Results tagged ‘ Chris Dickerson ’

Bucs’ Late Rally Ruins Yanks’ Spring Home Opener

GAME 2

PIRATES 8, YANKEES 2

TAMPA - Mel Rojas Jr. blasted a three-run homer as part of a five-run eighth inning on Thursday as Pittsburgh spoiled New York’s Grapefruit League home opener at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Rojas’ home into the right-field bleachers came off losing pitcher Robert Coello (0-1). Matt Hague followed Rojas’ game-winner with a two-run single.

Reliever Yao-Hsun Yang (1-0) pitched a scoreless seventh inning to get credit for the victory.

Top outfield prospect Gregory Polanco cranked a solo home run in the first inning and former Yankee Chris Dickerson added an RBI single in the sixth inning for Pittsburgh.

The Yankees scored their first tally in the fifth inning when Francisco Cervelli slapped a leadoff single and Kelly Johnson scored him with a double to right-center. The Yankees then tied it an inning later when John Ryan Murphy stroked a two-out RBI single to score Adonis Garcia.

An announced crowd of 7,763 saw the spring debut of Derek Jeter, who was playing in his first major-league game since Sept. 7, 2013. Jeter played five innings and was 0-for-2 in the game, hitting into a double play and grounding out.

The Yankees are 0-2 on the spring with both losses coming to the Pirates.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Although he was tagged for Polanco’s homer in the first, David Phelps looked very sharp in his two innings of work. Phelps gave up two hits but fanned four batters, all looking, and walked none in his first outing of the spring. Phelps is trying to earn the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation and he fared well in throwing 20 of his 30 pitches for strikes.
  • Brett Gardner started in left-field and batted leadoff going 1-for-2 with a infield single and a walk. Though Jacoby Ellsbury will be the team’s leadoff hitter this season, Gardner looks primed for a good season batting ninth. Gardner was recently rewarded with a four-year, $52 million extension to his contract.
  • Johnson’s RBI double in the fifth inning opened the scoring for the Yankees. Though Johnson, 32, has primarily been a second baseman most in his career, he is expected to get the bulk of the starts at third base this season while Alex Rodriguez sits out his season-long suspension. Johnson batted .235 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs in 116 games with the Tampa Bay Rays last season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Coello was tagged for five runs on five hits and a walk in one-third of an inning. Coello, 29, was signed out of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization. He was 1-0 with a 4.58 ERA in 16 games at two minor-league stops before coming up to the Dodgers and going 2-2 with a 3.71 ERA in 16 games, all in relief. As he showed on Thursday, he has problems with command. In 36 2/3 innings of relief last seasons, Coello walked 19 batters.
  • The Yankees scored four runs in their first two innings against the Pirates on Wednesday. Since then they have scored two runs on eight hits in their past 16 innings. After hitting into two double plays on Wednesday, the Yankees hit into four more on Thursday.

BOMBER BANTER

After the game Jeter told reporters that he has not felt this good in a year and he was glad to get this first game out of the way. “I haven’t played in a game in quite some time,” Jeter said. “Today was the first time I’ve swung off of live pitching. It’s good to get the first game out of the way and get into a routine of playing games.” Jeter played in 17 games last season due to a series of leg injuries related to surgically repaired left ankle.  . . .  The Yankees opened their spring home schedule by playing in their regular-season home uniforms with the pinstripes. They also introduced a group of Yankee legends including Willie Randolph, Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry and David Wells. The George M. Steinbrenner High School Band also performed for the crowd.  . . .  The Yankees have two pitchers who are injured. Right-hander Francisco Rondon will be out for a couple of weeks with stiffness in his back. Right-hander Jose Ramirez also has been shut down and underwent MRIs on his back and oblique.

ON DECK

The Yankees will travel to Lakeland, FL, on Friday for a contest against the Detroit Tigers.

Right-hander Adam Warren will get the starting nod for the Yankees. Warren is in the four-man mix for the No. 5 starting spot. He was 3-2 with a 3.39 in 34 games with the Yankees last season.

Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran are scheduled to make the trip.

The Tigers will counter with American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, who was 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA last season.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast on MLB Radio via WXYT-AM in Detroit.

 

Yankees Succumb To Pirates’ Late 4-Run Rally

GAME 1

PIRATES 6, YANKEES 5

Chris McGuiness capped a four-run rally in the seventh inning with an RBI single as Pittsburgh came from behind to defeat New York in both teams’ Grapefruit League opener at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, FL.

Duke Welker (1-0) pitched one inning of relief to get credit for the victory. Chase Whitley (0-1) was hammered for four runs on three hits, a walk and he hit a batter in one inning plus to get tagged with the loss.

Five batters before McGuiness’ game-winning hit, Tony Sanchez cranked a three-run homer off Whitley to turn a 5-2 Yankees’ lead into a tie.

Right-hander Ivan Nova started for the Yankees and he pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings, however, he did not have much command. Nova surrendered two hits and two walks and had to be replaced by right-hander Bruce Billings in the second innings because he had reached his pitch limit.

The game was played in front of announced crowd of 6,870, which is a record for exhibition opener at McKechnie Field, the Pirates’ spring home since 1969.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • The late rally overshadowed what was a great day for two of the Yankees’ three high-priced free agents who started the game. Jacoby Ellsbury collected an infield single and two walks and he scored two runs. Catcher Brian McCann was 1-for-2 with an RBI single in the first inning. The third free agent, Carlos Beltran, was 0-for-2.
  • The Yankees also received key offensive contributions from shortstop Yangervis Solarte and outfielder Ramon Flores. Solarte, 26, a minor-league free agent out of the Texas Rangers’ organization, slugged a two-run home run in the second inning off veteran right-hander Edinson Volquez. Flores, 21, followed McCann’s RBI single in the first with an RBI single of his own off left-hander Francisco Liriano.
  • The Yankees’ pitching was shaky most of the day, but one pitcher did shine despite the gloomy windy and overcast game conditions. Right-hander Dellin Betances, 25, pitched two scoreless innings, giving up one bloop single and striking out two. Betances, a former top pitching prospect as a starter, is opening eyes as a reliever.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Whitley’s first spring outing was a disaster. After pitching a scoreless sixth inning, Whitley, 24, gave up a single, hit a batter and then was tagged for a wind-aided three-run home run by Sanchez. After walking Chris Dickerson he was replaced by Preston Claiborne.
  • Claiborne, 25, did not help matters much by surrendering a walk and the game-winning RBI single to McGuiness. After pitching in 44 games with the Yankees in 2013, Claiborne is being counted upon to shore up a Yankee bullpen that lost closer Mariano Rivera and Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain.
  • After collecting four hits in the first two innings, the Yankees managed to rap out just three more hits the rest of the game. The also hit into a pair of double plays.

ON DECK

Derek Jeter will begin his final spring training on Tuesday as he makes his first start against the Pirates at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Right-hander David Phelps, one of four competitors for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, will get the start for the Yankees. Phelps, 27, was 6-5 with a 4.98 ERA in 22 games (12 starts) last season.

The Yankees also should play most of what will be their projected starting lineup for the 2014 season. They also will wear their regular-season pinstripe uniforms.

Right-hander Charlie Morton will start for the Pirates. He was 7-4 with a 3.26 ERA in 20 starts last season.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast live by the YES Network and on a delayed basis at 9 p.m. by the MLB Network.

 

Nunez’s Return Keys Yankees To Victory Over O’s

GAME 87

YANKEES 5, ORIOLES 4

Whenever baseball announcers brought up the myriad injuries the Yankees have suffered through this season the name Eduardo Nunez rarely came up. It was as if the 26-year-old shortstop was the forgotten man among all those superstars that were languishing on the disabled list.

But Nunez served notice he was back in a big way on Saturday by rolling an RBI single up the middle with one out in the sixth inning that proved to be the game-winner as New York extended its winning streak to a season-high six games by edging Baltimore in front of a swelteringly hot paid crowd 42,678 at Yankee Stadium.

Nunez was activated from the disabled list just before the game after having not played in a game since May 5 due to a severely strained left oblique. He was immediately inserted into the lineup at shortstop and batted eighth.

He then sparked the Yankees by going 2-for-3 with a run scored and two RBIs after hitting just .200 with no home runs and four RBIs in the 27 games he played before suffering the injury.

Andy Pettitte (6-6) gutted out the 91-degree heat and high humidity to pitch into the seventh inning to collect his first victory since June 8 in Seattle against the Mariners, a span of five starts.

The Yankees trailed the Orioles throughout the early innings until the fifth against right-hander Chris Tillman (10-3).

With the O’s up 4-2, Nunez opened the inning with a lined opposite-field single to right and Chris Stewart followed with single to left. Brett Gardner advanced the runners a base with a sacrifice bunt and Ichiro Suzuki brought Nunez home with a bouncer up the middle that likely also would have scored Stewart.

However, Orioles second baseman Alexi Casilla made a diving stop on the outfield grass to keep Stewart at third. But the sparkling play could not prevent Robinson Cano from dumping a bloop single into left that scored Stewart with tying run.

The Yankees seized control of the game in the sixth when Lyle Overbay laced his third straight single of the day to open the frame and Luis Cruz bunted him to second. That set the stage for Nunez, who drove in the Yankees’ second run of the game in the second inning with a sacrifice fly, to come through with what proved to be the game-winning hit.

Tillman was charged with five runs on 10 hits and two walks while he struck out three in 5 1/3 innings. The loss broke a streak of seven consecutive winning decisions for the veteran right-hander.

Pettitte left with two out in the seventh having yielded four runs (three earned) on nine hits and no walks while he fanned four batters.

Relievers Shawn Kelley, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera shut out the Orioles over the final 2 1/3 innings on two hits, no walks and three strikeouts.

Rivera twirled a scoreless ninth  -  striking out former Yankee Chris Dickerson swinging with the tying run on first for the final out  -  to earn his 29th save in 30 chances this season. That save ties the 43-year-old future Hall-of-Fame closer with the O’s Jim Johnson for the major-league lead in saves in his final season.

The Orioles got on the board in the first inning off Pettitte when Adam Jones slapped a two-out single to left and Chris Davis stroked his major-league-leading 33rd home run to dead center to make 2-0.

The O’s added an unearned run in the second whenPettitte made a wild throw over Overbay’s outstretched glove on a single off the bat of Nolan Reimold, which allowed Reimold to take second. Casilla followed with an RBI single to left to score Reimold.

The Yankees got back into the game with two runs in the second.

Travis Hafner drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on an opposite-field single off the bat of rookie Zoilo Almonte. Overbay then laced a sharp single to right to load the bases and Cruz drove in a run in the third of the four games he has played with the Yankees with a single to left that scored Hafner.

Nunex then drove a ball deep into left-center to score Almonte, however, Reimold gunned down Stewart trying to advance to third for a double play, which effectively killed the rally.

The Orioles added a run in the third on a leadoff double by J.J. Hardy and he advanced to third on a fly ball to center by Reimold and scored one out later on a single by Taylor Teagarden.

The Yankees rally to win also provided them with a claim on second place in the American League East. The victory gives them a 48-39 record and they passed the Orioles, who are now 48-40. The Yankees trail first-place Boston by 5 1/2 games as the Red Sox play the Los Angeles Angels on the West Coast.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Nunez blew a great opportunity to be the team’s utility infielder last season with some erratic play in the field. He also got injured and missed most of the 2012 season with a nagging right thumb injury. This season he was handed the shortstop job because Derek Jeter was rehabbing from left ankle surgery. But Nunez suffered a severe oblique strain that sidelined for two months. But when Nunez is right, he can help the Yankees as a career .264 major-league hitter with 40 steals in 49 attempts. His 2-for-3 day pretty much shows what the Yankees have missed from him.
  • Cruz has been impressive ever since he joined the team as a free agent signee on Tuesday. He is 4-for-14 (.286) with three RBIs in four games. With the addition of Nunez as shortstop, the Yankees on Saturday moved Cruz to third base, which allowed them to sit a slumping David Adams. The Yankees need right-hand production in the lower part of the order and Nunez and Cruz may provide it.
  • Overbay’s 3-for-4 day hopefully will get him turned around at the plate. In the previous nine games, Overbay was 6-for-28 (.214). Of course, since the season-ending wrist surgery was performed on Mark Teixeira the Yankees have been forced to play Overbay every day and he is hitting an anemic .190 against left-handers. The Yankees could use a right-handed hitter who can play the position.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Gardner was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and three groundouts. In his past four games, Gardner is in a 1-for-17 (.059) slide that has dropped his season average from .288 to .276. The slump comes despite the fact that manager Joe Girardi rested him on Thursday.
  • Two base-running blunders really hurt the Yankees but ultimately they did not cost them a victory. One was Stewart’s decision to go to third on Nunez’s sacrifice fly in the second inning. Stewart was thrown out easily by Reimold trying to slide into third base for the second out when Stewart was already in scoring position at second base. The other blunder came when Gardner dropped down a sacrifice bunt in the sixth. Nunez was on second and assumed that pitcher Brian Matusz would throw to first. But the left-hander threw to Manny Machado at third and Nunez was thrown out because he did not run hard.
  • Though Pettitte did win the game, he did not pitch well. In his past five starts dating back to June 14, Pettitte has yielded 19 earned runs on 41 hits and eight walks in 31 1/3 innings. He is 1-3 with a 5.46 ERA and a WHIP of 1.56 over that span.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees placed right-hander David Phelps on the 15-day disabled list with a mild right forearm strain. Phelps, 26, will be shelved for 10 days and then will be re-evaluated. An MRI taken on Friday did not show any ligament damage. Phelps is 6-5 with a 5.01 ERA in 12 starts. To take his place on the roster the Yankees activated Nunez from the 60-day disabled list and they shifted Teixeira to the 60-day disabled list. Ivan Nova, who earned his first major-league complete-game victory on Friday pitching in place of Hiroki Kuroda will remain the rotation in place of Phelps.  . . .  Jeter will play in his first rehab game on Saturday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in a game against Lehigh Valley. Right-hander Michael Pineda will make his final rehab appearance as the starter for the RailRiders in the same game. Pineda is 2-1 with a 2.60 ERA and 15 strikeouts in his previous four starts. The Yankees will have to decide whether to activate him from the disabled list or option him to Scranton.

ON DECK

The Yankees can pay back the Orioles for sweeping them at Camden Yards last week by pulling off a home sweep of their own against Baltimore on Sunday.

Kuroda (7-6, 2.95 ERA) will start for the Yankees after missing his scheduled start on Friday with soreness in his left hip. Kuroda lost to the O’s in his last start on June 30, giving up four runs on seven hits in six innings. He is 2-3 with a 3.90 ERA in his career against the Orioles.

Right-hander Jason Hammel (7-5, 5.19 ERA) will start for Baltimore. Hammel was tagged for five runs on nine hits and a walk while he struck out seven in a loss Tuesday to the Chicago White Sox. He has not won a game in his past six starts. He is 3-3 with 5.46 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

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

 

Ichiro Final Piece To Yankees’ Explosive Outfield

The New York Yankees have reached the end of the regular season as champions of the American League East and they have the best record in the league. It was not easy but they are now ready for the playoffs. It is time to look at the players that got them there and give them grades for the season.

RIGHT-FIELD – NICK SWISHER  (24 HRs, 93 RBIs, .272 BA)

CENTER-FIELD – CURTIS GRANDERSON (43 HRs, 106 RBIs, .232 BA)

LEFT-FIELD – ICHIRO SUZUKI (9 HRs, 55 RBIs, .283 BA, 77 Runs, 29 SB)

Sometimes the outfield you leave spring training with is not the one you end up with. That us true for the Yankees this season.

Left-fielder Brett Gardner,29, played in only nine games before a diving catch in left resulted in a right elbow injury that eventually required surgery and wiped out pretty much his entire season. With his loss the Yankees also lost his 40-plus stolen bases and his Gold Glove-quality defense.

So the Yankees improvised and used 40-year-old Raul Ibanez and 35-year-old Andruw Jones to fill the hole Gardner left. Since Ibanez and Jones were expected to be the team’s platoon designated hitters, it allowed manager Joe Girardi to use veterans like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter on more occasions at DH.

It worked pretty well.

Though the Yankees lacked speed on the bases and lost some defense in left, Ibanez and Jones combined to hit 18 home runs and drive in 51 runs in the team’s first 81 games. But because of their advanced age and because the Yankees kept hoping Gardner would return, the Ibanez-Jones platoon in left was expected to be only temporary.

When Gardner was unable to return after a second rehab stint, the Yankees decided they had to make a move and they obtained All-Star and multiple Gold Glove-winning outfielder Ichiro Suzuki from the Seattle Mariners in a trade completed on July 23.

Suzuki, 38, immediately brought all the elements to the Yankees that Gardner was expected to provide. Suzuki agreed to come to the Yankees to play left-field, hit eighth in the lineup and to sit against some left-handed pitching.

Suzuki had been a shell of his former self in Seattle. He hit a career low .272 in 2011 and he was hitting just .261 with four home runs and 28 RBIs with the Mariners when he was obtained. General manager Brian Cashman hoped a change in scenery and an opportunity to play for a contender would re-energize Suzuki.

It did, too.

Suzuki immediately meshed in the clubhouse and, as he got more comfortable in pinstripes, his bat heated up and he took off.

Suzuki hit .297 in August and an amazing .385 in September. He also was so instrumental in the Yankees’ late-season push to the American League East title that Girardi moved him to the No. 2 spot in the order and kept him in the lineup against left-handers.

With Derek Jeter batting leadoff, the Yankees have the two best singles hitters of their generation in one lineup. Between the two of them, they have 5,910 major-league hits and a career batting average of .317.

They may have seen their better days on the bases but both are capable to stealing a bag when it is necessary.

Since becoming a Yankee, Suzuki has hit five home runs, drove in 27 runs and batted .317 with 14 stolen bases. With a chance to win his first championship since coming from Japan in 2001, Suzuki is playing as if he wants it real bad.

This deal by Cashman was a real gem and it could pay off big this postseason.

Meanwhile, in right, just call Nick Swisher “Mr. Consistency.”

In his four seasons with the Yankees, Swisher, 31, has hit between 23 and 29 homers and driven in between 82 and 93 runs each season. In the first half of this season, Swisher hit 12 home runs and drove in 46 runs. In the final 81 games, Swisher hit 12 home runs and drove in 47 runs.

How about that for numbers you can count upon?

That has been a Swisher hallmark throughout his career and the Yankees needed him to deliver this season in the absence of Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira for big stretches of the second half. Swisher even hit .273, which is his second highest average in the majors since he hit .288 for the Yankees in 2010.

Swisher also was forced to move from right-field to play first base when Teixeira was injured and he played above-average defense there.

This was an important time for Swisher because he is in the final year of his contract and he can become a free agent at the end of the season.

With the Yankees committed to reducing payroll by the start of the 2014 season and with Robinson Cano looking for lucrative multi-year deal to stay in pinstripes, there is a good possibility Swisher may be playing his last season for the Yankees.

That would be a shame because Swisher’s ability to provide power, production, work pitch counts, play solid defense and his enthusiasm for the game are valuable assets to the team. He would be very hard to replace.

The same goes for Curtis Granderson in center-field.

Granderson followed up a career year in 2011 with 41 home runs, 119 RBIs and a league-leading 136 runs scored with another powerful season in 2012. He hit 43 home runs, drove in 106 runs and scored 102 runs.

Of course, with Granderson you have to take the bad with the good. Granderson hit a respectable .262 in 2011, which is exactly what his career average is. But this season, Granderson hit a career-low .232 and he struck out a career-high 195 times.

Pitchers gave him a steady diet of breaking balls in the dirt and fastballs away and Granderson seemed reluctant to go to the opposite field, particularly with the short porch in right-field of Yankee Stadium a tempting target.

So when Granderson slumps, he can go into long periods where he can’t buy a hit. After a first half in which hit 23 home runs, drove in 48 runs and hit .241, his average dropped nine points while he hit 20 home runs and drove in a much better 58 runs.

Again, with Granderson you take the bad with the good and give Granderson credit because he did lead the team in home runs and RBIs. His contract expires after the 2013 season so the Yankees have to do some head-scratching to figure out how to please Cano, Swisher and Granderson without breaking the bank.

Though the plan when Suzuki was acquired to play Ibanez and Jones less in the outfield, injuries forced Girardi to use both a lot more in the second half than he would have liked.

When Swisher moved to first base to replace Teixeira, Ibanez and Jones were platooned in left-field while Suzuki played right.

Ibanez finished with some pretty good numbers.

He hit 19 home runs, drove in 62 runs and hit .240. He fell off a bit from his first-half numbers (11 homers, 35 RBIs and .237) but that was mostly because he played a bit less and also because he went into a terrible slump at the end of August that extended until he finally caught fire again in the final 11 games he played.

Jones, on the other hand, was a much different story in the second half.

After hitting seven home runs, driving in 16 runs and hitting .230 in the first half, Jones went AWOL pretty much for the entire second half.

He hit another seven home runs, drove in 18 runs but his average dipped an alarming 33 points and he finished at .197. Late in the season Girardi opted to use Eduardo Nunez at DH rather than start Jones against a left-hander.

As a result, Jones was given the word that he will not be on the postseason roster and his days in pinstripes are likely over.

MIDSEASON GRADES:

GARDNER – I

GRANDERSON – A-

SWISHER – B-

IBANEZ – B

JONES – C

SECOND-HALF GRADES:

GRANDERSON – B+

SWISHER – B+

SUZUKI – B+

IBANEZ – C

JONES – D

OVERALL GRADES:

GRANDERSON – B+

SWISHER – B+

SUZUKI – B+

IBANEZ – C+

JONES – D+

The Yankees also played Nunez, Jayson Nix, Dewayne Wise, Chris Dickerson and Melky Mesa in the outfield this season.

Nix and Nunez are primarily infielders, but Nix has played some outfield in the past and acquits himself well in left. The Nunez experiment in the outfield was declared over after some awful misplays early in the season proved he was not suited to play the outfield.

Wise, 34,was released at midseason when Suzuki arrived and he was later picked up by the Chicago White Sox. He got more playing time there and ended up hitting .259 with eight home runs and 30 RBIs and 19 stolen bases for the Yankees and Chisox combined.

Dickerson, 30, has spent the past two seasons with the Yankees, mostly at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Dickerson was recalled on Sept. 1 and hit .286 with two home runs and five RBis in 14 at-bats.

Mesa, 25, was also recalled on Sept. 1 when the rosters expanded and hit .500 in two at-bats in three games.

Dickerson hit .316 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs and he stole 17 bases in 69 games. Mesa hit .230 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs in just 33 games after being promoted from Double-A Trenton.

Colin Curtis, 27, struggled in his comeback season at Scranton after suffering a separated shoulder in spring training in 2011. He hit only .220 with one home run and 23 RBIs in 71 games.

Cole Garner, 27, hit .258 with six home runs and 25 RBIs in 64 games.

Neither Curtis or Garner figure much in the Yankees’ future plans.

However, the Yankees do have a boatload of good young outfield prospects below Triple A.

Mason Wiiliams, 21, is a five-tool center-fielder who hit a combined .298 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs in 91 games with Class-A Charleston and High-A Tampa of the Florida State League. Williams is the Yankees No. 2 prospect behind catcher Gary Sanchez. A torn labrum in his right shoulder ended his season in August but the Yankees are high on his future.

Tyler Austin, 21, followed up a season in which he hit .345 in 2011 by hitting a combined .322 in 110 games as he advanced from Class-A Charleston to Double-A Trenton. He also hit a combined 17 home runs and drove in 80 runs this season. Austin was used at first and third base in previous seasons but played exclusively in right-field this season. Austin is ranked third right behind Williams.

Former 2009 No. 1 pick Slade Heathcott, 22, caught fire this season at High-A Tampa and hit .302 with five homers and 29 RBIs in 60 games. Heathcott is a lefty hitter who slashes at the plate and has very good speed. Heathcott is ranked fifth as a prospect for the Yankees.

In spring training this past March, Zoilo Almonte, 23, caught Girardi’s eye with his bat. Almonte hit .277 with 21 home runs and 77 RBIs in 106 games at Trenton. Originally thought of as a potential fourth outfielder in the majors, if Almonte’s power continues to improve he could change that opinion. Almonte is ranked seventh.

When you think Ramon Flores, 20, think of a very raw Ichiro Suzuki. Flores hit a robust .302 with six homers, 39 RBis and 24 stolen bases in 131 games with High-A Tampa. Flores is the 10th-rated Yankee prospect but he is rising like a bullet.

OVERALL POSITION GRADE: B+

With a postseason outfield of Granderson, Suzuki and Swisher you have an excellent mix of power (76 homers), production (254 RBIs), some speed (41 stolen bases) and some range and ability on defense, particularly with Suzuki in left.

You add outfield backups in Ibanez, Gardner and Nix and you have a pretty solid veteran bench, too.

Swisher and Granderson provide premium power and Suzuki is a perfect table setter with Jeter in the first two spots of the batting order.

Give Cashman credit for striking the perfect deal to replace Gardner in left with Suzuki and the Yankees enter the postseason with the most productive outfield of all the teams who made it to the playoffs. Offensively and defensively it is hard to match this trio.

It has been a strength of the Yankees for most of the season, particularly since Suzuki was added to the mix on July 24 to replace the defensively inferior tandem of Ibanez and Jones.

This may be an older group but in the playoffs experience counts for a lot.

 

Ibanez Ties It In 9th, Wins It In 12th As Yanks ‘Raul’

GAME 161

YANKEES 4, RED SOX 3 (12 INNINGS)

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman badly wanted to sign Raul Ibanez this winter but the front office told him he had to trim salary before he could. Cashman finally was able to trade A.J. Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates the weekend before spring training opened to clear enough salary and Ibanez was signed.

That signing looks huge now because in the 161st game of the season Ibanez blasted a pinch-hit two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings and then delivered a game-winning RBI single in the 12th as New York reduced its magic number to just one with a thrilling come-from-behind classic defeat over arch-rival Boston on Tuesday.

The 40-year-old outfielder first brought the paid crowd of 41,564 at Yankee Stadium to its feet when he stroked a low line-drive home run off Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey into the fifth row of the right-field bleachers with Curtis Granderson aboard to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 3-3 tie.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, the team then managed to load the bases with one out in the same inning but Mark Teixeira, who spent all night dashing the team’s scoring hopes, and Robinson Cano could not deliver off reliever Mark Melancon.

So the game, played on a very chilly 62-degree and rainy evening, trudged on to the bottom of the 12th.

Things did not look promising when left-hander Andrew Miller retired Teixeira and Cano to begin the inning and Francisco Cervelli, pressed into service because manager Joe Girardi had pinch-run and pinch-hit for Russell Martin and Chris Stewart earlier in the contest, was making his first plate appearance of the season.

He also was down in the count 0-2 on the first two pitches. But Miller threw four straight pitches out of the strike zone to walk him. Granderson then came to the plate and he drew a four-pitch walk to advance Cervelli into scoring position.

Girardi was also forced to keep potential pinch-runner Chris Dickerson in the dugout because Cervelli was the last catcher on the roster.

But Girardi’s concerns became moot when Ibanez laced an 0-1 pitch into the hole between shortstop and third base. Cervelli raced around third and headed for home as Daniel Nava scooped the ball and threw it towards home plate. But Cervelli crossed the plate well before the ball arrived and the Yankees flooded the field to celebrate one of their most hard-fought comebacks of the season with the division title on the line.

The Yankees knew that the Baltimore Orioles had defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 earlier on Tuesday. A Yankee loss would have hurtled them back into a flat-footed tie with the Orioles atop the American League East.

The Yankees can clinch their third division title in the past four seasons on Wednesday with a victory over the Red Sox in the final game of the regular season or if the Orioles lose to the Rays.

Derek Lowe (9-11) came on pitch two scoreless innings in the 11th and 12th to pick up the victory. Miller (3-2) took the loss.

Frustration as a word does not begin to tell the story of the evening for the Yankees.

They collected 11 hits and a walk over the first eight innings of the game but they failed to get any big hits to add to the one run they scored in the second inning off Red Sox starter Jon Lester.

With two out, Granderson reached first on an infield single and advanced to second when third baseman Pedro Ciriaco’s throw to get Granderson bounced into the stands. Eduardo Nunez, who started as the designated hitter instead of struggling Andruw Jones, delivered a hard-hit single off the glove of shortstop Jose Iglesias to score Granderson.

That run halved the deficit to 2-1 because the Red Sox jumped on rookie right-hander David Phelps early.

Jacoby Ellsbury laced a leadoff single and Dustin Pedroia, playing despite a fracture in his left thumb, then stroked an RBI double in the gap in right-center to score Ellsbury.

Pedroia advanced to third on a infield groundout off the bat of Nava and he scored on a sacrifice fly to deep center by Cody Ross.

However, Phelps pitched well the rest of the way. He left with one out in the sixth after giving up just two runs on three hits and two walks while he struck out four.

Lester, in addition to his teammates in the bullpen, kept walking the tightrope between trouble and disaster but he kept escaping thanks to some poor hitting by the Yankees with runners in scoring position:

  • In the first inning, Derek Jeter singled and and reached third one out later on a bloop single by Alex Rodriguez. However, Teixeira – still hobbling on a sore left calf – hit into an inning-ending double play.
  • In the third inning, Nick Swisher slapped a one-out double and  advanced to third on an infield single by Rodriguez. But, Teixiera again hit into an inning-ending double play.
  • In the fifth inning, Cano led off with a single and Nunez stroked a two-out double. Alas, Ichiro Suzuki lined a shot into center but right at Ellsbury to end the inning.
  • In the ninth, Bailey gave up a one-out double to Jeter after Ibanez’s game-tying home run. Swisher was intentionally walked and Rodriguez followed by drawing a walk to load the bases. However, Melancon entered the game and retired Teixeira on a broken-bat pop to shallow center and Cano grounded out weakly to Pedroia at second.
  • In the 11th inning, Swisher slapped an opposite-field single with two out off Vicente Padilla and Rodriguez followed with a blast to the warning track in center that Ellsbury was able to run down before he crashed into the wall.

Lester left after five innings having given up one unearned run on eight hits and one walk while he fanned one.

The Red Sox added to their lead in the top of the ninth when James Loney uppercut a 2-1 offering from Rafael Soriano in to the second deck down the line in right-field. The Red Sox and their beleaguered manager Bobby Valentine were figuring that it was the insurance run that would put the Yankees away with Bailey on the mound.

Ibanez had other ideas.

The Yankees ended up with 16 hits and five walks in the game and they stranded a total of 14 runners. Teixeira left nine runners on base in his six at-bats.

But none of that all matters much now because of Ibanez.

The Yankees, thanks to the Oakland Athletics’ 3-1 defeat of the Texas Rangers late Tuesday, now also hold claim to the best record in the American League at 94-67.  The Red Sox had their season record fall to 69-92.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Ibanez entered the game in the ninth and ended up 2-for-3 with a home run and three very big RBIs. Since Sept. 22, Ibanez is 14-for-34 (.412) with five home runs and nine RBIs in largely a platoon role against right-handers. He is hitting .235 with 18 homers and 59 RBIs on the season. His single in the 12th was his 11th career walk-off hit.
  • The bullpen, with the exception of Soriano’s hiccup to Loney, was actually very good. In  6 2/3 innings, they gave up one run on five hits and two walks and struck out seven batters. Lowe was especially good in his two innings of work. In a game when the relievers needed to hold the Red Sox down long enough to wake up the bats, they did a very good job.
  • Girardi chose to go with Phelps in place of Ivan Nova and Nunez in place of Jones. Both moves paid off for the Yankees. Nunez was 2-for-3 with an RBI until Ibanez pinch-hit for him in the ninth and Phelps pitched into the sixth and kept the Yankees in the game. You have to give the manager credit for those moves.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Fans do have a right to question Girardi’s move to put Swisher second in the order with Rodriguez and Teixeira behind him. That left Cano, the team’s hottest hitter batting fifth. Teixera ended up 0-for-6 and he only got that weak pop to shallow center out of the infield in those at-bats. Teixera’s at-bats killed the Yankees all night long and it was Girardi’s fault. Shifting Suzuki to ninth did not seem to make sense either. Suzuki has owned Lester throughout his career.

ON DECK

The Yankees end their regular season with a chance to clinch the division and home-field advantage in the playoffs with a series sweep of the Red Sox on Wednesday.

Hiroki Kuroda (15-11, 3.34 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda won his last start despite giving up 10 hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday. He is 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA this season against the Red Sox.

The Red Sox will counter with every hitter’s dream in Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-6, 7.68 ERA). Matsuzaka gave up five runs on nine hits and a walk in three innings against the Tampa Bay Rays in his last outing on Sept. 19. This likely will be the last start of his career for the Bosox, who can’t wait to shed his huge contract. He is 3-3 with a 5.52 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

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

 

Down 4 In 13th, Yankees Tie A’s And Win On Miscue

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“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

           - cartoonist Walt Kelly, “The Pogo Papers,” published in 1953

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GAME 151

YANKEES 10, ATHLETICS 9 (14 INNINGS)

If Martin Scorsee  had submitted Saturday’s game to producers in Hollywood as a movie they would have thrown the script back at him and laughed him out of the office. After all, what team gets off the deck after trailing by four runs in the bottom of the 13th inning to tie it and go on and win it in the next frame on a bases-loaded error?

Well, obviously no other team but the New York Yankees, who did just that to the upstart Oakland Athletics.

Ichiro Suzuki scored the game-winning run at 6:51 EDT after five hours and 43 minutes of drama that turned – on all things – a bases-loaded error in the 14th inning by Brandon Moss on a ball off the bat of Eduardo Nunez. What was left of the paid crowd of 44,026 at Yankee Stadium erupted in delirium as much as disbelief as the Yankees managed to pull victory out of the jaws of defeat at the most opportune of times for themselves.

The Baltimore Orioles earlier in the day had defeated the Boston Red Sox 9-6 in 12 innings at Fenway Park and they no doubt saw the Yankees were down 9-5 heading into the bottom of the 13th inning, knowing a Yankee loss would mean a tie atop the American League East.

But the Yankees had an answer for both the O’s and the A’s in the bottom of the 13th.

Suzuki, who could not be any hotter than if he was Satan himself, opened the inning off left-hander Pedro Figueroa with a high-chopping single over Figueroa’s head that second baseman Cliff Pennington fielded but had no play on. Alex Rodriguez followed with a lined single up the middle and Robinson Cano then loaded the bases with an opposite-field single to left.

A’s manager Bob Melvin replaced Figueroa with right-hander Pat Neshek and Neshek promptly uncorked a wild pitch with Nunez at the plate to allow Suzuki to score and Rodriguez and Cano to advance into scoring position. Nunez then scored Rodriguez with a sacrifice fly to center.

Raul Ibanez then strolled to the plate having put the Yankees ahead 5-4 in the bottom of the fifth inning with a pinch-hit home run off reliever Jim Miller. It was his 16th home run of the season but it was his first since an Aug. 5 home game against the Seattle Mariners.

Ibanez again reached into the Yankees’ bag of improbable tricks by turning around a 3-1 Neshek pitch and depositing it into the second deck in right field to tie the score at 9-9. It was at this point that it began to dawn on the fans in the stands and those either watching or listening to the game they were now part of something very special. Perhaps a new Yankee Classic?

Cory Wade (1-1), the Yankees’ ninth pitcher of the afternoon, came in the top of the 14th and he retired the A’s in order to what later would be credited to him as his first victory of the season with the Yankees.

The A’s sent out tall, lanky right-hander Tyson Ross (2-10) to pitch the bottom of the inning.

Eric Chavez opened the inning with a single in the hole between first and second base into right-field. Manager Joe Girardi sent in rookie outfielder Melky Mesa in to pinch-run in what was his major-league debut.

Derek Jeter laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Mesa to second and the A’s finally got smart enough to walk Suzuki intentionally considering he was 5-for-8 in the series so far.

Misfortune had followed the Yankees like a persistent cloud all day. They were just 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position, they had stranded 14 baserunners and left the bases loaded in the first and 12th innings.

Rodriguez did come through with another hard-hit single into center-field on which Mesa should have scored easily. But, alas, Mesa in his haste to tally the winning run slipped rounding third base and he had to go back to third with his embarrassment splashed all over his face.

And it looked like it just going to be one of those days when Cano rolled a tapper back to Ross and Ross threw wide at catcher Derek Norris but Norris kept a toe on the plate to force Mesa for the second out.

That left the bases loaded and two out for Nunez, who only just entered the game in the as a pinch-hitter in the 12th inning but he did deliver that key run-scoring fly ball in the 13th.

On the second pitch, Nunez shot a Neshek slider the opposite way inside the first-base line. Moss moved two steps over to field it, the ball clanked off the bottom of his mitt and rolled past him to allow Nunez to reach first as Suzuki crossed the plate with the winning run.

The A’s did not exactly put on a pitching and fielding clinic all day and it ultimately led to their downfall. They committed three fielding errors, a passed ball, a balk and three wild pitches to help the Yankees’ cause. So if they are looking for someone to blame for the loss they should start by looking in the clubhouse mirror.

For the Yankees, who had entered the series on Friday with only two walk-off victories all season, it was their second in two days against a very overconfident bunch of young Athletics who swept the Yankees in four one-run games in Oakland in July.

The victory was the Yankees’ seventh in a row and their ninth in their past 10 games. They now have a record of 88-63. For the A’s this second devastating one-run loss in extra innings dropped their record to 85-66. They are 4 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West, two games behind the Orioles for the first wild-card spot and three games ahead of the Angels for the second wild-card spot.

For the A’s this loss was by far one big dagger to the heart. For the Yankees it was one big tribute to their own heart in the face of major adversity.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Suzuki has seemingly turned back the clock on his 38-year-old body to his magical 2001 season when he won Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors. In his last five games, Suzuki is 14-for-20 (.700) with two home runs, five RBIs, seven runs scored and four stolen bases. He opened the first inning with his ninth home run of the season off Oakland starter Travis Blackley. He added two singles, two walks and a sacrifice bunt as he debuted in the second spot in the order against a left-handed pitcher.
  • Ibanez’s bat had to be colder than a polar bear’s hindquarters when he entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the fifth. After hitting .196 in August, Ibanez was hitting .042 in September. He had only one hit in his last 28 at-bats. But he delivered a huge solo home run in the fifth that put the Yankees ahead and then an even bigger two-run shot in the 13th that tied the game at 9-9. He now has 17 home runs and 56 RBIs despite hitting .228 on the season.
  • Steve Pearce has never gotten much mention since he was acquired but he is going to get one here. Pearce entered the game in the 10th inning after Chris Dickerson was used to pinch-run for Nick Swisher. Pearce never got a chance to bat in the game because he was pinch-hit for by Nunez in the 12th. But on a day that the A’s were kicking the ball all over the yard he came up with a real gem in the 11th inning. The A’s had the bases loaded and two out with Josh Reddick facing Freddy Garcia. Reddick lined a hot smash that was headed into right-field and would have scored two runs except Pearce dove headlong to his right and caught the ball a foot off the ground. That was the key play in the victory.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Ivan Nova proved his command issues this season are not quite behind him. After an impressive start coming off the disabled list he struggled in in his second outing. He gave up three runs on five hits and two walks and struck out two in just 2 1/3 innings. Fortunately for him, Blackley was just as bad, surrendering four runs (two earned) on four hits and three walks in two innings. Nova likely lost any chance he may have had to make the postseason rotation.
  • Garcia had not pitched since he gave up three runs to the Orioles in 3 1/3 innings in what was his last start before being demoted to the bullpen. Though he pitched three scoreless innings from the 10th through the 12th, he stumbled badly in the 13th. He gave up a two-run home run to Jonny Gomes and a then solo shot to Yoenis Cespedes. Girardi replaced Garcia with rookie left-hander Justin Thomas, who then gave up a solo home run to Chris Carter, which dug the Yankees a huge 9-5 hole from which they escaped – luckily. Garcia may not make the postseason roster and his days with the Yankees are numbered.
  • Cano was 2-for-8 in the game. But it does not really illustrate how bad he has been lately. He had an RBI single in the first inning and reached on an error in the second. But he flied out to end the fourth. He hit into an inning-ending double play in the sixth after Rodriguez was walked intentionally in front of him. He flied out to center to start the ninth. He grounded out to second to end the 11th. After singling and scoring in the 13th, he failed to deliver with bases loaded in the 13th with a tapper back the pitcher. In all, Cano stranded seven runners in the game.

BOMBER BANTER

Mark Teixeira jogged in the outfield, took some ground balls and some swings in the batting cage at Yankee Stadium before Saturday’s game and experienced no issues with strained left calf. Teixeira will travel to Tampa, FL, on Monday to accelerate his workouts in hopes of returning before the regular season ends. Teixeira was originally injured on Aug. 27 and missed 10 games. He came back and reinjured it in his first game back. He since has missed the last 12 games.    . . .  The Yankees’ bullpen was down two pitchers because of the recent use of closer Rafael Soriano and David Robertson. Soriano reported a dead arm in the wake of Friday’s blown save against the A’s. Robertson had pitched in each of the previous three games.

ON DECK

The Yankees stand just one game away of the final step in what can be called the “Pay Back To The Punks” weekend series against the A’s.

Veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (14-10, 3.26 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda struck out the first six batters he faced and finished with 10 as he defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in his last start. Kuroda is 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA in his career against Oakland.

The A’s will start rookie right-hander A.J. Griffin (6-1, 2.45 ERA). Griffin allowed five runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers to take his first loss of the season. He was tagged for three home runs. He is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his one start against the Yankees.

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

 

Yankees Get Off Canvas In Seventh To KO Orioles

GAME 132

YANKEES 4, ORIOLES 3

The Yankees played a game on Saturday that was very similar to the climatic fight scene with Rocky Balboa in the original “Rocky.” For the first six rounds, I mean innings, they were knocked down, hurt badly and they seemingly were clinging to the ropes in desperation.

But they came off the ropes swinging. It may have not looked pretty but New York sent nine men to the plate and scored three runs in the seventh inning to rally from a 3-1 deficit to down Baltimore and push their lead in the American League East back to three games.

For the first six innings Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (12-8) had the Yankees befuddled.

He retired the first 11 batters he faced in order until Robinson Cano hit an 0-2 pitch that was out of the strike zone over the wall to the opposite field in left for his 28th home run of the season. Of course, at that time Chen and the Orioles still held a 3-1 lead.

When the sixth inning began, Chen had given up only two hits and a walk while striking out four batters.

Steve Pearce, who was only in the game because Curtis Granderson had to leave in the third inning with a tight right hamstring, started off the rally innocently enough with a one-out single, his first hit for the Yankees.

With two out Jayson Nix worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch and Eduardo Nunez, who was just brought up on Saturday as the rosters expanded, stroked a broken-bat bloop single into left-center to score Pearce and end Chen’s afternoon.

Manager Buck Showalter summoned hard-throwing right-hander Pedro Strop to pitch to Ichiro Suzuki.

But Strop had issues with his command and he walked Suzuki to load the bases. Derek Jeter then ended up down in the count 0-2 before working it back to 3-2. And Strop promptly walked Jeter on an inside slider just out of the strike zone. Score tied.

Nick Swisher then continued the most improbable of two-out rallies by stroking a routine hard-hit grounder to the shortstop who is currently leading the majors in fielding percentage in J.J. Hardy and Hardy inexplicably booted it to allow Nix to score with what turned out to be the winning run.

Most of the 46,122 fans at Yankee Stadium who paid to see this heavyweight matchup stood up and cheered in delight.

It was these same fans who watched in horror as rookie right-hander David Phelps uncharacteristically walked six and hit a batter in his 4 2/3 innings of work.

Phelps walked Nick Markakis to start the game and after a Hardy single advanced him to third Markakis scored on a double-play groundout off the bat of Nate McLouth.

An inning later, Phelps hit Chris Davis with a 3-2 pitch and walked Mark Reynolds to begin the frame. Omar Quintanilla advanced them both on a sacrifice bunt and rookie Manny Machado scored Davis with a single up the middle.

Matt Wieters added the Orioles’ third run by leading off the fourth inning with a home run into the second deck in right-field.

Phelps, though he was wild, did keep the Yankees in the game because he gave up only three hits. The bullpen bailed the rookie out by shutting down the Orioles the rest of the way.

Boone Logan (6-2) pitched two scoreless innings to earn the victory in relief.

David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth inning and Rafael Soriano struck out two of the three batters he retired in the ninth to pick up his 35th in 38 chances this season.

The Yankees improved their season record to 76-56 while the Orioles fell to 73-59. But the damage from the game is that the Orioles blew a golden opportunity to come within a single game of the Yankees. Now they can leave the Bronx no closer than two games behind.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Jeter’s at-bat against Strop was a classic illustration of what makes “The Captain” so special. Jeter was called out on strikes on a low pitch in sixth inning and he had words about it with home-plate umpire Mike Estabrook. But Jeter fought from 0-2 down in the count to 3-2 and earned the walk from Strop by taking two very close pitches. That was very courageous and it paid off big-time for the Yankees.
  • Most Yankee fans will say Phelps stunk and disappointed them. But I would say Phelps showed more strength as a pitcher than I have ever seen in a rookie. He basically had no command and gave up three runs in 4 2/3 innings. He never gave the Orioles a chance to break the game open and he battled with what little he had. That showed me a lot. Phelps is a keeper.
  • The most overlooked player in the Yankees’ seventh inning had to be Nix. Nix drew two walks on the day and the second was a big one because it allowed Nunez the chance to drive in Pearce. Nix is hitting .254 but this is a very good role player who gives the Yankees good effort at the plate and he is very steady in the field. Nix does not get enough credit for what he does for the team.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • This team obviously is missing two big weapons in Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. That makes it hard on the rest of the team to step up. But they need to stop making pitchers like Miguel Gonzalez and Chen look like they are Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. The Yankees won on Saturday with just four hits and they used three walks and an error to their benefit. But the offense has to wake up soon.
  • Andruw Jones is very close to earning himself a designated for assignment. With Nunez around to bat from the right side, Jones may be out of a job if he keeps putting up 0-fers as he did again on Saturday. He was 0-for-4 and did not get a ball out the infield against a rookie left-hander. He is now hitting .203.
  • Russell Martin remains a major liability at the plate. He also was 0-for-4 and his batting average is now .196. With Francisco Cervelli back on the roster it might be time to let him have a shot to see what he can do with the bat. It certainly can’t be worse than what Martin has done.

BOMBER BANTER

Granderson had a precautionary MRI at New York-Presbyterian Hospital after the game and it appears his injury is not considered serious. Granderson grimaced as he struck out looking in the second inning and did not come out for the third. Manager Joe Girardi said that Granderson could be in the starting lineup on Sunday.  . . .  Girardi also told reporters that Rodriguez could rejoin the team in St.Petersburg, FL, on Monday when the Yankees face the  Tampa Bay Rays. Rodriguez is rehabbing his fractured left hand at Class-A Tampa and the stint could end on Sunday.  . . .  Along with Nunez and Cervelli, the Yankees also brought up outfielder Chris Dickerson, left-handed pitcher Justin Thomas and right-handers Cory Wade and Adam Warren. Infielder Casey McGehee will also be added to the roster when Class-A Charleston’s season ends.

ON DECK

The Yankees have a chance to win the rubber game of the series on Sunday against the Orioles.

Phil Hughes (13-11, 4.02 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Hughes is 2-1 and has given up three earned runs over his last 21 innings. He is 5-3 with 5.00 ERA in his career against the Orioles.

Right-hander Chris Tillman (7-2, 3.26 ERA) will start for the O’s. Tillman allowed one hit and struck out five in seven shutout innings to beat the White Sox in his last start. He is 2-3 with a 8.42 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

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

 

Yankees Field Power-laden, Productive Outfield

The New York Yankees have reached the halfway mark of the season and they are comfortably in first place in the American League East. This is despite some injuries to some keep players such as Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Michael Pineda, Brett Gardner and Joba Chamberlain. As we do every year, let’s look at the individual components of the team and issue grades for the first half.  

RIGHT-FIELD – NICK SWISHER (12 HR, 46 RBIs, .258 BA)

CENTER-FIELD – CURTIS GRANDERSON (23 HR, 48 RBI, .241 BA)

LEFT-FIELD – RAUL IBANEZ (11 HR, 35 RBIs, .237), ANDRUW JONES (7 HR, 16 RBIs, .230)

The team Joe Girardi is managing now is much different from the team he left spring training with in April. The loss of left-fielder Brett Gardner took with it the element of speed of out the lineup and reinforced it with more devastating power.

As a result, these players are pretty much cut from the same cloth. They hit a lot of home runs (53 combined), drive in a lot of runs (145 combined) and they hit for a relatively low batting average (.249 combined). They also won’t blaze many trails on the basepaths. They have 10 steals in 14 attempts and Gardner usually matches that total in about a month.

Gardner, 28, injured his right elbow making a diving catch and has played in only nine games this season. He has just about completed two rehab assignments before experiencing recurring pain in his elbow.

But after seeing three different physicians, Gardner is hopeful of returning for good (please rub your rabbit’s foot now) by the end of July. The Yankees have missed not only his speed on the bases but his Gold-Glove quality defense in left-field.

Girardi has had little choice but to use Ibanez, 40, and Jones, 35, a lot more in the field than he expected. While Ibanez and Jones have not embarrassed themselves out in the field (they each have not committed an error), they do not cover much ground either.

Jones is a long way removed from his days of 10 Gold Gloves when he was in his prime with the Atlanta Braves and Ibanez never was considered a great fielder, even in his heyday.

But you have to give the pair credit for providing power and production to the lower part of the lineup and that is what both of them were signed this winter to do.

Speaking of signing, Swisher, 31, is in the final year of his contract and he clearly wants to remain with the Yankees. There is no doubt his bleacher buddies in right want him back also.

But Swisher’s contract drive is not really predicated on performance, though that is one small factor. The Yankees are looking to trim payroll before the start of the 2014 season and handing out long-term deals (except to Robinson Cano) does not look like it will be in the Yankees’ plans.

Nonetheless, Swisher does provide power and he is a switch-hitter with a good eye at the plate. This season, however, Swisher has changed his style a bit. He is walking less (He is on pace to draw a career-low 52 walks this season) and he is striking out at a high rate (He has fanned 66 times in the first half which translates to 132 for the season).

Perhaps he is walking less in order to try to produce more and get the contract he wants to stay with the Yankees.

But give Swisher credit for being one of the more consistent players the Yankees have. He has not produced less that 23 home runs and 82 RBIs in his three previous seasons with the Yankees. This season he is on apace to hit 24 home runs and drive in 92 runs.

In fact, for most of the first half of the season, Swisher led the Yankees in RBIs. That was largely because the heart of the batting order – Alex Rodriguez, Cano and Mark Teixeira were failing so miserably with runners in scoring position. Swisher is hitting a respectable .263 with RISP and .400 with the bases loaded.

As a fielder, Swisher will never won a Gold Glove but he gives maximum effort on every play. He has made two errors but he is not considered awful either. He has an above average arm in right but he only has three outfield assists this season, which is down from his career-high of 10 in 2010.

Granderson, 31, was the team MVp in 2011, hitting 41 home runs, driving in 119 runs and scoring a major-league-best 136 runs. Many people figured that Granderson could never duplicate those numbers.

But Granderson is on a pace to hit 46 home runs and drive in 92 runs and score 112. That is not a bad follow-up to his remarkable 2011 season.

There  are some oddities in Granderson’s numbers, however.

For instance he has only two triples and Granderson led the American League in triples in 2007 with 23 when he was with the Detroit Tigers. Granderson also has stolen only six bases in nine attempts. He stole 25 in 35 attempts last season.

You would have thought with Gardner out, Granderson would be more aggressive on the bases. But it has been the opposite.

Granderson has made great strides as an outfielder with the Yankees. The Tigers criticized his jumps on balls and the routes he would take to them. But with the Yankees, Granderson is playing more shallow to take advantage of his ability go back on balls. It seems to be working well also.

Granderson has not committed an error and he has two outfield assists. Granderson’s arm is not a strength. It is just average and his throws can be erratic at times.

As major-league outfields go, it is hard to find any that is close to producing the 53 the Yankees have at the halfway point. But when Gardner returns this outfield will change into a more balanced group with a combination of speed and power. As a whole it will be excellent group defensively with Gardner leading the way.

MIDSEASON GRADES

SWISHER: B-

GRANDERSON A-

IBANEZ/JONES: B-

BACKUPS - DEWAYNE WISE (3 HR, 6 RBIs, .271 BA), JAYSON NIX (2 HR, 6 RBIs, .228 BA)

Wise, 34, is forever linked to his amazing ninth inning catch that preserved Mark Buerhle’s perfect game for the Chicago White Sox against the Tampa Bay Rays. But he can hit a little also.

Wise hit .359 this spring to make the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster and he hit .333 for the first 20 games he played there until he was recalled to replace Gardner on the roster.

Wise provides versatility in that he can play all three outfield spots. He also has excellent defensive skills and a very good arm.

At the plate, Wise is a career .222 hitter. But when he gets hot he can really go on tears, as he did most recently when he was given four starts in a week.

Girardi’s major failing was not starting Wise some in center to rest Granderson. Granderson’s batting average suffered from the fact he played in all but one game this season and he was in the field for nearly every inning in the ones he did play.

When Gardner returns look for him to be used some in center to spell Granderson.

Nix can only play the corner spots and is passable out in left. He has good instincts and he won’t make major mistakes. But if you are looking for spectacular diving catches and highlight-reel leaps at the wall to bring back potrential home runs, you are looking at the wrong guy in Nix.

He gets to what he can and he catches them. That is pretty much what Nix does as an outfielder. Nothing special.

MIDSEASON GRADE:

WISE: C+

NIX: C

The Yankees have a pair of promising 20-year-old outfielders in Mason Williams and Tyler Austin.

Williams hit .304 with eight home runs and 28 RBIs at Class-A Charleston before being promoted to High Class-A Tampa. Williams can also run and plays good defense so if you want a comparison think of a smaller-framed version of Bernie Williams.

Austin hit .320 with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs and 17 steals in 70 games for Class-A Charleston. He was slated to play in the Futures Game but he was hit in the head with a pitch in his first game at High Class-A Tampa and is was placed on the disabled list. Austin is primarily an outfielder by he is being tried at the corner infield spots.

The Yankees have no real prospects at Triple-A Scranton. There are just former major leaguers like Jack Cust, 33, who is hitting .260 with 19 home runs and 57 RBIs in 83 games.

There also is Chris Dickerson, Cole Garner and Colin Curtis. Each of the three are 27 or or older and they have long passed the prospect status. Their chances for making the Yankees 25-man roster are virtually nil.

Second-tier outfield prospects Zoilo Almonte and Melky Mesa are Double-A Trenton. Mesa, 25, is hitting .276 with 11 homers and 40 RBIs in 58 games while Almonte, 23, is hitting .286 with nine home runs and 39 RBIs in 58 games.

OVERALL POSITION GRADE: B-

In Granderson, the Yankees have an All-Star center-fielder with power, some speed and someone who is solid defensively. Granderson is showing his 2011 season was not a fluke and, despite what he says about not being a power hitter, he is on pace to hit 46 home runs.

Swisher is the Swiss Army knife of the outfielders. You can put him in any spot in the batting order and he will produce home runs and RBIs. Though he is drawing fewer walks, he still is valuable in the No. 6 spot in the order because he is one of the few Yankees who is producing with runners on base this season. Though it looks like he will not signed to a new contract, Swisher is motivated to produce good numbers so he can maximize his value on the free-agent market.

Very soon (we promise) Gardner will return to his left-field spot and the Yankees will have a base-runner who can actually steal bases at the bottom of the order. Gardner was hitting .321 at the time of his injury. But the Yankees will take anything they can get from him in the second half because they really missed a guy who stole 49 bases in 2011.

In the meantime, Ibanez and Jones are available to play the outfield. The veterans are not even close to as good as Gardner on defense but they provide a lot of power and production to the Yankees at the lower portion of the batting order. When Gardner returns, Ibanez and Jones will resume their designated hitter roles. Of course, with Derek Jeter and Rodriguez requiring half-days off at DH, both Ibanez and Jones will have to settle for a more limited role at DH.

As a group this outfield is pretty good. They won’t hit for average but they can hit for power and drive in runs. This is very much a strength for the Yankees. They have a lot of depth and they have an experienced group of very professional hitters.

 

 

Mets’ Davis Hits Walk-Off Blast To Nip Baby Yanks

GAME 32

METS 7, YANKEES 6

They may be two teams that play in the same city and they may be headed in completely opposite directions in 2012 but on Tuesday they renewed a spring ritual they had ignored for 16 years.

Mets staring first baseman Ike Davis homered with one out in the ninth inning off a 21-year-old right-hander who pitched in the Sally League last season in Mark Montgomery as the Mets broke a 6-6 tie and won a Grapefruit League game in walk-off fashion against a lot of minor-league Yankees at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie, FL.

Justin Hampson (1-0) pitched two-thirds of a scoreless inning in the top of the ninth to get credit for the victory.

The Yankees trailed 5-0 after three innings as the Mets folded, spindled and mutilated Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova.

But the Yankees rallied with a solo home run from Nick Swisher in the fouth inning and a five-run sixth inning in which they sent 10 batters to the plate and mustered seven hits against Mets left-hander Jonathan Niese to take a 6-5 lead.

Doug Bernier’s single to left to score J.R. Murphy tied the game and Chris Dickerson followed with a RBI single of his own to score Abraham Almonte with the lead run.

The Mets then tied it back up in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single by Justin Turner.

The Yankees’ spring ledger dropped to 17-12 while the Mets completed their spring with a 9-19 record.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Swisher was 2-for-3 with a home run and a double. Despite being nagged for two weeks with a sore left groin, Swisher has recovered physically and is hitting a red-hot .345 this spring. Swisher hopes to avoid the horrendous two-month slump with which he began the 2011 season.
  • David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell both came on in relief in the game auditioning for a potential long-relief role in the bullpen. Phelps pitched a scoreless 1 1/3 innings, giving up a hit, no walks and striking out two batters. Mitchell pitched innings, giving up one on two hits and one walk and he fanned one. Adam Warren also is in the running despite giving up six runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings to the Astros on Saturday.
  • Bernier was 2-for-3 in the game with an RBI and is hitting .361 this spring. With Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena ahead of him on the depth chart he will not make the Yankees. However, the 30-year-old veteran may stay in the Yankees organization and become a coach or minor-league instructor. Someday Bernier might make a very good manager.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • It is hard to sugarcoat it and I won’t. Ivan Nova flat-out stunk up the city of Port St. Lucie. He was tagged for five runs on eight hits, two walks and two hit batters in only 2 2/3 innings of what you really could not call work. Nova’s command of his fastball was nonexistent and he was leaving his breaking pitches up in the zone to get whacked all over the park. He gave up three runs on five hits in the first inning and it did not get much better after that. Nova ends spring training with a 8.06 ERA. If he pitches like this in the regular season then we can’t see Andy Pettitte come back soon enough.
  • The Yankees only brought two starters, Swisher and Brett Gardner, to this game so it is hard to criticize much. But Gardner did not exactly set the world ablaze this spring. He was 0-for-3 on Tuesday and that lowered his spring average to .204. Gardner also showed an inability to get some bunts down this spring. How long will it take him to learn this skill to take advantage of his speed?

BOMBER BANTER

Manager Joe Girardi seeemingly can’t make up his mind about Pettitte pitching in a Grapefruit League game. Girardi first said no. Then he dangled a possibility that Pettitte would pitch an inning on Tuesday. Now Girardi thinks Pettitte might pitch an inning in the Yankees’ spring finale on Wednesday. Girardi said he wants to talk to Pettitte to see how he feels before he decides to use him.  . . .  Alright, Yankee fans make your plans to watch the Bombers win their 28th world title in 2012. Kentucky won the NCAA basketball championship on Monday. In the Wildcats’ previous six championship seasons (1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996 and 1998) the Yankees have won the World Series.  So shall we start printing those World Series tickets now?  . . .  After Wednesday’s finale the Yankees have a 5 p.m. deadline to cut the roster to 25 players. It appears Mitchell, Phelps or Warren will earn a spot in the bullpen (However, Warren is longshot because he is not on the 40-man roster). Clay Rapada seems to have a spot in the bullpen won with his excellent spring. The only other business is to determine what the team will do with Bill Hall, Jayson Nix and Dewayne Wise. Plus, the Yankees have to determine what to do with Justin Maxwell, who is out of options and can only go back to the minors if he clears waivers. But after the hot spring Maxwell had that is very unlikely.

ON DECK

The Yankees will finish what has been an eventful and successful spring camp on Wednesday against the Mets at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Freddy Garcia, who is sporting a 2.92 ERA in his four spring starts, is expected to pitch for the Yankees. The Mets will counter with right-hander Dillon Gee.

Game-time will be 12:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

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

GAME 28

YANKEES 13, PHILLIES 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

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

NAGGING NEGATIVES

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

BOMBER BANTER

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

ON DECK

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

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

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

 

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