Results tagged ‘ Carl Pavano ’

Kuroda Looking To Build Upon His 2012 Success

The New York Yankees will enter spring training with a virtually set starting rotation. That is a luxury among major-league clubs but there are some concerns about the staff and how effective it will be. Let’s examine each starter individually in a five-part series.

PART 2

HIROKI KURODA (16-11, 3.32 ERA)

When the Yankees decided to sign right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $10 million free-agent contract there were a lot of naysayers voicing a litany of concerns about the 37-year-old right-hander.

After all, in his four seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kuroda was 41-46 and only posted one season above .500 in victories – an injury-plagued 2009 season when he was 8-7 in just 20 starts. Though he posted excellent ERAs in those four saesons (3.73, 3.376, 3.39 and 3.07) the conventional wisdom was coming over from the National League to the designated hitter in the American League would see his ERA explode.

The skeptics also pointed out that Kuroda would struggle in the competitive A.L. East.

You won’t hear those arguments anymore. Kuroda silenced his critics with his best season since he left Japan in 2008. He was absolutely brilliant from mid-May through August. Even though his ERA took a big hit in September he finished the season after Sept. 1 with a 4-1 record.

Y0u could even make a case that Kuroda’s season was better than CC Sabathia’s because Kuroda was healthy throughout and he even was more consistent than the Yankees’ left-handed ace.

Kuroda ended up setting carer major-league highs in victories, innings pitched and strikeouts. Kuroda emerged as the team’s No. 2 starter and he earned it by pitching deep into games and baffling hitters with a wide assortment of breaking pitches that offset his 90-mph plus fastball.

After getting blasted early and often in the first month, Kuroda made some adjustments and then never looked back. It was really no surprise when general manager Brian Cashman decided to sign Kuroda for another one-year deal but this time for $15 million.

Kuroda certainly earned the raise.

The veteran from Osaka, Japan made two starts in the playoffs for the Yankees and both were brilliant. However, Kuroda did not get any run support in either start and was 0-1 despite a sparkling 2.81 ERA.

In the American League Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles, Kuroda gave up just two runs on five hits and one walk in 8 1/3 innings but did not earn a decision. Then he gave up three runs on five hits and no walks and struck out 11 in 7 2/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series but lost because the Yankees did not score him a single run.

There are higher hopes for 2013, which is why Kuroda elected to re-sign with the Yankees.

“I am very grateful for all of the interest and all of the offers that I received from the various teams that courted me,” Kuroda said when he signed. “It was a tough decision for me to make, but at the end of the day, I wanted to try to win a championship with the teammates that I went to battle with last season.”

This season does figure to be a battle for the Yankees because the teams in the A.L. East appear to be stronger while the Yankees lost a lot of offensive firepower when Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones left the team as free agents, taking 94 home runs with them.

Kuroda will have to adjust to a less explosive team that might score a lot fewer runs. Of course, that is not unlike Kuroda’s seasons with the Dodgers when he received very poor run support and was a major reason why his season records there were below .500.

Kuroda gradually earned the trust of manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild by limiting his pitch counts so he could last deeper into games. With a bullpen that was missing Mariano Rivera and Joba Chamberalain for most of the season, Kuroda’s stamina in games was very much welcome.

Kuroda also won over skeptical Yankee fans, who were absolutely stunned a National League pitcher could have success with the Yankees after the team had suffered through the likes of Javier Vazquez and Carl Pavano in previous seasons.

Kuroda will have to adjust this season without his favorite catcher in Martin. Martin, who caught Kuroda in his first three seasons with the Dodgers, elected to take his shin guards and his bat to the Pittsburgh Pirates. But that issue does not seem to be too great because both Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli have caught Kuroda since he became a Yankee.

The only real obstacle may be for Kuroda to stay on the mound long enough to allow the Yankees to get a lead for him in the late innings. With less firepower it also figures the Yankees will be in a lot of close games. That could mean a lot more no decisions for Kuroda.

Though Yankee fans would prefer to see a rotation made up of young hard-throwing starters, Kuroda allows the Yankees to buy time to let their young pitchers such as Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and David Phelps to develop and also allows Michael Pineda, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances to rebound from injuries and ineffectiveness.

That is not a bad tradeoff if Kuroda can duplicate his 2012 season. The Yankees will just be hoping for anything close to what he produced for them last season.

One thing is certain: With Kuroda pundits can no longer say the Yankees’ rotation is Sabathia and four other guys. Kuroda is just that good.

NEXT: ANDY PETTITTE

 

Yankees Poised To Stick Fork In Red Sox Season

The New York Yankees welcome their old pals, the Boston Red Sox, to Yankee Stadium for the first time this season beginning on Friday. The Dead Sox, as they are being referred to many Boston circles, are limping in having lost five of their last six games and are 10 1/2 games back in last place in the American League East. This series is pretty much their season. If they get swept, it’s over. If they sweep, there is still a glimmer of hope. But in some ways the Red Sox have the look of Custer at Little Big Horn, the Texas Army at The Alamo and the Red Sox in September 2011. Here is why they will fail this weekend:

PITCHING IS KING

Looking at the pitching matchups this weekend does not instill much confidence in Boston.

Journeyman right-hander Aaron Cook (2.3, 3.50 ERA) will open the series for Red Sox. Cook, 33, is a symbol of the inability of the Red Sox to build a starting rotation this season. In past years the Red Sox would trade for a Josh Beckett and sign free agents like Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey while they developed young stars like Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.

But with the team’s record 13-24 in games started by Beckett and Lester this season it really has not mattered much what three pitchers follow them in the rotation. Buchholz is 8-3 with an elevated 4.93 ERA and he has been hampered by injuries for a good part of the year.

Lackey is out for the season after Tommy John surgery. Dice-K came back from the same surgery only to make five ill-fated starts with an 0-3 record and 6.65 ERA before landing on the DL again. Matsuzaka has made only 49 starts since the 2008 season in which he was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. The Red Sox have their own version of Carl Pavano, collecting huge paychecks while he constantly rehabs.

That is why the Red Sox have been forced to use Cook and Felix Doubront in their rotation. Doubront is 12-7 with a 4.62 ERA but he has become less effective as the innings have piled up. His ERA has steadily risen all season and was 5.83 in June.

So Cook enters this game actually as the the team’s most effective starter lately. He has a 2.79 ERA in July. But he also is 0-2 in his three July starts, which means he has not got much in the way of run support.

The Red Sox also will be facing right-hander Phil Hughes, who has rediscovered his 2010 form this season. Hughes is 9-8 with a 4.09 ERA, however, those numbers are misleading.

Hughes is 5-3 with a 2.77 ERA in his last nine starts and he has issued only 15 walks while striking out 53 in his last 61 2/3 innings. Add to that, the Red Sox have been outscored 43-17 in their last six games and you have the makings of a very ugly opening night for them in the Bronx.

The Red Sox will just have to hope they score enough runs early to keep Cook in the game and get Hughes out of it early. In other words, a typical Red Sox-Yankees four-hour marathon where the total of runs scored is about 24. But I do not think that is going to happen on Friday.

The Red Sox are without their Yankee kryptonite in designated hitter David Ortiz. Without his bat, the Red Sox become less potent against the Yankees. In a 9-1 loss to the Texas Rangers on Monday, the Red Sox collected 10 hits against fill-in starter Scott Feldman. But they were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.

The Yankees do come in having lost five of their last seven and they are without Alex Rodriguez and possibly may be without Nick Swisher.

But the Yankees also come back home for this series and home is where they shine.

The addition of Ichiro Suzuki could make a big impact in this series with is bat, his legs and his glove. Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira come into the series hot and the Yankees are getting contributions from their bench in Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez and Jayson Nix.

Look for Game 1 to be close early but the Yankees will eventually burn Cook and serve him up as a special at NYY Steak over the weekend.

TOO MANY CCs

Even if the Red Sox do succeed on Friday, they will have to face CC Sabathia (10-3, 3.30) on Saturday. That is bad news for the lefty-dominant Red Sox lineup of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (who stinks as a right-hand hitter.

The Yankees, meanwhile, face Lester (5-8, 5.46 ERA). In Lester’s last three starts, he is 0-3 and has given up 22 runs (21 earned) on 25 hits and 10 walks over 12 1/3 innings. That is an ERA of 15.32. Ouch!

The word from scouts is that Lester decided to develop a cutter a few years ago. He used it to compliment his other pitches, which were nasty. He was able to control both sides of the plate and he was 15-9 with a 3.47 ERA last season despite a September slide that coincided with the epic collapse of the Red Sox.

But this season, Lester has become cutter crazy and it cost him in velocity and command of his fastball. Hughes found the same thing happened to him in 2011 and he junked his cutter this season. But Lester has tried to carry on with his same arsenal and he is getting pounded harder than a herd of cattle in a butcher shop.

In his last start against the Yankees on July 8 at Fenway Park, Lester lasted just 4 1/3 innings and he surrendered five runs (four earned) on nine hits and a walk.

The bottom line is Lester is just not the Lester that Red Sox Nation is used to seeing dominate lineups. He is headed for a big fall on Saturday.

COUP DE GRACE

The Red Sox will face on Sunday the Yankees’ best pitcher, of late, in Hiroki Kuroda (10-7, 3.34 ERA).

Kuroda is 7-1 with a 2.49 ERA in last 11 starts. Though he did struggle against Boston at Fenway Park, Kuroda has proven to be a much more effective pitcher at Yankee Stadium this season. He is 7-3 with a 2.68 ERA in the Bronx.

That is bad news for the Red Sox, who have not announced a mound opponent for Kuroda.

Doubront defeated the Yankees at Fenway on July 7 but he also was shelled for six runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings against the Rangers on Monday. The Red Sox may, instead, call upon Buchholz to pitch the finale. He gave up just one run on four hits and three walks in seven innings against the Rangers on Tuesday.

If Buchholz pitches on Sunday it indicates that manager Bobby Valentine is desperate. He has to be if the Red Sox pick up the Sunday New York Times facing a 12 1/2-game deficit to the Yankees.

The game will be very close on Sunday but the Yankees have a decided edge on the mound. They should win in a very close game.

IN THE END

The truth is that the seeds of the 2012 season for the Red Sox were sown in the aftermath of their historic collapse in September 2011. The departures of manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein have left Valentine and new general manager Ben Cherington with a mess.

He has some prima donnas like Beckett and Lackey and a huge albatross of a contract to Crawford tied around his neck. The team can’t rebuild only through free agency because they are right up against the edge of having to pay the luxury tax.

They could start shipping high-priced underachievers out and let their free agents like Ortiz walk. But there are so many holes on this roster it looks like Swiss cheese.

Young talent the Red Sox are hoping to develop is in short supply and that is really the biggest problem they have going forward. They likely would be better off with a roster purge and rebuild effort. But that also will mean they have to be candid with Red Sox Nation that they will not be competitive for some time.

That is hard sell. But after this weekend, it could be quite likely you will see Beckett go and others will follow.

The Curse may be over but it might be a long, long time before we see a Red Sox team capable of competing with the Yankees.

To us Yankee fans, that is just fine.

 

Twins Claim Rare Victory Over Yankees In Bronx

GAME 10

TWINS 7, YANKEES 3

Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau combined for six hits and three RBIs as Minnesota defeated New York on Monday at Yankee Stadium.

Carl Pavano (1-1) gave up three runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out six batters in his seven innings of work to get credit for the victory. Freddy Garcia (0-1) gave up five runs on nine hits and fanned five in 5 2/3 innings to take the loss.

It was only the Twins’ sixth victory in 34 contests against the Yankees in the Bronx since Ron Gardenhire became the team’s manager in 2002.

The Yankees’ season record evens out at 5-5. The Twins are 3-7.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • It looked like the Yankees were going to blow out Pavano and the Twins when they answered the Twins’ two runs in the first with three of their own. Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson opened the inning with a pair of solo home runs and tied the game after just four pitches. Then after an infield hit and error put Alex Rodriguez at second base, Mark Teixiera stroked a one-out single to right-field to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. It was all downhill from there for the Yankees.
  • Jeter, Granderson, Rodriguez and Teixeira combined to go 8-for-16 in the game but it only translated to just the three runs. That has got to be a first for the Yankees.
  • Granderson made a spectacular running catch in the seventh inning to rob Morneau of an extra-base hit and prevent Mauer scoring another run. Granderson was shading Morneau to right-center and still was able to flag down the fly ball to left center just before he hit the wall. He received a standing ovation from most of the 40,216 fans in attendance.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • For a pitcher who is not guaranteed a spot in the rotation, Garcia better start pitching better. The 35-year-old right-hander has now given up 13 hits and three walks in 10 1/3 innings in his first two starts in 2012. That is an ERA of 6.97 and a WHIP of 1.55. Although Phil Hughes is 0-2 in his first two starts, Garcia has pitched worse. With the emergence of David Phelps as a long man out of the bullpen, it is not a sure thing Garcia will be shifted to there when Andy Pettitte is activated in May. He could be traded or released.
  • One reason the Yankees might not have scored more runs despite the fact that the top of lineup hit .500 is that the bottom of the lineup was a combined 1-for-16. The one hit was a one-out single by Raul Ibanez in the NINTH inning. Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Brett Gardner were a combined 0-for-11 against the Twins.
  • This is one game the bullpen did not do its job of keeping the Yankees in the game. With the Yankees trailing 5-3, Cory Wade gave up three consecutive hits in the seventh inning, including an RBI double by Danny Valencia and an RBI single by Clete Thomas. The Twins padded their lead to 7-3 and it gave the Yankees a much bigger hole from which to climb out.

BOMBER BANTER

Michael Pineda threw a successful bullpen session on Monday at the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa, FL. Pineda, 23, is on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis in right shoulder. He is scheduled to throw another bullpen session in about three days but he is not expected to pitch for the Yankees until sometime in May.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their four-game home series with the Twin on Tuesday.

Ace left-hander CC Sabathia (0-0, 6.75 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Yankees. Sabathia will try to harness his fastball command, which has cost him in his last two starts. Sabathia gave up four runs on eight hits in six innings against the Orioles on Wednesday in his last start. He is 14-8 with a 2.98 ERA against the Twins lifetime.

The Twins will counter with left-hander Francisco Liriano (0-1, 10.00 ERA). Liriano has had subpar outings against the Orioles and Angels, walking five batters in his nine innings of work. He is 1-3 with a 3.08 ERA in his career 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.

 

Jeter, Ibanez Power Yankees Over Angels

GAME 9

YANKEES 11, ANGELS 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

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

NAGGING NEGATIVES

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

BOMBER BANTER

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

ON DECK

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

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

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

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

 

Yankees-Twins Washed Out, Series Resumes Thursday

GAME 6
TWINS vs. YANKEES 4 (Postponed, Rain)
Inclement weather in the Bronx, NY, forced postponement of the third game scheduled between the Minnesota Twins and the New Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.
No makeup date has been announced. That means the Yankees will play the Twins on Thursday afternoon but will not play a late makeup game because both teams have to travel to play day games on Friday.
Manager Joe Girardi also announced that he will skip Freddy Garcia’s spot in the rotation. Garcia was the scheduled starter on Wednesday but now will not pitch until April 15 against the Rangers. Garcia, however, will be available to pitch in the bullpen.
ON DECK
If the weather permits, the Yankees will resume their series with the Twins on Thursday, a game that now shapes up as the rubber game.
The Twins will skip Wednesday’s scheduled starter Carl Pavano and instead will start Francisco Liriano (0-1, 8.31 ERA). Liriano is coming off a performance against the Blue Jays where he was touched for two home runs and five walks in 4 2/3 innings. Liriano is 0-2 with a 3.12 ERA against the Yankees.
The Yankees will counter with A.J. Burnett (1-0, 5.40 ERA), who gave up three runs in five innings against the Tigers for a victory on Saturday. Burnett was 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in two starts against the Twins in 2010.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

Pseudo Yankees’ Poor Pitching, Defense Help Twins Win

GAME 30
TWINS 7, YANKEES 6
Yankees manager Joe Girardi loaded the bus with no pitcher on the 40-man roster and only three starters so it was a miracle the game was as close as it was.
Minnesota jumped on starter Buddy Carlyle and Steve Garrison for six runs in the first three innings and held on to defeat New York on Sunday at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, FL.
Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome each hit home runs and Matt Tolbert added a two-run triple to lead the Twins. Robinson Cano and Austin Romine each hit solo shots for the Yankees.
Former Yankee disabled list king Carl Pavano (2-1) was the winning pitcher despite being pounded for five runs (four earned) on 11 hits and a walk in six innings of work. Carlyle (0-1), who pitched last season in Japan, was the loser.
The Yankees opportunity to finish the Grapefruit League season at .500 was lost and they are now 12-15-3. The Twins are 18-11.
PINSTRIPE POSITIVES
  • Cano’s home run in the first inning gave the Yankees a short-lived lead and was Cano’s second of the spring. 
  • Mark Teixeira smashed a two-run double in the fifth inning and he was 2-for-3 in the game.  He raised his spring average to .306.
  • Minor-league outfielder Austin Krum had himself a very good game with the bat. He was 3-for-3, scored a run and stole a base. 
NAGGING NEGATIVES
  • Unfortunately for Krum, he had a very bad game in the field. In the second inning he dropped a fly ball off the bat of Danny Valencia that allowed Jim Thome to score and then compounded the mistake with an errant throw home that allowed Dellmon Young to reach third and Valencia to second. It opened the floodgates to a four-run inning from which the Yankees never really recovered.
  • The so-called lesser pitchers Girardi used did only give up seven hits. However, they also walked six batters, hit two and threw two wild pitches. It was not a pretty site.
  • Andruw Jones continues to struggle. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and his spring average is now .171. His play in the field has been nothing to write home about either.
BOMBER BANTER
Lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano attempted to play catch on Sunday and he felt discomfort in his left triceps. Girardi said is unlikely that Feliciano, who has been out of action since March 9, will start the season with the Yankees. He likely will be placed on the disabled list.   . . .  There was no word on the status of newly acquired outfielder Chris Dickerson. Dickerson went 3-for-3 in his Yankee debut on Saturday but had to leave the game with spasms in his left hamstring. The Yankees hope to have definitive word on his status on Monday.
ON DECK
The Yankees will play host to the Tampa Bay Rays at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday for the final time this spring.
The Yankees have scheduled right-hander A.J. Burnett to pitch in his final spring game. Burnett has a 2.77 ERA and has walked none in four starts. The Rays will counter with right-hander James Shields.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

Yankees Have Jeter In Vise But It Could Haunt Them Later

I find all this Derek Jeter versus Yankee management haggling over money disturbing.
The reason is that the Yankees are the richest franchise in baseball and the most successful in the history of baseball and sports.
But for some reason Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman have decided to play a little hardball with the team captain and the owner of five World Series rings.
Doesn’t that seem odd when you look at some of the recent history of this ballclub?
It was some years ago that this franchise offered Carl Pavano a four-year deal worth just a nickel below $40 million. The Return on Investment (ROI) there was just a shade below Yankee expectations. “Carla,” as Yankee fans called him, spent more time in a hot tub than Hugh Hefner and he needed a GPS device to find the Yankee Stadium mound.
Seems that the Cashman was the one who went looking for a Japanese lefty named Kei Igawa and signed him for about $50 million if you include the posting fee. Yankee fans remember him well. He marked his four seasons in pinstripes spending more time in Scranton than just about any salesman at Dunder-Mifflin. 
His appearances in the Bronx were just about as funny if they were not so sad. His plate offerings spent more time high and outside than Charlie Sheen.
So when the Yankees low-ball a good guy like Andy Pettitte as they did two years ago and they make it so obvious that they want Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon off their payroll as they did last season, I begin to wonder.
Are the Yankees all about overpaying jerks and underpaying the “good soldiers?”
The Cashman tenure is littered with expensive free-agent mistakes and lavish contracts extended to stiffs who did not produce much.
Yet, the Yankees seem to have Jeter in a vise.
I would not want to be Jeter’s agent, Casey Close, right about now. The Yankees have closed off just about all avenues to Jeter’s former 10-year, $189 million deal being matched. They denied the shortstop arbitration, which Jeter could have leveraged into a one-year, $20 million contract.
They also tossed out a three-year, $45 million offer and basically invited Jeter to entertain offers from other clubs. If you were a GM of any of the other 29 major-league teams would you seriously offer Jeter a deal above that knowing it could be used to up the Yankees’ ante?
Therein, lies the rub.
The Yankees are betting that no club will offer Jeter anything more than three years and they are sure not many can afford the $20 million Jeter would like per season. This is old-fashioned country hardball negotiations and the Yankees seem to be sitting in the proverbial catbird seat.
Mariano Rivera is also part of this equation. Hence, the one-year offer he is getting when he is looking for two.
I get it. The fewer dollars spent on Jeter and Rivera the more dollars can lavished onto to ace left-hander Cliff Lee. I assume this is the real reason fiscal sanity has hit the Yankee top brass so suddenly.
But, this is a dangerous game. There could be something in the works that will throw a huge monkey wrench in the Yankees’ plan. This holds true especially for Rivera, who any team could claim with a reasonable two-year deal offer.
You want to begin the 2011 season with Joba Chamberlain as your closer?
With Rivera gone the Yankees could sign Cliff Lee to a $250 million deal and still lose about a half-dozen of his starts to a shaky bullpen. The same holds true for CC and the rest of the rotation. Sometimes you do not know what you are losing until you have lost it.
Jeter may be coming off his worst offensive season. But many wrote him off after a lackluster 2008 season. He came close to winning a Most Valuable Player in 2009. Do you really want to risk letting him having a bounceback season with the Detroit Tigers?
That is the kind of dangerous game the Yankee brass is playing with the face of the franchise.
I think of a season with Eduardo Nunez at shortstop. In some ways I think Nunez could be the Yankees’ shortstop for the next dozen years. He can hit, run and he is learning to field more consistently. Perhaps he is the future.
But when your clubhouse erodes into a powder keg of hurt egos and dissatisfied superstars grumbling to the media behind manager Joe Girardi’s back, I wonder what the Yankees will think of the $3.9 million dollars per season they tried to save signing Jeter.
Sometimes players earn respect for what they do for the team beyond statistics. One player in Baltimore comes to mind: Cal Ripken.
Look up Cal’s stats for the final five years of his career and you will wonder why he even got a contract offer at all from the Orioles. But ask the Orioles now if they could use another player like Ripken. Have they been the same since he retired?
That is what I see in Jeter. The same professionalism. The same quiet dignity. The desire to give it all for the team and leave it all out there on the field. The playing of the game the right way and playing each game as if it was the last.
Putting a price tag on that is hard. But it sure seems silly to throw it away to save a measly $3.9 million doesn’t it?

Berkman, Pettitte Lead Yankees To Win Over Cursed Twins

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES – GAME 2
YANKEES 5, TWINS 2

When Andy Pettitte joined the Houston Astros as a free agent he became good friends with Lance Berkman. When Berkman agreed to waive his no-trade clause to join the New York Yankees on July 31, Berkman quickly renewed his friendship with Pettitte.
On Thursday night the two friends wreaked havoc on the Minnesota Twins and put the defending champions to within one game of their second straight American League Championship Series.
Pettitte (1-0) took care of the pitching. 
He gave up two runs on only five hits and one walk and struck out four batters in seven innings of masterful work. Pettitte also increased his major-league-leading postseason win total to 19 games.
Even better than that, he silenced doubters throughout the media who said he could not be counted upon to pitch effectively with only three tune-up starts after coming off the disabled list with a groin injury.
Berkman took care of the clutch hitting.
With the game tied at one and with one out in the fifth inning, Berkman connected off Twins’ starter Carl Pavano for a long majestic opposite field blast into the Twins’ bullpen in left-center. The home run was the seventh postseason home run for Berkman and his first since 2005.
Unfortunately for Berkman and Pettitte, Twins second baseman Orlando Hudson dialed it up a solo home run of his own with one out in the sixth inning. To say Pettitte was shocked is putting it mildly. Hudson has only 86 career home runs in nine seasons and he hit only six this season.
The blast to left was only Hudson’s second postseason home run. In other words, Albert Pujols has nothing to worry about.
Berkman merely shook off the setback and went to work in the seventh inning. Jorge Posada opened the inning by drawing Pavano’s only walk. It cost Pavano dearly, too.
Berkman quickly fell behind Pavano in the count 1-2. Pavano then threw the most controversial pitch of the evening. Pavano’s two-seam or sinking fastball went whistling toward the inside corner and home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called it a ball.
Pavano, manager Ron Gardenhire and the rest of the Twins thought they had strike three. But now the count was 2-2. Pavano then tried a change-up but Berkman merely waited for it and smashed it over the head of Denard Span in center-field for a double to score Posada from first with what proved to be the game-winning run.
Gardenhire then went to the mound, ostensibly to talk to Pavano. But his real reason was to induce Wendelstedt to break up the conference on the mound so Gardenhire could light into him for the missed strike call. Wendelstedt, as is his duty when a manager argues balls and strikes, ended Gardenhire’s evening by dismissing him from the game.
A note about the umpiring: To be fair to Wendelstedt, he did not call inside corner strikes for either team throughout the game. The TBS network pitch tracker showed that time after time during the game. Wendelstedt did, however, give Pavano and Pettitte leeway on the outside corner. 
I doubt this fact is of much consolation for the Twins fans who made up the vast majority of the Target Field record crowd of 42,305.
Play then resumed with a bunt single by Brett Gardner to move Berkman to third. Derek Jeter then scored Berkman with a bloop RBI single to right.
That ended the evening for the Yankees’ former malingering right-hander, Pavano (0-1). He pitched six-plus innings and gave up four runs on 10 hits and a walk and he struck out three.
The Yankees changed their usual approach on hitting Pavano by trying to swing at fastballs early in the count rather than let Pavano use his breaking pitches in deeper counts.
The strategy paid off and Pettitte and the Yankees have now defeated Pavano in two straight ALDS games. Pettitte outdueled Pavano in Game 3 of the 2009 ALDS as the Yankees swept the Twins.
Payback is a b—-, huh, Carl?
The Yankees added an insurance run in the ninth when Curtis Granderson blooped a single into center off Twins closer Matt Capps to plate Gardner from third. It was Granderson’s third hit of the night and he is hitting a robust .500 in the series.
The Yankees bullpen, which has been a pillar of strength for the Yankees in the second half of the season, came through again to shut down the Twins in the final two frames.
Kerry Wood struck out two batters while pitching a perfect eighth and Mariano Rivera  . . .  excuse me  . . .  yawn!  . . .  came in and put the Twins to sleep for the second straight evening with a scoreless ninth aided by a double play off the bat of Delmon Young that Rivera started himself.
Rivera notched his second save of the series and he now has major-league-best 41 career postseason saves.
The Yankees have now defeated the Twins in 11 of their last 13 postseason meetings dating back to 2003 and they also have won an astounding 10 postseason games in a row from this sad lot from Minneapolis. The Twins have also never beaten the Yankees in Minnesota, whether it be the Metrodome or the new Target Field.
Pettitte, making his major-league-best 41st career postseason start, extended his majors-topping postseason innings pitched total to 256. In giving up a sacrifice fly to Danny Valencia in the second inning that gave the Twins a 1-0 lead, Pettitte started a streak of 12 batters in a row he retired until Hudson touched him for his home run the sixth.
Their Twins are now in a serious 0-2 hole as the best-of-five series now shifts to the Bronx for Game 3 on Saturday. Of the 19 teams that have gained a 2-0 lead in the ALDS, 15 of them have won the series (79%).
In order to change the luck of the Twins on Thursday, Gardenhire reportedly burned everything he wore in Wednesday’s game  – even his underwear and shoes. I hope he doesn’t burn down Target Field to break this wicked playoff curse the Yankees hold on the Twins.
What can we call it? Hmmm! How about Curse of the Pav-bino?
The Yankees, who now sit in the driver’s seat in this ALDS, will look to put the pedal to metal on Saturday with the keys going to right-hander Phil Hughes (18-8, 4.19 ERA). Hughes did not face the Twins this season and he has a 1-1 mark with a 5.25 ERA in postseason play. But that work was all as a reliever.
The Twins will look to break the Curse of the Pav-bino behind left-hander Brian Duensing (10-3, 2.62 ERA). Duensing did not become a starter for the Twins until July 23. He was 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 13 starts. He is 0-1 with a 9.64 ERA in the postseason and he was the losing pitcher in Game 1 of the 2009 of the ALDS against the Yankees.
While they are in the Northeast, maybe the Twins can seek out Connecticut Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell to whip up a satanic ritual to rid them of this curse. It could not hurt.
Game-time will be 8:30 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by TBS.

Yankees Appear Primed For Yet Another Sweep Of Twins


The New York Yankees come into their series with Minnesota Twins as wild cards, seemingly limping and just about out of gas. Go ahead. Think that. It will just make the Yankees’ dominance over the Twins in recent years look even more impressive. The Twins actually did better against the Yankees this season, They won two games. Of course, the Yankees started Sergio Mitre and Javier Vazquez in those games and neither are starting these contests. So who will win?

OFFENSE

The Yankees are loaded with three hitters who drove in 100 runs and five starters who blasted 24 or more home runs. They also led the American League in runs scored.
Navigating through a lineup with Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Marcus Thames, Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner is not going to be easy for Francisco Liriano.
There is power galore and Granderson, Jeter and Gardner can steal bases when necessary. 
The Twins finally told Justin Morneau to shut it down for good on Monday. The first baseman, who was hitting .347 in July was ruled out for the rest of the season with the after-effects of a lingering concussion.
That is a big blow to the Twins, who must rely on catcher Joe Mauer to provide the lion’s share of the offense. He may have hit .327 but he only hit nine home runs and drove in 75 runs this season, reverting back to his early years.
The Twins rely on a simple formula: Get them on, get them over and get them in. That means they are interdependent lineup. Delmon Young is the new Morneau on this team after he hit 21 home runs, drove in 112 runs and hit .298 in a bounce-back season.
The Twins also rely on right-hand hitter Michael Cuddyer (81 RBIs) and lefties Jaosn Kubel (21 home runs and 92 RBIs) and Jim Thome (25 home runs) to provide pop to “get them in.”
Denard Span and Orlando Hudson are the guys expected to get on base. Span hit a miserable .264 but stole 26 bases. Hudson hit .268 and stole 10.
The sad thing for the Twins is left-handers give them fits because Mauer, Thome and Kubel all struggle against lefties. That puts more pressure on Cuddyer and Young to produce. Both have produced against ordinary lefties but neither has hit CC Sabathia well.
DEFENSE

The Yankees and Twins were No. 1 and No. 2 few the fewest errors committed in 2010. The Twins do not have dominant starting pitchers so they emphasize reducing walks, putting the ball in play, letting the defense make plays and not beating themselves with errors.
However, in the American League Division Series in 2009, the Twins kept making a litany of mental errors that eventually cost them the series. It is no accident the Yankees exploited that weakness because they are good at it.
The Twins do not boast a lot of speed but they make the plays in the field. Mauer is exceptional behind the plate. Orlando Hudson is former Gold Glove winner at second and Span has exceptional range in center.
The rest is pretty mediocre and Kubel is just plain awful in right.
The Yankees boast an infield with the Gold Glove winners and second baseman Robinson Cano likely deserves his first for his play this season. Combined Cano, Jeter, Teixeira and Rodriguez committed 19 errors. That is the lowest total for an infield in baseball.
Posada and Francisco Cervelli have not thrown well at all this season and they have not caught many runners. But most of the problem lies with pitchers like A.J. Burnett, who do not hold runners on well.
The Yankees outfield has speed and range with Granderson and Gardner and good arms with Gardner and Swisher (22 assists).
Neither team has a decided edge here but do not be surprised if a Twins error or mental mistake costs them a game in this series.
PITCHING

The Yankees feature a threesome of Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes, who are a combined 50-19 this season. The Twins are countering with Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano and Brian Duensing, who were a combined 41-24.
Pettitte beat Liriano twice this season while Hughes and Sabathia did not make a start against the Twins. The pitcher who maybe should be starting for the Twins is Nick Blackburn. He beat the Yankees in the two games the Twins won. But Blackburn is scheduled to pitch Game 4 and that means he likely will face Sabathia. Lots of luck, Nick!
Duensing was in the bullpen when the Yankees played the Twins in May but he did start the first game of the ALDS against the Yankees last season and he failed to win.
Even with the questions surrounding Pettitte, shouldn’t there be questions surrounding Pavano? The former Yankee disabled list malingerer is 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA, however, since July 27 Pavano is 4-5 with a 4.85 ERA.
In September, Pavano was 2-1 with a 6.21 ERA. That hardly bodes well come playoff time.
The Yankees have a big edge here because left-handers will likely start four of the scheduled five games. The Twins just do not have a lineup that can do much damage against Sabathia and Pettitte when they are on their games.
BULLPEN

The Twins have gone through three closers in the wake of the injury to Joe Nathan that has forced him to miss the season.
They began with Jon Rauch and then tried former Angels closer Brian Fuentes. It seems they have now settled on former Pirates closer Matt Capps, who is 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA and 16 saves in 18 attempts.
Rauch is dealing with a sore left knee but is expected to be available. The Yankees know Fuentes all too well from his stint as the Angels’ closer in the American League Championship Series in 2009. Remember Alex Rodriguez?
The Twins also have a solid lefty in Jose Mijares and righties Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier. The long man is expected to be Kevin Slowey.
The Yankees have the most successful closer in major-league playoff history in Mariano Rivera. Despite his three blown saves in September, it is hard to believe that Rivera will be anything but exceptional in his 15th postseason.
The Yankees also solidified their bullpen with the trade deadline acquisition of Kerry Wood. Wood has only given up one earned run since joining the Yankees on Aug. 1. Joba Chamberlain has also improved from his horrible mid-season to record a 2.36 ERA since Wood joined the team.
David Robertson and Boone Logan have provided consistent middle relief as well and the Yankees have two solid long relievers in Sergio Mitre and Dustin Moseley.
You have to give a decided edge here to the Yankees, given the presence of Rivera and Wood and the fact that Chamberlain, Robertson and Logan have been so good in the last two months of the season.
BENCH

The Yankees have a solid hitter in Lance Berkman and power in right-hand slugger Marcus Thames. They also have a veteran outfielder in Austin Kearns and speed and defense in the form of infielder Ramiro Pena and outfielder Greg Golson. Cervelli is a solid backup catcher though he likely will not play in the series.
The Twins use a lot of platoons which means their bench players do start at times. They have Jim Thome as a part-time
DH and Drew Butera is the backup catcher but he will not play with Mauer around.
The Twins rotate shortstops in Alexi Casilla and J.J. Hardy and Nick Punto and Danny Valencia at third. The also have outfielder Jason Repko.
The Twins bench is functional but hardly loaded. It is more of a solid bench. The Yankees bench is not a strength but they do not intend to use it much in the opening round. 
So I do not think either team has a true edge here.
PREDICTION: The Yankees will win it in three games.


A-Rod, Posada Blasts Off Pavano Polish Off Yankee Sweep

ALDS, GAME 3
YANKEES 4, TWINS 1
Yankees win best-of-five series 3-0


Carl Pavano had the hopes of all The Metrodome and a 1-0 lead on the New York Yankees and a three-hitter going. But it all slipped away in a sequence of just six pitches.
Former teammates Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada stroked solo home runs in the seventh inning to erase the 1-0 deficit and the Yankees went on to beat Pavano and the Twins on Sunday night to close out the last game played in the Metrodome and sweep the best-of-five American League Division Series.
The Yankees will now advance to the American League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Angels. The best-of-seven series will begin on Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
Veteran lefthander Andy Pettitte dueled Pavano pitch-for-pitch and added to his impressive postseason resume with his 15th postseason victory, which ties him with John Smoltz for the most in postseason history.
Pettitte (1-0) pitched 6 1/3 innings, giving up one run on just three hits and one costly walk. He fanned seven batters and left a 2-1 lead for the hard-throwing Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera to protect.
That bullpen threesome pitched 2 2/3 innings, gave up three hits and no walks and struck out three as Rivera recorded the final four outs to pick up his first save of this postseason.
Pavano, who never delivered on a four-year, $40 million contract he signed with the Yankees in 2005, entered the seventh inning having walked none and struck out nine, matching Pettitte knowing the Twins’ ability to extend the series to a Game 4 rested in his hands.
However, much like he did in his unremarkable 26 starts over four injury-riddled seasons with the Yankees, Pavano broke down in the clutch. With one out, Rodriguez fought Pavano to a 3-2 count before launching a 374-foot Howitzer shot into right-centerfield that landed in the top row of the football stadium seats.
For Rodriguez, who was much-maligned for his failure to hit in the clutch in the postseason, it was his fifth hit of the series, his second home run and his sixth RBI. With that the Yankees newest “Mr. October” was sporting a .455 batting average in the series as he tied the game at one. It was the ninth postseason home run of his career.
“He came up with a couple of huge home runs for us,” Derek Jeter said of Rodriguez. “He’s swinging the bat well. He’s been swinging the bat extremely well the whole year. It seems like he continues to get better and better, and hopefully, he’ll continue. He’s a big reason why we’re here.”
Pavano then struck out Hideki Matsui on three pitches and Posada stepped to the plate with two out. On a 1-0 pitch, Posada slapped a high line drive to the opposite field in left. Delmon Young got to the wall but the ball just barely scrapped over it and landed in the first row.
The Yankees not only took a huge 2-1 lead, they also knew they finally had a chance to pin a loss on Pavano for the first time since he left the team as a free agent last winter and signed with the Cleveland Indians.
The Yankees could have no sweeter incentive for keeping the lead.
The Yankees dodged a major bullet and the Twins likely gift-wrapped the game to the Yankees with another base-running gaffe in the eighth inning. Hughes gave up a leadoff double to No. 9  batter Nick Punto, who was 4-for-9 in the series with three walks. Leadoff hitter Denard Span then bounced a 1-0 fastball into the Metrodome turf right up the middle and the ball looked to be ticketed for centerfield.
However, Jeter ranged over from shortstop and cut the ball off but had no play on the speedy Span heading to first. So Jeter alertly threw the ball home as Punto was rounding third base. Third-base coach Scott Ullger had gone halfway down the third-base line and signaled Punto to hold up.
However, when Punto saw the sign he was within 10 feet of Ullger. He tried to stop, but his feet slipped and he fell down. By the time he got to his feet and headed back to third, Posada had rifled the ball to Rodriguez and Punto was called out by third-base umpire Phil Cuzzi. This time the TBS television replays showed Cuzzi made the right call.
Punto was a dead Twin.
“It looked like he thought the ball was going to go through,” Posada told MLB.com. “I just hoped he kept going, because we had a pretty good shot to get him.”
Hughes got Orlando Cabrera to fly out and Rivera came in to retire Joe Mauer on a broken bat grounder to Mark Teixeira.
The Twins also committed a bad base-running mistake in the fourth inning of Game 2 when Carlos Gomez rounded second base, slipped and was tagged out by Jeter just before Delmon Young scored. The Yankees went on to win that game 4-3 in 11 innings.
The Yankees added two insurance runs in the top of the ninth when three different relievers each walked one batter to load the bases with one out. Twins closer Joe Nathan, who blew a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 2 by giving up a two-run home run to Rodriguez, was called upon to stop the bleeding.
Instead he opened the wound further.
Posada hit a sharp single into right to score Teixeira. Robinson Cano followed with a bloop single to right to fittingly plate Rodriguez with what will be the final run scored in the Metrodome. The Twins will play in a new open-air stadium next season.
Rivera closed out the ninth and the Yankees celebrated their first playoff series victory since the 2004 when the Yankees ironically beat the Minnesota Twins 3-1 in the American League Division Series.
The Twins scored their only run off Pettitte with two out in the sixth when Span singled and the stole second base. Cabrera then worked a walk and Mauer singled to left to score Span.
Pettitte, who was making his 36th career postseason game, also became the major-league leader in postseason innings pitched with 224 2/3 innings, breaking a tie with Tom Glavine at 218 1/3 innings.
The raucous Yankees celebrated the first postseason series victory in five seasons by spraying themselves and the Metrodome visitors clubhouse walls with champagne. But Pettitte put the evening in true perspective.
“You know, we want to win a World Series,” Pettitte told MLB.com. “We took a step here to move on. We are going to have a nasty series. It’s going to be a war with us and the Angels, but we are looking forward to it. We’re going to celebrate this one and enjoy it. I’m just really happy for our club.”

“People can say whatever they want about home runs and big hits,” Rodriguez said. “If you don’t pitch and you don’t defend, you are not going to win. The story of this has been CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte, and all three of them were fantastic.”

The Yankees’ three starters in the series — Sabathia, Burnett and Pettite — completed the series against the Twins with an ERA of 1.42. They gave up 14 hits and six walks and fanned 20 batters in 19 innings. 

“I think we played the same way we have been playing the whole regular season,” Posada said to MLB.com. “I think pitching is just so important when it comes to a series like this. Once you see it, you understand why pitching is so important now.”

“This is what you play for — to get that opportunity — and now we’re playing for the opportunity to go to the World Series,” Jeter said. “It’s only going to get more difficult as we go on.”
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.