statistics compared to his own and conclude that the Yankees were “low-balling” their monetary offer to him. They never really budged off the $175 million they were offering.

But after the excessive deals offered to Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Carl Crawford over recent seasons, teams are learning that mega-year contracts for boatloads of cash is not a wise idea. A-Rod has been playing on reputation alone for the past three seasons. Pujols is a walking physical wreck and Crawford is one of the worst fiscal mistakes the Boston Red Sox ever made.

If Cano and his agent Jay-Z had been realistic in the first place with their opening offer it would have been smoother sailing. But they sought $305 million, which would have been a record contract. No team was willing to shell out that much cash for Cano and he had to know it.

Once the Yankees zeroed in on seven years at $165 million the gauntlet was laid. But the chief rivals for Cano, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Detroit Tigers stepped out of the process.

The Dodgers signed Cuban star Alexander Guerrero to play second and the Tigers traded slugging first baseman Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers in exchange for All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman felt he was in the catbird seat at that point because Cano, at the time, had no other offers. Overtures by Cano’s people made to the New York Mets were turned aside so Cano and his agents came back to the Yankees and lowered their demands to $240 million.

The Yankees, appreciative of the semblance of reality, still were not too keen on extending the contract past eight years and, with no other bidder in sight, they smartly held the line at about $175 million.

The whole situation blew up after ongoing talks by the Yankees with free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran had broken down. The Yankees shifted gears away from Beltran and they signed Ellsbury for a tidy sum. When Cano read about the monetary details he pitched a hissy fit.

Cano’s father, Jose, issued a statement to the effect that the “Yankees were obviously not interested in keeping Robinson.”

That could not be further from the truth. Cashman and the Yankees were hoping that any offer Cano might have received from other teams could be brought back to the Yankees to give them a chance to match or top it. Now $240 million looks to have been a problem but the Yankees could have extended a year and increased the offer to $200 million.

But Cano did not give the Yankees a chance and he had to shop himself to the Mariners to get what he what he was seeking.

Fortunately, Cano had a willing partner in Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, who has made his career on just two things: turning out lousy clubs year after year and miscalculating the value of young prospects he has in his system and ones he has acquired in trades.

Let’s look at the Mariners most recent history.

Since 2004, the Mariners have been a losing franchise. They have been below .500 in all but two seasons and have not finished better than second place in the American League West in any of those years.

After the departures of stars like Ken Griffey Jr., A-Rod, Randy Johnson and manager Lou Piniella at the beginning of the new century this franchise has languished, boasting only outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and right-handed ace Felix Hernandez as true stars.

Zduriencik tried to seed the team with prospects by making trades, such as the 2010 deal he made to trade All-Star left-hander Cliff Lee.

The Yankees thought they had a deal for Lee in place, offering their No. 1 prospect Jesus Montero, right-hander Ivan Nova and second baseman David Adams. But Zduriencik balked at Adams because he was recovering from a severe ankle injury. He asked for shortstop Eduardo Nunez instead.

Cashman said no and Zduriencik turned around and shipped Lee to the Texas Rangers for their top prospect, first baseman Justin Smoak.

Smoak, 27, has been an absolute bust. In 2011, Smoak hit a scintillating .234 with 15 home runs and 55 RBIs. In 2012, he floundered like a real flounder at the Pike Street Market.

He hit just .217 with 19 homers and 51 RBIs. Last season he batted .238 with 20 homers and 50 RBIs. A budding Mark Teixeira he’s not.

He is currently listed on the teams 2014 depth chart as a backup to journeyman Logan Morrison, who is a career .249 hitter with a grand total of 42 major-league home runs.

Then there is Zduriencik’s 2012 deal acquiring Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi from the Yankees for right-handers Michael Pineda and Jose Campos.

The Yankees decided to ship out Montero because they had determined he would never become a major-league quality defensive catcher and he would either have to move to another position or become a designated hitter to succeed in the majors.

The Mariners found out the hard way that the Yankees were right. Montero batted .260 with 15 homers and 62 RBIs in 2012, but he started only 55 games as a catcher.

In 2013, Montero not only lost his job as a catcher but he was sent back to the minors after hitting .208 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 29 games. He also suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee that shelved him for most of the season.

Montero, 24, is listed behind Mike Zunino on the team’s depth chart.

This is the team Cano has decided to grace with his presence.

Good luck!

It could be 10 years before Seattle ever gets close to competing with the Oakland Athletics, the Los Angels Angels and the Rangers in the division, much less compete for a playoff spot. Cano does not solve the team’s weak hitting in the outfield and infield, with the exception of third baseman Kyle Seagar.

The pitching with King Felix is competitive enough but the rotation lacks depth and the bullpen is a disaster.

Another point is that over the 10 years of Cano’s contract, a lot of young prospects will be brought up to follow his example. Let’s hope they cover their eyes when Cano raps a easy grounder to an infielder, who boots the ball but still nails him because Cano was loafing out of the batter’s box.

Let’s also hope they are not watching when he drops the bat at the plate thinking he has a home run and gets tossed out at second base because he did not run hard. That is a Cano trademark that manager Joe Girardi played off casually to the media but it chafed his chestnuts to the core.

Speaking of home runs. Robinson, you won’t be hitting as many of those in spacious Safeco Field. Your home run totals should drop back to the 20 to 25 mark or so because you line most of your shots.

You can also kiss goodbye having your number retired in Monument Park. That would have made you the first Dominican so honored. You also will not pass some the greats of the game on the franchise’s offensive categories list. You also will miss out on the division tiles, playoff games and championship rings. Lucky you got that 2009 ring squirreled away. That will be the only one you get.

It is shame you let your temper get the better of your good judgment.

Now you will be booed when you come to Yankee Stadium on April 29 with the rest of the no-name band you are hanging with these days. That is a shame, also.

You were a magnificent player and you really were a benefit to the Yankees with your skills as a hitter and a fielder. Those skills will be wasted in losing efforts much like the 2013 season you suffered through.

But you still can count your precious money after the game. Enjoy it because it obviously means more to you than winning.

Adios, amigo!

 

Buck Cries Over A-Rod’s Pact Off Yanks’ Payroll

When it comes to Alex Rodriguez and the impending suspension amid the Biogenesis scandal, I have been silent because it really does not concern me much.

I mean, I do write a blog about the New York Yankees but I do not consider Rodriguez a true member of the team. After all, how long has he been AWOL or virtually useless to the team? Three years?

But I got my dander up when Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter decided to open his big mouth about it on Friday.

“If [Commissioner] Bud [Selig] lets them get away with that, they’re under the luxury tax,” Showalter told USA TODAY Sports. “If they can reset, they can spend again and I guarantee you in two years Matt Wieters is in New York.”

Of all the managers in Major League Baseball you would think that Showalter, who formerly toiled for the so-call “Evil Empire,” would know when he should hold his tongue before looking like the horse’s ass he now appears.

First of all, the decision MLB makes concerning Rodriguez is none of his business. The second point is does he really in his right mind think the Yankees’ front office will go to Selig and request that baseball should apply the portion of A-Rod’s contract he forfeits while on suspension be applied to the team’s payroll and the luxury tax?

Geesh, to hear Showalter you would think that the Yankees have dear old Bud wrapped around their finger and they were dictating the penalty they want for A-Rod so they avoid paying him the $82 million they owe him through the 2017 season. That is just plain poppycock.

The Yankees have been MIA since 2009 in the annual free-agent signing sweepstakes. They have let free agents like Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson go to the highest bidders while they have filled their roster with blowout patches like Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones. That suited the Old Buckeroo just fine because it allowed teams like the Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays to play on a more even playing field.

But now that the Yankees might get to write off A-Rod’s contract for the rest of 2013 and all of the 2014 season (if A-Rod accepts the the deal baseball is offering) to get under the luxury tax threshold of $189 million in 2014. In addition, they can write off the entire $82 million if Rodriguez draws a lifetime ban.

That has Buck soiling his Pampers.

He obviously fears his team’s potential future free agents like Wieters, Chris Davis and Manny Machado may see the Yankees holding up stacks of cash and have them running from the exits at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Poor Buck sees the potential to lose his best players to the enemy and it irks him.

But there is one way to prevent any of that from happening, Buck. Pay those damn players what they worth to keep them happy. Period. Exclamation point!

In the meantime, the Bucker needs to shut his fat trap and stay out of the whole business.

The Yankees were victimized by Rodriguez. Remember in 2007 when A-Rod opted out of his $275 million deal he originally signed with the Texas Rangers (while the Buckeroo was managing them I recall)? A-Rod’s venomous agent Scott Boras was seeking a mega-deal by getting other teams to bid on his All-Star client.

Unfortunately, no bidders were looking to pony up the $200 million-plus it was going to take to get Rodriguez to put his signature on a contract.

Rodriguez sheepishly told Boras to take a hike and he put his enormous tail between his legs to crawl back to the Yankees for forgiveness. Perhaps the Steinbrenners, Randy Levine and Brian Cashman should have kicked that enormous tail of his back to the curb.

But they instead hammered out a 10-year, $252 million deal that Rodriguez for which Rodriguez is now beholden. It also is the one contract that has hung around the Yankees’ necks like an albatross ever since Rodriguez’s effectiveness as a run producer has moved from an upper tier to the level of an ordinary third baseman like Juan Uribe of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Be sure that Rodriguez wants all the money that is due him whether he plays at a respectable level or not. I honestly believe he could hold on through 2017 hitting .210 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs as a part-time player with the Yankees. A-Rod has no real pride in his craft and abilities. As long as he is being paid he has no shame.

So the partial ban and the ever-looming potential of a lifetime ban does benefit the Yankees in their ability to rebuild the ballclub going forward. But it is not if the Yankees deliberately staged the whole thing with A-Rod so they could sign Wieters in 2015, Buck!

So, Mr. Showalter, you go about patching that disaster area of a pitching staff that has your team falling like a stone in the American League East and keep your bulbous nose out of issues that do not really concern you. Come to think of it, the Orioles recent drop in the standings is likely behind much of this childish tirade.

It is perfect for the papers in Baltimore. After all, it takes attention away from his deficient managing and makes the Yankees the bad guys. That is the strategy after all, Buck. Deflect your shortcomings off to another subject.

It seems to me that Orioles owner Peter Angelos has done his share of spending on free agents over the years. If Buck is really worried about the Yankees getting his players he should just beg Angelos to open his huge saddlebags  to keep the players he wants to remain as Orioles.

That would make sense, right?

After all this I actually do hope the Yankees do sign a few Orioles so the Bucker can wail like Kim Kardashian’s North West over it.

Now, now little Bucky, quiet down. Sssshhhh! Here is your pacifier. We are here to make it all better. How about some Gerber split pea? That will make it all okay.

Even Wieters thinks you are acting like a child and he is less than half your age.

 

Yanks Barely Hang On To Edge Angels To End Skid

Enough is enough is enough
I can’t go on, I can’t go on, no more no
enough is enough is enough

                                                        –  “No More Tears” (Enough Is Enough) by Donna Summer

GAME 69

YANKEES 6, ANGELS 5

With the injuries and the losses seemingly about to bring this proud franchise to its knees the wounded, the wavering and the willing among the New York Yankees summoned just enough strength on Sunday to claim a victory to end their long and miserable West Coast road swing.

CC Sabathia held the Angels scoreless for eight innings, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells proved they do can do more than make outs with runners in scoring position and Mariano Rivera inched to the very edge of the precipice of blowing a save before striking out Albert Pujols with the bases loaded and two outs as New York escaped with a victory over Los Angeles.

In the grand scheme of things in a 162-game schedule this game may not mean a whole lot. But in the moment, both for manager Joe Girardi and his battered and beleaguered ball club,  this one at Angel Stadium was a very special victory.

Sabathia (7-5) served notice early that he was not going to lose without a fight by dazzling the potent Angels with eight innings of pure brilliance, allowing them four miserable little singles and two walks while he struck out six. He even used two double plays to wriggle out of any potential danger the Angels wanted to throw his way.

Even when Mike Trout laced a lined single off the 6-foot-7 left-hander with two out in the sixth inning, Sabathia waved off Girardi and head trainer Steve Donohue as if to say “I am going to win this game no matter how much I hurt.”

Meanwhile, the Yankees started off against right-hander Jered Weaver (1-3) as if it was going to be another one of those days where they flood the bases with runners all day and only to have their efforts to score dashed by weak popups or strikeouts.

Brett Gardner opened the game with a double and Ichiro Suzuki drew a walk. Both then advanced a base when Weaver’s attempted pickoff of Gardner eluded Erick Aybar for an error.

But the Yankees struggling 3-4-5 hitters ended the threat when Robinson Cano struck out, Hafner walked and Wells hit into a double play.

But the Yankees somehow put it all together in the third inning.

Chris Stewart walked, Gardner singled to advance Stewart to third and then Gardner swiped second base to set up yet another threat with runners at second and third and no outs.

Forgive the cynical Yankees fans for not being surprised when Suzuki struck out and Cano popped up to shallow left, leaving both Stewart and Gardner where they were.

But on a 1-2 count, Hafner stroked what might have been the biggest home run the Yankees have delivered since Aaron Boone’s solo shot off Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the American League Championship Series in 2003.

Hafner lit into a high breaking pitch and sent into the bleachers in left-center for what was only his third hit and his first home run since he hit his 10th on June 5 against his former Cleveland Indians. Further forgive the cynical Yankee fans for not believing what they they just witnessed.

But the inning continued when Wells singled and Lyle Overbay, pressed back into the lineup at first base in the absence of an injured Mark Teixeira, drove him home with a double off the wall in center. Jayson Nix then capped the rally with a lined single to left to score Overbay.

The Yankees had a 5-0 lead. Smelling salts and ammonia must have been used in great quantities all across the tri-state area for the team’s disbelieving fans.

The Yankees added a seemingly meaningless run at the time in the eighth inning off right-hander Jerome Williams when Cano led off with a double, moved to third on a Hafner groundout and scored on a deep fly ball off the bat of Wells.

But this is the 2013 Yankees, after all. So nothing is ever going to be that easy for them, right?

So fast-forward to the ninth with a determined Sabathia on the mound trying to close out his second complete-game victory of the season and a shutout of the Angels at that.

But Peter Bourjos singled and Trout doubled within just eight pitches and Sabathia left in favor of right-handed setup man David Robertson. Surely, this game would end soon or would it?

But Pujols lined a single so hard off Robertson’s back that it caromed all the way to Suzuki in right-field to score Bourjos and end Sabathia’s shutout.

After Robertson got the hot-hitting Yankee-killer Howie Kendrick to strike out swinging, he walked pinch-hitter J.B. Shuck to load the bases.

Exit Robertson and enter Rivera looking for his 24th save in 25 chances in what would be his last appearance at the “Big A.”

Rivera seemingly restored order by retiring Aybar on a bounce-out to Overbay at first that scored Trout but left two out.

However, neither the “baseball gods’ or the Halos were quite through toying with the fragile psyche of the Yankees  -  not to mention their fans who just cleared their heads from the salts and ammonia from the five-run outburst in the third inning.

In quick succession, Alberto Callaspo floated a single into right to score two runs, pinch-hitter Brad Hawpe plopped a bloop single to left to put two runners on with two out and Bourjos followed with a feather-soft looper to left to score Callaspo.

Yep, the Angels managed three hits off the great Rivera but none of them could have broken a pane of glass and they came off the bat as if the ball were struck with wet newspapers.

Trout then got Girardi and the Yankees reaching for the Rolaids when he drew a walk to load the bases. The paid crowd of 41,204 did not know if they were witnessing a cruel close to Rivera’s career in Anaheim and a proud team about to commit “collective baseball suicide” by blowing a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth.

That left Rivera to face the Angels legendary Pujols.

It was as if Rivera had said to himself, “Enough fooling around.” There was no mystery in what pitch Pujols would be getting and he got three of them.

First, a 94-mile-per-hour cutter for a called strike. Then a 94-mph cutter Pujols could only foul off. Then as the crowd stood, the runners took their leads and Girardi and his team swallowed their hearts, Rivera delivered his final 94-mph missive plate-ward and Pujols swung hard for horsehide and only came up with California air for strike three.

As Stewart raced out to congratulate Rivera, the 43-year-old future Hall of Fame closer did not smile. He knew it was a victory but he would have to admit it was more of an escape.

But this Yankee team will take it.

Despite the fact they had lost five games in a row. Despite the fact they had lost 13 of their previous 20 games. Despite the fact the lineup looks like the Yankees are playing a split-squad game in Dundin, FL, in March, the Yankees are still 38-31 on the season.

They are in third place in the American League East behind the first-place Boston Red Sox and the second-place Baltimore Orioles. But they are a mere two games behind the Red Sox in the loss column.

The Angels are in even worse shape. They are 30-39 and are 11 games out in fourth place in the A.L. West.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • It was nice to see Sabathia basically take the team on his back and carry them to victory despite what happened in the ninth. The team ace is supposed to stop the bleeding and that is exactly what Sabathia did on Sunday. If the Yankees could ask anything more of the 32-year-old left-hander it would be for him to string together about four or five more just like them.
  • Hafner’s home run was a big hit for him just as much as it was for the Yankees. Hafner, 36, began May hitting .318 with six home runs and 17 RBIs. But he hit just .179 in May and was hitting an anemic .111 in June. His demise may not be over but the Yankees still need him to provide power and production in the middle of the lineup. He is now hitting .221 and he is lot better hitter than that.
  • The unsung hero of this team has been Nix. All Nix did on Sunday was deliver three of the Yankees’ nine hits, he drove in a run with a two-out hit and he started a nifty 5-4 double play off the bat of Aybar in the fifth inning that erased a situation of two runners on with no outs. Nix is hitting .259 with a homer and 19 RBIs. But his numbers don’t tell the whole story of how he gets clutch hits, is solid in the field and he plays the game wisely.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I do not care that the Yankees’ three best pitchers (Sabathia, Robertson and Rivera) nearly blew a lead in the ninth and that Reid Brignac was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and a double play to lower his season average to .182. This win was needed and it erases a lot of very bad play on this road trip.

BOMBER BANTER

There was some good news and some and potential bad news about Teixeira’s sore right wrist. An MRI taken in New York indicated only inflammation and no tear in the sheath that he sustained in March. Teixeira was given a cortisone injection and he will be re-evaluated by the team’s medical staff in New York on Tuesday. There is a good possibility that Teixeira will have to be placed on the 15-day disabled list but Girardi is happy to know he does not need season-ending surgery on the wrist at this time. Teixeira was removed in the fourth inning of Saturday’s game when he complained about soreness in the wrist. Overbay will play first base until Teixiera returns to the lineup.

ON DECK

The Yankees will lick their wounds, literally, with a day off on Monday before opening a two-game series at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (3-5, 4.89 ERA) will pitch for the Yankees. Hughes has been up and down all season and his start on Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics was a downer. He lasted only 4 1/3 innings and he gave up three runs on four hits and five walks. Hughes has never faced the Dodgers.

Hughes will be opposed by left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (6-2, 2.85 ERA). Ryu was roughed up against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, yielding three runs on 11 hits in six innings. Ryu has never faced the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by MY9.

 

 

No Bull: Yankees’ Pen Shows Halos How It’s Done

GAME 87

YANKEES 5, ANGELS 3

Within 18 hours, the New York Yankees showed the difference between their team and the Los Angeles Angels.

Handed a  5-2 lead in the eighth inning of Friday, the Angels’ bullpen, behind Scott Downs and Kevin Jepsen, imploded and gave up four runs in a 6-5 defeat.

On Saturday, Freddy Garcia left the Yankees with a 4-3 lead after five innings and the bullpen, behind setup man David Robertson and closer Rafael Soriano, held the lead as New York took its second straight game this weekend over Los Angeles in front of a paid crowd of 47,789 at Yankee Stadium.

Garcia (4-2) battled the Angels as best he could, giving up three runs on five hits and five walks and striking four batters before having to leave after five innings having thrown 98 pitches.

The Yankees, who lead the major leagues in home runs, hit two more on Saturday to give them 138 on the season and provide the Yankees with a lead they would not relinquish.

After the Angels loaded the bases on Garcia with two out in the first inning, Alberto Callaspo laced a 2-1 pitch into right-field for a two-run single to give the Angels an early 2-0 lead.

However, the Yankees answered in the bottom of the inning after two men were out and Derek Jeter was still on first with leadoff infield single off Angels starter Jerome Williams (6-6). Robinson Cano extended his season-high 17-game hitting streak by lining a long blast into the depths of Death Valley in left-center that struck the top of the wall and bounced into the bleachers for his 21st home run of the season.

Two innings later, Chris Stewart reached first on a single to center and one out later Curtis Granderson lashed a 2-2 pitch down the line into the right-field bleachers for his 24th home run of the season.

The Angels got one of those two runs back in the fourth inning when Howie Kendrick drew a leadoff walk, stole second, moved to third on a Peter Bourjos groundout and scored on a groundout off the bat of Bobby Wilson.

The Yankees added an insurance run in the sixth inning when Alex Rodriguez hit he first pitch of the inning into the gap in left-center for a double and Cano followed with a single up the middle that caromed off the second base bag and rolled into center, allowing Rodriguez to score easily.

Williams gave up five runs on seven hits and one walk and struck out four in six innings.

The Yankees’ vaunted bullpen took it from there.

Cody Eppley pitched two scoreless innings, Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth and Soriano pitched a perfect ninth, striking out two batters, to collect his 22nd save in 23 opportunities this season.

Though the Angels have been one of the Yankees’ toughest opponents over the last decade, the Yankees have now won 30 of their last 45 contests against them.

With the victory, the Yankees have increased their major-league-best record to 56-33 and their lead in the American League East remains at 8 games over the second-place Baltimore Orioles.. The Angels are now 48-43.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Cano was 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs and is now hitting .315 with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs on the season. During his 17-game hitting streak, Cano is 27-for-69 (.391) with six home runs and 19 RBIs. The Yankees are 12-5 over that 17-game stretch and Cano is a big reason behind the surge.
  • Granderson’s home run was his 24th of the season, which puts him in fifth place in the American League in that category. It was Granderson’s first home run since June 30, though he is hitting .281 over that 10-game stretch. Granderson has also struck out 11 times in his 32 at-bats over the last 10 games.
  • Eppley was sensational in his two innings of work. He only gave up a one-out single to Wilson in the sixth. Robertson is also beginning to look more like the Robertson the Yankees were accustomed to seeing before he suffered his left oblique injury. He struck out the first two batters he faced before giving up a single to Bourjos. Soriano has been a revelation in replacing a living legend like Mariano Rivera. Soriano struck out Mike Trout to open the ninth and ended the game by fanning Albert Pujols. This bullpen is just amazing.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I am not going to post any negatives when Garcia kept the lead through five innings, the Yankees got power from Cano and Granderson and the bullpen held the lead late. The Yankees also were 3-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left only two men on base. Hallelujah!

ON DECK

The Yankees will get out their brooms on Sunday and look for a three-game sweep of the Angels.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (10-3, 3.92 ERA) will take the mound for the Yankees. Nova gave up two runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks while striking out 10 in six innings in a victory over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday. Nova beat the Angels on May 30 and is 3-1 with a 5.11 ERA in four starts against them in his career.

All-Star right-hander Jered Weaver (10-1, 1.96 ERA) will pitch for the Angels. In his last start on July 7, Weaver shut out the Baltimore Orioles on three hits and one walk and fanned five in eight innings to notch his 10th victory. Weaver is 5-2 with a 4.79 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.

 

Teixeira, Martin Leave Halos’ Downs In The Dumps

GAME 86

YANKEES 6, ANGELS 5

When Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher trotted to the mound at Yankee Stadium in the bottom of the eighth inning in a 5-5 tie to talk to reliever Kevin Jepsen, he told Jepsen to pitch around pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez by walking him with pinch-runner Dewayne Wise on second and a struggling Russell Martin due to hit next.

So with two out, Jepsen walked Ibanez intentionally to face Martin, who entered the game hitting .179 and was 0-for-2 on the evening.

But Martin delivered a two-out, opposite-field RBI single that gave the Yankees a 6-5 lead and Martin later ended the game by nailing Howard Kendrick trying to take second base a pitch in the dirt for his third Angel base-runner caught stealing as New York rallied from a 5-2 deficit in the eighth to send Los Angeles to a crushing defeat on Friday.

Mark Teixeira set the stage for Martin’s heroics earlier in the eighth with a clutch three-run home run to left off reliever Scott Downs (1-1) to tie the game at 5-5. It was Teixeira’s second home run of the night. He had given the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third inning with a two-run shot to the same area of the left-field bleachers off Angels starter C.J. Wilson.

Teixeira also saved a run in the top of the inning when he made a diving stab of a hard-hit bouncer to his right off the bat of Kendrick. Teixeira scrambled to his feet and shuffled a perfect toss to Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda covering first to retire Kendrick. Erick Aybar followed by hitting Kuroda’s next pitch into the second deck in right-field to give the Angels what proved to be a short-lived 1-0 lead.

Kuroda and Wilson then battled over the next three innings in a game steeped in a playoff-like atmosphere with a crowd of 47,873 hanging on every pitch.

But the seventh inning proved to be Kuroda’s undoing.

Albert Pujols opened the frame with a single to left and Kuroda hit Kendrys Morales with a 1-2 pitch. Mark Trumbo then blasted a 1-1 fastball over the wall in center-field to give the Angels a 4-2 lead.

The Angels tacked on a run off Kuroda in the eighth after Mike Trout led off with a double and one out later Pujols hit a ball that sounded like he hit it with a wet newspaper but it nestled comfortably in shallow right-field just inside the line out of the reach of a diving Nick Swisher and bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double to score Trout.

Over the first six innings, Kuroda had given up just one run on three hits and one walk and he fanned two. In the next 1 1/3 innings, he gave up four runs on five hits and a hit batter and struck out four.

Meanwhile, Wilson got back on track after Teixeira’s two-run home run in the third. He left after seven innings having given up just the two runs on five hits and two walks and struck seven. However, the Angels’ bullpen let him way, way down, as in the lefty Downs.

Downs started the eighth and immediately gave up a leadoff double to Derek Jeter. He then dug a deeper hole for himself by missing with a 3-2 pitch in the dirt to walk Curtis Granderson.

Teixeira then lined a 1-2 curveball into the left-field bleachers to tie the game.

With two out, Swisher worked a walk from Downs, which ended Downs’ night in favor of Jepsen and set up Wise’s stolen base as a pinch-runner and Ibanez’s intentional walk. Martin then delivered what proved to be the game-winner.

Chad Qualls (2-1) relieved Kuroda in the eighth inning and pitched a perfect two-thirds of an inning to get credit for his first victory with the Yankees.

Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth to notch his 21st save in 22 opportunities this season.

With the victory the Yankees reached a season-high 20 games over .500 at 53-33. They also have opened up a commanding eight-game lead on the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Angels must lick their wounds after dropping a game they should have won. Their record is 48-39.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Teixeira’s two home runs and five RBIs on Friday give him 17 home runs and 59 RBIs this season. His 59 RBIs leads the team. In his last seven games, Teixeira has been on an RBI tear. He is 10-for-22 (.455) with four home runs and 15 RBIs in that stretch. To contrast that, Teixeira collected only three home runs and 12 RBIs in April and four home runs and 14 RBIs in June.
  • Martin’s clutch single had to feel great because his single against the Red Sox last Saturday had ended an 0-30 stretch. But what must have really pleased Martin was the three Angels he nailed on the basepaths. He threw out Trumbo stealing in the second inning and Alberto Callaspo in the fifth. He then nabbed Kendrick after a Soriano pitch got away from him but he was able to recover quickly and throw a dart to Jeter to end the game.
  • Kuroda gave up five runs in 7 1/3 innings but his first six innings were absolutely brilliant. He deserved a better fate but he obviously lost something after throwing only 64 pitches in the first six innings. In his last nine starts, Kuroda is 5-1 with a 2.89 ERA.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Now that Cano and Teixeira have gotten hot, the pressure shifts to Alex Rodriguez. He was 0-for-4 in the game including a weak groundout to short with one out and Granderson at third with a leadoff triple in the sixth. In his last 10 games, Rodriguez is 9-for-38 (.237) with no home runs and three RBIs.
  • Andruw Jones entered the game after a his red-hot weekend at Fenway Park, where he hit four home runs in the three games in which he played. However, he struck out twice looking and flew out to right off the lefty Wilson. His 0-for-3 night dropped his season average to .238.
  • The Yankees were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and those two hits came on Texiera’s eighth-inning home run and Martin’s game-winning single. They were 0-for-11 up to that point. Somehow they win despite this problem but will it catch up to them in the playoffs?

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees on Friday signed veteran outfielder Kosuke Fukudome to a mimor-league contract and he was assigned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Fukudome, 35, batted .171 with four RBIs in 24 games with the Chicago White Sox and was released on July 22. Fukudome is a career .258 hitter in five major-league season with the Cubs, Indians and White Sox.  . . .  CC Sabathia threw 30 pitches in a simulated game at Yankee Stadium on Friday and is still expected to be activated on Tuesday for a start against the Toronto Blue Jays. Sabathia has been on the 15-day disabled list with a mild left groin strain he suffered pitching in a June 24 game against the New York Mets.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend three-game series at home against the Angels on Saturday.

Right-hander Freddy Garcia (3-2, 5.23 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Garcia gave up just one run in 6 2/3 innings last Friday against the Red Sox. It was Garcia’s best outing of the season. In the last 10 seasons, Garcia is 15-3 with a 2.69 ERA against the Angels.

Right-hander Jerome Williams (6-5, 4.46 ERA) will oppose Garcia. Williams is being activated from the 15-day disabled list after a serious bout of asthma. Williams is 0-1 with a 16.87 ERA against the Yankees after he was shelled for five runs on five hits and three walks in only 2 2/3 innings on April 15.

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

 

Ibanez, Yankees Finally Hit Wall To Overtake Halos

GAME 50

YANKEES 6, ANGELS 5

Throughout their three-game series with the Angels the Yankees have banging their heads against a wall in trying to get hits at the wall off outfielders Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos. It took them three games but they found an answer.

Raul Ibanez laced a one-out triple over Boujos’ head and off the wall for a triple and Nick Swisher followed a sacrifice fly to Trout in left that scored Ibanez with the tie-breaking run in the sixth inning and New York held on to edge Los Angeles on Wednesday at Angel Stadium.

Earlier in the game, the Yankees torched Angels starter Ervin Santana with five runs in the third inning as Curtis Granderson smacked a three-run home run safely over the wall in right field for his 16th home run of the season. Robinson Cano followed two batters later with a two-run shot of his own – again nowhere near the gloves of the Angels’ outfielders.

Staked to the 5-1 lead, Yankees starter Ivan Nova was unable to hold it for long. The Angels struck for four runs of their own in the fourth inning on a two-run homer by Trumbo and a two-run double by Trout.

But Nova (6-2) was able to complete 6 2/3 innings and pick up the victory, giving up five runs on eight hits and and three walks and striking out two batters.

Santana left after five innings, also surrendering five runs on six hits and two walks and fanning four.

Reliever Hisanori Takahashi (0-2) took the loss as the Yankees snapped the Angels’ season-high eight-game winning streak.

Rafael Soriano made things interesting in the ninth by giving up a one-out walk to Alberto Callaspo and a single to Albert Pujols. But he was able to get Trumbo to fly out to left to end the game and earn his sixth save in as many opportunities.

With the victory the Yankees improved to 27-23. The Angels fell back to .500 at 26-26.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Ibanez was 2-for-4 on the night, including his clutch triple off Takahashi in the sixth. Ibanez was 4-for-11 (364), drove in a run and scored three in the series. Ibanez is hitting .288 in May with six home runs and 16 RBIs. He also has held his own in the outfield even though the Yankees do miss Brett Gardner’s defense.
  • Swisher’s sac fly must have been some form of retribution for him for the out-and-out thievery that Trout and Bourjos pulled on him on Tuesday. Despite going only 2-for-11 (.182) in the series, Swisher was able to drive in a run in each of the three games and he now has a team-leading 32 on the season.
  • Cory Wade redeemed himself after giving up that walk-off game-winning home run to Trumbo in the ninth on Monday. He retired all four batters he faced and struck out three of them. He came on the seventh after Boone Logan had surrendered two-out singles to Kendrys Morales and Trumbo. Wade struck out Howie Kendrick on a 3-2 pitch to strand his 21st and 22nd inherited runners of the season. Wade has not allowed a single inherited runner to score this season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Though Nova was the winning pitcher he is still having trouble keeping the baseball in the yard. The home run Trumbo hit in the fourth was the 13th he has allowed this season in 10 starts. Nova succeeded in this game by wriggling out of trouble. He loaded the bases with no one out in the first but gave up just one run on a sac fly by Trumbo. He also benefitted from some good defense behind him by Cano and two double plays got him out the third and fifth innings.
  • Eric Chavez had a rough night. He went o-for-4 including hitting into a double play, a strikeout and he did not get a ball out of the infield. Chavez ended April with a .321 average but he is struggling mightily at the plate on the May. He is hitting .213 with no home runs and four RBIs this month.
  • The Yankee offense took a long siesta after Cano’s home run in the third inning built their 5-1 bulge. For the rest of the game the Yankees were 1-for-21 (.048) and the one hit was Ibanez’s well-timed triple. By contrast the Angels were 10-for-27 (.370) after the third inning. It is a miracle the Yankees pulled the game out.

ON DECK

The Yankees will take Thursday off as they head to Detroit to continue their nine-game road trip by starting a three-game weekend series with the Tigers on Friday.

The Yankees will call upon ace left-hander CC Sabathia (6-2, 3.66 ERA). Sabathia is coming off a two-run, seven-inning victory over the Oakland Athletics on Saturday. He is 16-12 with a 4.46 ERA in his career against the Tigers, including the eight innings of two-run ball he threw at them for a victory on April 29.

The Tigers, meanwhile, lost starter Doug Fister to injury and they called up left-hander Casey Crosby from Triple-A Toledo to make a start. Crosby, 23, was 4-2 with a 4.26 ERA at Toledo. This will be his major-league debut.

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

 

Morneau Hits 2 Homers As Twins Edge Yankees

GAME 12

TWINS 6, YANKEES 5

Justin Morneau hit a pair of solo home runs – his second and third of the series – and Minnesota pounded Hiroki Kuroda for six earned runs to hold off New York on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

Jason Marquis (1-0), making his first American League start, gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks and struck out three in five innings but still was able to hold on to win. Matt Capps surrendered Derek Jeter’s fourth home run of the season in the ninth but got credit for his third save.

Kuroda (1-2), coming off eight innings of shutout baseball against the Angels on Friday, gave up 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings. He was tagged for four runs in the first inning and the Yankee offense was never able to overtake the Twins the rest of the way.

The loss evens the Yankees’ season record to 6-6. The Twins, who won only two games coming into the four-game series, have now won two games in the Bronx and are 4-8.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Jeter was 3-for-5 in the game and he hit the ball hard in the two at-bats he was retired. He is hitting .389 with four home runs and 10 RBIs on the season. OK, Yankee fans who were calling for Eduardo Nunez to replace Jeter at shortstop, what do you have to say now? Hmm, those fans are suddenly silent.
  • Robinson Cano was 2-for-4 with his first home run of the season and drove in two runs, showing signs he is coming around with the bat after a brief cold spell. Cano’s two RBIs from the cleanup spot were the first two RBIs from a No. 4 hitter for the Yankees this season. The Yankees were the only team in baseball without an RBI from their cleanup hitter.
  • Nick Swisher smacked a two-run single in the first inning to give him 13 RBIs on the season, which leads the American League. Swisher is in the final year of his contract with the Yankees and he is trying to make a push to remain with the Yankees for the rest of his career.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • After shutting down the Albert Pujols and the Angels on five hits in eight innings, Kuroda reverted back to the form in which he gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings against the Rays on April 7. By the time Kuroda gave up a two-run home run to Morneau, the fifth hitter in the lineup, he already had the Yankees down 4-0 before they got to bat. Very simply this inconsistent starting pitching is going to have to stop to give the Yankees any chance to win games.
  • The offense does bear some of the blame also. They were able to score three runs on Marquis in the first inning and then they went to sleep. Cano’s solo home run in the third and Jeter’s solo shot in the ninth was the extent of the offense after that. A pattern is developing where they score some runs early and, after the pitcher makes adjustments, they can’t kick-start the offense back up again.
  • The at-bat that turned the game happened in the bottom of the first. The Yankees had scored three runs and Marquis was on the ropes with the bases loaded and one out with Eric Chavez at the plate. Chavez hit the ball hard – real hard. Unfortunately for the Yankees and him, the one-hop smash was right at second baseman Alexi Casilla and it was turned into a double play. The Yankees have been plagued by their share of “at ‘em balls.”

BOMBER BANTER

In the “How worse can things get department?” the Yankees were forced into placing left-fielder Brett Gardner on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised right elbow and a muscle strain. Gardner was injured making a diving catch in Tuesday’s game against the Twins. Manager Joe Girardi said the Yankees will use a combination of Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones and Nunez in left to replace Gardner. The team is expected to fill Gardner’s roster spot with right-handed relief pitcher Cody Eppley, who was claimed off waivers from the Rangers on April 5 and has pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings at Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes-Barre this season.

ON DECK

The Yankees need a victory on Thursday to prevent the Twins from winning the four-game series.

To do that the Yankees will need a good start from right-hander Phil Hughes (0-2, 9.00 ERA). Hughes gave up six runs in just 3 1/3 innings in his last start on Saturday against the Angels. Hughes is fighting to remain in the rotation in the wake of the return of Andy Pettitte. He is 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA against the Twins in his career.

The Twins are countering with right-hander Anthony Swarzak (0-2, 3.75 ERA). Swarzak is replacing Nick Blackburn, who came up with a stiff right shoulder, in his first start at Yankee Stadium. He is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA against the Yankees.

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

 

Jeter, Ibanez Power Yankees Over Angels

GAME 9

YANKEES 11, ANGELS 5

The Yankees’ game plan sounds so simple but it is not easy to do. They try to knock the starting pitcher out of the game early, keep tacking on runs against the weak underbelly of the opponent’s bullpen and win easily going away.

They did that to perfection against the Angels on Sunday night at Yankee Stadium in front of national television audience.

Derek Jeter blasted a three-run home run in the fourth inning to give New York an 8-1 lead and Raul Ibanez added a two-run shot of his own in the seventh as Ivan Nova pitched a solid six innings to give the Yankees a series-deciding victory over Los Angeles.

Nova (2-0) gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks and fanned eight batters to collect his 14th straight victory, which ties the legendary Whitey Ford for the second-best winning streak in franchise history. Roger Clemens holds the team record with 16 in a row.

The Yankees did most of their damage early against Angels right-hander Jerome Williams (0-1).

After Ibanez drove in the Yankees’ first run on a one-out single to center in the second inning, the Yankees erupted for four runs in the third inning keyed by an RBI double by Mark Teixeira and a sacrifice fly by Nick Swisher that chased Williams, who left on the losing end of a 5-1 deficit.

Reliever Hisanori Takahashi did not fare much better in the fourth when he walked Russell Martin and Brett Gardner followed with a lined single to center. Jeter then hit his second home run of the season, a line-drive shot into the bleachers in right field to give the Yankees what looked to be a comfortable 8-1 lead.

But the Angels added to Mark Trumbo’s solo home run off Nova in the second when Chris Iannetta ripped his second two-run home run of the series in the fifth. The next inning, the Angels used a two-out walk to Trumbo to add another run on a Maicer Izturis double.

The Angels then added another run in the seventh off reliever Rafael Soriano on a Albert Pujols single after Soriano opened the frame by walking Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick followed with a bunt single.

After Bobby Abreu drew a two-walk from Soriano to load the bases, David Robertson was summoned with the Yankees holding a tenuous 8-5 lead with the potential lead run at the plate in Trumbo. But Robertson got Trumbo to fly out to right to end the threat.

The Yankees then added a run on Swisher’s two-out RBI single in the seventh off reliever Bobby Carpenter. Jason Isringhausen was brought into the game to face Ibanez, but Ibanez greeted him a long blast into the second deck down the right-field line that gave the Yankees what would their winning margin.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 5-4. The hard-luck Angels, who are showing vulnerability in their bullpen this season, are 3-6.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Jeter’s amazing start to the 2012 season continues. He was 2-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored. The two hits raised his season average to .366. Even when Jeter makes outs he is hitting the ball hard. He hit a long fly ball to center in the seventh inning that was caught by Vernon Wells on the warning track. In the eighth his hard-hit grounder struck Isringhausen and Aybar had to scramble to reach the ball bounding up the middle and nip Jeter at first base with the throw.
  • Robertson’s showdown with Trumbo in the seventh was the key at-bat of the game. If Trumbo had extended the rally or homered it would have been a devastating blow to the Yankees after leading the game 8-1. But Robertson was able to force Trumbo to hit a weak opposite-field fly ball to Swisher to end the rally. Robertson did not allow a hit and his 1 1/3 scoreless innings and he remains unscored upon on the young season.
  • Ibanez, like Jeter, also drove in three runs. Ibanez now has nine RBIs on the season, which is second on the team to Swisher’s 11. This is despite the fact that Ibanez is only hitting .217. So Ibanez is making the few hits he has been getting count.
  • The Yankees as a team finally broke out of their funk with runners in scoring position.  They were 5-for-13 (.385) on Sunday. The Angels, on the other hand, were 1-for-11 (.091).

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Nova did much better than his 4.15 ERA might indicate. He did strike out eight and he looked in control of the game with an 8-1 lead. But two things hurt him: the home-run ball and walks. Trumbo and Iannetta homered and walks to Izturis and Trumbo later scored.
  • Soriano nearly blew the 8-4 lead he entered the game with in the seventh. The leadoff walk to Aybar and the four-pitch walk to Abreu put the Angels in a position to bring the potential lead run to the plate in Trumbo. Fortunately, for Soriano and the Yankees, Robertson was able to retire Trumbo and the Angels scored only the one run.
  • The Yankees scored 11 runs on 12 hits and the only starter who did not get a hit in the game was Martin. The veteran catcher did walk twice and score a run. But he is off to a bit of a slow start with the bat, hitting .182 with no home runs and one RBI.

BOMBER BANTER

Andy Pettitte threw four shutout innings for Class A Tampa on Sunday against Clearwater in a Florida State League game. The 39-year-old left-hander gave up two hits and no walks in his second minor-league start. He threw 31 of 47 pitches for strikes and induced seven groundball outs. Pettitte is targeting his return to the majors for early May.  . . .  The Yankees celebrated Jackie Robinson Day with a pregame ceremony honoring Robinson’s widow, Rachel, and his daughter, Sharon. Curtis Granderson wore a commemorative pair of Jackie Robinson Day spikes for the game and will auction them and his No. 42 jersey to benefit the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

ON DECK

The Yankees will stay home and open a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins.

Right-hander Freddy Garcia (0-0, 5.79 ERA) gets the starting nod for the Yankees. He is looking to atone for a rough first start against the Orioles in Baltimore last week. Garcia, unable to grip his split-finger pitch in the cool weather, threw five wild pitches, but he did limit the damage to three runs in 4 2/3 innings.

He will face the former toast of Yankee fans, Carl Pavano (0-1, 5.93). In his second start, Pavano gave up five runs in 6 2/3 innings against the Angels on Wednesday. He is 0-1 with a 4.58 ERA against the Yankees in his career.

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

 

Kuroda ‘Hiroki-Dokey’ As Yankees Blank Halos

GAME 7

YANKEES 5, ANGELS 0

Of all the Japanese starting pitchers who have come to America to play Major League Baseball, Hiroki Kuroda owns the lowest career ERA of any pitcher with at least 12 starts at 3.45. On Friday afternoon, in the Yankees’ home opener in the Bronx, the Angels found out why.

Kuroda (1-1) scattered five hits – all of them singles – walked two and struck out six batters in 8-plus innings and Nick Swisher provided him all the support he really needed with a two-out, bases-clearing double in the first inning as New York shut out Los Angeles before a sellout crowd of 49,386 at Yankee Stadium.

Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez added solo home runs off Angels starter Ervin Santana (0-2) as the Yankees collected their 14th victory in their last 15 home openers (three of the last four in the new ballpark).

Rodriguez’s home run in the fourth inning was his first of the season and the 630th of his career, which ties him with his former Mariners teammate Ken Grifffey Jr. for fifth on the all-time list.

On a day when the Yankees and their fans honored retired catcher Jorge Posada as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch, Kuroda dazzled Albert Pujols and the Angels in his home debut with the Yankees.

After giving up a leadoff infield single to Bobby Abreu in the ninth, Kuroda left the mound to a loud and thunderous ovation from the crowd. David Robertson got the last three outs to complete the shutout.

After beginning the season 0-3, the Yankees have now won four in a row. The Angels are 2-5 on the young season.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • For as bad as Kuroda pitched against the Rays last week, his performance on Friday was a welcome sight. Of the 109 pitches Kuroda threw, 71 were strikes (65%) and he threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of the 29 batters he faced. He ended up in only 3 three-ball counts and he walked two of them. The 37-year-old right-hander just might be what the Yankees need as a No. 2 starter.
  • Swisher came into the game having ended the Yankees’ 10-inning 6-4 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards on Wednesday with a two-run home run. He delivered the big blow in the first inning on Friday after Rodriguez stroked a two-out single and Santana walked Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira to load the bases. Swisher slapped a hanging breaking pitch to the wall in right-center that cleared the bases. Swisher now leads the Yankees in RBIs with nine.
  • Rodoriguez seemed to shake out of his early-season funk with three hits, including the home run, and he even stole his second base of the season. A-Rod entered the contest hitting .174 and raised his average to .259. The Yankees had been the only team in the majors in which their No. 3 and No. 4 hitters did not have an RBI. Rodriguez’s homer in the fourth ended that drought.
  • Cano made a sensational diving stop of a hard-hit grounder off the bat of Abreu in the sixth inning and threw him out easily at first base. Cano was also on the pivot of three double plays that helped Kuroda keep the Angels off the scoreboard all afternoon.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I could quibble and say the Yankees were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position but when you score five runs, play good defense and your starter goes eight shutout innings there is not much negative to say. It was a wonderful home opener.

BOMBER BANTER

Manager Joe Girardi opted to flip-flop Rodriguez and Cano in the batting order on Friday. Rodriguez, a right-handed batter, hit third and Cano, a left-hander, batted fourth. Girardi said this would the order in which they would bat against right-handed starters. The change was made to make it difficult for left-handed relievers to navigate the lineup in the late innings. Manager Joe Maddon of the Rays used his left-handed relievers to pitch to Curtis Granderson in the second spot and Cano in the third spot and then brought in a right-hander to face Rodriguez. By switching Rodriguez to third managers can’t do that without having the left-hander pitch to Rodriguez.  . . .  When Robertson got the final three outs of the game he extended the bullpen’s scoreless streak to 16 1/3 innings. The bullpen entered play on Friday with a 2.11 ERA, the second best in baseball.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game home-opening series with the Angels on Saturday.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (0-1, 3.86 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Yankees. Hughes had his old velocity back in his initial start against the Rays but he ended up having to leave the game after 4 2/3 innings having thrown 99 pitches. Hughes is 3-1 with a 6.20 ERA against the Angels in his career.

He will be opposed by left-hander C.J. Wilson (1-0, 1.29 ERA), who gave up one run on three hits and four walks in seven innings against the Twins on Sunday. He is 0-3 with a 3.80 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

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

 

Yankees Begin Spring As Favorites In AL East

With the New York Yankees exactly one week away from their Grapefruit League opener in Clearwater, FL, against the Philadelphia Phillies, there is a relaxed and upbeat mood filtering throughout their spring training complex in Tampa, FL.

There are 67 players in camp and yet most every role on the 25-man roster has been resolved, barring injury, of course.

There is one starting pitching spot up for grabs between 25-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes and 35-year-old right-hander Freddy Garcia. Hughes is coming off an injury-plagued 2011 season in which he was 5-5 with a 5.79 ERA. Garcia, meanwhile, rescued what looked to be a thin rotation by going 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA.

If the Yankees’ management and coaching staff had their druthers, Hughes would be 100% healthy and pitching like he did in 2010 when he was 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA. If Hughes did that he would make the rotation even stronger because not many teams could boast having a No. 5 starter who won 18 games.

If Garcia loses the battle for that final starting spot, he would be shifted to the bullpen as a long relief man and spot starter. Garcia also is good insurance should any of the starters come down with an injury. Depth in the rotation will be a key in 2012.

There will be a battle this spring for a job as a second left-hander in the bullpen to pair with Boone Logan.

The two main candidates are 30-year-old veteran Clay Rapada, who was signed this week when former Red Sox lefty Hideki Okajima failed his physical and was released, and 23-year-old Cesar Cabral, who the Yankees received from the Kansas City Royals after the Royals selected him in the Rule 5 draft from the Red Sox.

Rapada was 2-0 with a 6.06 ERA in 32 games with the Baltimore Orioles last season. However, he held left-handed batters to a .104 batting average.

Cabral was 1-0 with a 1.62 ERA with Class A Salem and 2-4 with a 3.52 ERA with Double-A Portland. More impressive was the fact that he struck out 70 batters in 55 innings.

The Yankees also invited Juan Cedeno and Michael O’Connor to camp as non-roster players. Cedeno, 28, was 3-1 with 6.49 ERA with Rio Grande Valley in the North American Baseball League in 2011. O’Connor, 31, was 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA in nine games with the Mets last season and 5-5 with a 5.22 ERA with the Mets’ Triple-A team in Buffalo.

If none of the four left-handers are impressive enough to remain on the roster, manager Joe Girardi said he would just select another right-hander and keep Logan as the only left-hander in the bullpen.

The backup catcher role behind starter Russell Martin is also an open competition between veteran Francisco Cervelli and rookie Austin Romine.

Cervelli, 25, hit .266 with four home runs and 22 RBIs in 43 games with the Yankees last season. However, Cervelli began the 2011 season on the disabled list with a broken bone in his left foot and his season was ended in early September when he suffered a concussion in a collision at home plate with the Orioles’ Nick Markakis.

Cervelli has been cleared to resume baseball activities but he will have to prove he can stay healthy to remain the backup catcher.

Romine, 23, is already a very polished defensive catcher but he has to prove he can hit at the major-league level. Romine hit .286 with six home runs and 47 RBIs in 85 games for Double-A Trenton. He hit .15o in 20 at-bats with the Yankees when he was called up to replace Cervelli as the backup catcher last September.

The prevailing wisdom in camp is that the job is Cervelli’s to lose. The Yankee brain trust would prefer that Romine get an additional year of seasoning at the Triple-A level and he would still be available if Martin or Cervelli had to be placed on the disabled list.

Theoretically, there also is a competition for one backup infield spot. The holdover, Eduardo Nunez, would seem to have a huge edge in retaining it. Nunez, 24, hit .265 with five home runs, 30 RBis and 22 stolen bases. Nunez particularly shined when he replaced shortstop Derek Jeter and third baseman Alex Rodriguez when they were on the disabled list.

However, Nunez plays the field like he is Edward Scissorhands. His 21 errors in 122 1/3 innings in the field is horrific. Nunez will have to show marked improvement this spring.

Former backup Ramiro Pena, 26, lost his job to Nunez last spring and is back to try to reclaim it. He is pretty much the polar opposite of Nunez. Pena is an exceptional player in the field but his offense is severely lacking. Pena hit .100 in 40 at-bats with the Yankees last season.

The Yankees also invited 31-year-old utility infielder and outfielder Bill Hall to camp as a non-roster invitee. Hall hit a combined .211 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in separate stints with Houston and San Francisco last season. Hall is valuable in that he can play all spots on the diamond except first base and catcher.

But Hall and Pena are both longshots to make the roster. Pena likely will be sent back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and could be called up in case of an injury to an infielder.

The starting lineup is set and Girardi will likely set the batting order as follows:

  1. Derek Jeter SS
  2. Curtis Granderson CF
  3. Robinson Cano 2B
  4. Alex Rodriguez 3B
  5. Mark Teixeira 1B
  6. Raul Ibanez/Andruw Jones DH
  7. Nick Swisher RF
  8. Russell Martin C
  9. Brett Gardner LF

The starting rotation is mostly set and reads as follows:

  1. CC Sabathia
  2. Ivan Nova
  3. Michael Pineda
  4. Hiroki Kuroda
  5. Phil Hughes or Freddy Garcia

One oddity for the Yankees is that if Nunez and Cervelli make the team the Yankees would have the same bench as last season with the following:

  1. Francisco Cervelli
  2. Eduardo Nunez
  3. Eric Chavez
  4. Raul Ibanez or Andruw Jones

The bullpen will consist of the following:

  1. Mariano Rivera (closer)
  2. David Robertson (setup)
  3. Rafael Soriano (setup)
  4. Boone Logan (lefty)
  5. Cesar Cabral or Clay Rapada (second lefty)
  6. Corey Wade (middle innings)
  7. Freddy Garcia or Phil Hughes (long relief and spot starts)

You can sum up this roster by saying the starting rotation has been improved from the 2011 rotation and the starting lineup with the addition of Ibanez replacing the retired Jorge Posada looks formidable if they can remain healthy. The bullpen, the strength of the 2011 club, looks to just as string in 2012 and the bench is pretty deep and talented.

This team led the American League with the 97 wins in 2011 despite the fact the team suffered through key injuries to Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain and Pedro Feliciano. They also won despite having a patchwork rotation filled by free-agent right-handers Garcia and Bartolo Colon.

I would not dare predict a 28th world championship because the Los Angeles Angels with Albert Pujols and the Detroit Tigers with Prince Fielder could lie in wait in the playoffs. But this easily is the class of the American League East and I do not think there is any doubt about it.

The division is the Yankees to lose.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.