Results tagged ‘ Alfredo Aceves ’

Kuroda Good, Tanaka Great As Yanks Zip Marlins

GAME 31

YANKEES 3, MARLINS 0

TAMPA - Most times in spring training everything is pretty much mundane and downright dull. But for anyone who saw Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka pitch against the Marlins on Friday it was mesmerizing and electric.

The Japanese right-handers combined to shut out Miami on six hits with no walks and 14 – count them, 14 – strikeouts as New York rolled to victory in front of a paid crowd of 10,581 at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

As good as Kuroda was in his three innings of work in his final tuneup before his first start on April 2 against the Astros in Houston, Tanaka was even better.

Kuroda yielded three hits and fanned four but Tanaka (2-0) went six innings, gave up six hits but he struck out 10 Marlins in what was his best outing of the spring. Of his 82 pitches, Tanaka threw 60 strikes.

The Yankees, meanwhile, initially had troubles of their own with Marlins starter Kevin Slowey. The veteran right-hander pitched three perfect innings against the Yankees, striking out two.

This is the same Marlins pitching staff that no-hit the Yankees in the first game of the Legends Series in Panama City, Panama for a 5-0 victory on March 15. Carlos Marmol, Dan Jennings, A.J. Ramos and Michael Dunn followed Slowey with four additional no-hit innings until the Yankees touched Marlins closer Steve Cishek for two runs on three hits in the eighth inning.

The Yankees actually scored an unearned run off Marmol in the fourth inning, taking advantage of an error, some wildness from Marmol and Brett Gardner’s speed.

Gardner reached on a fielding error by shortstop Donovan Solano. Gardner stole second and later swiped third. After Marmol walked Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira to load the bases, Gardner scored on a groundout off the bat of Brian McCann.

That run held up until the Yankees added to their lead in the seventh on a leadoff double by Kelly Johnson, an RBI single by Brian Roberts and they capped the inning with an RBI single by Yangervis Solarte to score Antoan Richardson, who was pinch-running for Roberts.

With the victory the Yankees improved their spring training record to 17-12-2. The Marlins fell to 18-12.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Both Kuroda and Tanaka were absolutely dominant against the Marlins. Kuroda, 39, ends the spring with a 1-0 record and a 4.76 ERA. The ERA is a bit deceiving since he only had one bad outing. Tanaka, on the other hand, was every bit as good as advertised. He ended his spring 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA with 26 strikeouts and only three walks in 21 innings. Batters hit a mere .190 off him. For those who said the Yankees rotation was not good enough to contend in 2014 better think again.
  • Leave it to Gardner to break up a pitcher’s duel by reaching on an error and stealing two bases to get the Yankees on the board without the benefit of a hit. Gardner’s .386 spring on-base percentage proves how valuable he will be batting ninth in the lineup this season. Look for a banner year from the speedy Gardner this season.
  • Johnson is not going to hit 30 homers and drive in 120 runs like Alex Rodriguez. But Johnson did average 21 homers and 67 RBIs in his three previous seasons as a starter. The Yankees will take that and – just remember this  - A-Rod has not approached 30 homers and 120 RBIs since 2010. Johnson is hitting .267 with a home run and seven RBIs this spring.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Other than the fact the Yankees can’t seem to get many hits off the Marlins there is not much negative to say after Tanaka was so sensational.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees filled out the roles in the bullpen by awarding spots to right-hander Dellin Betances and left-hander Vidal Nuno. Betances, 26, had no record and a 0.73 ERA with 11 strikeouts and four walks in 12 1/3 innings over 10 games. Nuno, 26, had no record with a 3.38 ERA in 8 innings over four appearances (two of them starts). They will join closer David Robertson and set-up men right-hander Shawn Kelley and left-hander Matt Thornton. Right-handers David Phelps and Adam Warren also were shifted to the bullpen after they lost the battle for the No. 5 starting spot to Michael Pineda.  . . .  The Yankees informed infielder Dean Anna, 27, that he has made the team as a backup infielder and they will decide the final roster spot between utility infielders Eduardo Nunez and Solarte on Saturday. Anna was acquired in a winter trade with the San Diego Padres after he won the Pacific Coast League batting title in 2013 with a .331 average. Anna hit .262 and drove in four runs in 22 games this spring. A back injury that sidelined infielder Brendan Ryan since March 4 opened the door for Anna to make the team. Ryan will start the season on the 15-day disabled list.  . . .  Jacoby Ellsbury went 2-for-5 with an infield single in six innings in a minor-league game on Friday. Ellsbury, 30, told reporters that he has recovered from a strained right calf and he is ready to start the season with the Yankees.  . . .  The Yankees announced on Friday that they have re-signed right-hander Alfredo Aceves to a minor-league contract. Aceves, 31, opted out of his contract with the Baltimore Orioles earlier in the day after being told he would not make the team’s roster. Aceves will report to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and will be used there as a starting pitcher.

ON DECK

The Yankees will conclude their Grapefruit League schedule on Saturday against the Marlins at home.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (2-1, 3.66 ERA) will start for the Yankees in what also will be Jeter’s final appearance as a player at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

The Marlins will start right-hander Tom Koehler (1-1, 1.50 ERA).

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

Transmission of this report was delayed due to technical difficulties.

 

 

 

 

Bosox Finger Kuroda As Buchholz Handcuffs Yanks

GAME 2

RED SOX 7, YANKEES 4

Yankee fans realize there is something wrong with this team but they just can’t seem to put a finger on it. On Wednesday night, Hiroki Kuroda put a finger on a screaming line drive in the second inning and it ended his evening  -  and with him went pretty much any chance of a victory.

Clay Buchholz pitched seven innings of one-run baseball and the Red Sox took advantage of Kuroda’s early departure as Boston downed New York on a crisp, cold and windy evening at Yankee Stadium.

Already down 1-0, Kuroda (0-1) opened the second frame by giving up a lined single up the middle off the bat of Shane Victorino. Unfortunately, Kuroda threw up his pitching hand and the ball grazed his right middle finger as it zipped into centerfield. After a few warmup tosses, Kuroda elected to stay in the game.

However, the normally pinpoint control Kuroda displays was gone. He hit the next batter, Jackie Bradley Jr., and  -  after recording an out  -  he walked Jacoby Ellsbury to load the bases and then hit Daniel Nava to force in a second run. Kuroda was then forced to leave the game.

The Red Sox subsequently pounced on a less-than-sharp Cody Eppley in the third after he induced an inning-ending double play in the second.

The Red Sox pounded Eppley for four runs on four hits, scoring all four runs after two were out in the inning. The big blow was a two-run single by Ellsbury off reliever Adam Warren.

Buchholz, meanwhile, held off the Yankees, giving up only a solo home run to Travis Hafner with two out in the fourth inning.

Buchholz (1-0) surrendered six hits and two walks while he struck out four batters.

The Yankees did manage to rally in the eighth inning off left-hander Andrew Miller and right-hander Alfredo Aceves.

Miller opened the frame by hitting Ichiro Suzuki with a pitch and Aceves entered the game one out later and gave up a single to Kevin Youkilis. After Hafner grounded out, Vernon Wells launched a line-drive blast into the left-field bleachers to bring the Yankees to within three runs.

But it was the proverbial too little and too late for the Yankees.

Joel Hanrahan pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his first save as a Red Sox closer.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Warren pitched well in his 5 1/3 innings of work in relief. He gave up one run on five hits and a walk while he fanned four. But his real contribution was saving the rest of the bullpen from having to pitch after Kuroda was forced to leave the game so early. Though I still think Warren is not a great long-term solution to the Yankees’ pitching puzzle, you have to give him kudos for this outing.
  • Hafner was 1-for-2 in the opener and he was 1-for-4 on Wednesday with his first home run in pinstripes. Hafner’s blast was a legitimate Yankee Stadium home run. It landed in the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center. Now if he could only connect with men on base we might have a good designated hitter here.
  • Wells collected three of the team’s eight hits and all of them came off fastballs. Wells was 3-for-4 with his first Yankee homer and three RBIs. The Yankees’ scouting department noticed this spring that Wells had a much quicker bat than he had shown the past few years and the gamble to sign him may be paying off.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Eppley pitched poorly after not pitching well this spring. The 27-year-old side-winding right-hander was a valuable piece to the bullpen in 2012, going 1-2 with a 3.33 ERA and limiting right-handers to a .227 average in 46 innings. Of course, manager Joe Girardi exposed him by having him pitch to two switch-hitters in Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Victorino and the lefty-swinging Bradley in the third inning. All three got hits off Eppley. 
  • It is hard to get runners on base and score runs when your leadoff hitter goes 0-for-5. Brett Gardner did not have a good night. He struck out twice and looked overmatched at the plate in just about every at-bat.
  • The Yankees were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and they are 3-for-15 in the first two games of the season. You can blame it on the free-agent defections and injuries if you like, but the bottom line is it is going to have to improve if the Yankees want to contend in 2013.

BOMBER BANTER

Kuroda underwent X-rays and CT scan of his right hand after the game and the tests only showed a bruised middle finger. However, Kuroda told reporters he is not sure if he will be able to make his next start. Kuroda is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Friday in Detroit and he should know more then. Warren would likely make the start of Kuroda is unable to pitch.  . . .  Mark Teixeira told reporters that he believes he could be ready to play for the Yankees by May 1. Teixiera is recovering from a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist. He was expected to miss eight to 10 weeks but Teixeira said he thinks he could be ready by the first of the month. That is roughly the same time Curtis Granderson (broken right forearm) and Derek Jeter (recovering from a surgery on a fractured left ankle) are expected to be back.  . . .  Right-hander Phil Hughes (bulging disk in his upper back) was cleared to pitch on Saturday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in a rehab start. Hughes will likely rejoin the rotation after that start.  . . .  The Yankees elected to release left-handed reliever Clay Rapada after designating him for assignment last week. Rapada, 30, has been sidelined with bursitis in his left shoulder but the Yankees decided they needed to make room on the 40-man roster. Rapada was 3-0 with a 2.82 and limited left-handers to a .186 in 38 1/3 innings.

ON DECK

The Yankees will try to salvage the last game of the opening homestand on Thursday against the Red Sox.

Left-hander Andy Pettitte (2-0, 3.52 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Yankees. Pettitte, 40, was 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 12 starts with the Yankees last season, a season cut short by fractured right ankle. Pettitte is 15-9 with a 4.16 ERA in the past 10 seasons against the Bosox.

He will opposed by veteran right-hander Ryan Dempster (1-2, 3.74 ERA). Dempster, 35, was a combined 12-8 with a 3.34 ERA between the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers last season. He is 0-4 with a 7.62 ERA in five career starts against the Yankees.

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

 

‘Comfy’ Yankees Rip Bosox To Go One Up In East

GAME 160

YANKEES 10, RED SOX 2

There is something to be said for feeling comfortable in your own environment and having a full compliment of players to fill out a powerful lineup. The  Yankees returned to the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium on Monday with Mark Teixeira back in the lineup for the first time since Sept. 8 and they celebrated with an old-fashioned pounding of the remnants of what was the Boston Red Sox.

They unleashed a torrent of four home runs and nine runs in the second inning off right-hander Clay Buchholz while CC Sabathia turned in another dominant eight-inning outing as New York reclaimed sole possession of first place in the American League East with a thrashing of what essentially was a Triple-A Pawtucket squad.

The Tampa Bay Rays did the Yankees a great favor by defeating the Baltimore Orioles 5-3 to push the Orioles back into second place and the loss reduced the Yankees’ magic number to clinch the division to two.

Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin and Teixiera all connected for home runs in the second inning, marking the first time the Yankees had accomplished that feat since June 21, 2005 against the then Devil Rays.

Buchholz (11-8) was rocked for eight runs on six hits and two walks and struck out two in 1 2/3 innings as the pennant-hungry Yankees laid into him like a starving lion on the prowl.

Cano opened the inning with a mammoth 446-foot blast off the glass off the restaurant in center-field for his 31st home run of the season. He joins Russell Branyan, who was with the Seattle Mariners at the time but played at the Yankees’ Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre affiliate this season, as the only two players to have accomplished the feat.

Three batters later, Granderson smacked his 41st home run of the season with one out and Nick Swisher aboard. Martin then smacked Buchholz’s next offering into right-center when a Red Sox fan wearing a Dustin Pedroia jersey reached over into the field with his hat to catch the ball in the first row.

The ball, however, struck the fan in the wrist and was ruled a home run by second-base umpire C.B. Bucknor. Beleaguered Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine protested the call but Martin’s home run was upheld after a brief review of the video replay by the umpires. It was Martin’s career-high 22nd home run of the season.

The Yankees then loaded the bases against Buchholz on back-to-back walks to Eric Chavez and Derek Jeter and a hard-hit single to right by Ichiro Suzuki. Alex Rodriguez then hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Chavez.

It was Rodriguez’s first RBI since Sept 19, a stretch of 12 games.

Cano, who came into the game hitting .625 over his last seven games, laced a two-run double into right-center to score Jeter and Suzuki.

Valentine pulled Buchholz in favor of former Yankee right-hander Alfredo Aceves and Teixeira slammed a 3-2 offering deep into the bleachers in right-center for his 24th home run of the year.

Sabathia (15-6) pretty much took it from there.

He gave up a solo home run to Daniel Nava to lead off the fourth inning and the Red Sox added a run in the sixth without the benefit of a hit.

Mauro Gomez walked to open the frame and advanced to second on a wild pitch. He moved to third on an infield groundout by Ryan Lavarnway and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

The Red Sox lineup was without injured stars David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury was benched because Sabathia was starting.

Sabathia gave up just four hits and one walk and struck out seven batters en route to his third consecutive outing of eight innings. In those three outings, Sabathia was 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA, giving up just four runs on 13 hits and four walks while fanning 31 in 24 innings of work.

Sabathia will next pitch the opening the game of the playoffs for the Yankees.

The Yankees tallied the last run in the ninth off Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey when pinch-hitter Eduardo Nunez reached first on an infield single, took second a groundout by Brett Gardner and he scored on the first-major-league hit and RBI from pinch-hitter Melky Mesa.

Despite the fact a lot of intensity of the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry has been muted by the ineptitude of the last-place Bosox, a paid crowd of 45,478 witnessed the beatdown on a mild 71-degree evening in the Bronx.

The Yankees improved their season ledger to 93-67. They can wrap up their third division crown over the past four years with a victory over Boston on Tuesday combined with loss by the Orioles to the Rays. The Red Sox are ridiculously woeful 69-91, 24 games behind the Yankees in last place in the division.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Cano is getting hot at just the right time to perhaps carry the Yankees into the playoffs. He was 3-for-5 with two doubles, a home run, three RBIs and three runs scored on the night. During his eight-game hitting streak Cano has had multiple hits in each one and is 18-for-29 (.621) during that span. He is sizzling hot!
  • Sabathia has finally quieted the whispers over his lack of velocity when he first came off the disabled list. He has been exceptional over his last three starts and looks to be in prime form heading into the playoffs. Since he was signed as free agent by the Yankees in 2009, Sabathia is 74-29.
  • Swisher was 3-for-4 in the game and has been red hot since Sept. 19. Over that span, Swisher has failed to get a hit in just one game and is 20-for-52 (.385) with four home runs and 14 RBIs. Swisher also ably played first base in place of Teixiera.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

It was worth it just to look at that scoreboard after Teixeira’s home run and see the Yankees ahead 9-0 over the Red Sox. It appears with the Boston franchise in such disarray the rivalry with the Yankees will be a distant memory. The Red Sox have failed to make the playoffs in the last three seasons. How can it be a rivalry now?

BOMBER BANTER

Manager Joe Girardi made it official on Monday that Ivan Nova would not start on Tuesday against the “Dead” Sox. Rookie right-hander David Phelps will make the start instead. With the division on the line, Girardi did not have much faith in Nova, who was 1-1 with a 6.23 ERA in his three starts since coming off the disabled list.  . . .  Teixeira’s return marked the first time the lineup has been together since Sept. 8 but that was only for one game. Teixeira originally injured his left calf on Aug. 27 and the Yankees have definitely missed his defense as well as his offense. Teixeira was 1-for-3 in the game with a walk and home run. He has been told not to run hard while his calf is still healing.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their crucial home series with the PawSox on Tuesday.

Phelps (4-4, 3.44 ERA) gets the start for the Yankees. He gave up only one run on three hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings in a victory in his last start against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sept. 19 at home. Phelps is 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA in his two career starts against the Red Flops.

Left-hander Jon Lester (9-14, 4.94 ERA) will get the start for Boston. Lester gave up four runs (three earned) on four hits and a walk against the Rays last Wednesday. Lester is 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA against the Yankees this season.

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

 

Granderson Powers Yankees To Remain Atop East

GAME 142

YANKEES 5, RED SOX 4

Just when it looks like the Yankees’ grip on first place in the American League East appears to be slipping the team seems to right itself in time to claim a narrow victory. Such was the case on Wednesday at Fenway Park.

Curtis Granderson smacked a pair of home runs and the Yankees’ bullpen bent some but did not break as New York kept its share of first place with a huge victory over Boston.

The Yankees scored three runs in the fourth inning to take an early 3-0 lead and they never relinquished it. But getting from point A to point B proved to be a bit tougher than it should have against a Red Sox team that is playing out the string of a season in which they are in last place in the division and 16 1/2 games back.

Granderson opened the scoring with a titanic moon shot home run over the Red Sox bullpen in right-center off journeyman right-hander Aaron Cook (3-10) to lead off the fourth.

After Alex Rodriguez blooped a single into center, Robinson Cano launched a high shot of his own into the Green Monster seats in left-center. It was the 30th home run of the season for the All-Star second baseman and it is a new career high for him.

The Red Sox drew first blood off rookie right-hander David Phelps (4-4) in the bottom of the fourth. Dustin Pedroia stroked a one-out double off the Green Monster in left-center and James Loney rolled a single through the hole between first and second base into right-field to score Pedroia.

But the Yankees tacked on a pair of runs against former teammate Alfredo Aceves in the seventh on a leadoff single by Derek Jeter and Granderson followed with his second home run into the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center. The two home runs give Granderson 37 home runs on the season, which leads the team.

Phelps left the game with two out and two on on the sixth inning. But he really earned his pitching stripes after he opened the fifth by surrendering a leadoff triple by Jarrod Salatalamacchia. Phelps stranded the Bosox catacher by striking out Daniel Nava, inducing Scott Podsednik to hit an infield popup and fanning Jose Iglesias looking.

The bullpen for the Yankees, however, was another story.

With one out in the seventh Cody Eppley gave up a ground-rule double to Saltalamacchia. Boone Logan came in to relieve Eppley and he gave up a double off the wall in center that Saltalamacchia misjudged and failed to score.

Joba Chamberlain came in for Logan and promptly gave up an infield groundout off the bat of pinch-hitter Mauro Gomez that plated Saltalamacchia (who must have breathed a sigh of relief heard all the way in the Bronx). Then pinch-hitter Mike Aviles doubled off the wall in left to score Gomez to make it 5-3.

The Yankees’ offense, meanwhile, struggled to put additional runs across by doing what they do best: Choking with runners in scoring position. They left 10 men on base on the night and they were 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

Closer Rafael Soriano was summoned to relieve David Robertson with a Loney on second and two out in the eighth. He escaped further trouble by striking out Cody Ross looking on a 3-2 pitch that Ross thought was low. Ross actually waved the bat menacingly at home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez before he was tossed from the game.

Boston skipper Bobby Valentine had to restrain Ross to keep him from bumping Marquez. But Valentine must have an important date with his clubhouse office mirror because he also got ejected by Marquez just before the ninth inning started. It was Valentine’s sixth ejection of the season and a new Boston record for managers.

It is about all Bobby can really be stoked about this season.

Valentine could not view first-hand a bottom of the ninth inning in which Saltalamacchia launched a home run off Soriano into the bleachers in right to lead off the inning. He also had to watch on TV as Aviles reached first on an infield hit off the glove of Soriano with two out.

The Fenway faithful among the 37,230 in attendance were virtually in a frenzy. Bobby smiled into his trusty mirror.

That brought up the potential winning run in last night’s hero Jacoby Ellsbury. But Ellsbury’s string of good fortune eluded him when he bounced the first pitch right into Soriano’s glove and Soriano dispatched Ellsbury and the reeling “Dead Sox” with an easy underhand toss to Nick Swisher for the final out.

Though it might not have been pretty, Soriano earned his 37th save in 40 opportunities this season.

Coupled with Baltimore’s 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees remain in first place for the 85th consecutive day and they are tied with the Orioles with identical 80-62 records. The Rays fell three games back. The Red Sox are now 64-79 and headed for oblivion.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Granderson seems to be showing signs of coming out of his long September slide. He is 5-for-11 (.455) with three home runs and eight RBIs in his last three games. Of course, Granderson did strike out two more times, which gives him 170 on the season, second in the American League to Adam Dunn.
  • Phelps pitched extremely well in a game the Yankees desperately wanted to win. He gave up one run on five hits and a walk and he struck out five in 5 2/3 innings. It is a shame but Phelps may not get another start this season because Andy Pettitte is expected to take his place in the rotation next week.
  • Cano’s home run gave him a personal high with 30 (he hit t 29 in 2010) but he remains some 43 RBIs shy of 2011 high of 118. Cano only has 77 RBIs this season mostly because he is hitting a career low .223 against left-handers and he is hitting just .235 with runners in scoring position.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Eppley, Logan, Chamberlain and Soriano looked shaky in a game the Yankees should have breezed through. In 3 1/3 innings, the bullpen gave up three runs on six hits (four of them doubles and one homer) and they actually allowed the Red Sox back into the game. They also faced the possibility of letting the Red Sox tie it or win it in the ninth. That is just plain bad.
  • Boston pitchers used Ichiro Suzuki and Chris Stewart, who were batting eighth and ninth, respectively, as escape hatches out of even bigger innings. They were 0-for-6 and they combined to strand nine base-runners.
  • The 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position line speaks for itself. The Yankees were able to put the leadoff batter on in six consecutive innings from the third through the eighth innings. They only scored runs on the Cano and Granderson home runs in the fourth and seventh innings. So they squandered a lot of chances to pad the lead and let Boston have a chance to mount a comeback, which they did.

BOMBER BANTER

Jeter left the game in the eighth inning after he injured his left ankle trying to beat out a double-play grounder that ended the inning. Jeter was removed from the game by manager Joe Girardi, but Jeter vowed he will be in the lineup in the Boston series finale on Thursday. Jeter also revealed he has been battling thorough a deep bone bruise on his left shin.  . . .  The Yankees announced that right-hander Ivan Nova will come off the 15-day disabled list on Saturday and will start in place of Freddy Garcia against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Nova has been sidelined since Aug. 21 with inflammation in his right rotator cuff. Garcia will now pitch out of the bullpen after he was 0-1 with a 7.64 ERA over his last four starts.  . . .  Pettitte threw a 55-pitch simulated game on Wednesday at Fenway Park and he likely will make a start next week for the Yankees. Pettitte has not pitched since June 27 when he fractured his left ankle. Pettitte almost certainly will replace Phelps in the rotation in order to prepare the 40-year-old left-hander for some potential starts in the postseason.

ON DECK

The Yankees will hope to win the rubber game of their three-game series with the “Red Flops” on Thursday.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (14-12, 4.13 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Hughes is coming off a victory over the Orioles on Friday in which he gave up three runs (two earned) in six innings. Hughes is 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA in his career against the Bosox, but he won his last start against them at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 17.

Left-hander Felix Doubront (10-8, 5.21 ERA) will take the hill for Boston. Doubront is 1-4 with a 7.22 ERA since the All-Star break, which likely is because Doubront pitched 134 innings this season and he has not thrown more than 129 1/3 innings since 2008. He is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Down 9-0, Yankees Stun Bosox With 15-Run Rally

GAME 15

YANKEES 15, RED SOX 9

Fenway Park turned 100 years and one day old on Saturday and the Red Sox honored the occasion by providing their fans with one of their worst meltdowns in their history.

Trailing 9-0 in the sixth inning, the Yankees came back to strike for 15 unanswered runs over the next three innings to leave embattled skipper Bobby Valentine, a depleted Bosox roster and an incredibly ineffective and shellshocked bullpen in tatters amid an embarrassing a five-game losing streak that is rapidly angering the Fenway faithful.

Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher led the comeback for the Yankees, combining for three home runs and 12 RBIs against a Red Sox pitching staff that has earned its position as the worst in baseball.

It was Teixeira who innocently began the rally with a two-out solo home run to left off Red Sox starter Felix Doubront in the sixth inning. Doubront left the game with a 9-1 lead having given up four hits and two walks and fanning seven batters. Little did he know his bullpen would not be able to hold an eight-run lead.

The Yankees got back into the game in the seventh inning against journeyman right-hander Vicente Padilla.

With one out, Russell Martin blooped a single to right and Eduardo Nunez followed with a slow roller to third in which third baseman Nate Spears could not get Nunez at first. Derek Jeter walked to load the bases and Swisher cut the lead to 9-5 on one swing by smashing a grand slam home run into the Green Monster seats in left.

After Robinson Cano singled, Valentine – serenaded with a cascade of loud boos – brought in Matt Albers to replace Padilla.

Albers induced Alex Rodriguez to hit a infield grounder but shortstop Mike Aviles misplayed it and Granderson advanced to third. Teixeira then delivered his second home run of the game, another opposite-field blast to left to bring the Yankees to within one run at 9-8.

A stunned Fenway Park crowd of 36, 770 sat in deafening silence. That silence would not last when the Yankees’ half of the eighth began with Franklin Morales on the mound.

Nunez opened the frame with a single to left and Valentine then publicly alerted the Yankees and Red Sox Nation that he was officially panicking. He elected to bring in closer Alfredo Aceves with six outs to hold a one-run lead.

Jeter immediately worked a walk from Aceves and Swisher then crushed a 2-1 pitch off the center-field wall to score Nunez and Jeter, giving the Yankees an improbable 10-9 lead.

Valentine ordered Aceves to walk Cano intentionally, but Aceves made things worse by walking Rodriguez to load the bases again. Teixeira made him pay with a ground-rule double down into the right-field corner to make it 12-9.

After Aceves walked Granderson intentionally, Valentine – fielding even more boos – removed him for lefty Justin Thomas.

Thomas was able to get an unassisted double play by Adrian Gonzalez off the bat of pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez. However, Martin stroked a two-run single to center. Nunez then reached on an infield single to Aviles.

Jeter made the Red Sox pay with a grounder to Aviles in which he slipped and could not throw Jeter out at first,  which scored Martin and pushed the Yankee lead to 15-9. Fortunately for the Red Sox it was not worse.

The Yankee bullpen closed it out and the Red Sox left the field with some embarrassed faces in front of a national television audience on FOX Sports.

Rafael Soriano (2-0) pitched a scoreless seventh to get credit for the victory. Aceves (0-1) gave up five runs on two hits and four walks without recording a single out to take the loss.

The Red Sox bullpen combined to give up 15 runs on 12 hits and five walks in just three innings.

It overshadowed an absolutely horrible third start of the season for 35-year-old right-hander Freddy Garcia. He was hammered for five runs on seven hits in just 1 2/3 innings. Fortunately for him, that was forgotten hours later with the complete ineptitude of the Red Sox bullpen to get nine outs and hold what looked to be a very comfortable lead.

With the victory, the Yankees improved to 9-6 and claimed first place in the American League East for the first time this season. The reeling Red Sox – or shall we say Dead Sox – are now 4-10 and they are five games back in last place in the division.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Swisher had a week in basically two at-bats. His six RBIs are a career high. He was 3-for-6 with a grand-slam, a two-run double and a single. he also scored two runs and he now leads the American League in RBIs with 20. He raised his average to .283 and it looks as if he is making a huge push for a new contract at the end of the 2012 season.
  • The slow-starting Teixeira hit two home runs – one of them to the opposite field in left, which is one more than he hit in all of 2011. He added a huge two-run double in the eighth to give him six RBIs in the game also. Tex was 3-for-6 in the game and raised his batting average to .288. Hey, Mark, it’s April. What gives?
  • Jeter quietly had another sensational game, though Swisher and Teixeira overshadowed him. He was 3-for-4 with two walks, three singles, two runs and an RBI. He raised his average to a ridiculously hot .382. The Captain is not looking like he will be retiring anytime soon.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Simply put, Garcia has to go. After three starts, Garcia has given up 14 runs (13 earned) on 20 hits and three walks in 12 innings. His ERA is 9.75 and he is looking like he is unable to put away hitters with his splitter any more. At times it looked as if the Red Sox were taking batting practice. Perhaps David Phelps should take the No. 5 spot until Andy Pettitte is ready.
  • Phelps was knocked around a bit for the first time this season.  He was tagged for three runs on six hits and one walk in four innings. The big blow off him was a two-run home run to center by Cody Ross in the fifth. But he actually did not pitch as bad the numbers indicate and he could be given a start soon.
  • Although the Yankees scored 15 runs and pounded out 16 hits, Rodriguez was 0-for-5 with a walk and he did not get a ball out of the infield. The 0-for-5 day lowered his batting average to .241.

BOMBER BANTER

There is one bit of very bad news for Yankee fans and Yankee fans who loved Jesus Montero. Michael Pineda had to end his bullpen session in Tampa, FL., after 15 pitches with discomfort in the back of his right shoulder. Manager Joe Girardi said Pineda will see a physician on Monday and there is no immediate timetable for his return. Pineda, 23, was placed in the disabled list at the start of the season after being diagnosed with right shoulder tendinitis.  . . .  Pettitte is scheduled to make a start on Wednesday for Double-A Trenton as part of his return to the major leagues scheduled for early May. Pettitte is expected to throw about 80 to 85 pitches.  The Yankees obviously will be glad to see him the way Garcia has been pitching.

ON DECK

The Yankees can complete a sweep of the Red Sox on Sunday and if it happens I would not want to be Valentine on Monday.

Ace left-hander CC Sabathia (1-0, 5.99 ERA) is coming off his first victory of the season. He gave up three runs in six innings to beat the Twins. He is 7-9 with a 4.14 ERA in his career against the Bosox.

Boston will counter with right-hander Daniel Bard (0-2, 4.63 ERA). Bard gave up one run but walked seven against the Rays in his last start, which he lost. He is 2-1 with a 4.13 ERA against the Yankees but all those numbers came from the bullpen.

Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN.

 

Power Shifts In A.L. East But Yankees Still Reign


Today marks the beginning of the 2012 season for the New York Yankees. After a 33-game spring schedule, the team took shape. How will they finish in the American League East? What about the other teams in the division? How will they do this season? Let’s take a look.

Last season marked a titanic shift in the division.

After the Boston Red Sox recorded the biggest implosion in major-league history in September, they are no longer looked upon as an elite in this division. The loss of general manager Theo Epstein and the decision to blame Terry Francona for the team’s demise were bad enough.

But the real shock was to watch the Red Sox take a different approach to trying to fix the team this winter. Instead of just going out and aggressively signing the best free agents available and making bold trades to infuse new blood, the Bosox actually started a coupon-clipping method of solving their problems.

The big names that could have helped them went elsewhere and the Red Sox found that their once-vaunted minor-league system was bereft of immediate-impact talent.

They begin the 2012 season with one of the most important positions on the team left n the hands of someone inexperienced.

If ever this was a microcosm of the Red Sox problems this is it. They allowed Jonathan Papelbon to walk away via free agency. Maligned for his foibles and his occasional blown saves, Papelbon was still an important piece of the success of the franchise. The fans and the press treatment of him bit the team in the rear end.

To replace him the Red Sox traded for Andrew Bailey of the Oakland A’s, a competent closer who at the same time has had a series of arm ailments that have slowed his development. At the end of spring training, Bailey came up with a thumb injury that will require surgery to repair. He will miss two months – at least.

The Red Sox also traded for Houston Astros closer Mark Melancon. The conventional wisdom was Melanco would replace Bailey. After all, why trade for a closer if he is not going to close? But new manager Bobby Valentine announced that jack-of-all-trades (and master of none) reliever Alfredo Aceves would close instead.

Welcome to Red Sox Nation’s worst nightmare. On Opening Day, Aceves coughed the winning run in a non-save situation.

If there is anyone out there who honestly believes this team can win the A.L. East, I want to know what you are smoking.

There are only two elite teams in this division and they are the Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays had an interesting spring where they played a lot like the some of the teams in 1960s like the Dodgers and White Sox, who were so deep in pitching talent they shut out any team. However, at the same time, the offense is so bad that scoring runs is going to take some real effort.

Don’t get me wrong. The Rays and manager Joe Maddon have ways of scoring. Carlos Pena may struggle to keep his average around .190 but he will likely hit 30 home runs. Evan Longoria, surrounded by lightweights, will be pitched around and his average will suffer also. But he will win his share of 2-1 games with home runs.

Desmond Jennings, B.J. Upton and the rest of Rays also use their feet to create havoc on the bases. That will get them their share of runs at times. But the old adage “You can’t steal first base” comes into play. The Rays have to reach base in order to steal bases. This team also lacks the athleticism past teams had when Carl Crawford was here.

How many bases will catcher Jose Molina steal? I rest my case.

No, the Rays’ sole means of winning comes with their starting rotation. James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Jeff Niemann are the center of the ballclub. The Rays have attempted to build a bullpen around them but they begin the season with their closer, Kyle Farnsworth, on the disabled list with a sore elbow.

That is huge red flag to me.

Could you say that the Yankees would be favored to win a championship with Mariano Rivera on the DL and expected to miss two months like Bailey? How about if Rivera complained he had a sore elbow?

Nope. No matter how stacked your pitching staff is you have to have a closer and Farnsworth is the best the Rays had in 2011. If he is lost for a long period of time, it puts pressure on Maddon to “shorten” his bullpen. That means keeping his starters on the mound longer than most managers would allow.

That exposes them to possibly losing close games because starters do run out of steam at some point. While a manager like Charlie Manuel might take Cliff Lee out after 121 pitches because he has Papelbon and a deep bullpen, Maddon may say let’s let Price get out of this in the eighth because I do not think J.P. Howell has been effective lately.

It becomes a slippery slope and you start lengthening and lengthening your starters until they begin wearing down.

That is my concern with the Rays.

In addition, they do not have the money and means to ever go to a Plan B. What they have on the roster has to work or they fall.

One team that intrigues me is the Blue Jays.

They already have Jose Bautista. You add to that third baseman Brett Lawrie and a bunch of guys who hit the ball hard and you have the makings of a great offense. Too bad the Rays do not have this offense.

The Blue Jays will put a lot of runs on the board. They have a lot of power and line-drive hitters top to bottom in the lineup.

However, their pitching revolves around Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow. Brett Cecil has been sent to the minors and Dustin McGowan’s comeback has been slowed by injury.  Their bullpen does have a closer in Sergio Santos they stole from the White Sox and a former closer in Francisco Cordero they signed from the Reds.

If manager Jon Farrell can piece enough starters to go six, the Blue Jays just might have what it take to pass the Red Sox in third place in this division. Stranger things have happened.

The one given in the division is where the Orioles will finish. Mismanagement, bad luck and foolish spending have really derailed this franchise.

Buck Showalter is a good manager but this team is mired with problems. The young pitching the Orioles counted on has failed to take the big leap forward they expected.

They made big bets on players like Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones and they have underwhelmed. They lack a big bopper like a Bautista who can change a game. Instead, they can build around emerging star catcher Matt Wieters.

That just about sums up the Orioles.

Now we come to the Yankees.

They won 97 games last season despite the fact Alex Rodriguez played in 99 games, only Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano had good seasons with the bat and their rotation contained Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.

How many will they win when they get a healthy season out of Rodriguez, more of their hitters have better seasons with the bat and a rotation that now has Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, a healthy Phil Hughes to go along with ace lefty CC Sabathia?

Their bullpen even without Joba Chamberlain is loaded with Rivera closing like he always has at age 42 and David Robertson and Rafael Soriano shortening games to six innings.

The team has closed the pitching gap with the Rays and their offense is simply the best in the division. Add to that the division’s best bullpen and a veteran bench and you have the makings of another A.L. East title for the team in the Bronx.

I have not seen evidence that would contradict the premise. The only thing that could derail the Yankees is the age of the team. Injuries also are a great equalizer. But, other than a bad spate of injuries there is nothing that will stop this team in 2012.

Here is the predicted order of finish:

1) New York Yankees 

2) Tampa Bay Rays (Wild Card)

3) Toronto Blue Jays

4) Boston Red Sox

5) Baltimore Orioles

If this order holds up, look for Valentine to be scanning the help wanted ads in October. He already has the team hating him. If it gets much worse he might be scanning those ads in July.

 

2012 Looks Like More Trouble For ‘Red Flops’

As spring training camps open it is time to look at the American League East competition for the New York Yankees. How will the other teams fare as they gear up to dethrone the 2011 division champions? Do these teams have the pitching? Is there enough offense? Let’s see.

PART 4 – BOSTON RED SOX

A fellow Yankee fan once called the Red Sox the Red Flops because of their penchant for running out to big leads in the American League East and fading badly in the second half. After the famous “Collapse of 2011″ the term seems apropos.

On Sept. 3, they were 84-54, a half game behind the Yankees and nine games up on the Tampa Bay Rays. They finished the season with a dreadful 6-18 record and missed the playoffs by a game. In Boston that is not an oops, it is an eruption and it cost manager Terry Francona his job and general manager Theo Epstein fled to the Chicago Cubs.

Looking to 2012 the Red Flops hired ego-driven Bobby Valentine as manager. Ben Cherington, an Epstein assistant, took over as GM. They even dismissed first-year pitching coach Curt Young in favor of Bob McClure to keep their starting pitchers from getting bagged in the clubhouse on Samuel Adams.

Of course, that is odd because McClure pitched most of his career with the beer capital of the world in Milwaukee.

There is no doubt the starting pitching let the Red Sox down in 2011. They scored runs and the bullpen was good until it got overtaxed. But has this team addressed the areas of weakness enough to win the division in 2012?

Well, it does not look good.

STARTERS

The Red Sox were unable to acquire any starter of significance this winter because they had to re-sign free agent David Ortiz and the team was already perilously close to the salary mark that would incur the luxury tax.

So they return to the field with two of the pitchers who aided in the collapse (Josh Beckett and Jon Lester), one pitcher who was hurt most of the 2011 season (Clay Buchholz) and two big question marks behind them. That seems hardly like a recipe for success.

Beckett, 31, returns as the team ace after a season in which he was 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA. But an ankle injury late in the season forced him to fade like a typical Red Flop in September. He posted a 5.48 ERA in September. He also was in the center of the beer issue that drew the ire of teammates and the front office.

If Beckett wants to remain the ace he better start showing some leadership by example.

Lester, 28, is starting to look like the Red Sox version of Mike Mussina. He has all the talent and the pitches to be successful but he never takes that big step forward to be an elite pitcher. He was 15-9 with a 3.47 ERA but he also slid in September. He had only two quality starts from Aug. 27 to the season finale and was 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in the final month.

Buchholz, 27, made only 14 starts last season before ending up on the disabled list with what was eventually diagnosed as a stress fracture in his back. He finished with a record of 6-3 and a 3.48 ERA. There is no doubt he was sorely missed last season because Epstein failed to stock the Red Sox with any depth and the team floundered after he was shelved on June 16.

The Red Sox other two starters were veteran right-handers John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

If Lester is like Mussina then Lackey is looking like the Red Sox version of A.J. Burnett. Signed as free agent before the 2010 season, Lackey has done nothing but disappoint Red Sox Nation with bad pitching. He was 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 2010 but he got much worse in 2011 with a 12-12 mark and 6.41 ERA.

Red Sox fans have taken to calling him “Lacking.”

But there is good news for RSN, Lackey, 33, will not pitch at all in 2012 because he had to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. There is no real guarantee Lackey will be any better in 2013, which will be the final year of his four-year contract. His days in Beantown look to be limited at this point.

Speaking of that, Red Sox fans also would like to see Matsuzaka, 31, gone after three injury-filled seasons in which he was a combined 16-15 with a plus 5.00 ERA in only 44 starts. Last season, he was shelved in June with a 3-3 record and a 5.30 ERA. Like Lackey he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

He possibly could return late in the season but there is no one banking on him coming back pitching like in he did in 2008 when he was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. He is in the final year of lucrative six-year contract and the Red Sox seem to be counting the days they can part with him.

With Lackey and Dice-K on the shelf, the Red Sox have to come up with two starters and one of them is Daniel Bard, the team’s setup man the past two seasons. Bard, 26, does throw hard and he has two breaking pitches to mix in his arsenal.

But Bard also was the poster boy for the Red Sox collapse. Forced to pitch a lot to cover for weak starting pitching, Bard got hit hard and often in September, finishing the season 2-9 with a 3.33 ERA and five blown saves. Only July 31, Bard had a 1.76 ERA.

Now the question is can he be an effective starter? It has not worked for relievers lately. It did not work for Joba Chamberlain and Brandon Morrow of the Blue Jays has struggled to get past the fifth inning with the Blue Jays. Usually it works better when a starter becomes a reliever as it did with former Red Sox right-hander Dennis Eckersley.

Until Bard proves he can pitch deep into games consistently and does not fade late in the season as the innings pile up, he is big question mark in 2012.

For the fifth spot, the Red Sox issued an open casting call much like the Yankees did in 2011 with Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia.

They are looking at holdovers Alfredo Aceves and Andrew Miller as possible candidates. Aceves, 29, was 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA but made only four starts. He is better suited as a reliever, as he proved with the Yankees. Miller, a 26-year-old left-hander, was 6-3 but he had a horrible 5.54 ERA in 12 starts.

The Red Sox also signed former Yankee right-hander Ross Ohlendorf and three other right-handers including Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla and Carlos Silva to compete for the job this spring.

None of these candidates are going to impress the Red Sox faithful. They all have a lot of mileage on them and they all have not had much success in recent years.

This might be one of the weakest Red Sox rotations in many years and the lack of depth in it is the major problem. If Beckett, Lester or Buchholz are hurt, who steps up to replace them?

BULLPEN

The Red Sox allowed Jonathan Papelbon leave for the Philadelphia Phillies rather than pay him what he was worth as a closer for them over the past six seasons. The conventional wisdom was Bard would take over as the closer.

But the Red Sox made him a starter instead and opened up the job. They decided to fill it with 27-year-old right-hander Andrew Bailey, who was acquired in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.

Bailey is coming off two injury-plagued seasons but is pretty darn good when he is healthy. Bailey is 7-10 with a career ERA of 2.07 and 75 saves in 84 chances.

There is no doubt Bailey is an excellent closer. The only question is of the Red Sox can keep him healthy and can Bailey adjust to the very small dimensions of Fenway as opposed to the expansive Coliseum.

The Red Sox also traded with the Houston Astros for yet another former Yankee reliever in Mark Melancon. (Can the signing of Tanyon Sturtze be far behind?). Melancon, 26, was 8-4 with a 2.78 ERA and saved 20 out of 25 games for the lowly Astros last season. Melancon, who was touted years ago as the eventual successor to Mariano Rivera when he was in the Yankees’ minor-league system, will set up Bailey and can close if Bailey should revert to past form and pull up lame.

Speaking of lame, the Red Sox suffered a huge blow to their bullpen before pitchers reported to camp on Sunday because 30-year-old right-hander Bobby Jenks will miss more time when a pulmonary embolism was discovered in his lung. This was discovered after he had two back surgeries after pitching only 19 games last season. He is on the 60-day DL and he will be on a long road back to health.

Aceves also figures in the late innings because he is much more valuable in that spot.

The Red Sox got some use out of 29-year-old right-hander Matt Albers, who was 4-4 with 4.73 ERA in 56 games last season. The lefty specialist was 26-year-old Franklin Morales, who was 1-2 with a 3.69 ERA in 50 appearances. The Red Sox are hoping Rich Hill will come back from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow sometime this season.

The Red Sox think 24-year-old lefty Felix Doubront can take the second left-hander spot in the bullpen. He had no record and 6.10 ERA in 11 appearances last season. Doubront could also get a chance to start and he has some upside.

This bullpen is definitely in a state of flux. New personnel, new roles and there are some pitchers coming off injuries or currently rehabbing injuries. It is not a recipe for success.

Valentine and McClure have a lot of decisions to make in the spring. For the Red Sox to succeed they need an excellent bullpen. For now, it looks just mediocre.

STARTING LINEUP

The Red Sox were largely a four-man offense – a very good four-man offense but a four-man offense nonetheless – in 2011.

First baseman Adrian Gonzalez was as advertised. He hit .338 with 27 home runs and 117 RBIs and played Gold Glove defense. The Red Sox hope Gonzalez, 29, is the fulcrum of the Bosox attack for many years to come.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia bounced back from an injury-plagued 2010 season to re-establish himself in 2011. He hit .307 with 21 homers and 91 RBIs and also won a Gold Glove. Pedroia, 28, remains the spark-plug in the Red Sox engine. His grit and determination makes him the heart and soul of the team.

Designated hitter David Ortiz followed up a bounce-back 2010 season with another solid campaign in 2011. Ortiz, 36, hit .309 with 29 home runs and 96 RBIs. He is not the same feared hitter he was in his steroid days hitting behind Manny Ramirez but he is still good enough to help the offense.

The big surprise was center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who played only 18 games in 2010 and was accused of milking his rib injury by some teammates. Ellsbury, 28, must have been angry because he came back with a vengeance in 2011. He hit .321 with easily a career-high 32 home runs and 105 RBIs from the leadoff spot. He also stole 39 bases.

To most Red Sox observers, Ellsbury was the team’s MVP and would have won the American League MVP if Justin Verlander of the Tigers had not.

The big disappointments in this lineup were Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford.

Youkilis, who will be 33 when the season starts, still has not played any more than 147 games in a season. Last season, the combination of bursitis in his left hip and a sports hernia limited him to 120 games. He hit a disappointing .258 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs and he did not play third base as well he played first base. Youkilis must stay healthy and return to form if the Red Sox are to make a move in 2012.

Left-fielder Crawford, 30, arrived in Beantown with 409 career steals and .293 career batting average. His seven-year, $142 million contract was the signing that limited the Red Sox from adding pitching this winter. He also proved he did not fit in well at Fenway. He hit .255 with 11 home runs and 56 RBIs and only 18 stolen bases. He also proved weak in the field despite having won a Gold Glove with the Rays in 2010.

More bad news about Crawford: Late in the winter Crawford realized his left wrist required surgery and he is not likely to be able to play on Opening Day. Crawford will either turn his game around or become one of the biggest albatross signings in baseball history.

The Red Sox have shuffled the deck in right-field and shortstop this season.

The Red Sox released aging outfielder J.D. Drew and they used promising youngster Josh Reddick in the Bailey trade.

The Red Sox did obtain outfielder Ryan Sweeney in the Bailey deal and he is a left-handed hitter like Reddick. However, the 27-year-old has been a huge disappointment in Oakland. He is career .283 hitter but he lacks both power and speed.

Holdover Darnell McDonald, 33, was brought up last season and he hit .236 with six home runs and 24 RBIs in 79 games. He could figure in an early platoon with Sweeney or win the job outright. Ryan Kalish, 23, hit .252 in 53 games and he will get a look also.

The Red Sox also picked up Cody Ross from the Giants. Ross, 31, bats right-handed and he figures to start n left-field until Crawford returns to health. Then he will shift to right in a platoon with either Sweeney or Kalish. Ross hit .240 with 14 home runs and 52 RBIs in 2011.

Shortstop also was shuffled for 2012. Starter Marco Scutaro was shipped to Colorado for right-handed pitcher Clayton Mortensen. Backup infielder Jed Lowrie was used in the Melancon trade with the Astros.

That leaves former Royals infielder Mike Aviles to start at the position. Aviles, 31, is a career .288 hitter but he hit only .255 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs in 91 games with the Royals and Red Sox.

The Jason Varitek era in Boston is officially over. Varitek was not re-signed and Jarrod Saltalamacchia enters his second season as the unquestioned starter for the Red Sox. Saltalamacchia, 26, is coming off a so-so 2011 season. He hit .235 with 16 homers and 56 RBIs. He also struck out 119 times in 358 at-bats so he is not exactly a selective hitter. The Red Sox also wish he would continue to improve his defense and throwing.

BENCH

The Red Sox will likely keep Ross, McDonald and either Sweeney or Kalish as backup outfielders. McDonald is valuable because he play all three spots and he is better in center.

The Red Sox picked up former Twins infielder Nick Punto as a reserve at second, short and third. Punto, 34, hit .278 with one home run and 20 RBIs with the Cardinals last season. Having Punto means the Red Sox can allow 22-year-old shortstop Jose Inglesias another season to develop at Triple-A. Inglesias can field but has not developed much as a hitter.

The team also picked up former Red Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach from the Rays. Shoppach, 31, hit .176 with 11 homers and 22 RBIs with the Rays and he replaces Varitek as the backup catcher. He is solid defensively.

This is a serviceable bench but I would hardly call it talent-laden or special.

ANALYSIS

The Epstein-Francona era is over. The main architects of the only two World Series championships in the last 96 years have fled. They left a financial constraint on the team that prevented them from addressing their crisis in starting pitching, the bullpen and in right-field.

The Crawford and Lackey signings along with the trades for since-departed Victor Matinez and Gonzalez left this very dollar-rich team weak in minor-league prospects and unable to find enough wiggle room to sign what they needed without breaking way past the level where the luxury tax kicks in.

This limits what the Red Sox will actually do this season. This is team that already is beset by injuries (Lackey, Dice-K, Crawford, Jenks) and they are severely lacking in depth before spring training has even started. It is hard to see how they find the money to fix what needs fixing if the ship should begin to flounder.

The Red Sox will only go as far their offense and their top three starters take them this season.

With the Rays a bit flawed it is easy to see both the Red Sox and Rays battling for second place behind the Yankees in 2012. Because of what happened to the Red Sox last season it hard to see how it could happen again. But that is what I am predicting.

I just have a sneaking suspicion that the Rays pitching will be the reason the Red Sox will finish third. The only question is can Valentine get out of town before RSN tries to lynch him. Good luck, with this bunch, Bobby. You are going to need it – along with a lot of Maalox.

Just call them the Red Flops.

 

Martin’s Double Casts Evil Spell On Bard, Bosox

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

                                                                                     - William Shakespeare from Macbeth

GAME 134

YANKEES 4, RED SOX 2

It looked like Thursday night series finale against the Red Sox was going to be one of those games where the Yankees put runner after runner on base only to be denied a run. That is until the seventh inning, when Russell Martin came to the plate with two on and one out.

Up to that point, the Yankees were trailing 2-1 because the Yankees could not parlay nine hits, four walks and a hit batter into any runs after the first inning and had left 12 runners on base in the first six innings.

But Martin greeted The Bard, the reliever Daniel and not the famous playwright, with a two-run double to right-center and closer Mariano Rivera weathered a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the ninth to strike out Adrian Gonzalez looking to preserve a very important victory for New York in front of a mostly hostile crowd of 38,074 at Fenway Park.

With the victory the Yankees pulled to within a slim half game of the Red Sox in the American League East race and the two teams are tied in the loss column at 53 apiece.

The Yankees had trailed since the bottom of the fourth inning, when Dustin Pedroia followed a four-pitch walk to Gonzalez with a two-run home run to center off Yankee starter A.J. Burnett.

But the Yankees got busy with one out in the seventh inning with an incredible at-bat by Andruw Jones against former Yankee reliever Alfredo Aceves. Jones worked Aceves to a 2-2 count, fouled off three pitches, took ball three, fouled off five more pitches and drew ball four.

Aceves’ night then came to an end when he hit designated hitter Jesus Montero, who was just called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and was playing in his first major-league game, with a 2-2 pitch.

Manager Terry Francona summoned his ace setup man,Bard, to get the Red Sox out the jam. However, Martin was able to drive 3-2 Bard fastball into the gap in right-center to score pinch-runner Chris Dickerson, who also was recalled from Scranton on Thursday, and Montero to allow the Yankees to reclaim the lead. Martin moved to third on the play at the plate.

Pinch-hitter Eric Chavez then added an important insurance run by slapping a 1-0 fastball to right that scored Martin.

The Yankees again turned to their troika of Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Rivera to close out the game.

Soriano tossed a scoreless seventh and Robertson followed suit in the eighth.

But Rivera opened the ninth by walking Jed Lowrie. After Josh Reddick flew out to deep right and Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out swinging, Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk. Rivera entered the game having walked only five batters in 51 innings.

Marco Scutaro then singled sharply to right to load the bases and bring to the plate Gonzalez, who entered the game leading major-league baseball with a .341 average.

Rivera, using his cutter to Gonzalez on the inside corner for the first four pitches, was ahead on the count 1-2 when he threw a cutter to the outside corner at the knees and Gonzalez watched as it nestled right into Martin’s glove and home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez raised his right arm to call Gonzalez out on strikes.

The game was somewhat bittersweet redemption for Burnett, who has been lit up like a roman candle since June 29. Signed as a free agent before the 2009 season expressly because he came off a 18-10 season in which he beat the Red Sox four times, Burnett entered Thursday’s game having never beaten the Red Sox while wearing a Yankee uniform. Burnett also was in real danger of losing his spot in the starting rotation.

But Burnett pitched well. He gave up only the two runs on five hits and two walks and he fanned four batters over 5 1/3 innings.

Meanwhile, the Yankee hitters were keeping Boston left-hander Jon Lester busy throwing pitches from the first toss four hours and 21 minutes before this marathon ended.

With one out in the fist inning, Curtis Granderson singled to right. Mark Teixeira followed with a sinking liner single to center and Robinson Cano scored Granderson with a lined double off the Green Monster in left-center.

The Yankees could have put a real hurting on Lester then. But Nick Swisher struck out, Jones walked and Montero struck out to end the threat. However, Lester threw 43 pitches in the inning. Though the Yankees continued to put pressure on Lester they could not get the big hit to either tie it or take the lead.

Lester threw 114 pitches over five innings and gave up just the lone run on seven hits and three walks.

Burnett left the game with one out in the sixth after giving up a single and a stolen base to Pedroia and a walk to David Ortiz. Boone Logan was called in by manager Joe Girardi and he fanned Carl Crawford.

Cory Wade then was called in to pitch to Lowrie and disaster nearly struck the Yankees.

Lowrie lofted a fast-sinking liner into centerfield but Granderson dove to his right and scooped the ball into his glove just before it hit the ground. The sensational grab not only saved at least one run for sure. It also ended the inning.

Wade (3-0), thanks to Granderson, earned the victory with his one-third inning of relief. Rivera earned his 36th save in 41 chances, albeit he did it the hard way.

Aceves (9-2) took the loss.

The Yankees ended up taking two of three from the Red Sox at Fenway and now are 4-11 with their bitter rival on the season.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Martin missed the first two games of the series but he made his presence felt with his clutch double in this game. He was 2-for-5 with two RBIs and scored a run. Martin has quietly and steadily raised his season’s average to .240.
  • Cano continues to pound Red Sox pitching. He was 2-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI in the game. Cano is now hitting easily a team-best .307 on the season and he now has 98 RBIs.
  • Burnett was so bad many Yankee fans cringed when it was announced he would pitch this game. It was with good reason, too. Burnett recorded an astronomical 11.91 ERA in August. But he did pitch well and kept the Yankees in the game until the Yankee hitters finally got tired of leaving runners on base. There is a good chance Burnett will remain a starter and Phil Hughes will be sent to the bullpen after Burnett’s performance because Hughes has experience in the bullpen and Burnett’s wildness may not translate well to the bullpen.
  • Granderson’s catch in the sixth inning added a strong defensive note to his resume for a potential Most Valuable Player award. Granderson’s 124 runs, 38 home runs, 107 RBIs, 10 triples and 24 stolen bases has overshadowed his excellent defense in centerfield.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position until Martin’s double and Chavez’s single in the three-run seventh. They left the bases loaded twice in the first six innings and left two on in two other innings. The pitching staff holding the Red Sox to six hits and just the two runs allowed the hitters to finally get the big hits when they needed them.

BOMBER BANTER

Teixeira was forced to leave the game in the bottom of the seventh inning due to swelling in right knee after he was hit by a pitch batting in the top of the sixth against Aceves. No X-rays were taken but Teixeira had the knee wrapped in ice after the game. He is day-to-day.  . . .  Along with Dickerson and Montero, the Yankees recalled four other players from their minor-league system. Infielder Brandon Laird and right-handed relief pitchers Lance Pendleton and Scott Proctor were called up from Scranton. Left-handed reliever Raul Valdes was recalled from Double-A Trenton. Proctor, 34, previously spent four seasons with the Yankees from 2004-2007. He posted a 2.57 ERA in seven innings at Scranton. Valdes, 33, had a 3.38 ERA in seven appearances with the Cardinals this season before he was released. Valdes becomes the second left-hander in the bullpen along with Boone Logan.  . . .  Alex Rodriguez (sprained left thumb) hopes to be able to return to the lineup on Friday.

ON DECK

The Yankees return home after a taxing road trip to host the Toronto Blue Jays for a three-game weekend series.

The Yankees will open the series with their hottest starter, Ivan Nova (14.4, 3.96 ERA). Nova is 6-0 in his six starts after being recalled from Scranton on July 30. He is 1-1 with a 4.24 ERA against the Blue Jays in his short career.

The Blue Jays will counter with right-hander Brandon Morrow (9-9, 4.79 ERA). Morrow has allowed five homers and 11 runs in his last 10 innings over two starts. He lso has lost four of his last five starts. He is 3-1 with a 4.68 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

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

 

 

Red Sox May Be Baseball’s Version Of The Titanic

TAMPA BAY RAYS 16, BOSTON RED SOX 5
Daisuke Matsuzaka gives up seven runs on eight hits and two walks in only two innings on Monday night. The Rays added five runs off Tim Wakefield and then battered former teammate Dan Wheeler for four more.
The Rays, who entered the game having scored only 20 runs all season nearly matched the total in one night feasting off Red Sox pitching.
The Red Sox are now 2-8. 
This is the team to beat for the American League East title? This is the A.L. champions? Excuse me, I don’t think so.
I have been hearing all this “You can’t judge a team by the way they play in April” talk and “It’s only been 10 games.” But the fact is this Red Sox team is hip deep in flaws and not all of them can or will be addressed in time to right the ship.
For one, the starting pitching is a shambles. Jon Lester is OK and Josh Beckett proved he is capable of pitching better this season but the rest is a disaster area. If you combine the three other pitchers’ totals for the season you have 25 2/3 innings, 44 hits, 14 walks and 34 earned runs.
That is an ERA of 11.92. You can have a lineup full of Carl Crawfords and Adrian Gonzalezes and still not have an offense that can overcome that degree of bad pitching.
Yet the Red Sox are stuck with the big contracts of Matsuzaka and John Lackey and they just signed Clay Buchholz to a huge extension. So looking for some improvement is a lot like bringing a knife to a gunfight and hoping all their guns jam.
Red Sox Nation, never short of quick fixes to their ailing ballclub, have weighed in with a lot of advice: Get rid of Mice-K, fire new pitching coach Curt Young and start Alfredo Aceves. But the Red Sox braintrust knows that their options are really limited.
When you pay top dollar for a Japanese pitcher as they did with Matsuzaka, you want return on investment. The fact is, the Red Sox got nothing but inconsistency out of what they thought was a star pitcher.
Theo Epstein, the executive vice president, general manager and legend in his own mind, should have donned his gorilla suit and high-tailed it after this fiasco. But now that the Red Sox have committed the dollars they are not going to give up on “Homer-san” any time too soon.
They let it be known all winter and this spring that Matsuzaka was available in trade but scouts from the other teams looked at what they were being offered and just laughed. No one wanted him and those that might have contemplated a deal might as well have thought of hari-kiri. Matsuzaka is just pure poison now.
His comments about the Red Sox medical staff and his own penchant to “do it his way” make him a very unattractive acquisition. Sure, they can bite the bullet and release him. But they are still obligated to pay the man. So the Sox are going to try “fix” him before they ever decide to admit they made a mistake in overpaying this stiff.
You ever wonder why the Yankees may no real effort to sign Lackey when he became a free agent?
You are seeing it now. Lackey has been, and always will be, kind of Joe Blanton-type of pitcher. Fierce competitor, yes. But he also is lacking a few bullets in the chamber.  
Look at Lackey’s career numbers and he never struck 200 batters. He also never was among the discussion of the best pitchers in baseball. He just was a tough and gritty pitcher who gave you max effort every time out.
Now that the age has slipped into the 30s and the innings have piled up, what Lackey can give is eroding with every inning. He can’t throw balls past hitters anymore so he has to trick them. But the hitters are catching up with the tricks.
Red Sox Nation can say “put him in the bullpen” or “release his butt.” But the fact is the Red Sox are committed to Lackey for the long term — emphasis on the word long. They signed him to a four-year deal and he is only in his second year.
Nope. John Lackey is not going anywhere but to the mound every fifth day for the Red Sox whether he gets his brains beat in or not. Thinking anything else is like wishing that it ain’t so.
So the Red Sox have to fix Matsuzaka and Lackey before the season really has started.
Then there is Buchholz, who last season was 17-7 with the league’s best ERA for a starter. You just pencil those good numbers in for 2010, huh? Not really.
Pitchers have to prove themselves every season. In 2008, Buchholz was 2-9 with a 6.75 ERA. In 2009, he was 7-4 with a 4.21 ERA. So which pitcher is Buchholz? Is he the guy with the 6.75 ERA or the guy with the 2.33 ERA in 2010?
Maybe you split the difference and get a pitcher who is the 4.21 ERA guy. Right now, his ERA is 7.20 so he has a ways to go to repairing the damage of his first two starts.
All this falls on Curt Young, who replaced John Farrell. Farrell had an established rapport with all these pitchers and now Young is trying to do the same. That takes time and sometimes it can be hard to unlock what is in the mind of a starter.
Young is an excellent pitching coach but he just is not the same guy as Farrell. He has different ways of saying things and doing things. The pitchers will have to adapt to him rather than the other way around. That takes time.
But one is a lead-pipe cinch: The Red Sox are not firing Young. That would not be fair.
So what if the losing continues? What happens if Lackey, Matsuzaka and Buchholz keep getting their brains beat in before the Fenway faithful take their first bite of their hot dogs? Well, I shudder to think of what will happen.
It certainly will get pretty ugly if this continues into May.
One thing is for certain. There is no way that Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee are showing up in Red Sox uniforms. Pedro and Curt Schilling are not coming out of retirement. Even if they did, the Sox would be better off with what they have.
So sometimes in building the perfect ship you end up with some rusty parts you did not see when you were in construction. That may be Theo’s biggest oversight this offseason. The shiny bright new toys obscured what lay underneath.
It was the same way the Titatnic was built and we all know what happened there. The only question now is are there enough lifeboats to get Red Sox Nation off this ship before it hits the bottom of the Atlantic.

Banuelos Impressive Again But Red Sox Edge Yankees

GAME 19
RED SOX 2, YANKEES 1
Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s fielder’s choice grounder scored pinch-runner Yamaico Navarro from third with the tie-breaking run with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning as Boston edged New York on Monday night at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, FL.
The Red Sox loaded the bases off losing pitcher Dellin Betances (0-1) on two hits and a walk before Saltalamacchia’s potential double-play grounder to second baseman Eduardo Nunez was broken up by the slide of pinch-runner Juan Carlos Linares into shortstop Ramiro Pena, which allowed Navarro to score.
Former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks (1-0) pitched one inning of scoreless baseball to get credit for the win. Veteran left-hander Rich Hill pitched two scoreless innings for a save.
The Yankees have now lost six consecutive Grapefruit League games and are 6-11-2 on the spring. The Red Sox are 10-8 and won both meetings with the Yankees.
PINSTRIPE POSITIVES
  • Manny Banuelos, who was subbing as the starter for Sergio Mitre, overcame some obvious nerves of pitching on national television to pitch a solid and scoreless 2 2/3 innings. He gave up two hits, walked three and struck out two. Banuelos, who turned 20 on Sunday, struck out Carl Crawford looking and ended his outing by inducing Kevin Youkilis to strike out swinging at a wicked changeup.
  • On offense Jesus Montero, 21, was able to drive a double to deep right-center off Alfredo Aceves in the third inning. That set up Brett Gardner’s RBI double down the right-field line to score Montero with the tying run.
  • Quietly Luis Ayala is opening eyes with his work this spring. Trying to come back from some serious arm ailments, Ayala pitched a solid 1 2/3 scoreless innings. He gave up one hit and no walks and pitched around an error he made on a ground ball hit right to him.
NAGGING NEGATIVES
  • Fellow phenom pitching Dellin Betances did not fare as well as Banuelos. Betances opened the fifth by hitting Marco Scutaro with his first delivery. He then walked Ryan Kalish on four pitches. Betances then made what looked to be an inning-saving play by snaring a grounder by Dustin Pedroia. He threw out Pedroia at first and then first baseman Eric Chavez tracked Kalish all the way to second base and tagged him trapped off the bag. However, Betances then uncorked a wild pitch to allow Scutaro to score the Red Sox first run. 
  • Betances and Montero then combined to hand the Red Sox another run in the sixth. Youkilis singled and Adrian Gonzalez followed with a single of his own. After a David Ortiz strikeout, Montero then committed a passed ball and allowed the two pinch-runners to move up a base. Betances then walked Mike Cameron to load the bases. Then pinch-runner Juan Carlos Linares broke up a potential double-play grounder to Eduardo Nunez at second base and the winning run scored.
  • Though the Yankees outhit Boston 8-6 and the Red Sox were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position for the game, they lost because they did not string together hits and squandered opportunities when they did mount threats. 
BOMBER BANTER
Scheduled starter Sergio Mitre and reliever Joba Chamberlain were unable to pitch on Monday because of left oblique injuries. General manager Brian Cashman called the injuries “low-level concerns.” Both pitchers will be monitored and they hope to be able to pitch later in the week.  . . .  While the Yankees brought only their starting outfield to Fort Myers, the Red Sox basically played their 2011 starting lineup to begin the game.  . . .   The two-hour bus ride from Tampa to Fort Myers was pretty eventful. En route to Fort Myers, the bus struck a bird and it cracked the windshield. Luckily for manager Joe Girardi, he was not sitting in his usual seat in the front of the bus. He was playing cards with the coaches in the rear of the bus. The bus kept going and there were no other casualties of the incident other than the bird.
ON DECK
The Yankees will not play a Grapefruit League game on Tuesday. They will instead hold workouts and rest those that are ailing. On Wednesday night the Yankees will host the Baltimore Orioles at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Ivan Nova will start for the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 EST and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
Stay tuned on Tuesday. This blog will look at the Yankees position battles of the spring and size up what the 25-man roster will look like. Don’t miss it!
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