Results tagged ‘ Curtsi Granderson ’

Icons Jeter, Soriano Spark Yanks’ Walk-Off Victory

GAME 105

YANKEES 6, RAYS 5

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

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

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

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

It set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

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

NAGGING NEGATIVES

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

BOMBER BANTER

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

ON DECK

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

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

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

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

 

Pettitte Turns In Vintage Outing To Unravel Bosox

GAME 3

YANKEES 4, RED SOX 2

Most major-league teams conduct “Turn-Back-The Clock” nights to feature vintage era teams. The New York Yankees held their own version of “Turn-Back-The-Clock” night on Thursday and they did it only with a 40-year-old starter and a 43-year-old reliever.

Andy Pettitte threw eight dominant innings of one-run ball and Mariano Rivera began his final season in Major League Baseball with his first save as New York recovered from an 0-2 start to the season to beat Boston in front of a paid crowd of 40,611 on another chilly night at Yankee Stadium.

Pettitte looked to be in vintage 1996 form, when he won 21 games for the Yankees. Using his patented style of peering over the edge of his glove, Pettitte (1-0) scattered eight hits, walked one and struck three while holding the hated Bosox scoreless through six innings.

Their lone score off Pettitte came with two out in the seventh inning when Will Middlebrooks punched an opposite-field single and Jackie Bradley Jr. plated him with a double high off the wall in right-center.

Much earlier in the game, the Yankees finally took their first lead of the season in the second inning when Travis Hafner led off the frame with a single off veteran right-hander Ryan Dempster (0-1). Two outs later, Eduardo Nunez blasted a ground-rule double in right-center and Lyle Overbay scored Hafner and Nunez with an opposite-field single to left-center.

Though the Yankees are missing a lot of power with Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez injured, the Yankees broke out the long-ball on Thursday from two of their least likely “Bronx Bombers.”

Brett Gardner led off the third inning with a first-pitch golf shot off Dempster that just scraped over the wall into the first row of the right-field bleachers for his first home run of the season and only the 16th of his career.

With the Yankees leading 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Francisco Cervelli touched off a mammoth shot to left-center on a 3-1 offering from reliever Clayton Mortensen for Cervelli’s first home run of the season and only the fifth of his career. The ball actually struck high off the wall in the Red Sox bullpen and nearly landed in the bleachers.

Pettitte left after eight innings and handed the ball to a familiar teammate, Rivera.

The future Hall-of-Fame closer did give up a leadoff walk to Dustin Pedroia and a one-out double down the left-field line by Jonny Gomes. Pedroia scored on a groundout by Middlebrooks but Rivera struck out Bradley looking to record the 609th save of his 19-season career.

It also was the 69th time that Rivera had saved a victory for Pettitte, which is tops in the majors since the statistic was first recorded in 1969.

Though the Red Sox won the series, the Yankees at least got a measure of payback to improve their record to 1-2.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • For those who thought Pettitte might be through at age 40, you are dead wrong. Though Pettitte did allow nine base-runners, he kept the ball in the ballpark and used three double plays to prevent the Red Sox from manufacturing any offense. Pettitte threw 64 of his 94 pitches for strikes (68 percent) and he never was seriously in much danger of losing his 3-0 lead.
  • Overbay, 35, came through with a huge two-out hit in the second inning and general manager Brian Cashman’s decision to sign him after the Bosox released him in the final week of spring training may prove to be a good move while the Yankees await Teixeira’s return from a torn tendon his right wrist.
  • Gardner and Cervelli showed that the Yankees do not always have to rely on “little ball” to win games. But don’t expect this pair to be piling up a lot of dingers this season. The Yankees won this game with good pitching, good defense and some opportunistic hitting.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • If the Yankees are going to have to rely on more of a running game this season it would nice if their top base-stealers would not get thrown out on the basepaths. Gardner was thrown out at second base in the first and Nunez was nabbed the same way in the sixth. Both of them were nailed by backup Red Sox catcher David Ross.
  • After his 3-for-4 night on Wednesday, the Red Sox made sure Vernon Wells did not get a fastball to hit on Thursday. Wells did not adjust and was 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
  • In this series the Red Sox trotted out a new shift on Robinson Cano in which they shifted third baseman Middlebrooks into short right-field. It evidently bothered Cano because he hit two balls right to Middlebrooks and was 0-for-3 with a walk and is hitting .091 after three games.

BOMBER BANTER

Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda told reporters on Thursday that he still is feeling discomfort in his bruised right middle finger but that he still hopes to be able to be ready for his next start in Cleveland on Monday. Kuroda was struck on the finger as he reached up to stop a hard line drive off the bat of Shane Victorino in the second inning and he later was forced to leave the game. Kuroda is scheduled to throw a bullpen session in Detroit on Friday and he will know then if he will be able to pitch.  . . .  Manager Joe Girardi changed the lineup to have Cano batting second and Kevin Youkilis batting third. Girardi said he decided to make the change to break up three left-handed hitters at the top of the lineup against Dempster.  . . .  The Yankees decided to give right-hander David Aardsma his unconditional release on Thursday. Aardsma, 31, had a 3.52 ERA this spring, but he was designated for assignment because the team preferred right-hander Shawn Kelley, who could offer multiple innings out the bullpen.

ON DECK

The Yankees travel to Detroit on Friday for the Tigers’ 2013 home opener.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (1-0, 4,19 ERA this spring) will start for the Yankees seeking redemption from a 2012 season in which he was 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA. In his short career, Nova is 0-1 with a 9.24 ERA against the Tigers.

He will  be opposed by right-hander Doug Fister (2-3, 5.68 ERA this spring), who pitched 6 1/3 innings of shutout baseball in Game 1 of the 2012 American League Championship Series against the Yankees. He is 1-2 with a 5.18 ERA versus the Yankees in the regular season.

Game-time will be 1:08 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Phelps Will Open Spring For Yankees On Saturday

With the first pitch of the Grapefruit League season on Saturday the Yankees are preparing for the game and the rest of the spring schedule. Here is some news, views and notes from Florida regarding the Yankees:

FOR STARTERS

Manager Joe Girardi has chosen right-hander David Phelps to open the spring schedule on Saturday against the Atlanta Braves at Champions Field in Lake Buena Vista, FL.

Phelps, 26, is coming off a rookie season in which he was 4-4 with a 3.34 ERA in 33 games, 11 of those were starts. Phelps is competing this spring with Ivan Nova for the team’s No. 5 starter spot.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has scheduled left-hander Paul Maholm to pitch against Phelps. The game will begin at 1:05 p.m. EST and there are still tickets available through Ticketmaster.

The Yankees will open their home spring schedule at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday against an American League East rival in the Toronto Blue Jays. This will be a split squad for the Blue Jays.

Girardi has named rookie right-hander Adam Warren to start for the Yankees. Warren, 26, was 7-8 with a 3.71 ERA in 26 starts last season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has selected veteran left-hander J.A. Happ to pitch for the visitors.

The YES Network will broadcast the spring home opener against the Blue Jays beginning at 1:05 p.m. EST.

LACK OF STARS

If you are planning to attend spring training to see the Yankees at Steinbrenner Field and throughout their road schedule, be advised that this spring you will not see whole lot of Yankee stars.

Alex Rodriguez is recovering from hip surgery and is not even in Florida. He is rehabilitating in New York and and is not expected to attend any games.

Derek Jeter is just in the early stages of his recovery from surgery from a fractured left ankle he suffered in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers. Although Jeter has made assurances he will be ready for Opening Day it is unlikely he will play much in the early stages of the spring schedule.

Mark Teixeira will be playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic and will not return until the team is eliminated. In addition, Robinson Cano is playing for his home Dominican Republic team in the classic and he will not be around much.

Just feel lucky that catcher Francisco Cervelli reneged on his plan to play for Team Italy and Andy Pettitte also declined an invitation from Team USA.

In addition to the World Baseball Classic, fans will also have to navigate around a series of split-squad games. The Yankees will split their squads twice this spring.

On Feb. 28, the Yankees will play at home against the Houston Astros while playing a road game against Blue Jays. On March 16, the Yankees will host the Philadelphia Phillies will a road squad will face the Braves.

In addition, opposing teams will send a total of three split squads to Tampa, FL, to face the Yankees: The Blue Jays on Saturday, the Orioles on Feb. 27 and the Tigers on March 2. So do not expect to see many stars from the opposing teams on those dates either.

So just get used to watching a lot of Ronnier Musteller, Zoilo Almonte and Addison Maruszak this spring and feel lucky if you can get a autograph from Preston Claiborne.

Can you tell I am not much of a fan of the World Baseball Classic? Thanks, Bud Selig!

BROADCAST INFO

Thanks to the MLB Network and ESPN the Yankees will have a total of 22 games in Florida broadcast on national television this spring and a 23rd game against the Washington Nationals from Washington, DC, will be broadcast on March 29 by the MLB Network.

To open the spring schedule, the MLB Network will pick up the YES Network broadcast of the Yankees against the Blue Jays on Sunday. That will be among the nine games that will be broadcast live while the others will be shown on tape delay by the MLB Network.

The Yankees’ home contest against the Boston Red Sox will be broadcast live on March 20 by ESPN.

So if you can’t come to Florida or you can’t get a ticket for a spring game, the game will come to you on television.

HUGHES TO IT

The first injury of spring belongs to right-handed starter Phil Hughes, Hughes, 27, reported pain in his upper back just below his shoulder blade on Monday after he participated in a drill covering first base. The injury is not considered as serious but he will be sidelined for several days.

Hughes was 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA last season and he can become a free agent after the 2013 season.

Hughes saw a doctor on Tuesday and he is hoping to be able to resume workouts within a few days.

NOTES

  • Musteller got the attention of Phelps by rocketing a line drive right at him on Tuesday. Phelps was able to get out of the way but was shaken a bit. Musteller, 28, hit a combined .314 with 15 homers and 69 RBIs in 114 games between Double-A Trenton and Scranton last season. Musteller is listed as a non-roster outfielder but has experience as an infielder as well. “He’s a good hitter,” Phelps said. “He can swing it.”
  • Girardi is still mulling over whether to move Curtis Granderson to left in order to play Brett Gardner in center this season. Girardi said he has not made up his mind but he said if he does make the move it likely would come early in spring in order to allow Granderson to get used to playing in left. “I think Curtis has done a good job for us,” Girardi said. “The question for us to sit here and stew over is, ‘If you flip-flop them, does it make you better defensively?’ That’s what we have to figure out.”
  • Highly touted right-handed reliever Mark Montgomery resumed throwing on Tuesday. He had been sidelined for a short time due to back spasms. Montgomery, 23, is considered the team’s best reliever prospect after going a combined 7-2 with a 1.54 ERA and 15 saves Advanced-A Tampa and Trenton.

Darvish Fans 10 As Yankees Lay Huge Goose Egg

GAME 17

RANGERS 2, YANKEES 0

Yu Darvish pitched 8 1/3 shutout innings and struck out 10 batters as he and his Texas teammates outdueled Hiroki Kiroda and New York on Tuesday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX.

Ian Kinsler hit a solo home run to leadoff the bottom of the first inning and Josh Hamilton added an RBI single after Elvis Andrus drew a two-out walk and stole second in the third inning to give Darvish the only runs he needed.

Darvish (3-0) scattered seven hits and walked two before giving way to Joe Nathan, who induced a double-play grounder on his first delivery to pick up his fifth save.

Kuroda (1-3) gave up only five hits and two walks and fanned five in 6 2/3 innings to take a tough-luck loss.

With the loss the Yankees fell to 10-7. The Rangers improved to 14-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • In the “He Can Do It All By Himself” Department, Derek Jeter had a bunt single that loaded the bases in the third and a two-out double in the fifth. That raised Jeter’s season average to .416. On Monday, he became the first Yankee to ever have as many as 30 hits in the team’s first 16 games. He is not only having the best start of his career, he is having the best start of any Yankee, period.
  • Robinson Cano also contributed a leadoff double in the fourth and a one-out single in the sixth. But it did little good because nobody was capable of stepping up and getting a hit to advance or score him. In his last 10 games, Cano is 12-for-40 (.300) with a home run and three RBIs. It has raised his batting average from . 229 to .268.
  • Kuroda deserved a better fate. After pitching horribly against the Twins last week, Kuroda was able to keep the Rangers off balance with his breaking stuff and he only spotted his fastball on the corners or up in the strike zone. He just ended up being outpitched by a his fellow countryman from Ozaka.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • If you want to beat the Yankees, just throw incredibly slow stuff that breaks out of the strike zone. Nine of Darvish’s 10 strikeouts were swinging strikes and eight of the nine came on pitches that were nowhere near the strike zone.  It kind of reminded me of the old Bugs Bunny cartoon where the oversized brutes tie themselves in knots while the baseball floats harmlessly into the catcher’s glove.
  • Curtis Granderson gets the “If You Are Just Going To Watch, Buy A Ticket” Award for watching Darvish paint strike three on him on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and NO OUTS in the third inning. It was just inexcusable for him not to protect the plate in that situation.
  • Alex Rodriguez was not much better. He followed Granderson with a weak grounder right on the third base bag that Adrian Beltre turned into an inning-ending double play by stepping on third and firing to get Rodriguez at first. Rodriguez was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and three infield grounders. The Yankees were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position so they deserved to lose.

BOMBER BANTER

The exact condition of Michael Pineda’s right shoulder is in doubt still after an MRI dye contrast test was conducted by the Yankees team physician, Dr. Christopher Ahmad, on Tuesday. Apparently, Pineda’s agent has requested a second opinion from the New York Mets team physician. Reading between the lines, this can’t be good news for the Yankees or Pineda. The 23-year-old right-hander has been on the 15-day disabled list since March 31 with what was termed rotator cuff tendinitis. Pineda cut short a bullpen session in Tampa, FL., on Saturday after 15 pitches, citing discomfort in his shoulder.  It is unclear how long Pineda will be sidelined.  . . .  Andy Pettitte will make his third minor-league start on Wednesday for Double-A Trenton in a home game against Erie at 7:05 p.m. EDT. Pettitte, 39, is scheduled to throw 80 to 85 pitches in his effort to return to the Yankees and the major leagues after a one-year absence.  . . .  Manager Joe Girardi announced on Tuesday that Freddy Garcia will pitch on Saturday at home against the Detroit Tigers. That means CC Sabathia will get an extra day’s rest and pitch on Sunday.

ON DECK

The Yankees will try to win the rubber game of their three-game road series against the Rangers on Wednesday.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (1-2, 6.75 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Last Thursday, Hughes was tagged for six runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings against the Twins in his last start. However, Hughes is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA against Texas in his career.

The Rangers will counter with spot starter Scott Feldman (0-0, 0.00 ERA), who is coming out of the bullpen to make a start. He is 29-28 with a 4.68 ERA in 80 career starts. But he is just 3-2 with a 4.76 ERA against the Yankees in four starts and two relief outings.

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

 

Kuroda ‘Hiroki-Dokey’ As Yankees Blank Halos

GAME 7

YANKEES 5, ANGELS 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

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

NAGGING NEGATIVES

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

BOMBER BANTER

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

ON DECK

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

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

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

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

 

Ibanez Scores Knockout Blow To Orioles In 12th

GAME 5

YANKEES 5, ORIOLES 4 (12 INNINGS)

One month ago, Raul Ibanez was hitting .051 in spring training but his manager, his teammates and he never doubted that he could still contribute for the Yankees. With two out in the 12th inning on Tuesday, Ibanez stroked an RBI double that provided a hard-earned victory for his new team.

On a night when the Yankees were 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position as he stepped to the plate, the 39-year-old designated hitter drove in Robinson Cano with what proved to be the game-winning run as New York defeated Baltimore at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Former Orioles left-hander Clay Rapada (1-0) pitched a perfect two-thirds of an inning of relief in the top of the 12th to get credit for the victory. Orioles right-hander Pedro Strop (0-1) took the loss. Mariano Rivera came on to pitch a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning to earn his first save of the season and the 604th of his career.

The game was knotted at 4-4 since the top of the sixth inning when the Yankees rallied for three runs off Orioles left-handed starter Wei-Yin Chen, a native of Taiwan who was making his major-league debut. Aided by a two-out error by Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds on a hard-hit grounder by Russell Martin, Brett Gardner followed with an RBI single to right to score the tying run.

A combination of hitting futility (the Orioles were 0-for-8 with RISP) and some excellent pitching, particularly by Yankees rookie right-hander David Phelps, kept the game going until the decisive 12th inning.

Cano led off the frame with a hard-hit smash off the glove of Reynolds that rolled into shallow left for a double. Alex Rodriguez advanced Cano to third by directing a slow grounder to second baseman Robert Andino. Mark Teixeira followed with a Baltimore chop grounder to Andino in which Cano would have been thrown out. However, Cano retreated to third as Teixeira was thrown out at first.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter, perhaps remembering Ibanez’s spring problems, then ordered Strop to walk Curtis Granderson intentionally. Ibanez subsequently laced a 1-2 pitch from Strop over the head of Orioles center-fielder Adam Jones. The ball bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double and Cano trotted in with the eventual winning run.

With the victory, the Yankees improved to 2-3. The Orioles fell to 3-2.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Ibanez is proving to be an effective bat against right-handers this season. His game-winning RBI was his sixth RBI of the season and he leads the team in that category. Ibanez entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and he was 2-for-3 and he even stole a base after he singled in the eighth.
  • The Yankees’ relief pitching was spectacular and a new bullpen star is born in Phelps. The 25-year-old right-hander entered the game with two out in the fifth inning and he pitched a perfect 2 1/3 innings, striking out four batters looking. The Yankees’ relievers (Phelps, Boone Logan, Cory Wade, David Robertson, Rapada and Rivera) combined to shut out the Orioles on just two hits and two walks and fanned 12 batters in 7 1/3 innings. By the looks of Phelps this bullpen is even stronger than it was in 2011, when it was the best in baseball.
  • Rodriguez was 0-for-5 in the game and is now hitting .158 on the young season. But I have to give him major props for giving himself up in the 12th inning to advance Cano to third base. So many times this Yankee team seems so loaded with stars, it looks like it is beneath them to play “small ball” or do fundamental things like this. But give A-Rod credit. He did something that helped the team win.
  • Derek Jeter was 2-for-5 in the game, including a leadoff home run in the first inning. In his two games at Camden Yards, Jeter is 6-for-10 with a home run, a double and four singles, two runs scored and two RBIs. Jeter has more RBIs against the Orioles than any active player.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The usually reliable Freddy Garcia was anything but on Tuesday. The Orioles actually scored only one run via an RBI – a solo home run in the first inning by J.J. Hardy off Garcia. Another scored on a dropped throw, which was scored an error, by Martin. The other two runs scored on wild pitches by Garcia. In fact, Garcia uncorked a career-high five wild pitches in his 4 2/3 innings of work. He threw only four wild pitches all of last season. Garcia surrendered four runs (three earned on four hits, three walks and he hit one batter. Garcia said after the game the cold weather conditions left him unable to grip his split-finger pitch properly.
  • I have to give a “What Was He Thinking” Bronx cheer to third-base coach Rob Thomson for a decision he made in the seventh inning. On a cold night, Nick Swisher was struck in the left toe on a pitch from Matt Lindstrom and he limped all the way to first base. When Cano followed with a double into the left-field corner, Thomson waved Swisher home from third and he was thrown out at the plate on a relay from left-fielder Endy Chavez to Hardy to Matt Wieters. That decision likely lengthened the game to the 12 innings the teams eventually played.
  • Rodriguez, Teixeira and Granderson combined to go 1-for-15 in the game. All three are hitting below .200 on the season. Teixeira and Granderson are both hitting .150. But ice cold starts in April and Teixeira are no strangers, as Yankee fans are already aware.

BOMBER BANTER

If you perhaps were wondering why manager Joe Girardi did not use Rafael Soriano in the game, it was because of a split fingernail on his pitching hand. Soriano tore the nail on the middle finger of his right hand as he was warming up in the bullpen in the seventh inning. Girardi said he is unsure if Soriano would be available to pitch on Wednesday.  . . .  Tuesday actually marked the 99th birthday of the Yankees. On April 10, 1913 the New York Highlanders became the New York Yankees.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a chance to sweep the Orioles in their own park on Wednesday night.

CC Sabathia (0-0, 7.50 ERA) hopes for some better luck than his 2012 debut against the Rays where he gave up five runs on hits and three walks in six innings. After a start like that the Orioles are the perfect team for Sabathia to face. He is 16-2 with a 2.74 ERA against them in his career.

Right-hander Jake Arrieta (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will pitch for the O’s after shutting out the Twins for seven innings in Baltimore’s opener. He is 2-1 with a 3.99 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

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

 

Yankees Leave Tampa Bay Area With Blank Glare

GAME 3

RAYS 3, YANKEES 0

This weekend for the Yankees was like it came from the mind of 1970s disaster film king Irwin Allen. The title could be “Voyage to the Bottom of the Division.”

Jeremy Hellickson blanked New York on three hits in 8 2/3 innings as Tampa Bay gave the term “Bronx Bombers” a new twist in a weekend opening series sweep on Sunday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.

Hellickson (1-0) struck four and walked four before giving way to Fernando Rodney for a one-out save in the ninth.

Phil Hughes (0-1) actually pitched well but did not get any support for his efforts, He gave up two runs on four hits and two walks and struck five in 4 2/3 innings when his pitch count reached 99. The Rays were determined not to swing until at any offering unless they had two strikes on them.

The whole weekend was a series of contrasts. The balls the Yankees hit would either go right to a Rays’ fielder and the long fly balls stayed in the ballpark. But every ball the Rays hit would just elude a Yankee fielder or inch over the wall. Maybe instead of Irwin Allen it was more like a haunting Alfred Hitchcock.

One would guess is that if Rays manager Joe Maddon had stationed a fielder on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge one of the Yankees would have hit it right into his glove.

The Yankees are an early 0-3. The Rays are 3-0. But I seem to remember the Rays starting poorly last season and it did not deter them.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • No Yankees were actually harmed in the production of this disaster.
  • The last time the Yankees started a season 0-3 was in 1998 and they happened to win 114 games and went on to win a world championship, So there is a silver lining in the Tampa Bay thunderstorm clouds.
  • Hughes actually did pitch well and it bodes well for a bounce-back season for him.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • On Saturday Jeff Keppinger of the Rays deliberately hit the ball to the right side of the infield to advance Luke Scott to third base. I do not recall a single Yankee “giving themselves up” to advance a baser-runner this entire weekend. All I saw was a lot of weak popups, grounders and strikeouts with runners in scoring position. For the weekend they were 5-for-25 (.200).
  • Nick Swisher failed twice in run-scoring opportunities on Sunday and it set the tone for the Yankees’ frustrating day. In the fourth, with one out and Alex Rodriguez on third and Mark Teixeira on second after a double, Swisher messed up a 3-1 count by hitting a weak popup to third. In the sixth, with two outs and Rodriguez on third and Teixeira at first, Swisher was called out on strikes.
  • I remember in spring training how manager Joe Girardi was proud of his veteran designated hitters Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez for their experience in playing the outfield and how it would give the team lots of flexibility. Girardi chose on Sunday to start Ibanez in right-field and Swisher as the DH. However, just because Ibanez “can” play the outfield doesn’t mean he should. In the first inning, Evan Longoria doubled to left with two out. Matt Joyce followed with a sinking liner to right that Ibanez misplayed into a triple and the Rays scored the only run they needed the rest of the day.  Ibanez has no business playing the outfield on an artificial surface, period.

BOMBER BANTER

Andy Pettitte will make his first start in a minor-league game on Monday with Class-A Tampa against Clearwater in Florida State League game in Clearwater, FL. Pettitte, 39, hopes to resume his major-league career with the Yankees sometime in May.  . . .  Despite the fact he was limping after the game, Curtis Granderson said his sore right calf was not a serious injury. Granderson fouled a ball off his right calf in the third inning. He later struck out and finished the day 0-for-3 with a walk.  . . .  Girardi opted not to rest Rodriguez on Sunday and he said the veteran third baseman likely will DH on Monday. Girardi said there will be focus on trying to keep Rodriguez and Derek Jeter rested throughout the season.

ON DECK

For the first time since they arrived in Tampa, FL., in February for spring training the Yankees will be in Baltimore on Monday to play the Orioles.

The Yankees will start right-hander Ivan Nova. Nova had a pretty forgettable spring after recording a 16-4 record and a 3.70 ERA in his rookie season. He was 2-0 with a 3.55 ERA in four starts against the Orioles last season.

The Orioles will counter with left-hander Brian Matusz, coming of a 1-9 record and 10.69 ERA in 2011. Matusz is 2-4 with a 4.70 ERA against the Yankees in his career.

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

 

Here Are Five Keys To Yankees Succeeding In 2012

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to the Yankees’ spring training complex in a few weeks, it might be a good time to look at the five things that would be good signs the Yankees are on their way to their 28th world championship. They are:

NO. 5 – CC Sabathia reports to camp minus about 30 pounds he was carrying at the end of last season.

Sabathia struggled with a knee injury at the tail end of the 2010 season. He ended up having surgery to repair the damage and actually dropped about 30 pounds before he reported to spring training last year. The result was Sabathia got off to one of the better starts of his career. At the All-Star break he was 13-4 with a 2.72 ERA and he had won 10 of his last 11 starts. Can you figure out what happened next? He finished the season 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA. The reason was he had gained weight during the course of the season and it really showed in his postseason appearances against the Tigers. He was 0-0 with a 6.23 ERA with a WHIP of 2.08 in 8 2/3 innings over three games. Sabathia chose not to opt out of his contract in order to sign a lucrative extension that will keep in pinstripes until the year 2017. The Yankees got in return from Sabathia a pledge that he will take the excess weight off this winter and keep it off during the course of the season. In a few weeks we will see if Sabathia has succeeded in his pledge.

No. 4 – The Yankees find a second left-handed reliever to help Boone Logan.

Logan, 27, is a good enough pitcher. He was 2-0 with a 2.93 ERA in 2010 and 5-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 2011. But he is terribly miscast as a “lefty specialist.” Left-handed hitters batted .260 off him last season while right-handers fared a bit better at .262. That is because Logan is nothing like Damoso Marte or Pedro Feliciano. The Yankees traded with Kansas City for Rule 5 draftee Cesar Cabral from the Red Sox and signed former Red Sox lefty Hideki Okajima to compete this spring for a chance to earn a spot in the bullpen. Cabral, 23, was 3-4 with a 2.95 ERA in 36 appearances with Salem in the Carolina League and Portland in Eastern League. He notched 70 strikeouts and walked 21 batters in 55 innings. Okajima, 36, was sent to Triple-A Pawtucket after posting a 1-0 record and a 4.32 ERA in seven appearances with Red Sox. He was 8-1 with a 2.29 ERA in 34 appearances with the Pawsox. With Feliciano recovering from left shoulder surgery and not expected to pitch in 2012, the Yankees have no other left-handers on their 40-man roster. So either Cabral or Okajima take the bull by the horns and win a job or the Yankees will either have to deal for another lefty or be forced to use starter Manny Banuelos in the role at some point during the season. That is something they do not want to do unless they are forced into it.

No. 3 – A.J. Burnett is not on the roster when the season starts.

The Yankees have made it as clear as possible without saying it publicly: They have no confidence that the enigmatic 35-year-old right-hander will recapture the magic of his 2008 season in Toronto when he was 18-10 with 4.07 ERA and 231 strikeouts in 221 1/3 innings. He has gotten worse in his three years with the Yankees, ending up 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA in 2011. He also has lost velocity on his heater and that is a sign he is in a steep decline. The problem is the Yankees are on the hook for two more years and $33 million on his contract. But the Yankees acquired 23-year-old Michael Pineda and signed 36-year-old free agent Hiroki Kuroda to pitch behind Sabathia and the Yankees are saying that Ivan Nova will retain a spot in the rotation he earned with a 16-4 rookie season. That leaves 25-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes, 35-year-old right-hander Freddy Garcia and Burnett to compete for the No. 5 spot. Barring an injury, the Yankees likely will only keep one of the two starters that fail to win a spot for the bullpen. So the odds for Burnett are not good. The Yankees have made it known they have dangled Burnett in a trade. They are offering to pay about $8 million of his contract but, so far, they have had no serious takers. But as the season nears and teams assess their starting staffs, it could be possible that Burnett could be dealt, much like Sergio Mitre was in 2011. That would be a good thing because Burnett has just about tested every last bit of patience out of manager Joe Girarddi and pitching coach Larry Rothscild. Yankee fans are getting sick of trying to guess whether they will see “Good A.J.” or “Bad A.J.” from start to start. They are seeing the bad version more often these days. It also does not really matter what the Yankees get in return. The Yankees would settle for young prospects – a power-hitting young outfielder and a young pitcher would be just fine. Let’s hope general manager Brian Cashman gets it done before the season starts.

No. 2 – The Yankees either acquire or sign a legitimate and experienced DH.

With the trade of Jesus Montero to the Mariners and the retirement of Jorge Posada, the Yankees currently do not have a major-league designated hitter. For the moment they are touting 29-year-old minor-league corner infielder Jorge Vazquez as a potential starter there. Vazquez, a veteran of the Mexican League, did hit .262 with 32 home runs and drove in 93 runs in 118 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But the Yankees might be looking for a more experienced DH from among free agents such as Raul Ibanez, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Pedro Guerrero. Of that mix, Damon appears to be the best fit. He spent four seasons with the Yankees and has shown he can take advantage of the short dimensions in right-field at Yankee Stadium. In 2011 with the Rays, Damon hit .261 with 16 home runs, 73 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 150 games. Damon would be of use as a DH, part-time outfielder (despite his weak arm) and solid veteran pinch-hitter or pinch-runner off the bench. The others are limited in the field and have declined significantly at the plate. Granted, Girardi does like to rotate his veterans at the DH spot to give them rest. But the Yankees need another bat to replace Montero and they can’t wait too long to fill it.

NO. 1 – Alex Rodriguez shows up in Tampa healthy and displaying prodigious power throughout spring training.

Let’s face it, love him or hate him, Rodriguez is the key to the Yankees’ offense in 2012. Since 2007 when he played in 158 games, Rodriguez has been sidelined for significant periods of time by a hip injury, shoulder problems, a knee injury, a calf injury and a sprained finger. In 2011, he was limited to 99 games and he hit .276 with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs. He entered the American League Division Series with Detroit at less than 100 percent and it showed. He was 2-for-18 (.111) with six strikeouts in the series. For the Yankees to have any chance of getting back to the World Series, Rodriguez must remain healthy throughout 2012, particularly during the playoffs. Although Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano pretty much carried the team throughout the 2011 season, it is Rodriguez who strikes the most fear in pitchers when he is “locked in” and pounding out home runs. Borrowing a line from Reggie Jackson, A-Rod is the straw that stirs the drink in the Yankees’ lineup. They need him more than any other player and Rodriguez must also prove he is not in a precipitous decline at age 36. The Yankees are paying him through the 2017 season and they can’t afford to be paying $32 million to a player who hits 16 home runs and drive in 62 runs.

 

Granderson Dazzles On Centerstage For Yankees

The regular season has come to a close and any postseason that does not include the Boston Red Flops is a positive. The Yankees enter the playoffs with the best record in the American League (97-65) and with home-field advantage through the American League Championship Series. It is time for the final season report cards on the players that brought them to this point.

CENTERFIELD – CURTIS GRANDERSON (41 HRS, 119 RBIs, .262 BA, 136 Rs, 25 SBs)

You really have to root for genuine good guys like Curtis Granderson, who dramatically turned his career around last August by adjusting his batting stance and swing with batting coach Kevin Long. The result was an MVP-caliber season and it now makes his trade to the Yankees from the Tigers look very lopsided. Consistency was Granderson’s hallmark, too. He hit .267 with 22 home runs and 54 RBIs in the first 81 games. He hit just below that with 19 home runs and 65 RBIs in the second half. Granderson was second to Jose Bautista of Toronto in home runs, he edged teammate Robinson Cano by one RBI for the American League lead in RBIs and topped Ian Kinsler of Texas by a whopping 15 runs for the major-league lead in runs scored. He also stole 25 bases and he played a much better centerfield than he did in 2010. What is incredible is Granerson’s previous highs were 30 home runs in 2009, 74 RBIs in 2007 and 26 stolen bases in 2007, all with Detroit. But Granderson has put all the elements of his game together at one time and he was the Most Valuable Player of the winningest team in the American League. If MVPs are supposed to lead their teams into the playoffs, he is your MVP in 2011. The only knock on Granderson is the low batting average, which is a product of 169 strikeouts, the third most in the league. Granderson came to the Yankees after hitting .188 against left-handers in 2009. In 2011, Granderson actually hit for a better average against left-handers – .272 as opposed to .258 against right-handers. Also, despite leading the league in RBIs, Granderson hit only .242 with runners on scoring position. That indicates if Granderson would not press in clutch situations he could drive in more runs. That is scary to think about. Granderson’s fielding also improved in 2011. He cut down on his habit of taking odd routes to balls, made only three errors and he had 11 outfield assists, another career high. At age 30, Granderson is finally living up the great promise he showed in Detroit and he has become indispensable to the Yankees.

Granderson made 150 starts in centerfield this season. When he was not there, Brett Gardner was. Gardner is a great luxury for the Yankees because he actually is a second centerfielder in leftfield. He is actually a better fielder than Granderson with his range and he has a better arm. But Gardner is content and has carved his own niche in left. The Yankees are just blessed to have two very fast and athletic centerfielders on the roster.

SECOND HALF GRADE

GRANDERSON  A+

Granderson received an A for his first half and because he improved his RBI total in the second half, he deserves an A+. Granderson has always been one of those guys you root for because he is truly a very good person who does such great work in the community. By reshaping his swing, Granderson has reached another level as a player. The fact that he rose to an MVP-caliber season is just astounding and more credit to him. The Yankees knew he was good when they dealt Austin Jackson and Phil Coke for him. But they had no idea he was this good. In my view, Granderson should win the MVP. But, even of he does not, he had a wonderful season. Yankee fans just hope he can carry it into the playoffs and help lead the Yankees to their 28th world championship.

OVERALL GRADE  A+

You can quibble about the low batting average and the strikeouts, but Granderson is a very good baseball player who had himself a great season. He did it largely from the No. 2 spot in the batting order, which is not easy. Granderson’s swing is built for Yankee Stadium, with its short dimensions in right. However, I do not remember many of Garnderson’s 21 home runs being cheap wall-scrapers. The fact he hit 20 on the road shows he was legitimately hitting 41 and not feasting off Yankee Stadium. You add up the power, the production, his base-running, the improved fielding and you come up with one very special season. Curtis Granderson is simply one very special player and the Yankees are lucky to have him in a season when Alex Rodriguez missed so much time.

 

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