Results tagged ‘ Kerry Wood ’

With Soriano Signed Is Joba Heading To Trading Block?

The signing of Rafael Soriano was not what the New York Yankees had in mind when the free-agent signing season began. The big prize was supposed to be Cliff Lee.
It was as if Brian Cashman made a date with Jessica Alba but reached to the door only to find Ellen DeGeneres. 
But the Yankees could have done worse than sign Soriano to what amounts to a series of graduated one-year contracts in which Soriano will be allowed to opt out to close with another team.
Soriano, 31, was 3-2 with a 1.73 ERA and led the American League with 45 saves in 48 chances. That is not bad for a pitcher slated to set up Mariano Rivera and certainly an upgrade over Kerry Wood, who claimed that job in August but left to return to the Chicago Cubs.
The Yankees bullpen now looks a bit more formidable with Rivera and Soriano set to pitch the final two innings. The Yankees also signed left-hander Pedro Feliciano to go with young lefty Boone Logan and they still have right-handers David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain.
The question has been raised and the Yankees have answered it: Will Chamberlain be moved back to the rotation now that it appears Andy Pettitte will not likely pitch in 2011? The Yankees have said no.
So the next question is what is Chamberlain’s future with the Yankees?
At age 22, Chamberlain arrived in the Bronx and appeared poised for superstardom after posting a 2-0 record and an 0.38 ERA in 19 games in 2007.
But very soon after the midges in Cleveland drove him and the Yankees out of the playoffs, Chamberlain’s road to become the eventual successor to Rivera took a strange detour.
In 2008, Chamberlain was shifted at midseason to a starter. He finished 2008 with a 4-3 record and a 2.60 ERA. In 2009, he was a full-fledged starter but seemed hamstrung on the Yankees’ very cautious so-called Joba Rules.
He was a disappointing 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA and the Yankees shifted him into the bullpen for the 2009 playoffs rather than use him as a No. 4 starter. He appeared to regain a measure of confidence there and was 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in 10 postseason games.
The Yankees, rather than embarrass Chamberlain, allowed him to compete in 2010 for a starting job with four other pitchers. When Phil Hughes emerged as the winner, Chamberlain was shifted back to the bullpen, ostensibly, for good.
The Yankees expected him to resume his 2007 role as setup man for Rivera. That did not work out too well. Chamberlain struggled through stretches of the season and two games became his undoing.
On May 29, Chamberlain entered the game in the seventh inning with a 10-5 lead over the Indians. The Indians rallied for seven runs, four of them charged to Chamberlain, in an eventual 13-11 victory over the Yankees.
On July 10, Chamberlain came in to hold a tenuous 1-0 lead Javier Vazquez had left him against Felix Hernandez. Chamberlain could not retire anyone and ended up serving up a grand-slam home run to Jose Lopez in a 4-1 defeat in Seattle.
Chamberlain lost the setup role to Wood and ended the season 3-4 with a 4.40 ERA. He blew four save opportunities out of seven chances. 
Now what?
If Rivera completes the two years on his contract and Soriano stays to pitch three years and replaces Rivera, Chamberlain’s window to become a closer for the Yankees will have to wait four years and Joba will be a seasoned 29 years old by then.
His window to return as a setup man is possibly two years away. 
Hmmm! 
Would it seem possible that the Yankees might see with Rivera still effective, Soriano in the setup role, with the presence of Robertson and no plans to make Joba a starter that Chamberlain now becomes a prime trading chip?
If there was ever a time Chamberlain seemed close to being traded this is it. The Yankees need a starter and there are teams who still are intrigued by Chamberlain’s arm. He can still throw with velocity.
Contrary to reports that Chamberlain lost his fastball when he went to the bullpen, he was regularly hitting 97 mph and above on the gun late last season. The problem with Chamberlain is not velocity.
It seems that his signature slider that devastated hitters in 2007 and 2008 is not staying in the strike zone long enough to get hitters to bite on it. His fastball, no matter how fast it is thrown, is straight and hittable. His curve is an afterthought. He rarely throws it as a reliever.
So somehow Chamberlain has to develop a slider he can throw for strikes or he is going to have some miserable outings.
New pitching coach Larry Rothschild will have that task this spring unless the Yankees unload Chamberlain. That seems more likely in lieu of the fact the Yankees signed free-agent catcher Russell Martin.
That means that the Yankees are going to have to decide which catcher to play at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season: Jesus Montero or Austin Romine. They could rotate and DH one while the other catches or they could simply trade one.
Montero has power compared to that of Mike Piazza. Yankee fans have been salivating over his arrival and want to see him stay. But the Yankees were willing to part with him to obtain Lee last summer from the Mariners.
So why not trade Montero and Chamberlain for a starter now? It seems likely that either Montero or Romine could go before spring training begins. 
The Yankees also have a solid shortstop prospect in Eduardo Nunez who is stuck behind Derek Jeter and slugging third baseman Brandon Laird who is blocked by Alex Rodriguez. They also have young pitchers Hector Noesi, Dellin Betances and Ryan Pope to dangle to teams looking to stock there minor-league system with a starting pitcher.
Unfortunately, the stock of available veteran pitchers does not contain a starter of Lee’s pedigree. What the Yankees are likely looking for a pitcher who can pitch 200 innings, win 12 or more games and it would be a plus if the pitcher had some postseason experience.
The Phillies would love to unload Joe Blanton’s hefty contract. However, the Yankees may not want to pay the Phillies steep price for him. So Cashman may have to look at pitchers like Edwin Jackson or Paul Maholm. Neither of those confer the status of stars but are definite upgrades over Vazquez.
Or Cashman could play wait-and-see and look to make a trade deadline deal for a better pitcher like Carlos Zambrano, who the Yankees would love to pry from the Cubs if they are not in the pennant chase in 2011. 
But with Pettitte out of the picture, it appears the Yankees are in no position to wait long. CC Sabathia is the unquestioned ace. Phil Hughes will look to build on his breakthrough 2010 campaign. 
But what will A.J. Burnett offer? Is Ivan Nova ready as Hughes was in 2010? Do the Yankees really plan to use Sergio Mitre as their No. 5 starter?
This is probably the shakiest rotation the Yankees have had in many years. Cashman knows it needs fixing but it appears the arms to fix it are out of reach for now. But there is still time and Cashman knows his future is predicated on keeping the Yankees competitive.
He can’t afford to wait.

Stocking Stuffer Lee Tops 2010 Wish List For Yanks’ ‘Elf’

Well, the “little elf” has delivered Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera to the Yankees. Can he now fulfill the team’s wish list with a left-hander Cliff Lee?
General manager Brian Cashman, who took time to rappel down the Landmark building in Stamford, CT, playing the part of an elf in their Christmas celebration this weekend, heads to the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, FL, with a sack full of money ready to hand to Lee.
Lee, after all, is the top free-agent pitcher on everybody’s winter shopping list. The question is can the Yankees’ offer provide Lee “comfort and joy?”
As this blog predicted, the Yankees were able to forge a compromise deal with Jeter. He has reportedly agreed to a three-year, $51 million dollar deal that includes a player option for a fourth season.
Jeter’s deal, which is pending a physical and likely will be announced this week, calls for deferred money and the player option can increase up to $8 million based on Jeter’s performance in the first three years.
The most Jeter could earn under the contract is $65 million and it includes a $3 million buyout in 2014.
Both the Yankees and Jeter managed to save face on a month-long negotiation that did have some unexpected moments of drama. Jeter’s agent, Casey Close, called the tact the Yankees were taking toward their team captain “baffling.”
Earlier, Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner hinted the negotiations with Jeter might become “messy.”
But with Jeter back in the fold, it appears both sides are happy and Jeter will be ready for another championship run in 2011.
The same can be said for Mariano Rivera, who has agreed to a two-year deal that is reportedly worth $15 million per season. The funny thing is the offer was the same one Rivera received from the Yankees’ chief rival, the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox, who apparently are making no secret of their desire to replace closer Jonathan Papelbon before he becomes a free agent next season, thought they could somehow spirit away the best closer in baseball history from the team who signed him and brought him to the big leagues.
Rivera said he appreciated the Boston offer and he said he “respected” the Red Sox organization but added, “the Yankees did what they were supposed to do, and that was the end of that.”
Rivera’s two-year deal, which he hinted likely may be last contract, is also awaiting a physical and a formal announcement.
Cashman flew into Orlando Sunday night in advance of the meetings so, as he said, could hit the ground running on Monday. In addition to Lee, the Yankees have reportedly expressed an interest in signing former Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Carl Crawford.
The Yankees have apparently changed their mind about not tampering with their outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher and believe Crawford, 29, could add a solid hitter, a consummate base-stealer and excellent defensive outfielder to the team.
Crawford is coming off a 2010 season in which he hit .307 with a career-high 19 home runs and a career-best 90 RBIs. He also finished third in the American League with 47 stolen bases. 
The Yankees, if they are serious about signing Crawford, would be competing with the Red Sox and the California Angels for the speedy left-fielder. With outfielder Jayson Werth off the free-agent market due to his signing by the Washington Nationals, Crawford is the best remaining position player prize left in the winter free-agent pool.
The Yankees may also have an interest in Crawford to drive up his price on the Red Sox as payback for their attempts to “steal” Rivera. The Yankees also could be looking to use either Gardner or Granderson in a trade to acquire a pitcher — either a starter who could replace Andy Pettitte should he retire or a reliever who could setup for Rivera since the Yankees allowed Kerry Wood to seek a role a closer for another team.
But the real focus beginning Monday morning will be the Yankees desire for Lee, the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner who is seeking a five-year deal worth as much $125 million. The Texas Rangers appear to be the team most likely to get into a bidding war for the lefty.
Lee, 32, was 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA in a season between the Seattle Mariners and the Rangers. Lee has defeated the Yankees in three consecutive postseason starts. He was undefeated in all eight of his postseason starts until San Francisco beat him in both of his World Series starts as the Giants won the 2010 World Series over the Rangers.
The Yankees have two huge advantages going into the negotiations for the crafty veteran left-hander. No. 1, they have the deepest pockets. In a meeting a month ago in Lee’s Arkansas hometown, Cashman told Lee and his agent that the Yankees would top any offer he is made this winter.
No. 2, the Yankees already have signed Lee’s best friend in ace left-hander CC Sabathia, who was a teammate of Lee’s from 2002 to 2008. In fact, when the Yankees thought they were close to a deal with the Mariners to acquire Lee at the July 31 trade deadline, Lee called Sabathia to inquire about schools in the New York area.
The Rangers, who no longer have the deep pockets of Tom Hicks, are hoping to at least be able to stay in the same vicinity of the Yankees’ best offer and hope that Lee will prefer a smaller stage in Arlington, TX, for a bit less money.
The Angels are also interested in Lee, but they have targeted Crawford as more important to them because the team floundered in the absence of speedy Chone Figgins, who signed last winter with the Seattle Mariners.
Now the elf (Cashman) can make some very good boys and good girls who root for the Yankees very happy at Christmas by placing Lee under their big Christmas tree stadium in the Bronx. That would certainly be the best sanitary stocking stuffer Cashman could possible provide.

Mo Reportedly Will Sign 2-Year Deal To Remain In Bronx

Exit light
Enter night
Take my hand
We’re off to never-never land

                                                                                      - “Enter Sandman” by Metallica


Yankee fans may be able to sleep a lot better knowing that the best closer in baseball history is returning for two more seasons.
Mariano Rivera, 41, reportedly has agreed to a two-year deal for $15 million per season. That is certainly good news to Yankee management, players and fans. The Yankees really have no creditable replacement for “The Sandman” and, after a season in which Rivera recorded 33 saves with a 1.80 ERA, he proved he is not losing his effectiveness.
Rivera now stands poised to challenge Treveor Hoffman’s major-league saves record. Hoffman, 42, has 601 career saves but he lost his role as a closer with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2010 and is currently a free agent.
Rivera is only 42 saves behind Hoffman with 559. The two-year deal assures him opportunity to pass Hoffman.
Rivera’s career numbers pretty much have given him first-ballot entrance into the Hall of Fame. He is 74-55 with a career ERA of 2.23. He also has blown only 49 saves in 608 chances. That is a career save percentage of 92 percent.
He also has led the Yankees to five world titles and is 8-1 with an incredible 0.71 ERA in postseason play and a major-league leading 42 career postseason saves.
To put it mildly, Rivera is the most valuable piece to any puzzle the Yankees need to assemble to a world championship club in 2011.
Though he has been nagged by minor ailments to his knee, ribs and shoulder, Rivera has also proven to be durable over his 16 major-league seasons. Rivera has also been helpful to teammates by teaching them his signature cutter.
In 2010, pitchers Phil Hughes and Kerry Wood employed their own version of the cutter under the tutelage of the master, Rivera. 
The Yankees only need now to shore up the pieces of the bullpen to get to Rivera since the team elected not pick up Wood’s expensive $11 million option. The Yankees will retain Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Boone Logan and Sergio Mitre. They also hope to get lefty specialist Damaso Matre back sometime during the 2011 season.
However, they chose to release Alfredo Aceves and Dustin Moseley on Friday. Aceves was sidelined most of the 2010 season with a severe back injury and broke his collarbone this off-season.
Moseley was 4-4 with a 4.96 ERA as a part-time starter and long reliever.
So the Yankees will be looking for relief help in the free-agent market to fill in the missing pieces. Their chances of re-signing Wood are slim since he is looking for a chance to close with another club.
But one target could be Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Scott Downs, who was 5-5 with a 2.64 ERA in 67 games last season. Downs, 34, also has some experience as a closer, collecting 16 saves in 32 chances in his nine major-league seasons.
Downs has a dual utility to the Yankees He is an experienced left-hander who can get tough lefties out — lefties hit only .152 against him last season. In addition, with Rivera advancing in age Downs could close if the Yankees needed him to do so.
The only problem in signing Downs will come down to price. He figures to get a lot of offers from contending teams looking for quality left-handers in their bullpen. But it is clear the Yankees would have an interest in him.
Now they can tout to Downs he will have an opportunity to set up a living legend in Rivera.
ON THE JETER TRAIL  . . .  It also appears that this blog’s prediction the Yankees would increase their initial three-year, $45 million offer to Derek Jeter has come true. Sources indicate the Yankees have increased their offer $2 million to $3 million per season. 
At the same time, Jeter’s agent, Casey Close, lowered his initial demand for a contract paying $23 million per season,
It appears the two sides are heading to the midpoint of about $19 million per season over three seasons or in that vicinity. Jeter made $18.9 million over the past 10 years under his old contract, so it appears he could accept what would be essentially an extension of that contract for three seasons. 
The Yankees can say they did not have to pay Jeter above what he was making and Close can claim his client did not take a pay cut. Both sides win and the Yankees will have their captain back in the fold.
Things are definitely looking up for Yankee fans in advance of baseball’s Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL, on Monday.
STAY TUNED . . . 


Cashman’s 2011 Moves Need To Be Better Than 2010

ORLANDO, FL – Brian Cashman is truly the New York Yankees’ version of the Teflon Man.
The team’s general manager since 1998, Cashman has outlasted any general manager in the George Steinbrenner era and he is in pretty cozy with the current Hank Steinbrenner regime.
His job is like that of circus performing plate spinner. Trying to keep negotiations going on many fronts at the same time. Sometimes, like in 2009, Cashman gets lucky. After signing CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett to improve the pitching staff, Mark Teixeira’s wife suggested to her husband that he contact the Yankees if he really wanted to play for them.
That free agent haul spurred Cashman and the Yankees to their 27th world championship.
But then there are years like 2010. 
Cashman’s first big winter move was the acquisition of outfielder Curtis Granderson in a three-way trade with Detroit and Arizona that cost the Yankees starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, young outfielder Austin Jackson and left-handed reliever Phil Coke.
Granderson, 29, was dreadful out of the gate, got injured, stunk so more and rescued his season late by getting some tips from hitting coach Kevin Long. Granderson hit .249 in 2009, which spurred the Tigers to want to trade him. For the Yankees in 2010, Granderson hit .247.
The Yankees just hope the Granderson they saw in September (He hit .278 with nine home runs and 23 RBIs) is the real Granderson because they are stuck with him contractually for three more years.
In the meantime, Jackson nearly won the American League Rookie of the Year award. He hit .293 with four home runs and 41 RBIs and stole 27 bases as the team’s leadoff hitter. At age 23, Jackson has a very high upside.
Coke, 28, was 7-5 with a 3.76 ERA. But that does not tell the whole story. The Tigers were so pleased with Coke’s work out of the bullpen they are considering making him a starter next season. The Yankees big loss was Coke’s work out of the bullpen in 2009. They missed not having him in 2010.
Kennedy, 25, was 9-10 with an excellent 3.80 ERA with an offensively challenged Arizona Diamondbacks club. True, he might be one of those dreaded “National League pitchers.” But could he have been any worse than Javier Vazquez?
That brings us to Cashman’s other 2010 trade. He shipped Melky Cabrera and young left-hander Michael Dunn to the Atlanta Braves in return for Vazquez and lefty reliever Boone Logan. 
Vazquez was coming off a 15-10 season with the Braves. He finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting. But Cashman made two big mistakes here.
No. 1: Cashman brought back the pitcher most associated with the disastrous 2004 ALCS series with the Boston Red Sox. Vazquez surrendered the grand slam home run to Johnny Damon and Yankee fans did not let him forget it.
No. 2: Cashman forgot that pitchers’ success in the National League does not translate to the American League. Vazquez was 10-10 with a 5.32 ERA and pitched less than 200 innings for only the second time since 1999. Both of those seasons Vazquez toiled for the Yankees.
To be fair to Cashman, he had no way of knowing that Vazquez would just lose his velocity on his fastball. But that is not unusual for a 34-year-old pitcher. Vazquez will not be back with the Yankees in 2010. For his sake, we hope he ends up on a team with a huge ballpark in the National League.
Cabrera was a disappointment in Atlanta. He hit .255 with four home runs and 42 RBIs. The Braves released him on Oct. 18. Meanwhile, Dunn was 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in 25 appearances with the Braves. Dunn was just packaged in a trade for Dan Uggla of the Florida Marlins. At age 25, he has a bright future as a left-handed reliever.
Cashman was just lucky that Logan did not pitch like he did in Atlanta. Logan was 2-0 with a 2.93 ERA in 51 games with the Yankees. So basically the Dunn for Logan deal was a wash. Since Cabrera was released and Vazquez has pitched his way out of New York this is a deal that really helped neither club.
To really assess Cashman you have to look at his free-agent signings. Instead of the high-priced talent he sought in 2009, Cashman looked instead for some good picks among the low-hanging fruit.
To replace the eventual departures of Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Eric Hinske and Jerry Hariston Jr., Cashman first signed oft-injured former Yankee Nick Johnson as a potential full-time DH.
Bad move.
Johnson didn’t even make it through the first week of spring training unscathed. He wore cleats to batting practice and they got stuck in the artificial surface around the batting cage and he wrenched his back.
Cashman should have seen that as a sign of what was to come. Johnson, 32, played in just 24 games before suffering yet another wrist injury that required surgery and shelved him for another season. Goodbye, Nick — again!
Cashman also signed veteran outfielder Randy Winn to compete with Brett Gardner for the left-field job Damon owned. Winn struggled all through spring training and he ended up being released after 61 at-bats in which he hit .213. 
Instead of a veteran utility infielder like Hairston, Cashman elected to stick with 25-year-old farmhand Ramiro Pena. Pena played good defense and he had some clutch RBIs among his 18 he drove in But he hit only .227.
Hairston hit .244 with 10 home runs and 50 RBis for a good Padres team. Meanwhile, Hinske hit .258 with 11 home runs and 58 RBis with the Braves, helping them to a wild-card spot.
So a fair assessment of Cashman’s 2010 winter moves was very, very poor. Instead of strengthening the Yankees in 2010, he made them weaker. Though he was eventually astute in allowing Damon and Matsui to walk as free agents, none of his off-season moves really made a major impact on the Yankees except for one.
His last addition to the team was to sign free-agent Marcus Thames as reserve outfielder and part-time DH. Though Thames struggled in spring training and he missed a month with a ankle injury, he provided power off the bench against left-handers. Thames hit .288 with 12 home runs and 33 RBIs.
Many of his home runs came in a stretch in August where Alex Rodriguez was injured and Thames provided the punch the Yankees needed until Rodriguez returned.
The only salvation to Cashman’s 2010 season besides Thames was his trade deadline moves to acquire reliever Kerry Wood, DH Lance Berkman and outfielder Austin Kearns. Wood was sensational as a setup man for Mariano Rivera.
Berkman, after he recovered from an ankle injury, actually provided clutch hitting down the stretch and in the playoffs.
Kearns, however, was a bust. In 102 at-bats with the Yankees, Kearns struck out 38 times. That means
he struck out just over one out of every three at-bats in pinstripes. He is free-agent this winter and he will not be re-signed by the Yankees.
So how does Cashman keep his job?
He signs Cliff Lee, gets Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera back into the fold and convince Andy Pettitte to pitch one more season. He also will likely add some arms the rotation and bullpen and pick up a few spare parts for the bench.
Cashman has proven that you are only as good as your last move. The good news is most Yankee fans have forgotten the dreadful moves he made last winter. They don’t seem to blame him for the loss in the ALCS to the Rangers.
That is Cashman’s true gift. A real Teflon Man.

Yankees Will Have To Be Patient With Lee This Winter

SOME HOT STOVE NUGGETS

  • CLIFF LEE CHASE . . . If you Yankee fans were expecting the first contact between general manager Brian Cashman and Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker to end up with a Lee signature on a contract you are overly optimistic. The Major League Player’s Association does not disallow it, but it frowns upon top-tier free agents from signing too early because they prefer low-level and mid-level free agents push the prices up rather than have the top-tier free agents push the prices down. Lee will take his time and he may end up as Matt Holliday did last winter by not signing until January. But my understanding is the Yankees intend to make Lee an offer the Rangers will not want to match. 
  • WRITING OFF DEREK JETER? . . . Yes, it is starting again. Yankee haters have been blogging that the Yankees would be better off letting Jeter go rather than sign a player who apparently can’t hit, field, run or feed himself anymore at age 36. There is no doubt Jeter had his worst season as a pro. But I doubt anyone in baseball is truly writing Jeter off. They tried that in 2008 and he only hit .334 and won his fifth championship ring in 2009. Jeter and his agent might be seeking a long-term deal — perhaps six years. But what Jeter likely envisions is a contract that will allow him to play into his 40s if he wants to challenge Pete Rose’s all-time hit record. But the deal also would allow him to remain with the team either as a coach, player-coach or personal services ambassador for the team. Jeter could eventually end up as the team’s manager as some point so it might be a good deal for the Yankees to lock him up for six years. You write Jeter off at your own peril.
  • SIGN THEM ALL . . .  I have also read a lot of Yankee fans crying the Yankees should have kept Kerry Wood and they need to sign Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford AND Cliff Lee. I got news for you fans: It is not going to happen. The Yankees are going to put their big dollars toward signing Lee. They then will try to get Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter signed. They then plan to ask Andy Pettitte if he wants to keep pitching. Only then will they assess what money they have left to put towards Crawford or Werth. The problem is that with Brett Gardner’s emergence last season, the Yankees might be forced to unload Curtis Granderson’s hefty contract, which has three years left on it. That is the only way they could justify signing Crawford or Werth. It is unlikely either player will end up in pinstripes. As for Wood, the Yankees knew that he would prefer to go back to closing and likely for a contending team. The Yankees always address their bullpen needs last and they will do so very late in the winter. Signing Rivera is the first step. They may have their eyes on lefty Scott Downs as a replacement for Wood. Downs has closed but mostly has been a setup man in Toronto. The fact he is left-handed is a bonus. Downs would address the need for a quality lefty and a setup man in one nice package. He also will not command a huge amount of dollars. But he will have a lot of suitors too.
  • MONTERO AS A STARTER? . . .  The Yankees are absolutely convinced that Jesus Montero will hit in the major leagues and he could potentially be a superstar with the bat. The only caveat with the 20-year-old Montero is his defense behind the plate. Well, former catchers like Tony Pena and Joe Girardi and others in the organization now believe Montero is a better defensive catcher than 38-year-old Jorge Posada. So the plan this winter is to get Montero ready for the major leagues. They won’t say it because they will not want to put any pressure on the young catcher, but the Yankees would like him to have a hot spring and take over as the starting catcher. The Yankees then could use Posada as its primary DH and he would also be an emergency third catcher behind Francisco Cervelli. That is, if Cervelli keeps his job. Word is the Yankees are looking at bringing Jose Molina back because Cervelli’s throwing in 2010 left a lot to be desired.
  • CANO MOVING UP? . . . After Robinson Cano’s breakout 2010 possible-MVP season, the Yankees are toying with the idea of moving him into the No. 3 spot in the batting order next season. Ideally, the Yankees would like Cano there because he is the best hitter on the team and Mark Teixeira would provide “protection” for Alex Rodriguez in the No. 5 spot. The Yankees also want Gardner to lead off. However, they do not think it could work because Jeter hits to many ground balls that could be double plays batting second. So Jeter likely will lead off and Gardner mostly will bat ninth.
  • SUPER NOVA . . .  The Yankees are very happy with the way 23-year-old right-hander Ivan Nova pitched in his rookie season in 2010. They still believe he could develop into a very good starting pitcher. However, with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes in the rotation and the possibility that Lee and Pettitte may round out the starting five, the Yankees are thinking Nova has a better chance of contributing in the bullpen. Nova seemed to struggle the second time through the batting order as a starter, which suggests he could be very effective as middle-inning reliever next season. He also gives the Yankees insurance in case a starter is injured.
  • THE ZACK FALLBACK . . . With all the attention of the Yankees’ pursuit of Lee, what is not being considered is the Yankees’ fallback position in case Lee signs elsewhere. The Yankees have their eyes on a trade for Royals right-hander Zack Greinke should Lee somehow get away. The Royals would be willing to part with their ace if they could get four prospects that could rebuild their team. The Yankees might have to dangle Montero, Nova and Joba Chamberlain just to get the Royals interested. The Royals also would be looking at young shortstop Eduardo Nunez and might take him instead of Montero.
MORE TO COME THIS WINTER


CC’s Grit And Yankees’ Guile Force Texas Into Game 6

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES – GAME 5
YANKEES 7, RANGERS 2

It was not pretty. In fact, as victories go this one was just about as gloomy as the weather in the Bronx on Wednesday afternoon.
But ace left-hander CC Sabathia and the Bombers will take their backs-to-the-wall 7-2 victory over the Texas Rangers that forces a Game 6 in Arlington, TX, on Friday night.
Sabathia (1-0) may have been less than Cy Young worthy this postseason, but he battled and fought the Rangers for seven tough innings. He gave up two runs on 11 hits while walking none and striking out seven.
The big difference between the Rangers of the last three games was they failed to get any extra-base hits, they hit into two double plays and they had another runner picked off. On the night the Rangers were a 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Sabathia’s last two innings of work were symbolic of the Rangers’ struggles to get the key hits they seemingly dialed up at will the past three games.
The Rangers were trailing 5-0 when backup catcher Matt Treanor lofted a fly ball into left-field that carried into the seats. Mitch Moreland followed with a single. After Elvis Andrus struck out, Michael Young battled Sabathia for a single into right.
The Yankee fans that dominated the 49,832 in attendance all of s sudden were nervous as Roy Hobbs, er huh, Mickey Mantle, er huh, Josh Hamilton strode to the plate. If any one player in the Rangers’ lineup has sucked the life out of the defending world champions it has been this modern-day Dr. Jack Kevorkian with a Louisville Slugger.
But, alas, on this night, “The Natural” grounded into an inning-ending double play. 
In the sixth, Sabathia worked his way into another huge jam, despite the Yankees getting him a run back in the bottom of the fifth that made it 5-1.
With one out, David Murphy started a conga line of runners with a single to right. Ian Kinsler and Jeff Francouer followed with singles of their own to load the bases.
Manager Joe Girardi, showing how important the situation was, ordered Kerry Wood to start throwing in the bullpen.
But, with Yankee fans bundled up in the cold, saying their prayers and gritting their teeth, Sabathia induced Moreland to bounce out to Alex Rodriguez for the second out, although Murphy managed to score on the slow roller.
Then Sabathia battled Moreland in a tense eight-pitch at-bat in which the rookie Rangers first baseman ended up watching strike three whisper high and inside. If the Yankees were indeed on life support, they got some breathing room with that big out.
It also seemed to take starch out of the Rangers.
In the last two innings, Sabathia gave up two runs on six hits and threw 55 pitches. But, like the pillar of strength he has been all season, he bent but never broke.
The Yankees offense this series pretty much has consisted of one player: Robinson Cano. Everybody else has been in need of the Heimlach Maneuver. The prospect of playing Game 5 and the rest of the postseason without an injured Mark Teixeira did not really lighten the dire mood either.
But he Yankees were fortunate enough to get a wild and unhinged C.J. Wilson (0-1). Unlike his impressive series-opening performance, Wilson showed pretty early he would need a road map, a GPS, a compass and floodlights to find the strike zone and the Yankees took advantage.
In the second inning, Wilson walked Rodriguez and Teixeira’s replacement Lance Berkman on four pitches, sandwiched by one out. Jorge Posada made Wilson pay for his wildness by lacing an 2-0 pitch for a single to left that scored Rodriguez.
Curtis Granderson followed with a lined single to left to score Berkman and then the Rangers started treating the baseball like a hand grenade. Right-fielder Jeff Francouer, attempting to throw out Posada at third, air-expressed his throw over Young’s head.
Posada unwisely tried to make it home even though Young had caught the ball on a carom and had him dead to rights at home plate. However, Young’s throw home similarly sailed over Treanor’s head and Posada gave the Yankees an early 3-0 cushion.
The Yankees added to their lead in the third inning when Nick Swisher and Cano greeted Wilson with back-to-back home runs to start the inning. For Cano, it was his fourth home run of the series.
The Yankees added another run off Wilson in the fifth. They loaded the bases with one out on a leadoff walk to Swisher, Rodriguez smacked a ground-rule double to left-center and the Rangers elected to walk Marcus Thames in order to face Berkman.
Bad idea.
Though Berkman has struggled against left-handers batting right-handed all season, he delivered a long sacrifice fly to center that scored Swisher. That made the score 6-2.
Wilson gave up six runs on six hits and four walks and he struck two in his five innings of work. Three of the four batters he walked eventually scored.
Wilson was 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA in the regular season, but in his five starts against the Yankees (three in the regular season and two in this series) he is 0-2 with a 5.81 ERA.
Granderson capped the Yankees’ scoring in the eighth with a one-out line-drive home run to right-center off rookie reliever Alexi Ogando.
The Yankees, taking no chances in the final three innings, turned the game over to Wood and Mariano Rivera. Wood pitched two scoreless innings, striking three and picking off Andrus at second base for his second pickoff of the series.
Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth and the Yankees lived to fight another day.
But do not get too carried away with this victory. The Yankee offense still could improve. Despite the victory they were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees hope to shake some more cobwebs off their bats on the trip to Arlington. The patient is beginning to show some signs of life. Don’t tell Dr. Kervorkian.
ON DECK

The Yankees are working out at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington today. Trailing 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, the Yankees will turn to 18-game winner and All-Star right-hander Phil Hughes to get them even in the series.
Hughes (0-1) was blasted for seven runs on 10 hits and three walks in four-plus innings last Saturday. Before that, he had pitched 15 1/3 scoreless innings against the Rangers in Arlington. The one big statistic in Hughes’ favor is that he never lost two starts in a row during the regular season.
His opponent again will be right-hander Colby Lewis (1-0). Lewis pitched a solid, but not dominant, 5 2/3 innings against the Yankees in Game 2, giving up two runs on six hits and three walks and fanning six batters. Despite the fact Lewis threw a wild pitch, hit a batter and lacked command at times, the Yankees were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
In order to beat Lewis to win the game and force a Game 7, the Yankees will have to do better in that category. The Yankees are a dreadful 8-for-50 (.160) with RISP in the series.
Game-time will be 8 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by TBS.

Rangers’ Pen Implodes As Yankees Rally To Take Opener

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES – GAME 1
YANKEES 6, RANGERS 5

The New York Yankees are a lot like a cockroach. When you step on them you better make sure they are dead.
As the Texas Rangers found out on Friday night, the cockroach may be limping but still may have enough strength to get away from you.
Down 5-1 in the top of the eighth inning with a dominant C.J. Wilson on the mound, the Yankees fashioned a five-run comeback as seven consecutive batters reached base on five different Texas pitchers to snatch Game 1 of the American League Championship Series away from the stunned Rangers.
Since the 1995 postseason, the Yankees have registered 14 victories after trailing after seven innings, which is tops in the majors. They also have outscored the Rangers in their postseason meetings 15-0 after seven innings.
With the victory, the Yankees also dealt a very deep psychological blow to a Ranger bullpen that was second to the Yankees with a 3.61 ERA during the regular season. More importantly, they also managed to take home-field advantage away from the Rangers.
Brett Gardner started the inning and the rally by legging out what looked to be a routine ground ball to Jorge Cantu at first. But Gardner slid in headfirst to beat Wilson to the bag on the relay throw from Cantu.
Derek Jeter followed by lacing a line-drive double down the left-field line to score Gardner. The hit also chased Wilson from the game, despite the fact he had cruised through the first seven innings.
Veteran left-handed reliever Darren Oliver dug the Rangers an even bigger hole by walking both Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira on 3-2 pitches. Manager Ron Washington then went to his bullpen for side-winding right-hander Darren O’Day to pitch to Alex Rodriguez.
Rodriguez ripped O’Day’s first offering so hard he nearly took Michael Young’s glove into left-field with it and Jeter and Swisher scored to draw the Yankees to within a run.
Washington dipped into his bullpen again for left-hander Clay Rapada to pitch to Robinson Cano, who had homered off Wilson to lead off the seventh inning to put the Yankees on the board. Cano laced Rapada’s first pitch up the middle in to center-field to score Teixeira with the tying run. 
Center-fielder Josh Hamilton bobbled the ball and allowed Rodriguez to take third.
As Washington started to wear out a visible path to the mound at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, a crowd of 50,930 — the fourth largest in Rangers history — mostly sat in stunned silence as left-hander Derek Holland was summoned to pitch to designated hitter Marcus Thames — still with nobody out.
Thames battled to a 2-2 count and muscled a broken-bat line-drive single into left-field to give the Yankees their first lead of the night. The Rangers looked to see if team president Nolan Ryan, who threw out the first pitch before the game, would begin to warm up for his shell-shocked Texans.
Wilson ended up his nightmare evening by being charged with three runs on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 7-plus innings of work. O’Day (0-1), who oddly was unscored upon in the American League Division Series against the Rays, was charged with the loss.
The real unsung heroes for the Yankees were relievers Joba Chamberlain and Dustin Moseley (1-0). 
Ace left-hander CC Sabathia was uncharacteristically wild in giving up five earned runs on six hits and four walks and three strikeouts in only four innings of work — the shortest outing of his postseason career. 
However, Chamberlain and Moseley came on and combined for three no-hit shutout innings of relief. Moseley struck out four of the seven batters he faced in two innings. The pair laid the groundwork for the Yankees’ comeback by silencing the Rangers’ bats, which had put up three runs in the first inning on a Hamilton home run.
They added two runs in the fourth on a two-out double by Young, which put the Yankee cockroaches down 5-0. They were limping but still breathing.
Kerry Wood made things interesting for the Rangers in the eighth by walking Ian Kinsler on four pitches to start the frame. But Wood forced a cardinal sin from Kinsler and picked him off first base with the potential lead run at home plate. Wood escaped the inning without further incident, which turned the game over to the best closer in postseason history.
Mariano Rivera gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland to begin the ninth. The Rangers, who had rallied to force Rivera to blow two saves this season, felt pretty good about their chances to do it again when Elvis Andrus bunted Moreland to second on a two-strike sacrifice bunt.
However, postseasons to Rivera are different from the regular season. 
Rivera fanned Young and Hamilton bounced out to Rodriguez on one pitch to end the game and give the Yankees their 10th consecutive postseason win over the Rangers, which dates back to 1996.
For Rivera it was his major-league-leading 42nd career postseason save. In 137 2/3 career innings in the postseason, Rivera also has a major-league-best 0.72 ERA and an 8-1 record. 
Rodriguez put it best after the game, telling reporters “I wouldn’t say I’m surprised. You’ve still got to get 27 outs. We had a lot of good at-bats [in the eighth inning].”
Unfortunately for the Rangers, they recorded only 21 outs before the walls of Rangers Ballpark at Arlington came crumbling down.
Perhaps a play in the first inning was the harbinger of what was to come. 
With Sabathia wild and out of the strike zone, he walked Andrus and Young slapped a 3-1 cripple pitch into center for a single to move Andrus to third. Before Sabathia knew it, Hamilton blasted an 0-2 pitch on a line down the right-field for a three-run home run.
It was the first home run of the postseason for the Rangers’ MVP candidate, who hit .111 in the ALDS with the Rays.
After Sabathia retired Vladimir Guerrero on a long drive to center-field that Curtis Granderson caught at the base of the wall, Sabathia loaded the bases. Nelson Cruz singled, Ian Kinsler walked and, one out later, Matt Treanor drew another walk.
With Sabathia on the ropes again, the left-hander uncorked a pitch high in the strike zone that eluded Jorge Posada behind the plate. But the ball ricocheted off the wall and bounced right back to Posada as Cruz broke from third attempting to score.
But Posada flipped to Sabathia and Sabathia managed to tag a sliding Cruz on the left shoulder just before the left foot of Cruz reached the plate to end the inning.
Sabathia now has an ERA of 5.83 in his five postseason starts in which he has had more than six days of rest. 
For Wilson there is nothing left but to ponder what could have been. In his three starts against the Yankees in the regular season, he was 0-1 with a 5.86 ERA and he never got past the sixth inning in any of them.
Tonight he and his teammates in the bullpen let the cockroach and a very important game get away.
ON DECK

The ALCS resumes on Saturday afternoon and the Rangers have very little time to recover from a devastating loss.
They will start right-ha
nder Colby Lewis (12-13, 3.72 ERA). In the ALDS against the Rays, Lewis pitched five scoreless innings but he did not get a decision because — stop me if this sounds familiar — the bullpen gave up the lead late to the Rays. Lewis did not face the Yankees this season but he has a 6.89 ERA against them in three career starts.
The Yankees will counter with All-Star right-hander Phil Hughes (18-8, 4.19 ERA). Hughes is coming off a brilliant series-clinching victory over the Twins in the ALDS. Hughes gave up just four hits over seven scoreless innings. Hughes has not given up an earned run in 15 1/3 career innings at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington.
Game-time will be 4 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS.

Hughes Answers Doubters As Yanks Sweep Twins Again

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES – GAME 3
YANKEES 6, TWINS 1

The baseball pundits’ mantra entering this postseason was: The Yankees have CC Sabathia and a lot of question marks in their starting rotation.
Phil Hughes’ reply on Saturday evening was to pitch seven dominant innings of shutout baseball to eliminate the Minnesota Twins and put an exclamation point after the sentence: The Yankees rotation in this ALDS was 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA!
With the victory the Yankees qualified for the American League Championship Series for the second time in two seasons and it was the first time they have advanced in the AL playoffs as a wild card.
The Yankees also eliminated the Twins from the playoffs for the fourth time in four meetings since 2003 and they have defeated the Twins in nine consecutive postseason games, the longest such stretch of domination in major-league history between two teams.
Hughes (1-0) is participating in his third postseason with the Yankees but had never started a postseason game until Saturday. If he had any nerves he never showed it as he mowed the Twins down in order for the first three innings.
He gave up a leadoff single to Denard Span to start the fourth but Span was erased on a double play off the bat of Orlando Hudson on the next pitch. 
The Twins put two runners on in the fifth on a one-out single by Delmon Young and veteran DH Jim Thome drew a walk. But Hughes struck out Michael Cuddyer and induced rookie third baseman Danny Valencia to pop out to Mark Teixeira to end the threat.
The Twins also mounted a two-out threat in the sixth when Hudson and Joe Mauer stroked singles that both just eluded Cano’s leaps. However, Hughes fanned Jason Kubel to end that frame.
Hughes threw 99 pitches and 67 of them were strikes. He gave up four hits and one walk and struck out six batters with an electric fastball that the Twins’ hitters could not center. 
While Hughes was throwing up zeros, the Yankees were having their way with left-hander Brian Duensing (0-1). 
The Yankees scored single runs in the second and third innings on RBI singles by Jorge Posada and Teixeira to stake Hughes to an early 2-0 lead. Posada’s RBI was the 41st of his career and moved him past Mickey Mantle to ninth on the all-time list.
The Yankees expanded that lead and chased Duensing in the fourth inning when Cano opened the inning with an infield hit and DH Marcus Thames followed with a two-run blast into bleachers in right-center to put the Yankees up 4-0.
But the Yankees tacked on another run that inning when Curtis Granderson drew a one-out walk, which ended Duensing’s night early. Granderson stole second on Twins reliever Mark Guerrier and took third when Mauer’s throw to second trickled into center-field.
It was the first and only error of the series between these two teams, which were also the top two teams in the AL in committing the fewest errors. (The Yankees were first and the Twins were second).
The error came back to take a big bite out of the snakebit Twins, too. Gardner then lofted a fly ball to left-field that scored Granderson with the Yankees’ fifth run.
Duensing was charged for all five runs on seven hits and a walk in 3 1/3 innings. Duensing is 0-2 in two postseason starts. Both losses have come to the Yankees. Duensing lost Game 1 of the 2009 AL Division Series to the Yankees in what also would eventually become a 3-0 sweep.
Nick Swisher made it a half-dozen-run lead in the seventh inning with a leadoff home run off Twins right-hander Scott Baker. 
The Yankees then turned to their bullpen in the eighth inning to close out the game. However, the usually reliable Kerry Wood instead decided to pay homage to much-maligned former Yankees’ setup man Kyle Farnsworth.
Wood gave up a leadoff double off the left-field wall to Valencia. Then, with one out, he gave up a single to Span and Hudson followed with an RBI single to score Valencia and spoil the shutout bid. Wood dug a further hole by walking Mauer to load the bases.
However, the Yankee bullpen, which has been so reliable since the All-Star break, came to Wood’s rescue.
Left-hander Boone Logan threw one pitch to Jason Kubel and retired the lefty slugger on a weak popup to Alex Rodriguez at third. Manager Joe Girardi then summoned right-hander David Robertson to face the right-handed-hitting Young.
On Robertson’s third pitch Young flied out harmlessly to Granderson in center and the Twins lost their last good chance to climb their way back into the game and the series.
Girardi, taking no chances, used All-Star closer Mariano Rivera to polish off the game and the series. Rivera needed only 12 pitches to put away the Twins quietly in order in the ninth.
As Valencia lofted a two-out fly to Gardner in left, a majority of the 50,840 fans at Yankee Stadium — who were on their feet throughout the inning — cheered their defending champions, who are now four victories away from their 41st World Series appearance.
For the Twins, it was the fifth time they have been eliminated in the first round and the fourth time the Yankees were the culprit. The hits by Span and Hudson off Wood in the eighth were their only two hits in the series the Twins had with runners in scoring position. In the series they were 2-for-16 (.125). The Yankees, by contrast, were 9-for-25 (.360).
The Yankees, who refused to celebrate the clinching of a playoff spot or their entry into the ALDS as a wild card in the playoffs, popped the corks of champagne in their clubhouse in their first celebration of the first step on their quest for the 28th world championship.
The Yankees must now await the winner of the Tampa Bay Rays-Texas Rangers series to find out where they will be open the AL Championship Series. The Rangers currently lead the best-of-five series 2-1.
Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday.
The Yankees, in the meantime, will have time to get some rest for their veterans and those players who have been hobbled by nagging injuries. In addition, they can reset their rotation for the best-of-seven ALCS with Sabathia, Pettitte and Hughes scheduled to pitch in that order.
I just have one question for the baseball pundits: Are these question marks after Sabathia (Pettitte and Hughes) pitching well enough for you to stop questioning them, please? 

Berkman, Pettitte Lead Yankees To Win Over Cursed Twins

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

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

Rivera’s Cutter Shattered Span’s Bat And Twins’ Hopes

GAME 1 KEY MOMENT
The Minnesota Twins entered the eighth inning of Wednesday’s Game 1 trailing the New York Yankees 6-4 and knowing that time was running out if they wanted to make a comeback. The Yankees turned to reliever Kerry Wood to pitch the inning and to be the bridge to Mariano Rivera.

Wood started the inning by striking out Michael Cuddyer swinging. But he ran into trouble by walking Jason Kubel and allowing an infield single to rookie Danny Valencia. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire inserted pinch-runners Jason Repko and Matt Tolbert to relace Kubel and Valencia and No. 9 hitter J.J. Hardy advanced them by grounding out to second baseman Robinson Cano for the second out.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi summoned Rivera from the bullpen to face lefty swinging leadoff hitter Denard Span and this proved to be the key moment of Game 1.
To say Rivera is the dominant reliever of the modern baseball era is putting it mildly. Rivera entered Wednesday’s game with 39 postseason saves. The next closest reliever to him is the Phillies’ closer Brad Lidge with – get this – 16!
But the Twins knew this two-out opportunity with runners at second and third was their best chance to, not only tie the game, but to make a statement they were in this series to end the domination of the Yankees.
Rivera started Span off with his patented cutter inside on the hands of Span, however, Span laid off and the pitch was way inside.
Down 1-0, Rivera tried another cutter inside but lower in the strike zone. Span chose to let it go and it too was called a ball by home-plate umpire Jerry Crawford.
Span geared up for something to hit, knowing he was up in the count 2-0. Catcher Jorge Posada, sticking to the scouting report on Span, signaled for another cutter inside. But the great Rivera, known for his impeccable control, missed inside once again.
Could this be the moment the Twins had finally seized control? Another ball would load the bases for Orlando Hudson. A base hit to the outfield would tie the game.
Posada and Rivera stuck to the game plan and tried yet another cutter inside. Though the pitch actually missed the strike zone, Crawford gave Rivera the strike call. 
Rivera kept the pressure on by aiming yet another cutter inside. Span was tied up and the ball darted down and in as he swung. He fouled it off harmlessly off to the right.
Full count.
Though Rivera has been known to try to back-door two-seam fastballs to the outside corner, Posada called for a sixth consecutive cutter inside and Rivera nodded in agreement. With 42,302 fans watching and most of them on their feet at Target Field, Rivera went into his stretch and bent at the waist to his set.
With the game and the lead on the line Rivera again threw his bread-and-butter cutter. Span, protecting the plate on the full count, swung his bat. But the darting cutter jammed him and the bat practically shattered on contact.
As Span sped from the batter’s box down the line, the ball rolled slowly to shortstop Derek Jeter. Jeter, knowing Span had great speed, charged the ball hard, picked it out of his glove and threw in one motion to first.
Though it looked at first that Span might beat it, Jeter’s laser-like throw to first baseman Mark Teixeira reached Teixeira’s glove a step before Span hit the first base bag. First-base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt raised his right arm and called Span out.
Gardenhire, his team and the Twins fans collectively groaned as Rivera headed to the Yankees’ dugout. The future Hall of Fame closer would later pitch a “four-out” ninth inning to record his 40th postseason save and the Yankees would take Game 1 and wrest home-field advantage away from the Twins in the best-of-five series.
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