Results tagged ‘ All-Star break ’

Tex’s Six RBIs Blow Away Chisox in Windy City

GAME 102

YANKEES 13, WHITE SOX 6

After the Yankees landed in Chicago at 4 a.m. after their long flight from Dallas most all of the players were pretty tired after a grueling four-game series in the Texas heat. But Mark Teixeira was not one of those players because he was rested on Thursday.

He definitely was wide awake playing against the White Sox on Friday at U.S. Cellular Field.

Teixeira blasted a pair of homers, including his 10th career grand slam, and drove in six runs to lead New York to a rout of Chicago and allow right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to notch his 11th victory of the season.

The Yankees jumped on rookie left-hander Carlos Rodon (4-4) for eight runs in three-plus innings and they scored five runs and sent 10 men to the plate in both the second and fourth innings to post an early 11-2 lead.

Eovaldi (11-2), who has been getting 7.09 runs of a support per start, was able to pitch into the sixth inning to earn his sixth consecutive victory over his past eight starts to lead the Yankees starters in wins.

Eovaldi yielded three runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings.

The Yankees scored a single run in the first on a two-out double by Alex Rodriguez. Teixeira then drew a walk and Carlos Beltran followed with an RBI double.

They added five runs in the second keyed by a two-out RBI single from Rodriguez and Teixeira’s grand slam home run to center.

The White Sox drew to within four runs in the third inning on a one-out single by Adam Eaton and two-out, two-run home run by Jose Abreu, his 18th of the season.

But the Yankees chased Rodon and put the game away in the fourth starting with a leadoff double by Chris Young and Young later scored on a pair of wild pitches by Rodon with Rodriguez at the plate.

Rodriguez ended up drawing a four-pitch walk and White Sox manager Robin Ventura replaced Rodon with right-hander Matt Albers.

Teixeira then greeted the veteran right-hander by blasting a 2-2 pitch into center-field for his second home run of the evening and his 28th of the season.

With the home run Teixeira also became the Major League leader among switch-hitters who have hit home runs from both sides of the plate in a game. It was the 14th time the 35-year-old first baseman had done it to pass former teammate Nick Swisher, who was tied with Teixeira at 13.

The Yankees then reloaded the bases on Albers and Brendan Ryan stroked an RBI single and Didi Gregorius followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 11-2.

Rodon was charged with a career-high eight runs on seven hits and four walks with four strikeouts. He also threw three wild pitches in what also was the shortest outing of his career.

The Yankees added single runs in the fifth and sixth innings on RBI singles by Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury, respectively, as each member of the Yankees starting lineup collected at least one hit.

In their past two victories the Yankees have outscored their opposition 32-10 and rapped out a total of 37 hits.

The Yankees have now won a Major-League-best 17 games after the All-Star break and their overall record improved to 58-44.

They lead the second-place Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays by six games in the American League East. The White Sox dropped to 49-52.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • It took this season to remind Yankee fans how valuable Teixeira was before injuries ruined the past two seasons of his career. Teixeira was 3-for-4 with a double, two home runs, two walks, two runs scored and six RBIs. Teixeira is now batting .269 with 28 homers (tied for third in the American League) and 73 RBIs (tied for first in the A.L.). You can’t do much better than what he has done, especially when you factor in his defense at first base (only two errors).
  • Teixeira was batting fourth between Rodriguez and Beltran. Those 3-4-5 hitters combined to go an unbelievable 8-for-10 with five walks, seven runs scored and eight RBIs. Rodriguez was 2-for-2 with three walks, four runs scored and one RBI. Beltran was 3-for-4 with a single and two doubles, a run scored and one RBI.
  • Ryan, 33, has been amazing ever since he was inserted as the starting second baseman against left-handers. On Friday, the career .234 hitter was 3-for-6 including a double and an RBI. In his past three starts, Ryan is 6-for-16 (.375) and he has driven in four runs. The hot streak will not last but Ryan’s bat is helping lengthen the Yankees’ lineup along with Headley and Gregorius.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The White Sox obviously used the the same game plan all teams use against Eovaldi by shortening their swings in order to foul off multiple pitches to drive up his pitch count. It has not worked in beating him. But it has kept him from pitching six innings in 13 of his 20 starts. It took Eovaldi 117 pitches to make it through 5 2/3 innings and the Yankees would prefer he go deeper into games.

BOMBER BANTER

Outfielder Dustin Ackley made his debut with the Yankees on Friday after being acquired in a trade-deadline deal with the Seattle Mariners for right-hander Jose Ramirez and outfielder Ramon Flores. Ackley, 27, pinch-hit for Beltran in the seventh inning and played left-field. He ended up going 0-for-2. Ackley will fill the role that was held by Garrett Jones, who was designated for assignment on Friday. He will backup Teixeira at first base and play some outfield. He is hitting .213 with six homers and 19 RBIs. Though Ackley primarily was a second baseman early in his career, he likely will not play there much because he only played one game there in the past two seasons.  . . .  The Yankees announced on Friday that the team’s No. 1 prospect, right-hander Luis Severino, will make his Major-League debut as a starter next week in the Boston Red Sox series at Yankee Stadium. Severino, 21, is 7-0 with a 1.91 ERA in 11 starts at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. He is coming off a career-high 10-strikeout performance while pitching one-hit ball over six innings on Wednesday for the RailRiders. Severino will take the place of right-hander Michael Pineda, who was placed in the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm flexor strain. General manager Brian Cashman said that Severino could get a extended look.

ON DECK

The Yankees can clinch a series victory if they are able to defeat the White Sox in the second game of their weekend set on Saturday.

Right-hander Bryan Mitchell (0-0, 2.89 ERA) will make his second career Major-League start and his first of the season. Mitchell, 24, is replacing Pineda for this start after being called up from Scranton on Thursday. Mitchell was 5-5 with a 3.12 ERA in 15 starts for the RailRiders this season.

The White Sox will counter with left-hander John Danks (5-8, 4.87 ERA). Danks, 30, is coming a disastrous outing in which he gave up six runs on nine hits and one walk in 4 1/3 innings to the Red Sox. He is 2-3 in his career against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by WPIX.

 

Yankees Sweep O’s As Early Big Lead Aids Tanaka

GAME 94

YANKEES 9, ORIOLES 4

The 1927 Yankees with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were also characterized by the term “Five O’Clock Lightning” because somewhere around that time would come a barrage that put an opponent away. The 2015 Yankees should be called “1:30 Lightning” for their penchant for their first-inning outbursts.

They did again in style on Thursday.

Chase Headley stroked a base-clearing double with two out as part of a four-run first inning and Masahiro Tanaka pitched masterfully into the eighth as New York swept reeling Baltimore in front of a paid crowd of 46,875 at Yankee Staduim.

Jacoby Ellsbury added to the onslaught with three hits, four RBIs and finished the day just a triple shy of hitting for the cycle as the Yankees rapped out 13 hits to win their ninth game out of their past 11 to take a commanding 5 1/2 game lead in the American League East.

Tanaka (7-3) capitalized on the 9-1 lead his was given by the bottom of the fifth inning and cruised to victory despite yielding solo home runs to Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado. Tanaka gave up three runs on just five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.

The Yankees, meanwhile, immediately jumped all over right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (7-6) in the first as Ellsbury singled to left and Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez drew walks on 3-2 pitches to load the bases.

After Jimenez looked to be just about out of danger after striking out Mark Teixeira and retiring Carlos Beltran on a shallow outfield fly, Headley laced a three-run double off the center-field wall. Didi Gregorius followed with an RBI single to score Headley.

After Davis crushed a fastball into the right-field bleachers for his second home run in as many at-bats and his 21st of the season to lead off the second inning, Ellsbury delivered a long home run of his own to lead of the bottom of the inning.

The Yankees then proceeded to put the game away for good in the fourth inning after Gregorius and John Ryan Murphy reached on one-out singles. Stephen Drew delivered the knockout blow to Jimenez with a lined single to right to score Gregorius.

Right-hander Tommy Hunter replaced Jimenez and was greeted with a sacrifice fly off the bat of Ellsbury that scored Murphy to make the score 7-1.

Jimenez was charged with all seven runs on eight hits and three walks and two strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings, his shortest start of the season. In his previous outing, Jimenez also surrendered seven runs on seven hits (including three home runs) to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park last Friday.

The Yankees added a pair of runs off right-hander Bud Norris in the fifth inning on an opposite-field single by Headley and a single off the second-base bag by Murphy. Ellsbury capped his big day with a two-out, two-run double to left to pad the Yankees lead to 9-1.

Tanaka, meanwhile, was dazzling the Orioles with pinpoint command. He yielded just the one run and three hits through 7 1/3 innings until Hardy cracked a solo home run to left and, one out later, Machado laced a shot of his own for his 21st home run of the season.

It was Tanaka’s third consecutive victory in his past three starts and he has not lost a game since the Tigers defeated him 12-4 on June 21 at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees are now a season-high 53-41 and they are 5 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays in the division. The Orioles dropped to 46-48 and they trail the Yankees by seven games.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Ellsbury was hitting .327 on July 11, one day before the All-Star break. He immediately fell into a 3-for-26 (.115) slide until Thursday’s game. He was 3-for-4 with a single, double, home run, two runs scored and added four RBIs. In order to light the match to their offense, the Yankees need Ellsbury getting on base along with Gardner. They set the table for the hitters that follow them.
  • Headley is one of those players that just by definition is steady. From May 25 through Thursday Headley’s batting average has stayed within the .242 and .259 range. But since July 1, Headley is 17-for-50 (.340). Oddly though, Headley had no home runs and just seven RBIs during the streak. It is really hard to hit that well and have so little to show for it but Headley is hitting .259 with eight homers and 35 RBIs on the season.
  • Forget the three homers Tanaka gave up. The 26-year-old right-hander seems to be in a nice groove over the past month. In his past four starts, Tanaka is 3-0 with a 3.18 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings. If there is any doubt he is the ace of this staff he is quickly dispelling it.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Tanaka pitched exceptional baseball, the team scored nine runs and they swept a very dangerous division rival. There is no reason to complain about anything about Thursday’s effort. It is clear that after two injury-plagued seasons, the Yankees have gotten their swagger back. They look like they will be tough to beat for the A.L. East title.

ON DECK

The Yankees are off to Minnesota to play the Twins in a weekend series at Target Field that starts on Friday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda (9-6, 3.77 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Pineda, 26, allowed four runs on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts in six innings in a 4-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

The Twins will look to former Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes (8-6, 4.15 ERA). Hughes, 29, took a no-decision on Saturday against the Oakland Athletics despite giving up just one run on six hits and a walk with two strikeouts in seven innings.

Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

A-Rod Breaks Tie As Yankees Send Red Sox Reeling

GAME 88

YANKEES 8, RED SOX 6

Going into the All-Star break, the Yankees were looking to make a statement on Sunday against the rival Red Sox. Based on the results, it is clear that Boston will have a long way to go to overtake New York in the American League East.

Alex Rodriguez broke a 3-3 tie in the sixth inning with an RBI double as part of a three-run inning as New York took the best-of-three series over Boston in front of paid crowd of 37,283 at Fenway Park.

The Yankees improved their season record to 6-3 over the Red Sox (5-1 at Fenway Park) while extending their lead over them to 6 1/2 games.

Brett Gardner opened the critical inning with an infield single and Rodriguez, who had two home runs and three RBIs in the previous two contests, laced a 2-1 fastball from left-hander Wade Miley to the wall in left-center to score Gardner.

One out later, Chris Young chased Miley from the game with an RBI double high off the Green Monster in left. Chase Headley later added a two-out RBI double off the wall down the line in left off left-hander Tommy Layne to extend the Yankees’ lead to 6-3.

Miley (8-8) was charged with all three runs and he ended his day giving up six runs on seven hits with no walks and two strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (9-2) once again was the beneficiary of the run support. He held the Red Sox to three runs on seven hits and no walks with four strikeouts in five innings to win his fourth straight decision.

Eovaldi has not lost a game since June 16 in Miami against his former team, the Marlins, when he was knocked out of the game after yielding eight runs in two-thirds of an inning.

The Yankees, meanwhile, added to their lead in the top of the ninth inning when rookie second baseman Rob Refsnyder, in only his second major-league game, hit a two-run home run off right-hander Alexi Ogando. Two innings earlier, Refsnyder lined his first major-league hit to center off Layne.

It turned out that the Yankees needed that home run because the Red Sox managed to scored two unearned runs off left-hander Andrew Miller in the bottom of ninth thanks to a pair of errors by Brian McCann and Refsnyder.

It was McCann who actually got the Yankees’ offense started with one out in the second inning when he blasted a two-run opposite-field homer to left  –  his 14th of the season.

But Eovaldi was unable to hold it in the bottom of the third when he was victimized by a series of infield hits and seeing-eye singles as the Red Sox capitalized for three runs.

With Ryan Hanigan at second after an infield single and Mookie Betts at first on a ground single to right and one out, Xander Bogaerts rolled an RBI single to center. Pablo Sandoval laced an RBI single to right and Hanley Ramirez bounced another RBI single up the middle to give the Bosox the lead.

The Yankees tied it in the fifth after a leadoff double by McCann and single to center by Headley.

With Didi Gregorius at the plate Miley, according to home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez, made a movement towards home before attempting to pick off Headley at first. He ruled it a balk and McCann was waved in to score the tying run.

The Yankees reached the All-Star break with a record of 48-40 and they hold a 3 1/2-game lead over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the division. The last-place Red Sox ended the break at 42-47.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Yankee fans are seeing a torch passed to Refsnyder, 24. The rookie was called up after batting .290 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and he likely will take over as the starting second baseman at some point in the second half. He was 2-for-4 with his first hit and first home run in only his second game. The only concern is that the former University of Arizona product was converted from the outfield and he is a work in progress on defense. But the kid can flat-out hit and he is the best second baseman the Yankees have had since Robinson Cano left after the 2013 season.
  • McCann brought his first half to a close in grand style going 2-for-4 with a double, a homer, two runs scored and two RBIs. McCann entered the day in a bit of a slump having gone only 6-for-40 (.150) since June 26. That dropped his average from a season-high .275 to .255. Despite the fact he deserved to be the starting catcher for the American League in the All-Star Game, the four days of rest may actually benefit him a lot more.
  • Eovaldi ends the first half as the team’s winningest starter despite the fact he has a high 4.50 ERA. The reason is the Yankees are averaging seven runs a game for him and he got six runs on Sunday. The 25-year-old right-hander with high-velocity heater is still working to refine his game but you have to give him and pitching coach Larry Rothschild credit for what they have done so far.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Miller had another shaky outing on Sunday. Of course, McCann’s throwing error and the other error charged to Refsnyder made it worse than it appeared. The second error should have been charged to Miller on his throw to second on a double-play ball that could have ended the game. Miller, 30, needs to get back into the groove he was in before he went on the disabled list on June 10 and cost him a month.
  • Gregorius was 0-for-4 and his batting average slipped back to .238. Though Gregorius has made great strides from his first month or so, he is still a very vexing player. In his first two at-bats on Sunday he saw two pitches. On this two pitches he hit a pair of weak flies to center. He also grounded out in the sixth to leave a man in scoring position. Aggressiveness is one thing but stupidity is another. Gregorius needs to learn patience at the plate to be successful. He has time to learn because he is only 25. Just be prepared to want to tear your hair out watching him flail at pitches out of the strike zone.

BOMBER BANTER

Manager Joe Girardi has set his rotation for the start of the second half of the season. Girardi told reporters on Sunday that right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will open the three-game home series against the Seattle Mariners on Friday. Right-hander Michael Pineda and left-hander CC Sabathia will follow him in that order. Eovaldi and right-hander Ivan Nova will pitch in that order in the home series against the Baltimore Orioles that begins on July 21.

ON DECK

The Yankees will rest for four days and resume their season Friday at home against the Mariners.

Tanaka (5-3, 3.63 ERA) will try to build on his past two starts as he opens the second half. In his last start, Tanaka yielded two runs (one earned) on just two hits with a walk and six strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings in a victory over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday.

The Mariners have not announced a starter because ace right-hander Felix Hernandez was selected to pitch in the All-Star Game.

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.

 

Pineda’s Pinpoint Pitching Pushes Yanks Past Sox

GAME 86

YANKEES 5, RED SOX 1

The Boston Red Sox came into Friday’s opener against the New York Yankees riding a four-game winning streak and hoping to elbow their way out of the cellar to get closer that the 5 1/2 games back they were in the American League East.

Instead they ran into right-hander Michael Pineda and they may have lost their ace pitcher to a serious elbow injury.

Pineda used his laser-like control to hold the Red Sox to one run over 6 2/3 innings and the Yankees took advantage of Clay Buchholz leaving the game in the fourth inning as New York downed Boston in front of a national TV audience at Fenway Park.

The Yankees won their third straight game and not only maintained their three-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the division but also dropped the last-place Red Sox to 6 1/2 games back.

Pineda (9-5) only gave up a solo home run to Mookie Betts with one out in the fifth inning to bring the Bosox to within three runs at 4-1. Pineda yielded one run on seven hits and no walks while he fanned six batters to record his first victory since he defeated the Miami Marlins 2-1 at Yankee Stadium on June 17.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took an early lead on Buchholz and the Red Sox with two out in the first inning when Alex Rodriguez blasted his 17th home run of the season over the Green Monster in left and onto Landsdowne Street.

Coming into the contest Rodriguez was 11-for-27 (.407) with two home runs in his career against Buchholz.

The Yankees added to their slim lead in the fourth in an inning that the Red Sox committed two errors while the Yankees batted around and scored three runs by getting only two balls into the outfield.

Brian McCann started the rally with a bloop single to shallow left-center. One out later, Didi Gregorius laced a double off the Green Monster in left to advance McCann to third.

After Buchholz delivered a ball to Stephen Drew to even the count at 1-1, the right-hander called his catcher Sandy Leon and later the team trainer to the mound. Without testing his right elbow, Buchholz left the game in favor of left-hander Robbie Ross Jr.

That is when the Red Sox fielding issues and the speed of both Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner came into play to allow the Yankees to extend their lead.

Drew hit a ball to first baseman Mike Napoli but the ball caromed away from him and Ross was unable to get his foot on the base to retire Drew for an error, which loaded the bases.

One out later, the Red Sox had an opportunity to end the inning but All-Star infielder Brock Holt bobbled a grounder off the bat of Ellsbury and he was unable to beat him with his throw to first.

Gardner then hit another routine ground ball to Napoli. But Gardner was able to slide head first into the bag before Ross could get his foot down for an RBI single. Ross then compounded the Red Sox problems by walking Rodriguez on a 3-2 pitch to force in a run.

Buchholz (7-7) ended up being charged with three runs (one earned) on six hits and no walks with three strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings.

He left the game in what was reported later by the team as tightness in his right elbow. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI late Friday to determine the severity of the injury but there was no report on what the results indicated.

The Yankees added a final run in the eighth inning off right-hander Matt Barnes and left-hander Craig Breslow. Barnes walked Chris Young and then hit Gregorius with a pitch. Breslow entered the game and managed to retire Young at third on a botched sacrifice bunt by Drew and Cole Figueroa on a weak popup. However, Ellsbury slapped a single to center to score Gregorius to extend the lead to 5-1.

The Yankees turned to their vaunted bullpen to close out the Red Sox and preserve the victory for Pineda.

Left-hander Justin Wilson, right-hander Dellin Betances and left-hander Andrew Miller held the Red Sox hitless over the final 2 1/3 innings to seal it.

With the victory the Yankees are now 47-39. The Red Sox fell to 41-46.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Pineda managed to follow up an excellent pitching performance by Masahiro Tanaka against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday. The Yankees’ right-handed duo combined to give up just three runs (two earned) on nine hits and one walk with 12 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings. That is a 1.26 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP. If Pineda and Tanaka pitch like this on a consistent basis there is no team in the division that stay with the Yankees in the second half.
  • Rodriguez added to his totals against Buchholz with the home run and a single he hit in the third inning. He is now 13-for-29 (.448) with three home runs in his career against the right-hander. Rodriguez was 2-for-4 with a walk, a run scored and two RBIs on the night. He is now batting .279 with 17 home runs and 49 RBIs on the season.
  • Ellsbury came back to haunt his former team by going 1-for-5 with an RBI. But it was his and Gardner’s speed that set the stage for the three-run inning that sunk the Red Sox. Running out the error allowed the Yankees to load the bases and Gardner’s infield RBI single started the scoring. This is the toughest 1-2 hitting tandem in baseball, period.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Pineda was great. A-Rod got two big RBIs and the Yankees’ speed helped force some shoddy defense. If the Red Sox lose Buchholz for any length of time, which looks very likely at this point, they will have a very difficult time climbing out of the division cellar. How could things be any better for the Yankees?

BOMBER BANTER

Although third baseman Chase Headley ran in the outfield before the game Friday, the Yankees did not use him in the game. Manager Joe Girardi said it is possible that the Yankees could elect to rest Headley until after the All-Star break. Headley, 31, has missed the past three games with inflammation in his right calf. Figueroa started in his place on Friday and was 0-for-4.  . . .  Outfielder Carlos Beltran, 38, is scheduled to play a few minor league rehab games in Tampa, FL, during the All-Star break and he hopes to be able to return to the team on July 17 when the Yankees play host to the Seattle Mariners. Beltran was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 1 with a left oblique strain. Beltran is hitting .260 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs in 66 games.  . . .  With the Red Sox scheduled to throw two left-handers this weekend, the Yankees are planning to recall rookie second baseman Rob Refsnyder from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Refsnyder, 24, is batting .290 with seven homers and 37 RBIs in 81 games with the RailRiders. Refsnyder bats right-handed and Drew, who bats left-handed, is hitting .182 with 12 homers and 25 RBIs in 78 games.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a chance to win the three-game series against the Red Sox on Saturday.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (1-2, 2.65 ERA) will make his fourth start of the season for the Yankees. Nova, 28, surrendered three runs on six hits and three walks with one strikeout in five innings in a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.

The Red Sox will send left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (4-2, 3.69 ERA) to the mound. Rodriguez gave up one run on six hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in five innings in a no-decision against the Houston Astros on Sunday.

Game-time will be 7:15 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by FOX Sports.

 

Beltran’s Health Key To Yankees’ 2015 Outfield

With the opening of the New York Yankees spring training camp in Tampa, FL, we will now look at each position on the team to assess their chances in 2015. After a disappointing 2014 season with a roster riddled with significant injuries the Yankees have reshuffled the deck with a lot of fresh faces to join some old ones. Let’s look at them.

OUTFIELD

RIGHT-FIELD: Carlos Beltran, 37, (.233, 15 HRs, 49 RBIs, 109 games)

CENTER-FIELD: Jacoby Ellsbury, 31, (.271, 16 HRs, 70 RBIs, 39 SBs, 149 games)

LEFT-FIELD: Brett Gardner, 31, (.256, 17 HRs, 58 RBIs, 21 SBs, 148 games)

In the Yankees’ 2009 championship season they featured at outfield of Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher that combined to hit 81 home runs. The 2014 edition of the Yankees only managed 48.

That tells you a lot about a team that limped to a 84-78 record and finished a distant second to the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East and missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

The Yankees had envisioned a speedy and defensive outfield that also featured some power from Beltran and Ellsbury. Instead, Gardner wound up out-homering the group and doesn’t that say a lot on how bad things were last season?

Beltran was a major disappointment but it was not through any fault of his own. In late April, Beltran was suffering through a very painful bone spur in his right elbow. It was easy to see how it affected his offense, too.

On April 23, Beltran was batting .307 with five homers and 13 RBIs in the middle of the Yankees’ lineup. From that point until he was placed on the disabled list on May 13, he hit .132 with no homers and two RBIs.

The Yankees can be faulted for signing the aging outfielder to a three-year contract. However, general manager Brian Cashman felt compelled to give in to Beltran’s demands for a third year after Robinson Cano left the team in a huff after the signing of Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153-million deal. The Yankees needed to find a solid No. 3 hitter and Beltran was the choice.

Beltran did return to the Yankees in June after attempting to rehab the elbow rather than have season-ending surgery. But he never was really the same hitter the rest of the season, batting .208 with 10 homers and 34 RBIs.

Beltran was basically playing with one arm and it showed. Even though he did return, he was unable to play the outfield until very late in the season because the bone spur in his elbow did not allow him to throw freely.

So Beltran decided to have surgery to remove the spur in September. He reported to training camp healthy and ready to prove himself as the player who hit .296 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs for the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals in 2013.

So heading into 2015 the Yankees are counting on the switch-hitting Beltran to bat third and put up big home run and RBI numbers. As a player who has hit 373 career homers and driven in 1,376 runs while batting .281 over 16 major-league seasons, Beltran is certainly capable of doing that if . . .

Yep, there is that big if. The big if is can he remain healthy throughout the season? Beltran and the Yankees are anxious to find out.

“I trained hard, I did everything that I did in the past,” Beltran told reporters. “I want to be out there, no doubt.”

The Yankees are counting on Beltran, Mark Teixiera and Brian McCann to post numbers that will prevent the Yankees from ending up with the third-fewest runs scored in the American League as they did last season.

Much was also expected of Ellsbury after he signed that big contract to leave the Boston Red Sox.

For the most part, Ellsbury did deliver what was expected of him except when Beltran and Teixeira succumbed to injuries and Ellsbury was taken out of his comfortable leadoff spot and placed in the third spot in the batting order.

Ellsbury did not produce the runs the Yankees would have expected and his bat cooled off considerably as the season wore on. He ended up batting .155 in September and he did not even get close to the .298 average he put up in 2013 with the Red Sox.

By virtue of batting third, Ellsbury also did not get as many opportunities to steal bases, ending up with 13 less from his major-league-leading total of 52 in 2013.

The bottom line is that Ellsbury still led in the team in hits (156), doubles (27) and stolen bases while posting his best home run and RBI totals since 2011. He was, by all accounts, the Yankees’ most consistent hitter in 2014.

“Ellsbury is Ellsbury,” Cashman told reporters. “I thought he was basically right where he was when he left Boston. I thought he was terrific last year.”

There were moments last season that Gardner appeared to be on the verge of having a breakout season.

On June 20, Gardner was batting .290 with six homers, 28 RBIs and 15 SBs. For a club struggling with offense, Gardner was providing opportunities to score by getting on base.

But as the season wore on, a core muscle injury in his abdomen dragged Gardner down. He hit a terrible .218 with eight homers and 21 RBIs after the All-Star break. It ruined what looked to be what would easily be Gardner’s best in the majors.

After Gardner underwent surgery in October to correct the problem, he is reporting to camp at 100 percent.

With his return to health the Yankees would like for him to be more aggressive on the bases. After stealing 47 bases in 2010 and 49 in 2011, Gardner has regressed to just 24 steals in 2013 and 21 last season.

Manager Joe Girardi must also decide how to deploy Ellsbury and Gardner in the batting order. At this point, it appears Ellsbury will resume his leadoff role and Gardner will bat second. But Girardi likely will flip the two throughout the spring to get a feel how best to bat them.

One thing is clear, however. Both Ellsbury and Gardner give the Yankees excellent defense in the outfield. It stands to reason since they are both legitimate center-fielders.

Ellsbury won a Gold Glove with the Red Sox in 2011 and his fielding in 2014 was just as superlative. He committed only one error all season and playing the wide-open spaces of center in Yankee Stadium is not an easy assignment.

Gardner has never won a Gold Glove but he should have. Last season, Gardner committed just two errors and he was able to blend well with Ellsbury. Between the two of them it takes a lot to get a ball past them in left-center.

Beltran won three Gold Gloves with the New York Mets from 2006 through 2008. However, he will not be winning anymore of them. Knee problems have robbed Beltran of the range he used to have as a center-fielder.

He was charged with three errors in 31 starts in the outfield last season. But the good news is that right-field does not have as much ground to cover so the Yankees will only ask Beltran to catch what he can reach.

Though the Yankees realized his best days were behind him they will still miss the defensive prowess of Ichiro Suzuki in right-field. Suzuki has moved on to the Miami Marlins.

The Yankees have some depth in the outfield with a pair of players who have a lot of experience.

Garrett Jones was obtained in trade with the Marlins and is slated to have some important roles with the team this season.

Jones, 33, batted .246 with 15 homers and 53 RBIs in 146 games with the Marlins last season, primarily as a first baseman.

The Yankees would like the lefty-swinging Jones to be the team’s primary designated hitter this season because his swing is perfect for the short dimensions in right-field. In addition, Jones will back up Teixeira at first base and Beltran in right-field.

Jones is not a great fielder at first base (13 errors in 129 games in 2014) but he holds his own in the outfield. He does not have much range but he can make the plays. The Yankees feel they now have a serviceable backup for both Teixeira and Beltran and they are glad to have him.

The Yankees also have 31-year-old veteran Chris Young back after an impressive late-season audition with the team in 2014.

Young was cut loose by the Mets in early August and the Yankees signed him to a minor-league deal on Aug. 27. In the final month of the season, Young batted .282 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 23 games.

On that basis the Yankees elected to re-sign the veteran to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. He will be the team’s fourth outfielder and as a right-handed hitter he can give Gardner or Ellsbury a rest against a tough-left-handed pitcher.

Young is a power hitter who hit 20 or more home runs in four of five seasons between 2007 and 2011, including 32 in 2007. However, Young has never batted above .257 in any of his eight major-league seasons and he enters 2015 as a career .234 hitter.

Young still has some speed. He has 130 career steals and eight in limited play last season.

The former 2010 National League All-Star also can play all three outfield spots and he is an above average defender.

The additions of Jones and Young give manager Joe Girardi some flexibility in making out lineups and they are solid insurance policies should someone land on the disabled list.

One of the biggest failings of Cashman and the scouting department has been the inability of the Yankees to develop minor-league outfielders who can contribute to the Yankees. It seems that whatever prospects have been in the system are languishing and they aren’t progressing.

Zoilo Almonte, 25, has been up and down with the Yankees the past two seasons and has a .211 batting average in 47 games to show for it. The Yankees elected to let him go as a minor-league free agent and Almonte has since signed with the Atlanta Braves.

The other prospect names are virtually the same from last season: Mason Williams, Tyler Austin and Ramon Flores. Further behind them is Slade Heathcott.

They all will get another look this spring but they all will not make the roster unless there are some injuries.

Williams, 23, was once considered one of the top prospects in the Yankees’ system but he has slid to No. 16 this season after batting a horrible .223 with five homers and 40 RBIs in 128 games at Double-A Trenton.

Williams is a gifted athlete and he is sensational defensive outfielder. But at the plate he has become more of a slap hitter and it is obvious that he not making enough contact. Williams’ hustle has also been questioned and he was arrested on a DUI in 2013.

Austin, 23, also dropped as a prospect to No. 15. But he was a bit better at Trenton. He batted .275 with nine home runs and 47 RBIs in 105 games last season. But after he batted .322 with 17 homers and 80 RBIs in 2012, Austin has been dogged a persistent sprained right thumb.

The Yankees still have hope that he can he can develop. The Yankees think he can become a high-average power hitter. Austin is mainly a corner outfielder and likely would figure in as a right-fielder in the majors.

Flores, 22, is ranked as the team’s 14th best prospect after he batted a .247 with seven homers and 23 RBIs at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. A high-ankle sprain kept him from progressing as the Yankees would have liked.

Right now Flores is pegged as all-fields hitter who lacks power. It’s that reason why he is beginning to look like more of a fourth outfielder than a starter. Though he can play all three spots he works out best as a left-fielder because he lacks speed.

Heathcott, 24, was a former first-round pick of the Yankees in 2009 and he was not tendered a contract offer by the Yankees in December. Yet the Yankees re-signed him and invited him to camp as a non-roster player.

Though Heathcott has great talent, his all-out style of play has landed him on the minor-league disabled list many times. In 2013, it was a knee injury that required surgery.

He played only nine games at Trenton in 2014 before re-injuring the knee and missing the rest of the season. It looks like the Yankees are offering Heathcott one last make-or-break attempt because he is 24 and he has not advanced past Double-A.

One non-roster player that the Yankees can’t wait to check out is 6-foot-7, 230-pound Aaron Judge, who was a first-round selection by the Yankees in 2013 First-Year Player Draft.

Judge, 22, has a resemblance to NBA forward Blake Griffin and because of his size he has drawn comparisons to Dave Winfield and Giancarlo Stanton. But Judge does not just look the part.

In 131 games in two Class-A stops in 2014, Judge batted .308 with 17 home runs and 78 RBIs. His right-hand power stroke is awesome to see. Scouts say he does not just hit balls; he crushes them.

With his long swing he is prone to fail to make contact and strike out a lot. But the Yankees see him fitting nicely into right-field because for a big man Judge can move pretty well and he is a decent outfielder defensively.

He is rated as the No. 5 prospect in the organization and the Yankees can’t wait to see what he can do this spring.

The No. 8 prospect is 22-year-old Jake Cave, who hit a combined .294 with seven home runs and 42 RBIs between Class-A Tampa and Trenton.

Cave hits consistently from the left side. Not a big power threat, he mostly is a gap hitter. Cave is a above-average outfielder and as a former pitcher he has a great arm in center-field. He has good but not great speed but scouts love his max effort.

OVERALL POSITION ANALYSIS: GOOD

The Yankees have been snakebit for the past two seasons with injuries and the one to Beltran really derailed the outfield and caused a significant drop in run production in 2014. It is easy to say that Beltran, Ellsbury and Gardner are an excellent mix of speed, power, run production and defense but they all have to stay healthy.

The fact that Beltran has not missed a lot of time in the past indicates the odds he will be able to play a full season and he should be able to provide some power (20 plus homers) and 90 or more RBIs. The Yankees will need that from him in the No. 3 spot in the order.

Ellsbury and Gardner combined for 60 stolen bases but they should steal a whole lot more this season.

The shift of Ellsbury to the third spot cut his steals to 39 and Gardner has seemed more and more reluctant to run the last two seasons. It is hard to figure out why.

But the Yankees need both of them to get on base, advance and score runs if the team is going to succeed. There is not as much power on this team as there once was and that is why Ellsbury and Gardner will have to make the engine go.

The fact the two combined to hit 33 home runs was a bonus. The Yankees would love to have a repeat of those numbers in 2015.

The Yankees are blessed to have two backup outfielders capable of hitting double-digit homers in Young and Jones.

Young can play all three positions and Jones is a corner outfielder. But Jones likely will get more work as the team’s primary DH and as the backup to Teixeira at first base.

But Jones could also end up as a starter in right-field if Beltran goes down for any length of time.

Most of the Yankees’ most advanced outfield prospects have been major disappointments. Williams, Austin, Flores and Heathcott have all been highly touted prospects but they have flamed out so far.

Of that group, only Austin appears capable of turning it around if he can overcome his injury problems.

The best news on the farm is that Judge appears to the man-mountain power threat he appears to be. The Yankees just have to hope he can keep the strikeouts in check and keep his average up. The Yankees would like to have Judge be more like Winfield rather than Dave Kingman.

He is worth watching this spring.

NEXT: STARTING PITCHERS

Nuno Silences Critics As Yankees Bombard Bosox

GAME 78

YANKEES 6, RED SOX 0

The New York media hounded Yankees manager Joe Girardi for days about his decision to start Vidal Nuno on Friday instead of skipping him in favor of rookie sensation Masahiro Tanaka. The pundits pointed out Nuno’s 0-3 record and his 7.09 ERA at home and the fact he had not won a game at all since May 7.

Well, Nuno, buoyed by Girardi’s faith in him, managed to shut those windbags up real quick.

Nuno pitched 5 2/3 innings of shutout baseball and he got the backing of three home runs as New York continued its mastery over struggling rival Boston in front of a sellout crowd of 48,522 at Yankee Stadium.

Nuno (2-4) yielded just two hits and and two walks while he fanned five in what easily was his best start of the season. The 26-year-old left-hander used his fastball to set up his slider and curve to keep the Red Sox at bay, retiring 10 batters in a row at one stage.

The only hits he gave up were a lead off single to Jonny Gomes in the second inning and a one-out double to Brock Holt in the third.

Meanwhile, the Yankees used the long-ball to their advantage against right-hander Brandon Workman (1-1).

The Yankees broke on top in the first inning when Derek Jeter stroked a one-out single and former Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury delivered a ringing double down the right-field line. Mark Teixeira then scored Jeter with a sacrifice fly.

But the Yankees added to their lead in the fourth when Brian McCann slapped an opposite-field single to left and two outs later Kelly Johnson blasted a two-run shot into the back end of the lower-level bleachers in right-center for his fifth home run of the season.

Just after Johnson got his final high-five in the Yankees’ dugout Brett Gardner hit a high-arcing shot that landed in the first row over the auxiliary scoreboard in right for his seventh home run of the season.

Workman managed to settle in long enough to pitch seven innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out five.

The Yankees added a pair of runs off left-hander Craig Breslow in the eighth when Teixeira led off with a single and McCann followed one out later with a majestic blast into the second deck in right-field on a 3-1 fastball for his ninth homer of the season.

The bullpen trio of Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and Matt Thornton held the Red Sox scoreless over the final 3 1/3 innings, surrendering just one hit and one walk while they struck out four.

The Red Sox entered the contest 13th in the American League in runs scored.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 41-37. They are just a half-game behind the second-place Baltimore Orioles and they trail the first-place Toronto Blue Jays by just two games in the American League East. The flagging Red Sox, however, fell to 36-44 and they are eight games behind the Blue Jays in fourth place in the division.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Nuno entered the game having yielded 15 home runs in 61 2/3 innings this season, many of those homers (9) were two- and three-run shots. But Nuno was spot on with his location on Friday and he was able to keep the Red Sox off balance throughout his outing. This game not only was helpful for the Yankees in their division fight but it also saved Nuno’s job as the team’s fifth starter.
  • After losing his role as the team’s primary third baseman to Yangervis Solarte, Johnson languished on the bench. But he has been getting more starts lately and his 1-for-2 evening with a walk and strikeout extended his modest hitting streak to three games. Johnson did hit 16 home runs in only 366 at-bats with the Tampa Bay Rays last season so his power could be helpful to the Yankees, especially at home.
  • McCann has been a major disappointment in the first half but he is quietly beginning to get untracked. He was 2-for-4 on Friday and now is 8-for-27 (.296) with two homers and seven RBIs in his past seven starts. The Yankees desperately need a power source in the middle of the lineup besides Teixeira.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

You could almost guess there are not going to be any negatives from this game. Nuno and the bullpen shut out the Red Sox and the Yankees were able to put some balls into the seats for a change. That makes for a perfect night in the Bronx, NY.

BOMBER BANTER

Girardi got a little heated on Friday when the media kept asking about why he was not skipping Nuno in favor of Tanaka. Girardi bristled at the notion that he was answering the question, he said, for the 10th time. Girardi explained that Tanaka is used to pitching on seven days rest, rookie Chase Whitley is new to starting, David Phelps just came out of the bullpen and Hiroki Kuroda got tired late last season. Girardi said the team is in a stretch of 17 games without an off day until the All-Star break and his pitchers could use the rest. So there!  . . .  Left-hander CC Sabathia is expected to throw between 40 to 45 pitches on Saturday in his first rehab start for High Class A Tampa at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Sabathia, 33, has been on the disabled list since May 10 with a degenerative weakness in his right knee. He is expected to make three starts during his minor-league rehab stint.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend home series against the reeling Red Sox on Saturday.

Tanaka (11-2, 2.11 ERA) will finally get the start that will please the New York media. Tanaka had his five-game win streak snapped by the Orioles on Sunday. He gave up only three runs on six hits and a walk while he struck six in seven innings but he got no run support in what ended up an 8-0 loss.

The Red Sox will counter with left-hander Jon Lester (8-7, 3.14 ERA). Lester gave up two runs on four hits and two walks and fanned four batters in 7 2/3 innings against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday in a no decision.

Game-time will be 7:15 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by FOX Sports.

 

Tanaka Earns 11th Win As Yankees Top Blue Jays

GAME 67

YANKEES 3, BLUE JAYS 1

Whispers around the American League caution teams that to beat Masahiro Tanaka you better get to him early in the count and in the game. The Toronto Blue Jays applied that game plan in Tanaka’s first major-league start and again on Tuesday and it did not work either time.

In Tanaka’s major-league debut, Melky Cabrera led off the game with a home run and the Blue Jays lost the game 7-3. Jose Reyes led off Tuesday’s game by hitting Tanaka’s first delivery into the right-field bleachers and Toronto still lost the game.

Tanaka (11-1) pitched six innings to record his major-league-leading 11th victory as New York cut a game off the Blue Jays’ lead in the American League East with a victory over Toronto in front of a paid crowd of 41,834 at Yankee Stadium.

The 25-year-old right-hander yielded just that one run on five hits and two walks and he fanned 10 to lower his A.L.-leading ERA to 1.99 and post his 14th quality start in as many games pitched.

“What he’s done has been remarkable,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters.

The victory also was Girardi’s 600th in his career as the team’s manager, the sixth skipper to reach that mark.

Tanaka and the Yankees weathered the early 1-0 deficit before taking the lead in the bottom of the third against rookie right-hander Marcus Stroman, who is a native of nearby Medford, N.Y.

Kelly Johnson laced a one-out double to the wall in right-center and Brett Gardner followed by lining a 2-1 slider off the netting of the right-field foul pole for his sixth home run of the season.

Stroman (3-2) was charged with two runs on four hits and three walks while he struck out two in 3 2/3 innings.

The Yankees pushed across another run against left-hander Aaron Loup when Derek Jeter reached on an infield single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After Jacoby Ellsbury’s groundout advanced Jeter to third, Loup made a mistake by failing to walk Mark Teixeira on a 3-1 pitch.

Instead, the switch-hitting Teixeira lined Loup’s inside fastball up the middle for a one-out RBI single with the left-hand-hitting Brian McCann on deck.

Meanwhile, Tanaka got even tougher, striking out Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion on swinging strikes in succession in the fifth inning.

Rookie Dellin Betances pitched a perfect two innings, striking out three, and David Robertson pitched around a two-out triple by Munenori Kawasaki to notch his 17th save in 19 chances this season.

The victory improves the Yankees’ season record to 36-33 and boosts them into second place in the A.L. East 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Blue Jays. The Jays are now  41-31.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • The conventional wisdom prior to the game was that because Tanaka’s loss came against the only team he has faced twice this season, the Chicago Cubs, that the Blue Jays would have success against him in their second meeting. It did not happen. Tanaka was even better. “They mowed us down pretty good tonight,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters.
  • If you combined the numbers this season for Tanaka, Betances and Robertson they are 15-3 with a 2.09 ERA with 224 strikeouts in 164 innings. I doubt seriously you can name a better starter and two-man bullpen combination in baseball today. They just dominate hitters and they combined on Tuesday to strike out 15 batters against the best home-run hitting team in baseball.
  • Gardner was batting .344 in his past 14 home games and his home run on Tuesday was his fourth at Yankee Stadium. Overall, Gardner is hitting .325 at home this season and he also leads the Yankees in bating with runners in scoring position at .315. Despite mostly batting in the leadoff spot, Gardner is tied with McCann and Yangervis Solarte for third on the team in RBIs with 28.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

The Yankees probably could have done better than just six hits against Stroman and the Blue Jays relievers but with Tanaka on the mound it just does not seem to matter. The Yankees face the Blue Jays in five of the next 10 games. So winning the first one is a good start in cutting their lead in the division.

BOMBER BANTER

As expected on Tuesday, the Yankees activated catcher Francisco Cervelli from the 60-day disabled list and John Ryan Murphy was optioned back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Cervelli, 28, has been sidelined since April 13 with a torn right hamstring and just completed a 10-game minor-league rehab stint. Murphy, 22, hit .286 with a home run and eight RBIs and drew raves about his play over 24 games. Cervelli, however, was out of options and the Yankees did not want to risk losing him.  . . .  CC Sabathia reported no issues with his right knee of Tuesday after throwing a bullpen session at Yankee Stadium on Monday. Sabathia, 33, has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 11 after requiring a stem-cell injection to his knee when some degenerative breakdown in the cartilage was discovered by Dr. James Andrews. There is still no firm date for Sabathia’s return but it likely will be sometime after the All-Star break.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game midweek series with Blue Jays on Wednesday.

Rookie right-hander Chase Whitley (2-0, 2.41 ERA) will make his seventh start of the season. Whitley is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in past two starts including giving up just two runs on five hits with no walks and six K’s in his major-league best 7 2/3 innings against the Seattle Mariners on Thursday.

Left-hander Mark Buehrle (10-3, 2.28 ERA) will pitch for the Blue Jays. Buehrle is coming off back-to-back losses and yielded four runs on eight hits and one walk in 6 1/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday.

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

 

Yankees Know It’s Unwise To Bet Against Jeter

It is hard enough to win games with a full roster in the American League East. It is difficult when your team is riddled with crippling injuries. It becomes darn near impossible when the team loses its heart and soul.

That is pretty much what the New York Yankees lost last season without its future Hall of Fame shortstop and captain Derek Jeter.

The team has spiraled downward ever since Jeter broke his right ankle in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers in 2012.

The Yankees were swept in that series and they stumbled to a tie for third place in the division with the Baltimore Orioles and missed the playoffs for only the second time since 1994, the season before Jeter made his major-league debut.

Jeter, 39, tried to get back on the field for the 2013 season. But each step forward led to two steps back.

During spring training, the Yankees brought Jeter along slowly, not allowing him to play in the field until the third week of exhibition games. However, it was obvious in watching Jeter run out the batter’s box that he was just not right.

He favored the left ankle and had none of the usual spring in his step.

When X-rays indicated an additional break in the ankle, Jeter was placed on the 60-day disabled list and the usual critics and naysayers came out of the woodwork claiming Jeter was too old to play shortstop and that he would never be the same.

Jeter took that as a challenge and tried to come back on July 11. However, that comeback was short-circuited when he suffered a mild strain in his left quad running out a grounder in his first game back. He went on the 15-day disabled list with quite a bit of frustration after being so sure he was ready.

Activated on July 28, Jeter showed the Yankees just a hint of what they were missing when he went 2-for-4 with a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays.

That comeback was ended just three games later when an examination on Aug. 3 indicated Jeter sustained a Grade 1 strain of his right calf. He was placed on the disabled list for a third time.  This was pretty much par for the course when it came to many of the Yankees returning from injuries in 2014 only to wind up back on the disabled list.

Just ask Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Kevin Youkilis and Alex Rodriguez. Jeter had a lot of company on the team’s sickbay.

Jeter returned to the lineup on Sept. 1 and that comeback lasted just a total of seven games. Jeter re-injured his surgically repaired left ankle and, after a few days to assess the injury, Jeter offiicially was shelved for the season on Sept. 11.

The 13-time All-Star ended up playing in just 17 games batting .190 with a home run and seven RBIs. One big wasted season filled with frustration for a player who has always prided himself on playing every day since he became the team’s starting shortstop in 1996.

He also had to abandon any hope of potentially being able to surpass baseball’s all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, who amassed 4,256 hits. Jeter was ahead of Rose’s pace at the same age entering the 2013 season. If Jeter had any intention of playing long enough to break that mark it is went up in smoke last season.

Yankee fans received a bit of a jolt when the Yankees signed shortstop Brendan Ryan to a two-year, $5 million contract on Dec. 2. It raised some eyebrows because some Yankee watchers thought it signaled that the team might be making the move to replace Jeter with the 31-year-old veteran.

But the Yankees quickly squelched any talk about that because Jeter. who was scheduled to play under a player-option contract in 2014 worth $9.5 million, was handed a one-year, $12 million deal by the Yankees. You do not replace a shortstop by offering him more money than his contract specified.

Jeter revealed to reporters on Nov. 14 that his ankle has healed and that he was “100 percent sure” that he would return to his role as the every day shortstop for the Yankees in 2014. Jeter said he was only working on strengthening his body for the coming season and was not worried about his ankle at all.

Of course, he did admit that although he wants to play every day, he is sure that he will get some at-bats as a designated hitter, which is fine with him.

The naysayers still do not believe that Jeter can come back at his age and play at the same level he did before the injury. That is fine if they think that, Jeter says.

Jeter will just have to prove them wrong as he did in 2012 when he led the majors with 216 hits after he hit a career low .270 in 2010 and spent the first half of the 2011 season hitting around .250. Many baseball experts thought Jeter was done then. But after adjusting his swing rehabbing a calf injury during the All-Star break, Jeter raised his average to .297 by season’s end.

The lesson: You may not want to give up on a guy who has five championship rings and career total of 3,316 hits.

The only real question about Jeter will be his ability to field such a demanding position at an advanced age. Players such as Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel have done it, but for some reason the ankle and leg injuries Jeter sustained last season give some people pause.

However, whatever range Jeter once had, he lost a long time before the ankle injury. Though Jeter has been awarded five Gold Gloves, including one in 2012, number-crunching gurus have been criticizing him since he won his third award in 2008.

Jeter’s defensive strength has never been totally about range. It is his sure-handed playmaking on the balls he does reach. In 2012, he handled 506 chances and committed only 10 errors. He also formed what has to be the franchise’s best double-play combination in history with second baseman Robinson Cano.

Yankee fans know the difference when Jeter is not in the lineup too. Eduardo Nunez has struggled most of his career playing the position and fans even dubbed him “Eduardo Scissorhands.”

With Jeter’s injury troubles, you would think that Nunez, 26, would have been able to take advantage of the opportunity and make his own mark at the position in 2014.

Unfortunately for Nunez, he could stay healthy and he regressed with his bat. Nunez batted .260 with three homers and 28 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 90 games. In 75 starts at shortstop, he committed 12 errors, which pretty much played himself out of a job when the Yankees signed Ryan on Sept. 10.

Ryan started all 17 of the Yankees’ remaining games in 2014 and batted .220 with a home run and one RBI.  He committed only one error in those games and he is generally accorded to be one of the better fielding shortstops in baseball though he has never been awarded a Gold Glove.

According to FanGraphs Ryan recorded 22 defensive runs saved in 2010, 18 in 2011 and 20 in 2012.

The big knock on Ryan is that he is a career .237 hitter with 19 home runs and 187 RBIs in seven major-league seasons. He is no threat to take Jeter’s job at shortstop but he gives the club some excellent insurance at the position.

However, Nunez’s days with the Yankees appear to be numbered. The team seems to have given on him completely. So Nunez enters 2014 in a position where he should not be looking to buy a home in the tri-state area around New York City.

The Yankees already trimmed the roster of versatile infielder Jayson Nix on Dec. 2 when he was not tendered a contract offer for the 2014 season along with rookie infielder David Adams and right-handed pitcher Matt Daley.

Nix, 31, spent two seasons with the Yankees as backup infielder. Like many of the Yankees, Nix suffered a broken left hand in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Aug. 21 in which he was struck by a pitch by knuckleball right-hander R.A. Dickey and missed the remainder of the season.

Nix batted .236 with three home runs and 24 RBIs in 87 games before succumbing to the injury.

The Yankees signed free-agent infielder Kelly Johnson to a one-year, $3 million contract, which means the 32-year-old veteran could figure in the mix to play second base.

Johnson has also played first and third base and the outfield. He also, unlike Ryan, Nunez and Nix, bats left-handed.

The Yankees are not exactly rich at the shortstop position in the minors at this point.

Addison Maruszak, 26, batted .254 with four home runs and 32 RBIs in 94 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He is not considered as a prospect for the big leagues.

Former first-round pick Cito Culver, 21, is not making much progress in the minors. Though Culver can flash some leather with the glove the offensive part of the game has eluded him up to this point.

Culver hit a combined a combined .248 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs in 120 games in two stops at the Class-A level in 2013.

The Yankees, it is safe to say do not have another Jeter waiting in the wings to take his place.

So it is a good thing that Jeter is saying he is healed and will be ready to go when camp opens in February. He is the one player the Yankees can’t afford to be without in 2014. They need his bat, they need his glove and they need his leadership by example.

Expecting him to be the fresh-faced kid that 20-plus homers and drove in 90 runs in his heyday would be expecting way too much, But the Yankees will take the numbers he put up in 2012 when he hit .316 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs.

Betting against Jeter has never been a safe bet before and may not be a wise one now.

 

Overbay’s RBI Single Boosts Yankees Over Dodgers

GAME 107

YANKEES 3, DODGERS 0

Facing an 0-2 count with Dodgers left-hander Paco Rodriguez on the mound, pinch-hitter Lyle Overbay knew that he had looked terrible swinging at two sliders. He also came close to swinging at a third slider for strike three but third-base umpire Bill Miller ruled he had checked his swing.

Rodriguez’s next slider was in the middle of the plate and Overbay won the game for the Yankees on Wednesday with a clutch two-out RBI single to center.

Overbay’s game-winner was all part of a three-run inning and Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth for his 34th save of the season as New York paid back Los Angeles for their walk-off 3-2 victory on Tuesday in front of a sellout Dodger Stadium crowd of 53,013.

The Yankees entered the ninth inning of a scoreless game when Derek Jeter opened the frame by drawing a walk from right-hander Ronald Belisario (4-6). Robinson Cano hit into a fielder’s choice and Alfonso Soriano grounded out, leaving Cano at second with two out.

Manager Joe Girardi pinch-hit for Vernon Wells with Ichiro Suzuki and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had Belisario walk him intentionally to bring up Brent Lillibridge.

Girardi then called upon Overbay to pinch-hit and Mattingly summoned Rodriguez to pitch to him. But Overbay’s lined single to center to plate Cano spoiled the strategy.

Overbay’s RBI also gave him three RBis in the two-game series because he had driven in both of the Yankees’ two runs on Tuesday.

The Yankees were able to tack on two unearned runs in the inning when Jayson Nix lofted a routine popup into shallow right. Though second baseman Mark Ellis was camped under the ball, right-fielder Yasiel Puig charged in to make the catch, causing Ellis to turn his head and the ball deflected off his glove to allow Suzuki and Overbay to score on the error.

The game featured a classic pitchers’ duel between Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who came in leading the National League in ERA at 1.96, and Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who had toiled for the Dodgers for four seasons (2008 through 2011) before signing as a free agent with the Yankees in 2012.

Kershaw and Kuroda matched zeros through 7 1/2 innings.

Kuroda, 39, gave up five hits and a walk while he struck out eight over seven innings to record his eighth start of the season in which he had not allowed a run.

Kershaw, 25, was touched for five hits and he walked none while he fanned five over eight innings.

Kershaw was threatened only in the second and eighth innings.

In the second, Wells and Lillibridge stroked back-to-back one-out singles. But Kershaw got Nix on an infield popup and Chris Stewart grounded into a force play. In the eighth, Stewart and pinch-hitter Melky Mesa came through with a pair of two-out singles. But Kershaw ended that threat by retiring Brett Gardner on a flyout.

Kuroda only had one shaky inning  –  the seventh.

Adrian Gonzalez opened the frame with a single down the right-field line but he was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double on a perfect throw from Wells from right-field. One out later, Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis notched consecutive singles.  But Kuroda fanned Skip Schumaker swinging to end the threat.

Boone Logan (3-2) pitched a scoreless eighth inning, getting out of a two-on, two-out jam by retiring Gonzalez on a flyout, to earn the victory in relief.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 56-51 and they remain in fourth place in the American League East, eight games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox. The Dodgers fell to 57-49.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Kuroda was absolutely sensational in limiting the Dodgers to five hits and a walk in seven innings and he deserved a better fate.  In his past nine starts, Kuroda is 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA. He lowered his season ERA to 2.38, which is second in the American League to Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners. Kuroda also has not allowed an earned run in his past two starts covering 14 innings.
  • Overbay came off the bench to deliver a huge hit in the ninth inning for the Yankees. Though Overbay is hardly a match for the production of Mark Teixeira at first base, he still has provided the Yankees with some clutch hits this season, batting .248. with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs.  He was 2-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs and two runs scored in the two-game series with the Dodgers.
  • The bullpen, as it has so often done this season, kept the Yankees in the game long enough for the Yankees to get their offense going with Kershaw out in the game in the ninth. Logan did not bend in the eighth and Rivera was dominant in the ninth, striking out the first two betters he faced before getting A.J. Ellis on an infield roller to clinch the victory.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Kuroda and the bullpen shut down a Dodger team that came into the game 10-1 since the All-Star break. The Yankees were facing arguably the best starter in the National League in Kershaw. So why quibble over negatives? The Yankees could have fell nine games back with a loss so this one was a big victory. Kudos!

BOMBER BANTER

Mattiingly was ejected from the game in the ninth inning by Miller. Mattingly had replaced Rodriguez with right-hander Brandon League after Ellis’ two-run error. As he was leaving the field, Mattingly talked with Miller about his failure to call out Overbay on strikes on a check swing and the discussion grew heated before Miller ejected Mattingly. Television replays indicated that Miller could have called Overbay out for a swing on the pitch.  . . .  Alex Rodriguez will play in a simulated game on Thursday and then will begin a new minor-league rehab assignment on Friday as he prepares to start his season with the Yankees despite a potential looming suspension. Rumors persist that Rodriguez might be hit with a lifetime ban from baseball if he does not agree to accept a lengthy suspension for his role in the Biogenesis drug scandal. Meanwhile, the Yankees will have Rodriguez play in the simulated game in Tampa, FL, on Thursday and he possibly could appear in a minor-league game with Double-A Trenton on Friday. Rodriguez, 38, recovering from hip surgery in January and Grade 1 left quad strain he suffered a week ago, could be activated as soon as this weekend.  . . .  Outfielder Curtis Granderson, who is rehabbing from a broken left pinkie knuckle, will be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Friday.  After playing in only seven games after recovering from a broken bone in his right wrist he suffered in his first at-bat of spring training, Granderson was sidelined on May 24 when he struck by a pitch from Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Cesar Ramos.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have Thursday off before opening a three-game weekend road series with the San Diego Padres.

Left-hander CC Sabathia (9-9, 4.65 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Sabathia is 0-2 with a 10.93 ERA in his past three starts against the Minnesota Twins, Red Sox and Rays. Sabathia is 3-0 with a 2.12 ERA in his career against the Padres.

The Padres will counter with right-hander Andrew Cashner (7-5, 3.88 ERA). Cashner yielded three runs on four hits and and five walks while striking out five in six innings in a victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Cashner has never faced the Yankees.

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

 

Icons Jeter, Soriano Spark Yanks’ Walk-Off Victory

GAME 105

YANKEES 6, RAYS 5

On a day that the Yankees paid tribute to retired icon Hideki Matsui, two of his former teammates provided some spark to what has been a listless offense to deliver a dramatic walk-off victory.

Derek Jeter came of the disabled list for the second time this season to swat the first pitch he saw for his first home run of the season and Alfonso Soriano, playing in only his third game back in pinstripes, was 4-for-5 with a two-run homer and a game-winning RBI single in the ninth as New York salvaged one of three games against Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Jeter strode to the plate in the first inning with most of the paid Yankee Stadium crowd of 47,714 on their feet and  –  just about the time they sat down  –  the Yankee captain launched a high fastball from Rays left-hander Matt Moore into the first row of the bleachers over the auxiliary scoreboard in right-center to give the Yankees an early 1-0 lead.

The fans remained standing until their All-Star shortstop took a trip back up the dugout steps for a curtain call. It was not so much what Jeter had just done but a feeling from the fans that this team that has suffered so much turmoil from injuries was on the way back to respectability.

It set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.

The Yankees added two more runs in the first inning off Moore, who started the day tied for the American League lead with 14 victories.

Robinson Cano reached on an infield single that caromed off the glove of Moore and Soriano rolled a single that shortstop Yunel Escobar kicked into center-field to allow Cano to reach third.

Vernon Wells scored Cano with a sacrifice fly to center and  –  after a wild pitch allowed Soriano to move up to second  –  Ichiro Suzuki scored him with a lined single to center as part of a day in which Suzuki was 4-for-4.

Unfortunately, Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes was not able to hold the 3–0 lead he was handed.

The Rays scored a single run in the second inning when Kelly Johnson lashed a one-out RBI double to score Wil Myers.

The following frame Hughes allowed a pair of one-out singles to Evan Longoria and James Loney and Myers followed with a three-run blast to left-field that gave the Rays a 4-3 lead.

But Jeter and Soriano answered in the bottom of the third.

Jeter led off the frame with a single just over the glove of Johnson at second base and Soriano, one out later, blasted a ball just over the glove of Myers in right-field that landed in the bleachers in the short porch in right to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead.

Hughes, however, was not able to hold that lead either.

Myers led off the fifth with an opposite-field home run into the short porch for the rookie outfielder’s first multiple homer game of his career.

The game remained tied after both Moore and Hughes left the game.

Moore, who entered the game having won all six of his previous starts, gave up five runs on eight hits and no walks while he struck out three in five innings. Moore also uncharacteristically uncorked two wild pitches and was called for a balk just before Soriano homered.

Hughes also yielded five runs on nine hits and two walks and he fanned four in 4-plus innings.

But the Yankees’ bullpen corps of Preston Claiborne, Boone Logan, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera held the Rays to just one hit and did not issue a walk over the final five innings. Rivera (2-2) pitched a perfect ninth inning to get credit for the victory.

The Yankees opened the ninth facing  Jake McGee (2-3) and the left-hander missed high on a 3-2 pitch to Brett Gardner to start off the frame. With Jeter squared around to bunt, McGee tossed the Rays’ third wild pitch of the day to allow Gardner to reach second. It ended up being extremely costly.

Rays manager Joe Maddon then opted to walk Jeter intentionally to bring up the lefty-swinging Cano and to set up a potential double play.

But Cano struck out and Soriano followed by bouncing the first pitch from McGee to the left of Escobar of shortstop and on into center-field to score Gardner with the game-winner.

Soriano finished the game with a homer, three singles, two runs scored and three RBIs.

Jeter was 2-for-4 with a homer, a single, a walk, an RBI and two runs scored.

Jeter’s home run was the Yankees’ first home run sine the All-Star break and the first home run from a right-handed batter since June 21. Soriano added the second right-handed homer two innings later.

With the victory the Yankees improved to 55-50 and they are 7 1/2 games out in fourth place in the American League East. The Rays dropped to 62-43 and they surrendered first place back to the Boston Red Sox.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • What a difference Jeter made in his first game off the disabled list. Having Jeter’s right-handed bat in the second spot in the order allows manager Joe Girardi to break up the stack of five or six left-handed batters at the top of the lineup. Jeter has always had a flair for the dramatic but his home run in the first inning spoke volumes about how the Yankees suffered after opening the season 30-18 and then recording a 24-32 mark through Sunday. Perhaps a new day is dawning and the Yankees, behind their captain, may be righting the ship.
  • Soriano has always been a popular player with Yankee fans and they have not forgotten him after 10 years. The Yankees acquired him for his power from the right side and to provide protection for Cano in the cleanup spot. If his 4-for-5 day is any indication, he will do both. He is doing what Wells did before May 15 and he has not homered since. Soriano is going to be a very important player for the Yankees for the rest of the season.
  • Jeter’s presence allowed Girardi to slide Suzuki down to the No. 6 spot in the order and he responded with four singles and a big two-out RBI in the first inning. After going 0-for-7 in the first two games of the series, Suzuki’s perfect day raised his season average to .279.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Hughes’ start was very disappointing because in his previous five starts, Hughes had a 2.53 ERA, even though was 1-3 over that stretch dating back to June 27. Hughes is nothing if not vexing as a starter. He is a flyball pitcher in a ballpark ill-suited for them and most of his success in the major leagues has come as a reliever. I wish the Yankees would realize that and put him back there before they make a mistake by allowing him to walk as a free agent after this season.
  • Though the Yankees field a great lineup one through six now, the seven, eight and nine spots still are an issue. Brett Lillibridge (seven), David Adams (eight) and Chris Stewart (nine) were a combined 0-for-11 with three strikeouts and just one ball hit of the infield. It will be nice to have Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez back in the lineup.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees actually offered Matsui a one-day contract with the team on Sunday so that he could retire officially as a Yankee. In a pregame ceremony,  Jeter and the Yankees presented the former outfielder with a framed jersey sporting his number 55. Matsui, fondly nicknamed “Godzilla” in his native country, came over from Japan to play nine seasons with the Yankees and he hit .292 with 140 home runs and 597 RBIs  during that span. He also was named the Most Valuable Player in the Yankees’ victory in the 2009 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Yankees also marked the occasion by handing out Matsui bobblehead figures to the first 18,000 fans who entered the stadium.  . . .  After activating Jeter on Sunday the Yankees plan to activate infielder Jayson Nix on Tuesday. Nix, 30, has been on the disabled list for 3 1/2 weeks with a hamstring strain.  Adams was optioned back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after Sunday’s game to make room for Nix on the roster.  . . .  After Granderson was 0-for-4 as a designated hitter with Class-A Tampa on Sunday, Girardi said the veteran outfielder will move up to Double-A Trenton on Tuesday. Girardi also said Granderson could be activated on Saturday when the Yankees are in San Diego to play the Padres. Granderson has been sidelined twice this season with a broken bone in his left arm and a broken left pinkie finger as a result of being hit by pitches.

ON DECK

The Yankee will have Monday off before they open a West Coast road trip with a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Left-hander Andy Pettitte (7-7, 4.39) will open the series for the Yankees. Pettitte, 41, allowed just two runs on hits over six innings on Wednesday against the Texas Rangers but still took his second straight loss. He is 2-0 with a 3.94 ERA in his career against the Dodgers.

Right-hander Zack Greinke (8-3, 3.49 ERA) will start for the Dodgers. Greinke allowed four runs on six hits in seven innings in a loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday. Greinke is 2-4 with a 6.45 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

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

 

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