Results tagged ‘ Ivan Nova ’

Warren Courts Dominance To Overturn Royals

GAME 46

YANKEES 5, ROYALS 1

Critics assessing Adam Warren’s first six starts argued that he was ill-suited to start games, he had lost velocity he had as a reliever and he would be more productive in the bullpen. Well, after his past three starts, including the gem he threw on Tuesday, those critics need to just shut up.

Warren pitched one-run baseball into the seventh inning and Mark Teixeira fueled the offense with a double, a home run and four RBIs as New York stormed back into first place in the American League East with a victory over Kansas City at Yankee Stadium.

The Royals’ only tally came in the sixth inning on a one-out solo home run by Paulo Orlando as Warren (3-3) held the Royals to just two hits with no walks and five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

The Yankees, meanwhile, jumped on left-hander Jason Vargas (3-2) with two out in the first inning when Alex Rodriguez drew a walk and Teixeira followed with a blast that caromed off the wall of the visitor’s bullpen in left-center for his 14th home run of the season.

Vargas, who was making his first start after being activated from the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day, left after four innings yielding two runs on four hits and one walk with six strikeouts.

The Yankees padded their lead in the fifth off veteran right-hander Joe Blanton.

Chris Young reached on a one-out infield hit and Rodriguez advanced him to third with an opposite-field single to right. Teixeira then lined a double into the gap in right-center that rolled to the wall that scored both runners.

Teixeira was able to advance to third when center-fielder Lorenzo Cain briefly bobbled the ball for an error. Chase Headley then scored Teixeira with a sacrifice fly.

That was all the support Warren needed. Justin Wilson got the final two outs in the seventh and the “Twin Towers,” Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, each pitched a scoreless inning between them to seal the victory for the Yankees.

The Yankees are now 24-22 on the season and, as a result of the Tampa Bay’s 7-6 loss to the Seattle Mariners, the Yankees have reclaimed a half-game lead in the division on the Rays. The Royals dropped to 28-17.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Warren, 27, was unable to pitch six full innings in any of his first six starts this season and in all nine of his career starts. But he now has pitched into the seventh inning in each of his past three starts. Despite losing his previous two starts, Warren in his past three starts has allowed only six runs on 13 hits and five walks with 16 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings for a 2.75 ERA and an excellent 0.92 ERA. It appears that when right-handers Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova are activated off the disabled list over the next several weeks, Warren may not be so easy to remove from the rotation.
  • Teixeira’s “turn-back-the-clock” season back to 2011, when he hit 39 home runs and drove in 111 runs, continues. Teixeira’s 14 home runs are second in the American League to Nelson Cruz of the Mariners, who has 17. His 35 RBIs are tied for third in the AL with Cruz. Teixeira, 35, is on a pace to hit 48 home runs and drive in 120 runs. His career high in homers is the 45 he hit in his final season with the Texas Rangers in 2006.
  • Though Rodriguez has not hit a home run since May 16 in Kansas City, he now has a modest five-game hitting streak and he is 8-for-18 (.444) over that span. That has raised his season average to .270. Rodriguez was 2-for-3 with two runs scored in Tuesday’s game.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Other than Headley committing his 10th error at third base this season there is not much to criticize. After losing 10 of 11 games through Sunday, the Yankees have now got off the mat to win two games in a row against the team with the best record in baseball to retake first place. I can’t complain about that.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a chance to sweep the Royals and win the season series four games to two with a victory on Wednesday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda (5-2, 3.59 ERA) will go to the mound for the Yankees looking to get back on track. Pineda has been blasted for nine runs on 18 hits and one walk with five strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings over his past two starts  –  losses to the Royals and Rangers.

Right-hander Chris Young (4-0, 0.78 ERA) will pitch for the Royals. Young, 36, shut out the St. Louis Cardinals on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts over six innings on Friday. He also defeated the Yankees on May 15 in Kansas City.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Bombers Five Homers Boosts CC To First Victory

GAME 33

YANKEES 11, RAYS 5

For the past two seasons the Bronx Bombers have had an offense that launched a lot of duds. But on Monday they proved the long-ball is back in their arsenal and their opponents better start ducking for cover.

The Yankees blasted five home runs to back a seven-inning outing in which CC Sabathia won his first game in more than a season as New York pummeled Tampa Bay into submission at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.

Alex Rodriguez opened the onslaught in the first inning off Alex Colome (2-1) with a 428-foot laser shot deep into left-field bleachers for the 662nd home run of his career.

Three innings later, Chase Headley broke a 1-1 tie with a two-out three-run home run into the right-field stands for his fourth of the season. An inning later, Carlos Beltran, who hit his first home run of the season on Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles, collected his second  –  a high-arcing blast to right  –  to make the score 5-1.

Colome, who entered the game 2-0 with 1.80 ERA, gave up yet another home run an inning later when Brett Gardner hit a three-run blast to straightaway center-field for his third home run of the season. That ended Colome’s nightmare.

He was charged with eight runs on 11 hits and one walk with six strikeouts in six innings to raise his season ERA to 5.63.

The Yankees added a solo run in the seventh off right-hander Ernesto Frieri on a double by Mark Teixeira, a single by Brian McCann and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Headley.

Teixeira added two more runs and the Yankees’ fifth homer of the evening with one out in the ninth with an opposite field shot to extend his home run total to a team-leading 11.

Meanwhile, Sabathia (1-5) started off his outing shaky by walking the first two batters he faced on nine pitches and then yielding a one-out RBI double to left by Logan Forsythe that scored Brandon Guyer to tie the game at 1-1.

However, Steven Souza Jr. was thrown at the plate on the play on a relay from Gardner in left to Didi Gregorius to home plate to McCann, who tagged Souza out. Rays manager Kevin Cash claimed McCann had blocked the plate illegally but a video review showed McCann did not block Souza’s path.

From that point Sabathia retired 15 of the next 17 batters through the sixth inning to gain his first victory since April 24, 2014.

The Rays tried to mount a rally in the seventh as Forsythe and Joey Butler opened the frame with back-to-back home runs. One out later, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a double into center that Chris Young overran to allow Cabrera to take third. Tim Beckham then scored Cabrera with a sacrifice fly.

Sabathia gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks while he struck out nine in seven innings.

The Rays added another run in the eighth off right-hander David Carpenter on an RBI single by Forsythe, who had three RBIs on the evening and he now leads the Rays with 15 on the season.

With the victory the Yankees extended their lead over the second-place Rays in the American League East to four games. They are 21-12 on the season and 18-6 since April 17. They also are 6-1 against the Rays, who fell to 17-16.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • After a horrible spring and April, Beltran has turned the corner in May. He was 2-for-5 with a single, a homer, scored two runs and two RBIs on Monday. Since May 1, Beltran is 12-for-37 (.324) with two homers and seven RBIs. Just when it looked as if the 38-year-old outfielder was about to either be platooned or lose his job entirely to Young, Beltran is starting to look like the player who hit 24 home runs and drove in 84 RBIs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013.
  • It is also official: We have a Chase Headley sighting. The 31-year-old third baseman was 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs on Monday. Headley entered the game batting only. 224 with three homers and 10 RBIs. His last RBI came on April 29 on a home run against the Rays at Yankee Stadium. Nice to see you are back, Chase.
  • Sabathia’s line would have looked a lot better if he had not given up three runs in the seventh inning. But between the first and the seventh, Sabathia gave up only a bloop one out single to Cabrera in the fifth and an infield single to Souza with two out in the sixth. His nine strikeouts were a season high. The trick for the 34-year-old left-hander now is pitch like he did on Monday consistently.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

You know when it is your night when a ball caroms off the roof walkway of Tropicana Field and is caught for the final out. That is exactly what happened in the ninth for the Yankees. Beckham hit a high drive towards left-field off right-hander Branden Pinder. The ball, however, struck what is called the B ring of the stadium and it was caught by Gregorius in shallow left for the final out. No complaints about this laugher. Anyone doubt the Yankees now?

BOMBER BANTER

Right-hander Masahirio Tanaka is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday at Tropicana Field as part of his recovery from tendinitis in his right wrist and a mild strain in his right forearm. Tanaka, 26, has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 24 and he is targeting a return for early June.  . . . Left-hander Chris Capuano, who has been on the disabled list with a right quad strain, is scheduled to throw 6 innings or 90 pitches for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Norfolk on Tuesday. Meanwhile, right-hander Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) is slated to throw 3 innings or 45 pitches in an extended spring training game in Tampa, FL, on Tuesday.

ON DECK

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

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (3-0, 3.97 ERA) will go the mound for the Yankees. Eovaldi, 25, held the Orioles to three runs on six hits and three walks with three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings for a victory on Thursday.

The Rays will pitch right-hander Chris Archer (3-4, 2.59 ERA), who was 3-2 with a 0.84 ERA in April but is 0-2 with a 8.68 ERA in two starts in May. However, Archer is 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

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

 

Orioles’ Home Run Barrage Bests Whitley, Yankees

GAME 31

ORIOLES 6, YANKEES 2

The Orioles hit three home runs within a seven-batter sequence off right-hander Chase Whitley and Wei-Yin Chen held the Yankees to one run in seven innings as Baltimore derailed New York on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.

Jimmy Paredes homered on the first pitch from Whitley with two out in the third inning. With one out in the third, Chris Davis also went yard on the first pitch and, two batters later, Alejandro De Aza connected with a man on to give the Orioles a quick 4-0 lead.

Chen (1-1), meanwhile, held the Yankees to one run on five hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings to earn his first victory of the season. Zach Britton retired the last two batters to earn his sixth save.

Whitley (1-1), who only gave up three home runs over 143 batters in Yankee Stadium prior to this game, was charged with five runs on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts in six innings.

The Yankees only run off Chen came in the fifth on a Chase Headley one-out single, a double by Stephen Drew and a sacrifice fly off the bat of John Ryan Murphy.

They added an unearned run in the eighth inning when Jacoby Ellsbury reached on a fielding error by Ryan Flaherty. Brett Gardner singled him to second and Carlos Beltran scored Ellsbury on a two-out RBI single.

The loss dropped the Yankees season record to 19-12. They are two games ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The O’s are 13-15 and 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the division.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Beltran was 1-for-4 with an RBI and he does appear to be slowly shaking his hitting woes. On April 28, he was batting .159. Since then Beltran is 9-for-35 (.257) with five RBIs. That has raised his average to .194. He still has some work to do but he appears to be getting somewhere.
  • Jose Pirela has only played in three games but he already appears ready to spark the bottom of the batting order. He was the Yankee to have more than one hit on Saturday. He was 2-for-4 and is 4-for-11 (.364) in those three games. Considering that Drew is batting .182 and Didi Gregarious is batting .209, Pirela looks to getting more and more playing time at second base.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • This was in every sense of the word a “throwaway” game for the Yankees. Manager Joe Girardi knew going into the contest that his “Twin Towers” in the bullpen, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, were unavailable and Gregorius, Alex Rodriguez and Brian McCann did not start. It does not mean that the Yankees did not try to win the game. But let’s just say they played it with one hand tied behind their back. They chose to rest some people and were definitely looking at the big picture.
  • Whitley started off with a bang by striking out four of the first six batters he faced but he got caught up in trying to pound the zone early with strikes. Paredes and Davis made him pay by cranking out first-pitch fastballs. It happens and remember that Whitley is, in every sense, the team’s No. 8 starter behind Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, Adam Warren and both Chris Capuano and Ivan Nova, who are rehabbing injuries.
  • Ellsbury was 0-for-5, which snapped his 11-game hitting streak. Even with that he reached base on an error and scored one of the team’s two runs. The 0-for-5 day dropped his season average to .347 to fall behind Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, who was 1-fo-4 and is batting .355 to lead the American League.

BOMBER BANTER

Rodriguez missed Saturday’s game with what Girardi told reporters was tightness n both legs. Girardi said the he hoped to have the veteran designated hitter back for Sunday’s game. Rodriguez, 40, felt tightness in his legs after Friday’s game in which he hit his first triple since 2012. Rodriguez is second on the team with seven home runs and 19 RBIs and he has played in 26 of the Yankees’ 31 games.  . . .  The Yankees placed right-hander Chris Martin, 28, on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday with tendinitis in his right elbow. The Yankees recalled right-hander Branden Pinder, 26, from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace Martin on the 25-man roster. Martin is 0-1 with a 3.55 ERA in 12 2/3 innings over 15 appearances. Pinder was up with the Yankees previously this season and he has pitched two scoreless innings.

ON DECK

The Yankees can still claim a 3-1 series victory on Sunday against the Orioles.

Right-hander Pineda (4-0, 2.97 ERA) will go to the mound for the Yankees. Pineda has never lost in his career to the Orioles and he is coming off a game in which he shut out the Toronto Blue Jays on five hits and one walk with six strikeouts in eight innings on Tuesday. It was, by far, the most dominant outing for Pineda this season.

The Orioles will counter with right-hander Bud Norris (1-3, 9.75 ERA), who was ill on Saturday. Norris yielded three runs on seven hits and one walk with four strikeouts in seven innings in a loss to the New York Mets on Tuesday.

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

 

Fenway Quiet As A-Rod’s 660th Homer Bites Bosox

GAME 23

YANKEES 3, RED SOX 2

If there is any place where Alex Rodriguez would hear the loudest boos it would hands down be at Fenway Park. That is exactly the way it played out on Friday when Rodriguez pinch-hit in the eighth inning. But he managed to silence the 35,444 in attendance with one historically significant swing.

Rodriguez laced a 3-0 fastball off right-hander Junichi Tazawa into the seats above the Green Monster in left to break a 2-2 tie and give New York a thrilling victory over rival Boston.

The home run also was the 660th of Rodriguez’s career, which ties him for fourth on the all-time home run list with the legendary Willie Mays.

The teams remained tied into the eighth as both Red Sox right-hander Justin Masterson and Yankee left-hander CC Sabathia ended up with similar pitching lines.

The Yankees jumped into an early 1-0 lead in the first inning on a leadoff single by Jacoby Ellsbury, a one-out walk to Mark Teixeira and a two-out RBI double by struggling veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran, who entered the game batting .162.

The Red Sox tied it in the third inning when Xander Bogaerts opened the frame with a double and advanced to third on a deep fly to center by Ryan Hanigan. He then scored on a sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts.

The Red Sox then took the lead in the fourth on a solo two-out golf shot home run to left off the bat of Allen Craig for his first home run of the season.

The Yankees knotted the score in the seventh when Didi Gregorius drew a walk off Masterson. Left-hander Tommy Layne replaced Masterson and, with two out, he struck Teixeira on the right arm with a pitch and Brian McCann followed with an opposite-field single to score Gregorius.

Masterson was charged with two runs on six hits and three walks while he fanned two in 6-plus innings. Sabathia gave up two runs on seven hits and two walks and he struck out three in six innings.

Sabathia entered the game with an 0-4 record and he has not won a regular-season game since April 14 of last season against the Red Sox.

Esmil Rogers (1-1) pitched a perfect seventh inning to get credit for the victory. Tazawa (0-1) took the loss.

As has been the case all season, the Yankees relied on the “Twin Towers” of 6-foot-8 right-hander Dellin Betances and 6-foot-7 left-hander Andrew Miller to close out the final two innings.

Betances pitched around a walk and a single to keep Boston scoreless in the eighth and Miller hurled a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his ninth save in nine chances.

The Yankees improved their season record to 14-9 and they remain in first place in the American League East one game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox fell to 12-11 and they are two games behind the Yankees in third place in the division.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • A-Rod has always has had a flair for the dramatic at Fenway Park. His last homer there came off right-hander Ryan Dempster in 2013 after Dempster had deliberately hit him with a pitch in his previous at-bat. This home run came on a  3-0 pitch and strangely enough it is only the second homer of Rodriguez’s career on a 3-0 count. For the season, Rodriguez has six home runs. Rodriguez did not start the game for two reasons. The first was that manager Joe Girardi was employing an all-lefty hitting lineup against Masterson. The second is that Rodriguez entered the game 2 for his past 17 at-bats, which is a sickly .118.
  • Betances and Miller have now combined to pitch 25 2/3 scoreless innings between them. They have given up nine hits and 12 walks while they have struck out 42 batters. This is shaping up to be the strongest 1-2 combination the Yankees have had since the days of Mariano Rivera setting up for John Wetteland in 1996.
  • Beltran has been scuffling all season and he recorded no home runs and seven RBIs in the first month of the season. But on the first day of May he was 2-for-4 with a double, a single and an big two-out RBI in the first inning. The Yankees badly need to get the 38-year-old veteran untracked.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees allowed Masterson and relievers Layne, Tazawa and Robbie Ross Jr. off the hook so many times that they stranded 12 base-runners. They loaded the bases with two out in the fifth inning when Masterson hit McCann with a pitch. However, Beltran hit a weak roller to second to leave the bases loaded. Fortunately for the Yankees, the Red Sox were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
  • Garrett Jones started as the team’s designated hitter in place of Rodriguez and he was 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Jones, 33, is 5-for-30 (.167) on the season with no homers and no RBIs in 12 games. After a poor spring Jones may be playing his way out of favor. He once was considered as a potential platoon DH with Rodriguez. But that ship has sailed and Jones is getting less and less playing time.

BOMBER BANTER

All the injured players the Yankees left in spring training are progressing nicely. Left-hander Chris Capuano, who is on the disabled list with a right quadriceps strain, is scheduled to throw four innings or 60 pitches at Class-A Tampa on Saturday. Right-hander Ivan Nova, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, is scheduled to throw one inning in an intrasquad game. Right-hander Jared Burton (oblique) is also scheduled to throw an intrasquad inning. Meanwhile, backup infielder Brendan Ryan (right calf strain) took an at-bat in extended spring training game on Friday. Infielder Jose Pirela (concussion) received a rehab assignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre and he went 1-for-4 with a walk against Charlotte on Thursday.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend series against the wicked evil Red Sox on Saturday.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 4.14 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Eovaldi, 25, surrendered four runs on seven hits while he struck out six in 4 1/3 innings in a no decision against the New York Mets on Sunday.

The Red Sox will counter with struggling left-hander Wade Miley (1-2, 8.62 ERA). Miley was torched for eight runs on five hits and two walks in just 2 1/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

Game-time will be 1:35 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

McCann Spurs Win But Yankees Put Tanaka On DL

GAME 21

YANKEES 4, RAYS 2

The baseball diamond is usually the proving ground but sometimes events off the field greatly overshadow what occurs in between the lines. Tuesday was one of those days.

While the New York thoroughly frustrated Tampa Bay and got two doubles and three RBIs from Brian McCann to run their season record against the Rays to 5-0, the team learned that ace starter Masahiro Tanaka was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

Tanaka, 26, is experiencing tendinitis in his right wrist and tightness in his right forearm and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the right-hander will not throw for at least seven to 10 days and will miss a month at a minimum.

For the Yankees this is a major blow to a rotation that helped push the team into first place in the American League East. Tanaka, who felt the discomfort a day after pitching a bullpen session on Sunday and reported it to the team on Tuesday, becomes the third Yankee starter on the disabled list along with left-hander Chris Capuano and right-hander Ivan Nova.

Cashman told reporters that Tanaka’s current injury is unrelated to the partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow he sustained last July.

“It has nothing to do with my elbow, so that’s something that’s out of the question for me,” Tanaka told reporters through an interpreter.

Tanaka is 2-1 with a 3.22 ERA in four starts.

As for the game, the Yankees used right-hander Chase Whitley (1-0) as a spot starter ostensibly to give Tanaka an extra day of rest and he kept wriggling out jams so well over his five innings that he earned a victory.

The Yankees spotted him an early 2-0 lead in the first inning as Jacoby Ellsbury used his speed to manufacture a run. He singled off starter Jake Odorizzi (2-2), stole second and advanced to third when catcher Rene Rivera’s throw to get him at second trickled into center-field.

Brett Gardner then scored him on an infield groundout.

Mark Teixeira followed Gardner with a double and McCann, who entered the game 6-for-15 (.400) with two home runs in his career against Odorizzi, touched him for an RBI double to score Teixeira.

The Rays halved the lead in the third inning after Steven Souza Jr. worked a one-out walk and scored on a RBI double by Asdrubal Cabrera.

But the Yankees added two more runs in the fifth on an infield single by Ellsbury, a single by Gardner that advanced Ellsbury to third and, after Gardner stole second, McCann scored both of them one out later on an opposite-field double.

Odorizzi was charged with four runs on nine hits and no walks with four strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

Whitley only pitched one perfect inning  –  the first. But he was able to keep the Rays from getting any closer by escaping trouble Houdini style.

In the second, the Rays loaded the bases with one out but Whitley retired Tim Beckham on a shallow fly ball to left and Rivera hit into a force out.

In the third after Cabrera’s RBI double, Whitley uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Cabrera to take third. However, Whitley struck out both Evan Longoria and James Loney to end the threat.

In the fourth the Rays got a one-out double from Kevin Kiermaier but Whitley retired Beckham on a groundout and he struck out Rivera.

Whitley gave up just one run on six hits and one walk with six strikeouts in five innings of work.

The Rays did add a run in the sixth off left-hander Chasen Shreve on a leadoff walk to Loney and a RBI triple to Logan Forsythe. But Shreve did strike out Kiermaier before he gave way to right-hander Esmil Rogers.

Keeping with the theme of the evening, Rogers stranded Forsythe at third by striking out Beckham and getting Rivera on a groundout.

The Rays were a pathetic 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position an left 10 men on base.

Right-hander Chris Martin pitched the ninth inning because Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller had been used in the past two games and he ended up pitching a scoreless frame to earn his first career major-league save.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 13-8 and the Rays fell to 11-10 and they are two games back in the division tied with the Boston Red Sox.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Whitley’s start does not appear as if it will be a singular event with Tanaka on the disabled list. Although the right-hander allowed one run and seven base-runners in five innings, he battled through 93 pitches to hand the lead over to the bullpen. Whitley made 12 starts for the Yankees last season and eventually was shifted to the bullpen. He ended the season 4-3 with a 5.23 ERA. But he had an excellent spring (0-1, 1.17 ERA in seven games  –  two of them starts) and he was 2-0 with 2.12 ERA in three starts with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
  • McCann has been like a one-man wrecking crew against the Rays and Odorizzi this season. In his past three starts against the Rays, McCann is 7-for-12 (.583) a home run, a triple, two doubles and three singles with six RBIs. In his two starts against Odorizzi this season, McCann is 5-for-6 (.833) with a triple and two doubles and five RBIs.
  • Ellsbury was 3-for-4 with two stolen bases and two runs scored in the game. Since April 18, Ellsbury is 14-for-39 (.359) with a homer, three RBIs and nine runs scored. He also has stolen five bases. The 10-game hot streak has raised his average from .256 to .308.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

On a night when a call-up from the minors pitches five solid innings and the bullpen protects the lead with its four top pitchers (Betances, Miller, David Carpenter and Justin Wilson) unavailable to pitch, you can’t really complain about much. The Yankees are 10-2 since they began the season 3-6. Enough said.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees optioned backup infielder Gregorio Petit to Scranton on Tuesday in order to make room on the roster for Whitley. Petit, 29, was 5-for-24 (.208) with no home runs and five RBIs in 13 games. That temporarily leaves the Yankees with 13 pitchers but they will have to make a roster move to replace. Infielder Jose Pirela, who suffered a concussion late in spring training was just sent out to Double-A Trenton on a rehab assignment and veteran Brendan Ryan has not resumed baseball activities after suffering a calf strain late in the spring. That means the Yankees would have to move somebody off the 40-man roster if they want call up another middle infielder.

ON DECK

The Yankees will try to sweep the Rays for the second time this season on Wednesday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda (3-0, 3.86 ERA), who was originally scheduled to open the Red Sox series on Friday, will now replace Tanaka for this start. Pineda, 26, yielded just one run on five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings on Friday against the New York Mets. He defeated the Rays on April 19.

Left-hander Drew Smyly (0-0, 3.86) will make his second start for the Rays after coming off the disabled list. Smyly, 25, gave up two runs on four hits with no walks in 4 2/3 innings in a no decision against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.

Game-time will be 1 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!

Young’s Homer Boosts Yankees Past Nationals

GAME 34

YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 3

Chris Young blasted a two-run homer in the eighth inning off Nationals closer Drew Storen to propel New York to a come-from-behind victory over Washington on Saturday at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Young’s third home run of the spring, which all came off the Nationals, followed a one-out single by Didi Gregorius.

Storen (0-1), who has been hampered all spring with blister on his right foot, took the loss.

David Carpenter (2-0) pitched one-third of an inning in the seventh to get credit for the victory. Right-hander Dellin Betances earned a save by striking out the side in the ninth despite making things interesting by yielding a single and a walk in between.

The Yankees concluded their exhibition season with a 17-16-1 record.

FIELD FOCUS

Chris Martin pitched a perfect inning of relief in sixth with two strikeouts. Just the fact he is even pitching on a major-league roster is a miracle in and of itself.

Martin was named a member of manager Joe Girardi’s seven-man bullpen on Friday. But there was a time the 6-foot-8 right-hander was just a regular working stiff at an appliance warehouse.

Down in Arlington, TX, Martin was loading 650-pound refrigerators onto dollies for delivery. The only doubleheaders Martin knew were the shifts he previously worked at the lawn and garden section at Lowe’s warehouse and then evenings at UPS.

Before all this Martin, 27, was drafted as a senior from Arlington High School by the Detroit Tigers in 18th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. Instead of signing Martin opted to attend McLennan Community College in Waco, TX.

That following year, the tall right-hander was chosen in the 21st round by the Colorado Rockies. Again, Martin opted to stay in school.

However, that fall, Martin severely injured his shoulder. On the advice of Dr. Keith Meister, the team physician for the Texas Rangers, Martin tried resting the shoulder. But with the pain too great, Martin underwent surgery in 2007 to repair the labrum and release the shoulder capsule.

When the shoulder healed, Martin tried out with the Fort Worth Cats of the United Baseball League. When the shoulder still didn’t feel right, Martin quit baseball and went to work at Lowe’s and then at night with UPS for the insurance benefits.

Martin later caught up with former Arlington alum Jordan Bostwick, who graduated a year after Martin. Bostwick urged Martin to come to work for him at Texas Appliance in Arlington.

In June 2010, Bostwick broke out a left-handed catcher’s mitt during a lunch break and had Martin play catch with him. Martin’s pitches busted the seams off the mitt and nearly broke Bostwick’s right thumb.

More importantly, Martin informed Bostwick his shoulder felt really good.

Soon Martin signed a contract for $800 a month with the Grand Prairie Airhogs, an independent team operated by former major-league slugger Pete Incaviglia.

The radar readings of Marin’s pitches were hitting 95 miles per hour. Martin went on to a 4-0 record with a 1.95 ERA in 13 games with the Airhogs.

Incaviglia called the Boston Red Sox on behalf of Martin and the Red Sox signed him for $1,100 a month after a tryout arranged at Martin’s expense in Fort Myers, FL. After stops in Class-A Greenville and Salem, Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, Martin was dealt to the Rockies in December 2013.

Martin made his major-league debut with the Rockies against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 26 of last year.

He ended up with an ERA of 6.89 in 16 games with the Rockies before his contract was purchased for $75,000 by the Yankees in January.

Martin was among a large group of non-roster pitchers trying to making the Yankees’ bullpen this spring. At best, he was a long-shot. He ended spring training on Saturday with a 0-1 record and 4.09 ERA in 11 appearances. But the Yankees were enamored more by his 18 strikeouts with only one walk.

So Martin now will have a chance to open the season in the major leagues in 2015. It does not appear he will be making those shifts to load refrigerators in Texas anymore.

Instead he will be living out a dream that looked to be over just a short time ago.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Despite the fact starter Nathan Eovaldi gave up three runs on three hits in the first inning, he settled in nicely afterwards. Eovaldi, 25, held the Nats to just one hit over the next four frames. In five innings, Eovaldi struck out six while walking three. He ended his spring with a 1-1 record with a 1.93 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.
  • Stephen Drew ruined right-hander Doug Fister’s six-inning outing by lashing a two-out, two-run home run in the fifth inning to draw the Yankees to within a run of the Nationals at 3-2. It was Drew’s third homer of the spring and he ended up batting .259 with three homers and nine RBIs. On March 12, Drew was hitting .077. From then on he was 16-for-34 (.471).
  • Betances earned a save by striking out the side in the ninth. But he also yielded a one-out single to Reed Johnson and a one-out walk to Pedro Severino. Betances topped out at 95 mph on the radar gun, which is still a bit off the 97 mph he was throwing at last season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The offense is still pretty inconsistent. The Yankees did not get their first hit until the fourth inning and they managed just six hits overall. Fortunately, home runs by Drew and Young bailed them out. The Yankees got great pitching from Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Eovaldi and Adam Warren this spring. It would a shame not to give those guys the support they deserve.
  • Alex Rodriguez started at designated hitter and batted seventh in the game. But A-Rod probably would like to forget about it because Fister fanned him twice and reliever Craig Stammen did it once  –  all three strikeouts came on sharp curveballs.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner set the table exactly as Girardi would have liked in the fourth when Ellsbury reached after being hit by a pitch from Fister. Gardner followed with a sharp single to left. But Carlos Beltran grounded into a force play and Mark Teixiera rapped into a 4-6-3 double play. The RBI guys are paid to produce and Beltran and Teixeira must do it consistently if the Yankees are to contend at all.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees elected to retain John Ryan Murphy as their backup catcher to Brian McCann as they designated for assignment Austin Romine on Saturday. Murphy came off the bench in seventh inning to catch and was 0-for-1 to end the spring with a .238 average. Romine was 6-for-35 (.171) with 10 strikeouts. Romine was out of options so now any team may claim him. If he is not claimed he would remain with the Yankees and be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  . . .  In other roster moves, the Yankees added backup infielder Gregorio Petit to the 25-man roster and they placed infielder Brendan Ryan (calf strain), left-hander Chris Capuano (quad strain) and right-hander Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) on the 15-day disabled list. Infielder Jose Pirela was placed on the 7-day concussion DL.

ON DECK

The Yankees will rest on Sunday and prepare to open the season on Monday at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Tanaka, 26, will start for the Yankees after ending up 1-2 with a 3.07 ERA in four spring starts. It is the first time since 2008 that a pitcher other than CC Sabathia has started the season for the Yankees.

Right-hander Drew Hutchison will pitch for the Blue Jays. Hutchison, 24, was 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four spring outings. He surprisingly won the starting assignment over former Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle.

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

 

Strasburg Pitches Nats Past Yanks In Spring Finale

GAME 33

NATIONALS 8, YANKEES 2

Stephen Strasburg held the Yankees to one run on six hits in 5 1/3 innings and Bryce Harper stroked an RBI triple to spark a three-run first inning as Washington downed New York on Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.

Strasburg (2-1) walked one and struck out six to get credit for the victory.

Left-hander CC Sabathia (0-3) yielded three runs on three hits and two walks in the first inning. But Sabathia recovered and ended up yielding no runs on just two hits and a walk in his remaining 4 1/3 innings of work.

Mike Carp hit a three-run home run in the seventh inning off right-hander Nick Goody to put the game out of reach.

The Yankees completed their Grapefruit League schedule with a 16-16-1 record.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • At first glance Sabathia’s 0-3 record and 8.10 ERA this spring is a bit alarming. However, Sabathia was a totally different pitcher after the first inning. He retired 12 of the final 15 batters he faced, striking out two. At least it is something to build upon for his next scheduled start on April 9 at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays.
  • It also should not surprise anyone that the two Yankee RBIs against the Nationals came from Chase Headley and Rob Refsnyder. Headley laced a two-out RBI double into the right-center gap off Strasburg in the fourth inning. Refsnyder added a two-out RBI double of his own in the ninth inning. Headley led all of the Yankee roster players in batting this spring with a .321 average and he drove in eight runs. Refsnyder led all players with 16 or more at-bats in hitting for a .372 average.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees did not play well at all in the final week of the spring. They entered the week 15-12 and ended up 16-16. The major reason why was they did not hit well as a team. That pretty much was an ongoing theme of the spring. In their four losses this week they scored five runs on just 15 hits. You can’t sugarcoat it. This team is just dreadful offensively.
  • One of the biggest culprits this spring was Brett Gardner. The 31-year-old outfielder was 9-for-56 (.161) with no homers, three RBIs and 16 strikeouts. The odd thing is that Gardner was coming off his best season in terms of homers (17) and RBIs (53).
  • With such bullpen stalwarts as David Robertson, Shawn Kelley and David Phelps gone and Adam Warren being moved into the rotation due to the injury to Chris Capuano, it stood to reason the bullpen might need time to gel. But it is a source of concern leaving camp because Dellin Betances (6.14 ERA), Chasen Shreve (4.67), David Carpenter (4.70) and Chris Martin (4.50) all had some shaky moments this spring.

BOMBER BANTER

Because of the struggles of Betances, manager Joe Girardi again on Friday refused to name a closer. It is looking as if the right-handed Betances and left-hander Andrew Miller will share the role and will be used depending on specific ninth inning matchups. “I really think that if you do it that way and as long as you’re prepared, it has a chance to be advantageous to you,” Girardi told reporters.  . . .  Right-hander Ivan Nova threw a 45-pitch bullpen session on Friday without any setbacks. Nova, 27, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, will remain in Florida to continue his rehab and is expected to be able to return sometime in June.  . . .  In a bit of a surprise, Slade Heathcott was named on Friday as the winner of the James P. Dawson Award as the the Yankees’ outstanding rookie of the spring, Heathcott, 24, was 11-for-31 (.355) with a homer and seven RBIs in 21 games. I think Refsnyder was a much better hitter and should have won the award.

ON DECK

The Yankees are now in Washington, DC, for the final exhibition game on Saturday against Nationals at Nationals Park.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will start for the Yankees after going 1-1 with 0.66 ERA in four games (three starts) this spring.

The Nationals will start right-hander Doug Fister, who was 0-0 with 7.02 ERA in five spring starts.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast for free on MLB.com.

Blue Jays Spoil Sabathia’s Debut To Top Yankees

GAME 16

BLUE JAYS 4, YANKEES 2

The Blue Jays received a two-out RBI double from Dayan Viciedo and a RBI single by Devon Travis in the second inning off left-hander CC Sabathia as Toronto defeated New York to ruin Sabathia’s spring debut on Tuesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.

Sabathia, 34, pitched a 1-2-3 first inning before being greeted by a leadoff single in the second by former Yankee Dioner Navarro. Two outs later, Viciedo doubled to deep center to score Navarro and Travis followed with a lined single to left to score Viciedo.

Josh Thole then doubled to left, however, Brett Gardner relayed the ball to Didi Gregorius and Gregorius fired a perfect strike from shallow left-field to Brian McCann to nail a sliding Travis at home plate.

The Blue Jays added a run in the third inning off Dellin Betances on a leadoff triple by Jose Reyes and an RBI groundout by Josh Donaldson.

The Yankees got a run in the second inning on a one-out RBI single by Stephen Drew after Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchinson had walked Garrett Jones and Chris Young singled.

They also scored in the fourth on the first spring homer by Mark Teixeira to lead off the frame. Teixiera’s homer was an opposite-field blast to the deepest part of the ballpark in left.

Hutchison (2-0) was the winning pitcher. Sabathia (0-1) took the loss. Roberto Osuna pitched two scoreless innings to earn a save.

The Yankees’ Grapefruit League record is now 9-6.

FIELD FOCUS

So much has been made of the Yankees’ starting trio of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Sabathia all returning from injury-plagued seasons. There obviously is a fair amount of concern about Tanaka’s right elbow, Pineda’s right shoulder and Sabathia’s right knee.

But on Tuesday, Sabathia joined Tanaka and Pineda on the road to health. The result was not what Sabathia wanted. But the Yankees will just be happy that their 6-foot-7 former ace is pitching again after a serious knee injury limited him to just eight starts in 2014.

Sabathia looked free and easy in the first, retiring Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista on routine grounders and striking out Donaldson.

Getting lit up for four hits and two runs in the second was not supposed to be part of the plan. But Sabathia is taking a longer view.

“Obviously, you don’t want to give up runs, but it being spring training, it is what it is,” Sabathia told reporters. “But just being able to command the baseball and let it go, throw it hard, it feels good.”

Sabathia’s career was in jeopardy because of a degenerative condition in his knee that could have resulted in a risky microfracture procedure that no pitcher has undergone. Instead, Sabathia opted for a less invasive surgery that stabilized the knee.

The veteran left-hander, however, does not have any cartilage in the knee and he will have to maintain a program of exercises and conditioning to keep it from flaring up. But Sabathia has added weight to increase his strength and endurance and he believes that he can stay healthy throughout the 2015 season.

Manager Joe Girardi was pleased with what he saw on Tuesday.

“I liked the way the ball was coming out of his hand tonight,” Girardi told reporters. “I just thought he threw the ball really well. I’m not worried about the runs he gave up because he’s still trying to work on things, obviously, but first step really positive for me.”

There is a certain kind of calm in the clubhouse now knowing that Tanaka, Pineda and Sabathia are all able to pitch again. Losing all three to injury last season, in addition to right-hander Ivan Nova, was the major reason why 2014 was not a successful campaign.

The success of 2015 is predicated on them each being able to pitch an entire season. Sabathia sees no reason why they can’t.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVE

  • If there is any doubt about Gregorius’ defensive abilities at shortstop, he erased them with his spectacular long relay throw that nipped Travis at the plate that saved a run. Much has been made of Gregorius’ range but what really sets him apart his cannon of an arm. Get used to seeing some highlight reel plays from the young shortstop. He is a very special player in the field.
  • Teixeira’s home run was a huge moment for him and for Yankee fans. Last spring, Teixeira was recovering from surgery on his right wrist and residual pain limited him to 123 games in which he hit 22 home runs and drove in 62 runs. His home run to left-center proves that his right wrist is just fine. The Yankees would like to see him return to his 2011 form, when he hit 39 homers and drove in 111 runs.
  • Young was inserted into the lineup to replace a slightly injured Jacoby Ellsbury and he responded with a 2-for-3 night. Young, 31, gives the Yankees a fourth outfielder who is capable of playing all three outfield spots and he provides right-hand power, some speed and steady fielding. In 23 games with the Yankees last September, Young hit .282 with three home runs and 10 RBIs to earn a contract for 2015.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Seeing Sabathia get lit up in the second inning was not an encouraging sign if you are a pessimist. After all, the knee injury Sabathia suffered only prevented him from pitching. It had nothing to do with the 14-13 record and 4.78 ERA he recorded in 2013. Sabathia’s next step is to find a way to be successful without his mid-90s fastball. So in addition to proving he is healthy, Sabathia will have to show he can win with a fastball that tops out at 90.
  • Gardner has been a batting funk of late. Since March 9, he is 1-for-17 (.059). Gardner is being counted upon along with Ellsbury to set table at the start of the lineup for the power hitters that follow him. It is darn near impossible for Gardner to score runs from the dugout after recording outs. He needs to pick it up soon.
  • McCann is also having a sluggish spring. He is batting only .143 and does not have a home run and just a single RBI. After hitting a career low .232 the Yankees are counting on McCann to provide offense in the middle of the lineup this season.

BOMBER BANTER

Ellsbury sat out the game with what was termed a “mild, mild, mild mild” abdominal strain. Ellsbury, 31, noticed the injury on Sunday and he was sent to a doctor, who said it did not require an MRI. Girardi said Ellsbury will sit out two games and will be reevaluated on Thursday. “Am I concerned? I’m not too concerned.” Girardi said.

ON DECK

The Yankees will travel to Lake Buena Vista, FL, on Wednesday to face the Atlanta Braves at Champion Field.

Tanaka will make his second start of the spring and he is expected to pitch three innings. Tanaka recorded two strikeouts and four groundouts in a very impressive two-inning debut against the Braves on March 12 in Tampa.

Right-hander Mike Foltynewicz will get the start for the Braves. Vying for a spot in the Braves’ rotation, the 23-year-old is 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA in his first two starts.

Game-time will be 6:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast on a delayed basis at 11 p.m. by MLB Network and live on MLB Radio through WFOM in Atlanta.

 

Yankees’ Starters Talented But Health Big Issue

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

STARTING ROTATION

No. 1 – Masahiro Tanaka, 26 (13-5, 2.77 ERA in 20 starts)

No. 2 – Michael Pineda, 26 (5-5, 1.89 ERA in 13 starts)

No. 3 – CC Sabathia, 34 (3-4, 5.28 ERA in 8 starts)

No. 4 – Nathan Eovaldi, 25 (6-14, 4.37 ERA in 33 starts)

No. 5 – Chris Capuano, 36 (2-3, 4.25 in 12 starts)

The Yankees began the 2014 season with a rotation of Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova. At one point last season, Kuroda was the only one of the five still pitching.

In fact, the then-39-year-old veteran made 32 starts and was 11-9 with a 3.71 ERA for a team that struggled to finish six games over .500. Unfortunately, after pitching three seasons with the Yankees, Kuroda elected to exit Major League Baseball and go back to his native Japan to finish up his career.

That leaves a 2015 rotation steeped in talent and great possibilities. However, it also is a quintet laden with big question marks.

The Yankees made quite a splash last season with the signing of the Japanese star right-hander Tanaka to a seven-year, $155-million contract on Jan. 23. Tanaka was coming off a dream season in Japan where he was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013.

The Yankees saw Tanaka as a potential ace and they were hoping that his eight-pitch assortment including a world-class strikeout pitch in his split-finger fastball would translate to the American game.

After a spring training in which he was 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA in five games, Tanaka hit the ground running and never really stopped. On June 17, Tanaka was 11-1 with a sparkling 1.99 ERA.

Ther was talk of a Cy Young Award and a Rookie of the Year Award buzzing around him until . . .

After losing three of his next three starts, Tanaka complained of pain in his valuable right elbow. Because Tanaka came to the United States after logging 1,315 innings since the age of 18 in Japan, he did come to the Yankees with some very inherent risks.

The Yankees discovered he had a partial tear in ulnar collateral ligament and left the choice to Tanaka whether to have surgery to repair it and likely miss two full seasons or rehab the small tear and hope that it healed on its own.

Tanaka chose the latter and came back to make two starts in September. Despite the fact he was shelled for seven runs (five earned) in 1 2/3 innings in his final start, Tanaka and the Yankees were encouraged enough to stay committed on not having Tommy John surgery.

So with two spring bullpen sessions under his belt, Tanaka has assured the Yankees and the media that his elbow is fine and he expects no further problems. To outside observers, however, Tanaka’s elbow is a ticking time bomb that can explode at any moment, especially for a pitcher who throws a splitter with so much torque on his elbow.

But the Yankees are willing to take that chance so that they can have their ace on the mound for 2015.

If he is right and he remains healthy the Yankees will have one of the best pitchers in the major leagues. Tanaka has proven to be the consummate pitcher capable of even changing his game plan if pitches are not working or batters change their approach.

Last season, pitching against the Twins at Target Field, Tanaka noticed that the Twins were laying off his split-finger pitch and it was causing him to get into some deep counts. So Tanaka switched gears and went to his slider, a pitch that he could throw for strikes. Tanaka ended up winning the game.

So Tanaka is far from just a thrower and his cerebral approach along with his stuff make him a very formidable foe for hitters. If the Yankees are to make any noise in the American League East they will need Tanaka at the top of the rotation pitching just as he did in 2014.

If patience is a virtue than the Yankees have it spades when it comes to Pineda.

The 6-foot-7, 290-pound right-hander was obtained in a much ballyhooed deal between the Yankees and Seattle in 2012 that sent the Yankees No. 1 prospect, catcher Jesus Montero, to the Mariners.

However, in his final start of the spring in 2012, Pineda complained of shoulder pain. He ended up undergoing season-ending surgery on the shoulder and he was only was able to make 10 minor-league rehab starts in 2013.

So the Yankees wanted to see what a healthy Pineda could do in 2014. Very quickly they learned he could do quite a lot. In spring training, Pineda was 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA in four games with 16 Ks in 15 innings.

The Yankees could not wait to see what he could do with a full season. However, after going 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA in his first three starts, Pineda decided to tempt fate once too many times by placing a glob of pine tar on his neck in a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 23.

He was ejected from the game in the second inning and he was suspended for 10 days by Major League Baseball. In what only could be called “Pineda Luck,” while preparing for his first start after the suspension, Pineda strained the teres major muscle behind his right shoulder and he was placed on the 60-day disabled list. He would not return to the Yankees until Sept. 5.

In his final five starts, Pineda was 2-2 with an even more sparkling 1.62 ERA. So the Yankees open spring camp thinking they have a second top-drawer starter in Pineda IF ONLY he can stay healthy and off suspension.

It is obvious the talent is there. Pineda exhibits absolutely spotless control: He walked only seven batters in 76 1/3 innings and he only gave up 56 hits. How he lost five games is amazing but very understandable considering how weak the Yankees offense was last season.

With a full season under his belt in 2015, Pineda may take the next step into the elite class of pitchers and he forms a very tough one-two pitching punch with Tanaka.

At this point, the rest of the rotation takes a decided turn to the worse.

Sabathia, the team’s former ace, is coming off two consecutive very bad seasons.

In 2013, Sabathia saw his record slip from 15-6 in 2012 to 14-13 and his ERA exploded from 3.28 to 4.78. After pitching 200-plus innings for six consecutive seasons since 2007, Sabathia discovered he was losing velocity, which negated the effectiveness of his change-up.

He vowed to be better in 2014. He would somehow transition into a finesse pitcher capable of winning on guile instead on pure power as he had throughout his career.

He was 3-1 with 1.29 ERA in five spring starts so the early results looked encouraging. But when the regular season started the whole thing came crashing down on Sabathia.

He was 3-3 with a 5.11 ERA in April. He then made two very poor starts in May and that was all for Sabathia for the rest of the season. Swelling in his right knee forced him to the disabled list and after breaking down in a second rehab start on July 2, Sabathia finally called 2014 quits.

Yankee team doctors discovered that Sabathia had a degenerative condition in his right knee and underwent arthroscopic debridement surgery in July. Doctors also shaved out a bone spur.

Though Sabathia dodged a more invasive and career-threatening microfracture surgery, he will always have some pain in the knee because he has no cartilage between the bones. So Sabathia enters 2015 as one big fat question mark, literally.

Sabathia, claiming that he was too light the past two seasons, elected to come to camp 10 pounds heavier this spring. Sabathia said he expects to pitch this season between 295 and 305 pounds. Last season, he reported weighing 275 pounds.

It would seem to be counterintuitive for a pitcher coming off knee surgery with no cartilage in his knee would add weight. But Dr. Christopher Ahmad, the Yankees’ team physician, cleared him for the weight and manager Joe Girardi said it will not be an issue in camp.

Sabathia vows he wants to make at least 30 starts in 2015 and after his first bullpen session he said he already feels stronger than he has the past two seasons. But the jury on Sabathia remains out.

Just two seasons ago the Yankees provided Sabathia a six-year, $142 million deal. In retrospect, that deal is looking pretty disastrous now because it is doubtful that Sabathia will ever reclaim his status as the team’s ace.

The even larger question is can he adapt and become a the finesse pitcher he thinks he can? The left-hander sounds all the right chords but the results so far have be awful. So no one on the Yankees’ staff has more to prove that Sabathia in 2015.

With Kuroda unavailable the Yankees could have gone in a lot of different directions to replace him in 2015.

After all they did have young pitchers such as David Phelps, Adam Warren and Shane Greene on the roster. In addition, Brandon McCarthy pitched well for the team after he was acquired from the Diamondbacks last July.

However, the Yankees did not opt for Plan A, Plan B, Plan C or Plan D. They dealt Phelps and Greene away in separate trades and they allowed McCarthy to sign a four-year, $48 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

They are now on Plan E as in Eovaldi, who the Yankees obtained along with infielder/outfielder Garrett Jones for infielder Martin Prado and Phelps.

The right-hander features a sizzling fastball that averages 95.7 mph. However, even with that hard fastball Eovaldi led the National League in hits allowed (223) and he recorded only 142 strikeouts.

The problem according to the Yankees: He needs to develop his secondary pitches  –  his splitter, slider and change-up. The thought is that if Eovaldi does that the sky is the limit for him as a pitcher.

“We’ve talked about developing his repertoire and having him establish confidence in all his pitches in all the counts,” Girardi told reporters. “It’s one thing to have three or four pitches, but it’s another thing to have the confidence to throw them at any time.”

So spring training will be an opportunity for pitching coach Larry Rothschild to refine the diamond in the ruff in Eovaldi and 2015 will be a proving ground to see how the pupil progresses with the lessons he is taught.

Eovaldi did throw 199 2/3 innings last season for a very weak Marlins team. Perhaps some improved offense from the Yankees combined with the refinements Eovaldi is making will translate into success for him in 2015.

The Yankees opted to bring back the veteran left-hander Capuano after he made 12 starts with the team last season.

Capuano was designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox on July 25 and he was signed to a minor-league contract on July 4 by the Colorado Rockies. After making two minor-league starts, the Yankees acquired him from the Rockies in exchange for cash considerations.

Capuano debuted on July 28 and he finished with a 2-3 mark with a 4.25 ERA.

Having a second left-hander in the rotation is advantageous for the Yankees, particularly at home with so many teams wanting to load up on left-handed batters to exploit the short right-field porch in Yankee Stadium.

The problem is left-handers hit .321 with a .942 OPS against Capuano last season. So he is going to have to work on that this spring.

Capuano has not started 33 games in a season since 2012, But if he can keep his ERA to his career mark of 4.28 the Yankees will be satisfied.

The Yankees also enter 2015 with a bit of a problem. The Yankees have a stretch at the end of April and the beginning of May where they are scheduled to play 30 games in 31 days.

In addition, they have Tanaka, Pineda and Sabathia coming off injury-shortened seasons n 2014. So Giradi and Rothschild are planning to use a six-man rotation this spring and they may extend it into the regular season to ease the strain on their staff through that 30-game stretch in May.

As a result right-hander Warren, 27, looks to be in the best position to fill that role for the Yankees. Warren was 3-6 with a 2.97 ERA in 69 games last season, all of them in relief.

But Warren has been a starter throughout his minor-league career and he is well-suited to slip back into the bullpen when he is no longer needed.

Warren was one of the strengths of the bullpen last season and he seems to have settled into the role Phelps once held.

It would not be the Yankees unless they entered a season with one of their starting  pitchers rehabbing something and that is the case with the 28-year-old right-hander Nova, who ended up on the disabled list after four starts after he suffered a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament on his right elbow.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery on April 29 last year, Nova will be unavailable to the Yankees until late May or early June, barring any unforeseen setbacks. However, it is unclear how effective Nova can be.

The Merriam-Webster definition of the word nova is “a star that suddenly increases its light output tremendously and then fades away to its former obscurity in a few months or years.” That could apply to the veteran from the Dominican Republic.

Nova burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2011 with a 16-4 record and a 3.70 ERA. However, in 2012, Nova regressed and finished 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA with 28 home runs allowed in 170 1/3 innings.

He then bounced back from an injury in 2013 to become the Yankees’ best pitcher down the stretch. He ended the season 9-6 with an excellent 3.10 ERA.

So 2014 was supposed to be Nova’s chance to build as a starter. But it ended early after the elbow flared up with a 2-2 record and a 8.27 ERA.

The Yankees are hopeful that Nova will be able to step into the rotation in late May or so. The reality is that it usually takes pitchers some time to find the feel for the pitches and trust that the repaired elbow will hold up.

Nova had developed a devastating curveball that just had batters shaking their heads. He also was able to throw his fastball in the mid-90s with good control. If that Nova is able to contribute to the Yankees in 2015 they may be able to shift Capuano to the bullpen and the rotation will look a lot better.

But Nova remains a big question mark for now.

The Yankees have options beyond these seven starters but there is a huge drop in quality also.

Chase Whitley, 25, made 12 starts for the Yankees last season. After going 3-0 with a 2.56 ERA in his first seven starts he collapsed. He was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in his last five starts.

However, he did pitch six innings of shutout baseball on seven hits on July 22 at home against Texas in his final start but still was shifted to the bullpen, where he ended the season.

It is unlikely that Whitley will start once the season opens but he could be a valuable swing man in the bullpen who is available to make a spot start if needed. Whitley has very good numbers as a reliever in the minors and the Yankees feel he is going to be an integral part of their revamped bullpen.

There also is Esmil Rogers, a 29-year-old right-hander signed as a free agent after he was designated for assignment by the Toronto Blue Jays on July 27. He made his debut with the Yankees on Aug. 4 and finished 2-0 with a 4.66 ERA.

Rogers was a failed starter with the Blue Jays before being shifted to the bullpen in 2014 and he seems more suited for that role. But he struggled with the Yankees in September with a 7.84 ERA.

Blessed with immense talent, Rogers just has not been able to put it all together yet at the major-league level and time is beginning to run out.

Another starter candidate is right-hander Bryan Mitchell, 23, who came up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in August and pitched in three games, one of them as a starter.

Mitchell was 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings. He was a combined 6-7 with a 4.37 ERA at Double-A Trenton and Scranton.

Yankee insiders compare Mitchell’s build and stuff to that of A.J. Burnett because he possesses a power fastball that reaches the mid-90s and a power curveball that hits at 84 mph. Mitchell has also added a cutter but his change-up needs work.

If Mitchell can harness the command of his pitches he could be something special. He is ranked as the team’s No. 20 prospect.

If the Yankees have one pitcher coming to camp as a non-roster player that I can’t wait to see it is 21-year-old right-hander Luis Severino, the team’s top rated prospect in 2015.

Signed out of the Dominican Republic in July 2012, Severino began 2013 as a complete unknown quantity and finished it as the top right-handed pitching prospect in the system.

Though only 6-feet and 195 pounds, Severino showed uncommon strength to post a 4-2 record with a 2.45 ERA and 53 Ks in 44 innings between two rookie league teams.

He topped that in 2014 by sailing through three different teams, making it all the way to Trenton and he did not look overmatched at any of those stops.

After posting a 3-2 record with a 2.79 ERA at Class-A Charleston (SC) in 14 starts, Severino was promoted to Class-A Tampa. All he did there was go 1-1 with a sparkling 1.31 ERA in four starts.

So the Yankees sent him on to Trenton, where he was 2-2 with a 2.52 ERA in six starts. Over the course of 113 1/3 innings in his three stops, Severino punched out 127 batters.

To say he looks like the real deal is putting it mildly. He was chosen to participate in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and he has become the organization’s No. 1 prospect, period.

Severino’s fastball reaches up to 98 mph and has a natural sink at the low end of his velocity (94 mph). Severino also features a hard slider and a change-up that both have the potential to be big weapons for him.

The Yankees would love to see what he can do this spring but they are going to be deliberate and cautious with his development. But there is no doubt that Severino is on a fast-track to the major leagues and he could be in the rotation as regularly as soon as 2016.

Book it: Severino is a star in the making!

Just behind Severino is left-hander Ian Clarkin, 20, who was selected in the first round (33rd pick) by the Yankees in 2013 First-Year Player Draft.

Clarkin recorded a 4-3 mark with a 3.13 ERA in stops at Charleston and Tampa using his 90-94 mph fastball mixed in with a 12-to-6 curveball and a change-up. The youngster also shows a lot of polish for a prep pitcher and the Yankees hope to have him ready for the majors by 2017.

He is ranked as the team’s fourth best prospect.

The Yankees also have very high hopes for No. 7 prospect Domingo German, 22, another player signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Miami Marlins in 2009.

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound right-hander posted a breakout season in 2014 at Class-A Greensboro, going 9-3 with a 2.48 ERA in 25 starts. He also was selected to pitch in the SiriusXM Futures Game and then the Marlins packaged him with Eovaldi and Jones in the deal for Prado and Phelps.

German excels at command and scouts rave about his touch already on his breaking pitches. He features a power sinking fastball along with a above-average change-up. Right now his slider needs more break but he is developing it.

The Yankees also expect to see him around 2017.

These three gems have Yankee fans very excited and with good reason.

OVERALL POSITION ANALYSIS: AVERAGE

Though I truly believe that Tanaka and Pineda will not only be healthy all season but they will actually be among the best starters in the American League, the other three spots in the rotation have some question marks.

Even after surgery, Sabathia’s right knee could be a recurring problem for him and I fail to see the added weight will help it. But if Sabathia can remain healthy all season, eat innings and keep his ERA in 4.25 area the Yankees could settle for that.

Eovaldi was a real gamble. His arm, no doubt, is a good one. The question is can he finally put it all together to become a winning pitcher? Rothschild has had some success grooming young pitchers and if he gets Eovaldi untracked he should have his salary doubled.

The veteran left-hander Capuano is up there in age and he obviously is a placeholder while Nova rehabs his surgically repaired elbow. The problem with Capuano is can he pitch well enough to keep the Yankees in games.

Years ago the Yankees scoured the scrap heap for Freddy Garcia. Now it is Capuano in the same role. Let’s hope it works out.

The Yankees also have Warren if they need a sixth starter in the early part of the season. Warren has been excellent as a reliever so there is no reason to believe he can’t be successful as a starter.

The Yankees hope to get Nova back and they also have Whitley, Rogers and Mitchell who are capable of starting. Mitchell has the most upside of the bunch because Whitley is more suited to relief and Rogers has been too inconsistent to be considered much of a help at this point.

The future of the Yankees’ starting rotation is looking quite bright with Severino, Clarkin and German coming off sparkling 2014 campaigns. This is one area the team that looks much stronger.

The temptation is for Yankee fans to want Severino on the roster this season. But the Yankees are taking a very careful approach with him and it is going to pay off of them next season.

NEXT: BULLPEN

 

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