Results tagged ‘ Indians ’

McCann’s Walk-Off 3-Run Homer Eclipses Rays

GAME 80

YANKEES 7, RAYS 5 (12 INNINGS)

Extra innings is a just a war of attrition and in the top of the 12th on Friday it looked as if the Yankees had just run out of ammunition to battle the Rays. The bullpen had coughed up two runs and it seemed the game was well in hand with the visitors.

But Brian McCann was not ready to give up in an important divisional game.

McCann blasted a three-run home run in the bottom of the 12th off right-hander Steve Geltz to cap an improbable four-run rally that handed the Yankees their first walk-off victory of the season in front of a paid crowd of 43,141 at Yankee Stadium.

With the victory the Yankees claimed first place in the tightly bunched American League East, one game ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles and two games ahead of the Rays, who have now lost six consecutive games.

Right-hander Chasen Shreve (6-1), who had a hand  –  along with Adam Warren  –  in allowing the Rays to score two runs in the 12th, was credited with the victory in relief. Geltz (1-4) took the loss.

Brett Gardner opened the 12th by drawing a walk. Alex Rodriguez followed with a one-out single and Mark Teixeira, whose three-run home run in the eighth sent the game into extra innings, laced an RBI single to score Gardner.

McCann then laced a 1-0 fastball from Geltz deep into the right-field bleachers for his 13th home run of the season and his 10th at home.

His teammates streamed out of the dugout and Gardner doused him with bucket of water after he touched home plate. It culminated in an unlikely victory on a night the Yankees had to battle from behind from very the first inning.

The Rays took an early lead against right-hander Masahiro Tanaka when Grady Sizemore led off with a double. Joey Butler drew a walk and Evan Longoria slashed a double to left to score Sizemore.

James Loney, who was activated from the disabled list earlier in the day, then plated Butler on a sacrifice fly.

The Rays added a run in the fifth on a leadoff triple off the bat of Kevin Kiermaier and a sac fly by Rene Rivera.

The Yankees, however, were unable to solve right-hander Chris Archer, was entered the game 5-0 with a 2.02 ERA in seven starts against the Yankees in his career.

In 6 2/3 innings, Archer shutout the Yankees on three hits and three walks with eight strikeouts.

But with one out in the eighth inning the Yankees mounted a rally against right-hander Kevin Jepsen.

Chase Headley hit an opposite-field single to left and Rodriguez followed with a bloop opposite-field single to right to set the stage for Teixeira.

Teixeira laid into a 1-0 change-up and drove into the second deck of the right-field bleachers for his 20th home run of the season. His four-RBI night gives him 58 on the season, which now leads the American League.

The victory improved the Yankees’ season record to 42-37. Tampa Bay fell to 42-40.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • The stuffing of the All-Star ballot box by the Kansas City Royals may rob McCann of a much-deserved trip to the All-Star Game. McCann is hitting .264 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs. Salvador Perez of the Royals is batting .263 with 13 home runs and 34 RBIs. By any measure you want to use McCann is better than Perez. But the hicks in the sticks of K.C., who booed Robinson Cano for not selecting singles hitter Billy Butler for the Home Run Derby two years ago, are now keeping more deserving players off the All-Star team. Let’s hope the commissioner shoves it up that city’s rectum by taking the fan vote away for good. You abuse it, you lose it!
  • Teixeira’s magical season continues and the injury to Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers certainly will improve Teixeira’s chances of making the All-Star team. Royals fans had Eric Hosmer starting at first base despite the fact he is hitting .286 with only eight home runs and 40 RBIs. But Cabrera overtook him in the voting and the league is under no obligation to take Hosmer at all. So Teixeira has a great chance to start at first. Suck it, Kansas City!
  • After the first inning Tanaka actually pitched exceptionally well. After two shaky outings, Tanaka was charged with just one run on four hits with no walks and five strikeouts in the five innings after the first. Hopefully, this is a sign he has regrouped.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • One of the things that Archer does to the Yankees is to elevate his pitches. The Yankees just do him a great favor by swinging at them despite the fact they are balls. In addition to his eight strikeouts (some on the high fastball), Archer also induced nine air outs. If the Yankees lay off that pitch Archer ends up walking about six more hitters and he loses. But the Yankees never adjusted.
  • Chris Young was the hottest hitter on this team a week ago. But being forced to start against right-handers in the absence of both Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran has exposed some weaknesses. He was 0-for-5 on Friday with two strikeouts and he also hit into a double play. Ouch!

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game weekend home series with the Rays on Saturday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda (8-5, 4.08 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Pineda yielded three runs (two earned) on seven hits and struck out eight in eight innings in a loss to the Houston Astros on Sunday.

The Rays will counter with right-hander Nathan Karns (4-4, 3.21 ERA). Karns gave up two runs on nine hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in a loss to the Cleveland Indians on Monday.

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

 

A-Rod Homers Way To 3,000 As Yanks Maul Tigers

GAME 67

YANKEES 7, TIGERS 2

When it comes to building drama it was obvious on Friday that Alex Rodriguez was not really interested in that at all. He took Justin Verlander deep on the first pitch in his first at-bat to join the 3,000-hit club and then just allowed the Yankees to concentrate on winning the game.

They did just that as Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner also homered off Verlander and Adam Warren pitched eight solid innings to help New York thump Detroit in front of a paid crowd of 44,588 who came, in part, to witness more history at Yankee Stadium.

Rodriguez, 39, entered the game 10-for-34 (.294) with four homers off Verlander and he hit high outside fastball into the bleachers in right-center with two out in the first inning to give the Yankees an early 1-0 lead.

Rodriguez becomes only the third player out of the 29 who have collected 3,000 hits to hit a home run to reach the mark. The others were Wade Boggs with the Tampa Bay Rays and Derek Jeter, Rodriguez’s former Yankee teammate.

The milestone drew a standing ovation from the crowd and Rodriguez was greeted by hugs by all teammates before he reached the dugout. He then came back out of the dugout to raise his hands to the crowd in a curtain call.

The Tigers, however, managed to get to Warren in the second inning when Victor Martinez led off with a single and Yoenis Cespedes followed with a double. One out later, Warren hit Nick Castellanos with a pitch to load the bases and Bryan Holaday slapped a 1-0 pitch into left-center to score Martinez and Cespedes and give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.

It was short-lived because with one out in the bottom of the second, Gregorius laced a 1-2 fastball into the Yankees bullpen in right-center for his third home run of the season.

The game remained tied until Mason Williams singled with one out in the fifth and Gardner blasted a hanging 1-1 slider from Verlander into the Yankees bullpen for his seventh home run of the season and his second two-run homer in two nights.

Gardner’s two-run homer with two out in the sixth inning on Thursday allowed the Yankees to tie the Miami Marlins 3-3 in a game the Yankees eventually won 9-4.

The Yankees added a pair of runs off an obviously tiring Verlander in the seventh inning when Gardner reached on a one-out bunt single and advanced to third when Chase Headley’s hard-hit grounder caromed off Verlander’s foot and rolled into right-field.

With Rodriguez at the plate, Verlander uncorked a pitch in the dirt that rolled less than five feet away from Holaday but Gardner was able to slide to home without a play.

After Verlander retired Rodriguez, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus brought left-hander Tom Gorzelanny in to face Mark Teixeira. But Teixeira hit an opposite-field single to right that scored Headley.

Verlander was charged with six runs on 10 hits and one walk with two strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings and 117 pitches.

Warren, meanwhile, was able to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard through eight full innings, which was his longest outing in his career of 16 starts. He gave up only two runs on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in an effort that may have saved his job as starter.

The Yankees added another run in the eighth on a two-out double by Chris Young and an RBI single by Gardner.

Right-hander Branden Pinder, who was only called up earlier in the day, pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the game and hand the Yankees their third straight victory.

With the triumph the Yankees improved to 37-30. They remain one game behind the first-place Rays in the American League East. The Tigers dropped to 34-33.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Though Rodriguez’s entire career with the Yankees has been shrouded in controversy, the Yankee fans did not hold back in their celebration of the moment. Though Rodriguez’s numbers are certainly tainted by the performance-enhancing drugs, the 3,000-hit milestone still means something. He did it in dramatic fashion off a name-brand pitcher and he is having a grand comeback season. He is batting .277 with 13 home runs and 35 RBIs.
  • If not for A-Rod’s milestone, Gardner would have gotten all the ink for his best night of the season. Gardner was 4-for-5 with a three singles, a homer, two runs scored and three RBIs. He basically stole home off Verlander in the seventh a wild pitch that barely rolled five feet away from the plate. Gardner raised his average back to .277 and he has seven homers and 33 RBIs hitting mostly from the leadoff spot.
  • Warren, 27, basically told manager Joe Girardi that he was not coming out of the rotation without a fight. With right-hander Ivan Nova pitching in a rehab start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre on the same night, it was no secret Warren was going to be moved out of the rotation after this start. But Warren was so good that Girardi may have to rethink his plans. Warren is 5-4 with a 3.62 ERA in 13 starts. Nathan Eovaldi, in contrast, is 5-2 with a 5.12 ERA. Who would you shift to the bullpen for Nova?

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Warren was sensational and the Yankees hit three homers and scored six runs off Verlander. You can’t fault that effort. The only vexing thing about the Yankees is they win seven in a row and then they lose six of seven. Now they have won three in a row. Consistency is not their thing but they are playing well now.

BOMBER BANTER

Williams, 23, left the game in the sixth inning after jamming his right shoulder attempting to get back to first base on a pickoff attempt by Verlander in the bottom of the fifth inning. Though he remained the game and scored on Gardner’s two-run homer, he was replaced in center-field by Young. Williams was examined by Dr. Christopher Ahmad, the team physician, and no tests are planned. Williams is listed a day-to-day.  . . .  The Yankees were forced to shuffle their bullpen again on Friday. The team placed right-hander Sergio Santos on the 15-day disabled list and optioned right-hander Chris Martin to Scranton. The Yankees then recalled right-handers Bryan Mitchell and Pinder from the same club. Santos, 31, was placed on the disabled list retroactive to June 15 with inflammation in his right elbow. Santos last pitched on Monday when he escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the eighth inning of a 2-1 loss to the Marlins. Martin, 29, is 0-2 with a 5.62 ERA in 18 games.

ON DECK

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

Eovaldi will make his 14th start of the season against the Tigers. He also better hope it goes better than his outing against his former Marlins team on Tuesday when he gave up eight runs on nine hits in just two-thirds of an inning. With Warren’s great start on Friday he will be on the hot seat to perform against the Tigers.

The Tigers will counter with right-hander Alfredo Simon (7-3, 2.58 ERA). Simon shut out the Cleveland Indians on three hits and one walk with five strikeouts in five innings in a victory on Sunday.

Game-time will be 7:15 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Late Homers Allow Yankees To Reel In Marlins

GAME 66

YANKEES 9, MARLINS 4

On a night that Alex Rodriguez moved to within one of the 3,000-hit plateau it was a pair of two-run homers hit by Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran that brought the Yankees back from a 3-1 deficit to a huge victory at Yankee Stadium.

Gardner smacked his home run in the sixth inning to tie it and Beltran added his in the seventh as New York added four more runs in the eighth to sink Miami on Thursday and earn a split of the four-game home-and-home series.

Rodriguez singled to drive in the game’s first run in the first inning and he added a one-out single in the fifth off right-hander Mat Latos to give him 2,999 career hits.

His RBI single followed back-to-back singles by Gardner and Chase Headley and Gardner scored to give left-hander CC Sabathia an early 1-0 lead.

However, after Sabathia retired the first nine hitters he faced, Dee Gordon led off the fourth with a triple and scored one out later on an infield groundout by Christian Yelich.

The Marlins claimed the lead in the fifth as Jeff Baker singled and Justin Bour reached after being hit with a pitch. Baker advanced to third on a deep fly ball by Donovan Solano and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Jeff Mathis.

Giancarlo Stanton padded the Marlins’ lead to 3-1 when he connected for his major-league-leading 25th home run of the season with one out in the sixth.

But the Yankees managed to tie the game in the bottom of the frame after Latos had retired the first two batters. Mason Williams laced a double to right-center, his second double of the night. Gardner then followed by lining a 2-0 fastball into the Yankees bullpen in right-center for his sixth home run of the season.

Latos was then removed from the game and he was charged with three runs on nine hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Sabathia also left having also yielded three runs on five hits and no walks with seven strikeouts in six innings.

The Yankees took the lead for good in the seventh inning against former Yankee left-hander Michael Dunn (1-4).

Brian McCann slapped a one-out single to left and Beltran connected on a high 3-2 fastball and he drove it deep into the first level of the left-field bleachers for his fifth home run of the season.

Left-hander Chasen Shreve (4-1) pitched a scoreless seventh inning to get credit for the victory in relief.

The Yankees were able to add four more runs in the eighth off right-hander Sam Dyson on an RBI single by McCann, a wild pitch, an RBI double by Chris Young and a sacrifice fly by Stephen Drew.

Dyson drew the ire of most of the paid crowd of 38,239 by walking Rodriguez on four pitches, spoiling an opportunity for those in attendance from seeing his potential milestone hit.

The Marlins added a run in the ninth off right-hander Chris Martin on an RBI single by Mathis.

The victory allowed the Yankees to improve their season record to 36-30. They remain one game behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Marlins fell to 29-39.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Gardner’s home run was his first since June 7 at Yankee Stadium against the Los Angeles Angels. He was 2-for-5 with a single, a homer, two runs scored and three RBIs. He raised his season average to .265 and he now has six home runs and 30 RBIs.
  • Beltran is definitely making positive strides at the plate after a horrible start that had him batting .162 in April. Since May 8, Beltran is 34-for-113 (.301) with five homers and 17 RBIs. It was his first home run since May 30 against the Athletics in Oakland. He is batting .250 with five homers and 26 RBIs on the season.
  • Rodriguez was 2-for-4 with two singles, a walk, a run scored and an RBI and he has raised his season average to .278. In his past 30 games, A-Rod is batting .317 with four homers and 14 RBIs.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Sabathia actually pitched well but the Yankees sputtered on offense through the first five innings until they exploded for eight runs in the final three innings. Every starter had at least one hit except Drew. So this was a really good victory for the Yankees and I do not see any negatives.

ON DECK

The Yankees will play host to the Detroit Tigers for a three-game weekend series that begins on Friday.

Right-hander Adam Warren (4-4, 3.78 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Warren gave up three runs on six hits and three walks with five strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

Right-hander Justin Verlander (0-0, 3.60 ERA) will make his second start of the season after being activated from disabled list. Verlander surrendered two runs on three hits and two walks with two strikeouts in five innings in a no-decision against the Cleveland Indians on Saturday.

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

 

Jones’ Three-Run Blast In 11th Sinks Mariners

GAME 53

YANKEES 5, MARINERS 3 (11 INNINGS)

When the Yankees obtained Garrett Jones from the Miami Marlins this winter they envisioned his left-handed power and versatility as an outfielder and first baseman would be perfect fit. But up until Tuesday, Jones has struggled to bat .232 with one home run and four RBIs.

With one swing that all changed.

Jones connected on a 2-0 pitch with two on and two out in the 11th inning for a three-run homer off left-hander Joe Beimel that allowed New York to come from behind to defeat Seattle at Safeco Field.

The Yankees were granted the opportunity to win their first extra-inning game of the season in four tries after Stephen Drew delivered a two-out RBI double off closer Fernando Rodney in the bottom of the ninth inning that tied the game at 2-2.

That set the stage for 11th, which hit a speed bump when Brian McCann had erased a leadoff single by Didi Gregorius by hitting into a double play. However, Drew singled off right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen (0-2) and Brett Gardner followed with a single of his own.

Jones, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and struck out, then faced Beimel. His blast off Beimel landed well into the bleachers in right-center to reclaim a lead the Yankees had lost in the third inning.

Left-hander Justin Wilson (2-0) pitched a scoreless 10th, making a spectacular diving grab of a popped up bunt by Rickie Weeks and turning it into a double play, to earn the victory.

Andrew Miller was touched for a run in the 11th on an RBI single by former Yankee Robinson Cano. But Miller struck out the major-league leader in home runs, Nelson Cruz, representing the potential winning run to earn his 16th save in 16 tries this season.

The Yankees grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning after Gardner drew a one-out walk on a disputed checked swing and advanced to second on a wild pitch by left-hander Mike Montgomery, who was called up from Triple-A Tacoma and was making his first major-league start.

One out later, Alex Rodriguez also drew a walk on a disputed checked swing. Mariners catcher Mike Zunino and manager Lloyd McClendon were ejected from the game by first-base umpire Will Little for arguing the call. On the very next pitch from Montgomery, Mark Teixeira stroked an RBI double to score Gardner.

The Mariners responded in the bottom of the frame off left-hander CC Sabathia. Austin Jackson, who was 4-for-4 with two walks in the game, slapped a one-out single to left. One out later, Cano hit a lined single to right that Carlos Beltran bobbled to allow Jackson to reach third.

Cruz followed with an opposite-field single to right that scored Jackson to tie the game.

The Mariners broke the tie in the sixth after Logan Morrison reached on a one-out single and Welington Castillo, who had replaced Zunino in the third inning, followed one out later with a single that advanced Morrison to third. Yankees manager Joe Girardi replaced Sabathia with right-hander David Carpenter and Jackson greeted him with a double that scored Morrison.

But the Yankees tied it in the ninth off Rodney, starting with a leadoff walk by Chase Headley and a two-out single by McCann, who was pinch-hitting for John Ryan Murphy, to move Headley to third. Drew then laced a double to right that scored Headley easily.

Montgomery was charged with one run on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts in six innings of work in his debut. Sabathia was charged with two runs on nine hits and two walks with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season ledger to 28-25 and they maintained their one-game lead over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Mariners are 24-28.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Oddly enough, Jones’ three-run home run was his his second of the season. Jones, 33, also hit a pinch-hit three-run homer with one out in the eighth inning off right-hander Tanner Scheppers to draw the Yankees to within 10-8 of the Texas Rangers in a game the Yankees eventually lost 10-9 on May 22. At that point, Jones was batting .150 with no homers and one RBI. Since then, Jones is 9-for-19 (.474) and that surge just may have rescued Jones’ tenure with the Yankees.
  • If you throw out Carpenter’s inability to get Jackson out in the sixth that lost the lead, the Yankees bullpen was spectacular the rest of the way. The Mariners had many chances to win the game but Chasen Shreve, Jacob Lindgren, Dellin Betances, Wilson and Miller combined to yield just one run on four hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in five innings. The biggest reason the Yankees are on first place is their formidable bullpen.
  • Drew, 32, also may have saved his future with the team with his RBI double in the ninth and his clutch two-out single in the 11th. Drew entered the game batting .160 with five homers and 15 RBIs after he batted a combined .162 in 2014 with the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees. The Yankees hope that Drew can turn it around soon but the team’s other second baseman, Jose Pirela, is batting just .222. Second base prospect Rob Refsnyder is batting only .276 with two homers and 18 RBIs and he also has committed 11 errors in 46 games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Carpenter, 29, was called upon to do one thing – get out Jackson with two outs and runners on first and third – and he failed to do it. Carpenter is 0-1 with a bloated 4.82 ERA despite being able to throw 95-mph fastballs. But Carpenter has given up 20 hits and seven walks in 18 2/3 innings (1.45 WHIP) covering 22 appearances. There is just no excuse for how awful he is pitching.
  • Gregorius, 25, would have ended up with big goat horns if the Yankees ended up losing the game. Gregorius was on first on a pinch-hit single off right-hander Mark Lowe to lead off the seventh. Murphy followed with a hard-hit single to right that should have allowed Gregorius to reach third with no outs. However, Gregorius tripped over the second-base bag and ended up being thrown by Cruz. The young shortstop was 2-for-3 after entering the game but his mental mistakes and physical errors at short sometimes hurt this team.

BOMBER BANTER

Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury likely will not return to Yankees off the 15-day disabled list until late June, general manager Brian Cashman told Michael Kay on ESPN Radio on Tuesday. Cashman said Ellsbury will wear an immobilizing brace on his right knee for at least another week. Then the 31-year-old veteran, who has not played since May 19, will have 10 days to resume baseball activities and perhaps begin a rehab assignment. Ellsbury is leading the team in batting (.324) and steals (19) with one homer and six RBIs.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have an opportunity to sweep the three-game series with Mariners on Wednesday.

Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (2-1, 3.44 ERA) will come off the disabled list to start of the Yankees. Tanaka, 26, last pitched on April 23 and was sidelined with tendinitis in right wrist and tightness in his right forearm.

The Mariners will counter with right-hander Taijuan Walker (2-5, 6.18 ERA), who is baseball’s equivalent of the little girl with the curl. When he is good – like his last outing – he is really good. He shut out the Cleveland Indians on just two hits with no walks and eight strikeouts in eight innings on Friday. But his record and ERA indicate how bad he has been in his other nine starts.

Game-time will be 3:30 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Tigers Score Two Late To Ruin Sabathia’s Gem

GAME 13

TIGERS 2, YANKEES 1

J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes stroked consecutive two-out RBI singles in the seventh inning and Alfredo Simon outdueled CC Sabathia as Detroit edged New York on Monday on a chilly, windy night at Comerica Park.

Simon (3-0) was touched for a solo home run to lead off the second inning by Mark Teixeira for Teixeira’s fourth home run of the season. That lone run stood as Simon and Sabathia matched pitch-for-pitch until the seventh.

Simon held the Yankees to seven hits, did not walk a batter and he struck out seven to lower his season ERA to 1.74.

Meanwhile, Sabathia was mowing down the Tigers and getting some timely help from his defense. Over the first six innings, Sabathia had faced the minimum despite yielding three hits and a walk.

Ian Kinsler singled in both the second and fourth innings only to be erased by double plays off the bat of Miguel Cabrera. Nick Castellanos drew a leadoff walk in the sixth but also was retired on a double play ball.

Jose Iglesias reached on a two-out single in the third inning but Sabathia caught him attempting to steal second and tagged him out in the baseline.

Sabathia also benefitted from three excellent defensive plays in the outfield. One of them by Jacoby Ellsbury and two by Brett Gardner.

Ellsbury robbed Victor Martinez with a all-out running and sliding catch on the warning track in right-center in the fifth. Gardner, meanwhile, also robbed Martinez on a running catch in left-center as he collided with the fence in the second inning. Gardner also took a single away from J.D. Martinez with a sliding catch of his line drive right after Ellsbury’s catch in the fifth inning.

In the seventh, Rajai Davis reached on a leadoff single and advanced to second on a flyout by Kinsler. After Cabrera grounded out, Sabathia intentionally walked Victor Martinez. But J.D. Martinez singled to left to score Davis and Victor Martinez scored on Cespedes’ single.

Sabathia (0-3) was charged with two runs on seven hits and three walks while he fanned five in eight innings and took the tough-luck loss.

Joakim Soria pitched a perfect ninth to earn his fifth save of the season.

The loss broke the Yankees winning streak and left them with a 6-7 record. The Tigers are now 11-2, which is the best record in baseball.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Despite the loss, the Yankees had to be encouraged by the six shutout innings Sabathia threw against one of the best offensive ballclubs in baseball. The outfield defense and the double plays turned in the infield did help him. But Sabathia, 34, obviously has found a formula in which he can compete. He is 0-3 with a 4.35 ERA but he has pitched a whole lot better than than that. If he gets some offensive support he could have a good season.
  • The defense also seems to have reversed itself from its sloppy play in the first seven games of the season. The Yankees have now played error-free baseball in their past five games and they are looking more like the standout defensive club manager Joe Girardi envisioned. Gardner and Ellsbury were exceptional covering the large expanse of Comerica Park and third baseman Chase Headley started three double plays.
  • Teixeira did not hit a mistake from Simon. He actually went out and got a low sinker and drove it into the bleachers in right-center for his fourth home run of the season. It is just a shame that the Yankees could not make that run stand up. It also is a shame the Yankees could not add to that total.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Although Ellsbury turned in an excellent defensive play, he also was a big reason why the Yankees could not come back and beat the Tigers after they were down 2-1. Headley opened the eighth with a single and he was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Stephen Drew. Didi Gregorius singled to center to put runners on first and third and one out and chase Simon from the game. However, right-hander Joba Chamberlain retired Ellsbury on a double play. That at-bat was a killer.
  • Carlos Beltran returned to the lineup after missing two games with a severe cold. But maybe he should have took another day off because he was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Simon. Beltran, 37, is batting just .171 in the early going.
  • Alex Rodriguez has been installed into the third spot in the batting order but he was no factor on Monday. He ended the evening 0-for-4 with a strikeout. After A-Rod hit two home runs and drove in four runs on Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays, he has been getting a steady diet of breaking balls out of the strike zone. The Rays walked him four times on Saturday and Sunday and Simon fed him nothing but off-speed junk on Monday.

ON DECK

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

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (0-0, 4.35 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Eovaldi has been unable to get through six innings in his first two starts despite the fact he has pitched well. Eovaldi gave up two runs on eight hits and three walks while he struck out nine against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday.

Eovaldi will be opposed by left-hander Kyle Lobstein (1-0, 5.40 ERA), who gave up three runs on eight hits and two walks with three strikeouts in five innings in a victory against the Cleveland Indians on April 12.

Game-time will be 7:08 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Yankees Poised To Finish Third In A.L. East

With spring training in their rear-view mirror and the 2015 season about to start, the question is where will the New York Yankees finish in the American League East. The Yankees have failed to make the playoffs the past two seasons and many experts believe it will be three. But with the additions the Yankees made could they possibly have a surprise in store. Here is how I project it.

NEW YORK YANKEES

First of all, let’s admit that this is not your father’s A.L. East. There is NO dominant team in the division and there is not much separation between any of the five teams in terms of talent.

That said, the Yankees come into 2015 building around the foundation they began with their half-billion dollar investment last winter with the signings of outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, catcher Brian McCann and right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

Those free agents were added to the holdovers in shortstop Derek Jeter, first baseman Mark Teixeira, outfielder Brett Gardner and left-hander CC Sabathia.

General manager Brian Cashman actually started the rebuilding process for 2015 last summer by retaining a number of players they acquired around the trade deadline or later such as third baseman Chase Headley, second baseman Stephen Drew, outfielder Chris Young and left-hander Chris Capuano.

With the retirement of Jeter, the loss of free-agent closer David Robertson and right-hander’s Hiroki Kuroda’s decision to end his career pitching in his native Japan, Cashman was forced to shuffle the deck by using young pitchers like right-handers David Phelps and Shane Greene and left-hander Manny Banuelos to bring in right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, backup first baseman and outfielder Garrett Jones, starting shortstop Didi Gregorius and relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve.

Cashman also used cash to lure free-agent left-hander Andrew Miller to bolster the bullpen around rookie sensation Dellin Betances.

The result is a team that features a starting lineup of eight players ranging in age from 31 to Alex Rodriguez at 39. The former starting third baseman is returning from a year-long performance-enhancing drug suspension to become the team’s designated hitter.

Only Gregarious at age 25 is considered young.

However, the rotation features a 26-year-old in Tanaka, a 26-year-old in Michael Pineda and a 25-year-old in Eovaldi. A spring injury to 36-year-old Capuano has thrust 27-year-old Adam Warren into the No. 5 slot. So the only pitcher over 27 in the Yankees rotation is Sabathia, who is 34. When is the last time you could say that about the Yankees’ rotation?

The bullpen will center around Betances, 26, and Miller, 28, who are  –  at least for now  –  going share the closing duties. If both pitch as they have up to now, it will be a very good shutdown pair because neither have been hit hard by righties or lefties.

The concern will be with the setup spots. Warren is in the rotation so the Yankees will be counting on the right-handed Carpenter, 29, and left-handed Justin Wilson, 27, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates with Cashman using the team’s catching surplus to deal away Francisco Cervelli.

If Carpenter and Wilson are successful, the bullpen will have a chance to be very good. If they fail, it could be a long season. Warren’s shift back to the bullpen with the return of both Capuano and right-hander Ivan Nova from Tommy John surgery in June can only be a big plus for the group.

Esmil Rogers, 29, will handle long relief. Shreve, 24, gives Girardi a third left-hander and 6-foot-8 right-hander Chris Martin has 95-mile-per-hour stuff that moves on an extreme downward plane. This trio looks solid and give Girardi credit for being a master of managing bullpens.

All spring long the Yankees struggled to score runs. It was not too much different from the way the offense struggled last season.

A pair of speed demons  –  Ellsbury and Gardner  –  are stacked on top of the lineup. The idea is to get them on base as much as possible and let them use their speed to get into scoring position for the middle of the lineup.

Both combined to steal 60 bases in what both players admittedly could call an off year. So they hope they can top 80 this season.

The whole strategy rests upon the middle of the order bouncing back from injuries and off years in 2015.

The third batter, Beltran, incurred painful bone chips in his right elbow and ended up posting the worst numbers of his career.

The cleanup hitter, Teixiera, was still limited by a sore right wrist and other injuries and posted only 22 home runs.

Although the fifth hitter, McCann, did crack 23 home runs and drive 78 runs, he only batted .232. So the Yankees would like him to hit closer to his career .272 average this season.

That is plenty of firepower but it seems like a fragile situation counting on Beltran, who will be 38 on April 24 and Teixeira, who will be 35 on April 11.

Behind McCann may be the one diamond-in-the-rough player who is primed for  huge season in Headley, 30, who hit 31 homers and drove in 115 runs for the San Diego Padres in 2012. Back issues have hampered him for the past two seasons but he seems healthy now.

He batted .305 with three homers and eight RBIs this spring and the former Gold Glove winner has been flashing some serious leather at third base.

It is unclear how much A-Rod will contribute from the DH spot. Rodriguez has not played more than 138 games since his Most Valuable Player season in 2007. Hip surgeries, nagging other ailments and the drug suspension have teamed with Father Time to make him an unknown quantity.

This spring, Rodriguez batted .267 with three homers and four RBIs and he did not look overmatched at the plate. But it is hard to know what A-Rod will provide until the bells rings on the regular season.

Nowhere did the Yankees look more vulnerable last season than at second base. After Robinson Cano took his power, his .300 average and his Gold Glove defensive skills to Seattle, the Yankees tried veteran Brian Roberts at the position.

But his batting and fielding skills eroded over four seasons of injuries and the Yankees cut him loose in July in favor of Drew, who had never played second base in the pro baseball. Drew also was dealing with a season-long hitting slump that saw him bat only .162 between the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees.

Drew started this spring very slowly but emerged to bat over .470 in the final three weeks with three home runs. Drew has been working with the Yankees’ new hitting coach Jeff Petland and it seems to have been paying some dividends. The Yankees would settle for Drew batting .250 or so with 15 homers and 65 RBIs this season. Those had been norms for Drew in his previous seasons.

Though it was sad to see the 20-year era of Jeter’s career at shortstop come to an end, the Yankees are very hopeful they have an emerging star in the making in Gregorius.

What fans immediately saw this spring is that Gregorius has outstanding range, great hands and an powerful and accurate arm. The Yankees believe his defense will be upgrade since Jeter’s range had been so limited the past several years.

Jeter batted .256 in his final season and the Yankees hope that Gregorius can possibly top that average this season largely batting ninth. When Gregorius was in Arizona, manager Kirk Gibson benched him against left-handers because he has batted only .150 in his career against them.

But the Yankees allowed him to hit against left-handers this spring and Gregorius did not seem to look bad against them. So, for now, Girardi is content with playing his young shortstop every day.

The bench is solid and features power-hitting right-hander Young and power-hitting left-hander Jones. Young, 31, had an exceptional spring and he brings athleticism to all three outfield spots he plays and a potential deadly bat against left-handed pitching.

Jones, 33, hit 15 homers for the Miami Marlins last season and he seems to have the perfect swing for Yankee Stadium. Jones will primarily back up Teixeira at first and he can also play the corner outfield spots, if needed.

Backup infielder Brendan Ryan, 33, had a spring he would rather forget. First, he was delayed at the start with a back injury he sustained lifting weights. After he returned, Ryan ended up pulling a right calf muscle last week and he will start the season on the disabled list.

Ryan brings a slick glove to second, shortstop and third base  –  although short is where he really shines in the field. But he can’t hit a lick. He has no power and he is a career .234 hitter.

The Yankees obtained infielder Gregorio Petit from the Houston Astros in exchange for cash in the last week of the spring. So Petit, 30, will assume Ryan’s role despite having played on only 62 major-league games with the Oakland Athletics and the Astros. He has batted .278 in just 151 at-bats. He will be a stopgap until Ryan is healthy again.

John Ryan Murphy, 23, managed to hold off a challenge from veteran Austin Romine this spring to remain the backup to McCann. Murphy batted .284 with a homer and nine RBIs in 32 games last season and the Yankees rave about his defense behind the plate.

But the biggest secret the Yankees are carrying with them now lies in the young players they were able to showcase this spring. For the first time in a very long time the Yankees have a number of very good prospects and some positional depth at the minor-league level that could be factors this season.

But the promise is even brighter longer term.

Right-handed starters Luis Severino and Domingo German (obtained in the trade for Phelps and Martin Prado) and left-handed starter Ian Clarkin along with left-handed reliever Jacob Lindgren and right-handed relievers Nick Rumbelow and Jose Ramirez are in the pipeline and moving quickly to the majors.

Second basemen Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela tore the cover off the ball this spring and their presence at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is just a taste of what is the horizon with outfielders Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores also knocking on the door.

Right-hander Chase Whitley, 25, had a 1.17 ERA this spring and he still not crack the bullpen. You have to figure he is going to get a call-up to the 25-man roster at some point. Keep an eye also on Bryan Mitchell, who will be 24 this month. Mitchell drew rave reviews when he fanned Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez back-to-back in a five-inning effort in a split-squad game in Lakeland, FL, on April 2.

At Double-A Trenton will be prospects such as outfielder Aaron Judge and first baseman Greg Bird, both of whom looked undaunted by major-league pitching this spring.

Catching prospect Gary Sanchez, 23, is also not too far away from contributing in the major leagues.

Though Yankee fans and the Yankee front office never has shown much patience with its young prospects in the past, this group might just force the front office to use them and perhaps the revolving door of signing aging free agents will finally end.

Should the Yankees falter as what so many experts are predicting this season. The young players who are on the way could be a foundation to build around, It is there to see. It is just up to Cashman and the Yankee front office not to screw it up.

Here now is my brief assessment of the other four teams in the division and my prediction for the order of finish in 2015.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

This is a team that ran away with this division last season. But it is hard to see them as a “great” team.

Their ace is a very pedestrian Chris Tillman. Their offense lost outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. They also are likely to be without Matt Wieters to start the season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Ditto for shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has left shoulder injury.

With all that they still have Adam Jones, Manny Machado and they are really hoping that Chris Davis recovers his home-run stroke.

Though Tillman is not a true ace they do have Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzales and Bud Norris to form a solid foursome. The bullpen with closer Zach Britton and setup guys Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter is top notch.

They also have one of the best managers in baseball in Buck Showalter. So in Baltimore there is hope the O’s can repeat.

A lot depends on how new outfielders Alejandro De Aza and Travis Snider do to make up for the losses of Cruz and Markakis.

BOSTON RED SOX

This team flopped in 2014 and yet many are picking them to win the title in 2015.

Most of that is based on their offense. To Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, the Red Sox have added Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Pablo Sandoval.

They are also hoping for better seasons and health from Xander Bogaerts and Shane Victorino.

However, it is hard to look at the rotation and see anything but potential disaster.

Clay Buchholz was 8-11 with a 6.34 ERA and is considered the ace. Rick Porcello did have a 15-13 record and a 3.43 ERA with the Tigers. But Justin Masterson was 7-9 with a 5.88 with the Cleveland Indians and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Lefty Wade Miley was 8-12 with a 4.34 ERA for the Arizona Diamondbacks. A better offense will help him but he is not anything close to Jon Lester, who the Red Sox traded last season and were unable to re-sign as a free agent.

No. 5 starter Joe Kelly (6-4, 4.20 ERA with the Cardinals) starts the season on the disabled list with right bicep injury. In addition, closer Koji Uehara, who just turned 40, is also on the disabled list with a hamstring injury so Edward Mujica and his 49 career saves are it for now.

There is no doubt that the Red Sox will be capable of scoring runs. The question is will it be enough runs to cover a pitching staff and an underbelly of a bullpen that could really exploited?

Add that up to the fact that catcher Christian Vazquez is out for the season to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and you have enough doubts about the Red Sox to make it unlikely they are a good choice to win this division.

The Toronto Blue Jays tried this approach last season and it did not work.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

This team seemingly lost everything so quickly that their home radio station, WDAE, is not very enthusiastic about them.

Manager Joe Maddon and his screwy ideas that seem to work on shifting is gone. General manager Andrew Friedman, who introduced sabermetrics and advanced scouting techniques to the organization that built this team, is also gone.

The team’s best pitcher in David Price was traded last season and now is pitching for the Detroit Tigers. Their second-best pitcher, Matt Moore, is not expected back until June because he is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

This spring they incurred injuries to their best remaining pitcher Alex Cobb. Their closer, Jake McGee, will miss the first month.

They also traded away offensive contributors such as Wil Myers, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar and Matt Joyce.

The team’s offense can be wrapped up in third baseman Evan Longoria and a lot of hope and praying.

They are counting on production out of rookie outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who batted .130 this spring and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who the Indians discarded saying he could not play shortstop and he was not the hitter he was in 2011 (25 home runs and 92 RBIs).

They are still hoping that Desmond Jennings just shows one little spark of the long-departed Carl Crawford. But it is not looking like it will happen.

This could amount to one of the weakest hitting teams in baseball in 2015 and it could be worse without Maddon running the show.

Granted, Cobb, Moore, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi could form a solid rotation when they are all healthy. The question is can the Rays tread water long enough to see that happen?

Though McGee, Grant Balfour and Brad Boxberger form a solid trio at the back of the bullpen, the Rays are counting on a pair of former failed relievers in Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri to help out in the middle innings.

They also do not have a decent lefty beyond McGee. Ouch!

After many years of dealing with their obnoxious cowbell-ringing fans  –  all of about 7,000 of them a game  –  it appears that the bloom is off the rose and the cowbells will eventually fall silent this season unless there is some sort of miracle new manager Kevin Cash can create.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

This was the sexy choice to win the division in 2014. Funny thing is, I would have selected them to win this season if young right-hander Marcus Stroman did suffer knee injury that will force him to miss the entire season.

Stroman would have formed a nice 1-2 punch with right-hander Drew Hutchison, who at 24 has progressed so much as a pitcher he is starting on Opening Day ahead of Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and veteran Mark Buehrle.

To that they have added a pair of young pitchers in left-hander Daniel Norris and right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who looked to be the team’s closer in waiting until the team opted to use him as a starter instead.

The bullpen is untested but it has closer Brett Cecil. There is a lot untested pitchers in the mix behind him but 20-year-old Miguel Castro may end being something special as he gets his feet wet in the majors.

Like the Red Sox, the Blue Jays never have to worry about scoring runs. Add to the thundering power of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion the bat of third baseman Josh Donaldson, who hit 29 home runs and drove in 98 runs for the Athletics in their cavernous ballpark.

You would think Donaldson will love the Rogers Centre.

Though the Jays will miss line-drive machine Melky Cabrera, they still have Jose Reyes and they have also added catcher Russell Martin, who can hit 20 homers and run a pitching staff like a pitching coach.

So there is a lot to like.

The question is after losing Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus the Blue Jays are trotting a pair of young outfielders in Dalton Pompey (center) and Kevin Pillar (left). Much of what the Blue Jays do will revolve around what they do.

They also have a new second baseman in Devon Travis.

It is hard to pick a team to win with so many new players in the lineup like Pillar, Pompey and Travis. This team is carrying six rookies!

But the real test of how the Blue Jays do in 2015 will hinge on its pitching staff. Stroman was a much bigger loss than I think the Blue Jays can overcome.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1) BALTIMORE ORIOLES (92-70)

2) TORONTO BLUE JAYS (86-76)

3) NEW YORK YANKEES (84-78)

4) BOSTON RED SOX (80-82)

5) TAMPA BAY RAYS (76-86)  Hello Montreal!

The Orioles will fall back to the pack but not enough to make much difference. The Blue Jays actually could have won it with Stroman, but now they will fall short and they will not win the wildcard either. I was tempted to pick the Yankees for second because Tanaka, Pineda and Eovaldi are all primed for excellent seasons. But the offense this spring was woefully lacking and it looks as if they will lose a lot of 4-3 and 3-2 games unless make a deal for a young slugger like Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees just do not have that stud in the middle of the order and it will hurt. The Red Sox will be the Red Flops mainly because their pitching is not as good as people believe it is. Their bullpen also is much weaker without Miller. About all that the “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval is good for is twining with Ortiz to advertise for a doughnut shop. Ramirez is talented but he also is moody and can give up when things are not going well. Ask the Marlins and Dodgers. As for the Rays, their collapse could not have come at a worse time for them when attendance and TV viewership is dropping. The owner wants to have a new stadium built despite the fact that they are tied to dumpy and ugly Tropicana Field for many more years. That is why it is inevitable that the team will be sold and shifted to another city like Montreal soon. Tre bien!

2015 Yanks Likely Will Extend Playoff Drought

Welcome back to one of the best New York Yankees team blogs available on the web. Because of some circumstances beyond our control this site was non-operational for the past eight months. There was a thought of suspending the site entirely. But because of some 52 years devoted to the best franchise in sports history we felt we owed our fans the ability to stay up to date with the team on a daily basis. It is with that renewed commitment we will embark at looking at the team’s prospects for 2015.

The New York Yankees have faced two significant championship droughts in their most recent history.

The first was the end of the so-called Mickey Mantle Era in 1965 that lasted until Billy Martin managed the team to a loss to the Big Red Machine in the 1976 World Series. The 10 intervening years saw the team flounder with players such as Bobby Murcer, Roy White, Horace Clarke and Mel Stottlemyre.

George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in 1973 and he immediately rebuilt the front office with general manager Gabe Paul, who wrangled trades for players such as Lou Piniella, Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss and Mickey Rivers. The Steinbrenner money brought in free agents such as Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage and Catfish Hunter, which was added to a minor-league system that had already produced Thurman Munson and Ron Guidry.

The teams of 1977 and 1978 battled to consecutive World Series titles over the rival Los Angeles Dodgers, restoring the Yankees back to the pinnacle of baseball’s elite that they had not experienced since 1962. But this success proved to be short-lived.

During the strike-shortened 1981 season the Yankees qualified for the playoffs and faced the Dodgers again in the World Series. But they lost and the team soon again drifted into mediocrity. The team was unable to make the playoffs again until 1996 – a playoff drought of an astounding 15 years.

Through a parade of managers and general managers and an even longer list of failed free agents and personnel mistakes the Yankees rebuilt in the early 1990s through a farm system that very quickly produced Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera.

Meanwhile the team was bolstered by the trade of Roberto Kelly to the Cincinnati Reds for Paul O’Neill, the acquisition of first baseman Tino Martinez from the Seattle Mariners and the signings of players like Wade Boggs, David Cone, David Wells and Cuban star Orlando Hernandez.

Steinbrenner fired manager Buck Showalter after a very painful 1995 loss to the Seattle Mariners in the American League Division Series and hired Joe Torre. The rest was history as the Yankees managed to win four World Series over the next five seasons, a run of titles that has been unmatched in the modern era of baseball. In fact, Torre took the Yankees to the playoffs from 1996 until his firing after the 2007 loss to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series.

Though the Yankees returned to prominence under manager Joe Girardi in the 2009 season with a World Series victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, the team has steadily declined. Age forced the retirements of all the “Core Four” (Jeter, Pettitte, Posada and Rivera) and the performance declined from such former stars as CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.

The team that enters the 2015 season is one that has age, long-term money commitments to fading players and a new mix of players that had to be procured on the cheap because of those commitments. The farm system has not produced a regular starter since Brett Gardner came up six years ago. The pitching staff has question marks all over the starting staff and the bullpen has lost its closer from from the past three seasons: 2012 (Rafael Soriano), 2013 (Rivera) and 2014 (David Robertson).

How did this happen?

Well, one reason is the declining health and eventual death of Steinbrenner. “The Boss” ran this club with a tough determination to make the franchise a jewel of Major League Baseball. The team had to win or managers or general managers went. Players had to perform or they would be discarded for better players. It was not always a successful process but the Yankees largely have been contenders for so long it is hard for fans to remember the bad stretches that began in 1965 and 1982.

The 4-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 American League Division Series may have marked an end of another chapter of success and the beginning of another long series of bad seasons.

It appears that the 2013 season may be one of those years like 1965 and 1982 and 2015 could be an extension of that futility. Transition with the Yankees is never pretty.

Another reason the Yankees are in this position is because Steinbrenner’s hand-picked successor Steve Swindal got caught up in a messy DUI incident in 2008 and then later a divorce from Steinbrenner’s daughter Jennifer. Swindal was bought out from the team and Steinbrenner’s sons Hank and Hal took the reins.

There was a very good reason that the elder Steinbrenner had selected Swindal instead of his own sons to run the team. Swindal was the most knowledgeable baseball man and conformed to Steinbrenner’s desire for excellence at all costs. The Steinbrenner sons did not have that same ability and the result has been obvious after the 2009 season.

After the team had invested millions in free agents such as Teixeira, Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, the team decided to hold general manager Brian Cashman to an austere budget to pare the Yankees payroll under the MLB’s salary cap limit that forced the Yankees to have to pay a tax.

From 2010 through the 2013 free-agent signing seasons the Yankees allowed all major free agents to go without much of an effort. Even Cuban and Japanese imports such as Yoenis Cespedes and Yu Darvish barely got a cursory look. The team was determined to either trade, use farm talent or sign cheap free-agent bargains. The team has fallen under the heft of its expensive guaranteed contracts and there is one in particular that has weighed on this team like an albatross.

That was the misguided decision in 2007 to re-sign then free-agent third baseman Rodriguez to a 10-year contract. The team still owes Rodriguez $60 million over the next three seasons despite the fact that age 39 he has not played more than 137 games in a season since 2007. Injuries, controversies and dabbling with performance enhancing drugs has basically reduced A-Rod to a mere shell of what he once was.

The Yankees have to hope he can regain some semblance of that magic because they are on the hook for his contract for three more seasons. Though Rodriguez may be planning to apologize to Yankee fans for his season-long suspension in 2014, he owes the fans an awful lot more.

If this team really does perform as badly as it looks as if they will in 2015 it will mostly be the fault of the Steinbrenner brothers, Cashman and him. It hard to see the sense of providing 10 years of big guaranteed money to someone who has always felt he is above baseball and the rules that govern it.

But here the Yankees are and no one expects Rodriguez to retire with $60 million coming his way. He will gladly hit .210 with 10 homers and 42 RBIs as long as those paychecks keep rolling in. His presence also poisons the clubhouse for the other 24 players on the roster. It is pretty obvious that A-Rod will not be out having beers with Sabathia or Teixiera. More likely he and his entourage will move in its own circles.

It is shame that a fine manager like Girardi will likely lose his job if this team plummets in the standings because none of this is his fault. For the past two seasons he has been patching this lineup with duct tape when it lost players like Rodriguez, Teixeira, Jeter and Sabathia for long stretches of time. It is miracle the team has contended at all the past two seasons given their weakened roster.

Though Girardi is virtually blameless the same can’t be said for Cashman, who is the longest serving GM in Yankee history.

He was given permission to sign free agents last season even at the risk of busting past the salary cap limits. But the whole key to Yankees 2014 season was the re-signing of second baseman Robinson Cano, who was the heir apparent to Jeter’s mantle as team leader and was the best player on this aging team. But Cashman chose to play hardball with Cano instead of treating him as a respected player.

When the Dodgers and Detroit Tigers looked elsewhere for help at second base last winter, Cashman figured that the market for Cano had dried up. So instead of negotiating Cano off his 10-year, $325 million request he went out an signed Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $275 million deal. Cano was livid because placing his numbers next to Ellsbury’s was an obvious mismatch weighted towards Cano. He felt he was easily worth $325 million in comparison.

He also was right. Ellsbury is a fine player but he is not in the same league with Cano.

So Cano shopped himself to the Mariners and they felt he was worth the price.

Cashman’s answer to Cano’s signing: He opted to cave in to Carlos Betran’s demand for a three-year deal and he filled Cano’s spot at second with former Baltimore Orioles star Brian Roberts.

The result was very ugly. The 37-year-old Beltran developed a painful bone spur in his right elbow in spring training and he ended up playing 109 games, hitting .233 with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs. Meanwhile, the 37-year-old Roberts played in 91 games and never could get even close to what he used to be. He ended up being released in midseason after hitting a woeful .237 with five homers and 21 RBIs.

Cano, meanwhile, hit .314 for  a Mariners club that nearly made the playoffs.

Cashman’s miscalculation has placed the Yankees in a position where they enter the 2015 season with 31-year-old Stephen Drew as their starting second baseman after he hit .162 with seven homers and 26 RBIs with the Yankees and Red Sox last season.

So when the Yankees begin their complete fall off the cliff in 2015 it actually should be Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner who go and not Girardi. But I am not sure that is the way it likely will play out. I can see Steinbrenner firing Girardi and keeping Cashman. That is how those long championship droughts are born. Bad choices and bad luck equal bad results. (Did Casey Stengel say that?)

There will be some bright spots on this team. After all, the team is not completely devoid of talent.

It appears that Dellin Betances could be the real deal if he can maintain his control as a full-time closer. The signing of left-hander Andrew Miller gives the Yankees a second option as a closer and fills the void the team felt when they let Boone Logan walk in 2014.

The signing of Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka proved to be a very good decision. He was exactly what the Yankees hoped he would be in the United States until a small ligament tear was found in his right elbow in July. The Yankees are hoping rest and rehabilitation will prevent him from a more serious tear that will basically shelve him for two seasons. They are rolling the dice on it anyway.

It also was apparent that if Michael Pineda had not missed most of the season with a shoulder muscle injury that he would have established himself as a rising young right-hander.

But the rest of the rotation is a litany of question marks, hopes and prayers. The bullpen has been completely reshuffled and it is not clear what pitchers Girardi will have pitching ahead of Miller and Betances.

The offense? Don’t ask.

Recently a composite ranking of fantasy baseball players came out. Ellsbury was ranked No. 22, which makes him a third-round selection. The next highest Yankee position player on that list was Gardner at 109, which is an 11th-round choice. That is an grim indicator of how much the Yankees offense has fallen on hard times.

They require bounce back seasons from Teixeira, Rodriguez and Beltran as well as for second-year starting catcher Brian McCann, who stumbled his way through a 2014 season in which he batted .232 with 23 homers and 75 RBIs.

The biggest news of all is that for the first time since the 1995 season the Yankees will be without Jeter at shortstop. Because there was no one in the system groomed to replace him (Cashman again), the Yankees acquired 25-year-old Didi Gregorius.

His reputation is that he has a great glove, great range and a developing bat. His big weakness is left-hand pitching so he likely will have to share the position with great-field and no-hit Brendan Ryan, yet another player over 30.

The Yankees also have to hope Drew can recapture his magic at the plate and that third baseman Chase Headley is better than a .243 hitter that he was with the Padres and Yankees last season.

The bench has some veterans, of course.

Former Pirate Garrett Jones has been added as a backup first baseman, right-fielder and designated hitter. The Yankees also retained Chris Young, who is a poor man’s version of Alfonso Soriano with even more strikeouts.

If you think this sounds bad I am actually trying to sugarcoat some of it.

But, hey, the Kansas City Royals made the World Series last season and who could have predicted that? Of course, they did it with a team full of young players and an exceptional bullpen. They Yankees currently have neither of those two ingredients.

But I can say that Girardi will select the best 25 players this spring. He also will put out the best lineup he can on a daily basis. You can also count on him getting the team to outperform expectations as they have the past two seasons.

Whether it will be enough to win the American League East or qualify as a wild card is an open question.

In the coming days I will examine the players more in depth and take a look forward at spring training to go over who the Yankees will likely keep on the roster and what young players are poised to make a splash for the team in coming years.

I hope you enjoy the analysis. All I can say is I am glad to be back and let’s get ready to play ball!

 

Kuroda, Tex Help Yankees End Skid Against Jays

GAME 77

YANKEES 5, BLUE JAYS 3

There are some managers who will say that their team needs to learn how to win. After four straight losses, Yankees manager Joe Girardi must have given his team a master class in Winning 101 on Wednesday.

Hiroki Kiroda gave the Yankees a solid effort, pitching into the seventh inning, and Mark Teixeira homered and drove in three runs as New York salvaged the final game of a three-game set against Toronto in front of a paid crowd of 34,710 at Rogers Centre.

Kuroda (5-5) yielded three runs on eight hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings to win his first game since May 28 when he defeated the Cardinals in St. Louis.

Initially, it did not look good for Kuroda when Jose Reyes led off the bottom of the first by cranking Kuroda’s first offering into the second deck in the right-field bleachers to give the Blue Jays an early 1-0 lead.

However, Huroda settled in and the Yankees were able to score four runs in the third inning off right-hander Drew Hutchison.

Kelly Johnson opened the frame by drawing a walk and Francisco Cervelli slammed a double into the gap in right-center to score Johnson and tie the game. It was only Cervelli’s second RBI of the season.

Two batters later, Jacoby Ellsbury singled up the middle to score Cervelli and Teixeira then launched a 0-1 change-up into the right-field bleachers to give Kuroda and the Yankees a comfortable 4-1 lead. It was Teixeira’s 14th home run of the season and his second in three games in Toronto.

“The whole dugout was excited about those four runs,” Teixeira told reporters after the game. “It had been a while since we had a lead.”

The Blue Jays, however, did draw closer in the bottom of the fifth.

Munenori Kawasaki drew a one-out walk and with two out Reyes stroked a ground-rule double. Then Melky Cabrera slapped an opposite-field single to left to score two runs to cut the Yankees’ lead to a run.

Hutchison (5-6) left after six innings having given up four runs on seven hits and two walks while he fanned six batters.

The Yankees did add a run in the sixth after Blue Jays left-hander Rob Rasmussen walked Brett Gardner, hit Derek Jeter in the foot with a pitch and then issued another free pass to Ellsbury to load the bases.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons summoned right-hander Sergio Santos to pitch to Teixeira and Teixeira was able to loft a sacrifice fly to deep center to score Gardner.

The Yankees’ bullpen took it from there as Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton, Adam Warren and David Robertson held the Blue Jays scoreless on just two hits with no walks and three strikeouts over the final 2 2/3 innings.

Robertson retired all five batters he faced, including striking out the first three batters he faced, to earn his 18th save in 20 opportunities this season.

The victory improved the Yankees’ season record to 40-37 and they are now 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Blue Jays in third place in the American League East. The Blue Jays dropped to 44-36.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • After poor outings from Chase Whitley and David Phelps the past two games, Kuroda was able to keep the Blue Jays contained to allow the Yankee offense to get untracked. Kuroda, 39, has been somewhat of a disappointment after he pitched so well in 2012 and 2013. With his 4.23 ERA, Kuroda could stand to start putting together some good outings and pitch more consistently.
  • Teixiera’s three RBIs give him 39 on the season, which currently leads the team. The Yankees are nearly at the halfway point of the season and it is embarrassing that their team leader only has 39 RBIs. But with Teixiera slowed by a hamstring injury and a sore right wrist and Brian McCann, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Beltran all underperforming the Yankees will take anything they can get from Teixeira.
  • Ellsbury was 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. Ellsbury has now put together a stretch of eight games in which he is 11-for-31 (.355). But he only has one extra-base hit (a double) and three RBIs in that span.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Brian Roberts was the only Yankee starter who failed to reach base in the game. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Roberts was 7-for-18 (.389) with a home run and two RBIs in his previous five games. Roberts, 36, had his season average fall to .240.
  • Despite the victory the Yankees were just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and they left the bases loaded in both the fifth and seventh innings. It is getting to the point where pitchers might just as well just intentionally walk the first three Yankees each inning because the odds the Yankees will score any runs is virtually nil.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a day off on Thursday before opening a three-game home series starting on Friday against the reeling Boston Red Sox.

Left-hander Vidal Nuno (1-4, 5.88 ERA) will begin the series for the Yankees. His one victory was on May 7 and he is 0-4 with a 6.12 since then. He gave up four runs on six hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

The Red Sox will pitch right-hander Brandon Workman (1-0, 2.88 ERA). Workman surrendered two runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in six innings in a no decision against the Cleveland Indians on June 15.

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

 

Canzler Among 26 Spring Yankee Camp Invitees

With pitchers and catchers due to report in less than two weeks (Feb. 14) and the full squad coming in on Feb. 19, the New York Yankees have invited a total of 26 players to spring training.

Nine players have been signed to minor-league deals including right-hander Bruce Billings, infielder Russ Canzler, right-hander Robert Coello, right-hander Brian Gordon, right-hander Chris Leroux, outfielder Antoan Richardson, infielder Scott Sizemore, infielder Yangervis Solarte and infielder Zelous Wheeler.

Canzler (29 games), Coello (28), Sizemore (160) and Leroux (63) all have previous major-league experience. In addition, left-hander Matt Daley, infielder Corban Joseph and right-hander Jim Miller also received invites after spending time with the Yankees last season.

Among the position players with major-league experience, the infielders Canzler, Sizemore and Joseph will get opportunities to actually make the squad this spring.

If Canzler’s name is familiar it is because he was on the Yankees’ original spring training roster last season before he was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for Travis Hafner. Canzler, 27, was then picked up by the Baltimore Orioles and he was later sent to their Triple A affiliate in Norfolk.

He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 13 and spent the rest of the season at Triple-A Indianapolis. Combined at the two stops, Canzler hit .252 with 12 home runs and 62 RBIs in 125 games.

Canzler is valuable utility player in that he can play both corner infield and outfield spots.

In his 29 games in the majors, he is a .271 hitter with three home runs and 12 RBIs.

The Yankees see the 6-foot-2 right-handed power hitter as a possible platoon at third base with left-handed-hitting Kelly Johnson and a fill-in for Mark Teixeira at first-base. The fact Canzler also can play the outfield would be a definite bonus.

Sizemore, 29, on the other hand, is primarily a second baseman who figures to be in line as a backup infielder at second, shortstop and third base.

The right-handed-hitting Sizemore, a product of the Detroit Tigers’ minor-league system, was dealt to the Oakland Athletics in 2011. In 160 games, Sizemore has hit .238 with 14 homers and 60 RBIs.

Sizemore elected to become a free agent this winter after knee injuries limited him to just two games since 2011.

Joseph, 25, is product of the Yankees’ minor-league system and he made his major-league debut with the Yankees on May 13 during a doubleheader with the Cleveland Indians. Sizemore was 1-for-6 in the two games.

Primarily a second baseman, the lefty-swinging rookie can also play third base.

In 47 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Joseph hit only .239 with six homers and 19 RBIs. He was placed on the disabled list on May 31 and missed the remainder of the season with a right shoulder injury that required surgery.

With Brian Roberts entrenched at second and Johnson penciled in at third, Joseph’s chances of making the major-league roster in 2014 are virtually nil. The Yankees also have veteran backups such as Brendan Ryan and Eduardo Nunez ahead of him as well as second base prospects Dean Anna and Jose Pirela knocking on the door.

Of the pitchers, Miller has the best shot to make the team after spending most of the 2013 season at Triple A, where he was 3-5 with a 3.55 ERA and six saves in nine chances in 43 games.

In one game with the Yankees, Miller, 31, had a 20.25 ERA in 1 1/3 innings. Miller also has pitched for the Orioles, the Colorado Rockies and the A’s in his career.

The list of 26 invitees also includes outfielder Mason Williams, right-hander Danny Burawa, outfielder Tyler Austin, right-hander Chase Whitley and left-hander Fred Lewis. All five were selected by the Yankees during the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

Williams, 22, is the team’s No. 2 prospect, and Austin, 22, is the team’s No. 3 prospect.

The organization’s Minor-League Pitcher of the Year in 2012, right-handed reliever Mark Montgomery, also was invited.

The other invitees include: Catchers Pete O’Brien, Francisco Arcia and Jose Gil; outfielder Adonis Garcia; infielder Pirela; right-handers Yoshinori Tateyama and David Herndon; and left-hander Francisco Rondon.

The 26 invitees brings the number of players invited to camp to 66, which is 18 fewer than in 2014. Among the 26 players are 13 pitchers, three catchers, six infielders and four outfielders.

Tanaka Signing Thrusts Yankees Into Contention

The key to winning baseball has always been pitching and the New York Yankees solidified their 2014 starting rotation by agreeing to terms with Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka on Thursday.

After a disastrous season in which the Yankees failed to make the playoffs for only the second time in 19 seasons, their stated “goal” of remaining under the $189 million payroll limit and the loss of Robinson Cano to free agency, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner fought back by loosening the pursestrings for general manager Brian Cashman.

The result was a dizzying array of signings that included All-Star catcher Brian McCann, outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, the additions of key pieces like infielders Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson and left-handed reliever Matt Thornton and the re-signing of right-handed starter Hiroki Kuroda.

But none of those signings would have mattered much at all unless the Yankees landed Tanaka.

Tanaka, 25, came off a season with Rakuten Golden Eagles with a 24-0 record and a 1.27 ERA in leading his team to the Japanese championship. In his seven seasons he was 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA, striking out 1,238 batters in 1,315 innings.

The right-hander possesses a 94-mile-per-hour fastball along with a world-class splitter and a slider. More importantly, Tanaka is not a nibbler in the tradition of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Last season he struck out 183 batters while walking 32 in 212 innings.

Those eye-popping stats led the Yankees front office to offer a seven-year contract worth $155 million plus the $20 million posting fee that will have to be paid to the Golden Eagles. The signing also proved pundits wrong for predicting that the Los Angeles Dodgers had the inside track in signing Tanaka because his wife, a singing star of some note, preferred to be on the West Coast and craved the glitter of Hollywood.

Tanaka will receive $22 million in each of the first six seasons and $23 million in 2020. The deal also allows the contract to be terminated after four seasons to permit Tanaka to seek free agency. He also has a full no-trade clause.

He also was allotted a $35,000 moving allowance and annual payments of $100,000 per season for housing for the New York metropolitan area or Tampa, FL. The Yankees threw in $85,000 in annual salary for an interpreter and four annual first-class flights from the United States to Japan.

Doubters will question this largesse heaped upon a pitcher who has yet to throw a pitch in the major leagues. But the Yankees’ front office and scouts were convinced that Tanaka has the potential to be even better than countryman Yu Darvish, 27, who is 29-18 with a 3.34 ERA in his first two seasons as the ace of the Texas Rangers.

Tanaka will slide into the No. 2 spot behind CC Sabathia and join fellow Japanese right-hander Kuroda and 27-year-old right-hander Ivan Nova in a revamped Yankee rotation in 2014.

The Yankees believed they needed to upgrade the rotation this season after the retirement of left-hander Andy Pettitte and the loss of right-hander Phil Hughes to the Minnesota Twins.

There also are questions swirling around Sabathia, 33, after his disappointing 2013 campaign in which he slipped to 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA. The ace left-hander had to adjust with a huge drop in velocity on his fastball and his record shows there are more adjustments necessary.

But Sabathia vows that he will show up this spring ready to prove he is still the same pitcher who was 74-29 in his previous four seasons in pinstripes.

That would be a good thing because Sabathia never found his groove after posting a 4-2 record with a 3.35 ERA in April. His ERAs in succeeding months were 4.14, 5.11, 6.60 and 5.94. Yankee fans can take some comfort in the fact Sabathia was 2-2 with a 3.90 ERA in September.

That could indicate he will indeed adjust as Pettitte and Mike Mussina did when they lost velocity.

The odd thing is that after four seasons of being accused of not paying attention to his weight as the season progressed, many of those same “so-called experts” thought Sabathia lost velocity last season because he was too thin. Well, who really knows? But it is ironic those “experts” would mention it.

The Yankees will settle for Sabathia arriving in Tampa in shape and they believe he has enough weapons to remain effective as a starting pitcher because he never really has been a pitcher totally dependent on his fastball to get by.

He will remain atop the rotation in 2014 with the help of the infusion of a young Tanaka behind him.

Strangely, the Yankees’ No. 3 starter was their best pitcher in 2013 despite making only 20 starts.

Nova began the season pitching horribly in spring training and in his first four starts of 2013 before succumbing to a inflammation in right triceps. After spending time on the disabled list, a rehab stint in the minors and pitching briefly out of the bullpen, Nova returned to the rotation on June 23.

From that point on, Nova was absolutely brilliant. He was 7-4 with a 2.59 in his last 15 starts beginning on July 5. This came after a season in which Nova’s game flew off the rails and he ended up 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA in 2012.

So the Yankees believe that Nova’s second half is more indicative of what he is as a pitcher after he was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 2011.

Nova decided not to use his slider very much last season in order to concentrate on his mid-90s fastball and devastating curveball. The result was 79 strikeouts in those 15 starts. The fact that he still just 27 makes him an excellent No. 3 starter in this bolstered rotation.

Before Nova came on, Kuroda, who will be 39 on Feb. 10, was the Yankees’ most consistent pitcher. In fact, on Aug. 12, Kuroda was sporting a 11-7 mark with a 2.33 ERA on one of the weakest hitting Yankee teams in generations.

But a heavy workload of 154 2/3 innings began to take a toll on the veteran. In his last eight starts, Kuroda was 0-6 with a awful 6.56 ERA. It is clear that Kuroda was overtaxed into pitching past six innings too early in the season because he was not getting adequate offensive support.

Manager Joe Girardi was forced to keep him in a lot of close games and Kuroda paid a heavy price down the stretch. Even still, Kuroda finished the season 11-13 with a 3.31 ERA and he will certainly benefit from an improved offense in 2014.

The Yankees are impressed with the way Kuroda is able to adjust midstream in games by dipping into his arsenal of fastballs, sliders, splitters and curves to find the pitches that are working best for him that night, That is why they chose to re-sign him to a third one-year contract for $16 million.

Kuroda and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki should also help make Tanaka feel at home in the Yankees’ clubhouse.

The big concern for the Yankees now is who will claim the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Fortunately, they have some options to fill the spot.

The “dream scenario” for the Yankees would have 25-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda ready to take the ball this spring and run with it. Pineda, after all, was obtained in a 2012 trade with the Seattle Mariners along with right-hander Jose Campos, 21, for catcher Jesus Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi.

However, after a 2011 rookie season in which Pineda made the American League All-Star team and was 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA for a weak-hitting Seattle team, Pineda ended up having to undergo surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder after his last spring training start in 2012.

He missed the entire season and pitched only 40 2/3 innings in the minors last season until he was shut down in August after experiencing some minor shoulder soreness.

The Yankees still have high hopes for Pineda, who boasted a mid-90s fastball, an above average change-up and a slider before his injury. The Yankees took a lot of heat from their fans when they traded away their No. 1 prospect in Montero and allowed the Mariners to deal Pineda instead of parting with ace right-hander Felix Hernandez.

So there is some pressure on Pineda as he enters spring training having not thrown a single pitch for the Yankees in two seasons. It will be interesting to see how much Pineda has lost off his heater and if he still can be effective for the Yankees.

But the Yankees claim he is healthy and should be ready to go.

Another option for the No. 5 spot is right-hander David Phelps.

Phelps, 27, started his second major-league season in his usual role as a long man in the bullpen until he was thrust into the rotation on May 1 to replace the injured Nova.

Phelps showed great promise by going 2-2 with a 4.32 in six starts in May. But he stumbled to a 3-2 record with a 5.57 ERA in his next six starts before he landed on the disabled list in July with a strained right forearm.

Phelps did not return to the roster until Sept. 15 and was 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA in four relief appearances.

The Yankees see Phelps as a solid Plan B if Pineda is not quite ready to pitch or he suffers a setback in his rehab. But the Yankees clearly see Phelps more valuable in the bullpen, as his numbers in 2012 indicate. Phelps was 4-4 with a 4.34 ERA in his rookie season.

Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild admire Phelps fearlessness in attacking hitters though he owns only a pedestrian fastball.

Phelps makes up for a lack of velocity with good command of the strike zone and he can ring up a lot of strikeouts with his breaking stuff and pitching smarts.

The Yankees also have right-hander Adam Warren, 26, who was 2-2 with a 3.39 ERA in a long relief role for the Yankees in his rookie season in 2013.

Warren did make two late-season spot starts and was 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in those starts. Unlike Phelps, Warren has above-average velocity on his fastball. But the Yankees are not sure how high Warren’s ceiling extends as a starter. They would prefer to keep him as a long reliever if they could.

The Yankees got an unexpected boost with a reclamation project in left-hander David Huff last season. Huff, 29, who was former starter with the Cleveland Indians, was signed after his release from the Indians and recalled from Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre in mid-August.

He was 3-1 with a 4.67 ERA. But that does not tell the whole story. Huff was tagged for nine runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 7. Without that disastrous appearance Huff had a 2.37 ERA in his other nine appearances.

Huff also seemed comfortable in a long relief role as well as in his two spot starts in September. He also brings some value as a left-hander.

However, because the Yankees have to make room on the 40-man roster for Tanaka, Huff was designated for assignment. He will only return to the Yankees as a free agent if he is unable to find work elsewhere, which is unlikely considering he is left-handed and he pitched so well in 2013 for the Yankees.

There has been an ongoing rumor this winter that the Yankees might be interested in signing former two-time American League Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana.

Santana, 34, became a free agent when the New York Mets declined to pick up his option for 2014. Santana did not pitch in 2013 after suffering a second tear of his anterior left shoulder capsule. Santana was 46-34 with a 3.18 ERA over parts of four seasons with the Mets.

The signing of Tanaka makes Santana’s signing less likely. Santana was scheduled to make $25 million before the Mets bought out his option for $5.5 million. If the Yankees can get him for less than $10 million they might take a shot. But Santana also has to prove he is healthy.

The Twins, the team with whom he won those two Cy Young awards, are among the teams interested in Santana when he is given the go-ahead to throw from a mound for scouts at his Fort Myers, FL, home in February.

The Yankees do have some good young pitchers in the minors but none of them look ready to break camp with the team. A few could be called up during the season if they progress well.

At the top of the list is left-hander Vidal Nuno, 26, who was the Yankees top rookie of spring training in 2013.

Nuno was 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA at Scranton and he received a midseason call-up to the Yankees. In five appearances, including three starts, Nuno was 1-2 with a 2.25 ERA. He missed most of the remainder of the season with a strained left groin.

For some reason Nuno is able to keep batters off-balance with a mix of breaking stuff that he features with a very lackluster upper 80s fastball. The reason is he has pinpoint control. He walked only eight batters in his combined 45 minor- and major-league innings in 2013.

If he has another strong showing this spring, Nuno could certainly leapfrog Phelps or Warren for the No. 5 spot. In addition, he could also make the squad as a long reliever and spot starter. Girardi loves pitchers who challenge hitters and don’t issue walks.

This spring all eyes will be on 22-year-old left-hander Manny Banuelos, who missed the entire 2013 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Banuelos was considered the team’s No. 1 prospect at the time he was injured in 2012. In 2011, Banuelos was 1-1 with 2.13 ERA in 12 2/3 innings in spring training, earning him the James P. Dawson Award as the Yankees’ top rookie.

However, the young Mexican lefty struggled with his control in 2011, walking 71 batters in a cobined 129 2/3 innings between Double-A Trenton and Scranton. He was 6-7 with a 3.45 ERA that season.

In 2012, he made only six starts before being shelved with elbow soreness and he ended up having to undergo surgery to repair a ligament in his left elbow in October.

The Yankees love his low-90s fastball and change-up combination that saw him strike out 125 batters in 2011. He is still young and talented enough to progress quickly if he puts it all together. But the Yankees would like to see him do that at Scranton before they bring him up to the big club.

He remains the team’s No. 8 prospect. He just has to prove he is healthy and regain his control.

The Yankees are also very high on 24-year-old right-hander Jose Ramirez, who was 1-3 with a 2.76 ERA in eight starts at Trenton before going 1-3 with a 4.88 ERA in eight starts at Scranton. Ramirez struck out 78 batters in 73 2/3 innings and the Yankees believe he has a very high ceiling.

But he likely needs a full season at Scranton before he makes a bid for the big club.

The same can be said for left-hander Nik Turley, 24.

Turley, a relative of former Yankees right-hander Bob Turley, was 11-8 with a 3.88 ERA in 26 starts at Trenton last season. Compared to Pettitte in style, teammates call him “Little Andy” and he backed that up by fanning 137 batters in 139 innings last season.

Below Banuelos, Ramirez and Turley the Yankees have a nice corps of young starters who are a few years away from making it to the majors.

The biggest buzz is surrounding the team’s No. 4 prospect Rafael De Paula, 22.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound right-hander hits up to 99-mph on his fastball and he has a hard curve and a change-up. He was a combined 7-5 with a 4.29 ERA at High-A Tampa and Charleston last season. More impressive was his 146 punch-outs in only 113 1/3 innings.

DePaula enters the 2014 season as the team’s best young arm and deservedly so. This young Dominican has quality starter written all over him.

Don’t forget about the right-handed Campos, either. Campos, 21, was obtained along with Pineda in the Montero deal and he may have even an higher ceiling than Pineda.

Campos suffered an elbow injury that did not require surgery in 2012, In 2013, he was 4-2 with a 3.41 ERA in 26 games (19 starts) at Charleston. He has an above-average fastball to go along with very good control of two secondary pitches.

That mix will take him far as long he can prove he can stay healthy in 2014.

The Yankees also have high hopes for 22-year-old right-handed flamethrower Bryan Mitchell, who likely will be at Trenton this season. Mitchell was 4-11 with a 4.71 ERA at Tampa and Trenton last season. The Yankees need only to see him command his 96-mph fastball and nearly unhittable curve to make a giant leap this season.

Two others to watch are 2013 first-round draft pick Ian Clarkin, a left-hander, and 20-year-old right-hander Ty Hensley, who was picked in the first round in 2012.

Unlike the position players, the Yankees are pretty rich in young starters at the minor-league level. It is quite possible that three or four of them could be strong contributors with the big club very soon.

In the meantime, the signing of Tanaka has given the Yankees a major shot in the arm. Just ask the rival Boston Red Sox. They see that the $471 million the team has spent on free agents has thrust them back among the top tier teams in the American League East.

Without pitching it is hard to compete in such a tough division. It appears now the Yankees will have a starting staff that can get them back to the playoffs.

That would require one huge “arigato” (thank you in Japanese) to the signing of Tanaka.

 

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